Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why go to Easter Vigil and Long Communion Lines

If you are good Lutheran, you will have been to church three times in four days by the time Easter is up, so why would it hurt if you went four times in four days? I get it: you’re physically spent, and you literally can’t go to church again. But if you live in Seward, here’s the benefit of coming to Easter Vigil at St. John: you will get to watch yours truly play with fire!

Okay, that’s a really lousy reason compared to hearing about God’s grace and reason. But it is ironic that the two major festivals in the church, Christmas (celebration of the Incarnate Word) and Easter (Celebration of Christ’s victory), are both marked by service the night before that involve candles. One is the height of all celebration, the other is an afterthought.

Pastor Will Weedon does a lot better job of explaining Easter Vigil in this podcast, but let me state this from my experience: the service is a lot of readings (not unlike Christmas day), and focuses on how the story of the Bible has culminated in the event we celebrate on Easter, Christ’s resurrection, the promised and testified to hope. If you’re home, going to bed early for 6:30 sunrise service, I understand. But you are missing out.

It’ll look just like this.

Lutherans seem talk about communion a lot, but in one of two ways: one, there are those who talk about what a joy it is to receive Christ’s body and blood, and two, how long it takes. I haven’t met a lot of Lutherans who will talk about both.

Let me just say this, since Easter is tomorrow and you’re probably going to find yourself in a long line: give thanks that it takes so long to go up for communion. You get to sing more hymns, and more time to ponder the mystery of the sacrament. And if you’re church has a lot of old people who sit in front like mine does, it’s going to take them a long time to get up there. I’m on the ushering committee at St. John, I know how long it takes.

I’m guessing there are certain congregations in the LCMS that discontinued weekly communion because it just took so long and so many volunteer hours, which I get. But while it’s up to an individual congregation to decide how often they communion, just remember: you are receiving a gift from God, with your brothers and sisters, for your eternal salvation. Do you really want to complain about how long it takes to set the table and do the dishes?

Let me share from my own personal experience. Since I usher at St. John’s, there are Sundays I don’t get to read the prayer in the front of the hymnal before I go up to take communion. Sometimes, I do feel rushed, since I communion at the end and have to tell Pastor who needs to receive communion in the pew (which is a significant responsibility). I don’t always take communion with the best mindset, but I’m there, and my receiving depends on what God does for me, not what I’m thinking at the time.

So this Sunday, when you’re in a long line headed to an assist who is standing outside the altar, just remember: you’re able to have slice of heaven this because Jesus gave up his God-head and rose from the dead. Even if you’re groggy, you’re getting Christ’s body and blood.

Days Gone By

Ever since I got past the initial burst of buying the house, I hit a personal slump with less to do. I even found out today that the loan is on schedule and I don’t need to do anything for that for a while. With great relief, I’m doing my taxes; this year, the money is more important than it normally is, given what I will have to invest in the house.

I’m in a bit of a writing funk, pretty typical for this time of year. If I’m going to write, I need a lot of walk-outside, free-headspace time on the trail, and the current weather has restricted this this. It hardly feels like I’m two months away from hitting the road to go and see little corn plants popping out of Wisconsin and Michigan soil, ground that is probably now covered with snow. I still try to wear shorts every day that I can, as a way of protesting the snow that still insists on falling.

I’ve stalled on the fiction piece I was working on earlier this year. I have a large chunk of it down, and I have written notes to finish it, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as it did. Of course, all writing goes through phases, and it probably needs a polish. But I worry a lot that it has stalled out after a major revelation, at a point where some of the main characters will need to be very confrontational. Confrontation isn’t always my specialty.

I have followed through on my commitment to listen to more Issues, Etc, and other religious/educational podcasts and regulate out some ESPN radio. It works most of the time, although Issues, Etc, is pretty heavy, and probably does contribute to my need to walk more and process stuff.

