Monday, September 18, 2006

Sacred and secular

"No distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday...their life was all one piece. It was all sacred and all ordinary." ` Sue Bender ~ author of Plain and Simple

There is, of course, a sense in which this sentiment is admirable. Surely every aspect of life should be brought joyfully under the lordship of Christ, every thought captive to His obedience. This attitude was one of the great strengths of the Puritans, and a legacy that we are still mining.

The basis of Western scientific inquiry is the insistence that God created and sustains the material world, not just the "spiritual", and that material things reflect His orderly and utterly faithful character. In other words, we can perform a scientific experiment and expect to be able to replicate it, to find consistency in the behavior of material things, because their being is sustained by a faithful, consistent Creator. So in some sense, a distinction between sacred and secular would hamper our secular inquiries into truth.

This removal of the distinction between sacred and secular has given us a respect for the value of every kind of work. We recognize the dignity of every calling, not just the calling to a specifically Christian vocation. In fact, one of the descriptions of the New Jerusalem is that ordinary work right down to cooking pots and horse harnesses will proclaim holiness to the Lord (Zech. 14:20-21). So our eternal destiny calls us to shape our daily work on the model of God's divine work.

But this removal of the sacred/secular distinction has its downside. If everything is sacred, is anything special? If everything is sanctified, can anything be properly used for common service? Or is it that nothing is sacred?

Certainly the modern trend in worship is to make everything casual, entertaining, accessible to anyone and everyone. In a word, secular. Throwing frisbees might be just as appropriate in one of these services as prayer. Come to think of it, it might BE a prayer.

Marriage isn't sacred anymore either. It is just another pleasant association like dozens of others you could name. It doesn't need special protection or consideration any more than your friendship with the waitress at the local diner or your rapport with your family doctor. Marriage is simply an ordinary contract offered and withdrawn at will.

On the other hand, everything in the natural world is becoming sacred. Animals, trees, oceans, you name it. Nothing can be touched or tampered with. It is holy. It cannot be used for ordinary purposes like food, clothing, shelter, and such.

We need to learn how to de-sanctify things to their primary purposes. And we need to remember how to hold the truly sacred things apart for their special uses.

It is interesting in this context to reflect on Abraham's custom during his wanderings in Canaan, after God had promised that land to Abraham's descendents. Wherever Abraham camped, he dug a well near a venerable tree and held worship there. Essentially, he was de-sanctifying that land from its pagan gods and establishing a holy space for the worship of YHWH. Centuries later, Abraham's descendents did inherit that land, worshipping YHWH in a sacred space that was a glorified oasis: pillars like tree trunks loaded with gold and tapestry fruit, and a huge laver so big it was called a "sea".

We need to become skilled in distinguishing what should remain distinctly sacred or secular in order to rightly understand how secular things can be elevated and ennobled in service to or in imitation of the sacred. But not AS sacred.

So find the Tree of Life and dig a well. Reclaim history and creation for its proper use. Let the streams of living water flow from that well to restore the world to its proclamation of its Creator's glory.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Socializing Homeschool Moms

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"

~ C.S. Lewis

As a homeschooler, I am often asked whether I think my children are properly socialized. Ho hum! The more pressing question to a homeschool mom is whether I am (properly socialized, that is). Everyone has a considered rejoinder to "have you let your children out of the basement lately?" But I'll bet you'd stop us dead in our tracks if you asked, "have you let your mom out of the laundry room/kitchen/garden lately?"

Absolutely the best answer to that question is that the best friends I ever hope to have were found in the course of doing what homeschool moms do: feeding the neighborhood, schleping children to various lessons, colaborating on development of opportunities beyond those found in one's own backyard, researching the next unit-study...

I met Bev, technically, on a sleeping bag in my living room. She and her husband were schleping their daughters 600 miles to the nearest good speech tournament - and helping me run it. But Bev is the sort of person who will drive all day, fasting, in order to stay up all night keeping the Easter Vigil and anticipating the midnight feast that ends it. She is also the sort who arrives with sinful gluten-free cheescakes and craft supplies for impromptu joint projects. Now that we are both launching children to college and the larger world, we are kicking around plans to colaborate on a series of women's retreats.

Jeannette turned up at a Communicators for Christ conference far from home for both of us, where I was actually kitchen staff. Her children were such enthusiastic, interested, courteous, intriguing people (my children bonded with them instantly) that I had to get acquainted with their mother. Over the years we have solved bogus murder mysteries, made gorgeous photo albums and holiday memories. We have become a writing-critique group and entrepreneurs' support group of two, encouraging and inspiring each other to new heights of free expression and free enterprize. Jeannette can turn mountain drive in sleet to a non-existant Christmas parade into a cocoa and carols moveable feast.

Time fails to tell of Parveen, my Persian-cooking friend, whom I met at a homeschool conference on the receiving end of a hail of questions about our co-op group. Or of Coleen, my online auction tutor and farmer's market crony. Or Martine, who is game for the zaniest things: underwater aerobics, impromptu car concerts conducting us to wild urban detours, midnight ice creams and film editing. Or Kathy, the wackiest poet I know, professional-wardrobe consultant, and prayer partner.

Suffice it to say that I'll stay in my kitchen/laundry/garden, thank you, doing my homeschool mom thing. You meet the nicest people there.

Also visit the Carnival of Homeschooling. Next Carnival is at The Thinking Mother.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We Are NOT Amused

Dan at Cerulean Sanctum has a provocative article, titled "Spiritainment" about yet another effort to provide Christians with entertainment that will give Christians yet another way to justify spending more time indulging themselves.

Surely media that doesn't prompt us to get up off the couch and have real relationships, to do actual discipleship with living, breathing human beings or to seek God beyond the media hype leaves us suffocating in the ether with the rest of the great unwashed.

I just spent two days at Parent Orientation for our daughter's university, hearing ad nauseum that parents must not micromanage their adult children, must not hang on them, must not expect anything from them, must move on to find other sources of fulfillment. In other words, parents must not treat their children as just another source of entertainment.

And, indeed, the parents who shared their struggles with 'letting go' revealed that they were suffering from a sort of drug withdrawal. There was very little sense among the parents that they have been dealing for the last two decades with actual people rather than video game characters. Their children have been to them just another status symbol like their BMW, or a toy like their i-pod. That revelation was far more shocking than the radical (but expected) "hands-off" message from the university.

No wonder college freshmen are notorious for making destructive choices.

We may be not only "amusing ourselves to death" but amusing our children to death in the process.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sea Change

Tonight my child will sleep under my roof, serene, unburdened. Tomorrow she'll shelter under a stranger's roof, available at Christ's behest to bear the burdens of many and to trade the serenity of innocence for the serenity of faith.

She says she doesn't want to think of this as leaving. And it's true she's only across the city. She can come home as often as she likes. But there's more of leaving in it than of comfort for a mother's heart.

Nineteen years I've worked toward this day, the day when a strong, shining soul would be loosed to the world she must change. What joy! What pain! Like the sea at the turn of the tide, I am paused shuddering.

Help me, Lord, to weather this birth; to launch her on my ebb to her glowing horizons.


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