Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Respond to News of a Miscarriage

'Sunset on Morro Strand State Beach at Morro Bay, CA  07 Jan 2010.  2 of 2  iPhone 3GS mikebairdmike' photo (c) 2010, Mike Baird - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Since going public with my miscarriage 10 months ago, I have received many an email asking for advice about how to love and serve couples who are going through a miscarriage. I both love and hate these emails. I love them because they are sent by people who genuinely love their friends and family; I hate them because their arrival means another loss has occurred. As I have now written quite a few responses to these inquiries, my answer has finally been boiled down to one sentence:

Don’t try to comfort them; rather, affirm their grief.

All too often, after all sorts of losses, we want to respond with words of comfort. We want to help people understand that God is in control or that their loved one is in a better place. But, as my friend who lost his third child to miscarriage last year wrote, these words can actually be quite hurtful. As he said, "People feel the need to turn bad news into good news." Resist that temptation. Let the bad news be bad.

The best thing to do is simply to affirm the grief. Miscarriage is a silent, hidden loss. I would guess that millions of women have experienced miscarriages completely alone, without another soul in the world ever knowing. One of the most hurtful thoughts after miscarriage is, “Does it even matter?” The temptation to minimize the loss of miscarriage is very present. So to have friends and family affirm your grief is freeing and validating.

Of course, people experience and express grief differently. Don’t expect your friends to grieve in the same way you would. If you see them going about their lives and they look fine, don’t assume they aren’t fully grieving. Don’t expect them to cry all of the time or look disheveled. If they do, let them. But don’t place romanticized notions of what grief looks like upon them.

In addition, don’t disregard the very real grief that men are experiencing. Their grief journeys might look a bit different from the journeys of their wives, but they are just as painful. Before asking a husband who has recently lost a child to miscarriage how his wife is, why don’t you ask him how he is? (I wrote a bit more about this here.)

So, other than affirm grief, what can you do to serve those who are grieving? Honestly, it will vary from person to person. The best thing to do is to ask them. Ask if they want company or solitude, if they want to be invited out or would prefer visitors on their own turf, if they want junk food or health food. Just communicate openly, expressing that you are there for them, even in the messiness of grief.

But above all, don’t try to tie up their grief with a bow and make it pretty. Let it be ugly, because it is. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Which Theological Hills are Worth Dying On?

'Iwo Jima' photo (c) 2008, mlbruno93 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/I've written a fair amount about gender and the church. In fact, that's how this blog started. I've written less about it in the recent past because I've come to a conclusion: Scripture supports the full partnership and authority of women in ministry, in life, and in the world.

It took me about two years of reading, prayer, and conversations with people I respect to come to that conclusion, so I don't want to recap my entire journey now. You might disagree with my conclusion. One day, maybe I'll even disagree with my own conclusion. I'm okay with that.

You know why I'm okay with the fact that I might be wrong? As confidently as I might plant my flag in my new theological territory, I do not want to make more of gender equality than I do of the gospel. Yes, in my view, gender equality flows from the gospel, but it is not essential to the gospel. 

A few years ago, I staffed an evangelical summer training program for college students. During a leadership meeting, it came up that one student was having trouble integrating into the community because of some significant theological divides between her and the other students. Our director, who was a thoughtful man, became deeply concerned about the situation. During the conversation, he said something to the extent of, "People are willing to die on too many theological hills.

That idea hit me in the gut hard. I used to be willing to die on lots of hills. Why? I have always felt the need to defend my position, to prove that I am right. 

But the need to prove that I am right is not something I should trust to make decisions about what is essential to the gospel. If I went with my desires, I would make gender equality a hill that I would die on. Instead, I've come to recognize that the only hills worth dying on are ones that are essential to the gospel. 

So that leads me to my question. Which theological hills are worth dying on? Which ones are truly essential to the gospel? It's easy for me to say which ones don't qualify, but it's harder for me to say which ones do.

Truly, I want your opinions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scriptures that Rub us the Wrong Way

'REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn Sacrifice of Isaac, 1635' photo (c) 2008, carulmare - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
We all, regardless of what we admit to, come to the Scriptures with biases. We all interpret passages of Scripture through the lenses we wear: how we view the world, how we view God, how we view Scripture, etc. 