But the real affect of listening to theology and reading Christian blogs, it’s realizing all the crappy television and cheap lit I read is full of secularist garbage that keeps me from sharing and living in my faith. Most of this particular revelation comes from a book by Ben Shapiro, Primetime Propaganda, a book about how far left the television is, including breakdowns of specific shows from the last forty years. I knew everything on TV was liberal, but what I didn’t know was that Hollywood treats conservatives with a blind hatred, refusing to hire moderate conservatives who grow up around liberal and keep their politics “in the closet”. Of course, I still watch TV (it’s crack, what can I say), but I do it with understanding that it won’t provide me with any affirmation I need.

And at the center of it all, I think I’m just lonely. My thoughts have turned toward dating again, or at least connecting with people. Perhaps it’s just the natural progression of things, of doing something like buying a home that people usually wait to do until they get married. Certainly, getting married would make all the work I have to do around the house a lot less taxing.

It’s times like this I’m actually happy to go to the office and plant samples, empty the trash, move trays, and mop the floor. I love writing and doing this blog, but I think to myself a lot that I’d be just as happy if I was working with samples every day. Did I just write that?

The Loup River, just off Highway 81

Washed up? Hopefully not yet

At least Holy Week is early this year. I’ll miss midweek dinners at church and seeing my church family on Wednesdays, but I don’t like having to wait until the end of April for Easter. Lent hasn’t felt like the downer it has in the past, because I’ve come to realize that repentance is something to be done in joy, as we are coming before a merciful God, knowing he will forgive us. I’m looking forward to the musical festivities of Easter, and moving forward with the church year. Thanks be to God.

Why Seinfeld Worked

I have a confession: I love to watch DVD extras and audio commentaries, if they are talk about how a movie or episode (loser alert). Recently, I watched up some extras from Seinfeld DVD’s on YouTube about how Jerry Seinfeld developed his series for NBC and was blown away by his vision and work ethic. While it probably makes me a loser, I just find it fascinating how an individual idea can blossom from a two-sentence monologue to a full film or TV episode, or series. I learned a lot from how to turn conversations into the manuscript I’m now writing.

Here are some points I took from those DVD.

Strong self-image without being pushy: Seinfeld honed his crafted as a comedian for more than ten years before filming the Seinfeld pilot, and always thought of himself as a comedian, not an actor. He knew which network notes to take (adding Elaine) and which network notes to say no to (generic sitcom notes, specifically about “The Chinese Restaurant” episode), and didn’t try to go against NBC just for the sake of doing so. Jerry the character was a guy that “things worked out for”, against conventional sitcom wisdom.

Humility and lack of ego: didn’t take the best storylines his staff writers gave him and let them be used by the more eccentric characters on the show. As Jason Alexander noted, George and Elaine often had more interesting things to do than Jerry did. Jerry was the straight guy who often commented on the funnier antics of his friends.

And at one of the reunion roundtable, Seinfeld was concerned about if his co-stars felt like they were doing the right thing by walking away from the show when it was on top, after they had to return to the wasteland of reading tons of bad scripts.

Could take any story and make it funny: multiples times, one of Seinfeld’s writers would be telling Seinfeld and Larry David a story about something that actually happened to them, and it would end up as one of the stories.

Incredibly high standards: Recently, I happened to catch an episode of a typical 90’s sitcom which featured a single storyline throughout the episode. It was painful to watch the story stretch for twenty-two minutes. While other sitcoms where doing one or two stories, Seinfeld and David demanded four. They wouldn’t use ideas that writers said they’d always used before, and every idea had to be original. And the second the show was showing some signs of age, he knew it was time to walk away.

What I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago in College

I planned for a year and a half that I would go to Concordia University-St. Paul after I graduated high school. I came into that freshmen year very gun-ho, going to learn and get stuff done, a typical attitude for a homeschooled person. Three years and one transfer later, I graduated college feeling burnt out and bottoming into several years of not doing a lot with my life beyond moping. So every now and then, I wonder, what I have learned in the last ten years that would have helped me back then

Change is going to be harder when you get older-After a year at CSP, I transferred to Concordia-Wisconsin, which, while not the worst decision I ever made, did take some uprooting. When I graduated college, I went home and thought I’d do exactly what I wanted to do. Instead, I spent way too many days and nights play video games and thinking of what I would do. Since graduating, I have thought many times about moving, but the thought of how hard it usually gets in the way now.

