Monday, March 31, 2008

This should be something on a soap opera, not part of my life

Have you ever wished you could be a fly on a wall and listen to people talk about you?

Have you ever had someone tell you they listened to you yell at your kids, sing along to the radio in the car or some other embarrassing thing on their voice mail after you inadvertently dialed them on your cell?

Can you see where this is going yet?

When I called my friend, I heard, “Oh it's Mike, I’ll have to call him back.” But the thing was, he answered it. Because if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have heard that. So then, I can only assume the phone went back in the pocket or onto the table and the conversation that I interrupted continued. Only now I was there as a silent listener. At first I thought he was finishing up a conversation, so I patiently waited. But then he started talking about me to the other person. This was not necessarily unexpected as I had called who I considered one of my very best friends. But the nature of the conversation was very disturbing. As conflicted as I was with guilt from feeding my inner voyeur, I couldn’t hang up the phone. I sat for a half hour with my handset hovering above disconnect button. Every time I would resolve to take my leave, I would hear my name again.

I won’t dredge up the details of the call and what was said about me, but it would have been shockingly unsettling if overheard between two acquaintances of mine. Since one of the people was someone who I spoke to several times a week, trusted, and spared no unpleasant detail of my life with, the experience was simply gut-wrenching. This was someone who I had seriously contemplated going into business with at some time in future. My skin is probably about as thick as skin gets (probably 98th percentile among those with skin), but that crushed me. With each judgment, each hateful comment I felt my stomach tighten into knots. I’m not one to shed tears apart from a very emotional episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but as I evaluated my state of mind I was mildly surprised at the dryness of my eyes. There was anger at the betrayal I felt, obvious hurt, conviction from the cold truth in some of the comments that were made, but mostly shock. I imagine I resembled a deer in headlights as the conversation reached its natural end after about 40 minutes or so.

When I finally hung up, amazingly all I could think about was how kind my God is and has been through all my life. That hard 40 minutes was infinitely preferable to damage I could have done to my life had I gone on oblivious to what was revealed to me. This was someone I had come to rely on far too much. Also, no one can rail against you for that amount of time and not stumble into a little bit of truth. It’s one thing to learn from the critiques your friends have the courage to share with you. It’s quite a bit more challenging to learn how they really feel when they can talk about you with impunity. God has already begun showing me things:

  • That He is faithful, even more so than a trusted friend.
  • That He is my shield and defender and the keeper of my life, even if it means some short-term discomfort.
  • That He is a adept purveyor of coincidence (Seriously, it’s not like this guy doesn’t know how to use a cell phone. What are the chances that I would call to interrupt the very conversation I most needed to hear? To think, a little while ago he actually bought that cell phone from me… adept purveyor indeed)
  • That iron sharpening iron isn’t always what you think it is.
  • That I tend to trust people with too much too soon. Then again I kinda knew that already.

But those are my lessons. It’s a little bit unlike me to post something like this, but it’s an interesting story and the 6 or 7 people that read this blog are people who I’d want to share it with. Really this isn’t a story about betrayal. If Hollywood made it into a little movie, that’s definitely what it would be about. To me this story shows the creativity of my God. And of how He is such a good long-term thinker. Seeing my life from the perspective of eternity lends itself to that. One other lesson: if you’re going to gossip, make sure your cell phone is off.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter pics

Ava is excited about her bracelet.

I think that's a peek at some Peep.

Ava and Momma

Singing for Grandma-D

Monday, March 3, 2008

On Quiverfull

It’s fun learning new words, even new words that describe old concepts. Lately the subject of birth control seems to be coming up in a lot of blogs that my wife reads (which I then read). My new word is “Quiverfull” which, as all defenders of such an idea will often say, is more than just a word, but a “lifestyle of faith”. Faith that God, in His sovereignty, will give us the exact number of children He wants us to have and that using any form of birth control would be to oppose His will, given that He has proclaimed children to be a blessing and has commanded His followers to be fruitful and multiply.

Wow. So using birth control is essentially wrong. That’s quite a thing to say. The consequences of such a belief are numerous and daunting. However, with any such issue, a Christian should constantly evaluate their behavior against scripture. We should seek to honor God and His word. And we should seek out His word honestly, avoiding looking only at things that support our belief and merely building a case to feel good about our current opinion. I’m pretty sure there is a right and wrong answer to this decision. If birth control is in opposition to God’s word, then for the most part Christians shouldn’t use it. If it’s okay, then folk who think that it’s sin need to shut their traps and stop searing the consciences of those who seek to live in harmony with God’s word. I think this is a pretty big deal.

In thinking about this issue, beyond searching the scriptures, there have been a few helpful sources of opinion. First, there was this lengthy post over at Life in a Shoe, one of my wife’s favorite blogs. There are ton of reader comments and even more comments on this follow-up post on the same issue. The author writes clearly and frankly and isn’t afraid to offend with her convictions. I like that. At one point she discusses how she doesn’t think that her opinion is simply “right for her and her family” but rather is simply “right” in an absolute sense. If you take a look at her reasons, having this unflinching attitude about her opinion offers some rare consistency in the PC world. She has 8 children (so far) and is very much of the mind that birth control should not be used. She presents her case very well.

Next up is a recent sermon from Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. He is very entertaining and great speaker. I’m very much in line with a lot of the Mars Hill theology. He is also one who speaks his mind and is not prone to pandering to nonbiblical sensitivities. As much as I enjoyed the experience of watching the sermon, I found his arguments unpersuasive. He is a pretty staunch defender of thoughtful birth control.

