How to Establish a Christian Household, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I gave a basic definition of a household and what makes it distinctly Christian. With this foundation, we’re well on our way to figuring out the nuts and bolts of establishing a Christian household. But first, let me give you a basic example/test of whether or not you have a household at all.

Depending on your own circumstances you may have to use your imagination for this, but the basic question is, “Do your children need your permission to date/court/engage in a romantic relationship?” If you have a true household, the issue of who else gets brought into it is significant. If a father doesn’t actually give his daughter in marriage, then it indicates that his daughter in no way belongs to his household. If it’s purely ceremonial, then something is off.

2 Paths to Christian Households

The first, and easier, path to having a Christian household is to establish it that way from the start. Husband and wife are both on the same page regarding the rule of Christ in the home and children are brought up to know the Way. Once the foundation is laid, the house can be built up pretty quickly with the right structure to it. And while this path will not be devoid of any obstacles, at least the expectations are clear from the start.

The second, and harder, path to having a Christian household is to realize the necessity of doing so halfway down a different road, which means turning around, undoing a lot of stuff, and getting to where you should have been all along. But don’t let that stop you. If you are ten years into a marriage and starting to realize that what you really have is a few sinners living under the same roof and chasing their own agenda, then you should start where you are at.

If you are on this second path, you will have to exercise more patience. You will exasperate your children if, after you have been discipling them to be good little heathens for the past 10 years, you suddenly demand them to act like good little Christians. You may have to gauge the speed at which you move based on how much whiplash you are causing. But what will help the whole enterprise is if you, without saying a word, become more present for your family. If your kids notice that you are less interested in yourself and more interested in how they are doing, or if your wife begins to notice that her husband is getting easier to live with, then the whole enterprise has a pretty decent shot of success.


Since Christian households have a structure, an easy place to influence your household to become Christian is by intentionally, prayerfully, humbly, and cheerfully accepting the role that you are meant to play. This means going back to the basic designations of husband, wife, father, and children and following the household constitution.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

Ephesians 5:22-6:4

A Christian wife is commanded to submit to her husband. A Christian husband is commanded to love his wife in the same way that Christ loves the Church. Christian children are commanded to obey their parents. And a Christian father is commanded to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

No personality test is needed. No compatibility surveys required. These are basic commands and fundamental roles meant to establish structure in the home. In a home where the obedience of children is not required, truth and virtue are not communicated from generation to generation. In a home where a wife does not submit to her husband, the Lordship of Christ is not evident. In a household where a husband/father treats his family as a means to achieving his own pleasures, the spirit of Christ is absent.

Depending on how many household members are believers, at minimum you – dear reader – can do your part. I doubt anyone has gotten past reading the Ephesians passage quoted at length above if they are not a believer, which means you can adopt your God ordained role in your household even if others do not. A husband is to love his wife whether or not his wife is lovely or loveable, and a wife is to submit to her husband (insofar as it does not conflict with her obedience to Christ) whether he is worthy of such obedience or not. If you happen to be a minor in your household and you have unbelieving parents, honoring them instead of defying them is in your job description.

In other words, start with yourself.

Practical Steps to Take

Start by memorizing and praying about the role you have to play in your household. Depending on the age of your children, it might be appropriate to read a key passage regarding the Christian household once a week and even having a family project to memorize those passages.

Communicate your desire to live as a Christian within your household to your household. While this might seem like setting yourself up for failure, it’s better to be clear about what you are doing. If you are one of those who are coming around to establishing a Christian household late, it is wise and loving to tell the other members of your household what you are doing. Such a conversation from a husband might look like the below:

I want to let all of you know that lately I have been thinking more about what it means to be a husband and father, and that I realize I haven't been doing a good job of it. So I want to apologize to you all for that and ask for your forgiveness. I am beginning to understand that I will have to give an answer to God one day regarding the kind of husband and father I have been. I hope you will see a difference in me over the coming months and that means that there may be some changes in how our family functions. I would appreciate your support and prayers and please feel free to talk to me about these changes. 

The basic idea is to know, establish, and communicate what your household is all about. Or at minimum, what you perceive your role in your household to be. Establish the standard, and then learn to love the standard.


How to Establish a Christian Household

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 

Ephesians 2:19

I would like to make the case today (and perhaps in some coming posts) about the need for Christians to begin to think differently about their families. Christians, in particular husbands, need to make it their goal to establish Christian households. Instead of launching into all the reasons for this, let’s start with the basics of what a household is and what makes it Christian in nature.

What is a Household?

The Word “household” is important. It’s an old word but an even older concept, dating back to cultures that acknowledged and valued the existence of a social construct greater than the individual. It’s no wonder that this term seems outdated since the individual-unfettered and unencumbered- is the inspiration of modernity. The New Testament Greek word “οἰκεῖος” is more than a house; it is a household.

A household typically consists of family members working in cooperation towards the good of all those living within its borders. Most households began with a marriage and expanded to children, but extended family could become a part of it as well. Households could persists over generations and turn into nations, or through poor management or calamity pass away within one or two generations. Abraham’s household consisted of his wife, his nephew, and his servants/slaves. These all worked for the good of the household and derived their safety and prosperity from its well-being. Joseph became the head of his family household even before his father died (although Jacob was always honored as the patriarch) and invited his brothers and their families into it, eventually becoming a nation.

