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Russia Doesn’t Smile at Strangers

Russia Doesn’t Smile at Strangers

With almost half of planet earth (3.2 billion) watching the World Cup in Russia, Russians are having to adjust to some many cultures meeting in one place. One of the great adjustments is the SMILE. Look up “Why Russians don’t smile,” and you will read some interesting pieces. In a recent article about Russian culture, the author observes that…”in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect.”

A recent study on smiling was conducted and concluded that in “Russia, children may only contract their facial muscles when they’re truly happy. It’s an authentic expression of emotion.”

In countries like ours, however, smiling is a crucial social cue. It may not reflect their feelings, “but instead signals acknowledgment or appreciation of another person. And this might explain why American kids who smile more also tend to have more self-control.”

It’s an interesting cultural data to be sure. I wonder what the religious implications are for a culture that views smiling to strangers with such disdain. How do they view hospitality? Friendship? Love?

Update: Someone opined that it’s hypocritical to smile if you don’t feel like.

My answer:

Life offers thousands of opportunities where we have to express ourselves in ways we are not inclined. Most biblical virtues found in Galatians are things we have to strive towards whether we want to or not. We are to be patient when we don’t want to, we are to love when we don’t feel like it, etc. It ought to be a human being’s natural impulse to greet other image-bearers who come their way.

Engaging our Children’s Perspectives

Engaging our Children’s Perspectives

We tend to idolize our wisdom, which is why at times we are quick to dismiss our children’s perspectives and observations. I understand that foolishness needs to be corrected, or better yet, re-directed, but I find myself continually amazed at the insights of children. They carry with them a sense of awe in their interpretation of the world that we need a lot more of as adults. As we get older we tend to forget the magic of a Trinitarian-made world while they rejoice in wonder.

To that end, we need to pay closer attention to their words, to look deeper into their rationales, and to engage their minds. When we quickly dismiss what they say, we may be missing a bit of kingly wisdom and crushing a bit of their emotional and intellectual joy.

Is this world my home?

Is this world my home?

I remember growing up singing Albert Brumley’s evangelical classic, “This world is not my home.” Somehow when I sang it, the words gave me hope that this present creation is only a journey and our destination–heaven–is the only thing that mattered.

It was a shocking reality to explore the language of the Bible and see that those words are actually antithetical to the Bible’s message. Instead of viewing earth/creation as a passing world with a deadline we are to view creation as the opening scene in a grand symphony that has just begun and whose full music will be revealed at the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Church throughout has also viewed this continuation between our world and the next, especially in their hymnody. For instance, Francis of Assisi wrote: “Thou flowing water, pure and clear, Make music for thy Lord to hear, O praise Him! Alleluia!” Far from viewing this world/creation as a foreign territory, we are to treat it as our home where the praises of God resound. Creation is made to be renewed by God, and so it can only manifest the glory of her Renewer. We are to love, cherish and enjoy creation not because we are foreigners, but because it is given to the heirs of Abraham (Rom. 4:13).

Give glory to God daily for the beauty of the earth. Sing Psalms 8 and 19. Be enthralled by its majesty. Take walks. And in all this, see that God made this world very good and that He is renewing it before our very eyes. The one who hates earth is not fit for the New Heavens and the New Earth. Our present world is our home and it is only the beginning of God’s symphony and we are creation’s musical guardians.

 

 

 

 

Welcoming Little Ones in Church

Welcoming Little Ones in Church

At Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola,FL, we welcome children into our worship service. We know that small children often make noises. While we ask parents to be sensitive to the needs of others, as a congregation, we have a very high tolerance for the noises of little ones in the assembly. After all, entrance into the presence of God and participation in the liturgy and baptismal and covenantal rights that belong to them as members of the royal priesthood.