Do something every day and stick with it-This factor is complicated for me because, I was studying to become a pastor and bailed out on that at last minute; if I had a better inventory of my skill set at the time, I would have taken more English course with writing emphasis, along with a core of theology, history, and languages, and pursued a career in writing.

Instead, I was on track to go to seminary, but pulled out at the last minute. The thing I regret most about that wasn’t quitting (although I don’t think that was where God wanted me at the time), but that I had no plan when I left college. I wish I had stuck with the plan I was on, and figure out how to adapt my gifts later. I ended up spending nearly three years waiting around until I started working for my dad.

Sometimes, what you do doesn’t matter. What matters is if you are sold out to what you do. When you are in college, you have a lot of resources around you-professors, counselors (free, even), different people, plus various recruiters are coming to seek you out. Those winnow pretty quickly when you move on with your life.

Don’t let little things bother you, and you’ll run into difficult people in work and life-I left after two semesters, after putting myself in courses that were too advanced and ignoring the people I disagreed with theologically. The first job I had out of college, I quit quickly when I didn’t get a management position at the end of training. You don’t really appreciate work until you have too many long days to yourself.

You’re going to have bad bosses and have to deal with people who treat you poorly in life. Don’t take personally when someone else blows up at you, or things don’t go your way all of the time. (Great bosses are mean at times because it’s what makes them great.) Not that you won’t walk into bad situations where you do need to leave, but there are many times where you would be better off sticking out and gaining some resilience than just bailing. The greatest sense of achievement you’ll get in life is when you stick with something for several years, and it works out.

People are limited and aren’t going to automatically to fulfill your every need-When I first arrived on the scene at CUW, I thought everyone I met would end up being my best friend. I ended up in some very one-sided friendships and didn’t do as well socially as I hoped. (If any of my former classmates are reading this and have active grievances, I’m sorry.)

The vast majority of us have limits, and we don’t find each other that interesting. Listen to other people talk about what they love about themselves and what interests them, and if repertoire doesn’t develop between the two of you, it’s okay. There are a lot of people out there to find. If you value what interests them, that’s the most you can do.

And sometimes, you have to recognize what a person can give you. If they can help you get through a rough patch great, but if you can tell early in a relationship that you’re not going to get what you need, it’s better to just move on.

Don’t buy into the cultural narcissism around you– Not that you are scum, but you are not as shiny as advertisers and recruiters tell you you are. Advertisers and TV executives are out there trying to get your money and attention, but they won’t offer you as much in return. The world, your peers, and maybe even your parents are showering you with massive amounts of attention without criticism. And by the way, it won’t make you happy in the long run.

You can do everything that makes you happy, buy everything you want, travel, but what really brings lasting enjoyment is sacrifice, commitment, and doing a couple things as well as you can. Don’t worry about having it all if you aren’t able to have it all. Have what your abilities will allow and be grateful.

Learn how to manage your time-This was one of the bad things that happens in prolonged unemployment, is that one turns things like cooking, laundry, and even watching TV into your job. Looking back on it, I wish I would have one of those college semesters where I took on way too many things and had to start using a day planner.

Figure out your limits and abilities-I still struggle with this one mightily. Part of this is knowing when to go to talk to someone about something that bothers me, part of it is knowing when I need either encouragement or tough love. There have been times in talking to others when I have expressed a situation I’m in, and I had no idea what kind of advice I needed or wanted.

Coming out of a wasteland of time, I still haven’t quite figured out what my plan for the next year is going to be, but I know that it had better be set by the time I start traveling this summer.

For those of you in college who are reading this, I hope you’ve read something that serves you on your journey through life. Don’t get down on yourself; life is what it is. Just control how you respond to it.

