Guest Post: An Open Letter to the President Regarding My Choice to Stay at Home

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie, written in response to President Obama’s speech on October 31, 2014, at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI.

Dear Mr. President:

In your recent speech to a gathering in Rhode Island, you discussed the benefits of more funding for public pre-schools. You said, “Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.” I have been a mom for almost 10 years, but before that I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology and my master’s degree in Biblical counseling. As a professional, I could do many jobs with those degrees including, but not limited to, counseling in a faith-based setting or teaching counseling through a university. According to various sources, my income would range from $40,000-$50,000 per year. Therefore, over my 10 years of parenting I potentially could have made approximately $500,000. Now, we both know that a good portion of that salary would have gone to taxes and the extra expenses of working, but I do not deny that I would probably have more money in the bank had I chosen that route.

However, I have had the privilege and honor of being a full time mom for almost a decade. I have 4 children that I know in-depth. I am an expert on what makes them laugh, cry, what fears they have, and what dreams they dream. Just since my youngest was born, I have fed them roughly 3000 meals and taught them diligently to be polite during those meals. During the pre-school years, I have taught them to use the restroom and how to read. They have inspired me to slow down and be silly and read just one more chapter to that story. You might think that any pre-school teacher could do this, but I beg to differ, for there is something that happens between the four walls of a home that cannot happen in a group classroom. I look them in the eyes and show them unconditional love and offer them passionate training for life. I do not change. I do not leave at night. I do not go somewhere on the weekends. They are with me during holidays and the summertime. What they get is a life laid down for THEM, and what I pray they see is that they are worth the sacrifice. Yes, I have sacrificed a lot of money by not working in a job for many years, but what I hope to convey is that a life of sacrifice for my children pays off dividends for the future. A life is not made by the money you make, but by the legacy you leave. My legacy will be how my children love and fight for what is right and how they serve others for generations upon generations.

Do not misunderstand me, Mr. President. I am not taking the bait to enter into another fight between stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home. My own mother worked for the entirety of my growing-up years, many of those years as a single parent. I admire any mom who lovingly provides for her children and desires to raise them as mature, loving, and selfless adults. Much of popular culture and politics wants moms to be at war with each other so that we miss the one thing we should be fighting to protect—our children. Therefore, no, I am not writing this letter to show my superiority over other moms who have made different choices. I am writing to explain to you that moms who leave the workplace to raise their children are not women to be pitied. We are not women who need a government solution so that we can be freed from our bondage to our home. On the contrary, we are women who made a choice to lay down our plans and our pocketbooks and take up the monumental task of nurturing and growing the next generation.

For God’s glory,

Melanie Lenow

__________________________

Remarks by the President on Women and the Economy–Providence, RI,” Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, October 31, 2014.

Next Stop, Supreme Court (?)

wedding ringsA panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the traditional definition of marriage today in cases involving Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. This is the first time in the recent round of cases that a circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman. This also creates a point of tension for the Supreme Court since they decided last month not to take up other cases related to the definition of marriage.

Robert Barnes reports the following in The Washington Post:

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld same-sex marriage bans in four states Thursday afternoon, creating a split among the nation’s appeals courts that almost surely means the Supreme Court must take up the issue of whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The panel ruled 2 to 1 that while gay marriage is almost inevitable, in the words of U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, it should be settled through the democratic process and not the judiciary. The decision overturned rulings in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, and makes the 6th Circuit the first appeals court to uphold state bans since the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In the conclusion of the majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton chastises the courts that have overturned marriage laws in other states. He writes:

When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.

Now there is a split in the U.S. Circuit Courts. Now we have to wait and see if the Supreme Court will take up the cases.

Good Reading: Defined by Debt

Steven Smith, VP for Student Services and Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a great post on the issue of debt and ministry. Here is an excerpt:

Those who train for the ministry are called to lead a generation addicted to consumerism to embrace the counter cultural message of Christ, who was building toward a kingdom to come. Whatever else the coming generation of pastors does, it must convince people not to live for money in this life, but to invest in the next. Which leads us to a question. How can ministers of the Gospel call a generation to turn from being consumed with money when their own existence is beholden to financial institutions?

At the end of the post, he also gives a link for new M.Div. and college students at SWBTS to apply for a new scholarship program that will cover an entire year of tuition. Check out the entire post here.

