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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Am I my brother's keeper?

Or my sister’s keeper, as the case may be?

The vigil for Terri Schiavo is over. The debate, however, will, and should, continue.

I am not capable of adequately eulogizing Terri, so I will leave that to the better equipped. But my heart goes out to her family on both sides.

I was disturbed by this article at this morning (from the AP). It shared details from Terri’s life while criticizing the recent very public debate concerning her wishes and whether she should live or die. According to the article, the Terri remembered by friends is
not the heartbreaking figure whose every facial tic was scrutinized for evidence of a conscious mind within. Not the central figure of a maelstrom, silent as multitudes debated her life and death.

For those multitudes who never knew her, it was easy to forget that this was a real woman who led a real life. But for her friends and family, it was impossible to forget.

Who forgot that this was a real woman who led a real life??

The article ends with this:

...on Feb. 25, 1990, when she collapsed in the hallway outside of her bedroom....She was 26 years old, an ordinary woman about to be thrust — unwillingly, unknowingly, unconsciously — into an extraordinary adventure. She died 15 years later, a symbol to millions around the world, a person to those who knew and mourned her.

If Terri would not have wanted to be thrust into the public spotlight near the end of her life, why would she have wanted the world to know that she “spent hours in her purple-and-white bedroom arranging [her collection of 100+ stuffed animals]? Being the “shy girl” that she was, would she have wanted the world to know this or anything else about her life?

And just what exactly was Terri a symbol of?

Why would someone who never knew Terri personally not comprehend that she was, in fact, a real person who led a “normal” life, before her fall? The grief resulting from realization that she would never again be what she once was surely contributed to the public sense of wanting to protect her. And why should anyone not care about what happened to her? She was helpless; completely at the mercy of the competent.

Why should we “mind our own business” in a case like this?*

People can gossip and manipulate their way through life, never seriously being accused of not minding their own business, yet when they take up the cause of an innocent person’s life – a person who is not able to speak for him/herself and whose prior spoken word lies only in the dubious memory of those still living – they are told to mind their own business.

If I hear my neighbor beating up his wife, should I mind my own business, or should I call the cops?

Am I my brother’s keeper? You betcha.

On a personal note, I was originally drawn to Terri’s story not just because of the circumstances, but because I identified with her somewhat. We are (or were), almost to the month, the same age. We both grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. Etc.

This is not to say that I necessarily believe that Terri’s feeding tube should’ve remained, though I lean very strongly in that direction. No one should care what I think, though, because my opinion means absolutely nothing. What really matters is the truth of the situation, which few of us will ever know. What matters is that the weak need to be protected and honored by the strong. As President Bush said, where there is element of doubt, we ought to err on the side of life.

*note that I am not referring to instances of, for example, trying to smuggle water to Terri in hospice. I am referring to public concern for her welfare.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bits and pieces, 3/30/05

Please join me in prayer along with the planners of the GodBlogCon, who say:

We are praying that GodBlogCon 2005 will serve to expand and mature the Christian blogosphere for the glory of God and the advancement of God’s kingdom.


The GodBlogCon website should be up and running soon.


The latest release from Sing the Word is now available. This CD, titled “Great in Counsel and Mighty in Deed,” features the Scripture memory verses from Sonlight Curriculum’s third grade curriculum, though of course it is not limited solely to use with the curriculum. This disc is for anyone ages 5 and up who loves God, values Scripture, and appreciates great music. The music, written by my brother-in-law Steve, is, as always, wonderfully creative and uplifting.

“In the Beginning Was the Word” (John 1:1-4) is set to a richly beautiful African-style chorale. “The Right Thing to Do” (James 4:17) displays the diversity of Steve’s talents – he plays both the trumpet and keyboards in a great Latin groove. In “Iron Sharpens Iron,” (Proverbs 27:17), Steve and his son carry on a crazy scat exchange.

Steve’s daughters sing beautifully on this disc, as does my son, and the disc is graced throughout by the accomplished flute strains of Steve’s wife Anne (my husband’s sister). My husband and I get a few trumpet notes in there as well.

The CD and its three predecessors (Sonlight kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade Scripture memory verses) are available through Sonlight, Timberdoodle, and the Sing the Word website. (listening samples provided)


Seen on a marquee in town (outside of a pharmacy):

Support bacteria – it’s the only culture some people have.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Feeding the ducks

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Music for Easter

This morning I had the honor of playing trumpet alongside my husband and seven other brass players plus percussionist at a large mainline church (not my own). Though I missed sharing Easter with my home church family, I am thankful that we could celebrate with extended family and that my husband and I could offer our musicianship to the glory of God.

We actually worshiped with family on Holy Saturday at a non-denominational church. The sincerity, fervency, and simpleness of the worship there posed quite a contrast to the worship in which we participated this morning, yet elements from both combined to make our weekend a nicely rounded-out Resurrection tribute.

For the services this morning, the musicians were supposed to wear black suit or long black dress. Well, I couldn’t do it – not on Easter Sunday! Since I was the only female musician (as a brass player, I’m used to it :-) ), I wore purple instead.

