From the Heart

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in ChristBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Christian leadership often begins with a broken heart. In Mark’s Gospel we read:

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)

How do you react to seeing friends and family trapped in needless sin and pain?

Moving the Heart

The call to action in many of my essays starts with citing statistics on suicide, often a result of despair and loss of hope. For me, suicide is personal because I lost my first best friend as a kid because his father shot himself to death and the family moved away. For those of us able to experience joy because of the hope we have in Christ, suicide is needless because it indicates a lost opportunity to share the joy we have. What moves you to take action?

Technical and Adaptive Change

Heifetz and Linsky’s (2002, 14, 18) distinguish technical from adaptive challenges. In a technical change, authorities apply current know-how to solve a problem while in an adaptive change people with the problem must learn new ways to solve the problem. A technical change typically requires nothing more than additional budget while an adaptive change requires an entirely new approach, often the need to change not things but ourselves.

This distinction between technical and adaptive changes is helpful because making technical changes when adaptive change is needed is the classic bureaucratic ruse to show progress in an organization sliding downhill. Grabbing for “low hanging fruit” is safe and permits the manager to petition for increased budget without asking for other sacrifices or convincing anyone to change how they approach their work. In a church context, this is like the annual appeal for members to bring a friend to church as a response to declining membership.

The Aging Congregation

Adaptive changes are required when something fundamental needs to change. Consider the aging white congregation located in what has now become an Hispanic or African-American neighborhood. I tell my kids—you better get used to making new friends because when you get older your old friends have a nasty habit of dying off. Asking members to invite a friend to church is probably not going to stimulate a lot of new members at this church. An adaptive response might be to plan holding events for the new neighbors—something harder; something riskier. Christian leaderships often requires difficult heart work before any real action can be taken.

References

Heifetz, Ronald A. and Marty Linsky. 2002. Leadership on the Line:  Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

From the Heart

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Hemingway’s Fish Story Classic

Hemingway_review_20191130Ernest Hemingway. 2003. The Old Man and the Sea (Orig Pub 1952). New York: Scribner.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What do you do to relax? Has your mode of relaxing changed as you have grown older? Although I mostly vacation now with a good book and a quiet place to read it, when I was young my favorite pastime was fishing with my grandfather. For me, it was time outdoors with him; for him, fishing meant a freezer stocked with healthy meat to get through the winter.

 Introduction

In his novella, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway introduces us to a man much like my grandfather, who fishes to put food on the table and, because it is not going well, must live off the charity of others, particularly his young companion. In Hemingway’s first paragraph, we read:

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week.”(9)

So the old man is not only hungry, he is alone and being treated as a pariah in the fishing community in Havana, Cuba. Sword fishing is a dangerous profession for a young man; for an old man working alone, the risk can be life-threatening between the unpredictable weather, normal challenges of old age, and the wiles and brute strength of large game-fish. This is one determined old man.

The Father-Son Relationship

The relationship of the old man and the boy is special, like a father with his son. We read:

“Can I go out to get sardines for you tomorrow?

No. Go and play baseball. I can still row and Rogelio will throw the net.

I would like to go. If I cannot fish with you, I would like to serve in some way.

You bought me a beer, the old man said. You are already a man.” (12)

The boy started fishing with the old man at age five. Interestingly, neither the old man nor the boy are given a name until late in the book suggesting that Hemingway is inviting us to see ourselves in these characters.

Character Self-Image

The old man’s hero is the New York Yankee baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio—when I knew him, he had retired from baseball and became the spokesman for Mr. Coffee, an electric coffeemaker. Writing in 1952, the year before I was born, we read in Hemingway:

“Tell me about the baseball, the boy asked him.

In the American League it is the Yankees as I said, the old man said happily.

They lost today, the boy told him.

That means nothing. The great DiMaggio is himself again.” (21)

Just like the old man has not caught any fish in the three months, DiMaggio is having a bad day. From the many references to DiMaggio, we are left to believe that the old man sees himself as the Joe DiMaggio of sword fishing.

