August 29, 2008

Southern Belle Swing!

I'd been wanting to go to an event for lady lindy hoppers for a while, but I was having a hard time deciding whether or not to go since for roughly the same amount of money Allen and I could go camping in the North Georgia mountains for four nights. Well, this and that started coming together. I found out I wasn't going to be baby-sitting for a friend one weekend in Oct, so that freed up one weekend to do everything I wanted to do this fall. Then I found out that I could volunteer some shifts and get a free weekend pass. Plus we'll be able to stay with Allen's aunt and save the cost of a hotel room. Sooo, that all adds up to gas, some food, and a weekend dance pass for Allen. Looks like I'll be able to go after all. I admit I still feel a little conflicted. That's a pretty long drive for that something pretty much just benefits me. I know that even though Allen likes me to enjoy these sorts of opportunities he'd just as soon stay home. Still I'm pretty excited. Hopefully it will be a lot of fun, and I'll learn a lot about being a good (and stylin') follow.

August 26, 2008

disjointed musings on fashion and looking like the world

Something I was watching on Youtube today got me thinking about what it really means for Christians to not look like the world. If I was to describe to you what I'm currently wearing most of you would probably instantly say "typical conservative." Well, so maybe the slit in the front of my top would be a little low for some of you. Nevertheless I'm pretty sure I'm not walking out the door dressed like a freak. I think I have a little experience with this since I did dress like a freak though much of high school. You should have seen my fashionista friend laugh when I told her the stuff I used to wear. They were all labors of love (I even picked out many of the prints and patterns myself), but golly gee did I ever stick out like a sore thumb. I'd like to go back in time and explain to that young lady a few things about button up shirts covered with parrots in primary colors. There may be good ways for a 14 year old girl to wear that, but I sure didn't know about any. But back then we all dressed funny. Then we sort of started catching up with the times (barely), and I started finding a few things that actually fit and were specifically designed to be worn by a girl my age. My mom started wearing more cute capris and fewer button up denim skirts. Now, in making that transition some people could say that we had started looking for like "the world." Well sure I was wearing more current year clothes from Kohl's junior section and not so many outdated or ill-fitting items from misses-to-old-for-me. I'm certainly not going to say that's bad, and I wonder at what we really think it means to not look like the world. I could dress up like something from Mars. That's not of this world. I don't think Bill Gothard would shake my hand for doing though. It seems like we often mean "weird enough so that no one will suspect than anyone other than a Christian would be willing to look this dorky." Then we end up looking like Mormons and Muslims. Is it better to be mistaken for a Mormon or an atheist? I'm not sure.

Then there's that thing about dressing to frame the face and not the body. Umm, my clothes hang on my body. I could wear clothes so designed that they obliterated every sign that I have a female body, but A. I'm not a muslim, B. some guy would get it into his mind that I must be really hot to take such extreme measures and start lusting anyway, and C. I'm not so sure that fashion gnosticism is all that Biblical. In short, I don't really get it. I understand not dressing so as to display my body in an overtly sexual manner. There's a lot of skin that no one has any right to see except Allen. I really can't help being in some way minimally sexual since I'm a woman and have the kind of body God gave women. I could perhaps obliterate my form with grossly excess poundage and specially selected clothing, but as noted above that won't necessarily stop everyone. Here's my question. Where does it stop? In Song of Solomon the lover didn't cease his description of his beloved's beauty at the neck. There was plenty more to delight his senses above his beloved's collarbone, and yet we sometimes act as though women are only respectable from the neck up. Hmmm. Again, I don't really get this. When I muse like this don't think I'm going to start arguing that we demand noses be covered in public and midriffs bared. God has made it pretty clear that certain areas should be covered. I'm just wondering how much thought has gone into some of these statements we make about how we should act and dress in this world.

All that said...I know that as Christians we should strive to be conformed to the image of Christ and that as we begin to look more and more like Him we will look less and less like the world that hates Him. I hope that the way I dress reflects that. But I don't think someone can say "be ye not conformed to this world" and get after some pastor's wife for wearing capris or a knee-length skirt. The world wears burkas and tie-dye ankle length skirts too. There are certainly lines, but I begin to wonder if any of us really know exactly where they are and what they really mean. I mean, I think I'm pretty right about some things. Sometimes I just wonder if I'm as right as I think I am sometimes. I really don't have any conclusions. This post isn't about conclusions anyway. It's about some of the questions I think maybe need to be asked before we try to pronounce any conclusions.

