May 15, 2009

Does Christianity have the Corner on Truth?

This question recently came to my attention reading the Spring 2009 edition of the Trinity magazine. In it, Dr. Baxter points to Christian thinker Arthur Holmes usage of the phrase "all truth is God's truth." Baxter and I agree with this statement, while we also agree that God's truths can be found in other spheres of creation including art, music, literature, and film. But does that notion that Christianity doesn't have the "corner on truth" overstate the case?

What's missing from this is the ability to account for truth. While people of any worldview can communicate truths through art, literature, film and music, the issue is, how do they account for these truths? If, as the artist or writer, he can see these truths he is communicating, how can he explain how he knows them. How can he explain the truths on display? While agreeing with unbelievers that truth is everywhere, we find ourselves more attractive to the way they see things. But do we do them any favors as ministers of the gospel, enabling them to hang on their their deeper belief, that it ultimately doesn't matter what worldview you embrace? I believe that is certainly where we leave them.

How do you answer this issue? How does your faith inform your understanding of truth and how you know anything to be true? I would love to hear your comments!

May 14, 2009

Role Models & Cultural Decay: The Church's Response

In 1984 when Michael Jackson and Madonna were blasting their way through the very large speakers of teenager's boom boxes, girls my age were beginning to bare their shoulders--but only one--to emulate the new Flash Dance style that was sweeping the country. While I was trying to figure out how to wear braided headbands and multi-colored leg warmers, I was also working very hard to hide my interest in Debby Boone and the early Christian contemporary music scene. (FYI, Debby Boone did a lot more than You Light Up My Life that was quite good).

Even though I was actively involved in music as a teen and young adult, it was unpopular to hold up Christian singers as “teen idols” or role models during a time when Rob Lowe, Rick Springfield, and Matt Dillon were all over the cover of Tiger Beat magazine and George Michael was actually considered a heart-throb. Role models in the church were virtually nonexistent for me, and there really weren’t any public role models that I recall, though at the time the Miss America and Miss USA pageants were still competing in one piece suits and campaigning on platforms that were intended to make a difference in our world. These were mostly young women that younger women could be encouraged by and look up to as intelligent and disciplined without all the skin and scandal that epitomizes the pageants today. But perhaps 1984 was the year we saw all of that change, too. That year, now actress Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America and later dethroned for her morally objectionable photos taken previous to the pageant. Secular feminism has always furthered its cause by promoting its ideology to unsuspecting women who want to be valued and encouraged, and the secular feminists have been happy to oblige this need with little protest from Christian women.

So who are the real role models that stand out today? I come to this question because our culture rightly searches for role models for the next generations, though they look far and wide and in the wrong places, ultimately finding few. In the church, we call these role models mentors. For younger women who find themselves firmly rooted within the Christian community, they need not look very far to locate them. Their mothers, Bible teachers, youth leaders, women’s ministry leaders, and other Christian women--and men--are reaching into their lives with truth, modeling love for God and obedience to the Word. They are encouraging them to attitudes of selflessness and personal responsibility, to love God with their whole heart, soul, and mind. And if they aren’t teaching those things—among other things—they should be. But how well are we doing in women’s ministry, accomplishing this work we have been called to as women mentoring women?

With the blessing of church and family, many women are about to enter into college with hopes for a future in career or ministry or family—or all three. College instructors become integral to their educational pursuits and may have input into their lives in other deep and profound ways. Christian women are participants in the cultural mandate as mothers, business women, writers, teachers, and so forth, and have a great deal to teach younger women about being a Christian in the workplace and how to pursue the many spheres of life from a Christian worldview. And if Christian women do not take up this ministry as a fulfillment of Titus 2, certainly the attention of young women will be drawn to unhealthy role models. How can we make a difference in their lives?