Plot Overview

The old man sails deep into the ocean. Late in his voyage, he hooks a large sword fish who drags his boat out to sea for three days. Later, the fish tires and the old man pulls him in cutting his hands on the fishline. He harpoons the fish that is longer than his skiff and lashes it to the boat. Before his can reach Havana, sharks devour all but the head of the fish leaving him nothing to sell to replace fishing gear destroyed or lost in his fight with the fish and the sharks. Invigored by the fight, the old man motors on and the boy disobeys his parents to return to fish with him.

Background

Ernst Hemingway (1899-1961) grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. After high school he became a journalist and later a war correspondent. The Old Man and the Sea received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1953. It was later made into a feature film in 1958 starring Spenser Tracy.[1]

Assessment

Ernst Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a literary classic. I enjoyed it as a holiday read over Thanksgiving. Because Hemingway died of suicide, this book’s focus on the frustrations of old age is often linked to his ongoing depression. That is an unfortunate inference about this jewel of a book written when Hemingway was in his prime as an author.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway.

Hemingway’s Fish Story Classi

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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Christmas: Monday Monologues, December 23, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a Christmas prayer and reflect on Christmas.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Christmas: Monday Monologues, December 23, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Prayer to Deepen Faith

Sharron_Beg_winter_trees_01052014
Winter Trees by Sharron Beg (www.threadpaintersart.blogspot.com)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Blessed Lord Jesus:

Cover me with your blood again today that I my mind would not wander and my heart not chase after foolish things.

Forgive my indulgences, the little foxes that trample the vineyard of my soul and consign my spirit to deserts dry and far away.

Thank you for faithful friends and devoted family.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, remind me again of my baptism, the promises made on my behalf as a child, and the fellowship of the saints. Guard my heart and mind during winter’s discontents. Deepen my faith even as I cannot walk the journey of faith without you.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer to Deepen Faith

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

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Church and State in the Confessions

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in ChristBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The relationship between church and state evolves during the history of the Protestant Churches as reflected in the reformation confessions. The creeds recognize Christ’s persecution. The reformation confessions recognize tension between church and state but argue for separation of the secular and religious domains following Luther. In the twentieth century confessions, the old separation of the church and state is clearly breaking down with the increasing power of the state relative to the church and increasing secularization of society. The twentieth century confessions themselves reflect both new intrusion by the state designed to redefine of the role of the church in society.

In the discussion that follows I focus on the creeds and confessions adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Creeds

The suffering of Christ under Pontius Pilate is the only overt mention of a relationship between church and state in the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds (PCUSA 1999, 1.1 and 2.1). The persecution is known from scripture but not explained in these creeds.⁠1 Both creeds use the enigmatic phrase, a “holy catholic church”, but the need to emphasize the church’s unity (catholic) and being set apart (holy) is not explained. It could be read to separate the church from the secular world, including the state, but we are not told explicitly.

The Reformation Confessions

The reformation confessions codified this separation in Luther’s distinction between church and state. The Scots Confession, for example, reads (The Civil Magistrate):

We confess and acknowledge that empires…are ordained by God’s holy ordinance for the manifestation of his own glory and for the good and well being of all men. We hold that any men who conspire to rebel or to overturn the civil powers, as duly established, are not merely enemies to humanity but rebels against God’s will (PCUSA 1999, 3.24).

Elsewhere we read (The Works Which Are Counted Good Before God):

To honor father, mother, princes, rulers, and superior powers; to love them, to support them, to obey their orders if they are not contrary to the commands of God, to save the lives of the innocent, to repress tyranny, to defend the oppressed, to keep our bodies clean and holy, to live in soberness and temperance, to deal justly with all men in word and deed, and, finally, to repress any desire to harm our neighbor, are the good works of the second kind, and these are most pleasing and acceptable to God as he has commanded them himself (PCUSA 1999, 3.14).

Knowing that these divisions and relationships were entirely new during this period, the confessions do not so much codify existing relationships as establish new ones. In this sense, the reformation confessions may have provided the template for the relationship between church and state that inspired the U.S. Constitution (Smylie 1996, 57-61).

