Restoring Gently and Bearing Burdens

At this stage in my life, so much of my reading and studying is filtered through the perspective of mothering. This includes my study of the Bible and theology. I find the deeper I dig into God’s Word, the more light it shines on my life–and how I ought to mother.

 

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:1-2

 

“Brothers. . .” This passage is written to Believers. As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.

As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.

 

My friend Kristen shared,  “We went to Ash Wednesday services at the beginning of Lent with Kate at the Episcopal church around the corner (we missed liturgy) and when the priest put ashes on her little forehead, it really made an impact on me. As much as I am her mother, I am also her sister in Christ. This has been really helpful to me in thinking through parenting issues. Most Christians wouldn’t serve wine to a fellow Christian who was a recovering alcoholic. Why do they discipline their children and then set them up to do the same things again?”

 

In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther clarifies that “caught in sin” is not speaking about doctrinal errors, “but about far lesser sins into which people fall not deliberately, but through weakness.”

 

As our children are learning right from wrong, they will sin. As they are growing through various stages of development, they will have greater or lesser control over their impulses.

 

Luther goes on to say, “is caught in imply being tricked by the devil or sinful nature.”  Sinful nature, temptation, weakness, developmental stages–remembering these sins of our children are part of their weakness helps me respond to them with compassion.

 

Luther states, “Paul therefore teaches how those who have fallen should be dealt with–namely those who are strong should raise them up and restore them gently.”

 

I don’t always feel “strong” or “spiritual.” Often I feel weak and struggling myself. But it is my responsibility to raise my children and be strong for them. We have no trouble with the idea of parents being a “mama bear” protecting her young child. I also want to be strong spiritually to correct them gently, to be the “mama bear” to help my children when they are struggling with sin.

 

It’s interesting to note that this passage is immediately proceeded by the admonitions to walk in the Spirit and the list of the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These should be on my mind as I restore my children gently.

 

Luther reinforces the idea of this passage reminding us of “the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul requires of those who have charge over souls.”

 

What does “restoring gently” look like?

 

Luther explains, “when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can—yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.” And “. . .gently, and not in the zeal of severe justice.”

 

To be honest, at times I’ve had Christian mothers advocate some child-training approaches that seemed to have more of the “zeal of severe justice” than how Luther describes the Holy Spirit’s correction, “mild and pitiful in forbearing.”

we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.

 

After restoring gently, we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.

 

One of my preschool sons was insecure around lots of guests–and he responded in the past by getting very loud, climbing on furniture, and even hitting a guest. I’ve found that to carry his burden means I prepare him beforehand for our guests, and I hold his hand when they arrive, until he is comfortable and calm. Another son was prone to lash out at his brothers when he was angry. Bearing his burden has meant praying with him and for him, helping him recognize when he feels anger rising, and giving him strategies to deal with that anger without hitting. And it has meant letting him know it’s good to come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m angry” so I can help him not sin in his anger.

 

Also in this encouragement to carry one another’s burdens, it strikes me how wrong it is to follow the child-training technique of placing a child in a situation of temptation–to test him and see whether he can withstand it (or be punished.) This method is encouraged by some for training toddlers and preschoolers, and seems to be very contrary to bearing the burdens of temptation.

 

Luther also comments on this passage that sometimes in bearing with one another, things need to just be let go–“These people are the ones who are overtaken by sin and have the burdens that Paul commands us to carry. In this case, let us not be rigorous and merciless, but follow the example of Christ, who bears and forbears these burdens. If he does not punish them, though He might do so with justice, much less ought we to do so.”

 

“And watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” For parents, I see this as a two-fold warning. First, to be gentle, not be angry—the caution here illustrates how very easy it is to slip into being harsh.

 

And also I see the warning not to be tempted to pride. When we become concerned about appearing to be “good parents” it is easy to slip into correcting harshly, minutely. This is one of the areas in which I struggled a lot, especially when my children were smaller. And especially when we were guests in churches and people’s homes. I felt pressure (from myself even more than others) for my kids to be perfect and “prove” we were worthy to be missionaries. That pressure tempted me both into pride in my children’s good behaviour, as well being overly picky and correcting unnecessarily.

 

“Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . .” — Martin Luther

The end of these verses is “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

As Martin Luther said, “After Christ had redeemed us, renewed us, and made us his church, he gave us no other law but that of mutual love. To love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens–that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . . Love, therefore, is mild, courteous, and patient, not in receiving, but in giving, for it is constrained to wink at many things and to bear them.”

 

Footnote: Quotations are from the Crossway Commentary series,

Martin Luther on Galatians. Luther’s commentary is also available free online, in a variant translation.

