Thursday, June 29, 2006

On Driver's Education (and then some on ministry)

I studied hard for the course, partially to do well but more to learn what I will need to know. I got an A+ in the course, and on Friday my Mom took my sister and I to get our permits renewed (she's 20). On Sunday, I drove home from church on my third permit.... One of the young men from my congregation was in the class. Our conversation the first day:

YCM: What are you doing here?
YCW: Taking Driver's Ed.
YCM: I always assumed you'd taken it a long time ago.
YCW: Nope.
YCM: That's cool.
YCW: No, it's not. I'm 23.

Anyway, he said hi and how are you a couple times, and sat near me at one point when we weren't in our assigned seats, which was kind of him. And apparently he said a bit at home, too, because several people congratulated me on doing driver's ed and at least one mentioned the word persecution.

To me, persecution seems a bit strong, although perhaps not inaccurate. There were expressions of frustration when I asked a question, and when I sat down at a table to take a test some or all of the others there would leave on occasion. I also took flak for trying to quiet people so that I could hear the movies we were required to watch. Just stupid juvenile things. Some of it may have been for ratting out some who had cheated after he left the room. I told the man who said he was proud of me for persecution--a friend of the family and one of my husband's best men at the wedding--just what I had told my husband the day he picked me up after some of that: "I'm just glad that I'm not at the age that I care what sixteen-year-olds think of me anymore." (And am I!)
He said something about showing even sixteen-year-olds about God (which I'm not sure I did by yelling for quiet). Later I realized that my statement could be interpreted wrong, so I told him that I hadn't meant anything bad about 16-year-olds, and he said he hadn't taken it wrong.

I really am glad that I don't have to worry what teenagers think of me--or people in general. First of all, my goal should be to please God rather than men (although I should also strive to please my husband). When I look back on my school years, when I was often reviled--not for being a Christian, but just for being my rather nerdy and socially inept self--I realize that it probably hardened me in many ways. I don't look to others for approval or permission. Not fitting in is never more than a passing regret.

When I look at the way God has orchestrated my life, both now that I am following Him and long before, I am starting to see more clearly the fingerprints of the Master Architect. Because I was unpopular throughout my school years until I met my future husband, I never had a relationship with anyone else, and God had saved me for him. Losing my firstborn six months ago, when he or she was only a few weeks old and too tiny to even see, was not what I would have chosen. But God, in his greater wisdom, has given Joseph (or Anna)'s life and taken it away for His good reason. I would give anything to be six or seven months pregnant now--but instead my baby's death, along with his cousin's birth and at least one other sign from God, led me to the research I have done and am continuing to do. Joseph's life and death mean that none of his brothers or sisters will ever be destroyed through their parents' ignorance about how birth control works. It is my main goal, now, that none of his tiny brothers and sisters in Christ will face that fate either. I told my pastor I would buy him a copy of the Alcorn book he mentions, and he said he would read it. I did not tell him I planned to order in bulk, but I hope he will let me distribute it through the church once he does read it. Otherwise I'll have to do it on my own, but I still plan to do it. And it does not bother me that I may face opposition and that I have to say tactless things--at least, not enough to stop me. Just as some fast and some eat and both do it for the Lord, I believe that some are tactful to the glory of Jesus and some are tactless to the glory of Jesus. It's not that I try to be tactless, or that I am not compassionate; I simply must say things that are by their very nature tactless, though I try to say them as tactfully as possible. And I think that a lifetime of being tactless helps me out.

So when I look at the ministy God seems to have pushed me into, and how wonderfully He has suited me to it, I am convinced that I am where He wants me to be, and awed at how He has brought me to where and who I am. And I know that Joseph is with his Father in heaven, and that he is perfectly cared for, and that one day I will see him again, on the day that God's perfect and complete plan for my life is perfectly fulfilled.


I know it's been quite a while since I updated... sorry...

Part of what has kept me busy is the title of this post. I've always been a reader, but it's been quite a while since I got to a library--over a year, most likely. That comes from not having a license. Incidentally, that's another thing that kept me busy; I just finished driver's ed (at 23) and then I finished up all the stuff I'd been neglecting because of the ten-hour classes and the studying to pass all the tests that came between them. I think I'll do a second post on driving stuff after this.

I got twelve books out for two weeks, which was not the best idea (due to driver's ed). I did not finish them all. Tuesday, on the way to a church meeting (should post on that too) I was able to stop by the library and pick up something I'd been hoping for: interlibrary loan books.

What I did was search Amazon for books on my topic of interest (birth control and abortion and kids) and write down titles. I took the list to the library. So far they've found me eight books, some of which I've been hoping to read for months, like Randy Alcorn's books on the pill and abortion and A Full Quiver by the Hesses. Randy Alcorn's short (107 pages) book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? was exactly what I was looking for and I plan to order it in bulk. (One for me, one for the pastor, one for the Church library, and a lot more to give out at church after the pastor's read it.) I don't know that I was quite as impressed with A Full Quiver, but I suspect that it's because I've already heard its conclusions advocated and made the decision to let God be the Lord of my womb. My reading selections from the previous week included Colin Powell's autobiography, Dave Peltzer's books, "Opposing viewpoints" books on abortion and teen pregnancy (the first, especially, was surprisingly good), a book on Roe vs. Wade (very disturbing; it seems somewhat likely that it's not about right and wrong, but which lawyers do a better job. Who knows how many cases have come down to the quality of the legal counsel?), Norma McCorvey's pre-conversion autobiography, and a book on prenatal child development. Now, with access to practically any book I want, it seems hard to justify light reading... Instead, I need to be reading stuff that can make an eternal difference. And if I like it enough, I'll buy at least two copies--one for me and one for the church. The loan books came from as close as my former college's library and as far as, in the case of the Alcorn book, South Carolina. I am very, very impressed with my library. My husband enjoyed showing off his library card, which is over 15 years old.

So if I neglect posting, hopefully it is because I am edifying my mind and then, hopefully, the body of Christ.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Greek Update

from Birth Control and Catholic teachings:

I did ask about the Greek in 1 Corinthians 7:5. My findings: in the most commonly used Greek version, there is no reference to fasting (although there is in some others) and the causality is very clear in the Greek. That is, you can abstain from sex for the purpose of prayer.

The man I asked about the Greek is a friend who is a campus minister at my alma mater, a very Godly man and a wonderful father. My husband and I both respect him very much, and when he started studying Greek a couple years back, he really got into it and it has helped him discover more about scripture. (Just so you have some background on my source.)

In relation to the last post: There probably are times when it is okay to avoid having children. Technically, the encyclicals allowing NFP (as conception control) do so only for "grave reasons"--but that's not how it is used, and that's how artificial contraceptives first became used in Protestant churches. But I don't think that you can say NFP is being "open to life" when its effectiveness is the same as the pill, and I don't see why it would matter that each act is open to life if the relationship is not.
The real problem is the original heart attitude. If you start out not wanting to have children, you'll find an excuse, but no matter how good it is, I do not think it will be good enough. If you start from a perspective of wanting to have kids, but then discover a very serious reason not to--such as a high probability of injury to yourself or your child, or financial problems which would prevent you from caring for that child--you are more likely to come to a conclusion which is acceptable. Being too young, being a newlywed, and fear of getting fat don't cut it. In the US and most of Europe, no financial problem is sufficient reason. Kids do not starve or go naked in the US. There is charitable support for those who need it.

Just curious--does anyone want me to blog on something particular? Or should I just keep stumbling along?

Monday, June 05, 2006

On my father-in-law

While looking through the archives at Buried Treasure, I discovered this entry. I was reminded of my great respect for my father-in-law.