The reformation confessions are more than political manifestos. Because the protestant churches broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, they needed to develop more comprehensive statements of their beliefs, including statements of metaphysics, epistemology, anthropology, and ethics. The different confessions each cover these topics, but they cover them in different orders. For example, The Scots Confession starts with a description of God (metaphysics), then moves to discuss the creation of humanity (anthropology), followed by sin (ethics), and later by scripture (epistemology; PCUSA 1999, 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, and 3.19).

The Twentieth Century Confessions

The nineteenth century cast a heavy shadow over the twentieth century as the enlightenment was already past its prime. In Russia and later in China, the overtly atheistic philosophy of communism became the official doctrine leading to persecution of Christians outside of officially sanctioned churches. Belief in God waned in the western nations and the growth of new technologies led to the rise of state power relative to the church.

Official doctrine in the twentieth century still separated church and state, but religious skepticism combined with material wealth increasingly limited the influence of the church over public law and private mores. This skepticism included attacks on the metaphysical and epistemological assumptions of the Bible. The twentieth century confessions accordingly differ from the reformation confessions in that they neglect to provide their metaphysical and epistemological foundations and focus on anthropological and ethical prescriptions. While we might assume that they are grounded in the metaphysical and epistemological foundations of the reformation confessions, the twentieth century confessions stray from theological orthodoxy even in what is said.

The Theological Declaration of Barmen.

The growth of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s led the government of Adolf Hitler to propose an officially sanctioned church of “German Christians” with overt political objectives. Representatives of the Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches met May 29-31, 1934 and drafted The Theological Declaration of Barmen. Key participants in this confession were pastors Hans Asmussen, Karl Koch, Karl Iraruer, Martin Niemoller and Karl Barth (PCUSA 1999, 246-247).

The Theological Declaration of Barmen rejects six false doctrines:

1. Holding up other doctrines as of equal importance with God’s revelation in scripture.

2. Suggesting that parts of our lives are not subject to the reign of Christ and are subject to other lords.

3. Ordering the doctrine of the church to current ideologies and political convictions.

4. Vesting special powers to leaders who rule over the church.

5. Giving the church absolute control over people’s lives beyond the church’s special commission.

6. Placing the Word of God and the work of the church in their service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purpose, or plans.

The Theological Declaration of Barmen organized no new churches or other bodies to implement the declaration, but simply asked the churches for prayer and support for participating pastors. With no official power, The Theological Declaration of Barmen attempts to persuade believers and thereby limit the ability of Nazi government to manipulate the church. (Barth 1959, 160).

The Confession of 1967.

If the Theological Declaration of Barmen responded to an external threat to the church posed by the State, then The Confession of 1967 responded to an internal threat to the church posed by the encroachment of modern and postmodern culture.

The Confession of 1967 builds on part of a single verse: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). The verse focuses on reconciling the world to God (evangelism) while the confession refocuses on reconciling us to one another (social ministry). In refocusing this verse, the confession crafts a four part mandate for the church:

In each time and place, there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act…discrimination…reconciliation…ending poverty in a world of abundance…anarchy in sexual relationships … (PCUSA 1999, 9.43-9.47).

Nothing is left out. The summary statement for the confession reads: God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ embraces the whole of man’s life: social and cultural, economic and political, scientific and technological, individual and corporate (PCUSA 1999, 9.53).⁠2 Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Roe versus Wade case in 1973 and rule changes increasing the availability of contraceptives intruded deeply into the personal lives of Christians rendering church interpretation moot. Even further, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 redefined marriage to include same-sex marriage causing deep splits within many denomination over how to respond.

The weight of these changes was to establish a precedent whereby the State could intervene into matters previously reserved for the Church. This reversed a consensus about the separation of church and state that had prevailed since the reformation and allowed new voices to be heard on questions of morality that oppose even the participation of the church in public debate. Having overturned the separation that prevailed on matters of moral conduct, the State has increasingly injected itself into church benevolences, personnel policies, and property rights.

A Brief Statement of Faith.

The breakdown of the division between church and state established during the reformation appears complete in the merger of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983. The merger itself can be seen as an attempt by the church to consolidate influence already lost to postmodern culture.

