Thursday, February 9, 2017

How One Woman's Attitude Toward Her Husband Built an Empire and Changed a City

A new show came on HGTV about two years ago. From the get-go, I could tell that there was something different about the stars of this reality show. So I did the only reasonable thing. I Googled them.

The first search result that popped up was a YouTube video of the wife's testimony. Sure enough, the video confirmed my suspicions. They were believers, and it was obvious in everything they did. It was most obvious in the way that they related to each other, especially the way that the wife treated her husband.

Joanna Gaines rarely raised her voice at all toward her husband. Even when her husband brought home two new puppies without asking or even saying a word (at least not that we see), she didn't speak negatively about her husband to her kids. Instead, she highlighted her husband's kindness as a father. When her husband fell into the lake after repeated warnings from his wife, resulting in a ruined phone and precipitating the need to strip down to his undies on their television show, she just stared at him silently. He knew she was angry, but she never yelled. I've never seen her treat her husband like a child, not once. Even when he behaves with kid-like enthusiasm, she just enjoys his quirkiness and gives him a kiss.

Now, I'm not saying that their marriage is without difficulties or that she has never blown-up at him, but I am saying this: their relationship is just different.

Where most shows find their drama in screaming matches and eye-rolls, Fixer Upper doesn't even go there. Both Chip and Joanna make a point of speaking to and about each other with love and respect, and apparently people really like that. 

When the show was accused of trying to mis-lead its viewers by adding home-shopping scenes to the beginning, HGTV replied with this statement (emphasis added): "'Fixer Upper' fans enjoy the series because it focuses on the playful banter between Chip and Jo, their home renovation expertise, innovative design tips and families who get the help they need to transform a fixer upper into the home of their dreams."

In other words, people like the show because this couple actually likes each other, and they're good at what they do.

Edwin bought me The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna's book, for Christmas. The word "submission" was never used, but the concept was on every page. The book begins with a story about how a film crew went to Waco to get some footage of the Gaines family in hopes of creating a show. Initially, Chip and Joanna wilted under the camera's eye, but before the crew left, a broken-down, mold-infested house boat arrived. Chip had purchased the boat without nary a word to his wife. Joanna was upset, but she didn't throw a fit over Chip making a major decision without her input (and with her money). Because of the way she handled her frustration and looked for a way to change a shipwreck into a dream boat (pun totally intended), the camera crew was able to get the footage they needed of a quirky, industrious, and wildly talented couple, which led to Fixer Upper.

They never did get the boat sea-worthy, but since the show began, it has become an absolute sensation. Before the show, Chip and Joanna struggled to keep all of their investments afloat. Now they manage an empire. Their companies have all taken off and expanded. The city of Waco has grown and developed because Fixer Upper features local artisans and businesses on every episode, Their show attracts visitors from all over the country to their store and bed and breakfast. (Which is booked solid for six months and doesn't accept reservations further out than that, in case you're wondering.) A city that was once known for a mass suicide is now known as the home of Magnolia everything.

Oh, yeah, and Baylor.

But mostly Magnolia.

Now, to be fair, they were in the middle of building an entire neighborhood before the show. That's the biggest investment that they struggled to keep above water. Most of us will never handle enough capital to build a neighborhood, so that's probably not a struggle with which we can empathize. But their lives now are completely different, and their city is completely different.


Because of the way they treat each other.

People are tired of arguing and antagonistic marriages. We're tired of wimpy men and nagging women. We're tired of comedy that depends on cutting other people apart.

There's nothing stranger or more glorious than a marriage in which two people are fighting on behalf of each other instead of against each other.

But here's what I know: most women who love their husbands and show them respect will never see the kind of fruit that Joanna and Chip have received. 

Even as I stand in awe of the blessing that Joanna's basic Christian love has brought on her home, I recognize that many women are struggling to love men who may never reciprocate their kindness. Most women who love and respect their husbands will never get to pursue every dream with their husbands' blessings. Most women who submit to their husbands will never receive the full reward for their faithfulness in this life.

But the blessings that the Gaines family have received is a glimpse into the blessing that God is storing up for his daughters who will trust Him enough to love and respect their husbands. 

Do you really think that the blessings that Chip and Joanna are receiving right now can even begin to compare to the blessings that God is preparing for the wife who loves and submits to a hard, uncaring husband? Do you really think that a multi-million dollar empire is even worth comparing to the blessings that God is designing for His daughters who are faithful, yet never receive the rewards that they earn during this lifetime?

