Small Thoughts on Ecumenism and Iron Sharpening Iron

Chris reminded me of what I consider the strength of the modern Church, and that is its diversity… at least when we’re all serious about the One that matters, and our pursuit of Truth.

My Messianic friends teach me about the beauty of the OT feasts, and how they plug into Jesus’ life and prophecy.  They enrich my understanding of our Lord, and sometimes bring me near to tears.  (http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html)

My Calvinist friends remind me to study hard and stand unflinchingly for the Truth, regardless of popularity.

My more Pentecostal friends remind me to have BIG faith.

My Catholic friends show me the strength of a church that works together.  (The only time I want to be Catholic is when I fantasize about excommunicating certain folks who blaspheme our Lord by claiming Him).

My Orthodox friends show me love for tradition, and pure stubbornness in the face of the World.

Better would be if we truly knew when we were doing it “right” – but according to the seven letters in Revelation, we haven’t had that dialed in since John’s day.  I’m looking forward to learning to worship perfectly in Heaven.

Until then, I do the best I can (and I do the.best.I.can) and y’all do your best … and we’ll argue about details, and thus sharpen each other.  We make each other think.  We challenge each other’s assumptions.  We poke each other in our weak spots.  We illuminate the dark spots.  We’re a family.  Family is frequently annoying.  :)  But we are all working for One Person.

And just as we’re one family, we’re one body… bodies have different bits with different purposes, skills, and weaknesses.

As an aside, if I could do one thing, it would be to share the overwhelming euphoric joy with which I am sometimes filled.  It’s amazing.  And all us sibs have equal access… so, if I could get you to do something, it would be to enjoy the filling of the Spirit and your communion with God.  Or maybe y’all do, and you aren’t telling me.  Because you should drop me a note about this stuff.  I need someone to glow with.  :D

 

Humans Judge on Appearance

I never thought I would write something for my professional blog – my image consulting blog – that I’d want to cross post here.  As a matter of fact, it’s not even running over there until later this week.  But it fits here.  And since it DID make me mad, I’m saying it today.  :)

It irritates me when we needlessly replicate social science studies – especially when we do so on the backs of children.  This popped up on my FB feed this weekend.  https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/1094289017327888/?pnref=story

The idea is to expose how horribly lookist that we are, in order to shame us into acting differently.

I’m all for treating people well, regardless of their appearance – it’s part of my commitment to Christ.

James 2:1 – 4 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (NASB)

So, insofar as it involves me – or you, dear readers – I hope that you’re controlling your actions and basing them on compassion.  BUT.  BUT.  This wouldn’t have been in the Bible if it weren’t a natural human tendency.  (“Natural” is not a synonym for “good” – especially in the realm of human behavior).

What’s upsetting?  This has been proven.  Babies prefer pretty people.  Babies.  This is not nurture, it’s nature.  https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6355-babies-prefer-to-gaze-upon-beautiful-faces/  This is known.  Every interaction any one of us has ever had in the world has reminded us of this hard truth.

You didn’t need to make a little girl cry.  I’m mad that they hurt this little girl – do they think she’s going to forget that day?  Every protective parental bone in my body is infuriated right now.  How DARE they do this to her?  They knew she’d be rejected.

And I get mad when I hear grown people say, “well, it shouldn’t matter how I dress…”  You’re right.  It shouldn’t.  But it does.  Humans are visual creatures, and we take in information visually.

Learn to speak with your mouth closed, and you can make this work for you.  In the meantime, remember that these things work on you just as they work on tiny babies, and act with love.

Seasons in life

In the World, when you say goodbye to a season in your life, whatever it is, you’re supposed to slam the door and say, “good riddance!”  In Christianity, there’s no such requirement – excepting perhaps the season of our lives before we came to Christ.   The Bible speaks often about the appropriate seasons of life, it doesn’t tell us that we should remain static.  (Rather the opposite).

I’m thinking about this a lot lately.  I don’t *want* to slam the door on the season of life that I’ve inhabited for 16 years.   I’ve spent this time well.  The lessons I’ve learned will stay with me for the rest of my years, whether I’m currently using them or not, and I’m grateful.  I’ve been grateful to have had this time at home.

It’s not like it’s coming to an abrupt end, I’m just switching gears a bit – the home is still my responsibility.  My work won’t be full-time for years yet.  If I choose to resent home-work because it “isn’t who I am now”, I’m a fool.  If I choose to stifle my excitement at my new adventure because “I haven’t made it yet”, I’m likewise foolish.

Learning, changing, developing as a person – I hope to keep doing these things until my dying breath.   I’ve always recoiled in horror at the notion that learning was something one only did in school.   You’re supposed to grow in faith, you’re supposed to grow in knowledge of the Truth, you’re supposed to grow in spiritual maturity.  And if you’re growing in all of that, you can hardly help growing in secular things as well.

