Category Archives: Family

A Tale of Two Roosevelts

Three famous Roosevelts entered into American history in the early 20th century: Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor. The Roosevelts were a wealthy and religious family, but were not keen on politics. They believed in serving the public and helping one’s neighbor, but until Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (Teddy’s father), they had tried to stay out of the political scene. However, it was TR, Sr. who served President Lincoln, and though he never encouraged Teddy to go into politics, he was inspirational to him.

That being said. . .Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and Martha (Mittie) Bullock Roosevelt, had not one but two sons: Theodore, Jr. and Elliot (Eleanor Roosevelt’s father). Both Roosevelts had the same education. Both went on the same vacations through the Middle East and Europe. Both had the same opportunities. Both had their ailments; Theodore had horrible asthma while Elliot had seizures from time to time. Teddy however took to defeating his ailments through rigorous exercise and determination while Elliot, as Edmund Morris wrote, “when still adolescent discovered that alcohol was an effective depressant,” (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, New York: Balantine Books, 1979; pp 429-430.).

Theodore Roosevelt grew up to become an author, a New York Assemblyman, a New York city Police Commissioner, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a colonel in the army and a war hero with the Rough Riders, the Governor of New York, Vice-President of the United States, and President as well, along with seemingly endless accomplishments. Elliot literally drank himself to death, leaving behind a wife and a lonely daughter, a mistress, and a black mark upon his name. Now, if we were honest, no mere human would ever be able to live up to Theodore Roosevelt’s accomplishments. He is definitely one of a kind. But here is the point: two men reared by the same parents with the same opportunities went in completely different directions in life.

This is most difficult upon parents who see their children straying from what they were reared to be. It is painful to watch children abandon their upbringing for that which will be destructive. Parents hang on to Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” (ESV). They beat themselves up wondering if they failed to train them somewhere. Was there a moment in time that they missed an opportunity to say something or do something. Yet, in reality, no one can say for certain one way or the other. No one has an omniscient mind but God Himself.

I love what Bruce Waltke wrote about this verse.

The saying must be nuanced by others. It indicates that early, moral training has an effect on a person for good and conveys the truth that those directed or steered down the path of wisdom will be influenced by it through their life. But it does not assure that the child will embrace wisdom, because children make their own choices; they are not programmed robots. If it were otherwise, the parents’ and Lady Wisdom’s exhortation to accept wisdom would be pointless, (The NIV Zondervan Study Bible).

Over and over again, the one who reads the Proverbs will see a call for the authors’ children to heed warnings, advice, and encouragement. There are two options, personified as women: wisdom (Lady Wisdom) and foolishness (Lady Folly). Both of these women beckon for the life of every human being. Every human being has to decide which lady he shall follow. In the case of the Roosevelts, Theodore followed Wisdom while Elliot followed Folly.

Does this make watching a child wander from the truth any easier. No. That isn’t my objective. My objective is only to say that parents must consider that they may have done everything right, but the sin nature within a child led them to Folly’s door. You must consider that there was nothing more you could do. Yes, mistakes were made and perhaps opportunities missed, but we cannot change the past and we cannot control their thoughts, desires, or future. What we can do is pray, pray to the one who makes no mistakes and misses no opportunities. Pray to the one who is in control, and can change a stony heart to flesh, changing one’s desires for this wicked kingdom for the glorious kingdom of His Son. We can never presume upon God to know His thoughts or His doings.

Prayer seems like so little a thing, but it was through prayer that Israelites were saved from Pharaoh’s army. It was through prayer that the Israelites did not perish in the desert. It was through prayer that barren Hannah had a son. It was through prayer that the Apostles turned the world upside down with the gospel. Prayer does not guarantee the answer we want, but for the believer in Christ, it does guarantee that God will hear our sorrows and fears, our worries and our desperate cries. As Paul would say, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, ESV).

 

 

Tidying Up After Marie Kondo

I’m going to admit it right from the start: I’ve watched a few of the “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” episodes on Netflix, and I like it. I like the idea of decluttering and even “sparking joy.” I even fold my clothes her way now, and wow! I can fit so many clothes in my drawer now!! Here’s the thing though, I find it troublesome how many people on the show so readily bow to thank their houses or thank their clothes or pots and pans. Like Paul wrote so long ago: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things,” (Romans 1:21-23). One may say, “Chris, they aren’t worshiping man and birds and animals and creeping things. They are thanking their clothes and homes and stuff. What’s the big deal?”

JAPAN-KONDO
taken from thestar.com

The big deal is what lies behind the thanksgiving. Marie Kondo is Shinto as are 83% of Japanese.* Most tend to think that the Japanese are Buddhists, and they are, but more are Shinto. Only 72% of those in Japan are Buddhists.*  Being Shinto means by its definition that one is an animist. Animism comes from the Latin word for breath or life or soul. Thus the Shinto believe that everything has a soul or a spirit, and those spirits, known as Kami, are interconnected. “Kami are associated with various supernatural and sacred forms of life, including human ancestors, spirit figures, and the natural forces of mountains, rivers, trees, and rocks,”* and apparently houses and household objects. Thus to “thank” a house is not necessarily to thank an object in life, but to thank an object that is living.  It is easy to dismiss this and say that it is nothing, but I would not be so fast. I believe that Paul’s message to the Corinthians can be applied here. The Corinthians didn’t think that a syncretistic life harmed anyone. They thought that could believe in Jesus and still enjoy the food offered to idols. Paul told them to rethink, to think about the people of Israel. They ate the peace offering after part of it was offered to the Lord. In other words, they were, as Paul wrote, “participants in the altar,” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Such were the Corinthians, participants in the altar with the pagans if they sought to synchronize their religion with them. While Shinto allows for that sort of thing, Christianity is exclusive. We cannot synchronize our beliefs. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols (or thanksgiving offered to a house) is anything, or that an idol (or clothing) is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice (offer thanks to) they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

While the Shinto do not have sacred scriptures, no known founder, and no doctrine, the Shinto are devout in their beliefs and practices. There are about 80,000 shrines that serve as community centers as well as purification sites and religious activities. In fact, the Shinto are typically nationalistic and often militaristic.* As stated, they are fine with synchronizing their religion with others, but not so much with those that have fixed doctrines, like Christianity, which is only about 2% of the Japanese population* (and much of that from outsiders).  Even the Shinto understand that Christianity is exclusive and that Christianity, as a religion does, not fit with Shinto ideology. It is something we Christians should consider.

That being said. . .what do we do with Marie Kondo and her thoughts on “tidying up” with things that “spark joy”? I think we can accept the principles without the pagan Shinto influences. However, we need to be careful with the idea of sparking joy. What may spark joy for one moment may not spark joy for long. We are after all materialistic beings. We want more and more, always looking for the next thing that will spark joy. “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven,” (Proverbs 23:5). At the same time, everything that does not spark joy at the moment of cleaning is not guaranteed to never again spark joy. Christians do not simply live in the moment, but live for eternity. Thus we need to meter out our joy-sparkers with eternity in mind.

If there is an article of clothing that you no longer like, get rid of it. I don’t mind. But rather than thanking that piece of cloth, thank God for the grace of letting it clothe you and keep you warm. If you have 5 too man spatulas and they don’t spark joy, toss them. But don’t thank them. Thank God for the tools and the food that they flipped. After all, we are called to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, italics mine).

As always, I would love your input.  Thoughts, questions, and comments are welcome here. If this blessed you, I am grateful for the opportunity. If not, I’m grateful you gave me a shot. If you think this would bless others, feel free to share it.

*All info about Shintoism came from:
Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott, eds., Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), pp. 269-272.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.