Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review - Washed and Waiting

After reading several reviews, I was very interested to pick up a copy of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill. The topic of homosexuality is certainly a relevant one in our culture, but I was especially intrigued by Hill’s struggle with being a “gay Christian.” Usually, those who use such terminology view homosexuality as perfectly compatible with Christian faith and practice. But as an evangelical, Hill affirms the biblical prohibition against homosexual practices. Yet, despite this affirmation, he still struggles with same-sex attraction. As such, he has concluded that the only biblically faithful course of action for a “gay Christian” is to remain celibate.

Washed and Waiting is largely memoir, and as such is both readable and engaging. Hill does devote some space defending the traditional Christian prohibition against homosexuality, especially against recent claims to the contrary. But the book largely explores Hill’s own challenge to be a faithful Christian despite his own inclinations. Especially poignant are his descriptions of his own fears about telling fellow Christians about his struggles. I think too often, evangelical Christians think of homosexuality as a problem that exists outside the church: that is, if homosexuals would just come to Jesus, God would remove their same-sex attractions and it would cease to be an issue. And as Hill notes, sometimes this does happen. But other times, like in his own case, he has not yet been delivered from those sinful desires. I think many Christians would benefit from reading this book to get a better perspective on fellow Christians - possibly within their own congregations - who live under the oppressive weight of knowing the reality of their own sin yet finding no relief; worse yet, they feel that the stigma of their sin is too great to share their burden with fellow believers.

Despite its specific focus, I felt Hill’s book spoke to many broader issues as well. All Christians struggle with the persistence of sin in their own lives, and parts of the book could easily have substituted a host of other sins for homosexuality. Hill does a good job explaining how Christians have been “washed” from guilt for their sins by Jesus’ sacrifice, and yet they still live a life “waiting” for God to completely remove sin from their lives. It is in this interim period that God’s strength is made manifest in our weakness. The book also had some great reflections on Christians and loneliness, and how we find our fulfillment ultimately in Christ (with assistance from His Body). While Hill’s own experience of profound loneliness is in many ways linked to his life as a celibate gay Christian, his reflections on the matter speak to a more fundamental need for acceptance common to all people.

All in all, Washed and Waiting is well worth the read. It’s actually a short book, but provides much food for thought, not only on the specific questions of homosexuality and Christian faithfulness, but also on the larger issue of how Christ’s people can best glorify Him in the midst of a fallen world.

(Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for writing a review, with no obligation to provide a positive assessment.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

This Guy Read My Mind

For a long time, I've had this dream (vision, idea, call it what you will) of seeing Christians open schools in poor urban neighborhoods. Or just in neighborhoods in general where the public option is less than desirable. Schools that are rigorously academic, possibly classical, but most importantly strongly Christian.

It doesn't have to be based out of one church. In fact, I think it is better if it's not, and instead is a collaboration between different local churches, though a local congregation may have the space for the facilities. But it must have a statement of faith that is solidly Biblical, to which all the teachers agree. Perhaps the parents don't have to sign the statement of faith, just agree that their student may be taught there with an understanding that it is based on God's Word. Of course, Christian education and education in general should begin and end in the home, with the parents, but perhaps that could also be a role of the Christian school (as it already should be of the local church)-- to equip parents to teach their children in the Lord as they go about their day. Because without God's Word as the foundation education is futile.

And it would most certainly be a neighborhood school, serving the community around it. (All these recent local ATL discussions about busing and rezoning and redistricting notwithstanding, I think there is a place for the "school down the block.") Not quite the same thing as the parochial Catholic schools, but a worthy, well-run firmly Christian school that would offer deep discounts, possibly even free education to needy students nearby. That last bit it the important part. Can't all those wealthy suburbanites and upwardly mobile inner-city yuppies get together and agree that this is a worthy cause to support with their disposable incomes? Could they send their children there? I'd hope so. What a great way to benefit the larger advancement of the kingdom, by supporting one or more of these schools, like Paul asking the Christians to send money to Jerusalem to help out those who were struggling.

I know, I know. I'm an idealist. That's why I married a realist, to balance me out. But then I read this article by Anthony Bradley that advocates the same idea -- missional education -- and I find out that some people are already doing this sort of thing! So, my only question now is, since Philadelphia's program seems to be working, how can we get this going in Atlanta?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Some Things I Don't Want to Forget

  • So, the boys have really been into knock-knock jokes lately. Jacob likes the "Orange you glad?" one but can't quite get it right. Still, we usually say them in the car to pass the time on short trips. One day last week the boys and I were on our way to a morning activity at church, and I hear them laughing at each other in the back seat. Jacob's been telling knock-knock jokes but apparently Ethan wants to get in on the action. This is what I overheard:
    E: Knock-knock (while knocking on the window!)
    J: Who's there?
    E: Peachttthh. (I think he said something resembling "peach")
    J: Peach who?
    E: Knock-knock.
    J:Who's there?
    E: Peacthhh.
    J: Peach who?
    E: Peachttthhyoumumblegladmwahahahahahahaha.
    [Apparently, Ethan enjoys laughing at his own punchlines.]