The newly formed Presbyterian Church (USA) crafted a Brief Statement of Faith consisting of only eighty lines which focuses on the humanity of Christ and a stateless world where we stand almost alone as individuals before God. For example, confession writes:

In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture (PCUSA 1999, 10.4, Lines 65-69).

Here the private work of believers is to deconstruct (unmask) idolatries in the church and culture equally, suggesting that the church itself is suspect in our relationship with God rather than an instrument of the Holy Spirit.

It is fair to conclude from The Brief Statement of Faith that the separation of church and state assumed since the reformation no longer exists. The culture, acting through the State as a secular religion, has intruded on the private life of faith and brought it into the public domain. The public crusades of The Confession of 1967 have become private crusades in The Brief Statement of Faith perhaps explaining the new emphasis in pastoral care and the psychological hermeneutic in ministering to a broken and fearful world.

Where Jesus contended with intrusion of Mosaic Law, the Church today contends with an activist, secular State within its very walls rendering the concept of a division of church and state entirely anachronistic.

Footnotes

1 More detail is, for example, in the Heidelberg Catechism (PCUSA 1999, 4.037-4.039).

2 While innovative, the confession followed rather than led major changes in society, such as Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church (1962–65) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

References

Barth, Karl. 1959. A Shorter Commentary on Romans (1940). Richmond: John Knox Press.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). 1999. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part I: Book of Confessions. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). 2011. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA): Part II: Book of Order 2011/2013. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Smylie, James H.  A Brief History of the Presbyterians.  Louisville:  Geneva Press, 1996.

Church and State in the Confessions

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019

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Haley Gains Respect

Nikki_Haley

Nikki R. Haley. 2019. With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Even though I am a lifelong newsaholic and a retired federal economist, I seldom read political memoirs. Seminary inspired me; most politicians do not. However, when I heard that Nikki Haley offered talk show interviews to promote a memoir, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about her.

 Why Nikki Haley?

Haley served as South Carolina’s first female governor and was later appointed Ambassador to the United Nations, which makes her a national figure. Historically, the only women governors in the South have served out the remaining terms of their expiring husbands. Haley was elected on her own merits as a republican, having served previously for three terms in the South Carolina legislature. Until preparing this review, I was oblivious to her Indian heritage and education as an accountant.[1]

The Memoir

A memoir differs from an autobiography having a theme. The theme here is Haley’s political career in the Trump administration. Haley promised to campaign for the President in 2020 when she left her position as U.N. Ambassador and this memoir honors that commitment, albeit indirectly.

The allocation of words to topics reflects this commitment. Her time as governor (2 out of 13 chapters) reads more like a political resume than a backgrounder on her life and personal history. She never mentions her education as an accountant, how she met her husband, Michael, or where she attends church, although she tells a few stories to earn her bona fides as a business woman and minority candidate. Yet, we hear with exacting precision and great depth—reported dialogues serve as an accent mark—about her struggles over foreign policy (9 out of 13 chapters) and her access to the president.

Haley’s memoir makes two points about foreign policy that have created controversy. First, in her view Trump’s foreign policy is not only more consistent with our values, especially human rights, than previous administrations. She writes: “Our values are our most potent foreign-policy tool.” (234)

Haley was, for example, highly critical of the Obama vote to abstain when the U.N. General Assembly resolved to blame the United States for lack of freedom and poverty in Cuba. In fact, Cuba never recovered from the loss of Soviet subsidies with the fall of the Iron Curtain and severely restricts the freedoms of its own citizens (220-222).

Second, Trump has been willing to provide leadership to our allies, while previous Administrations have dallied. It is ironic, for example, that impeachment hearings should revolve around Ukraine. While Obama put sanctions on Putin’s government in response to the seizure of Crimea and his promoting armed insurgencies, Trump provided military assistance to Ukraine (100-103). Thus, while Trump has maintained dialogue with Putin, for which he has been criticized in the media, he has also checked Putin’s military adventurism.

