Happy Easter!

He has risen!
He has risen indeed!

What’s So Good about Good Friday?

When I was in grade school, I hated attending the Good Friday Service of Darkness.  It was dark, it was sad, and it was scary.  I hated it so much that I could barely remember that Good Friday was called “good;” I wanted to call it Bad Friday because I knew what a terrible death Jesus died.  But whenever my siblings or I complained about going to the Good Friday service, my mom would say, “You can’t have Easter without Good Friday.”

Now I have a much better understanding of what is good about Good Friday.  Yes, Jesus died, but he died for my sins.  He bore the entirety of God’s wrath against His sinful creation.  Through the shedding of His innocent blood, I have been washed clean of my sins.  All of this done out of love.  Romans 5:6-11 explains Good Friday, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  Good Friday services are often still dark, sad, and scary for me, but I also know that it is good because Christ died for us undeserving sinners so that we could be reconciled with God.  Thanks be to Christ!

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted (LSB 451)
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ, by man rejected; Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long expected Prophet, David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it: ‘Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning, Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him, None would intervene to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him Was the stroke that justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, Here it’s guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation, Here the refuge of the lost:
Christ, the Rock of our salvation, Is the name of which we boast;
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded Who on Him their hope have built.

Did God Actually Say That?

In the second half of Genesis 3:1, Satan asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  Did God actually say–the world’s first temptation.  Of course, it all went downhill from there:    The devil convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, she gave it to Adam, they brought sin into the world, and they died.

Today we hear an echo of Satan’s words throughout our society.  Did God actually say that homosexuality is a sin?*  Did God actually say that a baby is a baby at conception?**  Did God actually say that women can’t be pastors?***   You would think that Christians would have learned from Eve’s example to use caution when hearing the words Did God actually say?  But no, often those who consider themselves Christians slowly start accepting our society’s tenets of truth that do not follow God’s truth.  They start to believe that marriage should be based on love, even when that love goes against God’s command about marriage.  They start to think that women have the right to choose anything, even when that choice goes against God’s creation of life.  The start to think that anyone should be a pastor if they so desire, even when it goes against what God has said about pastors.

To be clear, I am not starting a debate with non-Christians about these issues.  That’s another discussion for another day.  What I am concerned about are the Christians (and even those who call themselves Lutherans) who have decided to abandon what the Bible says about these controversial issues.  First off, I feel deserted by them.  We are supposed to be brother and sisters in Christ, yet they have abandoned me as people decree that my beliefs make me a bigot and a woman-hater.  It hurts to feel so outnumbered and despised in a nation supposedly filled with Christians.

But I also worry about these Christians.  What is actually keeping them in the faith?  See, there are times when I want to give up and start listening to the Did God actually says around me.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just embrace society’s beliefs and pretend that God didn’t actually say those things?  But then my mind starts thinking about all the Did God actually says.  Did God actually say that He will care for me always?****  Did God actually say that he sent Jesus to die for my sins?*****  Did God actually say that His Son rose from the dead?******  Did God actually say that the Bible is His Word?*******  Eventually I would have to ask Is God even real?  I quickly realize to question one part of the Bible, no matter how unpopular that passage may be with the rest of society, means I have to question my entire faith.  That scares me more than any sort of worldly scorn.  That’s what also makes me worry about the Christians who so readily toss out any part of the Bible that makes them uncomfortable.  On their last day (because everyone knows that we all will die someday), will they die a blessed death in Christ?  Or will they die in a made-up religion built on Did God actually say?

*“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers  nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  1 Cor. 6:9-10
**“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:16 
***“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches.  For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. . .If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” 1 Cor. 14:33-34, 37

****”And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
*****”But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
******”For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
*******”All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Introvert Mondays: Introduction and Definition

Today I launch a project for myself:  Introvert Mondays!  The last few months I have been doing research on introversion to help understand why I am the way I am.  While I haven’t completely figured myself out, I have acquired a solid start in understanding introversion.  However, I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with my new found knowledge.  Then introversion came up in a conversation on Facebook the other day and I was reminded that not everyone has spent the last two months obsessively reading hundreds of pages about introversion–I actually had some facts to share with others!