The prelude music was Poeme Heroique (two links -- the first from the end of the piece, the second from near the beginning) by Marcel Dupre, which certainly is “heroic” both in sound and in demand on the brass players. The offertory was John Rutter’s Te Deum.

I wasn’t, and still am not, sure what I think of this piece. During the rehearsal on Saturday I felt an inward reaction against what I perceived as a mere “performance” of the piece by the choir (as opposed to a worship offering), and I reflected on that plus what I’ve heard about Rutter. Though he's written much sacred music, he apparently is not a Christian believer. I started to not feel good about being a part of the performance. But then this morning, during the services, the piece seemed different...much more worshipful. I believe that God can and did use Rutter’s music, and the “performance,” as He can use any music – for His purposes and blessings.

It’s always wonderful to play great hymns such as “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”, “O Sons and Daughters, Let us Sing”, and “Thine is the Glory.” But the best part was the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of the service. It was my privilege and joy to play the “famous” first trumpet part.

I wish all of you a blessed Easter and a full appreciation of the meaning of the resurrection.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Who are these people?

I just watched most of "Hannity & Colmes" on FoxTV and most of "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren, something I don't often have opportunity to do.

One of the persons interviewed on Hannity & Colmes was a Holly Phillips, MD, "Internist," I believe. She commented to the effect that Terri was certainly in a PVS and would not feel pain upon death because she couldn't feel pain. (I think that's what she said -- but I don't completely trust my distracted memory at the time. But that doesn't affect my point, which I will reveal shortly.) I don't recall that much in the way of her credentials was given, though there was probably a brief mention of those when she was introduced.

Later, Greta interviewed a neurologist (whose name I forget), who claimed he had 40 years of experience, and that Terri was definitely PVS and could not possibly experience any degree of recovery.

What I would like to know is, who are these two individuals? Who are any of the so-called experts we have heard from on any of the sides of the Terri Schiavo debate? What are their true credentials? It's absolutely impossible to know whom to believe on such extremely limited information as can be gathered from a news show (or any sort of news report).

How can it be possible that these "experts" can contradict each other so thoroughly? They can't all know what they are talking about, or be on the level.

Which is why news reports are so limited in value as sources of information.

I have to keep being reminded of the fact that it is truly difficult, if not impossible, to get accurate information of any depth about a case like Terri Schiavo's. I don't mean to disparage the efforts of those who are trying honestly to get all the facts and report them, bloggers included. But it's true.

I've watched the videos of Terri looking at the balloon. I've seen what appears to be recognition and joyful response to her mother's attention. I've listened to her purposeful-sounding attempts to speak. It is extremely hard for me to believe that she is non-responsive. But...I am a layperson. I have absolutely no expertise in neurology nor in states of consciousness (except my own, and even that's debatable). I must rely on the opinions of those who appear to have the requisite expertise.

Not that I think this is at the crux of the question of whether or not Terri should be denied sustenance. That would have to do with what her wishes were -- but what a mess the determination of that is at this point. It's clear, though, that the matter is far from clear-cut.

The whole Terri Schiavo matter is just awful. All we can really do is pray for God's mercy. And perhaps not be too quick to accept information as fact or interpret it in a certain way unless we can verify the credibility of doing so beyond a doubt.

Reasonable doubt

I'd like to elaborate a little on an update to a recent post and comment further on efforts to save Terri Schiavo as regards the law.

Obviously, I am not a lawyer. I realize that much of the debate over Terri's case involves law and interpretation of law, which is not an exact science. I admit that I do not know nor understand all of the reasoning involved in the omission of Sec. 5 from the "compromise law," nor whether it is reasonable and acceptable.

I also realize that, not being perfect, the law in general may not in fact insure that justice is always done. Regardless, it must be followed even if in doing so justice cannot be served. Other times, certainly a law can be interpreted to yield different outcomes that nevertheless can still be rightly judged to follow the law. But of course judges disagree, and not every judge interprets the law in the exact same way. Which is part of the reason we have lawyers.

And which is why we need appeals, including appeals to other judges.

The whole of the legal processes involved in trying to save Terri is incredibly complicated, as is determination of whether or not Judge Greer adjudicated Terri's cases appropriately. There have obviously been some unusual, even unprecedented, actions taken. I realize that sorting them all out requires wherewithal that a lone mother with three kids at home and many other things to do cannot possibly manage in order to completely and accurately assess the situation.

I am truly interested in knowing exactly how Judge Greer came to decide what Terri's wishes were regarding being kept alive in her current condition. Perhaps someone has blogged/reported about this already and perhaps I will find this information, or perhaps a reader will inform me as to where to find it :-).

I don't want to be guilty of snap judgments, which I tend toward. I do truly desire to base my opinion upon actual facts. When it comes to all the legal proceedings involved, though, I realize that it may not even be possible to get all the facts.

(These same things might also be said as to whether or not Terri is in a PVS. But I think the evidence for that is more clear-cut, if the facts can indeed be discovered.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What experts??

From FoxNews:

If Terri Schiavo dies from the removal of her feeding tube, her passing should be peaceful, experts say. After all, she is in a persistent vegetative state without conscious awareness, they noted.

Really? Who are these experts? How do they know what sort of state she’s in? The article doesn’t say.

