Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jesus Shaped Spirituality

iMonk has returned himself to Michael Spencer, and heads up a new blog, Jesus Shaped Spirituality. I love the focus, don't you? Completely ordinary, yet simply profound. So many people have gotten caught up in "church life," or fighting over doctrine, or focus entirely too much on the bible. It really is, and was, and always has been all about Jesus.


I put up the new Tapestry of Grace link over on the right. Click on the super-cute picture of the little boy and head to "the Bookshelf." Anything you buy there I'll get a percentage of.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Don't Stress Your Baby Out!

(I'm so green, I can recycle my own posts!)

I found an article that explains the reason response time is important to babies (when they cry). With 28 citations I believe this woman knows the subject she is discussing. I have wondered recently if babies (who then grow to become toddlers) are affected by how quickly a mother is able to soothe them after they begin to cry. I have always been a believer in, "You can't spoil a baby until at least 6 months." I know all children are different, but before 6 months children *need* their mama's to respond to their cries. I was told with my first that you couldn't spoil him until he was one. I believed it, and lived it out, and was fortunate enough that I *didn't* spoil him according to male book writers and uninvolved opinion swayers in the 70's. They taught us that a mother should let her babe "cry it out" and ignore the poor babe's only way to communicate (Sears). These men would whole heartedly disagree with the way I nurtured my son- what with him even sleeping in the bed with me! But spoiled he is not. He is a beautiful child- a tender hearted 6 year old, indeed- no signs of spoiling, for sure. So my point? What is natural for so many mother's ("Oh my baby is crying! I must soothe him!") is a scientifically proven good thing for women's as well as babies hormones. See:

Stress in Infancy

Friday, March 21, 2008

Your Reward

After my son (8) saw this video he innocently said,
"I think I want to be a preacher some day."

As Seen on Real Live Preacher

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Freedom From Today's Media

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hamburger Help Meet

I'm still not satisfied with the way people pour so much into the text of the Bible rather than pull out what's there. Here's a small snippet from Captivating, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge.

'It is not good for the man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo].' (Genesis 2:18, Alter) Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating Genesis, says that this phrase is 'notoriously difficult to translate.' The various attempts we have in English are 'helper' or 'companion' or the notorious 'help meet.' Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat…disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? … Companion? A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it 'sustainer beside him.'

The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately.

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you…

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. (Duet. 33:26,29, emphasis added)

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1-2, emphasis added )

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress: may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help. (Ps. 20:1-2, emphasis added )

We wait in hope for the LORD, he is our help and our shield. (Ps. 33:20, emphasis added )

O house of Israel, trust in the LORD— he is their help and shield
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD— he is their help and shield
You who fear him, trust in the LORD—he is their help and shield.
(Ps. 115:9-11, emphasis added)

Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If he is not there beside you …you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be “lifesaver.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

From Internet Monk

Three Days Among the Mainlines

My crowd is made up of creationists, hardcore Republican culture warriors, pro-lifers, complementarians, Biblical literalists, polemicists, internet theologians, evangelists, Charismatics and people who enjoy TBN and K-Love. What you should have noticed down through the years on this web site is that even though I’m not “one of them,” they are the crowd I live with, work with and understand. Whenever mainliners come up. it’s usually when someone has heard something in the news about gay marriage/ordination or someone wants to denigrate a church as dead or apostate.

Mainline Christians? I’ve always known they were out there, but I was warned to avoid those “liberals.” [snip] But these past three days were some of my closest times actually meeting and talking with my mainline brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s where I am on my own pilgrimage right now or maybe it’s the fact that I’m the recipient of real generosity from mainline friends, but I was more open to the mainline ethos than I’ve ever been before and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. It was a wonderful time in the fellowship of those whose lives are seeking to know and serve God through Jesus.

Just to scare the fundamentalists keeping an eye on me, let me give a bit of a report.

A third–at least–of the ministers and pastors present were women. That’s ordained women, pastoring churches. From what I could see, they were doing great jobs in tough places. They were intense, devoted, strongly called and gifted, and deeply committed to their ministries.

They were also comfortable and confident. I’ve always been told that women in ministry had attitude and “issues.” I missed that. These were….normal people. Young mothers. Experienced older pastors. Campus ministers. They were eloquent, intelligent and busy doing the work of pastors. They were comfortable with what God had called them to do. They were prepared, experienced and positive. One young ECUSA pastor was a mother of four and had just been given pastoral oversight of 15 other pastors in her large diocese. Another woman was the minister of pastoral care at a large church in Kentucky. Many of these women were pastoring the kinds of little churches men leave quickly. They seem to have stayed. Hmmmm.

Not even once did we pause to discuss “women in ministry.” That issue was a done deal, and even when it became known that a Southern Baptist was in the room, no one stopped to start “the discussion.” We were pastors and ministers. We were there to listen to Eugene Peterson, to get to know one another and to be better shepherds.

No one seemed to know or care what Mark Driscoll or the SBC thought. We just talked about our churches, our dreams and our journeys so far. I treated them with dignity and respect and they did the same to me.

I liked that experience of fellowship a lot. Can I get away with saying that turning the “ministry” into a boys’ club–no matter what you believe about ordination–produces an atmosphere that I don’t really like? I don’t think I’m alone in that, and I assure you I’m not a mama’s boy. I’m just suspecting a lot of the grunting and chest hair in recent discussions of the “ministry” isn’t really necessary. God calls and gifts women. Even if you don’t ordain them, you believe that.