While it is true that there is no New Testament command to establish households, the reality of households is acknowledged frequently (1 Cor 1:16, 2 Tim 4:19). It would have been very difficult for the writers of the NT to conceive of the need to command households when their existence seemed self evident and assured. The commands to family members in Ephesians 5-6 is written in the format of a Roman household constitution. The keeping of many NT commands is either simplified or necessitated by the establishment of households, especially in the matter of caring for one’s own (1 Tim 5:4-9) and raising one’s children in the faith (Eph 6:4) This concept also helps us understand how the salvation of the head of a household would naturally result in the baptism of all household members into the faith (Acts 16:15).

A household is similar to a family, but implies a greater dimension of intentionality and responsibility. A family can be a family by accident (she happens to be my mom, etc…) but a household is established, built, and maintained. A household has a hierarchy and a necessity of cooperation and a culture that can be tasted. To be a household, a marriage must be more than a legally sanctioned “roommates with benefits” situation. Children must be more than boarders. Modern parenting is poison to the establishment of a household because the child is left exposed to the world to find his way instead of being disciplined in the values and traditions of the household. While the modern concept of the family is based upon association and feeling, the household is built upon genuine mutuality and cooperation in ways that are tangible.

If this all sounds a little stiff and hierarchical and heavy, then good. A household has weight because a household has substance. If your family looks like 4 people moving in different directions who happen to come together for a few meals a week, then you need to start thinking about establishing a household.

What is a Christian Household?

So what exactly is a “Christian” household? I would suggest 2 things. The first is that Christ is explicitly acknowledged as Lord. The persecution of the Church in the early centuries by the Romans boiled down to whether Caesar was Lord or Christ was Lord. Those who gave up their lives unto death did so because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. A Christian household has a clear understanding that Christ is Lord of the household.

The second feature is the practical reality of Christ’s Lordship. The Lordship of Christ must have more significance than some decorative wall art. The reality of Christ’s Lordship can be seen firstly in the structure of the household. Husbands, wives, and children accept their God-given mandates. The weekly schedule of the household reflects an un-compromised commitment to the Lord’s Day. The rules of the household reflect the rules of Christ.

But all of that would lead to a pretty suffocating environment if it was undertaken in the spirit of legalism instead of the spirit of Christ. So Christ’s Lordship must be acknowledged and honored but Christ’s spirit must also indwell and energize. There should be copious amounts of joy and service should be cheerful. For someone who had only experienced family dysfunction and suffering, sharing an evening with a Christian family should have the feel of a fairy tale.

The modern world has managed to associate religion with something heavy and dreary, like a rainy day that ruins the park. They have managed to gloss over the fact that the only color in the medieval village was the stained glass on the chapel and that the days of rest and feasting were all holy days. The truth is that the world is a dreary place and Christians are the ones who figured out how to play in its puddles. To be a Christian household is to face the pain and suffering of life beneath the banner of our Conquering Captain.


You should start thinking about your family as a household. Stop being the victim of a thousand demands placed upon you by other institutions and interests and start establishing your own schedule based upon Christian priorities. Stop spending your money on pleasures and entertainment and start investing it in the members of your household. Stop letting your kids be brainwashed by the vapid ideology of others and start instructing them in Christian truth and values. Under the banner of Christ, build something substantive in this world.


Bring Back the Weddings / Bring Back the Funerals

According to The Knot’s 2019 survey of the wedding industry, only 22% of couples held their wedding at a church (religious institution). This is the same percentage as 2016, suggesting that only about 1 out of every 5 weddings are held at a church. Perhaps we should not be surprised as many in the “marrying age” (the average age of a person getting married in 2019 was 32) are no longer as invested in religion in general. Nevertheless, my anecdotal evidence is that faithful believers are more often opting to take their vows at venues or destinations. While I have not found (nor – to be honest -dug real deep) into the percentage of funerals that are held at churches, I assume it is potentially even lower than weddings.

blue and white wooden church during daytime

So my plea is for Christians to bring weddings and funerals back to the church. For those who know me, this may seem hypocritical since I had a destination wedding. Fair enough. Nevertheless, I’m still going to make the case. I am aware that a church is a people, and not a building. I am also aware that there is no biblical mandate for what I am proposing, so it falls into the category of wisdom and sentiment, both of which should be biblically informed.

Fighting Cultural Marginalization

We are living in an age when Christianity has been privatized. This is to say that it is only deemed acceptable in uber-private aspects of life. Liberal/progressive types have managed to convince a large portion of the population that separation of church and state – a phrase that does not actually appear in our constitution – is designed to keep God out of every aspect of public life, when in reality the Establishment Clause was probably designed to keep the government from interfering with the church. Add to this the hyper-atomization of society to the level of the individual and you all of a sudden have a culture that intentionally sidelines the role of the Church in society.

