Saturday, February 16, 2013

Right Now (How God Woke Me Up from a Nap)

Right now, talking to You seems like a chore.
It's more of an oughta
than a wanna.

"Pray for me!," she asks.
And I do.
I pray to a God she doesn't believe in...on her behalf.
It feels heavy, as if I have to have enough belief for the both of us.
I suspect she thinks of prayer in the same way that people bury saints upside in their yards to sell houses, or kiss a blarney stone for luck, and blow out birthday candles to make a wish.
A superstition. A good luck charm. A magic word.
And what does she really want me to pray?
That the elderly man will be healed of the cancer that riddles his body?
However, he's lived a full life and he's likely tired of pitting the good cells against the bad ones.
Maybe he wants to be done.
Should I pray that she gets to say good-bye?
Or perhaps that she can grieve openly and well,,, surrounded by loved ones.
Or maybe, just maybe, this will be the first time she encounters You.
In her grief.
In the prayer that didn't work.

"Pray for me," he mentions.
And I mean to.
I really do.
But I forget.
Sometimes I can barely manage my own prayers and it seems too much to take on anyone else's.
But You want me to.
It's community. A bigger picture. A bearing of burdens.
So I tentatively put my head into the yoke, which still feels heavy, but You make light.
You always do.
You work best in paradox.

Servant leader.
Baby king.
God man.
Death into life.
Last, now first.
Suffering to joy.
Lions and lambs.

Then comes my prayer, but my lips are silent and my heart feels empty.
Seems I'm mumbling to the ceiling again.

With my head and with my heart I do KNOW that you are there.
Sometimes I need to feel it too.
But I know that feelings come and go, even though you remain.
Prayer is work sometimes.
And just like marriage, it doesn't rely on feelings...rather commitment.

Throughout the day I sometimes toss out Twitter-prayers
140 characters or less
"Hey God! Thanks for the snow on the trees. You're quite an artist."
"Help me be...patient, strong, organized, brave, compassionate."
"Be near."
It's constant contact throughout the day and that's something, right?
But You never re-tweet or favorite.

Then You remind always do,
That prayer is a conversation.
Not a one-way list of demands or thanks.
You invite me to crawl into Your lap as You wrap Your maternal God-wings around me.
You tell me to whisper in Your ear.
To nestle in and hear the beat of Your heart.
To sense Your presence and Your love.
To stop the busy. Stop the demands.
Be still and listen.

You work best in paradox.
The created speaks to the Creator.
God knows and loves man.
You empower me to approach You with intimacy, but trembling and fear,
In awe of Your holy friendliness.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Closer to God?

This week, a friend of mine caught up with me and said, "Can I ask you something?" Her tone let me know that she was going to ask me a personal question, so I prepared myself. As her eyes welled up with tears, she asked if Robert could pray for a particular situation. At first this caught me off guard because he is just an acquaintance of hers. I was a bit perplexed that she was requesting prayer from Robert and not me. However, as she continued to describe the situation, a lightbulb went off in my head. She then went on to state what I was thinking...She wanted Robert to pray because he had an "in" with God. I told her that we didn't agree that he was any closer to God than anyone else, but we would both be glad to pray for the situation.

On one hand, I was glad that this person, a non-practicing and non-church attending Catholic, felt comfortable approaching me about a personal and spiritual matter. However, it also made me very sad. It broke my heart to think that she thought that she couldn't directly approach God and that she needed a pastor to be an intermediary. As a Baptist, I (we) hold strongly to the concept of "priesthood of the believer." On the Southern Baptist Convention website states this, "We affirm the priesthood of all believers. Laypersons have the same right as ordained ministers to communicate with God, interpret Scripture, and minister in Christ's name."

So I will pray and Robert will pray, both with equal authority to do so before God. I wish she knew that she could do so too.

Shaking The Dust from My Sandals

My husband graduated from Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas in December of 1994. The president of the seminary when he started was Russell Dilday, whom Robert admired and respected. Dr. Dilday was ousted from the seminary in a coup of sorts when the largely fundamentalist board of trustees voted him out the day that labor was induced for our first son. Robert was very upset and the big headline announcing the Dilday had been "overthrown" was the front page headline of the Adam's souvenir birthday copy of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Next they brought in Kenneth Hemphill as president, a more conservative choice. He wasn't terrible and it didn't have much impact on the remaining few months of Robert's time at seminary. He remained at SWBTS for 9 years and then Paige Patterson was voted in a president, a big move far to the right and nestled right in the bosom of fundamentalism.

