“Joseph’s Worthiness (and My Own)”

mentor1-1Thank you to Kelly Stout for reminding us of all that comes with being chosen as an adoptive parent.

“Joseph’s Worthiness (and My Own)”

I carry around a strange sort of guilt – one that only those blessed by adoption can probably understand. Why in the world did God and my son’s birthmother choose me? Oh, it is loaded with guilt. When I fail as a mother, I fail my child, I fail God, and I fail my child’s birthmother. I don’t talk about it often, because it makes people uncomfortable. My reality of feeling guilty for being chosen when others have been waiting weighs on me. I see my friends struggling to conceive, I see my friends waiting with great anticipation to be chosen as adoptive parents, and I see myself failing so often in my vocation.

We don’t know very much about Joseph’s emotions as being chosen as an adoptive father. We all know Mary asked, “Why me?” Given my own guilt about the vocation of caring for a son entrusted to me through adoption, I can only imagine that Joseph felt unworthy. “The Son of God? You want me to be responsible for raising the Son of WHO? Why have I been chosen when all those other men are so much better than me?” At least, that is how I feel at times. “Those other women would probably do a better job than me…” When, in fact, that guilt is very far from the truth. 

In teaching our toddler son about his infant adoption, we tell him, “Your birthmother loves you so much that she asked God to help her choose a mommy and daddy for you. And you know who He chose for you? Us, your Mommy and Daddy!” When I say those words, I am not only teaching my son about God’s love for him, I am also reminding myself God did indeed choose us. We were given this child, not because we deserve him, not because we are better than anyone else, but because before he was conceived God knew him and knew all the days numbered for him even before there were any of them. He gave us the vocation of father and mother. He entrusted this little babe to us. He will provide us with the wisdom and strength needed to raise him in the way of the Lord. 

When Joseph looked around, saw his own sin and failure, and wondered, “God, why was I given this Gift when others were not,” I hope he was reminded that those others, all others indeed, were given the same Gift. The Gift bore our guilt on a cross, died, and rose again, so that with Joseph, we need not question our worthiness in our vocations. Our worthiness is declared through Him.

Kelly Stout

The Nourisher of Our Lord

IMG_1443Thank you to Pastor Ryan McDermott for reminding us that we, like Joseph, are sometimes called to take on the legal and ethical responsibility of caring for children that are not our own.

“WWJD: What Would Joseph Do?”

It occurs to me that, as a husband, a father, and a pastor, I fulfill many of the same roles as St. Joseph. And yet, at the same time, my roles are nothing like his. I cannot imagine the situation of living with and taking to wife the Mother of God, let alone raising God Incarnate as my son.

St. Joseph is known as the Nutritor Domini, the Nourisher of our Lord. He was responsible for protecting and providing for the physical well-being of Jesus from the time of the Annunciation onward. This child was not his, and yet Joseph took on the legal and ethical burden. This is not unlike the vocation of a pastor toward his congregation. My people are not, strictly speaking, my people – they are the people of God, the children of our heavenly Father. And yet, they are mine because they are entrusted to me by that same Father. It is my charge to bring to birth, bathe, feed, teach, and nourish them in the faith, just as Joseph was charged with the same duties for our Lord Christ. I hold them as a trust from the Lord, to deal with them according to His command.

As a father, I am in much the same position. My children are my own – biologically, legally, and ethically speaking. And yet they are not mine. Although they come from my flesh, they are the children of God entrusted to me for only a lifetime. It is my vocation to bring them to birth, feed, bathe, clothe, house, and raise them in the fear of the Lord. They are a gift, a trust from the Lord. They are His, and finally I must surrender my will, my hopes and fears, my desires and wishes for them, and I must let His will be done for and to and through them.

To be married to the Mother of God is something I cannot fathom. I have no words to talk about that because it is truly extraordinary. However, I know the love that flows between a husband and wife. And I know the sacrifices and difficulties, as well as the triumphs and unspeakable joys, that happen in a marriage. There is something to be said about Rome’s idea that a priest is wedded to the Church. St. Paul speaks of the marriage relationship as a living icon of the relationship between Christ and His Church. It is my duty and privilege to stand before my wife and before my congregation as their Defender against evil. It is my vocation to provide them with all that they need to support their daily life. It is my privilege to speak to them, both privately and publicly, the Word of the Lord to forgive their sins and strengthen their faith. It is my duty to stand in the gap, between them and the evil forces of this world, to beat back the darkness with the Light of the World.

Lord God, our heavenly Father, thank you for the example of St. Joseph, the Guardian of our Lord and the Protector of the Church. Strengthen all faithful men to be guardians of Your people and defenders of the Faith as You have given to us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pastor Ryan McDermott

Marriage: One Mom, One Dad

“I like it,” I said to my husband yesterday at the Defend Marriage Lobby Day at the Illinois state capitol building. I was referring to the yellow button we had each been handed at the registration table.

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“Yes,” he agreed as he pinned his on his jacket. “It’s a clearer confession of what marriage is, rather than just ‘one woman, one man.'”

