From One Attitude to the Next

A rare Sunday skipping church, home with my boy who has the flu. My world is all Pedialyte,  Tamiflu, vomiting, and Phineas & Ferb.

Outside it looks like the flu too. Blank gray sky, wet brownish ground, still-bare trees. Winter’s leavings. But the goldfinches are starting to shine a sunny yellow and two days ago it topped 70 degrees. We soaked it up with windows down and radios blaring, knowing it wouldn’t last. Yesterday it was 45 and raining. Thirty degree shifts in 24 hours is par for the course in a Michigan spring. But it does seem to make us all a little sick.

As I write this, Sunday school is getting out and people are pouring their coffee and placing cookies on napkins in the library at my church. My husband will be walking between there and his office and the sanctuary, talking with his flock and getting things in place for worship. The kids (minus one) will be bouncing and running through the halls, slaloming past the old ladies with their walkers. Chatting and laughing will filter through the air until people find their way to the sanctuary and settle down as the first notes of the prelude emanate from the piano.

It’s a time of transition from one place to the next, one attitude to the next. Like March. Like Lent. We’re now in the second half of that liturgical season, a time when it is easy to forget about what we intended to do or not do. I have read three of my five books for Lent. Tomorrow I start Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. I’m excited to begin my armchair pilgrimage, the story of going from one place to the next, one attitude to the next.

It is now fifteen minutes before the service begins. The microphones will be in place. The sound check done. The choir has finished running over their song and are now milling about with friends and grabbing a last cup of coffee or popping throat lozenges. I run upstairs at home to tell my son to take another sip of Pedialyte but he says his stomach doesn’t feel very good, so I decide to wait another fifteen minutes. I wonder when to try the Tamiflu. It’s been a few hours with no vomiting and I don’t want to get him started again, but I also know that if he can keep the nasty stuff down it will help shorten the whole ordeal.

So often we resist what is good for us because it seems unpleasant in the short run. And maybe it is unpleasant. March is unpleasant. The self-denial of Lent is sometimes unpleasant. Certainly contemplating one’s own sinfulness or mortality is unpleasant.

I understand that molting feathers is unpleasant as well. But without sloughing off the old drab colors of winter, the goldfinch will not find a mate, which is his purpose in life. He first needs to lose his old identity as an olive-gray bird before he can embrace his new identity as a drop of sunlight. He doesn’t do this himself. He doesn’t decide one day to molt his old feathers. That is something outside of his control. Just as my son cannot decide to be well and will the flu virus out of his body. Just as we do not simply decide to be holy and then do it in our own strength.

I hear those first notes of the prelude now. The worship service is beginning. So I need to stop my chatting. I need to make that transition from one attitude to the next. I can’t be among the saints and sinners at church this morning. I can’t join my voice to theirs in song. But I can commune with them and with our God in prayer. So that’s what I’ll do now.

Right after I check on my little boy.

Do We Worship at the Altar of Family?

I count myself lucky to be close friends with Ted and Kristin Kluck. Ted is primarily a writer and professor, though he is also a football player and coach, a boxing coach, a concrete grinder, and someone who unloads cargo planes at four in the morning. Kristin is primarily a homemaker and caterer, but she is also a cookbook author, a marketing professional, a janitor, a gardener, and an all-around crafty person with a great sense of style. Household Gods is the first book on which Ted and Kristin have collaborated.

Long ago (in Internet Time) I fancied this blog as a place that I might review books about Michigan and by Michigan authors, though I have only reviewed a few. Then one Sunday afternoon I read this book in two sittings–interrupted by the need to make and consume quesadillas–and I felt compelled to share it with others.

51Y2CtLMMzLIn our age of over-programmed kids, obsessively crafting our persona on social media, and constant cultural messages to relentlessly improve our lives, our bodies, and our station in life, Household Gods is both a breath of fresh, unpretentious air and an uncomfortably honest mirror for us to look into–like one of those magnifying mirrors in some hotel bathrooms that shows us our every flaw. But, as with all Ted Kluck projects, there’s so much humor and so much of the author pointing to himself as the chief of all sinners that it never feels like a guilt trip.

The book begins as a call to examine our lives for idols that take the form of some very good things–family, children, spouse, success, money, ambition, work–and it doesn’t take long to realize that every good gift from our Father can easily be turned into an idol, something we serve ahead of or instead of our Creator. But as I read, I found that the book delved deeper than I expected.

Despite the fact that it is positioned as a book for families, I think this book is for every Christian, single or married, childless or parents, young or old. The stories that Ted and Kristin tell–with unflinching and sometimes painful honesty–are rooted in family, whether their family of origin, the one they created when they first married, or the one they have built through adoption. But no matter what stage of life you are in, you will find yourself in these pages. And it won’t necessarily be in the way you expected. I know I have not experienced the same struggles as my friends, but their struggles pointed me to mine. And now I’m left with the task of bringing my own idols to God, laying them at His feet, and asking for forgiveness and strength to resist them in the future.

I guarantee you that if you read Household Gods it will

1.) be the most honest book you have ever read–no sugarcoating, no excuses, no putting themselves in the best light possible, and no passes for the reader to do that either

2.) help you examine your life, relationships, job, hobbies, desires, and dreams to discover why you are motivated to pursue those things

3.) show you when your pursuit of success or praise crosses over into idolatry

4.) clearly show that God offers us grace in everything

5.) and motivate you to realign your priorities and model humility and grace in your relationships

Knowing Ted and Kristin as well as I do, there were still many moments when I realized that I didn’t know them as well as I thought. And that is an encouragement to me to offer my friends and family more grace than I do now, knowing that I can never truly know just what someone is going through under the surface that they allow the world to see. So not only will Household Gods help you to be a better mother, father, son, daughter, husband, or wife, it will help you be a better friend and a more faithful witness to the saving and sanctifying grace of the Savior.

** To my non-Christian readers, thanks for indulging this God-soaked post. While written for Christians, Household Gods would be an eye-opening read for anyone, I think. Perhaps you should check it out.