 

*****

 
It’s funny how some of the lessons the Lord leads us through circle back again for us. I continue to pray that the Lord will show me how to “restore gently” as I’m once again in the toddler/preschool years and as we navigate the new road of our children being adults. Originally posted May 2005 and January 2010.

 

Observation

“Everything’s kind of chaos in here.”

–my four year old son.

Not sure whether he’s referring to the pictures of medieval life in the book on his lap, or the living room.

Arrows, Soaring

When the boys were younger, they had plastic toy bows and arrows. I remember playing with the boys, and shooting arrows with them.

I draw back the arrow, the bow bends — and I’m worried that I’m going to break the plastic bow if I pull too hard. The string is taut and tense and for a moment before I release the arrow.

I’m living in that moment now, feeling the pulling tension between the bow and string.

We’re on the verge of great action, energy, loosening, flying, soaring, aiming towards a goal. . . Pulling back and taking aim. Drawing firmly, but not too hard with this plastic toy bow. The bow is stressed.

In this analogy, it only seems proper that the young adults are the arrows getting ready to soar.

But where does that leave me? Am I the bow? The string? The archer? I’m not sure.

Things are taut. There is tension. Everyone in our family feels it. We are all living through this time of stretching and expectation.

I want to be in this together. Connected. Not working at odds with one another, but pulling together. Aimed at the same target. On the same team.

We’re working on that.

Being connected, while preparing to release.

“…and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending.”

–Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“Creativity requires a state of grace. So many things are required for it to succeed.”
Magda Szabó, The Door

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 3

Digital publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the distribution of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.

In previous posts we looked at the rapid expansion of opportunity — an estimated 4 billion first-time internet users coming online due to expanded wifi coverage and low cost smart phones. We also considered the great impact books have both in personal spiritual growth as well as for leaders in the church.

E-publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the dissemination of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.

The Church is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the e-publishing boom.

With its historic emphasis on literacy and education, as well as groundbreaking work in linguistics and translation, the Church already has books and written materials in many languages around the world.  Wycliffe is known for its pioneering work in Bible translation, but even smaller organizations translate and write materials to be used by the local church in many languages.

Amazon continues to expand the languages that can be published on its e-readers and apps. Currently, Amazon distributes e-books in over 35 languages, and my understanding is that they support dialects related to those languages as well. Kobo claims e-books in 60+ languages in 190 countries, and is really focusing on the Asian market. While iBooks and Google Play are smaller players at this point, once a book is formatted for e-publishing, it takes just a few more clicks to get it on those platforms as well.

The strategic key here is that the hard work of writing or translating has already been done.  Churches, affiliated schools, and mission organizations already have the creative capital of written books and materials. In the past, the production and distribution of physical books has been an expensive and logistical barrier to getting them in the hands of people. But with e-publishing, those barriers are coming down.

 

Case Study: India

India provides a great case study for considering how the Church can use digital publishing to distribute sound Biblical materials to many people.  It is especially relevant because a great many of new internet users will be coming from Asia, Africa, and the sub-continent of India.

English is one of the official languages of India, and a significant number of new internet users worldwide will be either native English speakers or know it as the language of business and education.  However, e-book distributors are also targeting markets in other languages.  Amazon recently announced that it now is offering e-books in five of the regional languages of India — Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam, Both the Kindle and mobile platform Kindle apps are able to support these languages.

Amazon says it has “thousands” of books in its India store in these regional languages. Thousands?  While that is great — it sounds as if Amazon still has a rather small pool of books for these languages.  When we consider the materials in these regional languages already written and translated by churches, schools and seminaries, it could easily add many more thousands of titles to Amazon’s regional language stores.

An inquisitive reader looking for e-book deals in his own language does an Amazon search — and what could they find?  Not just the Bible, but study materials and Christian living resources in their own language available at low cost.  If Christian organizations are are early adopters of widespread e-distribution, the likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.

 

Early Adopters — Big Fish in a Small Pond?

Since mission organizations already have materials in multiple languages, they are poised to be early adopters of e-publishing.  Consider the 60+ languages available for publishing through Kobo —  how many of these languages have limited number of books available?  If Christian organizations can work towards digital publishing of their materials, they will represent a great percentage of the books in some of the smaller language groups.  The likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.

I’ve heard (but can’t confirm) that Amazon is the world’s second most powerful search engine — second to Google. The more theologically solid materials that are available on Amazon, the more people who are curious will find them.  This is where people are looking for materials — let’s be where people are looking.

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — the church needs to take advantage of that.

Use the Existing Distribution Infrastructures

Amazon and the like are building amazing international distribution infrastructures for commercial use.  Barriers are continuing to fall to the spread of information.  Christian organizations can use the international distribution infrastructures which are being developed for commercial use.

In my initial research, I’ve been unable to find out which organizations are utilizing worldwide e-publishing to disseminate sound theological resources.  (Note: If you know which organizations are pursing this, please let me know!)

