No Longer an Orphan

Monday, March 28, 2011

About a year and a half ago, I responded to a call for submissions for a book of devotions based on well-known works of fiction. I submitted my samples approximately a week before the deadline and received a response saying that the publisher had already filled all its slots.

Barbour Publishing just released the book. Book Lovers Devotional contains sixty readings, and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for short devotions and loves books. Two of the devotions are based on the same novels I chose for my two samples: not surprising considering the types of fiction Barbour wanted to cover. The devotion about Anne of Green Gables uses the same theme I used, while the devotion for Pride and Prejudice takes a very different approach.*

Since my sample devotions were written to meet Barbour's particular requirements and are unlikely to be suited to a different paying project, I have decided to use them here. I'll start with Anne of Green Gables and save Pride and Prejudice for another day.

* * *

Anne Shirley longs for a home, and she believes she will find it at Green Gables. But it is all a mistake. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert want a boy to help around the farm, not a girl to help around the house. When Anne realizes they are going to send her back to the orphanage, she is devastated. "'I might have expected it,'" she says. "'Nobody ever did want me.'"

At the beginning of Anne of Green Gables, the reader meets an eleven-year-old girl who has spent the last few years as an unpaid nanny. Then she comes to live with the Cuthberts, and everything changes.

Fortunately for Anne, shy Matthew is enchanted with her from the beginning. Aided by Marilla's own compassionate nature, he persuades his sister to let Anne stay and share their home. But it takes much longer for straight-laced Marilla to let the orphan into her heart.

Anne's quick temper and lack of common sense do not endear her to Marilla. The girl's many exploits range from breaking her slate over a fellow student's head to taking a dare that ends with a fall off a roof and a broken ankle.

But Anne also has a generous and forgiving nature. She will do anything for those she loves, from sharing her favorite candies to giving up her dream of going to college. Early in the book, Marilla asks Anne if the women she lived with before were kind to her. Anne replies, "'Oh, they meant to be--I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible.'" Even though they had treated her as a slave, she looked for the good in them. These traits eventually win Marilla over.

By the time tragedy strikes, Anne's and Marilla's love for each other helps them deal with their loss. Anne of Green Gables shows us the value of belonging to a family where we are loved.

Unlike Marilla's love for Anne, God loved us from the beginning. We don't have to win Him over. If we know His Son, we are part of His family. When we get ourselves into trouble, God forgives us. And when trials come, Christ holds us up, comforting and strengthening us. We are not orphans but children of God, and that makes us members of the best family of all.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 (NIV)


* In case anyone gets the wrong impression, I am NOT suggesting that the writer borrowed material (or even uncopyrightable ideas) from the devotions I submitted. The nature of the project made it inevitable that several people would independently use the same works of fiction and select the same themes from those works.

The Ten Commandments for Preachers' Kids

Monday, March 21, 2011

I recently had to give a humorous speech, so I decided to talk about The Ten Commandments for Preachers' Kids. I am sharing that speech with you, modified to work as a blog post. (The picture was taken while I was in college, so the worst was behind me by then.)

* * *

Do you know what a PK is? It stands for "preacher's kid." I didn't know that until my first summer at church camp. My name was Kathryn Page, so when a counselor said, "I see you're a PK," I replied, "No, I'm a KP."

I wanted to be anything except a preacher's kid. It's hard enough trying to keep the ten commandments that God gave Moses. But the ten commandments for preachers' kids are even worse.

First Commandment. Thou shalt not be first in line at church dinners. In fact, my father interpreted it to mean that we had to be dead last (and I was dead of hunger by then).

When my son-in-law was ordained last summer, they actually asked Pete and his guests to go first at the meal after the service. When my husband mentioned that I always went last while growing up, the senior pastor's wife said, "She must have been a preacher's kid."

Second Commandment. Thou shalt not act up in school. The principal is a member of your church and will tell your parents.

Third Commandment. Thou shalt not receive Sunday School or Vacation Bible School awards for memorizing the most verses. Even though you earned it, it might look like favoritism.

Actually, it is a good idea to avoid the appearance of favoritism. PK Mary Todd remembers returning to a former church as an adult and speaking with a woman who used to be in Sunday School with her when they were children. And what did the woman remember? "You always got to be the Virgin Mary in the Christmas pageants."

So maybe this one isn't such a bad rule, after all.

Fourth Commandment. Thou shalt not solicit church members for fundraising activities. They may feel obligated to buy something because you are their minister's child.

My high school sold magazine subscriptions every year, and the students who sold the most got nice prizes, like new TVs. I got a pencil.

Fifth Commandment. Thou shalt not accept a pin for perfect Sunday School attendance. The church can find a better use for the nickle it would spend on the pin.

Sixth Commandment. Thou shalt not sin in public.

Tina Watkins remembers the time she was acting up in church and her mother had to take her out and spank her. On the way down the aisle, Tina grabbed a pew and yelled, "Help." Forty years later, she still hadn't lived it down.

So if you are a PK, you had better be sure to act like an angel in public. It reflects badly on your father if you show people you are normal.