The dorm I lived four semesters in at CUW

The dorm I lived four semesters in at CUW

Michigan and The Long Road to Fairgrove

It is an eight-hour roundtrip drive from my sister’s apartment in La Porte, Indiana to the Mantey’s Family Farm in Fairgrove, Michigan. My dad made this drive many times over the years, which is a nine-hour round trip from my aunt’s in Tinley Park, Illinois. I’ve split the trip into two days sometimes to see more along the way. Michigan in the summer is the lushest shade of green, and their interstates are peaceful compared to the rest of the country. Trucks are kept to a speed limit below other vehicles, tranquilizing them, and the traffic is mostly local and generally less than other parts of the counrty. I think about living here, but then again, I never see winter here. Other than the first two hours of the drive, I’m never more than an hour away from a major city.

Warren Dunes on a Sunny Day

Warren Dunes on a Sunny Day

I stopped at Warren Dunes State Park one morning to read, and we’ve spend Labor Day Weekends near there too. It’s spacious and adventuresome, and the bluffs are majestic.

There’s a nice urban stretch on I-94 between Kalmazoo and Battle Creek home to the only coffeehouse that is (as far as I know) within a short driving distance from my route. It feels odd rolling through all those suburbs along the interstate because I’m not by a major city but I’m passing a major stretch of strip malls.

Michigan State Capitol in Lansing

Michigan State Capitol in Lansing

The halfway points comes a little after the break off of I-94, where I turn north to go to Lansing/East Lansing on I-69. I’ve taken the detour by the Michigan State Capitol and Spartan Stadium. Downtown Lansing is a blend of east coast corporate built into Midwestern stones; it’s Madison without the extreme hippies. MSU is a beautiful campus, laden with bushy green trees when I go, and alive with the young people who stay on campus during the summer. The campus seems close together, but not cramped. The loop around Lansing takes twenty minutes, and then I’m headed towards Flint.

Open Road West of Flint

Open Road West of Flint

My first time driving by Flint, I turned off I-69 a few miles before I got to I-75 and took Michigan Highway 13 north, dodging the interstate land of Flint. By coincidence, I found a fruit stand at an apple orchard, and acquired some of the best apples I’ve ever tasted.

That little highway without a shoulder turns me on to I-75 a few miles south of Frankenmuth, AKA Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Our family spent a long weekend there in 2008, and it’s a great place to stop and buy gifts, and a couple of the unique food items I like. For sure, it’s corny, and it doesn’t get a lot of business from outside of Michigan, but I credit to the locals who worked to make their community what it is.

From Frankenmuth, it’s all up on county highways. Sometimes, I have had to make way stops in Bay City to use the Internet, and I’ve found this great coffee shop downtown called Brewopia. It’s one of the best coffee environments I’ve ever been to, with high ceilings, brick walls, and great music, and a great old store front. Other times when I’ve there I go wander by the river downtown.

Brewtopia in Bay City

Brewtopia in Bay City

Store in Bay City

Store in Bay City

The Mantey’s farm is live straight west of Fairgrove. The entire family went to Michigan State, and their barns are painting Green and White, with the Spartan log. In addition to the corn we get from them, there are a lot of wheat and grain fields in the area, many with the signs of cereal companies. It usually takes me several hours to get through all their fields, but the time spent there is worth it. The is land off the grid, with no major interstates cutting through it. I enjoy that, even when I’m pressed for time. Given how short the growing season is in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, time is indeed precious when frost comes earlier.

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Wheat Field, or possibly a bowl of cereal.

There are always lots of empty buildings that I pass along the way. Some are large factories in Saginaw, some are store fronts in little towns like Unionville or Caro, some are barns that are falling apart. It always makes me sad to see them, but I keep going past the four neglected walls through my mythical land of green. I’m only supposed to be there during the growing season, but I treasure my Michigan memories all year.

Was The Walking Dead Too Trigger Happy? (Spoilers through Ep 3×12)

Warning: The following post contains spoilers through episode 3×12 of The Walking Dead. For those of you waiting for it to come out on Netflix, I envy your financial restraint.