Because I don’t eat bread much anymore, I don’t bake much anymore.  I’m glad to know how to make a good loaf of bread even so.    I’m glad to know how to carry a baby properly, to double-dig a garden, to sew a fine seam, to plan the holidays… knowledge isn’t wasted.

So, if you will forgive me – the season coming up isn’t about slamming a door, it’s about stepping into new skills and new duties, and moving along in my pursuit of becoming a Proverbs 31 woman.

What I reject is the idea that simply because I’ve left a season behind, I would ever want to slam a door between it and myself.

Description of a Worthy Woman

10 An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Ghosts in my head… again

DS and TPC are taking opposite sides of this battle, and I think it’s weird.  It shouldn’t be a battle… it’s just seasons of life and the abilities/handicaps they leave us all with.

DS’s link TPC’s position

So let’s talk fitness, beauty, vanity – and living your life for Christ.

Somewhere along the line as a Christian woman, I picked up the idea that doing things in which I delight, especially if those things are temporal in nature, is sin.  THAT’S NOT TRUE.   Can they be sin?  Yeah, sure.  Anything that gets between you and God or prevents you from loving your neighbor is sin.  Personal conviction, please.  But temporal enjoyment is not, in itself, sinful.  If it is, we need to all go become monks.

The ghost in my head thinks that the only thing I should do as a Nice Christian Lady is stay home with my kids until they’re out of HS, then volunteer at church (preferably) or work a boring job until retirement.   Helping other Nice Christian Ladies is okay.  Working to earn an income – a real income, not pin money – isn’t okay.  The ghost in my head thinks it’s okay to be pretty… as long as I’m not TOO pretty.  It’s okay to look nice, as long as I don’t spend much time, money, or effort on it.  It’s okay to be good at my work, but it’s not okay to put myself forward.  It’s okay to be fit, but I should get there by spending 30 minutes/day walking my dog… anything else is a bit extravagant, really.

But that’s a ghost in my head, not Bible.

I’m going to rattle off my own history here… I’ve always been the strong one who sucked at anything cardio, but could endure.   When you’re in your 20s, you take endurance for granted.  You have such an amazing recovery rate – even if you do something way out of your norm, in a couple of days you’re totally back to normal you.  It’s like that endurance was on the shelf, just waiting for me.

Then I had a couple of semi-bedrest pregnancies, which left me with a terror of getting tired.  I thought about explaining what happened when I got tired, but I’m going to spare you…:)  Let’s just say that it was immediate evidence that I needed to rest, stat.    Logically the terror shouldn’t have lasted, but logic isn’t always the thing, you know?

And then a few years after that… I broke my foot in half.  Oh yay, no more hikes for me.  No impact stuff.  Depressing.   I worked out to tapes, intermittently.  Got stronger, but it wasn’t that dramatic.

And then, a bit more than a year ago, I found crossfit.

Yes.  It’s expensive.   Yes, we get way too excited about it.   No, I don’t wear nearly as much clothing down at the box as I’d wear to a normal gym.   Yes, three times a week means I’m tired, a lot.  It has a cost.  43 ain’t 23, no way, no how.  Recovery is a haul.

BUT IT’S GIVEN ME BACK MY JOY IN LIVING IN THIS BODY.  I can do stuff!  I can lift the dog easily!  I could run … well, without the foot.  My endurance is back!   I can do things I couldn’t even do when I was a kid – in a few weeks I’ll have my handstand (so close, so very close) and I now row a faster mile than I could run in high school… substantially so.

I’m not skinny yet, that takes diet as well as exercise.  I’m the same weight as at the start, substantial body comp changes have taken place.  My blood pressure is down.  My cholesterol is down.  My energy is up.  I’m not THRILLED that my weight will involve not eating as much as I like, but whatever.  Entry fee.

Is it vanity when I post progress pix?  Maybe a little, let’s be honest.  But mostly inside what I feel like is a little kid who’s bouncing up and down saying, “didja see?  I did the thing!  Look how I’ve changed!”  It’s delight.

That.Is.Not.Sin.  That’s a blessing which I am enjoying.   Does everyone have to enjoy such a blessing to be a good Christian?  No.  that’s prosperity gospel nonsense.  But I’m not a bad Christian either.

And when I get excited because I nail an outfit, or get the makeup right… is it sin to delight in what God gave me that I’m taking better care of?  Is it?  To be pleased?  To have some fun?  Is it sinful to want to be very very good at what I do professionally – and make money doing it?

Vanity is a sin.  When I was 15 and hiking my boobs up and my shirts down so DH would snap out of the fog and pay attention to me, THAT was sinful.   Picking out a good color and choosing styles that allow me to be taken seriously?  Not sinful.  Enjoying being pretty, wearing pretty clothes?  Not sinful.  It’s childlike fun.  At least for me, it really is fun, and yes – I’d be happy to give a good twirl if you have little girls who need to ooo and ahh.

