**All photos and posts are my original work. Please do not reprint photos or articles without permission.**

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Which Children Are People Too

There is a parenting paradigm I'd like to talk about. It begins with the idea of "parental authority", which begins with the idea that there is a hierarchical authority structure in life that everyone must fit into and children are at the bottom. I'm the parent, you're the child. I'm the boss, you have to obey. Everything in this paradigm is based on the idea that some of us have positions of authority and submission to authority is good, right, orderly, and "God's plan" for all of us.

But what if it isn't? What if it's just a model of how we've set up our relationships, a pattern to follow, that may or may not work out the best for everyone involved? What if there's a better model to follow? I mean, in a hierarchical model, with people on top and people on the bottom, it seems that the ones on the bottom get the short end of the stick. And all too often, when applied to parenting in an authoritarian manner, children are the ones that have the most to lose.

It is often taught in conservative circles that parents have to right to require what they want of their children, and children must obey no matter what. It is even encouraged to set up arbitrary "training sessions" to "test" a child's submission and obedience to authority, for no other reason then to condition them to follow your every command. Children are set up, and if they do well, they pass, but if they succumb to temptation, they get thwacked and punished, thus enforcing the idea that Mom and Dad are the boss and need no other reason to be obeyed other than their perceived authority over the child. If I say jump, I don't owe you an explanation nor do I need a reason because *I'm the Mom* , you are the child, I have the power over you, you must learn to submit. And all of this is justified by invoking "God's will for your life".

In this paradigm or parenting model, children are expected to obey, to suppress their emotions, to never voice their own opinion because all that matters is their obedience to authority. They have no autonomy, their feelings don't matter, they have no freedom to choose for themselves, and they are at the wim of their parents, their authorities.

But what if children are people too?

What if parenting is less about obedience and more about instilling The Golden Rule?

What if good parenting is about producing adults that know how to make wise choices and respect other people?

What if, instead of seeking ways to prove "I'm the Boss and you will obey me", I'm instead seeking out ways to teach them how to choose for themselves? To let them learn how to express themselves in a healthy manner? Teaching them that their choices have consequences in life? What if I include them in decisions that will affect them? Teach them their thoughts and feelings matter to me?

What if I even *gasp!* teach them to question authority? To think for themselves? Even if that means questioning me? 

I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is this: What is my parenting goal? 

Because, for a long time, my goal was incongruent with my parenting methods. My parenting philosophy was contrary to my goals for my children. I just didn't realize it. I was so focused on the here and now, I forgot to see the big picture...the one where my kids end up as adults and are a product of my parenting.

 "Parental authority", the idea that we are the boss and they must learn to obey without question purely because of our position over them, goes against everything I believe in and desire to instill in my kids. I don't want to raise little robots! I want to produce smart, thinking people, that can recognize bullshit from a mile away. That stand up to evil and fight for justice, even against "authorities". Teaching a child to obey "authority" without question is dangerous. Because "authorities" are human and can be evil. Matter of fact, power corrupts and it seems to me that those who are in authority over other people are often the very ones from whom we must protect our children. I *want* my kids to question everything and everyone. What better place to model and teach this than with me, where they are safe and loved and their hearts treasured?

So I give them options. I do what I can to let them make their own choices about their lives. There are going to be times when I have to set boundaries that they can't have a say in and don't understand because they are young and immature in many ways. So how much more should I be celebrating the times when they CAN have a say? Seeking them out, even. And those times are much more numerous than I previously thought. For instance, I don't believe that it is my choice to needlessly and permanently alter my sons' (or daughters') bodies by cosmetic circumcision. It's their body, their choice; not mine. I don't believe I should be the only one to choose what church we go to and not give heavy consideration to my children's thoughts and desires; they are part of this family too, after all, and the decision affects them. It's my job to make sure my kids are dressed appropriately for the occasion and the weather, but the details are always up to them. I think that by letting my children know that they have a voice that will be heard, that I value their input, that I respect their autonomy, that I celebrate their individuality, that they won't be ignored or brushed off or their ideas considered less important than mine, I will be forming a relationship of mutual trust and respect that will last a lifetime. It helps them to listen better on those times when I need to put my foot down if those times are few and far between. I need to model respect if I want respectful children. I need to honor their personhood and their autonomy.

I think the biggest step is to be able to see our children as people. It's a simple as that. "A person's a person, no matter how small." Children aren't our possessions. They aren't property to do what we want with. They're people. Little, unfinished people, but still people, with all the thoughts and feelings and desires and conflicts that you and I have.

I have nothing to prove to my children. I don't need to "show them who's boss". That's not the kind of relationship I desire with them. I desire for them to be wise, independent, compassionate, passionate, lovers of justice and mercy, capable, respectful, and strong. If I want them to value others, I must value them. If I want them to be kind to others, I must be kind to them. If I desire respect, I must show respect. I do not see respect as something I am entitled to because "I'm the mom", but something I've earned because I have shown respect to my children. This seems very simple to me.  As simple as "do unto others as you want others to do unto you".

See your children as people, change the way you look at them and change the way you see yourself in relation to them, and I guarantee you will change the way you parent them. Look at the end goal and think about whether your parenting philosophy is going to get you there or if it needs some major overhauling.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Anniversary Contemplations

I look back and see......

.....a girl, barely a woman, who knew nothing about this thing we call "life", yet so sure she didn't want to know if he couldn't be part of it.