But studies show that even patients who can speak and who have chosen to stop eating and drinking generally don't complain of thirst or hunger, said Dr. Russell Portenoy, chair of palliative care at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York."It's as if the body has a protective mechanism at the end of life, such that loss of appetite and loss of thirst precede the dying process," he said.

No doubt this is true for the elderly, or for those dying of a disease. But Terri is not dying of a disease, nor is she dying of old age.

"It's usually quite a peaceful death," Portenoy said. "The person generally looks as if he or she is drifting off to sleep, and then dies."

I’m really getting tired of hearing this. I wonder if Portenoy is aware of the “exit protocol” prescribed for Terri, which includes:*

antacid suspension
lip moistener
saliva substitute
scopolamine patch behind ear
morphine sulfate Q4
diazepam rectal administration

::: shudder :::

*thanks to Fr. Rob Johansen at Thrown Back for explanation of these medications and their indications.

I can't believe it

Ed Jordan at MediaCulpa has posted his observations from a hearing at the Tampa federal courthouse yesterday. Judge James Whittemore considered the Schindler’s request to issue a temporary restraining order (to restore Terri’s feeding tube) but has not honored it because, apparently, a crucial element was left out of the law Congress passed in the middle of last Sunday night!

I can’t believe it. Here’s the portion that was left out:


1. Upon the filing of a suit or claim under this Act, the District Court may issue a stay of any State court order authorizing or directing the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain the life of Theresa Marie Schiavo pending the determination of the suit.

Whittemore will not issue a TPO until the Schindlers can demonstrate substantial chance of winning their case.

So now, the Schindlers are appealing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Terri is dying...

Update: Actually, even with the wording "may issue a stay...", there is still judicial freedom to not issue a stay. Apparently, an earlier version of the bill contained the word "shall" in place of "may"...oh, that that word, and Sec. 5, had remained!

further update/comment: Obviously, I am not a lawyer. I realize that much of the debate over Terri's case involves law and interpretation of law, which is not an exact science. I admit that I do not know nor understand all of the reasoning involved in the omission of Sec. 5 from the "compromise law." I do not know whether it is reasonable and acceptable or not. It obviously passed muster in Congress but as to exactly why, I don't know.

Monday, March 21, 2005

People matter

Praise God, the “compromise bill” has passed. Hopefully Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube will be restored soon.

People do matter. All of them. Every one.

Even Michael Schiavo.

If someone says or does something incredibly wrong (or insulting, or hateful), or makes the most wrongful (and hurtful) comments, or reviles something God (or you) treasures, or holds very incorrect views, they are still more important than whatever they do, or think, or say. As are each one of us.

From the evidence I’ve seen, it appears that Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer take an appalling and selfish view toward the value of life itself. But I hope that they are being prayed for as much as Terri and her family of origin are.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Hooray for Congress

From FoxNews this evening:

"As millions of Americans observe the beginning of Holy Week this Palm Sunday we are reminded that every life has purpose and none is without meaning," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a leader in crafting the bill [that would allow Terri Schiavo’s case to be taken to federal court]."

The U. S. House of Representatives hopes to pass this bill as soon after midnight as possible.

But Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla., said the congressional action was "a clear threat to our democracy." Congress, he said, was ignoring the constitutional separation of power and "is on the verge of telling states, courts, judges and juries that their opinions, deliberations and decisions do not matter."

Sheesh. I think he means that Congress is on the verge of telling states, courts, judges, and juries that they are not infallible. That they are not beyond critical examination.

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., needs to hear this too. He said,
"There is a law to be followed and the Florida courts have found it. And they found that Terri's wishes were not to be kept alive" by artificial means, Wexler told FOX News. "Congress is in no position now, in my view, to undermine the sanctity of the Florida court system. ... If this is the process, then no state court ruling will be final." (emphasis added) it so terrible to say that all who have governmental or judgmental power over people must be held accountable? I thought that’s what checks and balances was about. Those who cry “hypocrite” regarding Republicans now, saying that they who supposedly favor less government are “interfering with a personal, familial decision,” seem to be forgetting their cries for “rights, rights, rights,” – as in, the right of each and every citizen to have his/her case reviewed by another court in the event of an undeclared but actual mistrial.

If somebody’s husband wants to shoot her, and the law says, “no,” is the law interfering with a “personal, familial decision?” I don't think so.

I am truly heartened by the effort our government leaders have put into getting legislation passed that might save Terri. Please remember to thank them!

Terri has been without nutrition and hydration for over two days now. Hopefully these can be restored tomorrow.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Brilliant statement of the day

Terry will not be starved to death. Her nutrition and hydration will be taken away.
–- Michael Schiavo

hat tip: Imago Dei


Friday, March 18, 2005

Bits and pieces, 3/18/05

Here’s the latest, as far as I can find, on the status of legislation that may help save Terri Schiavo (and others in similar condition). WittenbergGate has a synopsis of what’s going on at both the federal and state (Florida) level. The Florida House passed The Starvation and Hydration of DisabledPersons Prevention Act (HB 701), but a similar bill did not pass the Senate. According to MediaCulpa, The Senate may vote on HB 701 today, but the prospects for its passage aren't good because the defeated Senate bill (SB 804) was less broad in scope.

It still may be possible to influence the Florida Senators, though, so please contact as many as possible as soon as possible.


Check out Christian Carnival 61 at ChristWeb this week. Lots of great material as always. My Crafting the Modern Family is in there. Also included is Jeremy Pierce’s excellent post, The Moral Value of Meanings of Words.


I got in on the discussion a little bit on Mr. Pierce’s post. Pierce is absolutely brilliant in his analysis of distinctions between word definitions and usage, but I’m not sure everyone who tries to use language to further a certain agenda is as clear about all the particulars as he is, which is his point. He helped clear me up about my thinking that words are being redefined when they actually aren’t. I still think he might less inclined to accept moral breach regarding word usage than I am, or maybe it's that I'm too suspecting. Either way, let’s just say that I agree that the meanings of words do not have moral value in and of themselves, but I think words can be and often are used in an immoral way either through ignorance of their actual meanings (Jeremy’s point) or by using known or not-so-well-known variances in their meanings to dishonestly influence others.


The New Blog Showcase, Out of the Wilderness, is up at NickQueen’s. This week he presents three great blogs by women.


SmartChristian reports plans to launch a Christian Blogosphere Convention website in the next week or so that will have details on GodBlogCon 2005, including registration info. Conference planning and organizing is still in process, so please continue to pray for everyone involved. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be the true Planner.


I promise to continue reviewing The Abolition of Man in the next week or so...(I’m sure it’s the most dragged-out review ever written...sorry)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Time for a switch

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Crafting the modern family: reproductive engineering and contraception

A while back, I came across an interview with Amy Laura Hall, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School, on the Christianity Today website. The interview touches on issues relevant to some of my own concerns, namely, pro-life issues, especially up-until-recently overlooked ones such as the ethics of in-vitro-fertilization. It is also relevant to my recent foray into the complex practical, philosophical, and moral world of contraceptive use and natural family planning.

In the interview, Hall says,
Even Christians committed to biblical truth and salvation through Christ have been tempted to bend, stretch, and evade God's unequivocal call to "choose life." When land, money, health, or status has been at stake, Christians have reshaped their imaginations to see some humans as subhuman, as not quite children of the heavenly Father.

She is speaking here of unintended pregnancy, but does she extend these things to use of contraception as well?

In this interview in The Other Journal, Dr. Hall speaks about the escalating social phenomenon of control over reproduction. She says,
...consider, historically, how the nuclear family became in North America a symbol of the responsible, pure family. That occurs largely during the atomic era, during the 50’s. With the return of soldiers and the creation of new suburbs, you have this sense that what is truly “the family” is two parents -- and by in large the standard became two parents with only two, possibly three, children. Mainline as well as Evangelical Protestants bought into that image as the icon for the best family. There are examples of this in posters that were distributed in the late 40's and early 50’s by social hygiene organizations seeking to promote this vision of the comparatively independent and isolated family.

When you gain such historical perspective, you can ask a new set of questions. Is the independent, nuclear family the only biblically sound depiction? You can go further to ask whether this is even the primary Biblical depiction of the family? Back up into Scripture and try to think through how, especially in the New Testament, Christ re-configures the Roman family. The primary image of the family in Jesus’ words (as well as in Paul’s words) is the Church. Its through baptism we are made heirs according to the promise. We are not foundationally related through blood ties genetically, but through blood ties Eucharistically. Through Christ, through Christ’s blood, we are made one, and Paul refers to this both baptismally and Eucharistically. It is through Christ’s blood that we are made one family.

When you look at those images alongside a nuclear family that is all genetically related and fairly isolated, even from grandparents, the difference is salient. That image of the nuclear family, the four individuals – mom, dad, son, and daughter – alongside the image of the Eucharistic family, I think it calls into question our somewhat obsessive pursuit of our “own children” who will fit neatly into the Midwestern suburb.

I think Hall makes an interesting point. She does not say, however, whether family planning has a place in society or not. In this interview, she does not offer much suggestion as to how society is to accommodate large numbers of children except to say that the church must help, although in the previous one she asks,
How can we reconfigure our institutions—workplaces, schools, churches—in ways that make them truly hospitable to new human life? Is there on-campus housing for undergraduates with babies at Christian colleges?

Strangely, she doesn't mention families taking care of their own. She merely criticizes the Bush administration for being "woefully inadequate in keeping up the most basic of social structures that churches and these communities rely on to do a pretty decent job on some of the most basic services like public education...They have not provided a safety net for those tasks and people who churches cannot meet."

(Hall, does, however, praise Bush for his stance on stem-cell research.)

I agree that the church and society should help, but before that, it should be up to family, both immediate and extended. After that neighborhoods, on up to society as a whole including the employment and maternity/paternity-leave structure, should get in on the act. I suppose that in our transient society, the extended family cannot be expected to assist the burgeoning young family as in times past, yet certainly this aspect needs to be looked at when calling into question the contemporary desire to “control one’s form of family.”

Unfortunately, the issue of family planning does not exist in a vacuum; it is inextricably related to other individual and societal factors such as health, familial support, community support, church support, and economic and other factors. Perhaps it is also as much related to the materialism in our culture as it is to control issues.