His primary arguments take 2 forms. One is a series of hypothetical (or actual) situations where it would seem inhuman and evil to recommend someone not take matters of birth control into their own hands, i.e. a lady has cancer or was recently raped. At one point he even brings up Andrea Yates (a Christian homeschool mom he called her) and that tragic situation. The other argument is essentially calling quiverfull-type folk “self-righteous, judgmental, and legalistic” over and over again. Finally, in a matter that seems uncharacteristic of him, he misses an opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the type of birth control folks should use. I have a feeling he leans a certain way there and he should have let fly. More on that later. Using rare hypothetical situation to create heuristics for practice is silly. Reducto ad absurdum is useful to testing philosophical positions, but you shouldn’t start there—Especially with something as important as this issue. Very few people have cancer and are wondering what to do about birth control; such people typically have far bigger issues on their minds. Yet this and others like it are the examples he uses to show how you shouldn’t tell people they shouldn’t use birth control. Not very compelling. You don’t define rules by their exceptions. Lifeboat morality is somewhat useful as a mental exercise, but I’m trying to determine if my wife and I should do anything to prevent childbirth. There are a LOT of folk in the same position as I am; why not speak to our issue rather then spend time talking about Andrea Yates?

As far as the “self-righteous, judgmental, and legalistic”, he seems to be falling into the same ad homonym patterns of attack which he accuses the QF folk. These days, when someone calls someone legalistic, I pay extra attention. I think our culture way to often confuses legalism with obedience and is too slow to recognize the value in maintaining consistency in a philosophical or theological position. To illustrate what I mean, how many people have you heard say that they think abortion is wrong (even murder) but “don’t want to impose their beliefs on others.” Ridiculous. If something is wrong, then it is wrong for everyone. If it’s just a matter of personal preference, then it’s not wrong. The QF folk believe that using birth control is wrong. It’s not a choice they’ve made personally. It’s a conviction they have regarding what the Bible teaches on a certain subject. It would be disingenuous for them not proclaim this conviction as they claim it—a mandate for all to heed.

That’s enough about Driscoll. I could mention more about his preaching style, but there’s simply too much material there to offer dutiful coverage within a post on another subject. Suffice it to say that I’ve watched several of his sermons and do have thoughts that I want to share. But that’ll have to wait.

Amy Scott, a similarly minded and far more articulate blogger also recently weighed in on the subject. I’m pretty sure this is the most comments she’s ever received on a post, but it would be too stalkerish of me to confirm that.

Her mini-treatise on the subject is written in her endearing “awe shucks” style reminiscent of the title of her blog. The first half of the post sets up her introductory thought of how humans like to be told what we can’t do so we can not feel guilty about doing everything up until that point. Agreed. Her conclusion lacks the punch I’ve come to expect of her. Rather than come down hard on where she stands, she more or less seems to track with Driscoll’s opinion. She makes an appeal for folk to consider carefully their choice to use birth control but maintains that it’s a matter of personal conviction. About 99% of her commenters loved the post. I wanted a little more punch—perhaps a little more legalism and judgmentalism . I guess I also like to be told exactly what I can and can’t do.

A couple other opinions worth reading are Doug Philips of Vision Forum and Doug Wilson of CRE. Both are very intelligent and articulate. And neither post is long enough to be burdensome (unlike this post). Different conclusions too.

While my wife and I have still more thought and prayer ahead of us on this matter, we’ve collectively reached a few conclusions.

1) The Pill is not consistent with a Biblical pro-life view. This is a very inconvenient conviction. Driscoll said that Focus on the Family hasn’t come down on either side of this issue and that some foundation of evangelical doctors hasn’t issued an opinion either. I think they’re stalling because they know how unpopular this opinion would be. Every honest description about how birth control pills work seems to indicate that the possibility of aborting an egg post-conception exists. The primary purpose of the pill is to prevent conception, but in the case of fertilization taking place, the uterus becomes an “inhospitable environment” for egg, preventing attachment and effectively ending life. I don’t thing that knowingly allowing that to happen is compatible with a Christian worldview. I won’t cross the street to tell someone this, but neither do I think this is a matter that should be left to personal conviction.

Of course, I’m not a scientist or doctor, so I’m more than willing to be proven wrong on this issue. In fact, at least on part of my life would be marginally improved by being able to jettison this belief. However, until I hear a convincing argument about a pill that does not create an inhospitable environment, I will hold this belief. If you know of any strong evidence of a 100% non-abortive pill option, please let me know.

2) QF arguments seem to be more often supported directly with scripture (or with fewer logical steps and leaps) than arguments for personal choice with birth control. The notion that birth control is a matter of personal conviction tends to rely more on logic and clever analogies than outright scripture. For example, God has given us brains to make choices or we live in a cause and effect world. Both of these things are true, but I think the majority of these arguments tends to elevate man’s thoughts. Few would agree that God will “personally convict” someone of something incongruent with His word. The great thing about following his word is that the consequences of obedience are not for us to worry about. It is truly one of the great freedoms of the Christian life. We don’t need to be concerned about what trials or blessing will come from obedience. We just need to see out the Lord and follow His word. Of course this is often easier said than done and I recognize that.

3) I am, at this point in my journey, comfortable with barrier methods of birth control and natural family planning. I won’t go into the specifics as Amy Scott explains most of it better than I can. I simply am not personally convicted that QF is a Biblical way of viewing our stewardship and dominion responsibilities as it relates to managing our families. I hold this view very tentatively and unlike many of the opinions I hold, am very open to the idea that I may be wrong. Just as I was once convinced of the dangers of Calvinistic theology, I realize that God reveals things according to His timing and schedule. Then again, perhaps I will know this freedom forever.

Tell you what though; I sure ain’t going under the knife for a “snip, snip” any time soon.