....a boy, though mostly a man, also knowing nothing about life though thinking he did, just knowing for sure she made it better.

....two people, broken, young, with wounds they didn't yet know existed, with ideals and plans and dreams and rose-colored glasses.

....two people promising til death do them part....promising so many things they didn't understand and if they did, they probably would've hesitated to make such rash promises they didn't know would be so difficult to keep.

I see them...us... standing there, looking at each other, so much love filling and overflowing and pouring out onto everyone who watched. We were stepping out in faith as much as in blessed ignorance. For us, love was enough for whatever came.

But we were wrong. Love wasn't enough. Oh, it was a huge help, probably the strongest link in the chain that has held our lives together. But also needed was strength, courage, anger, hope, faith, determination, commitment, honesty, humor, and devotion. Sometimes I think sheer stubbornness has gotten us through more tough spots than love has. And yet, without the love, what is the point of being stubborn? What is the point of fighting and hanging on when everything seems hopeless unless there is love worth fighting for?

Sometimes I think we've aged a lifetime in the last 8 years. Sometimes I think we're still broken, lost kids, reaching out for each other and the acceptance we received each from the other. We've saved each other, in a way. We helped heal each other's brokenness as much as we've helped create new wounds and slash open old ones. We've walked together, we've walked apart and lonely; we've helped and hindered, built up and torn down; we've clung to each other and pushed each other away; we've loved deeply and passionately and we've hurt and forgiven so many times. Can two people really live a lifetime in 8 years? I think so. But ask me 8 more years from now. Ask me when I grow up just a little bit more.

Marriage was not what I expected. It's been so much more. More joy, more pain, more love, and more sorrow than I ever imagined. You don't enter into someone's heart and life and deepest soul and come away untouched. You don't give everything you have to one person and not be changed forever. I think we have a pretty good understanding of "for better or for worse".

So here's to the next eight years....and the eight after that....and the ten after that.....and the fifteen after that......

And here's to the man who won a young girl's heart a lifetime ago and gave his own in return. Perhaps we were naiive then and now we are wise. But wisdom hasn't changed the fact that we would make the same decision now as we did then. To each be a witness to the life of the other.....to walk together.....to dream together.....and to love together.

"I do", we said.

And we did.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"You're not being insulted, you're being honored!"

Because it's not insulting to be told that you cannot speak in a gathering of believers because your voice is shameful. (1. Cor. 14:35)

It's not demeaning to be told you are too emotional to make good decisions for your life because God made you this way.

It's not insulting to be told you need another human to complete your life's calling and your design. Without him, you fail for the very purpose for which you were created.

It's not demeaning to be told you were created only to help men, a second-class person. 

It's not demeaning to be taught that men were created in the image of God, but you, a woman, only reflect that image through men.

It's not demeaning to be given a list of all the things that you cannot do because you are female, then told that this is honoring and respectful and you should be thankful to be surrounded by godly men that "value" you enough to put limits on you.

It's not hurtful to be told you cannot have your own vision or calling for your life, you must take on the vision and calling of whatever man you are given to.

It's not insulting to be told that your natural gifts, talents, dreams, and desires are never to be fulfilled because you have a vagina and must spend your life fulfilling someone else's. That these dreams and talents are from Satan, a distraction from what you really should be doing.

It's not insulting to be told that men cannot learn anything from you because you are a woman. 

It's not hurtful to be taught to "stay in your place" and told this makes you valuable and acceptable as a woman of God...that stepping out of the "role" this place gives you makes you unworthy of the title "godly woman".

It's not insulting to be treated as inferior in God's eyes and the eyes of His people, while they proclaim hypnotically "you're not inferior....just different!" And this statement is used to keep you from doing whatever they deem you're too feminine, too "different" from them to do. 

As if changing the definitions of words and actions, and saying these over and over again, changes the words and actions themselves and causes us to believe that up is down and right is wrong. That disrespect is actually honor and being put down is actually being lifted up. That being limited and bound is actually being freed and valued. 

It's not inferior if it's "God's way". It's not insulting if it's "Biblical". It's not demeaning if you just "have the right attitude". It's not insulting, inferior, or demeaning if you put on a smile and pretend it's beautiful, fulfilling, and satisfying. And then call everyone who isn't very good at pretending, a "feminist", "selfish", "worldly" and "an enemy of God" and "hater of God's design". 

Well......it worked, didn't it???

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Isa. 5:20

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Complementarian Teachings Hurt Men Too

A friend of mine shared a blog post written by his wife, Brianna, a few days ago. In the post, she was praising him for being such a wonderful, supportive husband and father. She talked about how he supports her in her parenting and is in tune with their children's needs. It was a beautiful post, the kind that makes women think "I want a man like that." The kind that makes men think "I want my wife to appreciate me that way." Their relationship is beautiful and it shows in the way they speak about each other and their children. She ended with this sweet paragraph: "Ben lets me parent by instinct everyday…and as he supports my gut feelings, he also goes by his. It’s a beautiful pattern- a beautiful way to parent together. I love being so in sync with each other on our parenting journey! I’m so thankful to have the rare gift of a husband who’s as passionate about natural parenting as I am…a husband who’s gung-ho for meeting our kids needs and parenting naturally, rather than putting me in a “choose me or them” position. Together, we can seek what works best for everyone, instead of the pressure being put on me to choose between instinct and marriage, for instance. I’m pretty confident I’ll never have to say, “Well, Ben really wanted (such and such), so we’re working on that. It’s hard, but it’s what he wanted, so….I guess it’ll all work out.” "

Awwwww...right? :)

You'd think people would be encouraged by this post. I certainly was. Yet the very first comment left was by a guy who felt the need to condemn this couple. He accused them of their roles being reversed, that Ben was being the "helpmeet" to his wife and his wife was leading by emotions. He told them their kids would suffer for not doing things God's Way (TM). He pretty much said that because their marriage doesn't fit his beliefs of The Godly Marriage (TM) that they were all doomed. And he got this from a blog post where a wife was praising her husband for being so awesome.