Which leads to this question: is control of one’s family size and child spacing bad in and of itself? There are all sorts of ways we control our lives, because, in this country of wealth and opportunity, we are able to. How does one determine how much or what kind of control is good, and what is bad? How does one distinguish “control” from “stewardship?”

The whole term responsible parenthood is also historical, and that comes up around the 20’s and 30’s with the American Eugenics movement, which tried to forge a distinction between responsible and appropriate family forms, and irresponsible families. The argument went that with too many children one couldn’t provide for them in a way that would be responsible. There was also a great deal of anti-Catholicism and blatant racism and classism going on, especially by the time you get to the 50’s with this. So you have this kind of climb of the middle class trying to prove itself as responsible. You get them limiting the number of their children more and more, so they can provide more material goods for their children, send more of them to college, and by and large fit the mold.

This is the crux of the discussion, I believe. Certainly there is pressure to “fit the mold,” but part of my question has been, to what extent can this be avoided, in early 21st-century America? As Americans, we aren’t just a huge collection of little nuclear families that are sufficient unto themselves; we depend on our extended families, our communities, and our society as a whole for our livelihood in many ways. Of course there are ways to “break the mold,” and many of us do that in various ways throughout our lives. Just how much “breaking of the mold” can be done, though, before it refuses to yield any workable form?

And one thing I’ve had people ask me, is OK, you’re critical of reproductive technology to try and have your own children, but also you want to call into question the meticulous timing of children that goes on with more and more effective kinds of birth control. And yes, what I see as consistent with both of those efforts, both birth control (at least the way birth control is used by white dominant Americans in our culture) and reproductive technology is the sense that reproduction is something that one must control in order to fashion a family that will fit with one’s expectations. With the onset of especially effective forms of birth control (there were ineffective forms prior and they didn’t really matter that much for how we thought about the family), and reproductive technology, you have this ever-more efficient quest of controlling one’s form of family. I think this has warped the way we think about incipient life, the way we think about the gift of life, that parenting has become so much a task.

I mean, we have become Pelagian in how we think about the gift of life. It is something that we must control, navigate, and adhere to in order to craft a family that will fit in with economic demands that will fit in with cultural expectations. Evangelicals have to ask ourselves “Why?” What are the norms by which we are trying to adhere when we are seeking a particular kind of family. I suspect many of us are at least influenced by the images in the media. Ya know, “baby gap kids”, “better homes and gardens”, as we are influenced by a scriptural witness to the gratuity of life.

I think she’s right about fashioning a family that will fit with one’s expectations. Yet she seems to speak as if economic and cultural considerations are without merit. I don’t see how they can be completely escaped, however, nor do I think they necessarily should be. Such considerations ought to be prayerfully considered as part of one’s overall stewardship and one’s purpose in the world, and go way beyond “baby gap kids” and “better homes and gardens.” Hall also does not address the validity of other considerations, such as health or extended family issues.

We don’t ignore economic factors when purchasing homes, cars, clothing, food, and other items. Not to equate things with persons or to say that children are a commodity, but, they do cost money to provide for, even from before they are born.

Besides all that, there are innumerable unpredictables in family planning, even when a couple tries to fashion a family in a way that they deem workable. Things can go “wrong” every step of the way. Miscarriages happen. Birth defects happen. Illnesses and accidents happen. Death happens. For many, though they may try to time and space children to the month, their bodies may not cooperate.

I am not certain that reproductive engineering and attempts to manage the spacing and number of children belong in the same category. In mentioning attempts to control what one’s family will look like, there is an implication that such control is a priori bad. I’m not referring to sex of children, or eye color, or other traits, but I mean child spacing and numbers. I think the reasons one has for use of methods to control one’s family spacing and size are what make attempts to manage family size morally acceptable or not.

I do not know Dr. Hall’s age, nor how long she’s been married. I note that she has two children. I wonder how many more she will have, and, if she continues to have children, how that will affect her current work.

Chris Keller, Hall’s interviewer in TOJ, asks a great question:
The question of, “what are children for”, is this idea to have a perfect child, and to have the child in a very controlled way, to give this child everything that he or she needs and to give the child every advantage possible… is there kind of an approach to children in this country that seems Savior-esque, with this objectification does there also come a kind of idolatry of children?

Hall’s response mentions Gnostic idolatry and Anne Geddes photos vs. Norman Rockwell pictures, in which she asserts that Geddes’ photos are indicative of a dominant culture in America that sees children as a way to accessorize and fulfill one’s own life, rather than as interruptions into our own hopes, dreams, and goals. I must admit that I don’t see Geddes’ photos in quite the same way, but believe she has a point in what she says about dominant American culture.

Perhaps in some ways, attempting to have children in a very controlled way can lead to an idolatry of children, but I think it may also be indicative of a desire to have control over one’s life in general, and of a materialistic view both of what having children means and of caring for them.

Yet I don't think that wanting to provide for and cultivate one's children is necessarily motivated by a desire that they be mere trophies. Perhaps a parent wants to do this because they love their children and value them as precious creatures of God! They desire to give them every truly good gift. Siblings are good gifts. So are parents who are able to take care of them properly. So is education, and training to develop their God-given skills.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A man of God

I am currently reading The Apple and the Arrow, the Legend of William Tell to my son. Mary and Conrad Buff tell the famous story from the late 13th century in this Newbery Honor Book, copyrighted 1951.