As an alumnus, Robert gets a quarterly issue of the Southwestern News, which has human interest stories about happenings at the seminary, accomplishments of alumni, etc. He never reads it, but I thumb through it periodically. It usually makes me so angry and/or nauseous that I avoid it. However, I picked it up and scanned the major articles tonight while cooking dinner and now I need medication for high blood pressure.

In a nutshell, Paige Patterson is whack! The last time I read the Southwestern News, which resulted in an eye twitch, the news that vexed me before had an encore in this issue. Patterson is a big game hunter and he leads "Game Banquets" which serve the multi-faceted purposes of male bonding, gluttony (I suspect--it is a pet Baptist sin after all), evangelism, and extolling the virtues of "biblical manhood." What is biblical manhood? Well, as a woman I don't dare enter the male conclave, but I can speculate that it includes hunting/gathering, chest-thumping, and keeping the missus busy in the kitchen. Just to clarify, I am not dissing women in the kitchen...if that's where they want to be. While I am in feminist in that I believe I can be and do anything that a man can do (with the exception of anatomical constraints, like peeing while standing up), part of that feminism comes in the loose boundaries of previously compartmentalized gender roles. Men can cook and clean, if they want to, and women can do car repair and yardwork, if that's their yen. I will also state that I do tend to prefer some stereotypical gender roles. I do the bulk of the cooking for my family, but not because I have to. It's because I want to. We have a true partnership and take up the slack for each other depending on the season of life, busyness, and personal preferences. I suspect that doesn't happen in Patterson's house.

Furthermore, this whole concept of big game hunting gets me. This one article states, "He has also taken down some of the world's most dangerous game, including a lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, hippo, crocodile, and an Alaskan brown bear." Here's my question...WHY? While I am not a fan of hunting, I am not morally opposed to it, if the meat is going to be consumed. Hunting for pure sport though? Absolutely reprehensible! I firmly believe that God gave man dominion over animals and clearly indicated that we could use them for food. However, I believe that dominion includes good stewardship and care of animals. One of my friends, who happens to be a Nigerian Muslim, told me how he gloated when he first killed an antelope with a bow he had made. He put a notch in his bow to record his kill. He said that his grandfather took him to task for bragging and being proud of killing an animal and taught him to respect the life of the animal and express thanks for the gift of food that had been given. That's what hunting should be like. Unless you are about to be eaten by a lion or attacked by a crocodile, there is no reason to kill for sport and entertainment. And, by the way, an unarmed wild beast isn't "dangerous" compared to a man with a high powered rifle.

As I continued flipping through the alumni magazine I scanned another article about students evangelizing people waiting in line for the grand opening of a pizza restaurants. My feelings for this type of evangelism aside, here's what the article said:

The group shared the message of salvation with many, including Alex, a student at Texas Christian University; Jay, a lesbian; Todd, an employee of Toppers (Pizza); and Santiago, a 17-year-old high school student.

Everyone in this "cast of characters" is listed by vocation (or student status) except for "Jay, the lesbian." What the heck? First of all, how did they know Jay was a lesbian? Did she have a butch haircut (could have been growing out after chemo)? Was she wearing a shirt that read, "I <3 other chicks?" Did she have a rainbow bracelet on her wrist? Or does she just randomly announce her gender preference for sex to complete strangers? Even if the SWBTS students did actually somehow know for sure that Jay was a lesbian, why is she the only one singled out for her sexuality? Why not, "Alex, a heterosexual; Jay, a lesbian; Todd, a heterosexual open to exploring bisexuality, etc.?" When I pointed this out to Robert, he remarked that what jumped out at him was that there was a bland vocational-type modifier for every person except for Jay, who was labeled as a sinner. She just had a scarlet letter L slapped upon her chest. So if they were doing sin-assignment, maybe the list should have read, "Alex, the porn-addicted college student; Jay, the lesbian; Todd, the lying racist; and Santiago, the bully and luster." (For the record, I don't know Alex, Jay, Todd, or Santiago---just trying to make a point).