Nevertheless, marriage and death are trans-cultural realities of life that even the government has a hard time denying. They are also subjects over which the Church is uniquely authoritative. Marriage is depicted in the first two chapters of Genesis while death makes its appearance in chapter three. Marriage was instituted by God and thus, God is the unique authority over it. Death is God’s curse upon man for sin, and the final act of a soul before he must face God in judgement. Nevertheless, death has been defeated by Christ and therefore is not meaningless nor hopeless.

As we observe these definitive moments among ourselves, it makes sense to center them around that which is authoritative over them. It reminds us that modern, secular man cannot escape our Creator. It serves to remind those who may deny the Creator that they are made in His image. While it would take a series of outlandish exegetical maneuvers to declare it a sin to get married by a justice of the peace at a local courthouse (and no doubt many believers have done so for good reasons), it certainly paints a different picture than a wedding at one’s local church.

Contextualizing our Celebrations

This one became more noticeable to me at a recent funeral, but I think it applies to weddings as well. The only thing that takes place at funeral homes is funerals. Nobody rents the place out to have a baby shower. The whole place is set up for this one specific purpose, from the casket sales gallery to the family grieving room. But when you have a funeral at your local church building, you’ll be back in a few days for something that isn’t a funeral. You’ll be having a Bible study in the same room where you sat with your grieving family. You’ll be singing praises to your Savior in the same sanctuary where you committed the body of a loved one to the Lord. And I think there is something very healthy in this. It is good to remember that in the same place where tears are shed, marriages will be sealed with a kiss. Where man and woman are declared to be husband and wife, precious saints will be sent into the realm where marriage blossoms into something even greater.

Death and marriage both have a strong center of gravity. It is easy to get lost in their orbit. There is nothing wrong with new love and there is nothing wrong with grief, but both can become idols to which we bow. They need to be set in the context of a greater body of truth. Grief can be tempered with joy and marital tunnel vision can be enlarged and enriched.


Another reason I would encourage the return to church for weddings and funerals is to provide an easy way for fellow believers to follow the biblical admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This attitude of sharing in the joys and pains of one another does not have to be limited to a specific day, but can happen across seasons of life within the context of a local church. Again, it is perfectly possible for this to happen regardless of where the specific events take place, but there is something bonding about these events taking place within a shared space. It allows others a natural entry point into our joys and struggles. To be standing in the place where we stood when it happened makes mutuality natural.

Personal Preferences and Practical Considerations

Of course, there are practical considerations regarding family locations, number of attendees, appropriateness of church property (ie are you meeting in a local mechanic shop? Actually, that could be kinda cool…) that will always come into play. Additionally, there may be financial considerations that may affect the decision making. So file all of this under wisdom and sentiment.

A few years ago I had to bury a young man. He was pretty important to me as I had picked him up for Sunday School when he was a boy, led him to the Lord, and counseled him through various phases of life. Coming from an un-churched background and having gone through various struggles in life, his funeral – held at our church – was well attended by people that you would not normally see at church. As I conducted that service, I couldn’t help but think how different it was to invite these grieving friends and family here, to this place, where their loved one had heard the gospel and found grace and acceptance, than it would have been to go to a funeral home. Regardless of whether or not any of those folks come back (and some have!), it encourages my heart to know that when they drive by, they will remember that those who meet in that building every week loved their loved one.

I will simply conclude that my years of pastoral ministry lead me to say that when I die, I would like my funeral to happen in a church, where the gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached the following Sunday. When my children marry, I would like – circumstances permitting – to see it witnessed by the congregation among whom they were raised. Let’s bring back the weddings. Let’s bring back the funerals.


Hope Deferred

Yesterday morning we returned to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. It had been four weeks since our previous visit but in the mean time Katie had seen her OB and we had another echocardiogram at the local clinic. Penny has been gaining weight, growing, and moving around a lot. So we had a lot of hope in our hearts for the visit to KC. I had even wondered if we might witness a miracle and be told that her heart block had cleared.

Our first appointment was for an ultrasound with the maternal fetal medicine folks at 9AM, so we decided to spend the night in KC and celebrate Katie’s birthday and Valentine’s day a little early. After an evening of fondue at the melting pot and exploring the Ikea in Kansas City – where Katie and I not only got along but brought back some furniture for the church, which we assembled this morning in record time and without arguing, thank you very much – we had a bit of a restless night and early morning thanks to back pain and pregnancy insomnia. The silver lining was that over the course of the day I manged to go to the Roasterie three times.

In that first ultrasound we got some great pictures of Penny as she yawned for us, sucked her thumb, and performed a lot of acrobatics. She may be the most active of all of our babies, so that’s encouraging. Dr. Mundy, the MFM doctor, came in to tell us that there are some new developments that are not good. Penny now has hydrops, a condition where fluid is building up in two or more compartments of her body. Additionally, they observed some thickening of her heart muscles.