While I’m in the minority among cult show fans, I like Sarah Wayne Callies on The Walking Dead. I enjoyed her on Prison Break, as she is an actress who brings a lot of depth and has a real “Average America” look. So when Lori died on The Walking Dead, I was disappointed. I speculated that Lori might die (as she did in the comics), but I hoped it could be done the right way.

I was somewhat disappointed with how early Lori was killed in the show, in the fourth episode of season three. My thought when it happened was “soon, but maybe not too soon.” Rick and Lori still had issues to work on in their marriage, but I was willing to see how the aftermath of her death would play out. Robert Kirkman stated that he’d dreamed up big arcs for characters, only to end up killing them, and a lot of characters on TV end up getting killed off way later than they should. My philosophy is, if a show makes a mistake killing a character, it will very obvious after six or seven episodes.

After so many episodes, I was annoyed that Lori has appeared four times: the phone call in episode six, the two ghosts appearances in eight and nine, and in a picture in episode twelve. If you’re going to portray her four times in eight episodes after you killed her, it is questionable whether or not Lori should have been killed to begin with. Especially now, Lori could have had a huge role guiding Rick now that he’s burden with the threat of Woodbury. Herschel is the only voice of reason for Rick, and there’s only so long Herschel can survive with one leg.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Lori’s death was a mistake. I’m saying, if you are going to kill her, go all in. Don’t show her more than once.

To be fair, TWD is going to have more deaths on it than the average TV show, just because it’s a world where 95% of the population is flesh eating zombies, and all the advances of modern technology are lacking. If there wasn’t a higher death rate than other shows, it would look completely unrealistic.

That wasn’t the only questionable move TWD has made this season. Rick kicking Tyrese’s group out of the prison was downright idiotic. (What, where else were they going to end up other than Woodobury, with a guide of how to get into the prison?) But Lori’s early death could end up making the show unlikable and without heart, like 24 in its sixth season. To all the fans who found Lori whiny, I would say, who doesn’t come across as whiny in the lead female role of a male-oriented serial drama? Any of Jack’s 24 girlfriends or Kate on Lost faced the same complaint. Prison Break fans campaigned to bring  Callies back to their show. Outside of Michonne and Maggie, is there one female character on TWD the fans like?

The storyline that directly came out of Lori’s death, namely rick’s delusions, is one I detest. Maybe it’s because I’m use to my dark drama grounded in realism (24, Prison Break, The Following), but I just find delusional Rick to be campy and too easy. Anyone being that self-absorbed in a world of flesh eating zombies won’t last two minutes (and he almost didn’t). TWD is best off when it is grounded in reality, like Lost was.

The last episode as of this writing, “Clear”, did move The Walking Dead in a positive direction. I don’t think it is one of the “series greats” Kirkman touted it to be before it aired, but Rick seemed to realize he has to live with his delusions, and if that brings that storyline to a close, I’ll do jumping jacks. Michonne’s character was deepened too, and given how much fans want her to be a huge part of the show, that’s a good thing. All this points to is that The Walking Dead needs a mini-reboot as Season 3 ends and Season 4 begins, which a lot of shows need after three seasons.

I just hope Sarah Wayne Callies finds another show to do. Missing her on TWD, I found the Tarzan series the WB did ten years ago on YouTube and loved it, aside from a poor cast Tarzan. Maybe the CW could redo that show with SWC now; she’d be believable as an NYC police detective, and is the perfect Jane.

Do Democrats Do the Most for the Poor?

Old House

Where Much is Needed

When I grew up, I didn’t have any depth and understanding to the politics of the democratic party. All I knew was that they supported a larger government and higher taxes, plus the evil of abortion. As I aged, went off to college, and watched more news, I became more acquainted with the ins-and-outs and the nuances of American, even becoming surprised to learn that there were many Christians who thought that Democrats were the better party, because of their emphasis on social programs that support the poor. I took this with a shrug but found it odd.

But upon some recent contemplation, I’ve come to believe that because the Democrats’ support is actually because they don’t care about the overall well being of the poor. They support these programs because they favor a society driven by the whim of fleeting emotions and sexual passions, not one that provides sustainable support systems for those who are least fortunate.