August 25, 2008

An honest brag

Allen was reading a list of someone's church pet peeves (like bad music), and I was inspired to come here and do a full out brag.

My church's music is better than your church's music -unless you happen to go to my church.

I'm not going to argue the point. It's just a simple fact that our music completely rocks. Lately (well for a couple of years) our church musicians have been going through the Gadsby Hymnal putting music to some of the hymns. What has emerged is a body of music that is poignant, singable, poetic, instructive, uplifting, and feels deeply rooted in this patch of Southeastern USA. It doesn't get any better.

August 22, 2008

More on slave wives and the question of divorce

One of my commentors has asked me to provide a verse explaining why a Christian wife may leave her husband for abuse. I provide the asked for background more for the sake of completeness than with the intention of changing anyone's mind. That said, the text is question is Ex 21:7-11.
7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her [1] for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

I'm sure that people quibble about this passage frequently, but the point that Jordan (and others) are making is that there are three things a husband must provide his wife -food, clothing, and love/intimacy. If he doesn't then a wife may request a divorce. Of course as with many Biblical teachings this is a case for discernment rather than hasty judgments. A husband who works hard to provide his wife with ground chuck and Craft Mac is a faithful husband. A husband who eats sirloin and Stilton while his wife eats ground chuck and Craft Mac seriously needs a visit from the church elders. Not being able to shop Sax 5th Ave isn't legitimate grounds for divorce. Shopping at thrift stores while your husband collects Lear jets....bring back the elders. I'm trying to make this clear because I don't want anyone to say that I support divorce because a wife is discontent with how her husband provides for her. I am saying that a selfish husband who makes his wife eat rotten leftovers to teach her not to waste his money that way and then turns around and buys a gallon of Bluebell for himself probably deserves whatever is coming. Another thing I want to point out is that the woman doesn't appear to be getting any alimony out of this. This presumably encourages several things in a Christian community namely A. the abuse is real and not merely discontentment, and B. the community approves her leaving and is willing to help her transition. If you back to Jordan's article you'll see he theorizes that this could hardly happen in the case of free women since they had a great deal of control over their own property and could (in essence) largely look out for themselves. One may also postulate that a woman of property likely also had family ties that would make physical abuse detrimental to the abuser. This would be the same as a wife today having a sizable bank account of her, possibly even her own house on the beach, and relatives/connections that would make life for an abusive husband very difficult.

I think the truth is that husbands (as well as wives) need accountability. They need to know that there's a point beyond which their wives don't have to put up with their shenanigans. Admittedly both need to understand just where that point is and how far from the reality of a loving (or even moderately exasperating) marriage it is, but they need to know it exists. I'll be very honest and say that one reason I trust Allen as a husband is because I trust his father and brothers. I know that Allen is a trustworthy, stalwart, and faithful husband. I also know that if I ever needed to I could go to Allen's family, and they would take care of us. Although I can't imagine ever needing to it's nice to know I could.

So. I hope that has helped settle any questions that may have come up from my previous post. If not I'm terribly sorry, and I hope you'll still pop back around occasionally.

August 18, 2008

Note on slave wives

There are some people who would tell an abused Christian wife that she should sit down, shut up, and try better to please her husband. People like that need a couple of black eyes of their own in my opinion. They make me sick. In the past, though, I had wondered just where in the Bible God gives women in abusive situations their out until Allen showed me a section from James Jordan on slave wives v free wives in the OT. You can read it for yourself, but really telling a woman to stay in a situation like that is telling her to stay in something that slave wives in the OT didn't have to tolerate. So, according to some portion of the Church, wives can be treated worse than middle-eastern slaves in whatever B.C., and they won't help her get out. Again I am amazed at how God in His Word constantly protects and defends women and at how some people in the same of God deny women the care and protection He established.

Thanks Allen for posting that link in the comments. I just thought I'd put it up with a brief note so no one misses it.