As we went into the echocardiogram room, I had already determined not to try and watch the whole thing, so I read some CS Lewis and got some work done while Katie fell asleep on the chair (thank you, Rita, for being so gentle and allowing her to get some rest!). Penny does not like to cooperate with these exams, so Rita got as much information as she could and then disappeared. We waited a long time. Maybe an hour. We learned that waiting is bad – it probably means a group of doctors are conferencing. When they came in, we met our third cardiologist as well as an electrophysiologist. There were two others present around the little table in our room, but it was the first time we had an all female team. Which, to be honest, was not good. Everyone was very kind and everyone felt the need to tell us how sorry they were. “Don’t be sorry, yet.” I replied. Later I would have to say, “You have no reason to be sorry or apologize, you have done nothing wrong.” It seemed like when the meeting started they were saying that they needed to know what we wanted, as if they needed us to make some kind of decision. But about 1/3 of the way into the hour long meeting, I realized that they weren’t actually telling us anything new. Katie realized that soon thereafter and asked, “So do you guys want us to decide something?” to which they all said no. Basically, they just wanted us to know that things are not going well. I probably came as close to getting frustrated as I have throughout this experience, but my internal compass told me that response was not helpful.

Then we sat there for a while longer, maybe another thirty or forty minutes, and waited for another group of doctors to come in. Who again, wanted to know what we wanted. At that point, I wanted a multiple choice test instead of an essay question. The answer we gave them that seemed to help them move on is that we want to make the best decision for Penny possible, that we would rather take the risk of her passing away in utero then to prematurely delivery her just so we could spend time with her, that we understood that post delivery interventions may not be possible, and that we do not want our daughter hooked up indefinitely to tubes and machines and subjected to unnecessary painful procedures that have slim to no chance of success. I found myself saying out loud all the things that eight weeks ago I hoped I would never have to say. Parents make choices every day that impact their children, but never have I had to make decisions of this magnitude. While hard to say, they were relatively simple to make: we cannot control things outside of our control. We cannot gratify our own emotional needs at the expense of making responsible decisions for Penny. We have been entrusted with the life of another for a season and while we do not know how long that season will be, we will do our best and leave the rest to God.

We did get a prescription for some medicine that may increase Penny’s heart rate and thus either keep at bay the progression of hydrops or, in the best case scenario, improve her condition. The side effect is that it will increase Katie’s heart rate and may increase her insomnia or make her jittery or anxious. We will return to KC in a week to see if this has been effective, and at that point we may have to make more – harder – decisions. We are living week to week at this point.

So we started the day with hope, and our hope had to be deferred to another day. But we still have hope. It has not been destroyed. I have hope because Penny loves to move and kick, which is a good sign. The other day she kicked my hand and I felt her strength. I have hope because God loves a last minutes rescue: He doesn’t always part the waters until Pharaoh’s army is pressing in or show up until His servants are cast into the fiery furnace. The NICU doctor told us that she would consider it a miracle if Penny came to full term. Of all the prayers that God has ever answered for me, this would by far be the most clear example of His intervention in the natural affairs of man, and I would love to witness it.

In the Christian life, hope often has to be deferred. The hope of the disciples that Jesus would rescue Israel had to be deferred until after the crucifixion. The hope Abraham had for an heir had to be deferred until after Sarah had passed the point where she could conceive. Joseph’s hope that his family would one day possess the land of Canaan had to be deferred until after his death, when only his bones were left to grace the Promised Land. Our hope cannot be destroyed, even by death, for we serve a God who knows His way out of the grave. Hope may be deferred, but never destroyed


Like Groundhog Day but Without Bill Murray

Friday we headed back up to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for a follow-up visit. Thursday, the climate prognosticators were saying that it might snow after 11AM. We left Springfield at 6AM and intermittently drove on skating rinks to Bolivar, after which the road conditions improved. With allowing almost an extra hour of drive time, we made it to the Fetal Health Clinic just five minutes late, glad to have arrived safely.

baby's white and black bassinet

The next two and a half hours were a study in deja-vu. I think both of us were pondering the torture of weekly or bi-weekly trips to Kansas City where an ultrasound would show the same heart defects and the same slow heart rate, which would be followed by the tortured attempt of a cardiologist to sound human while explaining the complexities of human cardiac anatomy to us. All the same, when the ultrasound technician began and located Penny’s heart, I found myself rooting for her with the same intensity I imagine myself feeling were she playing basketball. I wanted to see that heart beating in rhythm, and for a moment it appeared that it was. But it was not.

The cardiologist confirmed that the heart block (the condition where her natural pacemaker is not functioning, causing the upper and lower chambers to have no communication) is still present and poses a high risk. And on top of that, there are the structural abnormalities that will require surgery to correct. I couldn’t watch the screen the entire time. I answered emails and read articles. For a while I watched the little valves in her heart jump erratically and willed them to syncopate, but it became too much. There’s really nothing we can do, except pray and hope and believe. Apart from a miracle, she needs to make it to full term to have any shot at surviving having a pacemaker while on a heart and lung machine to oxygenate her blood, and then she has to survive at least one heart surgery after that. “We’d like you to get to know our palliative team during your next visit” was brought up. Fortunately, that will not be for another four weeks as we can monitor her locally, assuming there are no changes in her condition.

Is it insane to love a child I have never met? I have this recurring daydream where she sits in a bassinet and listens to me try to learn the piano with a sympathetic yet slightly condescending look in her eye. Her future seems so real to us and we want to bring her home.