Something I've been wanting to write about for a long time is how strict gender roles, as taught by complementarianism and the church, are harmful to men too. We focus a lot on the women in these teachings and the way they are suppressed and abused, but I think the men get the short end of the stick here too. Men who are gentle and kind and have no desire to order their wives and children around like army troops are told they aren't good enough, manly enough, and are "whipped" by their wives. The men are forced into a harmful mold that they weren't created for and don't fit.

And lest you think this is exclusive to extreme patriarchal types, think again. Mark Driscoll does it. John Piper does it. Many "mainstream" christian teachers do it. The movie Courageous did it. They define Real Men according to their interpretation of the Bible, which is read through their own paradigm and pre-conceived ideas, declaring that any man that doesn't fit their definition isn't a true, godly man. Then they predict all manner of doom on these men's souls, their marriages, and their children. Any man that isn't the "strong, commanding leader" is obviously not a true man. Or he's abdicated his position to his wife and "the feminist agenda".

The madness has to stop.

Somewhere along the line, we lost what it means to be people, children of God, in favor of "real men" and "feminine women". Instead of worrying about whether we were loving one another, being kind to each other, showering grace on everyone, we started worrying about whether we were "feminine" enough or "masculine" enough. Whether we were filling our prescribed roles or not. We started defining men and women according to strict views that someone decided came from the Bible and were caught up and perpetuated by the Church. We redefined "godly" and "good" as "gender appropriate". And if you didn't fit those molds, you just weren't godly enough. We separated the fruits of the Spirit and one-another principles in the Bible, given to all people, and branded some "feminine" and some "masculine". So that when men display too much tender-heartedness, they are branded effeminate and when women follow the command to rebuke a brother in sin they are branded as defiling their feminine role. Women who are strong and courageous, and men who are meek and kind have no place in this paradigm. Yet strength, courage, meekness, and kindness are supposed to be a part of the character of all who follow Christ; men AND women. God never placed gender-prescribed boundaries on tender-heartedness. Man did that. And the church continues to perpetuate and "teach as doctrine the commandments of men". How many men trade gentleness for severity because gentleness is a "feminine trait", forgetting that it's also a fruit of the Spirit? How many men are ignoring who God made them and forcing themselves into a mold, denying the Spirit's transformation in their lives and hurting themselves and their families because of it?

And the judgment that flies around from men to other men in the church is outrageous! Men are berated from the pulpit for not being manly enough. Instead of encouraging a man to partner with his wife to raise their kids, other men castigate him for not being a "strong leader" and for letting his wife make too many decisions. His very identity as a man is attacked for displaying traits that Jesus Himself exemplified. In a very real way, the men of the church (and some of the women) are placing gender identity worship over being imitators of Jesus. And when a man steps up and says "this is wrong", he is mocked for being weak and effeminate. Since when did we get so numb and complacent that we allow the teachers of our faith of trade the gospel of Jesus Christ for gender worship?

I look around at conservative Christianity and I see the fall-out. I see the broken hearts of angry men believing the lie that they must behave a certain way or they are not true men. I see the women who are the subjects of their anger, who perpetuate dissatisfaction in husbands that aren't good enough, godly enough, leadership-y enough. I see broken marriages and broken families because the Church has chosen superficial gender roles instead of kindness, compassion, grace, and respect. And instead of stepping back and asking "could we be wrong here?" the men are told they didn't lead well enough and the women are told they didn't submit well enough. (Whatever happened to just loving enough???) People who are the victims of a man-made paradigm are told they are at fault and not trying hard enough to follow their roles within the paradigm. People who are brave enough to question and declare "something is wrong with this picture" are labeled "feminist", "humanistic", and "worldly". And so the broken cycle continues.

My friend, Ben, is a good man, a good husband and father. But because he and his wife lead their family together, and because he is kind and gentle and desires an equal partner for a wife, he gets berated. By another Christian. Because Ben is compassionate and cares about the hearts of his wife, children, and everyone he speaks to, he is told he isn't quite godly enough....not quite manly enough...not commanding enough or leading enough, like a real man. And because Brianna takes initiative and uses her strengths to make good choices for her family, she is "usurping her husband's role". Something is very wrong with this picture. It is insane to tell a man that when he listens to his wife's concerns and treats her with honor he isn't fulfilling his role as a husband to lead. How backwards and illogical can we be? The church needs to wake up.

