Category Archives: Mothers

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.

Outdoing in Honor: Parents (6 Ways Grown Children Can Show It)

Honor: it’s a word that we use without much thought, a word that we say without much action.  The ESV translators decided to translate the original Hebrew and Greek words into the English word “honor” more than 170 times. It is a sad reality that as Christians we will read about honor, talk about honor, study the word honor, but cease to go so far as to speak with honor or act with honor.  Sporadically on this blog, as I have time, I will be writing an article dealing with the biblical concept of honor.  After all, the Apostle Paul did write, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,” (Romans 12:10, ESV; italics mine).  What better place to start than with the most well known of honor passages: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you,” (Exodus 20:12, ESV)

That’s the go-to verse for parents, isn’t it? If the child is misbehaving or being outright disobedient, it is easy to whip out that verse and say, “God says you are to honor us as your parents.” Grant it, there is a better way to use that verse than as a weapon.  Using it as preventative medicine is better than using it as triage care, if for no other reason than while honor includes obedience, honor is more than mere obedience. In fact, it goes far beyond obedience.

The word used in Exodus 20:12 that we have translated honor means weight, heaviness, glorify. There is a reason that this is the fifth commandment, situated between those dealing with loving the Lord with all our heart, strength, and mind and those dealing with loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Fathers and mothers are representatives for both sides. Like God, they are to love and protect us. But they are humans, prone to sin and error and “frail children of dust and feeble as frail”–weak and prone to failure. Being the representatives of both parties, they are to be honored, treated with respect, dignity, and gravity.

I am taking for granted that young children are not reading this article; adults are and it is adults that are looking for an understanding as to how they as adults can abide by this command. After all, it is likely you are out of the house, perhaps married, perhaps with children. How does a married, mother of 2, 30-something honor her parents? How does a married, father of 4, middle-aged man honor his father and mother?  While every situation is different, here is some general advice:

  1. Understand this is a heart issue.  This is not simply an obedience issue, but a heart issue, as is with all commandments. It is out of the heart that the tongue speaks and the body acts.  Therefore, we must spend time in prayer, perhaps fasting, tilling up the soil of the heart, making it fallow if we are to plant the seeds of honor.  For those who aren’t farmers, one would till up their land in anticipation of planting, but would leave it unplanted for a time.  This would allow nutrients and such to replenish. Once the soil was ready, they would plant.
    My advice to you is to pray fervently for God to work in your heart. As each situation is different for every reader, it means that each heart needs to be prepared with the right nutrients it will take to plant seeds of honor.  A young woman with a terminally-ill father will need her heart prepared for a certain outworking of honor that a man with a spry 60 year-old mom may not need at the moment.  Pray fervently and earnestly that God would prepare the heart for honor.  But be careful not to use prayer as an excuse for inaction.
  2. Be gracious. Easier said than done, I am sure for some. My parents were amazing parents. Like everyone’s mom and dad, they made their mistakes, but overall I could never ask for better parents. Not everyone had parents like that. Some go beyond just bad parents, you had terrible, selfish, abusive parents.  How does one honor their parents in that situation? Be gracious. This is why the first point is so important. Grace comes from the heart, and while grace may be in that heart, there is a clod of hard clay blocking grace from sprouting honor toward father and mother.  Grace is sprouting in all directions–to husband, to children, to friends, to siblings, to coworkers, but is blocked by a clod of hardened clay that needs to be tilled and broken in order for to grow in that area in that direction.  But once it is broken up, grace can grow. It may be small and weak–just a seedling–but in time it will become a strong plant bearing much fruit.
    Some of you are like me, your parents were wonderful, or perhaps your parents were at least “decent.” Even so, you must seek to live in grace. They were not and are not perfect.  When you’ve been a parent for “x” number of years, it is hard to turn off the parenting switch. They may give unwarranted advice. They may butt in to your life in ways you thought would be over.  Be gracious.
  3. Listen to them. By that, I mean hear them out, give it some thought, and determine on your own (or with your spouse, if married) if they are right. Take action appropriately. Yes, they are from a whole other generation.  Things are different now than they were then. In reality, circumstances are different, but principles tend to stay the same.  Hence, Solomon wrote to his son “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck,” (Proverbs 1:8-9, ESV).
    When listening, listen for the principle, perhaps more than the advice.  So when your mom calls and says that your neighborhood is not safe and you need to move closer to her in her neighborhood, you may listen to the principle of safety, and if it is true that your neighborhood is not safe for the family, you may want to move. However, you may not move next door to your mother.  Listen for the wisdom over the “advice.”  Grown children are not called on to obey their parents; that’s for young children still at home. Grown children are called on to honor their parents, thus we are not to be dismissive of what they say, but neither are we to be submissive to them.
  4. Seek their good.  Again, this can show itself in many ways, and it can be easy for some and harder for others; still others it may seem downright impossible. But there is grace and there is prayer. If your parents were not the best (to put it mildly), this is an opportunity to be Christ to them.  Though they sinned terribly against you, you can still show love toward them and seek their good.  As Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” (Romans 12:14, ESV).
    That good that is to be sought, is ultimately for their welfare.  That may mean making difficult decisions that a parent does not believe they need or want. It may mean bringing the parent into the home with your family or if that is not possible, making sure they have all the care they need where they live. It may even mean thinking outside the box, so that they are as comfortable as can be, but still well-taken-care-of. When Jesus was on the cross, he took care of his mother’s needs. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home,” (John 19:26-27, ESV).  Since He would be unable to physically care for her Himself, He found someone trustworthy to do it for Him.
  5. Speak kindly to them. I remember that soon after my dad died, my mother and I would get into shouting matches. I was not being an honorable son, to say the least. We were both grieving and every emotion was raw, but it was no excuse on my part.  The same would go for me now. If I have had a bad day at work, and she were to call me up, in honor for her, I should not–must not–speak unkindly to her. I must not speak degradingly to her or even dispassionately toward her.
    There will be times that mom and dad will get on your nerves. There will be times when they call at the wrong time. There will be times where they will say the wrong thing or “poke the bear” one too many times. At those moments, you may need to walk away. You may want to tell them that you need to call them back later. If they will not listen (or you can’t get a word in edgewise) you may need to as graciously as you can interrupt them and let them know that you are seeking to be an honorable son or daughter, and therefore need to speak with them later before you say or feel things that are dishonorable.  If you can’t do that, perhaps hang up, and immediately send a text apologizing for hanging up, but you tried to tell them you needed to go, and that you will call them back when you are able.
  6. Speak kindly about them. My personal definition of gossip is any talk that is meant to demean another person in the eyes of someone else. Gossip is never a good thing and must be avoided. One cannot honor another and seek to demean them among family, friends, or strangers.

I am sure there are more ways for grown children to show honor to parents.  Again, every situation is different. And again, honor is difficult; it’s a word that we use without much thought, a word that we say without much action. I had wonderful parents. While they made some mistakes, they did not break my heart as many parents have done, and so the issue of honoring is not as weighty to me as it may be to others. I’d love to hear from you on this. How would you counsel grown children to honor their parents?