Learning to admit our biases is especially important when we come to a verse or passage from the Bible that rubs us the wrong way. I came across one of those the other day: Joshua 11:20-23
20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses21 Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of IsraelJoshua utterly destroyed them with their cities22 There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel ; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.
Something about God willing genocide rubs me the wrong way. Sorry. Even if you don't have a problem with that idea, I think we all can find passages that rub us the wrong way if we read enough of the Bible. Try a few of these on for size:
4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (1 Corin 11:4-7) 

21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lackgo and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and comefollow Me." 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property23 And Jesuslooking aroundsaid to His disciples"How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God !" 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Childrenhow hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:21-25)
And no, that bit about a camel passing through the eye of a needle has nothing to do with walking through the city gate. That is a myth. Read it for what it says without trying to interpret it first. Yeah, a little uncomfortable, isn't it?

So what topic in the Bible makes you uncomfortable? Women being treated as property? God's condemnation of those who become rich at others' expense? The acceptance of slavery? God's call to make peace with your neighbor?

Today, I want to encourage us all not to ignore or dismiss the verses that rub us the wrong way. It's hard for me to sit with the discomfort. I want to interpret it away as soon as possible. But perhaps the feelings that arise when I read these Scriptures can be an opportunity for deeper communion with God. They should drive me to prayer, to deeper study, to confessing my struggles within my community. When I become angry or frustrated, I can go to God in those moments, asking him for help. (Sometimes, I get the feeling that God has been waiting a long time for me to simply ask him for help about a particular verse.)  

I'm not saying these verses are best left uninterpreted, or that we shouldn't apply our minds to make sense of them ethically or theologically. All I'm suggesting today is that we pause and say to God, "God, I don't like this verse. I admit that my perspective is my own and not yours. Please help me to work through these feelings and this verse with you."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians

You may or may not have read a headline during the past week that a "new denomination" was founded. More specifically, a new Presbyterian denomination, which really just sounds like the start to a bad joke. (According to Wikipedia, the United States already has 11 Presbyterian denominations.) 

However, it is not entirely accurate to use the label 'denomination' for this new body, as it is not calling itself that. 

The Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians has been created largely by churches who have been dissatisfied with the governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA, or PCUSA), which is currently the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US. 

I am currently a member of a PCUSA church, Glenkirk Church, so this issue is of some importance to me. If this issue is of any interest to you, I recommend a recent blog from our senior pastor, Jim Miller, describing what he experienced in Orlando as the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians gathered together. Here's an excerpt:
John Crosby rightly predicted that the process would be “messy.” It’s almost a cute word to describe the exuberant adrenaline rush that comes with such passionate new direction. It’s messy because new ideas are bursting out all over the place. People who are passionate for mission, for meaningful theology, and for a church that is tied together by relationships rather than paperwork all united behind this cause. It felt like we were given permission to imagine. It was, in a word, fun.
I also recommend his last dozen or so posts which act as signposts in the past year of transition. 

Personally, I am committed to Glenkirk and to its mission as a part of the kingdom of God. The people there make up a very important part of my community. However, my allegiance to my denomination is markedly less important to me. This is in part because I have attended and been a member at a variety of denominational and nondenominational churches, all of which have nourished me, and also in part because I have made a conscious decision that while I am in seminary I will remain open to possible changes in my ecclesial theology. 

I welcome your thoughts on denominationalism, post-denominationalism, or the ECO of Presbyterians specifically. As my thoughts are still forming, I am genuinely appreciative of additional (gracious) perspectives.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pregnancy After a Miscarriage

I've been thinking a lot about how to communicate with you what this pregnancy has been like, especially as it relates to the miscarriage I had last year. I don't know how to articulate the full range of my thoughts, but I have come to two conclusions.

First, this pregnancy does not ease the grief of miscarriage. Of course, it eases the grief of trying to conceive, but those are two separate things. The grief we feel over the baby we would now be holding has not gone away. This second baby is not going to solve all of our emotional baggage. Nope, just not going to happen. In fact, I'm willing to bet this baby will only give us more. :-)

Second, and perhaps more daily in my mind, is the reality that I am less afraid of miscarriage now than I was with the first baby. That might seem counterintuitive, but it's true. Miscarriage used to be this mysterious unknown, a hardship I could not imagine going through. But now, I've known it. And moreover, my life was not ruined. God was present, my marriage remained strong, my friends loved me well, and I continued to live. So, the scariness of miscarriage is no longer there. It's like I looked the monster in the closet in the eye and lived, so he's less scary now. 