I've shared this before...my husband and I trying to make ourselves (and each other) fit into the church's prescribed roles for men and women almost tanked our marriage. The more we tried, the more we failed, and the more we came to resent the other for not doing it right and blaming our shortcoming on the other person's failure to follow their role. He wasn't the "strong spiritual leader" the church said he was supposed to be. I wasn't the perfect little wifey that always deferred and submitted to my husband. Guilt was heaped on guilt by every marriage book we read and every seminar we went to. "Just submit more" and "just be a better leader" didn't fix anything, it only served to make our problems worse as we tried in vain to follow someone else's rules. What saved our marriage was realizing that God made us with the strengths we each have, our strengths and weakness fit perfectly together, and we didn't have to try to fit into a mold that others said we did in order to have a good marriage. We completely gave up and threw those stupid gender role teachings out the window. Peace suddenly reigned over our marriage and we were free. Free to each be who we were created to be and to love each other in the ways we needed to. We both bring amazing gifts to our marriage and we just don't care anymore if by using those gifts we are playing the correct gender role or not. We don't believe in playing roles anymore. We're too busy living life, loving others, following God, and raising our kids.

What I didn't realize until recently was just how much my husband was hurting from these teachings. I remember going to church without him one week years ago and listening to a guest speaker rail on the men for not being better leaders, better husbands, and better fathers. (This was his usual sermon when he visited.) How I wished my husband had been there! I confess I thought he could use a good ass-whipping to be the man he wasn't being (and since I was trying to be the perfect submissive wife, I certainly couldn't give it to him). When I told him later who spoke, he muttered under his breath "Another guilt-trip for not being a good enough man. Oh yay." That hit me hard. Thing is, in listening to these things, I almost missed the man he really is....the man I love and who has much to offer his family. I almost missed the blessing that he is in favor of a made-up image of what he wasn't. I DID miss it for a long time. I perpetuated the hurt and guilt that he was experiencing and all for what? The church's idea of a Real Man? How lost can we get?

As women, we have to stop. We have to stop the crazy cycle of trying to make our husbands be something they're not just because other men say they should be. Forget being labeled "feminist". Who cares? If you're ruled by the fruits of the Spirit and a desire to honor, let others label you what they like. Love your husband, respect him for who he is, confront him when he's wrong, appreciate his strengths and understand his weaknesses without enabling. Men, follow Jesus, not what some man in a pulpit or a book said you must be to be a man. If you're a strong leader, lead with compassion and learn to submit to others (Eph. 5:21). If you're not a leader type, it's OK. You can still be a man who loves well and follows God. Love, respect, grace, kindness, forgiveness, gentleness, faithfulness, strength, courage, justice, honor, integrity, and peace know no gender limits.

I'm encouraged by the many men I know who aren't concerned about whether they're being manly enough. Who are more concerned about whether they are loving well. "Real men" come in every shape and size. You'll know them by their love for other people, regardless of their unique talents.

"Anthropology teaches us that the alpha male is the man wearing the crown, displaying the most colorful plumage and the shiniest baubles. He stands out from the others. But I now think that anthropology might have it wrong. In working with Booth, I've come to realize that the quiet man, the invisible man, the man who is always there for friends and family, that's the real alpha male."
- Bones (thanks to my friend, Lore, for sharing this quote)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Getting my Snark On

A while back, this post was passed around, entitled "A Letter to Girls I Know". It was loved by many, hated by even more, and mostly just ranted against and became the instigator of much facepalming (I totally just made that word up.)
(EDIT: it's come to my attention that the original letter was deleted from that blog. I found it again HERE.)

It had a little different reaction in me. I'm so done with the modesty teachings. Really, they seem more and more irrelevant to real life and downright ridiculous. I just can't take anyone seriously who blames women for mens' problems anymore. Sometimes when I hear of yet another girl who has been damaged by these teachings, I get angry. Because attacking the very heart of a woman in the way these teachings do makes me angry. But reading this ridiculous letter, I got snarky instead. So I decided to write my own letter. This is definitely not my usual style, but, hey...I can't be all profound and serious and thoughtful all the time. Sometimes it takes over-the-top snark to point out how stupid something is. Be sure to read the original first. If you can stand it.

Letter to The Men I Know (A Parody of an Epically Stupid Letter)

There are two kinds of girls: Godly girls, worldy girls, and girls that climb on rocks. Which one do YOU want...to marry, that is. (Geez, get your minds outta the gutter.) I'm betting most of you said "a godly girl", because, of course, that is the right answer and anything else would be carnal. Or something. Someday, you want to marry a woman who loves god with every fiber and muscle and brain cell because she will be an excellent helpmeat and arrow-maker (that's babies, for you worldly people reading this). She will obey and submit to and make dozens of godly arrows only for you. Most men want a godly woman/helpmeat, or at least think they do. (Maybe. Until their quivers explode and then...they might rethink that. What I wanna know is, can godly girls pole-dance? Because that might be the deal-breaker right there.) Well, I know exactly how to read your mind and tell you exactly what kind of girl you will exactly get. I don't even have to know you because I'm a mind-reader and psychic and all that jazz. (But in a godly way because psychics are satan-worshippers.) All I have to do is look at you. The kind of girl you want or will get is advertised by the clothing you wear (or don't wear). I know what girls want. Trust me, I'm a girl. I know more girls than you do and I know them better (but not in *that* way. Honest. Cuz I'm a girl. Um, moving on.....) I know what we think, talk about, want, and look for and even though I just said that I know it all because we're all girls, every one of us is actually different so it would be impossible for me to actually know what every girl wants and thinks. But I'm, like, 89% percent sure anyway. I'm sure you know this, but women were created differently than men. We have different desires, we smell better, we dress better, we don't start wars and bump chests and do stupid things to impress men like riding our dirt bikes off of cliffs into lakes and stuff which really isn't all that impressive to a girl, now that I think about it. It's just dumb. But I digress. Our eyes and minds work differently than yours. Well, OK, not really, but that's what people say so I'm sitcking with it.