Delight isn’t a sin.  Fun isn’t a sin.  Being healthy isn’t a sin.  And pursuing those things isn’t sinful either.

Of *course* we have to take care of duty before pleasure, and of course others come before ourselves.  Duh, we’re committed Christians here.

But we’re allowed to enjoy what we were given, and take care of it.

Life cycles vary.  The reason I’m having so much fun is that I know what life is like without a body that can do the things my body can do now.  I am so very appreciative, so grateful.  It’s not easy – it hasn’t BEEN easy.

Anyway.

Delight isn’t a sin.  And the ghosts in my head who say that it is can bite me.

 

Ghosts in my Head

To take off from the last post… I went away and thought about it.

As I’m (finally) embracing my life-long dream of becoming an image consultant, suddenly I don’t feel a need to read books about finding yourself.  (Still reading books about going places and the wilderness).

D’you guys have any idea the amount of guilt I have laid on myself for taking up such a frivolous occupation as image consultant?

Let’s ignore the intellectual response, that I’m very good at what I (will) do, and that image consulting gives me an opportunity to meet and spend time with more people, which means I’ll have more opportunities to be Christ to more lives.  That there’s nothing intrinsically sinful about image consulting.  That this is my gift, and that beauty is important.  My spiritual gifts are counsel and exhortation… are you kidding me?  This is so right up my alley it’s not even funny.  I am going to bless people’s socks off.  (God willing.  :) )

Let’s talk viscera, and guilt.  I can find introspection in a bowl of soup, and I can find guilt in birdsong.   I swallow shoulds for breakfast.

I have always wanted to have a stereotypical crunchy Christian life.   Had I had the opportunity, I would have dived in.  And oh, my dear readers… I would have been a self-righteous piece of work if I’d been allowed to be.   The blockades to my fantasy life have come over and over and over.  And I feel guilty for letting the side down.  For letting “them” down, like there’s some committee somewhere that tells you what “real Christian women” ought to be doing with themselves.

I like digging and making compost piles and singing off key and dressing modestly and not worrying about my skin care regime.    I make a darn fine apple pie, too, and yes – I can render fat and operate a meat grinder and do basic wound care (I turn a bit green, but I can do it).   Obviously, I can sew.

But that’s not my life.  Not my opportunity.  And I need to let that go, finally and totally.  Yeah, maybe my husband will get a job someday in Idaho (or Tennessee😉 )but probably not.   Maybe someday we’ll retire there.  But retirement is a long, long time away, and it’s time for me to move into being a different kind of helpmeet for my husband.  The kind, btw, that he’d always planned for me to be… now that our kids are older.  (While I’m addressing the Imaginary Greek Chorus, please note that I was told that we’d have two kids while we were still in HS, so you may take my fertility up with my husband, not me).

You know, it’s not evil to want to bless my husband’s socks off by bringing in some cash…

Beating myself up because the Greek chorus of “shoulds” in the back of my head doesn’t think that being an image consultant in SoCal is explicitly “Christian” enough is a waste of my energy and of whatever years God has given me on this earth.  I’m being a poor steward, and allowing condemnation the place of conviction.

So help me out – if any of  you want to tell me this is unScriptural, say it out loud and proud so I don’t have to look behind my back.  I’m pretty sure what’s back there is just ghosts… but if I’m wrong, come ’round where I can see you, okay?  :D  (I know I’m silly.  This is usually where my husband pats me on my head and tells me that I’m a gooood gurururl).

Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets to tell me how to live my life but God and my husband.  Maybe it’s time I listened to myself when I say that… instead of listening to the ghosts in my head.

The hungers that shape us

Hunger shapes us and we shape it.

Elspeth has been having a good chat about what books we don’t read, and why.

First, why do you read?  What hunger inside you is fed by words on a page?  (There are probably several).

When we talk about watching what we and our children read, I think back to my misspent youth and those hungers and the books the hungers found, and the books that fed new hungers.  After the waves of inappropriate reading receded (largely because I had a life, I wasn’t hunger incarnate, aka a young teenager), I would reliably read the same sort of book… until quite recently, which has made my reading habits a bit confused.

Mostly I read books about finding yourself and having adventures, with some romance thrown in the bargain.  There seems to be a never-ending pile of books for that!   I never could get hooked on romance minus adventure – my hunger included the hunger of doing things.  Adventure minus romance was sometimes okay, sometimes not.  (One of the things I read for is to immerse myself, so if I don’t like the protagonist, or there’s no getting into his/her head, forget it.  I’ll skip the pure plot works, thanks).   Since I live in the books, happy endings are mandatory.