I still worry about it happening, though. When I have a wave of energy, I worry; nearly every time I go the bathroom I say a little prayer. I worry there's something chronically wrong with my body, something that will impede my ability to grow life. 

It is a battle to not let the worry take over my thoughts, but it is a battle I'm not giving up. 

Because behind the worry is hope. Not hope that bad things can't or won't happen, but hope that they don't have to. I am not fated to a life of suffering, and for that I am grateful. Life does sometimes prevail against death. Good seasons of life do exist. They are always pure gifts that I am completely undeserving of, but they are real. 

So those are my thoughts. Thanks for your prayers. I plan to get back to non-pregnancy-related writing soon, but for now, I'm giving myself the space.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pregnancy Announcements, Loss, and Community

'Calendar Card - January' photo (c) 2007, Joe Lanman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Before my first pregnancy, we decided we would follow the wisdom of the day in regard to when we announced our pregnancy. The wisdom of the day that we were aware of: Because of the risk of miscarriage, wait 10 weeks before announcing your pregnancy. To be safe, wait until the first trimester is over.

I’m not sure when this wisdom became the norm. When did our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers announce pregnancies? Or did they? Whatever they did, we can know we are pregnant much sooner than they knew. With that advance in technology comes a trade-off: We are faced much sooner with the decision of who to tell and when.

With my first pregnancy, we told our closest friends and family soon after learning I was pregnant, and we planned on announcing the pregnancy publicly when I was 10 weeks.

But as you know, I didn’t make it to 10 weeks. After my miscarriage, I felt God prompting me to write a devotional about my loss, but I knew doing so would make our reproductive journey somewhat public. After discussing it with my husband, we decided that we were willing to accept the negatives of going public. 

(One of the big perks of writing about my miscarriage was that since people were already pressuring us to have kids, going public with our journey was actually helpful. People tend to be less pushy when they know you’ve just miscarried. How about we work on being less pushy all the time? You never know what someone is going through.)

For months after our miscarriage, we didn’t talk about how we would handle the news of our second pregnancy. We were trying to conceive, but the topic simply never came up. For some reason, I felt prompted to bring it up in early December. I sure am glad we had some time to talk about it before we got news of this pregnancy because we certainly did not see eye to eye! One of us wanted to wait longer than last time and tell fewer close friends and family. The other one wanted to tell people earlier than last time, including going public before 10 weeks.

After discussing with some dear friends who also experienced a miscarriage last year, we decided that we would announce earlier rather than later. These were our main reasons:

There is no safe time to announce a pregnancy. Pregnancy is always dangerous for mother and child, and many couples who make it through the “dangerous” first trimester still experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Moreover, parenting is dangerous. In having children, we are opening ourselves up to a deeper level of pain and loss than we’ve ever known. So it’s probably better to go into pregnancy recognizing that pain will inevitably be part of the journey, and loss might be as well. While we pray against these things, reproducing is inherently a dangerous thing, physically and emotionally. 

Announcing a pregnancy early does not jinx it. I haven’t ever heard anyone formally propose this, but for some reason, it feels like some people might be tempted to believe it. Though I know it is completely irrational, part of me thinks this way. But it’s a lie.

God designed us to live in community, even while grieving. I understand why many people delay announcing their pregnancy because of fear of then having to announce a miscarriage. Trust me; I totally get it. But silent, unaffirmed grief is the worst kind. It is healthy for us to talk about our loss, to let ourselves receive help, and to have a few people who know how hard life is at the moment.

All pregnancies are “real” and matter. The trend to delay announcing pregnancies has created, I think, an implicit message that early pregnancies are not real or that they do not matter as much as late-term pregnancies. But that’s untrue. Chemical pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies, and pregnancies of 4.5 weeks are all real and all matter. Of course, there are scientific questions about when life starts in regard to many of these situations. But I believe that if an egg is fertilized and my body receives a signal, even a small signal, that it is pregnant, a life worth loving and grieving existed.