We encourage you to train your children to engage the service as much as possible. At Providence, we have infants that are already engaging, toddlers singing the doxology, and little children reciting the Creed. While the work of preparing them for worship during the week can be difficult, there is nothing more rewarding than to hear and watch them do what they were created to do: worship the Triune God. They also quickly learn the bodily gestures and postures we use, when to sit, stand, kneel, raise their hands, and shout “Amen.”

That’s one of the advantages of a liturgical pattern of worship: there is enough repetition in the responses and service music that even pre-literate children can be taught rapidly how to participate, at least in bits and pieces.

If your children cause a bit of disorder, please do not feel the need to immediately take them out. The rest of the Providence family is willing to bear with your children, so you can too. Children were no different in Jesus’ day, and yet he invited them to himself, without regard for the distractions they might present (Mt. 18-19). The psalmist insisted that children have a significant role to play in the church’s liturgical “holy war,” silencing the foe and the accuser (Ps. 8).

So, as worship tomorrow, we come together with nursing infants and little ones joining the Son of God in war.

The Consequences of Secular Libertarianism in Sexual Ethics

The Consequences of Secular Libertarianism in Sexual Ethics

This line from Robert Locke is a fine description of a system that proposes freedom without the Triune God:

Libertarians are also naïve about the range and perversity of human desires they propose to unleash. They can imagine nothing more threatening than a bit of Sunday-afternoon sadomasochism, followed by some recreational drug use and work on Monday. They assume that if people are given freedom, they will gravitate towards essentially bourgeois lives, but this takes for granted things like the deferral of gratification that were pounded into them as children without their being free to refuse. They forget that for much of the population, preaching maximum freedom merely results in drunkenness, drugs, failure to hold a job, and pregnancy out of wedlock. Society is dependent upon inculcated self-restraint if it is not to slide into barbarism, and libertarians attack this self-restraint. Ironically, this often results in internal restraints being replaced by the external restraints of police and prison, resulting in less freedom, not more.

Distinguishing between disobedience and accident in our children

Distinguishing between disobedience and accident in our children

One of the difficulties of parenting is the art of discernment. We need to distinguish between acts of disobedience and accident. Our failure to do so may crush our children’s spirit. Accidents are not reasons for discipline, they are opportunities for productive conversations. In most cases, it will require a simple word to train them to avoid such accidents. “Son, we are not mad that you broke that glass, but let daddy show you how to properly place it on the table.”

When a child spills his water before supper or breaks a glass rarely is it related to an act of willful disobedience. In fact, children and accidents are almost synonymous. We should expect them to happen and in turn, prepare to deal with them rightly. I confess this is no easy task, but one we should be aware and prepared. Confusing accidents with disobedience can crush their day-to-day experience and joy. Further, they can begin to hide accidents for fear that they may be interpreted as sinful actions. We all need grace to see practice this distinction and act biblically. Remember that this day.

UPDATE:

A follow-up question from Sarah Joy Albrecht: Would you kindly take a moment to share your thoughts on habits of negligence/apathy/selfishness that lead to accidents? Any thoughts on ways to help children see the connection between this sort of attitude/behavior that leads to accidents?

Answer:  I don’t know if I have an exact science to this question. It can vary immensely. Perhaps other parents can chime in. We have one child that is prone to more accidents than the other four. His accidents frustrate him and we have noticed they have decreased over the last few months. Our temptation is always to scold the child for his carelessness, but in most cases, we try to establish an environment where accidents are treated as such and conversations about accidents are also quite natural. We generally ask questions to get to the heart: “Son, did this happen because you were in a hurry? because you wanted to finish first? because you were trying to be competitive? and the list goes on. I try to focus on these questions after the event when the environment is less stressful (usually before bed). Generally, I find, we, parents, establish the environment for stress in the children which naturally lead to more accidents: “Why did you do that?” “Hurry up to the table!” “I can’t believe you did that.” So, I’d ask two questions: Are parents establishing an environment for more frequent accidents and are we using such opportunities to minimize such accidents by asking honest and simple questions about their actions. At least I think that is a start to a better answer from someone else. Excellent questions, btw.