Some organizations offer materials free or low cost — but only from their website. This is true of one of my favorite publishers, Banner of Truth. They have some really excellent materials, but aren’t leveraging the existing distribution networks.

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — we need to take advantage of that.

 

Digital Publishing isn’t Complicated

My husband’s first book, Knox’s Irregulars, was initially self-published.  This was in the early days of Amazon working with indie authors, and we didn’t quite know what we were doing.  But you know what?  The formatting and uploading process was straightforward, and  it was low cost to get a book on Amazon. The learning curve to use other distribution sites such as Kobo is pretty small.  (This is a great how-to for getting e-books to the major distributors.)  While John’s book is now with a traditional publisher, it is still available worldwide — I just saw it on Amazon India the other day. The barrier to worldwide publishing is lower than it has ever been.

Perhaps a mission organization may need to designate a person to develop the skills of e-formatting and navigating the uploading process to e-book distributors. Mission organizations can charge the lowest sale price allowed to cover the download fees. Some books may be able to be put on sale for “free,” and others may require a nominal fee. It’s easy to imagine a pastor in  India finding a commentary on Romans and downloading it to his smart phone for 99 cents.

One caveat on it isn’t complicated. . . When publishing rights have been acquired for translated materials, it is important to double check that those include digital distribution.

The barriers to distribution are low, and the potential impact is so great.

 

I know there must be some organizations working on getting solid Biblical materials more widely accessed via mobile devices worldwide, but I’m not hearing about it. I’d love to know who is working on this sort of project even now.

 

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

Digital Publishing, the Church and Reformation: Part 3

We Remember: Lydia

We remember Lydia Schatz today, February 6, 2017.

Seven years ago today, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz died after her adoptive parents disciplined her to the point of death.

Lydia was a vivacious little girl, adopted from Liberia.  In the photo below, her smile shows a missing upper tooth — in the same place where my 5-year-old-son is missing a tooth.

Lydia Schatz

Lydia Schatz

 

February tends to be a hard month for me.  I don’t know why it is, but it seems some of the biggest emotional challenges come around in February. A big part of it is remembering and mourning Lydia Schatz and Sean Paddock, and facing the reality of abuse within the church and Christian families.

Lydia’s adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were convicted by the courts. Kevin was sentenced to two life terms for second-degree murder and torture and will serve a minimum of 22 years. Elizabeth Schatz sentence is for over 13 years for voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. These sentences were the result of a plea bargin — originally they were charged with murder related to Lydia’s death, torture related to her sister (also adopted) who was hospitalized but recovered, and cruelty related to a biological son’s injuries.

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Psalm 10:18-19

Lydia’s autopsy revealed that she died from rhabdomyolsis, a condition related to kidney and heart failure from toxins released when muscle tissue breaks down. Lydia’s muscles broke down as a result of repeated beatings over time, though her death was proceeded by an especially long “discipline” session.

Lydia’s parents used a plumbing supply line, which is recommended by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book “To Train Up A Child.” Both plumbing supply line and TTUAC were found in the Schatz home and the older children have attested to those methods being used in their home.

While death is not a common result from the implementation of TTUAC, this is not the first time that a child has died when parents have carefully and consistently applied the so-called “child training methods” espoused by the Pearls. In February 2006, 4-year-old Sean Paddock was killed. How many other unreported cases of quiet abuse are happening under the influenced of these harmful, unBiblical teachings?

Compounding the tragedy is the professed love of these parents for their children, the desire to nurture their children through homeschooling, the commitment to seek out help in parenting.

Further compounding the tragedy is that Lydia and her sister Zaraiah were adopted. Her parents needed to provide love, security, attachment. . . and instead beat them with a plumbing supply line. Sean was a foster son in the process of being adopted.

We need to remember Lydia. We need to remember Sean. We need to remember Hana Williams.

We need to remember the children who need families, who are in families.

We need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

We need to open our eyes to the abuse within our own communities.

May God have mercy on us all.

 

Lydia Schatz Memorial

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

I woke up yesterday morning with this hymn by Charles Wesley on my lips. I really like this modern working of it by Indelible Grace.

Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high;
hide me, O my Savior, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!

Other refuge have I none;
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
Plenteous grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound;
make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art;
freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.

Psalter Hymnal, 1987

The Greatest Age of Missions Is Still to Come – Tim Challies

Please click through to read the full article from Tim Challies about the expanding needs of billions of people around the world.  Related, check out my thoughts on digital publishing and missions.

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

 

 

Here is an incredible presentation of human population growth. Look at it and you’ll see the work of Christian missions has really only just begun.

Source: The Greatest Age of Missions Is Still to Come – Tim Challies