There’s something I found noteworthy near the beginning of chapter 2. William Tell and his son, Walter, are on their way to the Alpine valley town of Aldorf to find out whether Gessler, the evil bailiff, knows of Tell and his comrades’ plan to revolt. They pass a hillside cave in which resides Brother Klaus, a monk. Says Walter to his father, “ must be lonely for Brother Klaus to live all by himself in that dark place and just pray all of the time.”

Tell answers, “Perhaps it would be for you, son, but Klaus seems happy. When any one of the mountain folk is ill or without bread, Klaus comes to comfort him. When a woman loses her husband or a mother her child, Klaus is there to pray for her. All men, Walter, do not like to do the same thing. Some like to hunt, others to fight, and still others to till the soil. Klaus is a man of God, and I’m sure he is happy even if he lives alone in that dark cave yonder.” (pp. 26-27)

Not that fighters, hunters, and farmers can’t be men of God, but I ask: who, and where, are the Brother Klauses (or Sister Klaras) of today?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hallway blues

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The ceiling and walls are actually off-white. But due to some mysterious digital camera magic, the shadows turned blue.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

More on motherhood: emotions and responsibility

Several views have been expressed lately on the topic of struggling motherhood. Many have suggested mothers just “get over it”, but not all have been so cavalier. Some mommies have made valuable contributions toward understanding “mommy madness”:

Ilona, at truegrit, explains gently yet convincingly that a mother needs an entire community of support. She acknowledges what very few others seem to give credence to: the emotional effects of motherhood. Maybe most mothers don’t experience them, or have any problem with them. Maybe they adjust to motherhood just fine all on their own (-- “resting in Christ"). Maybe.

It's true that there can be vast differences between women and their experiences of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

Ilona raises the specter of post-partum depression, which affects Christians and non-Christians alike. She also suggets that husbands cannot be expected to provide all the support a mom needs. Having given birth ten (count ‘em!) times, I think she knows what she’s talking about!

At the same time, Samantha, proprietor of Uncle Sam’s Cabin, makes the point that parents must not expect anyone else to raise their children for them:
Newsweek recently did a spread on motherhood. I haven't read all of the bits and pieces but what I have read seems to take the woe-is-me approach to motherhood. James Lileks comments on the spread. This is what you get when you sell women on the idea that successful liberated women have a career just like a man's and have to be super moms too. Parenting is hard work and you shouldn't expect anyone else to do it for you. When you set unrealistic ideals of what parenting, and motherhood, are supposed to look like you end with the women described in the Newsweek article.

Lileks takes the same view but apparently sees something different in the following statement from “Mommy Madness than I do:
Women today mother in the excessive, control-freakish way that they do in part because they are psychologically conditioned to do so. But they also do it because, to a large extent, they have to. Because they are unsupported, because their children are not taken care of, in any meaningful way, by society at large. Because there is right now no widespread feeling of social responsibility—for children, for families, for anyone, really—and so they must take everything onto themselves.

I really don’t think Warner is saying we must expect others to raise our children for us, even if later in the article she calls for better daycare so parents can “get a break”. She recognizes a very real problem even if she exaggerates it. Unfortunately she doesn’t know the right solution.

The distinction made by Samantha and Lileks is necessary. But raising one's own children does not absolve everyone else from having anything to do with it. It truly does take a community to raise a child. A parent – a family – needs to be part of a loving and supportive group of people who share burdens and accountability with one another. Such groups are not easy to find in these days of diffused families and individualistic pursuit, both inside and outside of the church. Perpetual church-shopping doesn’t help either.

A focus on “getting right with God” or “reaching the lost” or serving in the soup kitchen doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things if those right beside us in the pews (or home with a sick kid for the 3rd week in a row) aren’t being served. We can’t blame our career-oriented society, government programs (or lack thereof), or maternal selfishness for all of a mother's struggles -- the church needs to take charge and show society a better way!

(Sam also has some great comments on women and blogging that I will address in another post.)

*edited for clarity

Friday, March 11, 2005

Dead men can talk!

Says this headline at FoxNews.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Coming home to motherhood

Last week on "Home School Heartbeat", Mike Smith of the HSDLA (Home School Legal Defense Association) had some encouraging words for working mothers who “come home” to be stay-at-home moms. Audio links and transcripts of the five radio spots can be found here.

Smith made several important points:

Women “coming home” from the workforce “still face pressures and opposition from those who demand that all women strive to attain what they deem "equal" footing with men.” (from “Defining a Mother’s Job,”emphasis added)

“One former career woman, Danielle Crittenden, left her job as a successful Washington, DC journalist to raise her children at home. She says stay-at-home moms often feel a loss of identity when they leave the workforce and have difficulty explaining their new job to people still climbing the corporate ladder.” (emphasis added)

States Smith, “A job in the corporate workforce should not be elevated above motherhood. The two cannot be compared.” While this may be true in terms of equality, the two should be compared in terms of the effects both career and motherhood can have on a mother's life and the lives of her family members. Every parent ought to examine these things honestly, regardless of what friends may be doing or what other family members may say. Family and friends can prove a very tough tide to buck, though, which is why we need more support groups like Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and Hearts at Home.