Church women’s ministries are in a unique position to shape the beliefs and ideas of future generations of women, allowing our experience as women as interpreted through the teachings of scripture to impact their lives. For this to happen, we need to consider our ministry methods. Are we so event driven that we wear ourselves down with the administration of ministry that we never actually get to do ministry? Who are we focused on—the women who want to be entertained or the women who need to be nurtured? We need to talk about womanhood and motherhood, discussing the ideas that shape the world (philosophy), the ideas that shape our worldview (theology), and the goals of education and career. We need to make a place for these conversations—in the context of mentoring relationships, in formal study settings, in books, etc. And for women in the workplace, you have a unique opportunity that escapes the church, to mentor the women who cross your path and communicate the message of the Gospel in a spirit of love and compassion. For those in the world who is still searching for role models, they can be found if we are willing.

The glory of God is to be the purpose of any ministry we participate in. It is not to the glory or autonomy of the self that should motivate our desire to be role models or to mentor others. But we should see the task as an urgent matter, because as the decaying culture continues to infect the church, fewer examples of godliness will be available as examples for the generations that follow.

May 8, 2009

Motherhood on Mother's Day

As Mother’s Day is celebrated in families and churches this year, women are honored for the roles they play as nurturers, teachers, and protectors. In fact in most circles, one need not have offspring to be celebrated this one day in May. It is rightfully recognized that women across the spectrum reach into the lives of others as positive forces of love and care giving. For that, I also celebrate the exceptional women of our world, especially those in my own life.

But. Yes, with me there is almost always a but. While we celebrate all women on Mothers Day, as a culture we fail to honor the actual institution of motherhood itself, drifting further down that path of individualism and convenience, wanting to preserve the life of freedom and financial prosperity until they near the end of their reproductive years. In this society, motherhood is perceived as an unnecessary burden. And then we have the opposite problem of young girls--my own knowledge places them around the age of 12--planning pregnancies with their equally young boy friends. Their motivation is not entirely clear to me, as I believe it is multi-faceted. But it certainly is not about honoring the institution of motherhood as they are still children.

Mother’s Day celebrations should be as much about the institution of motherhood as the mothers themselves, because what better time is there to teach about the influence of motherhood on every sphere of society? With the pervasive influence of secular feminist ideals, the attacks on marriage, and the buffet of reproductive choices available now and into the future, our culture treats motherhood as a the second to last rung on the ladder of success, the last rung being retirement. Motherhood is also regarded as a disease…dare I suggest a sexually transmitted one.

continue reading...

May 7, 2009

False Distinction Between Gifts & Roles

When was the last time you took a spiritual gifts inventory or answered a church survey to see how God might be leading you to serve in your church? Maybe you are in ministry to women who have particular gifts and talents, but they need guidance in knowing how they translate to the community of believers. Many people have knowledge or insight about their gifts before they even pick up the pencil to fill out a questionnaire, but these instruments can become wonderfully useful tools of discovery for the church.

But I pause to consider if some women in the church, instead of searching for ways to use or discover their gifts, are actively suppressing the identification and use of them as a twisted act of selflessness, or perhaps—and equally as worrisome—they are confusing gifts with roles. GFL’s managing editor Caryn Rivadeniera’s recent book, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., has caused me to examine this issue a bit closer. In my review of her book on my blog, I offer a possible reason why embracing this aspect of identity is difficult for some women, attributing it to a contemporary form of asceticism—a denial of pleasures for some sort of spiritual attainment.

Continue reading...

May 2, 2009

Real Hope in Cord Blood Advancements

First recorded use of cord blood as a therapy was in 1939.
1970: First cord blood transplant for a child with leukemia
Since 1988, 85+ diseases treated with cord blood stem cells.

If there are no stem cells in the banks, no treatment. Compared to population, amount in storage extremely low. More cord blood banks need to open.

Unbilical cord rich is reources. Wharton's jelly is a gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord and is a rich source of stem cells. In culture, rapidly produces Mesenchymal stem cells.

Cord Blood Stem Cells Successes

Child with anoxia who would likely have been institutionalized is making significant progress as a result of cord blood stem cell infusion.

Chloe was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months. She couldn't control the right side of her body. Likely had a stroke prior to birth. Parents had banked her cord blood when she was born. Condition has improved dramatically.

May 1, 2009

Banking on Life Conference

Watch for blogposts and Facebook/Twitter updates from the Banking on Life Conference all day tomorrow. Speakers include David Prentice, James Baumgartner, John Cusey, Josephine Quintavalle, and others. For more info, go here.