The hospital is becoming slightly more familiar to me, but there are folks there who are clearly regular visitors. There was the mom walking in her girl of maybe twelve years who was bald and skinny and fatigued from the walk between the elevators and the entrance; the battle between the cancer and the chemo within her had drained her vitality. There were the parents whose children were too weak or malformed or diseased to walk at all and they rode in little carts. This hospital is a war zone where life daily battles death and the love of parents finds hope in the skill of doctors to save a child. Oh, and there’s a coffee shop. Weird. Katie and I are certainly not alone in our suffering.

Why do we love our kids so much? We love our children because we were created by a Father. This is not evolution or instinct or genetics: this is our Nature. And in this messed up world of pain and sorrow the hope we have is that our Father has not abandoned us, but has sent His only begotten Son to rescue us, though that meant His death. “What kind of love is this?” John would wonder. A love that sacrifices a Son to save a rebel. It’s a love that is even more amazing now that I am a father. Humanity is certainly not alone in our suffering: God has suffered in our midst.

So we are back to where we started. We have been told again what we already know. Penny needs your prayers. There’s not much else we can do except wait and trust. We are planning on bringing our little girl home, just like we brought home our other children. But I’ll share something that happened last week, and you can read whatever you like into it. I fell asleep around 10PM on Sunday night and woke up with the strongest feeling of peace in my heart around midnight. I had either dreamed or contemplated in the twilight between sleep and wake two things, and I could not tell whether these two things were consecutive or simultaneous. In one, Penny was born without the severe heart defects that had been diagnosed and we brought her home healthy. In the other, I imagined myself typing the words, “Penny has been healed” on this very blog. But I knew in my mind – in that way you know things in your dreams without knowing how you know- that what I meant by this was that God had welcomed her into His arms and she was safely with Him. In that moment of peaceful clarity, I knew that one way or another, Penny will be going to a home where she will be most welcomed and most loved. And that’s enough for me.


So There, Now You Know As Much As Me

7 days following the initial news of Penny’s heart issues, we left Springfield at 7AM to head to Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH) in Kansas City. Our first appointment was at 11AM but with a solid schedule ahead of us we wanted to get a bite to eat, which took us to Panera. Being unfamiliar with Kansas City, I relied on navigation to get to CMH from there, which wound us through snow dusted streets and quaint neighborhoods until, like an apparition, the hospital materialized and we were plunging into the bowels of a parking garage.


At the front entry desk, we were not just directed but guided to the 3rd floor Fetal Health Clinic by a volunteer, and throughout the rest of the day we received the same personal care from every person we met. Pictures of healthy children adorned brightly colored corridors while giant spinning sculptures hovered above. The smell of Roasterie Coffee and the rainbow lights across the ceiling of the gift shop provided texture to a sterile environment. Later I would discover a chapel where I could sit and, quite frankly, cry for a while – alone with my God.

At the end of the day, it is a hospital. The human touches were all appreciated and the kindness of strangers memorable. But soon the testing commenced: an almost 2 hour marathon ultrasound that began with Rita and concluded with Matt, a cardiologist. As I watcher her little heart beat, I couldn’t help but marvel that every human being is kept alive by that little organ. It’s no wonder that we speak of the heart of the matter, or the saintliness or wickedness of an individuals heart.

Instead of an improvement in her heart functions, we learned that Penny’s heart abnormality is more complex than atrioventricular canal defect, although that diagnosis still applies. Her heart falls into the paradigm of heterotaxy, a condition wherein certain internal organs don’t demonstrate the “left side” and “ride side” that the human anatomy requires. We were happy to learn later than this condition is not represented in other internal organs, meaning she is developing normally. However, the primary concern is that the upper and lower chambers of her heart are not communicating, which means they are not beating in sync. The lower chamber, which does the heavy lifting of moving blood through the body, is only beating at just below 50 beats per minute, less than half of what is considered normal. Since her heart is the main health concern, this consultation with the cardiologist was particularly brutal.

Following these, Katie was taken in for a standard OB ultrasound and I was released to find food, coffee, and have a good cry in the chapel. They weren’t done poking and prodding Katie, so she did not get that reprieve. After that we spoke to a doctor from maternal fetal medicine, who helped us get a bigger picture of Penny’s health, and then a quick consultation with an anesthesiologist. Our final meeting of the day was with “the team”. Our team. All of this scheduling and all of the consultations were arranged by Bryan, a Fetal Cardiology Nurse Coordinator, who had been our point of contact since being referred to CMH. He was a wonderful asset throughout the day and we particularly appreciated his efforts.

So our hospital day concluded with a meeting with 10 individuals – 7 in person and 3 on screens. There was a social worker, neonatal cardiac specialists, palliative care nurses, a geneticist…you get it. They were all very kind and supportive. The end result of the day are as follows. Penny’s heart rate is dangerously slow and at some point, may not be sufficient to keep her alive in utero. She’ll be monitored frequently for signs that her heart is giving out at which point she will have to be delivered. The closer she gets to full term the better for her. We are at 22 weeks and I think everyone will be pretty happy if we get to 33, although I’m hopeful for 34 or 36. At birth she will need – if not immediately, very quickly – a pacemaker to get her heart beating correctly. She will probably have to stay in the hospital for at least a month after she is born. We have not even begun to look beyond that to the potential surgeries she will need to correct the other abnormalities in her heart.