Smith makes the point that “equality” is misunderstood as being “egalitarianism” in today’s society, and I concur. I certainly was brought up with an egalitarian mindset and am still working to overcome it. It's unfortunate that the egalitarian notion fails to account for the fact that men cannot bear and nurse children nor otherwise be mothers, and mothers cannot be fathers.

I bring all this up in the wake of the “Mommy Madness” uproar in the blogosphere, during which “whining mommies” were soundly rebuked and sent to their rooms without supper. Of course America does not need more daycare, and those striving, perfectionistic mad-mommies would do well to learn that neither perfect formulaic mothering nor “having it all” are what it’s all about. But someone must show them this. Someone must help them adjust their lifestyle patterns and thinking, which is surely no easy feat. Merely patronizing these women with glib “get over it” remarks helps no one.

The biggest problem I had with the “Mommy Madness” article was that discussion of unnecessary pressures and struggles obscured the unavoidable pressures and struggles mothers face. Most mothers probably struggle somewhere in-between the two extremes, with a mixture of both types.

I am happy to see both Smith and Jill Savage, in this interview with Cindy Swanson, address the financial ramifications of Mom (or Dad) staying at home. It’s no myth that some families are financially blessed in ways that others are not, through no virtue or fault of their own. Lifestyle concerns may run deep into issues of sacrifice and necessity. The decisions are often complicated.

Smith also speaks to husbands, encouraging them to support their stay-at-home wives as much as possible. Contrary to criticism garnered by the following statement in "Mommy Madness," this encouragement is much needed: “Women told me of their exhaustion and depression, and of their frustrations with the "uselessness" of their husbands.” The criticism in effect pooh-poohed the suggestion that there actually are husbands/dads out there who do not adequately support their wives. But of course there are. They may not intend to be unsupportive, but their own expectations and difficulties prevent them from doing what is needed.

To Smith’s list of ways dads can help moms, I would add the following: a) be educated in parenting issues, b) be attentive, and c) take your wife’s requests/complaints seriously. In motherhood especially, a wife needs her husband to honor Ephesians 5:28.

Motherhood may take the can-do-type woman to depths of need she's never before experienced. This may be hard for both her and her husband to accept, let alone adjust to. But accept they must, as ought the Christian community. As ought society in general. Let us show the way!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Frost noir

(So what if the implications aren’t entirely relevant; I couldn’t resist :-) )

It was suggested that I convert my frost photos (see this post, this post, and the gallery) to black-and-white. This intrigued me, not just because of the possibility, but because the thought hadn’t occurred to me! The shots I usually imagine being candidates for B&W are conceived purely as graphics or abstracts in the first place, not as photojournalistic “nature shots.” But...what an interesting transformation occurred in some of the frost photos, as well as in my conceptualizations :-)

The photos are in the gallery. Some samples:

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Great idea, Rusty Lopez – glad I thought of it! ;-D

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bits and pieces, 3/07/05

Last week's Christian Carnival is at Crossroads and it’s a really good one (but then, they all are!). Diane’s presentation is wonderful.

To enter next week's Christian Carnival, send the following info to ChristianCarnival-at-gmail-dot-com:

name of your blog
your blog url
title of your post
post url
brief description of post

The deadline is Tues. 3/08 at 12 midnight EST.


Here's more evidence of the perils of IVF, from Reasons Why. I discuss other ways that in-vitro fertilization introduces greater peril to the process of creating new life than occurs naturally here.


Now that the location of GodBlogCon 2005 has been announced (Biola University), there’s some internal reorganizing going on with the GBC administration. John Schroeder, author of the prayer blog, tells us that the prayer blog will be on hold until further developments are known. Please keep visiting the prayer blog, though, to read over and pray along with all the wonderful posts already there.

I will continue to post my own prayers for the GBC. My prayer concern for today is that the idea of Godblogdom as “church” be considered by those leading and attending (or hoping to attend) the GBC. Note that I said, “Godblogdom as ‘church,’ not “Godblogdom as substitute for 'real' in-your-local-community church.” What I mean by the former is that I would hope Christian blogs and blogging would be different from purely secular blogging not just in content but in treatment.

What is difficult in so large a Godblogosphere is maintaining support of particular individual blogs. Not that this must happen, but I worry that blogs, even Christian blogs, might become just another commodity to be used or consumed. Perhaps I will write more about that in the near future.

(This would probably fall under the “Inspiration” category of the GBC’s five Guiding Core Values):

Simplicity: to keep the organization and operation of the Convention as simple as possible

Relationship: to ensure that GodBlogCon 2005 is very relational, with a lot of networking and befriending going on with fellow bloggers

Inspiration: to receive inspiration and vision for the significant emerging role of blogging in America's church and culture from Hugh Hewitt and others

Practicality: to provide practical workshops/roundtables led by top quality leaders in blogging

Diversity: to offer a variety of workshops/roundtable topics that appeal to the diversity of interests within the blogging community

Sunday, March 06, 2005

“L” is for “lookin’ great”

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(wish I’d gotten a better pic but this’ll do :-) )

Several months ago, Abercrombie and Fitch offered this most gratuitous T-shirt:

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I and hundreds of other parents and gym personnel wrote A&F to share our thoughts on that shirt.* What I forgot to do was ask the A&F folks if they'd ever tried an L-hold on the rings...