Look at the joy of fulfilled dreams, financial security, a city redeemed, and a family the way that it's supposed to be as portrayed through the Gaines family. Now multiply it times a million. That's what God is working on for us, dear friends.

We need only be faithful to His calling.

I didn't receive anything for this post, not even a free book, but Joanna should feel free to send me a gift card to her shop, if she so desires.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Biblical Argument for Vaccination

At some point I decided that it was okay to discuss controversial issues as long as I do it in love, so before we dive into this touchy subject, let me make a few things very, very clear.

I'm only presenting this as "a biblical argument", not "the conclusive, absolutely correct argument proving everyone else wrong". In other words, I'm not claiming to be right while those who disagree with me are wrong. I don't think this is an issue that has clearly wrong parties and clearly right parties. You may very well disagree with me on that point. I respect your right to have your opinion, so that's cool with me, too. 

I'm not attacking anyone! This ain't mom-shaming, people. If you decided not to vaccinate your kids, I may disagree with you, but I don't judge you. They aren't my kids. Why should I care? (I've never understood why people get so worked up about other people's decisions when they aren't actually effected by them.) If one of your kids somehow gets the measles, I'll still bring you a casserole if you're in driving distance because...

I love you. Hate vaccines and think they're from the devil? Okay. You're made in God's image, so you're really important.  Do you totally agree with me in every possible way? Neat. You are also made in God's image, and you're no more or less valuable than anyone else. God's fingerprints are glorious, aren't they? And what's really wonderful is that they don't disappear based on your opinions, though the way you express those opinions might obscure them. My goal is to respect you, even as I may disagree with you.

Hopefully you now understand where I'm coming from. So why did I decide to write this piece if I don't personally care what decision you make? Because I haven't seen anything else quite like it, but I really have been convinced that the Bible speaks to this decision as I've studied God's Word. 

With the above ground rules in place, here are the biblical reasons why I support vaccination:

  • I consider the FDA and CDC "governing authorities".
    Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Romans 13:1-4

    The FDA was established to protect the American people from dangerous food and medicine. You may not like it, but they are a part of the government, set in place for our protection. There may be corruption at work, but don't forget that Christians were being severely persecuted by the government at the time that Paul wrote these words to the Romans. The FDA has studied the mess out of the routine vaccines administered to children, and they're the ones who approved the recommended vaccine schedule as developed by the CDC. They really would have to be the most calloused and cruel individuals in the world to intentionally ignore clear evidence that vaccines pose a greater threat to children than the illnesses that they prevent in order to make drug companies happy. (Talk to any high ranking employee in a drug company, and they'll tell you that the FDA doesn't strive to make their lives easier or their profits higher.)

    When we returned with our son, we had his blood tested to check to see how immune he was to the diseases covered by his immunizations, and the numbers were extremely low, in spite of the fact that he received all of his vaccinations right on time. Why? It's very common for Chinese drug companies to dilute their products in order to increase their profits. It's normal for a child in other countries to receive medication or vaccines that don't do their jobs because no one is regulating the products. Edwin and I came back with a new appreciation for the ways that the FDA strives to do good for our family.
  • God doesn't give you a snake when you ask for a fish.
    What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:9-11

    How many mothers watched their children die from measles, mumps, or polio, begging God to destroy these terrible diseases? How many mothers had to help their children overcome the debilitating after-effects of those diseases when their children became well, but were never quite the same? How many of those mothers prayed that God would restore their children? How many of those mothers (and fathers) begged God for a world free from those diseases?

    And then God answered! He didn't just heal the diseases. He provided a way to completely eliminate them!

    And here we are with our healthy children, and we call the fish a snake and the bread a stone. We say that God didn't give wisdom to the doctors who created those vaccines. We tell God that His good gift to us isn't a gift at all, but a trick.

    Why? Because it wasn't our prayers that were answered. Why not? We never needed to pray for a world free from those diseases. Why not? Because our children never had measles, mumps, or polio. Why not? Because those diseases are almost completely destroyed thanks to the answered prayers of those who came before us.

    A hard roll looks like a rock to someone who has never experienced hunger, but to a starving man, it's a godsend.

    I sincerely hope that our grandchildren will debate the necessity of a cancer vaccine in a world where the horrors of cancer are as far removed as the terrors of polio are in our world.
  • It's the job of the strong to protect the weak.

    “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

    “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’  Matthew 25:37-40

    There are some people who cannot receive vaccines because of health conditions. Because of that, it's important that children who can receive the vaccines do so in order to protect our herd immunity.