Background and Organization

Nikki Haley, maiden name Nimrata Randhawa, grew up in Bamberg, SC, the daughter of immigrants. She is a graduate of Clemson University with a bachelors in accounting. She married her husband, Michael Haley, in 1996 in Sikh and Methodist ceremonies.

Haley writes in thirteen chapters:

  1. The Murders in Charleston
  2. The Flag Comes Down
  3. The Country Turns to Trump
  4. A New Day at the UN
  5. Taking Names
  6. Red Lines and Dictators
  7. Maximum Pressure
  8. Changing the Culture
  9. Beyond the Echo Chamber
  10. “I Don’t Get Confused”
  11. Facing Down a Dictator
  12. The Fight for a Hemisphere of Freedom
  13. Exiting on My Terms (vii-viii)

These chapters are preceded with a prologue and followed by acknowledgments and an index. She dedicates the book with these words: “To the people of America: I hope this is a reminder that on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.” (v)

Assessment

Nikki Haley’s political memoir, With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, is both timely and informative. If you want to understand Donald Trump’s foreign policy, this is your book. Haley writes as a “fly on the wall” observer of Trump’s policies with candor and warm humor. Interestingly, her two chapters on her service as South Carolina’s first female governor demonstrate her competence as a tough, yet warm-hearted, leader after the shooting at Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. If you only read one memoir this year, this is a good candidate.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikki_Haley. 

Haley Gains Respect

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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Generational Reach: Monday Monologues, December 16, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Generational Reach.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Generational Reach: Monday Monologues, December 16, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019

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Prayer for Parents

seeds_12162013By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Loving Father,

For loving us as your children, showing how to live, and providing us human parents, we give you all honor and praise.

Forgive us for being imperfect parents, who forget birthdays and cannot love like you.

Thank you for loving parents who share our lives and teach us your ways.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, teach us to honor our own parents (Exod 20:12) and to become better parents to our children. Help us to care enough to be present our children’s daily struggles, just like you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Parents

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Generational Reach

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in ChristHonor your father and your mother, 

that your days may be long in the land 

that the Lord your God is giving you. 

(Exod 20:12)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

After the Trinity, the family is our first small group. The church—the bride of Christ—is the family written large. How we treat our family affects everything else we do, if for no other reason than little eyes are watching.

The family is under severe pressure in our time. The majority (about 80 percent) of Americans have seen no real increase in income since the 1980s. Fertility rates have fallen below the rates required to reproduce the current population. Suicide rates are a historically high levels, which, together with drug overdoses and premature deaths due to diabetes, has contributed to an unprecedented decline in life expectancy for the past three years. Meanwhile, the focus on individual rights, social media, video gaming, and cell-phones have left many young people isolated and fearful of assuming family responsibilities.

To be fair, postmodern life wears out families. For couples in their family-raising (ages 30-50) years, two incomes are required to meet the normal expectations for the American dream—two cars, a house, two-point-one kids, college education, a healthcare plan, and retirement savings—and eldercare competes with childcare for time leftover after work. No one can reasonably be expected to meet these expectations and many have stopped trying. Couples are delaying marriage and many prefer to retain a single lifestyle even after marriage, sharing life only with their pets.

In the midst of social chaos, Jesus calls us to live a sacrificial lifestyle. Lead a disciplined work life, manage your resources of time, talents, and money carefully, and care for your kids and your parents modeled after Christ under the mentorship of the Holy Spirit. Remember—the future belongs to those who live in Christ. Honoring your parents in a age that worships sex and youthfulness is a particularly obvious and righteous testimony.

The Eldercare Journey

For those not yet acquainted with eldercare, it poses a number of challenges that no one can fully meet. For the senior, growing old is experienced as a series of losses in function, physical abilities, and relationships, each of which need to be grieved.⁠1 For the care giver, these losses pose gaps that need to be filled and challenges in offering comfort.

Stepping up to meet these challenges is hard for caregivers because it presumes a role reversal—the parent suddenly becomes the child and the child assumes a parental role. This role reversal is difficult for both parties and the reversal may need to be repeated as different issues arise.