Not everyone has the same gifts in life. There are a lot of people whose gifts are to do skilled labor or are to work in a service industry, which they do with all their hearts. They are not like the leaders of our country or industries, who go to sleep thinking about their work and their employees; once their forty hours a week are done, they go home with a clear mind. This work is not any less valuable than work that is done at the highest levels, even though its monetary value is much less. (Cite the Doctrine of Vocation.)

So the question becomes, what happens when these people go through a poor experience in their lives? If you have a health crisis or get laid off in this country, you’re going to have a lot of bills for it. So what do you do? How should uncle Billy be cared for when he’s in a construction accident? This is were the programs of the “great society” come and say, “Here, the government can’t just let uncle Billy suffer under the weight of his medical bills.”

But let’s look at it from another angle: what if there were an organization in our society that could care for uncle Billy, without incurring the massive health care costs and will keep his job for him? What if he had a brother, parents, and children to chip in while he recovered? Again, let me go to my personal experience: I was wandering around after college when my father welcomed me into his business. Because I had a family, I was able to recover from the issues I faced from quitting one career track prematurely and move into another one at a time that was best for me.

While my story is just my own, it represents this point: families can be the greatest source of stability for the lower members of society. And who makes a better judge of what a person needs in a time of crisis, a close family member or a large sterile government, who comes in and makes quick, mass judgments?

Obviously, the federal government can’t go out tomorrow and eliminate every entitlement program, or our country would collapse under its own weight. Was Obamacare necessary? I would argue the problem is real, the solution is debatable. The medical industry itself could benefit from a change in perspective, from an attitude of always gunning for the best care and biggest profits, to an attitude of how can we serve everyone who needs care.

But for the life of me, I can’t understand why social conservatives don’t make the thesis of their arguments “sexual looseness and no fault, easy divorce are class-ism and a war on the impoverished.” Granted, some of this is probably the liberal media and television, but still, if you want to make your case more successfully, just say sleeping around is the cause of class gap. That will get people’s attention, and give you a better chance of winning.

Because the government programs that feed the poor aren’t there because of the poor; they are there because the rich people in our country, democrats and republicans, wish to live in sexual debauchery, and a society full of sexual whimseys is bound to have lost and divided members, living as units unto their own selves who are going to need assistance. When the natural family gets destroyed, the poor are made to suffer.

So all you rich people, go out and get your divorce and say it was “all for the best” because you can afford it. Just know that the result of fighting for this kind of revolution leaves the weakest members of our society at risk.

American Entitlement

When I grew up, I heard a lot about how my grandparents served in World War II and the depression. Not that they talked about it a lot-no, they barely discussed it all. But I knew they grew up in a world with less than I had and made the most of it. One time when our visited a living history farm with my grandmother, she pointed out a device she actually used.

As I look out at the landscape of American culture, I find that the people my age and younger (I’m turning thirty this year) really don’t seem to have the kind of perspective on a culture where people have to get by with less and sacrifice. Perhaps some of this comes from the fact that many of their parents grew up during the 1960’s and 1970’s, under the major culture shifts and the rise of the entitlement culture. More and more, I see people younger than me who are entitled because the culture has preyed upon them and told them life is all about them and their fleeting desires.

There are two arenas where I find this prominent: advertising and family dynamics. Advertising has been geared toward teenagers and young adults for the last fifty years (watch Mad Men). The easily changing tastes of the young make them the essential focus of companies, because it nearly guarantees not only increased profits now, but customers for the next fifty years. Every thirty second ad on TV or Hulu preaches to Mr. Twenty-Something “You’re amazing and can do no wrong; buy this!” No judgments implied.

As far as the family is concerned, there are many young people now who sadly have both parents and grandparents who have been divorce. Parents now raise their children in the fear that their children will one day turn their backs on them too, so they discipline their children weakly and set everything up for their children to choose them in the event of a divorce. Even for my own self, I’d say that parenting is one of my greatest fears, because it will lead to an outcome I can’t control.