Aside from the inspiring articles, there was an advertisement for a women's conference...The Art of Homemaking. You too can be encouraged and uplifted by keynote speakers such as Michelle Duggar. (Back when we were in seminary, we were all kind of fans of birth control). This is because at a graduate seminary, you can get a degree in homemaking. There is a whole prototype house to practice those baking, sewing, greeting your husband, and fetching his slippers kind of skills. And if you are a woman who wants to get a Master of Divinity degree? (The same degree my husband earned there). You can earn that degree, but with a few feminine alterations. Instead of taking expository preaching, you have to take women's ministries in the local church and in lieu of advanced expository preaching you must take expository communication of biblical truth. Women can't preach, silly girl! But oh, since you won't be taking all of those hard-hitting preaching and theology courses, you get one more elective than the men do, so you could take fundamentals of clothing construction or the value of a child instead. I only wish I were kidding. And all of the female professors who were there when Robert was as student...professors who taught theology, ethics, philosophy, and missiology? Gone. There are a handful of female faculty who remain---to teach voice, piano, childhood education, and women's studies.


You were a really great seminary at one point in time SWBTS and we have many fond memories. Seems like that all left with Dilday. And no, we won't be donating when you solicit from us.

Edited to add: Want a good book on homemaking that isn't so rigid, even though it was written decades ago? Try The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Beyonce Wars (Women, Sex Appeal, and Beauty)

Aside from the fight on the gridiron Sunday night at the Super Bowl, another war was being fought according to many...a war on women. Twitter was afire with the #notbuyingit as people were protesting the objectification of women in the ads. Go Daddy seemed to be the most opposed ad, with the passionate kiss between supermodel Bar Refaeli and computer nerd-guy (perpetuating 2 stereotypes). However, the beer commercials that relied on women being beer delivery systems (you know, bringing beer to the men) and being panned across various body parts and the car ads that relied on the whole "chicks dig men with cool cars" theme, it was true. Women were largely objectified.

This video explains a bit more and is well worth the 9 minutes it takes to watch, especially if you are a woman, have a daughter, have a sister, have a mother, or have ever loved a woman. In other words...everyone.

Then enter...


Aside from the fact that she apparently had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions too, Beyonce polarized the Christian community. Apparently there was a tweeting war between the "Beyonce is trashy" and "You are threatened by beautiful women" camp. Honestly, I was crocheting, eating, and talking with people throughout the Super Bowl and not paying a bit of attention to Twitter. However, this @ElizabethEsther popped up on my radar the next day and it was entertaining and a bit perplexing to read the "conversation" throughout her Twitter feed. Well, as much as you can have a conversation with people throwing out soundbites in 140 characters or less with no real discussion going on. See for yourself below. (Disclaimer: I had never heard of Elizabeth Esther before this nor do I follow her blog. You can find her and decide for yourself what to think, if you are so inclined.)

So, my thoughts on the Beyonce hoopla?

They're kind of all over the place.
  1.  I think Beyonce is gorgeous and I like the message about body image she conveys, in that she is not anorexic-looking. She has a beautiful curvy figure and she embraces it.
  2. I think she could have worn more clothes for her Super Bowl performance.
  3. I appreciated the fact that she didn't lip-sync.
  4. Beyonce is multi-talented as a singer, dancer, and performer.
  5. Many (most?) of her dance moves were overtly sexual. And I'm not the pastor's wife from Footloose. I love to dance. I just question sexual pelvic thrusts and the repeated opening and closing of one's legs in a suggestive way while wearing dominatrix-type clothes.
  6. Her songs are catchy.
  7. The chorus to All the Single Ladies isIf you liked it then you should have put a ring on it. If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it. Don't be mad once you see that he want it, if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it. What is IT? Is it sex? Or even it referring to herself, as a woman? As this song got stuck in my head and I found myself humming it, I realized that it is really objectifying.
And for the record, I am not the least bit threatened by Beyonce or her beauty. I am just a bit saddened that she's banking on her body as much or more so than her talent...or at least that seems like what she is advertising,

I'm on a bit of a feminist rant in my personal life, so this likely isn't the end of my pontificating. What say you?