Consider the issue of driving. For suburbanites, every activity starts with a car trip. Driving is a teenage rite of passage for this very reason. A socially-active senior without a driver’s license is suddenly house-bound and must depend on others for transportation. Seniors are reluctant to admit their dependence and caregivers may not have time. Oftentimes, seniors only surrender their licenses after an accident because their kids are unwilling to raise the issue. Memory-loss issues only make the problem worse.

For all the challenges, eldercare also offers the opportunity for children and grand children to spend time with their parents. Where you once knew your parents as a child, now you get to engage with them more fully as an adult.  One of the first things that I did when my father came down with Alzheimer’s disease was to edit and publish his memoir as a prelude to writing my own. This proved to be a fruitful exercise because it deepened my understanding of him and made it possible to share the memoir with the caregivers that we hired to care for him. For the caregivers and for me, my father grew from a daily burden to someone deserving of empathy, much as God sees him.

References

Mitchell, Kenneth R. and Herbert Anderson. 1983. All Our Losses; All Our Griefs: Resources for Pastoral Care. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Footnotes

1 Mitchell and Anderson (1983, 35-45) identify six major types of loss, including:  1. Material loss, 2. Relationship loss, 3. Intra-psychic loss—loss of a dream, 4. Functional loss—including loss of autonomy, 5. Role loss—like retirement, and 6. Systemic loss—like departure from your family of origin.

Generational Reach

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019

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Carter Explores Strongholds

Carter_review_20191130Lisa Carter. 2016. The Stronghold. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What makes a book a Christian novel? Possibilities include:

  • A leading character is a “Christ figure” or a pastor whose life includes a sacrificial component.
  • God intervenes through circumstances to grow a character (or characters) to realize their potential and they turn to God in gratitude.
  • At least one minor character cites enough Bible verses to warrant their own scriptural index.
  • The hero must overcome a significant character flaw in vanquishing the villain, but relents from physically harming the villain. Instead, encourages the villain to overcome his/her own flaws.

In every case, happy endings rule the Christian novel. In my mind, the ideal Christian character grows to exhibit Christian virtues without speaking them out loud; yet, the context leaves no doubt as to who is ultimately responsible for the growth—subtly is virtue.

Overview

The title of Lisa Carter’s novel, The Stronghold, is a double-entendre. One is a tragic flaw; the other a long-forgotten fortress. An estranged couple—a tribal (Apache) police officer and an FBI (Chicano) agent—must work together to find and arrest a serial killer, and, as we learn later, to save their marriage. Much later in the story, we learn that they have strong Christian roots that they have not drawn attention to but live out in a rough and tumble part of Arizona along the Mexican border. Also noteworthy is the role of strong grandmother that brought them together, protected them, and prepared them for their Christian walk in spite of abuse and life-threatening adversity—a divine stronghold.

Lisa Carter

Lisa Carter describes herself as an author, teacher, speaker, quilter, musician, wife, and mother.[1] I met her at the Virginia chapter[2] of the American Christian Fiction Writer’s[3] annual conference in October 2019 where she served as a conference speaker.

Lisa’s talk interested me enough that I checked out her books in the conference bookstore. The Strongholdcaught my eye because I planned visit my son in Phoenix for Thanksgiving, because I volunteer in Hispanic ministry, and  because I was curious about the romantic suspense genre.[4]

Assessment

Lisa Carter’s The Stronghold is a classic page-turner that had me crying. The Stronghold offered me a good diversion over break during a five-hour flight, albeit not quite in a single sitting.

Footnotes

[1] http://www.LisaCarterAuthor.com.

[2] https://ACFWVirginia.com.

[3] https://www.ACFW.com.

[4] http://rwakod.org/Daphne. Romance Writers of America: Kiss of Death. The website for this award describes it as: The Daphne is a writing contest for published and unpublished authors of romantic suspense, mystery, suspense, and thrillers with romantic subplots and mainstream mystery, suspense, and thrillers.” The sponsors of this award have no religious affiliation.

Carter Explores Strongholds

Also see:

Fukuyama Understands Identity 

Vance Chronicles White Poverty in America

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019

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