So that, my friends, is why we have chosen to go public. We are certainly aware of the possibility of miscarriage and loss, but we know that even if that happens we will not walk through it alone.

When have you shared pregnancy news? What have you learned about yourself, others, and God in the process?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pregnancy Announcements that Sting

'Dos rayitas' photo (c) 2010, Esparta Palma - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/During my months of trying to conceive, few things stirred up sadness as much as hearing the news of yet another pregnancy among my friends or family. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for them, it’s just that I was sad for me. I know it sounds selfish, but it is the truth.

I recently watched Julie& Julia, and I found that one short scene captured the mixed emotions well. (I can’t for the life of me find it online.) Julia Child was about 40 and unwillingly childless. Shortly after watching her sister, Dorothy, get married, Julia received a letter in the mail from her newlywed sister. In it, Dorothy tells Julia that she is pregnant. Nearly immediately, Julia bursts into tears, although she says through them, “I’m so happy.” Her husband, Paul, goes over to comfort her.

That’s what it feels like. Try saying “I’m so happy” while sobbing. It’s confusing.

There were a few exceptions to this sadness when I received pregnancy news, but most of the time, it rose to the surface. (For the record, men experience this sadness too.) One week, I hit the wall that I think many women who are trying to conceive hit: The everyone-is-freaking-pregnant-but-me wall. After the miscarriage itself, that was probably the hardest week of my year. It just downright sucked.

So, to all of my readers, family, and friends who are trying to conceive or grieving infertility, I want you to know that you can express that sadness around me. I won’t take it personally. I realize it rises to the surface sometimes against your will. And I’m sorry if the news of another pregnancy has been the cause of renewed sadness.

Also, if you have not shared your sadness with some close friends who can support you, I encourage you to do so. Being sad is hard enough. Being sad and having to fake happiness around the people who love you is not a burden you should have to carry.  

I hope you know that I’m still on your team, rooting for life and joy and wholeness for us all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What am I?

I'm a student, a wife, and a writer. I'm a former New Yorker turned never-wanna-leave Californian. I'm an aggressive driver and an ice cream fiend. 

But today, look at the picture and guess what I am.

You guessed it: I'm barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.

(Today I'll give them what they want. But only today, so they better soak it up while they can.)

The details:

Almost 7 weeks, due around Labor Day(ish). (Yes, I see the pun.)

We found out just before Christmas and were able to tell our families and some close friends while we were on the East Coast. That was sweet.

I'm very fatigued, intermittently sick (more in the PM than the AM), and experiencing the other normal symptoms. Josh has been extremely kind. So far, I have only fallen asleep once mid-conversation.  :-)

We're hopeful, but of course we know that we have no guarantees.

Thank you for your prayers. More pregnancy-related posts to follow soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Thing I Love About My Seminary

When my husband accepted his grad school position at APU, we didn't know much about the school at large. Upon moving here, it took some adjustment as our undergrad educations were both at NYU, a far-from-Christian private university in NYC. One might say that these schools are opposites in many ways.  
This is my home away from home.

But we've come to love APU for a variety of reasons. Most of them are probably too boring or personal to blog about, but I've been meaning to write about one thing I love about APU, and specifically the seminary at APU, for a few months.

In a nutshell: I love that the students and professors represent a variety of Christian traditions. 

One of my age-old fears about going to seminary was that I would end up completely indoctrinated into one narrow theological frat club. It seems to me that many seminaries, and even Christian colleges, exist, to some small degree, to advance the gospel of their own denomination. I see the value in these institutions, especially if you are pursuing ordination within that denomination. But they have always scared me. What if, while sitting in class, I realize that I simply disagree with my denomination's stance on a serious issue? (This has happened to me after hearing the argument behind a position and realizing it really isn't as solid as I imagined it would be.) Or, perhaps more alarming, I was afraid that opposing theological positions would be negatively misrepresented so as to make their own position seem superior. (No, that would never happen!)

But APU. Oh, sweet dear, APU. You are so refreshing.

APU is based in the Wesleyan tradition. But the professors and students represent a variety of different denominations. Thus far, I have studied next to (at least) Methodist, Friends, Foursquare, Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican students. I have studied next to pacifists and war veterans. I have studied next to Democrats, Republicans, and Canadians. :-) And no one, from my experience, has been made to feel as if they don't belong, as if there is a mainstream school of thought that you need to jump into or drown.