Well-Behaved or Godly Children?

Well-Behaved or Godly Children?

It needs to be stressed that our goal is not well-behaved children, but godly children. Godliness produces biblical joy and spontaneous smiles through life. There is a certain kind of well-behaved child that displays every sign of life but lacks a genuine interest in life. He says the right things, amens the Christian cliches and smiles at the mechanics of day-to-day interactions but within express a disdain for relationships and true holiness. Parents, don’t confuse both; cultivate “heart religion” by digging into your child’s emotions and imaginations. Bring out in daily conversations the heart of the matter so that the matters of the heart can be discussed and engaged. Don’t assume that right answers and right posture produce biblical godliness. Child-rearing is a daily interruption into a child’s life to awaken him from his slumber.

Can we fight all injustices?

Can we fight all injustices?

We live in a sad world. We turn on our TVs or read the paper, and we are bombarded by images that confront us emotionally and devastate our moods. So, we take action. We opine about the injustices around the world: orphans, widows, separated families, abuse, etc. We opine to draw attention to a cause, perhaps to our social warrior spirit, or even to a particular brand of politics.

Christians are justice seekers (Micah 6:8), but to what end does our justice-seeking apologetic hinder us from doing the basic and ordinary Christian thing? Just this morning I counted six items for discussion that would be considered heavy by any standard (and I am not counting the day-to-day horrors of abortion and martyrdom all over the world). Is it possible that we are justice fatigued to the point that the daily duties of praying, catechizing, singing, worshiping, dish-washing, diaper-changing, hugging, disciplining, reading, and everything else are relegated to a lesser domain? Are we creating a hierarchy of piety and justice?

“My cause is more righteous, and you should be ashamed of yourself for not caring or investing your time and keyboard to it.”

Before we apply justice, mercy, and humility to the major headlines of our day, we ought to begin right at our local kingdoms. Some will reply, “But we can do both. We can care about our homes and families and churches and also care about the national and international justice issues.” I submit that if you are an ordinary individual with an ordinary family with an ordinary job in an ordinary church, you will realize that the cause of justice most pressing is not starvation in Haiti, but your spouse in need, your fellow congregant who needs your call, or your close friend who just lost a child. Pursue justice by all means; carefully, wisely and prudently. But don’t let the “great” injustices blind you to those precious vessels nearest to you desperate to receive your mercy.

Is God Mr. No?

Is God Mr. No?

C.S. Lewis writes about a schoolboy who was asked what God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was “The sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it.” I believe one of the reasons so many young evangelicals have abandoned the faith is because they have grown up in a faith that is more concerned about what the ramifications of law-breaking cultural codes or “holy” morals than the richness of the freedoms we have in Christ. To many, God is viewed as the cosmic “Mr. No.” But as St. Paul says, “God provides us with everything to richly enjoy.” Yes, there are commandments for us to keep, but within the parameters of God’s law, there is freedom. Christ has made us for this world, and this world is made for us. God is not trying to stop us from enjoying ourselves; He is trying to teach us to enjoy life more than we can ever imagine.

To be engaging means to ask questions

To be engaging means to ask questions

If a young man or woman wishes to be engaging, friendly, and edifying, then let him ask questions. If there is one trait that enrages me in young people is their ability to talk about themselves as the source of all knowledge and wisdom and their inability to be curious, uninterested in anyone’s life but their own. Jesus asks 307 questions in the Gospels. Some of them were meant to trap false leaders in their deceit, but many of them were meant to engage others, to reveal compassion for others, to enter into the story of others.

Practically, we can begin by teaching children to learn stories by asking for stories; teach them that there is no unknown guest in the home. You can train your children to ask one question about their guest or host. Learn by asking. Develop the skills of good questions and you will be engaged for life. Those who don’t ask doth think too highly of themselves. Ask and you shall receive. As one novelist observed: “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”