A wordly girl doesn't control herself, rather, we...SHE!....looks at anything that attracts her attention or gets her excited like guys with ripped abs and pecs and Daniel Craig in a cowboy hat. And gun belt. And that dude from "Leaverage" that has pretty hair and likes to beat people up. She has no problem with guys that show off skin or hair or pecs or cute butts, like dudes in Wranglers and boxers (which apparently is cross-dressing since women like them now too) and nice hair and gorgeous eyes and those "cute" little....um....I disgressed again. Anyhow, I think you get the point. They are the women in your church and youth group who aren't there for the worship at all, but to ogle the worship leader who wears a V-neck and skinny jeans. If you married a girl like this, she might be able to pole-dance, but your life will be hell. She won't leave you alone or keep her hands off you and the baggage, Oh! the baggage! She might even cheat on you. Yeah. Because all you wanted was a submissive little helpmeat and arrow-maker and she's so worldy, she just wants to tear your clothes off. Stay away from this woman. Stay faaaaar away.

A godly girl is in control of her desires and drives. She probably doesn't even have them. Because good women don't, ya know. She constantly seeks god and reads her bible and walks in the spirit and acts like a nun. You will know her godliness by her bright eyes that never stop bouncing. When Daniel Craig walks by in nothing but a gun belt, or she sees an immodestly dressed guy on a magazine, the godly girl quickly bounces her eyes away and recites Titus 2. She's constantly guarding her mind to keep from thinking about any man ever. And especially not Daniel Craig. She sees men as people with brains and not just a body, in spite of the fact that she can't actually look at one cause her eyes won't stop this annoying bouncing thing. If you marry this girl, you will have a clean house, perfect sandwiches, and a full quiver. (Well, you'll only get the full quiver if she can stop her eyes from bouncing long enough to actually look at you.)

Unfortunately, there are now more worldly girls than godly girls (which explains why the godly girls are a dying breed. Wow, it's all so clear now.) So what can YOU do to attract a godly girl? It's all about how you dress. The clothes you wear advertise what kind of girl you are looking for. Dress like a monk or a Bible character or IFB preacher and you'll be safe. You'll scare every worldly girl for miles around and the godly girls will come flocking to be your helpmeat. You cannot afford to be complacent in this area of your life! You will pay the price someday. Tight tee shirts that show your biceps and jeans that fit just right? Asking for trouble, brother! It's like fishing with a lure that says "Here, worldly girl, come and get me!" all over it. You'll get what you ask for. And I'm not talking about fish.

The way you dress affects all the girls and the guys around you and their relationships, their parents' relationships, their grandparents, their 2nd cousins....I think you get the point. You don't see the stuggles and pain and tears you cause by looking good in them jeans and working out and stuff, but I can promise you you'd be shocked if you did! (And maybe a little more cocky.) Ask any christian girl; we've all seen it. You try to hide it, but it's still there. (What, you ask? Well, *it*, duh.) By looking hot and sexy and having nice hair, you spit on every girl whose eyes are bouncing, toying with us and *liking* it!!! For shame!!!! You'll never know how many relationships you've devestated and lifestyles of sin that you've caused because you won't cover up those pecs and abs and butt! (But I'm not objectifying you, really. It just sounds like it. I really do see more than your body parts. Honest.) Because some poor, helpless girl who's trying to be godly and have bright, bouncing eyes just couldn't help herself! So don't just help your future, non-existent, not-very-likely relationships, help all women and all men everywhere and cover that cute butt!!! Rock those robes!

Of course, I understand the desire to look stylish, attractive, yada yada yada why can't you just buck up and be ugly for Jesus? Huh? Because that's what godly men do. But just remember, for every sacrifice you make in looking freakish in your dress, we girls are making even MORE sacrifices that are just as hard and probably harder. Like, quit your whining already. My life isn't easy either, OK? I have to keep my eyes bouncing and pretend that reading my bible is more interesting than your cute smile and gorgeous eyes. Girls will respect you for your choice! A real guy is careful of the image he presents and real girls want real guys real bad.

And you can forget everything I just said about how you dress, because it doesn't actually matter. We girls can see a hot guy's body no matter what he wears. You could dress like a monk and we still know. It's a gift.

And so the question still remains: What kind of girl do you want? Answer me with your clothes. Or not.

a not-so-anonymous woman who just wants to help by telling everyone what to do and blaming all my problems on everyone else. Especially men.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Random Musings

Part of the reason I haven't written much on my blog lately would be because I have so many thoughts about so many different things swirling around in my head and I can't seem to develop them into an entire post that makes sense. So I thought I'd just start writing what's on my mind and see what happens. This is going to be completely unorganized and random and if you're looking for some persuasive argument or profound sayings, you'll have to read one of my other posts for that. You've been warned.