So maybe I'll grant you Wollstonecraft

Lately I've had a few people ask me about my position on feminism. The response I've sort of come up with is "Fine. Call me a feminist if you want to, but about all I can grant you is Wollstonecraft and maybe not even all of her." For those of you who don't know Mary Wollstonecraft published a work in 1792 called Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I say I may not be able to grant all of her because I don't remember all her arguments, and I don't want to get stuck having agreed to something I didn't recall. As far as I remember she's pretty solid though. My point in bringing her up is that I readily acknowledge that there were times in history where women didn't get very good educations (even compared to their brothers) and where they really weren't treated very well. The all-wise Greeks actually classified women somewhere between men and beasts. That was nice of them. Even theologians often didn't have very good opinions of women or our capacity for virtue. That's why I appreciate people like Wollstonecraft who advocated a rational treatment of women. As she pointed out -women were educated to be stupid and then their men complained that their wives were unfit as rational companions. Well duh. Stupid in, stupid out. I don't believe in women being degraded, held back, abused, ignored, etc. BUT! You can't call me a feminist. One simple reason. I believe in male (read husband/father) headship. I don't believe that women should in general be subservient to men. I think that a woman is under the authority of one man. Any other man tries lording over her and she can tell him to f*$# off. Ok, so she should probably listen to her pastor and elders. You get the point. I don't mean authority to the point where she lets him abuse her or put her in dangerous/illegal positions. I mean that when the buck stops it stops with him. He's the ship commander, and she's first mate. For those of you who have seen women in bad relationships because they were being submissive Christian wives there's an article I need to find and link to on the difference between the free wife and the slave wife in OT Israel. Some women are effectively slave wives, and that's wrong. But that doesn't mean that submission and headship have flown out the window either.

So here's me in a nutshell. I got no problem with women going to college, getting jobs, living on their own (although that might not be ideal), etc. However I do think women should learn to think about home first and then career. Growing up they need to realize that God put men and women in different roles for different reasons and that it's a good thing He did so. The should also get a backbone and stop pretending that courage is a strictly male virtue. Being a woman takes guts. The fruits of the spirit are all in one big list. There's not separate lists for guys and girls even though guys and girls may tend to display these virtues differently. Being feminine doesn't mean you have to dress in florals. I would however suggest the cultivation of skirts just 'cause they're so darn fun to wear.

College anyone?

Last night Allen sent me a link to a New York Times article on why college really isn't all it's cracked up to be. We've all heard these arguments from insular Christian families who are scared their kids may watch a movie NOT put out by Focus on the Family and therefore become screaming liberals. This isn't it. It's not even a big brother article about how some people are unfit to go to college and therefore should be shunted off to trade school upon finishing 10th grade. Nope, this author simply looked at how the BA/BS was designed, marketed, and used and decided that it was mostly just that -BS. One of the more interesting points he makes is that the BA/BS degree, which often offers little to no idea of an applicant's actual abilities, serves as a cash/time barrier effectively barring certain people from being able to move into certain (perhaps more lucrative) fields. Instead he proposes that if apprenticeships and national/industry-wide certifications (like the CPA) became more widely used as a measure of competence then a graduate of Podunk U, On-line U, or even Local Library U could actually compete with Harvard graduates in the job market. Obviously this would be easier or harder in various industries, but I love his perspective. Why shouldn't someone with plenty of brains but not enough time/money to commit to a BA be able to study/work their way into a good job? It won't hurt the BA grads who really know their stuff, and it would help competent people at the margins move up in the world. It could even help employers get good employees.

If you're interested in the article here's the link.

August 15, 2008

What does your kid's God look like?

Mostly when I get those flylady testimonials I just trash them, but every once in a while I'll open one that strikes my eye. Tonight I opened one talking about how clutter affects our children. Even if I don't have kids I'm still interested in how our environment affects us. What I read in there is that a mother has decided she's going to practice "tough love" on her temperamental 5 year old son. To that end she gets rid of most of his toys and explains to him that all she owes him is a bed and food -anything else he has to earn. Lo and behold he calms down and begins playing much more nicely with the toys he has left. When his mom says he's been good enough to earn more toys he asks her to do an activity with him instead. (Angels sing) Small child has learned there are better things in life than having three dozen cars and assorted other toys. Also, he's much calmer and better disciplined. Where's the downside? I think is probably a good example of doing a decent thing for rather deplorable reasons. We can probably grant that the kid likely had too many toys piling up in his room and that the over stimulation and clutter were contributing to his bad behavior. What I really don't get is this "tough love" attitude that says "I owe you the bare minimum, and buster you better sweat for the rest." I mean, what the heck is this telling our children about God? God owes us nothing and yet we're told to ask and ask again believing that God delights to give us good things simply because he loves us so much more than we can ever imagine. Earning just isn't in the picture when it comes to God's gifts to us. I don't want anyone reading this to think I believe parents should be pushovers either or that things can't be earned. There are economic realities built into this world -working is correlated with eating. Kids need to learn this. There are also times when parents need to draw a firm line and hold it. Grant, given, and amen.