There are so many potential outcomes at this point that we can’t quite bring the situation into focus. Yesterday was a roller coaster ride of emotions. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about all the different scenarios in which we could be parted from our daughter. I rose this morning confident that she is strong and she will live a glorious life. What will be our story? We know that only one outcome will come to pass, and that is what God has ordained. His is the hand holding the quill that writes our story…Penny’s story. And it is a hand both mighty to save and gentle enough to wipe the tears from every eye.

How are we doing? We are not crushed. There was laughter yesterday mingled with the tears. Katie and I spent almost six hours in the car together – talking, listening to music, and reflecting. I don’t think we are in denial. We are not hopeless. We told the doctors that we know Penny may die, but we do not live in fear of death. We thank you for your prayers and ask that you would continue praying for Penny. Pray that her heart heals. Pray that she can come to full term. Pray for a miracle. I seem to be having a hard time asking God for anything right now – I just know that I trust Him. So pray in my place, and pray big.

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Rom 8:31-39)

She Has a Name

We wanted to avoid hospitals. And doctors. And anything Covid related. Which is why we had chosen to have our fourth baby at Family Birth and Wellness, which is a midwife service. This necessitated the use of a 3rd party ultrasound service, which in turn meant that the concerns of the 20 week ultrasound, taken on December 22nd, would not be shared with us until December 28th. We sent out a Christmas email saying that all was well with the pregnancy, ignorant of the dangerously slow heartbeat of our child.

When Katie called me crying after the doctor’s visit, I feared the worst. I got something better, but still not good. A visit to a specialist today revealed in greater detail the issues our daughter is facing. She has atrioventricular canal defect, a complex heart problem that involves several abnormalities of structures inside the heart. Because Springfield does not have a specialist in this area, we are being referred to a hospital in Kansas City. While we have more information, we still don’t have answers to the most pressing questions.

We have no complaints about any of the medical care we have received. The midwives were great. The ultrasound technicians did their jobs well. The doctor today was professional but not lacking in compassion or humanity. But now that our baby is high risk, there is a slight awkwardness. The possibility of her death causes everyone to speak in a more clinical manner. Perhaps they think we will want to terminate the pregnancy – not a chance. Perhaps they think we don’t understand the gravity of the situation – our tears say otherwise. Maybe they think we will be more traumatized if we grow too attached to her and she doesn’t live. So to make sure everyone was clear about our feelings, we told them, “We already named her.”

All of our children were named before they were born. Luella was going to be Eleanor, but after her second ultrasound we both decided she did not look like an Eleanor and settled on Luella. As soon as I knew our second was a boy, I decided to name him after my brother. I don’t remember when we decided on Lily Rose, but we knew we wanted to keep “Rose” in the family and I know it was weeks before she was born. Each one of our children came into the world with a name.

We name the things we love. Men name cars. Dads warn their kids who take in that stray dog that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are they to give it a name, only to resign himself to the fact that he now has a dog when his kids go ahead and name the darn thing. Names are associated with character and personality. Names make things matter, and things that matter are named.

Our daughter is not a mass of human tissue. Her personhood is distinct to us, just as each individual on this planet is distinct from the mass of humanity to God. She is already marred from the Fall, just as every individual is marred in some way by the Fall. She is loved by her parents, just as every rebel child of Adam is loved by the Father. When Jesus wanted to convince the peasants and beggars and tradesmen and soldiers and fishermen who gathered around him that their Father in heaven actually cared, He told them that even the hairs of their head were numbered. To let our baby know that she is already loved, already precious, and already a part of our lives, we gave her a name. Her name is Penny.

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Jesus Christ, Revelation 2:17

The Most Powerful Woman in Springfield

“Do you want to know who the most powerful woman in Springfield is?” he asked me over the counter. I can’t remember his name, but he was a contractor. I wondered if there had been some 417 Magazine article about up and coming women in our town. Or maybe there had been a write-up in the Springfield Business Journal regarding women CEO’s.

I limited my response to a friendly, “Sure”.

“She’s the gatekeeper at MSU.”

For those of you who don’t know, Missouri State University occupies several city blocks of Springfield and has grown rapidly over the last several decades. They are one of Springfield’s largest employers and a lot of money passes through that place.

“That’s right, ” he continued, “if you want to get on that campus to do your job, she has to raise that gate. Otherwise, you ain’t getting your job done.”

green metal gate with brown metal padlock

That conversation happened over ten years ago and among the countless thousands of little conversations I’ve had with contractors since, that one as stuck in my brain. “She’s the gatekeeper”. I don’t know this woman’s name, whether she still works there, and whether or not she was trustworthy. But as far as that contractor was concerned, the President of MSU didn’t wield a bigger stick than her. Which has gotten me to think about gatekeepers and their power.