My husband and daughter were in a terrible car accident 2 weeks ago. He was talking her to school. They never made it. By some miracle, my daughter walked away without a scratch. My husband suffered head trauma, multiple lacerations, a severe concussion, memory loss, and a lot of back and neck pain. When the EMT called me and said "they're both OK, that's the important part", it turns out none of them thought my husband was OK. When I pulled up and saw my Explorer, I knew they were lying to me. I couldn't believe that my daughter was sitting in the back of an ambulance, talking the fireman's head off, and asking if she could go to school now. The place where her carseat was was completely smashed and her seat crushed. We found out later she had talked her dad into letting her sit in the front seat since school is only a mile down the road. That probably saved her life. (Though I have no idea how the airbag missed her.) My husband was actually OK, though really beat up. He's still recovering and driving me crazy because he can't do much yet and that's driving HIM crazy. People sent me so many comments that week about how good God is and how amazing it was that they're both fine and what a miracle that my daughter was unharmed. And I have to wonder....what would they say if I'd lost half my family that day? Would they still say God is good? Or would they blame the devil and this broken world? Why does God get all the credit and none of the blame? I don't disagree that I am very blessed and so grateful that my family is intact. I believe it is a miracle and and I thank God for it. But I just wonder how many that gave God credit for their lives would blame Him for their deaths, if that had happened instead? I think I would. Because I'm consistent like that, even if I don't like it.

Why is it that so many Christians have a "vending machine god" mentality. You know what I'm talking about: the idea that is you put the right thoughts, words, prayers, tithing, and good deeds into your life, God will magically bless you. Insert quarter, receive snack. And that you can control the type of blessing you get by the type of prayer or the amount of money you "put into" your life and your church. The reverse is also taught: that if you don't tithe and you don't "give your firstfruits to God" and you don't pray the devil away, God won't bless you and calamity will befall you. Even for people who claim to follow the Bible, I don't see where they get this idea. And if one more person enthusiastically tells me I just have to go to a Dave Ramsey class (which costs $100, btw) and my life and finances will magically fix themselves....I just might come unglued. Unless Dave Ramsey can get me free rent and more income and make the insurance company pay the hospital bills, he can't help me.

I've about had it with people who think the devil is everywhere, there's a demon around every corner, and unless we acknowledge that, we're doomed. I've heard some crazy stuff lately. I have termed these teachings "christian voodoo" because that's all they are. Hocus-pocus with a christian slant. If you can accidentally curse yourself by saying the wrong thing, or let the devil into your home through a cabbage patch doll, or allow a demon to enter your room through your pet cat, then your god is incompetent and worthless. And don't get me started on places like the Elijah List that sell magic charms for your home and body. Why don't you just string garlic around your neck? Magic oil to anoint your house? Talk about a scam. These people are making tons of money off selling pagan, Dark Ages superstition in the name of Christianity. They sell fear, propaganda, and the magic to make it all go away. You know what? The Jesus I serve defeated all spiritual powers, making a mockery of them, a public spectacle, and sent them packing. I don't live my life in fear of some spiritual dark power that will get me if I don't pay attention. That's a stupid way to live and I refuse. And, yes, if you must know, I can prove my position from the Bible perfectly and probably whoop their hermeneutical butt. But this is a random rant, not a theological dissertation.

I feel like I will never find a church I can belong. Where I'll fit in. Where it's OK to ask the hard questions and disagree and still be part of the community. I don't trust pastors. I've yet to meet one that doesn't have screwed up ideas on "church authority" and who has it and who doesn't. I keep going to different churches which look really great on the outside and have awesome people in them, then the cynical part of me kicks in and I can't help but think "what would they say or do if they knew I believed _____ ?" and I get discouraged. I miss being a part of a church where it was OK to believe differently than the majority, where it was OK to ask questions and disagree, and where no one harped on us for not signing a membership contract. I feel lonely and isolated and it's probably my fault because I just can't bring myself to conform to what is acceptable just to be...well, accepted. Part of the "in" group. I'm a free-thinker and that's just not going to change. Ever. Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I could happily sit in a congregation and be spoon fed by a preacher and go home living in my own happy little paradigm, squashing any questions my heart asks and ignoring the reality of life around me that doesn't fit my worldview. Those people seem so much happier and less at war with themselves. But I can't do it. Tis the curse of one who has seen too much and refuses to stick their head back into the sand.

I'm really enjoying a book called "Grace-Based Parenting" right now. It's helped me to be more purposeful in instilling ideas and fulfilling needs in my children. One of the things the book says that all kids (all people, really) need is significance. They need to know that their lives are important and they have a purpose. That their being here on this earth means something and it's up to us as parents to help them find that meaning and give them the skills to follow their dreams and gifts. I heartily agree with this, but see the need to be more purposeful in how I pass this idea down to my kids. Believing it about myself is the first step but I've never had a problem with that. I've always felt very confident that I am gifted, important, and have a purpose. I can see that in my kids already, as young as they are, and am determined to not let others take that confidence away from them.

Someone asked me a question the other day about how I can reconcile my faith with seeming inconsistencies in Christianity, the bible, and life. We were discussing the morality of the Old Testament and how God condoned things that we would decry as horrible outrages. It's a tough question, one I ask myself a lot. This was my answer and I thought it worth putting here on my blog for future reference. The question was, specifically, what is it that outweighs the inconsistencies in the OT for you in order to still have faith? My answer is simplistic, but honest. It's just where I'm at.