My father-in-law deserves more credit than he gets. He has always worked hard to support his family. He worked sacrificially to put both of his sons through a good college. He has always treated his daughter-in-laws as his own children. He has sacrificed the almighty American right to privacy willingly to both of his children so that they could get a better start by living rent-free or low-rent in his house--both in a row, so close on each other's tails that at one point all six of us lived in the house. He has helped my husband and I by giving us land nearby and having it surveyed for us, and intends to do the same for my brother- and sister-in-law. They are currently saving up their money to build and raising their son in his grandparents' home. He also has a tendency to do things like mowing our lawn or filling in the trench on our hillside where the grass keeps washing out, sometimes without telling us. As my husband grows and matures into the man God wants him to be, he has an excellent role model.

Double standards

Many people have taken issue with the "double standard" that is often observed in sexuality. Men are expected to be virile. They are expected to brag about their conquests in locker rooms and be "experienced." On the other hand, women are expected to be virgins. They are "sluts" or "bad girls" if they have sex outside of marriage.

That this sort of double standard exists is reprehensible. It was (and is) perfectly correct of the Women's movement and of many individuals to condemn the double standard. The problem is what they have done about it.

The solution to the double standard is not found in the sexual rebellion of women against God's law. It's not to encourage girls to give their bodies as indescriminately as some men do. Lowering standards for all cannot be the best way to reclaim equality.

Equality is best served when all have the same high standards. Equality is served when men are held accountable for their behaviors. Equality is restoring sex to its place as the sacred act of marriage. Respect for women will not be attained when society tells them that "everyone is doing it" and it's normal and healthy to have sex. Respect for women demands that they first respect themselves and their bodies as having a higer purpose than as the plaything of their current beau. When chastity is properly honored in both men and women, and they are both held responsible for doing what is right, then men and women will have not only a single standard but also mutual respect.

Just for the record:

I know there are a lot of good Catholics out there with a vibrant and living faith. The same is true of every Christian denomination. Catholic doctrine is better than a lot of Protestant doctrine in the area I blogged on especially, and in some other areas as well.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Birth Control and Catholic teachings

I do not believe in "birth control," or even conception control. Why this is is a topic for another day, probably whenever I feel like it.

However, I am not a Catholic. One of the issues I have with the Catholic Church is their teachings on birth control. They are too liberal.

Yes, you heard that right. The Catholic teaching on birth control is too liberal.

Catholic teaching is that sex is a sacred part of marriage. It is inseparable from reproduction, and sexual acts should remain open to life. For this reason, drugs or barriers that separate sex from conception are inexcusable.
That, I agree with.

Catholics also teach that abstaining, either during a woman's most fertile time or whenever children are not desired, is an acceptable alternative to birth control. So long as each sexual act is open to life, it's okay.
Most resources promoting Natural Family Planning (NFP) or, as it is sometimes called, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), then go on to say that their method is as effective as the pill when used properly.
Most sources, I believe, acknowledge that while God can and sometimes does work around birth control, we should not require him to do so.

Let me summarize this position. God is the author of life and the Lord of the womb*. He and he alone can begin life, and it is important to be open to that life. So make it easier for Him to work around your lack of openness to life and your fear of having children by not using artificial birth control.

This is not sensical**. The (occasional) Protestant position that it is acceptable to use "birth control" which only blocks conception, such as barrier methods, spermicide, and non-reproductive sex, is far more consistent. Such views also acknowledge God's command (through Paul)*** not to withhold oneself from one's spouse except with and for fasting and prayer. One could make an argument that this means that if a couple practicing NFP (natural family prevention) did so with prayer and fasting during their abstinence, it would be okay. First of all, no one makes that argument because we all know these couples aren't fasting for an entire week out of each month. Secondly, I believe this would reverse the causality; it does not say that we may fast and pray so that we have an excuse to refrain from sex, but that we can refrain from sex in order to pray and fast. (If someone has enough Greek to contradict me, feel free. In fact, I think I will contact someone who does and post about the result.) Thirdly, the verse says nothing about preventing children.

