Archive for ‘Family’


Wisdom from Wendell

I’m reading of collection of interviews that Wendell Berry has given over the years.  They are another quality addition to his body of work that includes novels, essays, and poetry.  There’s much to highlight, but this section was particularly profound:

Plowboy: …it takes a conscious effort to reinstate the ceremony and ritual in our lives.  Many intentional communities are trying to generate this kind of awareness and stability…

Berry: But I’m much more interested in the results of accidental communities that have formed by fate and fortune and circumstance.  The intentional community seems to me a rather escapist idea, sort of a new version of the white citizen’s council.  I thought that’s what we were trying to get away from.  I think the idea that you can have an intentional community is about as misleading as saying you can have an intentional life.  If you’re going to have a decent and stable community, you’ve got to produce the cultural and social forms by which to deal with the unexpected and the undesirable.  The intentional community idea assumes that when you say love your neighbor as yourself, you have some kind of right to go out and pick your neighbor.  I think that the ideal of loving your neighbor has to take on the possibility that he may be somebody you’re going to have great difficulty loving or liking or even tolerating.

Plowboy: In your writing you emphasize that the inhabitants of a region thrive on the daily interchange between old and young… yet many of these new communities are made up primarily of young people.

Berry: Yes, and that’s one of the worst possible kinds of segregation.  This is probably the first generation not to have a history.  They have their own immediate history but not one that comes from having older people around them.  They’re coming up to adult life without the awareness that anyone has ever gone through their experiences before, much less learned anything from them.  But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people they had old minds.  They had a kind of seasoning.

From Morris Allen Grubbs, ed., Conversations with Wendell Berry (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 10.


We Crave Something Beyond Our Biology

I don’t usually list Andy Stanley as one of my theological heroes or ministry role models, but his recent defense of monogamy in TIME magazine is brilliant:

Cassette tapes are obsolete. Monogamy is more like an endangered species. Rare. Valuable. Something to be fed and protected. Perhaps an armed guard should be assigned to every monogamous couple to ward off poachers. Perhaps not.

The value a culture places on monogamy determines the welfare of its women and children. Women and children do not fare well in societies that embrace polygamy or promiscuity. In the majority of cases, sexual freedom undermines the financial freedom of women. Sexual freedom eventually undermines the financial and emotional security of children.

If we are only biology, none of the above really matters. All’s well that ends with the survival of the species. If we are only biology, monogamy was probably a flawed concept from the start. But very few of us live as if we are only biology. I’m not sure it’s possible. We constantly refer to “our bodies”—an acknowledgement that we are more than “bodies.” Apparently, there is an “I” in there somewhere, an “I” that desires more than another body with which to ensure the survival of the species. As a pastor, I’ve officiated my share of weddings and I’ve done my share of premarital counseling. I always ask couples why they are getting married. Survival of the species never makes the list.

The “I” and “You” that inhabit our bodies desire more than another body. We desire intimacy—to know and to be fully known without fear. Intimacy is fragile. Intimacy is powerful. Intimacy is fueled by exclusivity.

So, no, monogamy is not obsolete. It’s endangered. But so was the buffalo.  Perhaps we happily monogamous couples should relocate to Yellowstone.


The Family

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Illinois Baptist newspaper on the final article in the Baptist Faith & Message on “The Family.”

The Family


Kids and Scary Stories

My wife and I had just been talking about what kinds of stories are appropriate for our little girls to know. Then I saw this quote from G.K. Chesterton come across the Feedly:

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

—G. K. Chesteron, “The Red Angel” (1909)

HT: Justin Taylor


The Gospel in Everything!

Tonight sitting around the dinner table the conversation with the kids turned to bodily functions. Giggles abounded as we discussed ear wax, puke, mucous, and the many different synonyms for passing gas that we will allow to be used in our family. Then I remembered something that I read in Tim Keller’s Center Church (p. 121) earlier today and shared it with them:

Ajith Fernando, a Sri Lankan evangelist, communicates the idea of substitutionary atonement to his listeners by using an illustration:

Have you ever had an infected wound or sore? When you open it, what comes rolling out? Pus. And what is that? It is basically the collective corpses of white blood cells fighting the infection that have died so that you may live. Do you see? Substitutionary salvation is in your very blood.

You really can turn every conversation with your kids to the gospel in a fun way!


FDR’s Legacy

I finally finished Doris Kearn’s Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time just after this new movie came out featuring Bill Murray as FDR (I haven’t seen it yet).

While there is much to be admired in Franklin Roosevelt (i.e. his vision, his ability to enjoy life, his calm under pressure, etc…) as I came to the end I was reflecting on his legacy. Most will talk about his New Deal and defeat of Hitler and the way he changed the size and role of American government. I was struck by the legacy he left in regards to marriage.

His affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherford is well known. It happened early in his marriage and when discovered he promised Eleanor he would never see her again. Franklin and Eleanor began a new arrangement where they stayed married but essentially lived two different lives. Towards the end of Franklin’s life, with the help of his eldest daughter, Anna, Franklin began seeing Lucy again secretly when Eleanor was away (which was often). And then when Franklin died suddenly in Warm Springs, Georgia, it was Lucy who was actually with him! Biographers can try make us sympathetic to this arrangement, but there’s no avoiding the fact that this was a major character flaw.

Then in the Afterword we find out the sad news of how Franklin and Eleanor’s five kids turned out. Anna was married twice. His son John was married twice. FDR, Jr., was married five times. Elliott was married five times. And the youngest, James, was married four times. Coincidence? I think not.


Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse, an early 20th century German writer, has a fascinating novel called Narcissus and Goldmund. It’s about two medieval men – one an ascetic scholar/monk – the THINKER (Narcissus). The other an aesthetic artist/wanderer – the FEELER (Goldmund). It’s beautiful prose and very helpful for understanding people, though I fundamentally disagree with the underlying worldview.

In this section we find narrated Goldmund’s philosophical musings on life:

It was shameless how life made fun of one; it was a joke, a cause for weeping! Either one lived and let one’s senses play, drank full at the primitive mother’s breast – which brought great bliss but was no protection against death; then one lived like a mushroom in the forest, colorful today and rotten tomorrow. Or else one put up a defense, imprisoned oneself for work and tried to build a monument to the fleeting passage of life – then one renounced life, was nothing but a tool; one enlisted in the service of that which endured, but one dried up in the process and lost one’s freedom, scope, lust for life….

Ach, life made sense only if one achieved both, only if it was not split by this brittle alternative! To create, without sacrificing one’s senses for it. To live, without renouncing the nobility of creating. Was that possible?

Perhaps there were people for whom this was possible. Perhaps there were husbands and heads of families who did not lose their sensuality by being faithful. Perhaps there were people who, though settled, did not have hearts dried up by lack of freedom and lack of risk. Perhaps. He had never met one.

I take that as a challenge! The gospel truly provides a third way beyond this false dualism.


Our Family’s Morning Routine

In case this is helpful for anyone to see, this is what our weekday mornings currently look like as a family.