"Several things, actually. One would be completely re-studying to find that many parts of the Bible I'd been taught were literal actually aren't (such as the Creation account). I feel like the more I study the more I realize I don't know half of what I thought I knew.

Another thing would be admitting that while I believe the Bible to be truth and inspired by God, I also believe it to be a product of the culture it was written in and the men who wrote it. Does that mean there are mistakes? Probably. But that doesn't change the overall message for me. For some I could see how it would, but for me it doesn't. My faith is not threatened by admitting the human element of the scriptures.

Also, we are told in several places that the Man Jesus is the personification of God. If you see Jesus, you've seen God. Jesus is the invisible God made visible; the "face" of God Himself. So if something in the Old Testament (which is so vast and not at all black and white or easily interpreted) contradicts what we see in the actions of Jesus (which it often does), then I have to choose Jesus. Because I'm human, He was human, and I understand what I see in Him. He's the concrete to the OT God's abstract. Jesus even overturned many of God's OT laws; contradicted them in ways that were unheard of (and I don't buy the argument "well Jesus was just clarifying God's laws". Really? Because "do good to those who harm you" is the clarification of "eye for an eye". I don't think so.)

The other thing that causes my faith to win in this battle of inconsistencies isn't entirely based on objectivity or logic, but on my own experiences. My life doesn't make sense without God. Some would call this a crutch for a weak soul, but crutch or not, it feels very true to me. I have known Him and seen Him working in my life. I have seen miracles that I can't explain other then "God did it". Sometimes the inconsistencies in my faith and the questions that constantly rage in my head seem too much to bear. But I always come back to the same conclusion: I believe in God. I believe in the Jesus of the Bible. Call it crazy (I do sometimes) but there it is.

I no longer have the need to be right, to know it all, or to have perfect understanding. That doesn't mean I stop thinking about it or wrestling with it or throw logic and reason out the window. It doesn't mean I will stop questioning because questioning is just part of my nature. It just means that where I can't "prove" something, I choose to believe in God. Others, acting on lack of proof, choose atheism. I choose faith. It's just my personal choice. If there is a God, and if He is who He says He is in the Bible and the Person of Jesus, then I don't think He needs me to have all understanding in order to believe in Him. If He is who He says He is, then the things that are NOT difficult to understand....love, kindness, faith, grace, salvation, forgiveness.... are the things that matter most, the things that will make a difference in my life and the lives of others around me. It's fun to talk and debate about scholarly things such as theistic evolution or Calvinism or whether Jonah is myth or history. But at the end of the day, these things are not what matters. People will be born and die and these debates will go on, being born or dying with us. But things like love or forgiveness will change the world, maybe even affect generations to come. "

So there you have it. A little picture of what is going on in my mind today. Well, the parts that make sense anyway. Or that are worth sharing. Everything else bouncing around in there has to do with my kids, their schooling, the new baby coming, keeping up the few friendships I have IRL, financial crap and what to do about it, desire for summer and warm weather, a couple of theological debates, a few songs that need to be written, a few friends that have been generous and how I wish I could bake them a cake or something, a few stories I want to write, how to make more sales and gain more customers for my business, politics, what to name our foal when it arrives, whether or not I actually like the baby names I've picked out for our human baby, my scary dreams that I'm having twins, and what to make for dinner that won't make me puke while I'm cooking it. Just another day in paradise. ;)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Letter to My Friends

Hello, poor neglected little blog. :) A lot's been going on in my life lately that's made me completely neglect my writing here. The biggest: baby number 4 is on the way and making my life more miserable than I've ever experienced. I know that he/she will be worth it, but for now, puking, sleeping, and trying to take decent care of my other children is consuming all my time. Hopefully I'll get the urge to write something interesting one of these days. Until then, I thought I'd post this letter I recently sent out to all my friends and family on Facebook. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to you all and help you in your own journey toward authentic, genuine life. It was my biggest "coming out" moment yet. And so freeing!


A Letter to My Friends

There is a lot of angst among my friends these days, in real life and the communites I frequent online. The problem: me, apparently. Many people have expressed concern about my spiritual walk. They seem to see me on a slippery slope to the hot place. (Or, if they're Reformed, a slipperly slope to skidding into heaven smelling like smoke. Wood, hay and stubble and all that. Like I might be the exception to the eternal security of believers. ;)) I hear the rumblings and rumors. "We don't know about that Darcy....she's flirting with apostacy or something." I hear words like "heresy" thrown around a lot. I'm getting a lot of "concerned" messages by people who think they understand enough to judge the state of my soul.

But let me be real here for a moment. Let me give you a glimpse into my heart and my journey. Then if you still wish to judge me, go right ahead. At least you'll be getting your information from the source and not rumors or fear of the unknown.

I am not throwing away my faith. Not gonna happen. As much as I've been angry at God, have questioned Him and questioned my beliefs, one thing remains: I know Him. He is the constant in my life of insecurites and chaos. I believe Jesus is the Word, the Logos, of God. I have many friends who have rejected Jesus or God or Christianity but that's their journey. It isn't mine so stop judging me based on your fear that that will be my journey as well. It is an unfounded fear.