Finding yourself… doing things… finding love…

All of that is still fine, but the books I want to read have established characters, who know who they are but are finding new things out about themselves or the world.  Not nearly as many books about *that*.  (Especially with characters I can bear to have live in my head).   And I have found out that I really enjoy a good travelogue.  Observing the world around you and finding out new things about it.  I’m still going places in my imagination… I just don’t have to have dragons to slay.  A journey will suffice.   I hunger for adventure, and for the wild.

Good, true, observations please me now.  I just started this book, and this paragraph describes how I substitute the beach for true wilderness, even though the author is speaking of beaches on the other side of the globe.

The sea defines us, connects us, separates us.  Most of us experience only its edges, our available wilderness on a crowded island – it’s why we call our coastal towns ‘resorts’, despite their air of decay.   And although it seems constant, it is never the same.  One day the shore will be swept clean, the next covered by weed, the shingle itself rises and falls.  Perpetually renewing and destroying, the sea proposes a beginning and an ending, an alternative to our landlocked state, an existence to which we are tethered when we might rather be set free.  (The Sea Inside – Philip Hoare)

So.  When I find books that give me truth, I cherish them.  When I read books that entertain me and give me an afternoon away from myself, I enjoy them.  When I find that the book that I’ve enjoyed has slipped behind my back and fed a hunger that hurts me in some way, I remove it from my life.  And those books that I know will feed hungers or moods that harm me, I never pick up.

Feeding yourself, whether it be food or drink or words, should be a matter of honesty with oneself.

I am the richest woman in the world

… well, at least in the way I count riches.  And I suffer from survivor guilt.   I don’t deserve my life.  I am unable to give back properly, however I try.

We’ve been talking about how our myths are shaped by our realities (and vice versa).  My reality is amazing.   I have always been surrounded by agape love.    My given name even means “beloved”.   I can honestly say that I take love for granted.   I can force my brain to consider other possibilities, but frankly I assume that you’re going to be kind to me, just because that’s how people are.

When I had my reality crashed into… when I found out that real people that I knew and loved, not just people in books, had dealt with the unimaginable… that messed with me.  How do *I* deserve to have a good life?  I don’t.  I didn’t do anything.  God chose me for this.  Why?

Speaking of being raised a certain way… I was raised so if your loved ones are hungry and you’re full, you share.  I can’t share my assumptions.  I can’t share my past.  I can share my love – I can love on as many people as come into my circle, but it never feels like enough.  It can never be enough.  My little bit can never offset my riches.  It’s impossible for me to share, and it makes me crazy sometimes.  I scramble around, frantic, trying to do enough, to somehow pour the joy and love inside of me into the people around me.  And I fail.

They call this survivor guilt, I’m told.  I don’t have some weird need to have been hurt – thanks, but no thanks.  I’ve got a few scars, don’t want any more.  But there’s no end to the need, I feel like one woman against an ocean… All my post-childhood experience has done is show me the extent of the need.

But they don’t need me.  They need Jesus.  Eh.  That’s true but pat.  Of course they need Jesus.  But aren’t we called to love our neighbor as ourselves, and is not love the sign of the Christian in truth?  What about the parable of the talents?  Yes, Hearthie will be doing some praying tonight, that’s for sure.

 

I go back and forth with the deepening of the darkness around us.  On the one hand, hypocrisy is nasty – at least now we can’t deny that our society is desperately ill.  On the other, the pretense of goodness gave a scaffolding for goodness in truth to grow unhampered.  (Conversations relevant:  https://terrysbookobsession.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/els-rabbit-trails-delicious-is-down-edition/#comments  http://buchanan.org/blog/if-god-is-dead-125152)

The ruins of our society mean that far more children are left in abject emotional and spiritual poverty.  They grow up going after the things of the now, the sparkle-pretties, because the incredible riches of love have never been communicated to them.  Sadly, it’s easy to learn to love sparkle-pretties and live for ourselves and the now, but it’s very hard to learn to live for eternity and value the people around us, and trust that they will value us in turn.

Our society has changed its assumptions.  Once upon a time, everyone pretended that they had loving families, even when they didn’t.  Everyone pretended that they’d fight for good, even if they wouldn’t.  And we all wanted to be the white hats.  That’s changed.    I know that there are people who feel like they can only trust the things they can put their hands on.  So many lies in their lives, how can they have a shield of faith?

Where does this lead the conversations we’ve been having about myths and realities?  Well, my myth is pretty nice.  Everything will always work out, and strangers will always help if you really need help.  You get up and fight as hard as you can for the cause of good, because that’s what you do.  What else would you do?  Dragons are out there, waiting to be slayed.  You’ll get knocked down but never out.  Oh wow, there are a lot of dragons.  Well, … best get busy then.  I’m a paladin at heart, I suppose.  But aren’t all my readers just the same?  I mean… right?  -sigh-

Bit of a tangled post, but it all wanted out.  Discuss.