Seventh Commandment. Thou shalt not say "no" when asked to do something for the church.

I had just been confirmed and was attending the first congregational meeting where I could vote. I was feeling grown-up and important until my father asked me to take the younger kids out and entertain them.

So much for the PK's right to vote.

Eighth Commandment. Thou shalt not go on youth outings if there isn't room for everyone.

I guess that's why I read better than I bowl.

Ninth Commandment. Thou shalt not act bored in church even if you are hearing the sermon for the second time that day.

Tenth Commandment. Thou shalt not complain about the parsonage. The church members might think you are ungrateful for the free house they provided as part of your father's salary.

This commandment comes with a number of related truths.

  1. Given the choice between buying new banners for the sanctuary or replacing the leaky roof on the parsonage, the congregation will chose the banners every time;
  2. If the parsonage is too small, it's always the minister's fault, because he's the one who had too many children; and
  3. Cold rooms and broken kitchen appliances are God's way of testing you, so learn to live with them.
* * *

Of course, it isn't all "thou shalt nots." There are also a few "thou shalts." The one I hated the most? Thou shalt move seven times while growing up.

So here's my advice to PKs. Since you can't change your lot, remember those stories and become a comic.

His Father's Son

Monday, March 14, 2011

Do you ever wonder how much of a role your example plays in molding your children's lives? In my household, the answer seems to be, "a big one."

My son, John, graduated from Navy boot camp on Friday. When he joined the Navy, he followed in his father's footsteps. And while their motivations and paths have not been identical, they do have a lot of parallels.

Roland and John are both intelligent men who started college right after high school but dropped out in the  middle. Roland tried to juggle college with a full-time job, and the job won. John simply wasn't motivated.

Then they both joined the Navy. Roland joined during the Vietnam War, trained as a hospital corpsman, and was assigned to a Marine base in South Carolina for the remainder of his enlistment. John left for a Navy base in South Carolina on Saturday, and he will spend a year or more there training to be an "electrical technician" (working with the nuclear power that runs the aircraft carriers and submarines) before being assigned to a ship.

I'm hoping that their aftermath is similar, as well. Roland eventually returned to school and earned not only his bachelor's degree but also a master's degree and what Indiana calls a "Plus 30" (30 hours beyond a master's degree). One of John's goals in joining the Navy is to earn additional college credits and make use of the G.I.Bill to get a bachelor's degree.

If you think I'm feeling left out, you can stop. My daughter, Caroline, is her mother's daughter. But this is John's time to shine, so we'll leave the mother/daughter discussion for another day.

John is his father's son, and I'm beaming with pride.

The Real Winner

Monday, March 7, 2011

In 1978, the Nazi Party decided to hold a march and rally in Skokie, Illinois, which had a large Jewish population. When the city refused to give the demonstrators a permit, they turned to the ACLU to represent them.

The ACLU had a dilemma. Although it despised the Nazi Party and everything it stood for, the ACLU was a fierce defender of free speech. So what was it to do? It accepted the case, and the courts allowed the rally to proceed.* It may seem like the Nazi Party won, but freedom of speech was the real winner.

This past Wednesday, the Supreme Court decided a case that reminds me of the Skokie case and creates the same dilemma.** You may know the facts, but if you don't, here is a summary.

The Westboro Baptist Church is one of the smallest but most prominent "churches" in America. It was founded by Fred Phelps, and its congregation is composed of members of his family. Westboro claims that God kills American soldiers as punishment for sin, and especially for this country's tolerance of homosexuality in the military. To spread its message, Westboro pickets funerals for soldiers killed in the line of duty.

After Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq, Phelps and several of his relatives traveled to Maryland to picket the service. They notified the city of their intent and followed the relevant ordinances. The picket signs bore hateful messages, but the picketers did not attempt to keep anyone from attending the funeral or the burial, did not yell or use profanity, and did not engage in violence.

Corporal Snyder's father sued the picketers for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a jury awarded Mr. Snyder over $10 million. Phelps and his relatives appealed, claiming that the jury award violated their First Amendment free speech rights.

Westboro's actions are the antithesis of Christianity, and its name is a taint on the many Baptist churches that follow Christ's command to love our enemies. Christ hated sin, but he loved people. All people. Westboro's statements and tactics show its hate for those same people.

Since I sympathize with the family and friends of the soldiers whose funerals Westboro targets, my heart wanted Westboro to lose.

But my mind said something else.

The First Amendment is designed to protect unpopular speech and ideas that aren't endorsed by the majority of Americans. If Westboro's members aren't allowed to express their ideas, what happens to my right to say something that isn't considered "politically correct"? As long as Westboro's members are allowed to proclaim their message, I'm allowed to proclaim mine. If their speech is suppressed, what will happen to the true Christian message if it becomes an outcast in this society?

I may seem like hate won, but freedom of speech was the real winner.

And I can live with that.

* Collin v. Smith, 578 F.2d 1197 (7th Cir. 1978).

** Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. __ (2011). The United States Supreme Court decided this case (No. 09-751) on March 2, 2011.