These students, I have come to love and respect them so much. 

We are 22 and 62, ministers and mothers, prison guards and school teachers, black and white, Korean and Japanese, and men and women. Hallelujah! (Although, those men still outnumber us. My husband once asked, while we were on campus together, "Why are all of your seminary friends men?" I just looked at him blankly.) 

It has been a great honor for me to study with these men and women, to hear their (very different) perspectives, and to pray together, walking away each night supporting each other's work for our King.

I'm so glad my fears about seminary, at least about the seminary I found, have not been realized.

This post was in no way endorsed or solicited by APU. I receive no special scholarship for raving about them. That would be a nice scholarship to create, though. :-) I only share these thoughts because I want to do so.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Laura Ziesel is on Facebook

For multiple reasons, I have decided to start a Facebook page for Laura Ziesel. At this new fanpage, I will be sharing links to pieces I write on this blog and pieces I write elsewhere. In addition, I hope to use it to share other great resources with you.

If you're on Facebook, I hope to see you there! You can simply click "Like" below to become a fan. (RSS or email readers may need to click through.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Redemptive Pursuit: Pressure for Perfection

Pressure for Perfection
By Laura Ziesel
January 9, 2012

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." -Matthew 5:48

I am a stubborn, willful woman, and when I am pressured into doing something, I do not want to comply. Pressure, or what feels like manipulation, causes me to rebel, to want to prove to myself that I am an independent person. Even if I want to have lunch with a friend, repeated pressure to do so will only make me clam up and feel overwhelmed. These aren't good traits, but I have needed to recognize them. 
When I hear or read it, "be perfect" is one of the most suffocating phrases to my heart and mind. It feels like pressure to me. Even though I might desire perfection for myself, I know that I am far from it. And Jesus' words here just make me want to roll up into a ball and give up. I can't be perfect. I can't, I can't, I can't. 
But logically I know that if Jesus said it, I can't ignore it. So how can I open my mind and heart to this verse?
The best thing I can think of to do is to open myself to what Scripture says about perfection, rather than close myself off to it. So I flip to other places in Scripture that have this word "perfect" (telos in the Greek), and I ask God to help me understand what this word means. 
This passage from 1 Corinthians helps me tremendously:
"For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away...For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known." (1 Corin 13:9-10,12)
The idea of perfection in my head is behavior-oriented. But this concept of perfection does not seem to be about behavior as much as it is about my composition, my very being. Right now I am a shadowy image of the true woman God created me to be. I am selfish, fearful, and wounded. I compartmentalize certain parts of my life to suit my own needs. I am broken.
But God wants me to be whole, to be full, to be complete. God wants me to come into perfection, meaning to fully be the women he created me to be, unblemished by brokenness. He wants to put me back together, to heal me. And that is less suffocating to me, mostly because God is the one who bears the responsibility for making me whole. I cannot heal myself of my brokenness, but he can and will heal me. If I'm going to strive to be perfect, I don't need to act better or make less mistakes; I need to submit myself to the healing power of our Heavenly Father.
And I know I can trust God with my now-imperfect self because he is a God who entered our broken world and experienced brokenness with us. He does not separate himself from our imperfections. He does not scold or shame us. He came down to earth, took on the form of sinful man, and died a broken man. He knows the pain of imperfection, and he desires our wholeness so deeply that he gave up his own wholeness on the cross. His body, broken for us, is proof that he'll go to any lengths to make us whole. Our perfection is not an unrealistic demand, but an already-purchased gift.
God, you are perfect, but I know intimately that I am not. Help me to confess my faults to you and to those who love me. Thank you for entering this world and experiencing brokenness so that I can be made whole. Help me to accept your healing. May I not fight you as you make me into the woman you created me to be. I trust you, and I am thankful for your love toward me. Amen.

I will be posting my devotionals from The Redemptive Pursuit once a month as they are published. Sign up to receive these weekly devotionals via email hereFollow The Redemptive Pursuit on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

In An Image

After asking you for suggestions of how to honor the baby we lost to miscarriage last year, we decided to commission a painting. We asked a friend to create the piece for us, and we are so pleased with the result. I feel that it captures the mix of joy and grief that we experienced so well. And if you can't tell, there is a piece of broken glass near the left center. 