In many ways it’s a scary world when the gatekeeping positions of our society have been taken over by ardent secularists. Think about the power that Facebook and Twitter have to use “fact checking” to remove posts, or to remove posts based on their arbitrary definitions of “hate speech”. Think about the power of Google to develop algorithms that direct people to specific points of view, or the power of Youtube to promote specific agendas. Think about how hard it has been, even for Ivory Tower academics, to make information public that goes against the accepted progressive narrative. It doesn’t surprise me that outlandish conspiracy theories such as those promoted by QAnon have gained so much traction. This is the inevitable counter to the totalitarian methods employed by the media, the storytellers, the Academia, and the judges of our nation. The secularists have done a better job of winning the culture because they have rightly identified where the gates are located and have hired those who are like-minded and canceled those who are not.

The right response to this reality is to accept the fact that every individual plays an important role of gate-keeper in their own life. I think one Bible word that describes this function is discernment. It’s the ability to keep certain things out and let certain things in. Judging by the best selling books and Bible studies I see in the sales magazines I get, discernment is a lost art.

Particularly in an election year, you need to keep your mind from being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of news available. Do you find yourself visiting certain sites or watching certain stations just so you can experience righteous indignation? Do you sense that your blood pressure fluctuates to the rhythms of your news watching? If so, it might be time to close the gate.

This simple principle can be applied to the stories that we watch and the books that we read. But discernment isn’t just about keeping things out; it’s also about letting things in. God’s Truth is something that ought to occupy our hearts to the point that the word of Christ is dwelling in us richly. Our exposure to truth should be frequent and saturating.

One final word: until this skill is learned, it is the job of parents to act as gate keepers for their children. So another plea from this pastor…please don’t let your kids have unlimited access to cell phone apps. Please monitor the things that they are taught in school. Please take them to church and read the Bible with them at home. Please teach them to guard their hearts with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Into the Promised Land of Classical Education

The title is a little tongue in cheek if you know anything about Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. Any promise that an educational system is going to be idyllic will be found to be false, just as anything in life that promises to be idyllic will be false. Marriage, child-rearing, work, art…these are all arduous tasks fraught with difficulty. Any parent who thinks that choosing the right school will solve their parenting problems needs a reality check. Having said that, there’s no sense making life harder than it has to be. Not all schools are created equal.

Student Memes that Perfectly Define Attending University ...

I left off yesterday’s post with my first impressions of a local Classical Christian School called Gloria Deo. I think my oldest was still about three when I first stopped in, so the next year we put her on the waiting list for Kindergarten. In this post I’m going to try to explain Classical Education and then I’m going to try to answer some possible objections or dilemmas regarding making a choice besides public schools.

Maybe the easiest place to start with Classical Education is with its modern development, even though its roots go back much further. In 1947 Dorothy Sayers gave a lecture at Oxford that turned into The Lost Tools of Learning. In 1991, Douglas Wilson wrote a book called Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning that popularized Sayer’s methodology and became associated with the modern Classical Education movement. (It is important to note that Classical Education is more than a methodology, but sometimes it is helpful to jump on in before trying to figure everything out). The methodological model is the Trivium, pictured below, where students are taken from Grammar to Logic to Rhetoric as they progress from elementary school to middle school to high school. From a purely “process” standpoint this means that kids are first taught facts and basic skills, then taught to how to fit those things together, then taught how to defend/use them. Some examples: my daughter had to memorize all the countries in Africa during her kindergarten year (obviously among other things); Latin is still a requirement; as is writing in cursive.

Because Gloria Deo is a Christian school, the Grammar stage includes things that they would not normally hear at a public school, such as the creation account in Genesis 1. It is interesting as 2020 has progressed to see how much of the traditional narrative of Western civilization is being replaced in public schools with questionable history such as the 1619 project, but Gloria Deo remains committed to understanding Western civilization as more than an oppressive patriarchy. Even within the framework of the trivium, content is still key.

When I stopped off at the school and asked about Classical Education, the principal told me that the big difference she had noticed between the public schools and the Classical school was that at the public school, kids were taught where to find answers, but in the Classical school they were required to memorize/know the answers. That appealed to me because my own experience of “learning” is that it begins with a foundation of knowledge, so when learning a foreign language things like vocabulary and syllabary were starting points which could then be built upon.

If your kids attend a Classical school then you are going to hear lots of songs about the names of States, countries, historical events, etc… It may driver you a little crazy. But on the other hand, if I’m ever on some kind of quiz show and there’s a question about States I can always sing Fifty Nifty now! As a parent it really is amazing to see how much stuff kids can soak up and memorize.

If you choose not to send your kids to public schools you will obviously face some challenges. Private schools cost money. Public schools are shaped around a 5 day work week so you may find yourself with a scheduling challenge when homeschooling or attending private school. There are also considerations about socialization, community, sports, and such things. So like a good king going to war you ought to count the cost before embarking on this journey. I will limit myself to the dilemmas that we faced in making this choice.

First, there was the financial issue. When we started down this road money was very tight and so we knew that even a few hundred dollars out of our pocket would be a stretch. But you find a way to afford what you really want, whether that is a new car or a vacation or a nicer house. Once we made the decision to do this we knew that we would have to steward our resources and trust God. One nice thing is that if you are already committed to giving to God first, you have already established a pattern of faith and obedience in your life that makes this easier to tackle.