Here's what concerns me about this attitude. Looking back at my growing up years I'm realizing just how much of my day to day theology came out of our home culture -the way Mom and Dad acted towards us and each other. There were plenty of times when home theology actually trumped Bible theology since it was what I lived day to day. Hopefully this kid in the e-mail is getting plenty of good, true home theology that will teach him experientially the nature of God's love towards us. If not then this kid's definitions of love and provision are likely to be radically skewed when he tries to understand God's love and provision in terms of what he already knows from his family.

However, what this mom has done obviously had positive benefits for her and her son since she reports that he appears to be more content and less troublesome with fewer toys cluttering up his room. As I mentioned before I'd consider this a case of doing a fairly sensible thing for fairly bad reasons (or using faulty logic/theology). Instead of establishing these troubling (dare I say unBiblical?) ideas of owing and earning as described, there are Biblical paradigms that work well here without doing damage to the parent's image as a good and loving provider. Take the parable of the talents for instance. I would say it's perfectly reasonable for a parent to say, "Child, I'm sorry, but I've just given you too much to handle right now. It's obviously stressing you out, and we're going to do something out that. So here's an amount I think you can handle. When you've grown up a little and shown that you can be responsible with what you already have, and when I don't think it won't stress you out, you can try handling a little more. But for now we're going to start small so you can grow into your responsibilities and learn how to take care of things." So maybe it's a small distinction. You could still argue that the kid's still "earning" his toys by being good. At least it doesn't do violence to the child's image of God (as portrayed by his parents) as being a grudging provider whose gifts are given grudgingly as rewards for inordinate virtue rather than a bountiful Father who smallest provision we could never earn. That's what I meant by the title of my post. In some ways we all show God to each other. The only question is whether or not our portrayals will be true or false.

August 12, 2008

A favorite Boston moment

Allen and I were hanging out in the living room watching anime with our friends. We were just in the middle of the theme song when I suddenly said, "Hey! Tom preached on this a few weeks ago!" Both guys gave me the weirdest looks. Allen later confessed that he hadn't been paying attention and hadn't the slightest clue what I was talking about, but our friend seemed to find the thought a bit mind boggling -said he was going to be very disturbed if our pastor got sermon material from "Gurren Lagann." I just thought their reactions to my comment were hilarious. When I told Tom about it (and the jist of the lyrics) he immediately understood what I meant.

I suppose when you're an atheist hearing that a pastor somewhere out there has preached on something sort of relevant to the last issue you would associate with pastors is a bit disconcerting. Just goes to show that you don't really have do any extreme exegetical contortions to make the Bible "relevant." I don't expect human desires and longings have changed all that much between the time of Latin hexameter and Japanese anime. Just preach it straight at us. The Word'll do its work just fine.

The internet is scary

So wandering around the internet I found a 20-somethings forum -pretty crazy. It just makes me realize more and more how much we need the Gospel. All these people running around in horrible relationships risking their health and sanity for the chance to grab at tarnished pleasures. I just shake my head when I reflect on the fact that they think we're the crazy, repressed, narrow-minded, killjoys. I wouldn't swap the relationship I have with my husband for all their so-called pleasures. They want community, submission, expression, approval, fulfillment, headship, etc, but then they end up killing the thing they seek because they will not listen to God who knows that we want these things and has established the means whereby we shall be satisfied. Instead they turn to lies which, containing the smallest seed of truth, pervert their natural desires to evil. Not that fallen man is capable of choosing right for himself but that as an image of God he has within him certain desires which God would satisfy and Satan corrupt. I find the whole mess to be unspeakably sad.