Still, I found myself fighting back tears as we stood in line waiting to talk to our state representative. Here we were, a barren couple, wearing buttons which publicly exposed our shame. My husband and I are one man and one woman brought together in marriage, but we are not one dad and one mom; and the truth stings.

But, it is still the truth.

That’s what marriage is, really. It’s God’s good ordering of His creation. It’s not passion and attraction and preference and romance, though – don’t get me wrong – it is a delight when marriage includes such things. Marriage is God’s blessed institution of the family unit in life. It is one man and one woman joined together that they might be one dad and one mom. We know this to be true, because it is the one flesh union of husband and wife over which God spoke the blessing of children in His words “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26-31); it is the distinct parental unit of dad and mom which God commands children to obey in His words “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12). It is the unique joining together of husband and wife which Paul uses as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the Church, when he writes, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:22–6:4).

That’s why even the barren can confidently confess to the world that marriage is one dad, one mom. Though the cross of childlessness weighs our shoulders with grief and pain (and sometimes, on days like yesterday, shame), it does not make our marriages null and void. We are still fruitful in marriage as man and wife, even though God in His wisdom has not blessed us insofar as to multiply. Soli deo gloria.


Four Hands Joined TogetherThank you, Pastor Mohr, for reminding us of the gift God gives us in auxiliary parenting.

I move my right arm and feel a tug at my wrist. I look down, but nothing is there. For five days, a plastic band surrounded that wrist – a fetter to remind me of my bound service to my wards. For 139 hours and 15 minutes, I had charge of five young men and a college chaperone as we attended one of the largest events in our lifetime – the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod National Youth Gathering.

And now I don’t.

My young charges have been returned to their parents. The wrist band has been cut off. I have been set free. But still, I feel it tugging. I still sense the urge to turn around and count- 1-2-3-4-5-6 – to confirm I have them all safely with me.

After our closing devotion upon returning home, one of the mothers commented to me, “Why haven’t you adopted a child, yet? I see how great you are with these kids. God has given you a gift.”

He has indeed – but in the barrenness of my being single, my gift is not to bring a child purposely into the brokenness of a single parent home. No, I walk beside these parents, auxiliary to them, helping them raise their children. I stand next to them in bringing Godly children to adulthood. And God has blessed me with these children, for a brief time.

With great wonderment, I pause and marvel that God would be so kind to have given me such a great gift. But still, these several days later, I feel that wristband tugging. And that’s when I look down at that wrist with its phantom tugging and smile as the epiphany slowly dawns – my boys are still my boys. The gift of my auxiliary role is not yet ended. I still get to count them, 1-2-3-4-5-6, each and every week. Only now, the question behind the count is not, “Are they safely with ME,” but are they safely with Him Who gave them to me? Are they in the Word… are they receiving the Sacrament… are they growing in their faith?

For 139 hours and 15 minutes, I had charge of these young men, but I shall stand auxiliary to them for a lifetime, encouraging my brothers in faith to grow in the Lord. They will always be “My Boys.” Thank you Lord, for Your gift to me in these young men!

Rev. Michael Mohr

A Good Reminder

I watched as my husband read his Father’s Day card. Silent tears of grief slid down his cheeks.

“I am sorry I have not given you any children,” I whispered. My own tears dripped down my chin.

My husband cocked his head to the side, slightly surprised. He smiled sweetly, knowingly at me.

“It is the Lord who gives children,” he said.

Oh, yes. That’s right.

Even I need a good reminder now and then.

Father Watching His Infant Sleep

My Husband Is a Father

My husband is a tender father in the Faith.

He sits at the bedside of his world-weary children and leads them beside still waters. He walks with them through the valley of the shadow of death and sings to them Simeon’s Song. He restores their souls in the reading of God’s Word.

My husband is a faithful father in the Church.

He baptizes and teaches his parishioner children. He catechizes, comforts, consoles, and counsels them with all fatherly affection. He speaks the unpopular Word to them for their eternal benefit, slaying straying hearts with the Law and resuscitating the repentant with the Gospel breath of God, Christ’s blessed work of atonement on the cross for them.

My husband is a warrior father in the marketplace.

He picks up the banner of life and waves it before his neighbor. He wears a precious feet pin on his lapel to remind himself and others of the children destroyed every minute of every day through abortion. He defends the rights of the least of these, entreating parents not to abandon their children to be frozen in fertility clinics. He gives his time, talents, and treasures to those who have none and opens his heart and home to the fatherless.

My husband is a devoted father to our nieces, nephews, and godchildren.

He patiently endures guerrilla attacks of tiny, would-be wrestlers. He reads pink-and-purple books about fairies and princesses to sleepy, little dreamers. He stands guard next to half-pints in hospital beds awaiting their turn in the operating room. He jumps off two-story pontoon boats into smelly, murky lake water for the entertainment of squealing, human fish, and he daily remembers those fish in prayer.

My husband is childless, but he is a remarkable father.

Happy Father’s Day, Michael! xo

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