Second, there was the issue of scheduling. With 2 younger kids not of school age and an “at home” component to Gloria Deo, we knew that the daily schedule would be taxing. In this we have been very blessed with help from willing grandparents. But again, this decision was made easier as a result of praying/planning for Katie to be a full time domestic engineer. Titus 2:4-5 makes clear that this is a godly aspiration for any wife/mother. Actually, calling it an aspiration is too weak. This is the biblical mandate for Christian wives and mothers.

Tit 2:4  That they (older women) may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 
Tit 2:5  To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 

Then there was just the sheer courage it took to take the path less traveled. Would the school be good for our kids? Would they miss out on important things? Would they be overly sheltered and unable to cope with the world? Being a parent is a heavy responsibility as the choices we make for our kids’ childhoods will be their childhoods! And whatever choice you make as a parent will be up for criticism by others and by your future adult children.

We are only a year into this journey as our eldest starts first grade, but we are continuing down this road with faith and joy. It’s always dangerous to recommend a specific course of action to others because it is impossible to control outcomes. I do think that we have reached a unique time in our nation where the off-ramp of public education is more appealing than ever.

Far Greater Privilege

There was this Eddie Murphy bit on Saturday Night Live back in the day where he dressed up like a white guy to see what happened on public transit when all the black folks disembarked. Basically it turned into a cocktail party, if I remember right. It was funny, you know, back when Saturday Night Live was funny. The good old days. But I digress.


There’s this concept floating around called “white privilege” that a lot of people are talking about, which is a spoke in the wheel of a terrible ideology containing other spokes like critical race theory and intersectionality, among other things. One of the battles that we have been fighting in the western world is the battle over the dictionary. Because I believe God spoke and the world came into existence, I believe that words have meaning. Secularists have no basis for believing that words have meaning, so there is a lot of bait and switch type stuff that goes on. One example is “tolerance”, which means “put up with” until they decided it meant “you’d better participate in our deviant behavior or we’ll take your bakery away.”

I remember hearing my dad say about a thousand times in various churches across the country, “It’s a privilege to be here today.” By which he meant that he was not special and had not done anything deserving of their attention, but he was humbled and grateful for the opportunity that they had given him. Today, privilege seems to mean something a little bit dirty and shameful.

The reality is that part of the job of every society is to accrue benefits for its members. A more basic way of thinking about this is that every parent wants good things for their children and works so that they can have them. I’m open to the possibility that those with white skin have accrued more benefits for their children than those with black skin, and I’m even open to the possibility that some of those benefits have been accrued at the expense of blacks. (Historically, I think this is a relative given considering the African slave trade that provided slave labor.) But because I am not a cultural Marxist, I don’t believe that this is a zero-sum game. Instead, I believe that the flourishing of human society is essentially limitless when it is based in righteousness, a condition that will one day be made permanent. This means that the privileges enjoyed by some can be shared by others without detracting from anyone. Everyone can be privileged in a rightly ordered society.

What if there is a way that I am privileged far beyond what white privilege confers? What if that great privilege need not be limited by the color of one’s skin? Let me share 2 thoughts with you. The first privilege that is truly unearned, freely bestowed, and cause for humble gratitude is the privilege of being born into a stable family. The family is the first society you join and it confers so many benefits on its members that, despite the governments best attempts to replace it, it has proven itself irreplaceable. If you have/had a mom and a dad who love you, discipline you, instruct you, comfort you, rebuke you, and model upright behavior for you then you are indeed privileged. Those who grow up without this benefit work incredibly hard to achieve social, economic, and emotional stability and are at a much higher risk of dropping out of school, engaging in dangerous behavior, being the victim of a sexual assault, etc…

When you live in the culture of a healthy family, you master skills as a child that others will struggle with as adults. You know how to communicate. You know how to settle disagreements. You know how finances work. You know how to work. You understand that actions have consequences for good or for bad. You know that you can’t run away from hard stuff. You know that others have invested in your life and you have a duty to return that investment. You know you will not sleep on the streets even if you lose your job. You know that if you get sick and need someone to come help with the kids while you puke your guts out that there is a parent or a sibling or a cousin who will come to your rescue. From a society wide perspective, nothing will improve our nation more than the establishment of strong and healthy families. I can tell you that in all the ministry I have performed I would without hesitation say that a good family is far more of a benefit than white skin. I am far more thankful for my parents than I am for my skin color. So honor your parents, get married, love your spouse, and have lots of babies.

The second privilege that is far greater than white privilege is the privilege of knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ. This is a privilege that is unearned and undeserved and can be shared across every demographic because in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or freeman, and no male or female. And this privilege contains the adoption as sons by which we are welcomed into the family of God, which is a society worth joining. Of course, it’s messy because only sinners are allowed to join. But you do learn how to communicate with grace, how to settle disputes with patience, how to instruct and how to be instructed. Ultimately, I count knowing Christ to be the greatest privilege of my life and I hope that my daily response to it is humble gratitude.

I make no apology for the privileges in my life because I have little claim on them. I am, like Bilbo, just a small hobbit in a very large world. I am as humbled to come home to my family as I am grateful to sit at the deathbed of a dying young alcoholic whose liver had failed and tell him that there is forgiveness, there is hope, and there is a Redeemer. I am undeserving of both experiences. These are far greater privileges than the color of my skin.