Then there are the examples in our culture of people getting rich young and being celebrated, prominently college dropouts Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and this generation’s poster boy, Mark Zuckerberg. In all these cases, it would be better to copy these people’s work ethic rather than envy their glitz. From recording artists (American Idol) to actors and actresses (Jennifer Lawrence winning an Oscar at 22) to sports figures (over half of which make multiple millions in their early twenties, only to go broke shortly after retiring), the list of quickly rewarded young people is huge. Not that they necessarily should know how to say.

And of course, there’s Zuckerberg’s brain child, which gives voice and purpose to every little thought, even those who that should be kept private or aren’t worth anything but attention. I read an article on Yahoo recently (couldn’t find it again, sorry) that today’s twenty-somethings are emerging from college and feeling like they accomplished something, even when they haven’t. In dealing with comments here and on other sites, I’ve come to realize how much people want to toot their own horn. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing from you, and your thoughts mean the most to me, but the bottom of the attention-seeking barrel is pretty deep.

All I can say to those who just turned twenty is this: discipline, sacrifice, and putting others first, while not pleasant at the time, will make for a happier life in the long run than honoring your fleeting feelings and interests. Our culture tells us to honor and play out each of our basic instincts, but doing so will leave you blind and empty. Giving stuff up is what counts.

SW Michigan Shoreline

Washed Away….

Where Family Experience Left Me

I grew up in a small family. My parents married shortly after college, but waited until they were in their thirties until they had my older sister and myself. It always bugged me that they didn’t have more kids. My sister and I would go out and socialize with other, larger homeschool families, many of whom had six or seven kids, from unions that began in their early twenties. My mother raised my sister and I in a large farmhouse, and because we never left for school in the morning, I learned to burrow in and find adventures in my own mind.

As I’ve grown into the world, I have lived a life mostly by myself, but recently, I have come to appreciate more how important large families can be. It started when I was watching Arrested Development on Netfix. I observed, whenever someone in the family had a problem, they went and talked about it with someone else in the family. The family, while not perfect, had a lot of different people to turn to when something bad happened, and a lot of bad stuff happened to this family. It got me to thinking: in our society, did we replace our brothers and sisters with therapists and life coaches? Was sexual promiscuity a way to replace our cousin Becky who told us about how sensitive some girls were, or uncle Bill who taught us how to change a tire? Was a family just God’s way of providing for many of our physical needs.

While our family isn’t exactly the closest, meddle-in-each-others business that some families are, it has been a great boon for me. I don’t have college debt because of my parents, and when I struggled to find a job after college, I was able to begin working for my dad’s company, a position that has afforded me a lot of flexibility.

In the years after I left college, I saw a number of people who were not as fortunate as I was. Having been homeschooled and gone to liberal arts, private college, I was stunned to met co-workers who literally had no curiosity about life, people, and relationships. Some had been burned by their parents’ divorce or their own, some had children out of wedlock they were trying to support. They simply went to their jobs and went home at night, never asking the question of what would make their lives better, or how they could serve their neighbor.

Over the past few months, I began reading a lot online about the marriage debate and about how birth control, and eventually abortion have changed our society, causing us to put our focus on what doesn’t matter. There were a number of influences: Jennifer Roeback Morse on Issues, Etc. and her own blog, dealing marriage and the sexually promiscuous culture; the book The Flip Side of Feminism by Suzanne Venker, calling out our modern generation of twenty-somethings for their entitlement and indulgence; and, most recently, Mark Preus’ paper on his natural family and fatherhood, and how it connects to the Biblical family.

This whole process of realizing the truth about family and life style choices has been very humbling, because of the years I’ve run of and hid in my own depression. But I have come to realize that I have to start making incremental changes in my attitude, the music I listen to, and even the stuff I read online. There are certain things I can’t change about myself right now. I don’t have the means to start a family (kind of need a woman for that), but I know I will come into it with a different attitude. I don’t know if I’ll even want to have kids of my own, but I’ve warmed to the possibility.

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