Please keep in mind that I am not an expert on introversion.  Most of the facts and definitions I will discuss come from other people’s research–I’m not claiming to have a radical new look at this trait.  What I do have is an understanding of our society’s bias against introversion and time to read and write about it.  And I figure the more people who talk about introversion, the more understanding our society will develop for their quieter half.  Consequently, some of my goals for this project are as follows:

1.  Create a better understanding of what introversion is through personal stories for people who may not be reading about introversion but do read this blog (which, admittedly, isn’t many 😉 ).

2.  Discuss and review books, articles, and websites about introversion

3.  Specifically discuss some of the challenges that introverted vicar’s/pastor’s wives face when interacting with their congregation (hey, I have to bring in the whole “Seminarian’s Wife” thing somehow!).                 

So, without further ado, here comes my first “Introvert Monday” Segment:

What is an Introvert?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific definition to describe this personality trait.  From Sigmund Freud to Marti Laney (her book is on my To-Read list), there is a wide array of explanations of the introvert-extrovert personality differences.  Some are flattering, referring to introverts as deep thinkers and creative, while some are belittling, referring to introverts as antisocial and cold.  According to Laurie Helgoe, PhD, in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, “What constitutes an introvert is quite simple.  We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out.  We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities.  When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same.  We think first and talk later,” (pg. 13).  I like Helgoe’s definition because she immediately points out that there are many different types of introverts.  There is no one characteristic that can define a person as introverted and extroverted.  One of the big traits (in my humble opinion) is feeling drained after social interactions no matter how enjoyable the people were.  Introverts need less stimulation to feel fulfilled and, quite frankly, people provide a lot of stimulation–socializing can be exhausting!  Another common trait is that introverts spend a lot of time in thought and inner reflection about the world around them.

However, it is important to note that no one, and I mean no one, is fully introverted or fully extroverted.  Susan Cain writes in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “We can’t say that every introvert is a bookworm or every extrovert wears lampshades at parties any more than we can say that every woman is a natural consensus builder and every man loves contact sports.  As Jung felicitously put it, ‘There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert.  Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum,'” (pg. 14).  There are times when I, a self-proclaimed introvert, can talk with someone for long stretches and put myself in the center of a party.  There are times when my extroverted friends ask for some alone time, a quiet evening in.  What it really comes down to is tendencies and preferences.  There are even people who fall in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum–they’re called “ambiverts.”

Finally,  I would like to point out what introverts are not.  Introverts are not necessarily shy.  Once again, I quote Susan Cain as she writes, “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating,” (pg. 12).  Introverts and extroverts alike can have this fear of socializing.  Likewise, introverts are not necessarily antisocial.  Laurie Helgoe mentions in her book that a population study reported in the MBTI* Step II Manual notes that introverts make up 57% of the population (pg. xxi)–odds are that you know many friendly, caring introverts.

I hope my brief introduction to introversion has proven helpful.  If you are uncertain where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, you can take an informal quiz here.  If you have any thoughts on extroversion and introversion, I would certainly appreciate any feedback you may have!  

*For those of you who don’t know, MBTI stands for a personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  When I took the test, my preference for introversion was “very clear”–the highest preference score.  🙂

Caffeine: A Good Habit After All

Last week, I found an article on NPR about coffee and green tea decreasing the chance of having a stroke.  I’ve heard this claim in the past, but it always makes me happy to reconfirm that my addiction is actually good for me.  That is, my addiction in moderation (note the article said that one cup a day would have this effect).  So let us all raise our coffee mugs to toast the health benefits of coffee!

Introverts and Liturgical Worship

Last night I finished reading Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh.  Overall, I didn’t find this book as enlightening as I hoped.  While Rev. McHugh does an excellent job defining introversion, his Presbyterian background differs too much from my Lutheran upbringing for me to gain much insight on how to thrive in a church community as an introvert.  From theology to church structure, I found most of my experiences as an introvert in traditional worship churches didn’t line up with his megachurch and evangelism-oriented church experiences.