    "Wait, you expect your infant to take on the job of protecting other kids you don't even know?"

    To be honest, yes. My doctors tell me that the risk of injury to my child is extremely minimal. If somehow one of my children were to experience a severe reaction to a vaccine, I would be at peace knowing that I was obedient to God in trying to protect "the least of these". (Okay, so I may kick myself at times, but overall, I'm good with taking that chance.)

    I should never depend on others to protect me or my children, but I should seek out opportunities to care for others and to protect those who are weak. It's a privilege to do so, and I'm grateful to share that privilege with my children, even in this very small way.

  • There's no actual evidence of danger.Whoever speaks the truth declares what is right, but a false witness, deceit. Proverbs 12:17

    I know that there is anecdotal evidence that immunizations have been linked to autism and other vaccination injuries. I know that there are side effects to every vaccine (and every medication, and even organic treatments, for that matter), and no medical intervention is without risk.

    But there has never been an actual study that has been able to link vaccines to autism or any other life-changing problem. In fact, autism rose at an even higher rate in Japan where the MMR was banned because of the anecdotal evidence. (The difference was almost the same as the increase in the United States in the same amount of time, and it was probably due to under-reporting autism prior to the original numbers, so it has no link to the MMR vaccine, one way or the other.)

    Just a reminder, anecdotal evidence was also used to "prove" the benefits of blood-letting, leeches, and the use of mercury as a treatment for syphilis. I'm not saying that you're a fool if you listen to the anecdotal evidence. What I am saying is that as humans, we have a tendency to put pieces together the wrong way. We love to find meaning and causation, even when it isn't there. That's why the scientific method exists. It isn't to suppress the truth but to find it. As Christians, we really ought to embrace that because we should be the greatest lovers of truth out there.
  • It gives weight to the lives of the children whose aborted bodies were used to develop the vaccines.
    Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:21

    The most compelling argument against vaccines that I have heard is that fetal tissue was used to develop the vaccines. I didn't realize this, and it was the first bit of information that almost swayed my opinion.

    It's tragic that these little ones died, no doubt.

    But the babies were not aborted for the purpose of developing the vaccines. Their tiny bodies were donated after the procedure.

    So let's just say that they were one year older than they actually were when they were killed. Let's say that they were murdered after they were born, and their organs were donated to other children in need of those organs. Would the killer be able to defend his behavior by saying that he actually saved many lives by taking one life?

    No. That's stupid.

    But could the parents find a little bit of joy in knowing that their child's short life did actually accomplish great things?


    It in no way diminishes the tragedy of the murder, but it also didn't cause it. In fact, they were two separate decisions.

    I don't like that aborted fetal tissue is used to develop vaccines, but it does give children who have been aborted an opportunity to serve God on this earth by bringing life to others.

    Vaccinating a child doesn't reflect a lack of respect for life. It communicates a desire for all children to remain healthy.
  • In my opinion, it's a matter of trust.

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

    When something bad happens to our kids, we want to find a reason. We would love nothing more than to have someone to blame. We want to turn it into a crusade so we can create meaning in painful situations.

    But that isn't our job.

    That's God's job.

    One of my kids is on the autism spectrum, as I mentioned before. She was different from the moment she was born, so I have never needed to question if vaccination played a role in her differences. I recently read that taking Tylenol during pregnancy was linked to autism. At the time that I was pregnant, Tylenol was literally the only thing I was told was safe to take, so I took it.

    If it turns out that Tylenol did play a role in how my daughter works, it really doesn't change anything. There was no reason to think that Tylenol was dangerous at the time. I listened to my doctors, who are much smarter than I am. They gave me the best advice that they could give at the time, based on the information that was available to them. If those headaches, which caused me to take two Tylenol as directed, eventually led to my daughter's weaknesses and strengths, that's not an issue of fault.

    It's an issue of God's sovereignty.

    He uses everything. Good decisions. Bad decisions. Good science. Bad science. Good governments. Bad governments. Faithful people. Faithless people.

    I don't have to find meaning. He is the meaning. If He wants my kids to have more weaknesses than the average kid, so be it. If He wants my kids to have more strengths, and more responsibilites, than the average kid, so be it.

    My only job is to be faithful. That's your only job, too.

    Whether your kids are vaccinated or not, you can be faithful.

    Whether your kids are perfectly healthy or taken far too soon, you can be faithful.

    Whether your kids are weak or strong, you can be faithful.

    Isn't that a relief?