It feels remarkably comforting to have something physical as a reminder. I've always wanted something physical to represent that baby, and now we have it. Thanks for your suggestions, which convinced us that doing something like this was indeed a healthy part of grieving.

We are planning on framing it soon, but for now it sits atop our desk. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Learning from Imperfect People

I am privileged to guest post today for friend and writer extraordinaire Rachel Held Evans. Rachel is the author of Evolving in Monkey Town, a memoir, and the upcoming A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which I cannot wait to get my hands on when it is published later this year. 
If you're visiting my blog for the first time, welcome! You can read about me here, and you'll see my most popular blog posts in the column to the right. I have some great content lined up for 2012, so I hope you'll subscribe via email or RSS and join the conversation. 
I am, by nature, a very critical person.
Correctness is one of my highest values, so I have a hard time letting perceived incorrectness slide. I pick up on your errors and I am not afraid to hold them against you. Often, I’ll even correct you, especially if you are teaching others. 
A few years ago, my husband and I were given the reins of a college ministry. Leading a ministry was slightly overwhelming for us, a pair of 24-year-old newlyweds. Our boss sat down with us one day, asked how we were doing, and wisely offered to facilitate a mentorship for us. We needed the help. 
Immediately, I was hesitant toward the couple he suggested to mentor us. I respected this couple, but one or two things I had heard the husband say had not sat well with me.
I said to our boss, “I’m not sure if that will work. I’m not sure I agree with his all of his views of Scripture.” 
Very gently, our boss said...
Read the rest of my guest post here

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On Watching TV: Everything is Permitted, but...

'Apple TV Menu' photo (c) 2008, MG Siegler - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/My husband and I don’t watch much television during semesters. But during the past few weeks, we have embraced our love of television during winter break. The countless hours we spent watching TV caused me to think a lot about how we choose programs to watch.

I think the average person turns on the TV, checks the current listings, and decides to watch the program they most desire to watch. It’s not a very difficult decision-making process.

But I want to suggest that Christians should consider more in their TV-watching decision-making process than desire. What we often want to watch, even if it seems “in good fun,” may not be a program that we should watch.

Now, I know I’m beginning to sound like Grandma. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to create legalistic lists of good shows and bad shows. Legalistic lists only keep Christians infantile, dependent upon others for ethical direction. Rather, all Christians should be growing into maturity, and part of the maturity process is learning to make one’s own decisions.

So what should we watch and what should we choose not to watch? Paul said that “all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial” (1 Cor 10:23). I think that is a good rule of thumb for choosing entertainment. Ask yourself, “Is this beneficial?” If the show you want to watch fortifies an idol in your life, creates ingratitude, or fosters materialism, it is not beneficial.

I saw an ad for a new-to-me show this past week. The show is called I Want That! and is an entire show based on new inventions and products that most people don’t have yet—new faucets, furniture, showers, and gadgets. While it is possible this show might be beneficial for some people (I’m skeptical, but open to the possibility), this show would definitely be a poor choice for me to watch. I like nice things. But, unfortunately, I am a grad student who is married to a grad student. I do best when I ignore the fact that nicer items exist than what we own. Moreover, I have realized that God does not give Christians wealth so that they can satisfy their desires for nice things. So if we do have extra income one day, watching shows that increase my stuff lust will probably still be unwise.

For you, avoiding violent shows, wedding-themed shows, gossip shows, or cable news shows might be a new idea. But if those shows make it harder for you to be content or to love your enemy, perhaps its time to reconsider them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

'NYC' photo (c) 2009, Sarah_Ackerman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Happy New Year to all of my readers! 

I am in NYC for a mini vacation with my hubs, so my year is off to a great start! We're heading out now to walk to the theater to see a Sunday afternoon movie. The weather is unseasonably warm, so no snow for us yet. No complaints about that, however. I am finally feeling rested and refreshed, and for that I am truly grateful.

I'm enjoying this as much as I can before school starts back in a week. 

I am truly grateful for your critiques and thoughts as I have written in 2011. May 2012 bring us all to a deeper knowledge of God that drives us outward in service to the world.
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