However, his had some interesting comments in his last chapter about introverts and liturgical worship.  He wrote:

A paradox I uncovered in my research is that introverts often feel more freedom in worship services that feature traditional liturgy than they do in ones that feature more open, informal, unstructured styles of worship.  Introverts often appreciate the depth of liturgical prayers and hymns, as well as the rich symbolism that fill traditional churches.  They may feel less expectation from worship leaders in these churches to offer outward, emotional responses.  One friend who attends a traditional church said that the liturgy “guides me into God’s presence” and requires less energy on his part than the nondenominational church he used to attend.  

Some introverts decry the shallowness of contemporary worship songs and their repetitive refrains, which can feel emotionally manipulative.  They say that loud music disrupts their internal dialogue with the Spirit.  One member of a charismatic church lamented that when people showed emotion in worship, the pastor would proclaim “The Spirit is really moving this morning!”  These kinds of churches tend to encourage spontaneous bodily responses–raising arms, kneeling, dancing–and many introverts are uncomfortable with these kinds of reactions and the attention they draw.  And the more the expectation for this kind of worship grows, the more introverts consider it artificial and stifling.
–Adam McHugh, Introverts in the Church  pages 190-191

Shockingly, many of his reasons that introverts like liturgical worship are the reasons I prefer liturgical worship. I like the depth, I like the structure, and I like the calm.  Of course, I also like the fact that Lutheran liturgy focuses on God coming to me instead of the other way around, but his description of liturgical worship was surprisingly accurate.  However, I am now curious about what can appeal to extroverts in a liturgical worship.

Is anyone an extrovert in a liturgical church?  If so, what do you like about the worship?  What do you dislike?

Spring Has Abandoned Us

This is what our St. Patrick’s Day is going to look like.
Remember about two weeks ago when I talked about spring coming?  Yeah, that was a lie; spring has abandoned us up here in the North.  If anything, it’s getting colder rather than warmer.  Yesterday we got about four more inches of snow and more is predicted on Monday.  I think tomorrow will be the coldest St. Patrick’s Day that I can remember.

The 5-day forecast for this week from The Weather Channel

On the other hand, there have been little signs that winter might be abating.  Ice fishing shanties no longer stand on the lakes.  The sun continues to climb higher in the sky and set later in the day.  I haven’t worn long underwear in a couple of weeks (although I won’t pack them up yet, I might need them come Wednesday!).  Someday, I might even see grass in our yard.  I’m just not sure that it will be before Easter.

Stepping Up By Stepping In and Why "It’s Only a Year" Isn’t Comforting

Wednesday night youth group has been chaotic since Lent started.  Between my husband occasionally preaching at our other vicarage church and the youth leaders dealing with various illnesses and long work days, there has hardly been a Wednesday that all three of them have been at Bible study.  This week’s Wednesday night was quickly proving to be no different:  My husband was schedule to preach at the other church and the youth leader who was going to cover the Bible study texted him on Tuesday evening to say that he was sick.  The other youth leader was unable to teach the Bible study as well.  My husband immediately went into Plan C mode and started listed possible congregation members that could lead youth group the next evening.  After observing my husband in youth group crisis mode for a moment, I asked, “Well, can I do it?”  My husband told me that I could, but only if I wanted to.  The youth group wasn’t my responsibility, so I shouldn’t feel obligated to cover.  “I know that, I think I can do it,” I said.

My husband replied, “Okay, if you think you want to do it.  All you have to do is just watch them, don’t worry about the Bible study.”

Stepping Up:
I paused a moment to mull over the situation.  I know that the congregation doesn’t expect much involvement from me anymore; I declined invitations to many church activities when we first arrived.  They know that I won’t sing in the choir, won’t come to the Ladies Guild meetings, won’t attend the women’s Bible study, won’t come to craft activities, and some even know that I won’t play piano for service.  Likewise, my husband knows how much anxiety I had about the congregation’s expectations when we first moved here, so he is very careful to never make me feel pressured to help at church.  Sadly, in my efforts to show people that I wasn’t interested in doing everything at church, I’ve led people, including my husband, to believe that I can’t do anything at church.