August 10, 2008

Conversing with nerdy atheists

There's a certain sense in which conversing with atheists can be very refreshing and grounding. There's another sense in which it can be quite taxing, but right now I'm thinking about the first sense in connection with visiting Allen's friends at the wedding we recently attended in New York. Allen is one of the few Christians that many of his programmer friends like and respect. In a way that was daunting because we knew up front we were going to surrounded by people who really didn't give a fig about God. And yet in the end I found it curiously easy to talk with them. I think part of it is that from the first day I was prepared to meet and like people with whom I knew I would have very little in common. It wasn't as though we weren't able to find any common interests because we managed to find a few, but they also just happened to be trendy young voter interests such as community supported agriculture and an end to the present war -it's no more than you expect to find in an assemblage of 20-30 somethings. These are things I also have in common with other Christians in my church. I think the real key to the situation is that I knew I was way in over my head. There wasn't one way in hell that I would have been able to fake a real interest (much less competence) in their specific brand of geekdom. I don't know C++ from HTML. Don't ask me about Python 'cause I'll probably start telling you about a snake I used to work with in high school. Plus, I stink at Rock Band. And the Wii. As much as I may like geeks I can't speak their language. So that's one area I couldn't fake. The other one is Christianity. You might say that Christianity is the one thing I could fake. Wrong. Some of these people were high atheists who could quote Deuteronomy with the devil. They can tear down wishy washy Christianity faster than wet paper and have just about much respect for the paper as the Christian. Yet, as I knew from Allen's relationship with them, they could respect a principled, consistent Christianity. From that I knew I had to be prepared to meet and like people just as I am with very little pretense knowing that no matter what I did or said there were some very fundamental rifts between us that would only be healed by the grace of God. On the whole I think I did pretty well in the encounter. I found people that, in spite of all our differences, I liked and whose opinions on some matters I could respect. More importantly, I don't think I damaged the respect Allen already had garnered among them as an honorable Christian. In saying all this I don't want to get the impression that Allen and I merely kept our mouths shut and hid our Christianity because we didn't. We didn't drag Jesus around like a cardboard cutout either.

Thinking about my adventures among the atheists I wonder why we Christians can't approach each other with something of the same spirit in which I approached Allen's friends? That is to say, I wonder why I have such a hard time doing it. With others I always want to be cooler, more competent, less incomplete, more normal, and less marginalized. Perhaps it's because I care more about the opinions of my Christian friends. We're supposed to be on the same team -shouldn't we like each other and get along? What does it mean if we don't? My atheist friends much as I love and pray for them aren't part of my communion. We are not bound by blood and water. In a sense I suppose that's part of what makes me try harder to be liked and accepted by my Christian friends -their opinion matters in a way that other's can't. And yet, I would still like to be able to approach Christians with that same desperate abandonment to authenticity which appeals not to common interests but to a common humanity and (in this case) a common Lord. I want to approach the people in my church seeking to like that person for who they are where they are until the Lord makes us both something better and something closer. I want to cultivate the same kind of witness in my walk among Christians that I pray for in my walk among the heathen - to walk with grace and speak in love knowing that in this God is glorified.

Happy (late) anniversary to us

While visiting friends in Boston Allen and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. I agree. Spending one's anniversary on an air mattress in your friend's small apartment may not be the obvious way to celebrate, but we left our friends eating hummus and veggie chips and went out for Thai food and dessert. If you are ever in Boston I recommend visiting Finale if only for the experience. It's an almost exclusively dessert restaurant. I believe that have maybe 4-5 non-dessert entrees for those who forget to eat dinner beforehand. Otherwise the menu is devoted to chocolates, pastries, and the most appetizing looking drinks. A word. Unless you have a rather trained and experienced palate I would not recommend the madeira as it's rather strong and syrupy. They do have a variety of other dessert wine pairings (I liked the port) as well as cocktails, coffees, and hot chocolates. Sitting there sipping port and scraping up the last velvety, chocolate covered crumbs from their molten lava cake is quite a decadent experience. Afterwards we walked around Harvard Square for a few minutes before taking a taxi back to our friends apartment where we drank (decent) cheap wine, played video games, and watched anime. Perhaps a bit unusual, but having such a wonderful opportunity to visit friends in Boston for minimal cost we considered it well worth it. I'll try to post some Boston pics later. However since I haven't even gotten through my Savannah pics from last vacation I make no promises.

August 8, 2008

Adventures in the northern climes

My brain is having troubles with coherency today -possibly a side effect of too little sleep in the previous days. Forthwith I shall make a list describing our adventures and perhaps do some blogging at a more convenient date.

1. First time on an airplane
2. Pizza
3. Boarding with a friend's sister.
4. Only two Christians at a very interesting wedding ceremony.
5. Being completely lame at Rock Band
6. Mimosas are good.
7. Allen's geek friends are pretty cool.
8. 80 degrees isn't hot no matter what some people may say.
9. Being real amid the atheists.
10. Yankees talk funny.
11. Fast food looks different up north.
12. Loving people who don't know God.
13. Riding in the car for 4-5 hours either crammed between two guys or unable to put my feet on the floorboards is an interesting experience better not too soon repeated.
14. Some people have lots of video games.
15. Sightseeing with Allen's friends is a lot of fun.
16. Boston is a unique and often beautiful city.
17. air mattresses are ok.
18. Having your 2nd anniversary while camped out in someone's living room is not that bad.
19. New friends are fun to have.
20. It's good to be home.