  • Sunday morning, the boys and I made it to the early service pretty much on time. It was a rare occasion for us, but we walked into the sanctuary just past 8:30 and they hadn't sung the first song yet. I think I missed some announcements, but at least we got to sing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," which I've been singing to the boys since they were newborns. I think Jacob tried to sing along, but he was more interested in watching Daddy up front with his guitar. So was Ethan! The little guy was pretty good until the offering time, where he ran down the aisle to "help" me put our envelope in the plate. Plus, he started talking during the prayer, so I had to take him back to the nursery. Jacob sat during the rest of the service, alternating between Gaines and my lap, and only had a few loudly whispered questions. I do love having the boys with me in worship as much as possible. Another mom even asked me after the service, "Was the nursery worker not here this morning?" But I just smiled and told her they were right where they were supposed to be. Maybe we will try a family worship time at the 11am service in the near future.

  • Sunday afternoon the sky was blue and sunny and we thought this perfect for baseball. Mostly, Jacob and I took turns pitching and hitting, while Ethan was off in his own little world, mowing the lawn, toddling off toward the fence and back. He was good about finding stray balls and bringing them back to us. Jacob had some good hits and "ran the bases" around the three trees and back to "home plate." Somehow I never could quite get him out!

  • Sunday night we were all pretty tired and Gaines seemed to be fighting off some sickness so we stayed in and enjoyed our football sandwiches all to ourselves. We had a little picnic in front of the TV for the first quarter. Ethan just kept jumping up and down and yelling "Football!" whenever they began playing. They both LOVED seeing the "Robot!" that appeared after each commercial break. Jacob kept getting excited whenever they threw a flag. And right away (maybe in defiance of who we were cheering on) he decided he liked Green Bay the best and began rooting for them. I guess he just knows how to pick winners. (Sorry Pastor John. We tried. We really did.)

  • Monday morning, while I'm getting dressed, I hear Jacob and Ethan playing in their room. The conversation goes something like this:
    J: I've got the remote. Let's turn on the "TV" and watch, Ethan. (Pretend TV)
    E: Yay!
    J: It's the biggest game of the year. It must be....the Superbowl!
    E: (begins to leave the room after a minute or so)
    J: No, come back, Ethan! It takes longer than that! I want to watch the WHOLE THING!

    So, I go over to his door and ask him what they are doing.
    J: We're watching the Superbowl on our pretend TV, Mommy.
    Me: Who is playing in the game?
    J: Pastor John's favorite team and my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.
    Me: So who is winning?
    J: (in all seriousness, said with his head down) Pastor John's favorite team. :(
    Me: But Daddy told me that Green Bay won the game.
    J: (lights up) Yeah! The Green Bay Packers are my favorite team. And I like the Bulldogs, too.
    [Uh-oh! I think we have some re-education ahead of us!]

    A few minutes later:
    Me: What about the Atlanta Falcons, Jacob? Don't you like them? Do you think they might play in the Superbowl next year?
    J: I don't know! Let me ask them! I'm going to call them on my pretend phone!
    (uses his hand like a pretend phone)
    Hi! Atlanta Falcons? Yeah. Uh-huh. How are you? Oh good. Are you going to the Superbowl? Yeah. Okay. Bye.
    J: (running up to me) Mommy! Mommy! The Atlanta Falcons told me they are going to the Superbowl! Yay!

    [Can someone pass that on to them from us? Okay, thanks!]

  • Later that day, we're in the car coming back from the gym or the store and Jacob asks me: "Mommy, have you heard the rhyme about Petey Piper?"
    Me: "Why no, Jacob, I don't think I have. Can you tell it to me, please?"
    J: Petey Piper sat on a hill
    eating a snack.
    A big spider came and ate it.
    And he ran away.
    Me: That's great, Jacob! Did you make that up all by yourself?
    J: Yes.
    [I'm still wondering if the spider or Petey ran away.]
  • Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Small Victories

    Tonight we had a party. Well, at least that's what Jacob called it. We are celebrating the fact that for the first time in over six weeks both boys are completely free from ear infections, eye infections, and any type of antibiotics. We made it through four rounds of meds, and I guess the last (most expensive) kind stuck. This morning, the doctor said if he saw four clean ears we should throw a party, so I think that's where the little stinker got the idea.

    Every time we visited the doctor over the last several months I kept thinking "Surely they are all better now? Look at how they are acting! Sure, they look thin and tired, but that's probably from the medication." No more. Today I went in expecting the worst and I got such great news I could hardly stand it. Lollipops for all! Stickers for everyone! I'm buying beef for Thursday's dinner! By golly, we are going to have CHOCOLATE tonight.

    Really, the only thing that made tonight different from any other dinner is that I actually made and served dessert. I also asked Jacob what he wanted for dinner and he replied, "Pizza!" So, we made a brief stop at Publix for the makings of homemade goodness before heading home. For lack of any creativity on my part, we had cheese pizza. But we spent a good hour working on the chocolate and peanut butter squares which added the life to our little humble kitchen-table meal. (Don't worry, church family, you may see them tomorrow night at potluck. If there are any left!)

    I am, of course, incredibly grateful that we have been spared the latest round of strep and other things making their way through our community and friends. (I feel for you all, I do!) However, I think it is only due to the fact that we have been on some form of antibiotics since well before Christmas and so all the germs have been kept at bay. We also discovered three-fourths of the way through that Jacob is allergic to penicillin. Sigh. I will not celebrate too long or too prematurely because I know in the world of small children, the next illness is just waiting around the corner. But when it is over, I will still celebrate!