Indeed, the whole bible says nothing about preventing children. It was unthinkable. In the Bible, children are considered weapons or armies against enemies, blessings, and crops. The one Biblical account of birth control ends with the death of its practitioner. Even if it was sin because Onan's potential offspring would provide for his wife, or because he was selfish, these reasons apply today. And why risk it if it may be a sin?

Arguments from stewardship are mostly selfish as well. Which is a better Kingdom investment: a new home or a child? A car or a child? A business or a child? A vacation or a child? A child or an education? If there are truly financial issues, God's church should be helping that family. Those who think that children will impede ministry seem just as guilty to me. Why would I have the authority to say what kind of ministry God wants me in? If I believe that God is in control, then he will provide a way. God is capable of not giving children, of giving the "right number" of children, and of allowing and even blessing a woman's ministry while she is raising children. A couple think that the "right number" is two or three. God may think that the right number for this family is eight or thirteen. I would like six children, and wouldn't mind seventeen. But God has not given me any children on this earth yet. His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my ways. If you truly are in a country where the church can do little to support you, and you lack the financial resources to provide your children food, please, contact me. I will pay for a plane ticket. You can live in my house. I will feed you and your children.

One interesting argument I saw was from the verse in Ecclesiastes that claims there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain (3:5b). This ignores that Ecclesiastes is the the futile efforts of man to understand the meaning of life and the likelihood that this has more to do with the instruction in Leviticus not to have sex with a menstruating woman.

The only argument I can think of that has some validity is one I have not seen. One might be able to make the case that the injunction under the old covenant to be fruitful and multiply was replaced by a new and parallel command to multiply the Kingdom through evangelism. Yet that work can also be multiplied by our children. Perhaps it would be possible for the woman with two children to do more for our Lord than the woman with eleven. But what will those two godly men or women be able to accomplish compared to eleven godly men and women? If most of ungodly America is not willing to bring forth children, this should be our chance to take back the country by sheer numbers. If we have an average of six children (which was the average before birth control) and they have an average of two, and, as the bible commands, we see to their upbringing and their education in the faith, as well as evangelizing, we will make a very big difference.

These things are true even if birth control simply prevents conception. If you think that's true of all birth control, though, go do some more research on hormonal birth control and IUDs. These are abortifacients (things that cause very early abortions).

*Relevant verses:
God closes the womb:
Genesis 20:18
1 Samuel 1:5-6
Isaiah 66:9

God opens the womb:
Genesis 29:31
Genesis 30:22

God creates life in the womb, according to Job.
David says God created him in the womb and brought him forth from the womb.
Isaiah affirms repeatedly that God creates us in the womb.
God told Jeremiah He knew him even before He formed him in the womb.
God gave John the Baptist the Holy Spirit while he was still in the womb, and Mary's baby was Lord and Savior before his birth, according to Luke 1:41-45.

In Job 3, Job curses the day he was born as if it was the fault of the day or the night, but there is no evidence that the day was actually at fault.

**Please excuse my occasional use of words which aren't. I am an English major, I know what I am doing, and I have a poetic license. I usually use these non-words for some effect or cause. In this case, I wanted the meaning of "nonsensical," but with the additional emphasis on the "not" part. "Sensible" has alternate meanings; "sensical," being defined by myself, does not. I have enough trust in my writing to know that when I intuitively use a non-word or fragment or other ungrammatical construct, it will serve its purpose better than a more grammatical alternative, which might lose some of the intended meaning. Please note that as one of the minority on the internet who can properly use "its" and "lose," I am eminently (not imminently) qualified to judge such things. I do not intend to obtrusively editorialize on this issue again.

***Paul on abstaining within marriage:
1 Corinthians 7:2-6
(Actually, the NIV doesn't have the fasting part; nor do many versions. But versions of the KJV (which Catholics use) have it, as well as the Message (which was written from the Greek) and the one I found labelled as a literal translation (Young's literal translation).)