I have been, in the last 10 years, completely turning every belief I was raised with up-side down and inside out. I have thrown out so many beliefs because let's be honest here. I was taught some crappy stuff as a kid and a teen. I believed a lot of stupidity back then. I take full responsibility for every wrong belief I held, and it's because I take full responsibility that I no longer hold most of those beliefs. This is not a personal thing against my parents, teachers, or friends that still hold many of those beliefs. It is just my personal journey of examining everything, throwing out the bad, and trying desparately to hold onto the good. Do not be offended if I throw out a belief that you are still holding onto.

Can you listen to my heart, my friends, for a moment? I've lost faith in church as we know it. I'm disillusioned with American Christianity. I value relationship over religion and religion has been ruining relationships for me. I walk into a church and come out feeling like something is very wrong. Conservative churches are too uptight, too rigid, too fear and shame-based. Modern churches are very fake. I don't do fake. But within these church structures are good people, awesome people, and I'm trying to figure out how to be in relationship with these people without conforming to the insitution of "church". Because that institution is killing my soul. The church was always meant to be an organic body of people who are defined and recognized by their love for others. Not a building where we go to "do church". Not a mission statement or a deacon board or a congregational meeting or budgets or programs or membership classes or the perfect worship team. I walk into most churches and I see a business. I am not satisfied with that. If you are, great. That's where you're at and I'm glad you're happy. Don't judge me because I'm not.

I now hold a lot of so-called "unorthodox" Christian beliefs. Yet they're not really that unorthodox. They're been around and held by fellow believers for centuries. I don't know what people are so afraid of. The three main beliefs I hold that get people's panties in a wad these days are Preterism, Egalitarianism, and Old Earth Creationism. I've held to Preterism for a good 12 years now. So don't act like it's some new kick I'm on. I no longer believe in male headship or hierarchal authority structure in God's economy. Men are women are completely equal in God's kingdom, in position and function. This riles a lot of peole but I don't get why. Why should it matter to you that I believe women are free to use the gifts God gave us? How does that threaten you enough to proclaim me on a slipperly slope to hell? Really? I'm no extreme feminist. I don't believe women are better than men. I believe in true equality. I believe that is what Jesus came to restore after mankind messed it up so badly. Does it really threaten you that my husband and I respect each other as equals? That neither of us seeks to be "over" the other? That we're teaching our kids not to conform to the confines that people want to place them under? That we use the Golden Rule and the "one-another" passages of the Bible under which to operate our relationship? If you want to have a "head" and a "submissive" in your relationship, that's your choice. We chose differently.

So I no longer believe the world is 6,000 years old. I interpret Genesis different than you, as have many of our fellow-believers for centuries. Only recently have christians decided this was an affront to the gospel. Only recently have Christians decided that one is saved by Jesus plus a belief in a young earth. I reject that. But if you reject my status as "true christian" because I think the world is millions of years old, that is not my problem. I will still love you. I will still desire relationship with you. Because I don't think it matters whether the earth is 6,000 or 6,000,000,000 years old. YOU, my friends, matter more to me than this.

There's a lot of people like me out there. We're the ones condemned by the church for questioning the status quo. We're the ones who seem lost, who often feel lost, because we can't reconcile what we've seen and experienced with cheap Christian "answer's" and cliches. Because our Christian friends are more concerned about their religion than our relationship. We are branded "rebels" and looked at as threats. The very worst thing you can do for us is to judge our hearts and dismiss our questions. To tell us we "just don't like what God has to say" and are just "rebelling against Him". If you want the questioning ones to run as far away from you as possible, go ahead and do these things. But if you want to restore our dwindling faith in Christianity and strengthen our faith in God, then come alongside us and just love. Trust that God will finish what He started and you don't have to be the Holy Spirit in our lives. He's got that covered. You can help, or you can hinder.

I don't pretend to know it all or have it all together. I will never pretend to be something I'm not. I think what matters more than these issues that people are using to reject me is love. You can know all doctrine and understand all mysteries, but if you have no love none of that matters. I would never question your salvation based on whether you believe women and men are equals or the earth is young or old. I would never reject your friendship or treat you like you're ignorant. All I ask is that you do the same for me.

You people know me. Many of you have known me for a very long time. You've watched me grow up and mature, get married, have kids, and walk my journey. Some of you have walked it with me. You know me well enough to know that every decision I make was carefully thought out and considered. You know I don't just wake up one day and decide to believe one thing or another. Give me the benefit of the doubt that I know where I'm going and what I believe and can defend those beliefs just as well as you can defend yours. Stop telling me I'm "throwing out scripture" or "cherry-picking" because that just shows your ignorance of me and your fear of what you don't understand. If you want to know why I believe what I believe, stop name-calling and judging and just ask me. If you are more concerned about my soul than your paradigm that is threatened by my beliefs, then you will care enough to ask me. But if you'd rather just judge my heart and condemn my soul, or walk away from relationship with me, that's your choice. I am sorry for you, but it's your choice.

I love you all. If you're reading this, it's because I've formed a relationship with you and respect you. I know that most of you care about me very much. So I want to tell you all once and for all.....don't worry about me. I am passionate about my relationship with Jesus, I will never stop pursuing truth, and I will fight for the relationships I have with the people I love. I will be gentle with you on your journey and love you for who you are. Can you do the same for me? If you're truly concerned for my soul, can you come to me and talk about it? Can we talk through these things without judging each other's walk? Can you be my friend instead of playing god in my life?
Under much grace,

"Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand." Rom. 14:4

"Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." 2 Tim. 1:12