Conversation with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality

On September 14, I extended an invitation to Evangelicals for Marriage Equality to have a dialogue on the nature of marriage and whether evangelicals should support same-sex marriage. After a number of emails behind the scenes, I am pleased to announce that Michael Saltsman, one of the co-founders of EME, will be joining my Bible & Moral Issues class tomorrow (October 15) on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In addition to being one of the co-founders of EME, Mr. Saltsman is research director at the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C. He has published a number of articles on minimum wage and employment policies. His articles have appeared in prestigious publications, such as the Wall Street Journal.

Some may wonder why I would allow someone with whom I disagree substantially on a significant issue to have an hour or so of my precious class time. In some respects, I have already answered this question in a previous post regarding my selection of books for one of my classes. I chose a text that espouses positions that I fundamentally oppose on a particular ethical issue. This is a very similar exercise. In that post, I noted:

For most of my academic career, I have heard Dr. Paige Patterson (president of my seminary) say that students need to know the arguments of the best thinkers who disagree with our positions.

Before inviting EME, I approached Dr. Patterson seeking his permission to extend the invitation. He told me it was my class and that he trusted me. In essence, I am doing what he taught me to do. This time it just happens to be live and in-person rather than in book form.

Am I afraid that my students will be swayed to support same-sex marriage? Not really. Could it happen? Anything is possible. Do they need to hear what EME has to say? Certainly. If some of my students are convinced to support same-sex marriage as a result of this conversation, then I have done a poor job of making my case this semester (granted, I still have about 7 more weeks left this semester to change any of their minds). It’s humbling to invite someone into my classroom whose goal is to convince my students that I am wrong. But it is a healthy exercise for both student and professor.

I am looking forward to a healthy discussion regarding our differences of opinion related to marriage. I have also invited all of my students from other classes to join us tomorrow morning. If you happen to be around the SWBTS campus at 8:30 in the morning, you are welcome to join us in Truett Conference Room.

Guest Post: Hope from a Stump

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

Last spring, we noticed something odd growing in the middle of our crape myrtle tree. This particular tree is on the side of our house where we hardly ever play or walk, so we hadn’t paid much attention to it in the 6 months we had lived here. If you know crape myrtles, you know that there is not one trunk, but many smaller trunks that grow in a circular-type shape. What made this particular tree quite odd was in the center of the crape myrtle trunks was a small live oak tree. I say small tree, because live oaks can become a mammoth of a tree, but this one was only about four inches in diameter, but had many branches and leaves already growing heartily. Because I knew the two trees could not co-exist for long, and quite frankly I did not appreciate the live oak “bully” taking over my pretty crape myrtle, we chopped it down. All that was left was a small, rough, crude stump. The job was complete. We walked away and forgot all about it.

Many times in the Old Testament, judgment is described with the analogy of chopping down trees. At the end of Isaiah 10, it describes the judgment by “cutting down thickets of the forest with iron.” This is where we find God’s people during and after the exile, in the midst of living in the consequence of their sins. We can also find ourselves here if we are living a life without Christ. A broken, crude, naked, barren stump.

BUT, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Is. 11:1)

Two weeks ago, I walked over to that side of the house again, probably the first time since back in the spring. I glanced over to check on that stump to make sure it was leaving my pretty crape myrtle alone. However, much to my surprise, the stump had not died, but had sprouted long branches of bright green leaves. The stems were small but healthy and even the tips had new buds on them with the expectation of further growth.

During the darkest time in history, God sent his Branch growing out of the roots. Notice that Isaiah did not refer to Christ as from the line of David, although He definitely is. This passage goes all the way back to Jesse, before the kings were corrupt, to show that this King is different. “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2) God’s people were familiar with kings who were wise like Solomon, but Solomon did not have the fear of the Lord to put away the gods of his many wives. God’s people were familiar with kings who were mighty to rule like Rehoboam, but lacked the ability to listen to good counsel. Christ has all of these traits as the perfect king and will rule justly, with righteousness and faithfulness.

I know there are no kingdoms that are perfect today. Most are very far from it, but are only filled with corruption and evil. I am tempted every day to fall into fear. Fear for our safety. Fear for my country. Fear for my children’s future. In my limited vision, all I see are a field of stumps cut down. “Where are you, Lord?” I cry out every time I turn on the news. But then, the Lord is kind and reminds me of the branches that come from the broken stump.

The Rod of Jesse is not dead! The Branch is not slumbering.

Christ is patiently waiting until, in the fullness of His wisdom, He declares that it is time to burst forth with life and newness and growth. In the meantime, I have hope in the promises of my God and King.