But I’m tired of that belief.  I know it’s not true, I can and want to serve the church–just in my own time and in my own way.  So I asked my husband, “Can I do a Bible study with the high schoolers?”  After taking a couple of minutes to convince my husband that I could teach a 20 minute devotion and that I actually wanted to try, he agreed to let me lead the devotion.

Stepping In:
Even though I had said that I wanted to help, the next day I still felt nervous about working with the teenagers.  Despite my apprehensions, I prepared my devotion and talked it over with my husband before he headed off to confirmation class.  At 6:30, I sat the youth down and began the devotion.  While it wasn’t the best devotion ever–I haven’t taught a group since my daycare job–it still worked out.  The high schoolers answered my questions and listened respectfully.  I hope they even learned something.  I know that my subbing was only for one night, but it was still a big step for someone who initially didn’t want to work with the youth.

The Problem With “It’s Only a Year”:

So why now?  My husband has been in a bind with the youth group in the past; why wait until March to finally offer to help?  Unfortunately, this is my pattern.  Due to my introversion, shyness, or a combination of the two, I spend at least six or seven months to even begin to feel emotionally settled after a move.  It happened in college, it happened when we moved to the seminary, and it unsurprisingly happened with this move.  I am not able to jump into a new life like I would a swimming pool on a hot day (actually, I don’t even like swimming, so I wouldn’t want to jump into a swimming pool on a hot day either!).  It takes time for me to feel comfortable talking with this person or volunteering to help with that activity.  That means back in August when congregation members were excitedly asking me to help with the youth group, join the Ladies Guild, or sing in the choir, I needed more time to get settled before trying to get involved with anything at church.

Unfortunately, vicarage is only a year long program.  That means now that I’ve finally reached a point where I’m comfortable enough to slowly start to become part of the church community, I’m beginning to think about our move in four months.  So while I’m just warming up to say hello, I’m beginning to think about how to say goodbye.  Consequently, for me the vicar’s wife mantra of “It’s only a year, I can do anything for a year!” changes to “It’s only a year?  I need more than a year!This also means I get really pissed off when people lecture about the importance of experiencing vicarage to the fullest and implore sem. wives to make friends everywhere they go.  I’m not socially inept, I realize that I need friends and need to belong in a community.  Again, I need time to get settled.

The good news about all of this is that I can look forward to having more than a year after my husband gets a call (God willing).

Our Evil Genius Moment

Yesterday my husband was talking about the youth retreat he organized and ran this past weekend.  He was bouncing ideas off of  me about what suggestions he would make to the next vicar, what went well, and what he could have done better.  Then he said, ” I should probably just put next year’s retreat on the calendar now so the next vicar won’t have to worry about it when he gets here.”  Then he paused, smiled slyly, and continued, “I should plan to have it in February.”*  We looked at each other for a moment, tipped our heads back, and laughed and laughed.

*Lent, the church season that is notoriously busy for pastors, usually begins in February.

Well, That Explains A Lot

Do you ever have a household task that you think to yourself, “Am I the only one capable of fixing this?!”  Refilling the soap dispenser is one of those tasks for me.  It feels like I am the only one to ever refill it.  Seriously, it’s like my husband purposely ignores that you have to pound on it twenty times to get soap to come out.

Today I was washing my hands when I noticed that the soap dispenser was almost empty.  Again.  Finally getting fed up with always feeling like I was the one refilling the soap, I went upstairs and bluntly asked my husband, “Could you possibly refill the soap?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “Where is the soap to refill it with?”

I grabbed the giant handsoap bottle out of our cleaning cabinet.  “Right here where I’ve been putting it since we moved.”

“Oh, I didn’t know we had that.”

“I’ve been buying these bottles since we got married!”

My husband defiantly* said, “I never knew we were doing that.”  Apparently, my feeling that I was the only one refilling the soap dispensers wasn’t just an irritated delusion–it was reality.   

*I was going to put that he said this sheepishly, but my husband wanted me to write that he said it defiantly.  Apparently he stands by his ignorance.