I also noticed that there was far more mature reflection on the experience and identity of the pastor in this group than in the other gatherings of ministers I’ve been a part of. Instead of being a driven kind of atmosphere, there was generosity, encouragement and thoughtful insight. I was really surprised that out of the whole group, over three days of discussion, I never spotted an ass……..well….a jerk. Or whatever term works. Not even one. In a room full of ministers listening to one another for three days, that seemed almost eerie to me. I’m used to gatherings of ministers being overt competitions of alpha males bragging, jousting for attention, bullying one another, playing games. My experience this week was absent all of that, and it had something to do with the fact that the role and person of the minister was taken more seriously than in my other experiences.

There was also an obvious gentleness in the leadership. No one seemed to have the need to vent their spleen and call it “leadership” or preaching. In the times of preaching, egos were set aside. Lots of scripture read, simple liturgies followed by 25-minute homilies. Where was the 1 hour 15 minute exposition telling us all what to do? Where was the parading of “names” to imitate? Not there…and I liked it.

There was a generosity toward other traditions that amazes me. All of these denominations together and I never heard ONE denominational or doctrinal discussion of any kind. Not one. Not even close. This was not the world I know, a world where anxieties about doctrine and theology seem to be, frankly, driving more than a few people to the point of distraction, illusion and obsession.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Women & Men and How They Behave

At the park last Friday I began talking with some fellow homeschooling moms that I don't know very well. One had mentioned to me at the beginning of the (school) year that she was going to join the Created to be His Helpmeet group by Debi Pearl. The other mom had mentioned her husband was becoming more "authoritative" and was asking them to dress more femininely (longer hair and mostly dresses). Both of these situations worried me.

It's hard to know when to open your mouth and speak or to just keep quiet, but anyone who *knows* me knows that just keeping quiet isn't usually the route I take ( be it good or bad!). I began to talk with these two young moms about the journey out of legalistic thinking God had walked me through this past year. I wanted them to see that not many people choose to live legalistically, but that it has a way of creeping up on you. I asked the woman who's husband was in the picture is he was reading a lot lately, and she confirmed this (naming some authors [who scare me ;]). What I'm wondering is when we begin to read multiple books on the same subject, by people who posit that what they are saying is *the right way*, can we say for certain that it is *God* calling us to live in this new way, or is it man? In my limited experience it has been man acting as God.

The woman who had been studying "Biblical truth" with Debi Pearl worried me, too. I suggested, after she named off a few "foundational truths" which included women acting a certain way, that we come to the scriptures *full* of preconceived ideas that we have been taught along the way (ie, how we digest what scripture says about "church" ). I knew I was getting somewhere with that idea, but hadn't fully thought it out. Serendipitously, Molly from Adventures in Mercy thought it out for me. Here's what she says:

CBMW says that heart of Biblical womanhood is the acceptance, nurturance and submission to the leadership of men. I’m a true woman, in other words, if I believe and perform the above expectations.

(then into the comments)

The actual booklet is, “What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.”

It begins with Piper harkening back to the days of his youth and the way his mom and dad behaved with each other… and the “Biblical” (huh?) definition he then gives for femininity is thus:

“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

In other words, if you do not agree with Piper, then you are not mature, nor feminine, nor Biblical.

It is not Biblical to say that *women* receive leadership from men, whereas men give leadership to women. If this were the “Biblical” pattern, why did God call Wisdom a woman? Can anyone read the passages about Wisdom in Proverbs and say that God is not encouraging all of us to affirm and nurture and receive strength and leadership from her?

I feel that there is nothing at all wrong with wanting a traditional marriage, or desiring traditional roles. Where I cringe is when it’s said to be GOD’S way.

These books and teachers are telling men and women that they *must* adopt these gender roles, that it *is* God’s way, and that they are the only way to the kind of intimacy God wants for a marriage (and that if the married couple’s don’t experience that level of intimacy, then it’s NOT the books fault, but the man or the womans).

[see Spunky's post on Created to be His Help Meet; she comes to the same conclusion.]

Again, I think everyone should have the right to choose traditional gender roles if that’s what they want. But the point is, they should get to choose that, not *must* do it because it’s *God’s* way. It’s like the thrust of women choosing to come and be home to raise their children. That is AWESOME. Instead of being forced to, like before, they are now given the freedom to CHOOSE to do so. That is beautiful.

This silly divvying up of qualities just drives me nuts. As if strength is masculine but not feminine…as if leadership is masculine but not feminine…as if nurturing is feminine but not masculine…? All three of those “gendered” attributes can be refuted Biblically, because all three of those attributes can be seen in positive lights through MALE *AND* FEMALE representatives in the Bible.

Which is the whole point of this post. We’ve made up the idea that “Strength” is “Masculine. Our culture made that up. It’s a cultural belief, not a true belief. Strength is both a male and female attribute. Yahweh tells the female Zion to gird herself in strength. Abigail exhibited strength. Esther exhibited strength. Women giving birth exhibit strength.

Gentleness is not a Feminine attribute. Our culture made that up. Was David being feminine when he was gentle with Saul’s crippled son?

We’ve made so many of these “gendered” attributes up. They’re just attributes, things found in humans, not some in men and others in women, but all in humans, because all the attributes are found in GOD, who is NOT gendered.

Was Stephen being feminine when he served the widows? Was Paul being feminine when he said he was travailing in birth again? Was John being feminine when he leaned on Jesus’s chest? Were husbands instructed to act femininely when the Apostle told them to nurture and cherish their wives?

Was Wisdom being masculine when she said, “Come in and sit down, that I may instruct you?” Was Deborah being masculine when she solved difficult problems and disputes with authority? Was Huldah being masculine when she heard words from God and then told them to men, even to kings? Was Priscilla being masculine when she helped instruct Apollos in the finer details of the Gospel (instead of serving tea and cookies while the menfolk talked)?
That's what I'd like to say to the women at the park, but I don't think I'm brave enough. I don't think they want to hear it anyway.