Anyway, here’s my loser of a son at the culmination of his gymnastics meet today:

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(wearing the 3rd place all-around medal)

*(Thankfully, A&F made the T-shirt disappear)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The true cost of sacrifice

The Hedgehog posts some wonderful poetry in War and its Cost.

Clearly, there is a true cost to true gain in all of life, not just in war.

In our natural-man state, we try to avoid cost. Or, we pay, but not in a way that actually costs us, in our natural-man state. We may pay to try to earn our own salvation, but what we spend comes right back to prosper our humanness, not our spiritual man. We are still spending on ourselves.

I know this is true of me. Every now and then I get glimpses of how much I really “spend” on myself, but it sure is hard to keep apprehension of that reality foremost in my mind. It’s so hard not to be driven by humanness and to keep everything from being self-serving, even if the outward form and actions are ostensibly “good.”

That's why I need God’s mercy, obviously.

In everyday dealings, if I am able to make a conscious effort (i.e., choose) to mentally and emotionally step back from something that bothers me, I'm able to assess the situation much more clearly. I'm able to take a course of action that serves others rather than myself, and to speak words that are helpful rather than hurtful. This is a different kind of cost than the cost of war, but both yield a good that far outweighs the cost.

Greta interviews Terri’s parents

From FoxNews:

[GRETA] VAN SUSTEREN: Bob, when is the last time you saw your daughter?


VAN SUSTEREN: And tell me what you saw. You walked in the room and you saw what? I mean did she respond to you?

B. SCHINDLER: It's fairly typical. When she sees her mother, as we said before, she just glows and she's so happy to see her and then she'll cry sometimes. She'll talk sometimes, attempts to talk and she's just is so pleased that her mother is there. So there's an interaction there between her and her mother. And the same thing with myself at times.

Doesn’t sound “persistently vegetative” to me. Read the interview here.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

YOU can help save Terri!

From the NRLC (National Right to Life Committee):

WASHINGTON, March 3 Christian Wire Service -- The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is calling on Congress to enact a bill to be introduced by Representative Dave Weldon, M.D. (R-Fl-15) that would give the Schindler family access to a federal court to argue for the life of their daughter, Terri Schindler-Schiavo.
"Congress can act to ensure a federal court hearing on whether or not Terri will die of starvation and dehydration," said Lori Kehoe, Congressional Liaison for NRLC's Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. "A proceeding known as the 'writ of habeas corpus,' which is protected by the U.S. Constitution, has been used for centuries to give a hearing to those whose liberty has been constrained by state courts in violation of the Constitution or federal laws. We call on all citizens to immediately contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to support Representative Weldon's bill to amend the Habeas Corpus Act to allow its use when a state court orders denial of food or fluids in cases like Terri's."

Representative Weldon has announced that he will introduce the Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act on Tuesday, March 8, 2005.

Call your Federal Representatives ASAP!

Also check out MediaCulpa’s report on an error Judge Greer made in a past ruling.
“Schiavo's parents want Judge George Greer to throw out his ruling to remove her feeding tube because his order includes an error about the Quinlan case. Her husband's lawyer called the request invalid and dismissed the error as insignificant.”

Yet George Felos also claims that what Greer said in the ruling was not really what he meant (??), and that the reason “the Schindlers' request is invalid [is] because too much time has passed since Greer's 2000 ruling.”

Does this mean that if the right amount of time passes between an error in a ruling and the discovery of/challenge to that error, it’s legally irrelevant? Sheesh, I must know less about law than I already know I don’t know...

But why is Felos even saying these things if this statement is true:
“It could all be moot. Greer's 2000 ruling suggests Schiavo's opinion of the Quinlan case didn't weigh heavily in his decision.”
I guess the status conference set for tomorrow (Friday) will tell.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Forget me not

On the occasion of my younger son’s recent birthday, I enjoyed reminiscing via his baby book. In the front I rediscovered a poem I’d written after learning we were expecting him.

Some background: our first child was conceived as an answer to prayer, though not the prayer you might expect. He was answer to prayer for understanding and physical healing. God works in amazing ways!

Conception of our second child (younger son) wasn’t so easy. I was about 7 weeks along, though, before realizing it had happened.

During those 7 weeks, I took frequent walks along our road. I contemplated the flourishing of nature and the long, thick patch of forget-me-nots along the ditch. Both of these things became metaphors in my mind for fertility and for God’s workings:


A petition, an instinct,
a desire
Planted by God within recesses
of the heart?

Like Hannah, a wish has been
granted: a son, Samuel
(A rare, precious gift –
dare I ask for another?)

Leaves fall, snows come.
Spring blossoms, then summer heat:

Strolling along the hill road,
its sides verdant with
fresh mint and a sea of
tiny faces rich, horizon blue,

A life grows within
once again.