life

Some Things Aren't Theoretical: A Baby Announcement

You can talk about God and faith and creativity in theoretical terms.But then you behold your newborn baby and all things theoretical go out the window.

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Oh, and then you see your firstborn daughter holding your new infant daughter and suddenly you realize how unprepared and ill equipped you are to be a father. And in that same moment, you understand nothing will get in the way of being Daddy above all else.

Love is no longer a theoretical idea reserved for romantic comedies. Love is no longer a theological concept used to explain the state of the world. Rather, love is something that resounds deep within your soul. It is truth.

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Welcome to the world, Estelle Rennae Mahlstadt. You are loved more than you know.

Let's Talk Religion and Politics...

This is a guest post by a friend of mine, Jonny Craig. He's much smarter than me, regarding theology, politics, and well...he's just plain smarter than me. I am excited to welcome him to the blog! If you'd like to guest post, shoot me an email; smahlstadt@gmail.com and we'll chat. Now...Jonny on religion and politics:

Since long before the American Revolution, the notion that Christians should be involved with government has been broadly taught, accepted and practiced. It doesn’t bear repeating here, nor is it necessary, to tell the tale of Constantine and his Divine calling and the affect that the institutionalizing of Christianity has had on European and American politics throughout history. Simply stated, the idea that God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians have a responsibility, nay, aduty to be politically active has reached a hegemonic level. Whether it’s Jim Wallis or James Dobson, Christian leaders are at the forefront of the fray, rallying troops around their own particular positions and parties. Be it a Faith and Family platform or God’s Politics, the assumption remains the same regardless of party lines: the soul of America is at stake, and it’s up to us to save it.

But beneath all of our cultural assumptions are questions that must be considered. What happens when claims based on Romans 13 are held up against Luke 22? Or when Old Testament passages are understood within their proper context? How do we choose between issues like social welfare which is generally supported by democrats, and fighting for the unborn, a Republican standard? How can we reflect God’s perfect will and Christ’s perfect example in a system that is inherently flawed and considerably un-perfect?

In the two party system, the choices we’re left with are severely lacking in a lot of ways. Beyond that, different Christians will have different ideas of what responsibilities the government should have vs. what the church should take care of. Yet listening to the discourse happening during this election cycle, it doesn’t seem anybody is taking time to reflect on these issues, instead opting for the simple way out and flocking to one ideologue or another. The “hip” Christians circle the wagons around Wallis and Obama, while the “value voters” stand with their familiar flag bearers of Dobson and the Republican party. From the looks of things, nobody seems to see a bigger picture, and that’s concerning.

The Bible does not support any one political system. Arguably, the Bible supports every political system. Free marketers will point to the book of Proverbs or Old Testament laws while liberals want to make Jesus sound like a socialist. Both sides are drunk on their own kool-aid, and both sides want to push their political position. Either way, the problem is the same: God never calls us to be involved in politics. Lets repeat that: God, at no point in scripture, commands, implies, requests or even suggests that we mobilize as a group and support a party, politician or platform. It’s just not there. That’s not to say that voting is evil, or having party affiliation will condemn you do damnation, but it is to say that God is far more concerned with our testimony and our relationship with him than he is with who wins school board, or governor, or even *gasp* president.

1 Peter 2 calls us to live as aliens in a foreign land and immediately follows up that call by telling us to submit to governing authorities. Not influence, not campaign for, not campaign against, but submit to. Our allegiance has nothing to do with America. Sure, go vote, but don’t vote because America needs its soul saved. Don’t vote because God told you to. Don’t vote because you know which candidate is a closer approximation of how Jesus would lead. Just vote because of your opinion. Your flawed, imperfect, finite, human opinion. And then accept the results happily, however the chips may fall. Remember, this world is not your home, you’re just passing through.

Jonny is a 25 year old Seminary student currently living in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Kayla, and son, Joseph. He enjoys getting coffee with friends, talking sports and theology and getting out to the movie theater once in awhile. He's passionate about orphan care and the future of the American church. You can reach him at jmcraig009@gmail.com or on twitter @jonny_craig

A Lenten Prayer

God take my fear and my trembling Take my pride with my filth

My life is but a vapor, filled with sin.

I bow knowing that this passing life

Does not deserve your grace and love.

I bow knowing that you pour it out anyway,

With a fiery grace that consumes all

That passes all understanding and quenches my thirst.

In my dirt, and greed, and turning away,

I come broken and aware.

I ask that you would cleanse me

With your blood shed.

I ask that you would touch my lips and touch my heart.

Take this life, that is but a vapor

And create beauty from the ashes.

Your cross bears my shame.

I pray that this death would join in yours

Crucifixion that sets all things right

And buries the old deep in the earth's dirt.

Amen.

God, Cancer and Unanswered Questions

On Monday morning, a nurse approached me in the waiting room of the ambulatory surgery center. I knew why she was waking toward me, and I knew it wasn't good news. If it were good news, the surgeon would be coming out to deliver it. But he was still in the OR, operating on my wife.

We have to go in and take out the other side.

The deal was, no cancer - just take out one thyroid gland, cancer - take out both.

"The results came back from the lab?" I asked. I already knew the answer.

Yes, they came back, and we have to take out the other side.

She was doing everything she could to avoid the word. I wanted her to say it, to give it to me straight. But she wouldn't. Because she knew, cancer is a scary word, and I was scared.

It's interesting to be faced in a moment like that with the reality of destruction. Cancer is just that, a perversion of what was created as a building block of life. A destructive force.

So is the reality of our time on this side of eternity.

At the risk of writing an overly dramatic post, I'd like to say the surgeon was very pleased at how well my wife responded to surgery, and they are confident that after a treatment of radiation, this will all be behind us.

I will also say this: I believe in a mysteriously powerful Creator who is continually creating in our midst. He is creating something beautiful, transformative and redemptive out of this situation. It is our job to recognize that opportunity to join him in that space, not to ask why. Why is simply an unanswered question that keeps us off track. It's Resistance.

So now, in the face of destruction, we ask God what he is creating, and we join in. Unanswered questions and all.

He Would Answer Today

When the Inquisitor ceased speaking he waited some time for his Prisoner to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the Prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently in his face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But He suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved. He went to the door, opened it, and said to Him: 'Go, and come no more... come not at all, never, never!' And he let Him out into the dark alleys of the town. The Prisoner went away.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

And If He Were To Walk Around Today?

'Is it Thou? Thou?' but receiving no answer, he adds at once. 'Don't answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that. But dost thou know what will be to-morrow? I know not who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance of Him, but to-morrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have to-day kissed Thy feet, to-morrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest it,' he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking his eyes off the Prisoner.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky