Friday, May 18, 2012
And so, I hide. I hide the gift. But it's not really possible to hide. Really. I find myself leaping inwardly at the opportunity to host events or feed people. And even then I feel shame for wanting that. I recall one evening a friend asked me why I made food for a gathering and I was afraid to say, "Because I love doing it." I found myself conjuring a list of excuses to spout off, detracting and derailing any attempt to trap me in that box. It's silly, I know.
I have discovered that my affinity for hospitality is not so distinct from my teaching gift; both involve feeding people. I am simply driven to give people what they need for sustenance and growth. Teaching spiritually feeds the body of Christ, giving us nurture and goodness. The healthier we are as a body, the more united we are. We eat from the same plate and we drink from the same cup and we are one.
Food has a way of drawing people together into community and cohesion. One evening I made food for an event. I recall walking into the room carrying my plate of treats and what was a scattered room suddenly became a cluster of chatter and excitement circulating around food. The excitement wasn't over the food, but food was the venue for drawing together and uplifting those present. It is the same with our spiritual food and our expressions of that. Whether through the Eucharist or through the preaching of the Word, it is all food that draws us together and unites us in the body of Christ. And so I am convicted to more boldly use this gift to foster greater unity around me.
Several years ago a friend of mine identified compassion as his driving motivation in the expression of gifts. And he was saddened. Not because of anything internal but because of others' perceptions of his gift. He was told that his gift of compassion greatly incapacitated him in any kind of pastoral or leadership role. Translation: "You poor sap, what a girly gift to have." It was most unfortunate and greatly misguided. I would choose that man to sit through any pain, sorrow, or distress with me in life. Fortunately he disregarded that misconception and now serves as a hospital chaplain, walking friends and families through the pains and losses in life.
Stereotypes, whether of gender, culture, or race in the body can hamper us from the expression of our gifts and it is a key tool of the enemy to prevent us from serving and strengthening one another. Are there gifts you hide because you are afraid of how others will view your contribution? Are there cultural conventions that drive you into hiding the gifts God has blessed you with for the lifting up and edification of His body? Don't squander them. God gives them because they are needed. Use them boldly.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Kiefer's gone metro, which is kind of hot. I like a man who can dress. His acting is the annoying part in the new show, Touch. You would think after 9 years of raising an autistic child you would stop yelling his name every time the kid wanders off. He's not going to respond! Why are you yelling?! Nevertheless, yell he does - over and over and over again. Half the show is good ol' Kief running, out of breath, yelling after his son, who never responds. It's like 24 only not. I am mentally exhausted at the end of every episode. So, why do I watch it? Cryptology. Yeah, I know. Nerdy. But I love it. I overlook the poor directing in favor of puzzles and numbers. Who knows, maybe the plot will grow on me like Lost did. By the end of the show I was enamored with all the characters, poor acting and all. AND I got my number fix: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42! So here's to hoping.
Speaking of Lost, Jorge Garcia has moved on to the new show, Alcatraz. It's pretty good. A bunch of prisoners from Alcatraz disappear in the 60's and time jump to the present. They were all reported dead at the time so there's no record of any of them in the system and they're running amok wreaking havoc in San Fransisco. Jorge is a subject matter expert on all things Alcatraz and gets drafted as part of the team to track down all the criminals. It's kind of like a Fringe meets CSI show. There's a little romance woven in. One of the "jumpers" was a doctor from the 60's dating a guard who did not make the jump. He waited all these years trying to find her and now they have been reunited. Only the decades of separation have resulted in a torturous tension as he is older and she has not aged a day. It kind of wrenches your heart, like Dr. Who and River Song. So far I like it and am looking forward to seeing how the plot will unfold.
I started watching Modern Family. Don't judge me. A friend got me hooked. It's hilarious. And it makes me feel like my family is completely normal. So however delusional that may be, it is a comfort. I learn useful tidbits for child rearing as well. Take that Focus on the Family! In a recent episode, Mitchell and Cameron find out that Lily is a "runner." Oh how this resonates with me. Declan is a "runner." And there's no beating it out of them. On a family trip to Disneyland, they decide to put Lily on a kid leash (yes, I've done the same with Declan.) Apparently there is something socially unacceptable about tethering your child. I never knew... but I guess there is. Anyway, Grandpa Jay gets an idea and buys Lily a pair of princess heels to walk around in. He got the idea from his glamorous hobbling wife who was attempting to maneuver the amusement park in her 5 inch heels. So now Lily is perfectly content prancing around in her little heels and completely oblivious to the fact that she can't run. It's a great lesson. I plan on buying Declan his first pair of heels this week. I'll let you know how that works out for us.
Hello Sweetie. Dr. Who? Uhm, yes. I must confess. Matt Smith was my first. I will never love another like I love him. I have spent time with Eccleston, and even came close to falling for Tenant, but no one can captivate me quite like Smith. The latest season ended with "The Wedding of River Song." Spoilers! No, not really. I'll leave the end a mystery for those who haven't seen it. If you have not dabbled in the Who, you need to. That is all there is to it.
Well, that's pretty much all I have time to watch these days between school and full time mom. I've been flirting with the idea of watching Battlestar Galactica but the jury's still out. I dip my toe in the water with random episodes, but am still abstaining from a full on leap into the water. I'll catch up on other stuff when I get my Netflix back after graduation... in a year.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The Fall was something far greater than just a physical reality. We understand today that spiritual repercussions accompanied the physical pronouncements. "You will surely die" meant physically and spiritually. But what about the nakedness?
The work of the Cross negated the consequences of sin pertaining to spiritual death and it is our hope that one day we will overcome the consequence of physical death through the power of the resurrection. The physical reality is yet to be fully realized but the spiritual reality is here now. We have eternal life now because of the cross. But again, what of the nakedness?
The gift of discernment is an oddity in the nine-fold list of Holy Spirit empowered gifts. Words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faithfulness, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking, and interpretation of tongues. My sister, as well as several friends of mine, exercise discernment frequently, but it is different from the others in that it is not such an overt manifestation as are the other gifts. It is subtle and quite unnerving. How is it unnerving? We go through life learning to survive and mask our vulnerabilities from others who may take advantage of our exposure and suddenly someone comes along who quite effortlessly strips away the facade and sees us for what we truly are. We are suddenly naked.
I have talked to many men and women who function similarly when life overwhelms us. We strive even harder to cover up our despair in life by focusing on disarming others through our appearance. I have found I receive some of the greatest compliments when I am feeling my worst. Then along comes a friend with discernment and I find myself thinking, "Oh great! Why did I even bother wearing make-up today, let alone dressing myself?" What is the purpose of this obtrusive stripping?
Nakedness without shame. That is the purpose. It is the spiritual redemption of the cross continued in the work of the Holy Spirit allowing us to be exposed and naked without shame, or at least bringing the shame to the forefront so that we may be convicted to alter the source of shame. Discernment propagates authenticity. Authenticity is necessary for relationships both with God and with others. We cannot truly enter into community, intimacy, and relationships without nakedness. That is true both in its physical reality and spiritually in the body of Christ. It is awkward to feel the probing opened eyes of discernment. It is invasive and uncomfortable. But it is necessary in restoring us to Eden.
I never before associated the gift of discernment with a restoration to Eden until a recent conversation with a friend of mine and it was all a matter of timing. Since I had been so intently immersed in Genesis for weeks our conversation on the vulnerability created by discernment immediately thrust me into the creation and fall imagery. And I knew I wanted that. I wanted to return to Eden. I wanted to be naked and vulnerable without shame. I wanted to be authentic in community, intimacy, and relationship. I suddenly wanted to be discerned, for the layers to be peeled away and to be exposed because it is only through that exposure that we can truly enter into the fullness of relationship.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Play gets a little tricky this summer. I'm taking 3 classes at seminary: Evangelism and Discipleship, Growing in Ministry Leadership, and Globalization in Theological Education Chinese Worldview Today. Fortunately they are not all at the same time and staggered throughout May, June, and July. I'm really looking forward to the course in Globalization as it involves a trip to study in China for 2 weeks.
I took a long break from blogging this semester; more out of necessity than desire. Blogging is therapy for my mind. It gets a little crowded in there if I do not have a venue for spewing excess thoughts. This last semester I had so much paper writing, I was not at a loss for information dumps. My exegetical paper in James was the most time intensive assignment. Trying to keep up in Hebrew at the same time was rather challenging. I do not recommend taking two languages simultaneously and if I had to repeat it, I would definitely opt for the summer Hebrew class as many of my peers have done. Unfortunately I missed that memo and hardheadedly stuck to the degree program worksheet. Drat my inflexibility! I am learning. I am very thankful for my two tutors, Deirdre Brouer and Matt Hollomon, who got me through the year in one piece. I need to throw a shout out to Denise Morris as well for being an encouragement in Hebrew. For some reason just hearing her say, "You'll be fine" was reassuring enough to calm my panic-driven test anxiety.
I loved my theology and homiletics course this semester. We had some pretty fun banter going in the theology class. The more diverse the backgrounds in the class the funner, yes I said it, the funner the discourse. Homiletics - OMG! Who knew? I love preaching! Learn something new every day. I'm just glad to find that out. I had overruled my pastoral gifts because of a slight fear of preaching. Most of that had to do with just not knowing proper structure and format. Having those tools made all the difference.
I totally dropped the ball on Training and Mentoring this semester. It happens. Well, not to most people, but to me, it did. The geographical relocation combined with James semester stress and just life in general meant something had to give. Shifting my entire network to a new city and trying to maintain mentoring relationships in the former is not really an optimal equation for success. One of my summer projects will be to finish transition and move my mentoring network to Littleton. So beware! I'm on the prowl for loved and respected leaders in ministry to aid in the remainder of my seminary journey.
Declan has decided he likes coffee now and manages to find and sneak my brew.. I am glad I have mornings free for the summer. They are becoming quite the craze around here. I foresee a few trips to Monkey Business to let him burn off steam... and caffeine. I finally have time to peruse the neighborhood. There is a bowling alley around the corner and a skate city close by. Rainy day dilemmas solved! Declan loves hiking! Naturally. He doesn't really hike; he just rides along in the pack. I can't complain. It's great exercise. Naomi's getting better at distance; it just depends on the day. Some days she can hang for 5 or 6 miles, and other days she poops out at 2.
I have some camping trips in the works for the kids this summer. I'm really looking forward to it. We didn't get to camp at all when I was growing up. Probably had something to do with living in a steel jungle with the third largest population in the world; not too many opportunities to wander off in nature. I took Naomi when she was younger, but it's been a few years. Declan is coming up on 3 and the perfect age to start enjoying it and Naomi is still young enough not to get annoyed at family trips. That won't last much longer. 14ers. Yep. Going to do a few of them.
I started dancing again. I forgot how much I loved it. It's been a long time. I used to dance a lot. Part of my summer fun will be dancing. Other than writing I don't choose too many creative outlets; dancing will be one. I plan to paint a little too. I'm a horrible painter, but I like to do it anyway. It gives Naomi a chance to poke fun at me. She's my little artist. Every now and then I go to one of those 'Sipping and Painting' places and pretend to paint. I'll be doing that a few times this summer. I'm picking up piano again. At least that's the plan. It's been a long time but I always feel a tremendous amount of regret and sadness over letting the skill go when I hear others play. So that's enough of that. I'm just going to start playing again.I played scales this morning, boring but necessary. I'll get there. There will be lots of volleyball. I thought it would be a little harder to get back into it than it has been. It's been a few years since I've been able to play competitively. Something about being pregnant and having children sort of gets in the way of that. Although I did play volleyball while I was pregnant with Declan. That was fun... and awkward. But it explains why he's such a little adrenaline junky. I may have taken him on a few rollercoasters in utero as well. Rollercoasters! Yes. I need to do that this summer as well. And lots of water play. The kids love water.
What to watch ? I'm all caught up on Dr. Who for the new season starting in September. I'm rather limited in what I can watch since I swore off Netflix until I graduate from seminary, so whatever can be DVR'd pretty much. It just wouldn't be summer without a few Clint Eastwood flicks. Arid deserts, dirty unbathed men, sultry women and guns. I know, gross... but to each their own. I'd rather read than watch anyway, so I will probably focus most of my free time on reading what I want to read. A friend sent me a list of Kierkegaard to tackle and I have a few books on the Trinity piling up that I need to wade through.I will probably sneak in a Clive Cussler novel or two, you know, just to be gluttonous.
And that's my summer! More to come soon...
Sunday, May 13, 2012
A woman lies curled in her bed, seeking comfort and solace in light of another onset of menstruation. Seven years of fertility drugs and 3 miscarriages have left her empty and devoid of life. 2 years later this young woman again lay in bed, only this time delivering a little girl 15 weeks early. Motherhood for her is riddled with pain in conception, striving in delivery, and years of laborious efforts to keep her young daughter on par with growth scales.
A 21 yr old woman discovers she is pregnant. In a brief assessment of her life, direction and future, she realizes she is incapable of providing a stable home for her son. The only recourse she can see is to find a loving and promising home for him. Three days after he is born she feeds and changes him, buckles him into his car seat, prays over him, and kisses him goodbye as he is whisked away into the receiving arms of his new mother and father leaving the young woman’s arms empty and her body yearning to sustain an absent infant. Motherhood for her signifies emptiness, heartache, and questioning.
A young man stares out the driver’s seat window at the front doors of an abortion clinic. His girlfriend, inside for the last hour, walks intentionally to the car and slides into the passenger seat. They sit and talk over the implications of an ultrasound image portraying twin life within her. Fearful of what the world would think of them they follow through with their initial plan to terminate the pregnancy. 10 years later this man still grieves every anniversary of that day, crying over the loss of life that was part of him. To this seasoned, war-hardened marine, motherhood symbolizes loss, untrustworthiness, and death.
An abandoned and divorced mother struggles to put back together some semblance of normality for her family. She scrambles to recover a career laid aside for family planning, and provide for her children. For this woman motherhood means loneliness, undesirability, and unrealized dreams.
A middle-aged woman battles with the changes of her body as she nears the end of her reproductive cycles. While having a sense of fulfillment over the children she has, she watches them struggle in asserting their independence in the world and wonders if she should not and could not have done more. As she gazes upon her legacy in the world she is plagued by regret. Her body grieves the end of a season. Motherhood to her encapsulates purpose gone, mistakes made, and relationships underdeveloped.
One of many traits these seemingly unconnected individuals possess is that they have all come to the Church seeking wholeness and healing. The problem we encounter with identifying the Church as Mother is that it often adopts the form of our preconceived notions of motherhood as opposed to defining a concept that we are to then imitate. We define the Church by what we know instead of allowing the Church to define what we know. St. Augustine is credited with saying, “The Church is a whore, but she is my Mother.” Is she a whore because it is ingrained in her nature? Or is she instead a whore because we bring our fallen and broken images of mother and impose them upon her?
The Church is to stay true to the purpose of her existence in morality, maintenance, and mission. The Virtuous Bride of Christ brings healing and restoration to a broken world. The Church, as the body and bride of Christ is to reflect His name, desirability and character to the world. Throughout history and into the present the church frequently ignores matters of social concern and her role to meet those concerns. She sacrifices morality, and mission for the sake of her own exaltation and maintenance.
Proverbs 31 is written as a literal explanation of what is desired in a good wife. As women work through the implications of this passage, the impossibility of this character and her characteristics becomes apparent and overwhelming. In the context of the book of Proverbs these many characteristics are repeated throughout the book as qualities belonging to the personification of wisdom. True wisdom belongs to God.
In the NT men are exhorted in their roles as husbands to be Christ-like. We understand the exemplification of these characteristics to be good because Christ, as God, possessed the divine nature of God. Husbands strive to be more like God in character through their roles as husbands. Rarely do we look at the qualities praised in women as also being characteristic of the divine nature; and yet they are. The characteristics depicted in the personification of wisdom and culminating in Prov. 31 are exemplary of the role of wife and mother. In the NT, wives are exhorted in their roles as wives in comparison to the Church as Christ’s bride. Since Scripture is not intended to be contradictory then the roles described in Prov. 31 not only apply to the physical femininity of women in the role of wife but also apply to the spiritual femininity of the Church in her role as the bride of Christ.
Proverbs 31:10-31 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: "Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
The original audience for this passage was the nation of Israel. When we extrapolate meaning and application from a passage for the purpose of applying it to a modern audience, we must be true to the process. While these attributes were indeed desirable for a spouse at that time, we must question why these traits are admirable. Each and every trait is desirable because they are attributes of God’s character. In all the history of mankind have you ever seen or known God to exalt or honor characteristics that are not first and foremost His own? The answer is – no! So we must conclude that these are characteristics of God. Each attribute described in Proverbs 31 aligns with a parallel use in reference to the personification of Wisdom throughout wisdom literature in the OT. If these attributes are desirable in a bride because they reflect the divine nature of God, then it stands to reason that as the Bride of Christ these are attributes Christ desires in us and characteristics that please Him.
So the question remains who are we attempting to please? Do we desire to please the world or is our desire to serve our Groom. Are we, the Church, prudent with our finances, spending wisely on land, buildings, and modifications? (Prov. 31:13-16) Are we reaching out to embrace, feed, and clothe the poor and needy? (Prov. 31:20) Are we vigilant? (Prov. 31:18) Do we focus on pleasing the masses, and appealing to their senses or are we faithful to a genuine respect and fear of the LORD? (Prov. 31:30) Do we make our Groom's name known and respected to the world? (Prov. 31:23)
“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.” Ideally this is a very difficult role to embrace. God trusts us? Why would He do such a thing? Is it even theologically sound to suggest that God would place His trust in something outside of Himself? This may be where we are permeated with skepticism and doubt. Are we outside of God, or are we truly grafted into His body and part of Him extending to the world? Now THAT is an overwhelming concept to ponder. God has pulled us into Himself, into His family, and trusts us fully with His mission to the world. That can certainly hold water. But what of our handling of this task? Have we, as Prov 31: 12 suggests, brought Him good, not harm, all the days of our life? Conceptually, yes; specifically, no. Because we exist today, we are an attestation to the life-giving power and endurance of God in the world; 2000 years is nothing to sneeze at. We have failed in some aspects because we are an organism compiled of imperfect and broken people. In a Kingdom economy a good wife and mother is the Church. I am not suggesting some hidden secrecy or foretelling prophecy, it is an eternal principle of the intimate relationship between bride and groom and thereby a subsequent tool for defining the role of the Church in her relationship to Christ.We, the Church, are Christ's Bride and True Mother to the lost and hurt in the world and grace emanates from our very existence.
The scenarios I shared at the beginning of this piece were not mere hyperbole. They were not construed to evoke emotion or manipulate your feelings. These are real scenarios that I have observed and participated in. This was my family and our experiences in and with motherhood. The woman struggling torridly through the barren wasteland of infertility, the young woman who found herself wrestling through the implications of unplanned pregnancy, the young man fearful of cultural and societal impressions and expectations, the woman picking up the pieces of a broken marriage, and the aging woman’s realization of a season ending - these are our stories. These stories are common within the Church and often overlooked and the Church does not fulfill her role as mother to this very real pain and sorrow in her midst. This Mother's Day I challenge you to question what "mother" means to you and ask the question, "Are we emulating brokenness in our expression of this role in the Church or are we adapting the divine image of Mother lain out for us in Scripture?" This Mother's Day, whether you are a physical mother or not, remember that we are all a part of the body of Christ and therefore Bride and Mother with implications much greater and longer lasting than any role we will have in this life. We are Mother.