The bliss of ignorance in a world of pots projecting and kettles kvetching.

This is a reboot of the conversation on faith that wrestles. The first post is here.

Projection is as much a part of being human as breathing. We all do it, since we cannot help viewing things through the lens of our experiences. However, as we grow up, and particularly as we grow spiritually the desire, followed by the skill to temper that impulse, should grow as well.

This culture however, offers us every opportunity to spend our entire lives projecting our issues onto other people, judging, and engaging in smug, self-righteous finger pointing while neglecting to confront sin in our own lives. The Internet exacerbates this tendency for obvious reasons. I don’t want to park here yet, although I will return to this point. When our older girls were young I told them often:

“Respect others’ right to be different from you.”

General principles of right and wrong are one thing. Expecting that to translate into the same look for others as it does for you means you’ve overstepped your boundaries. To the extent that you need to pick someone apart over the insignificant, it reveals discomfort with yourself, your choices, and your life, regardless of claims to the contrary..

With our younger children I find a different lesson emerging more often and it’s very helpful that it can be quoted verbatim from the pages of Scripture. Paul admonishes those who judge others for the very things that they themselves do:

in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

To use a well known colloquialism: The pot calling the kettle black may annoy me, but more than that, it annoys God.

I also recently reminded them how strongly God hates our complaining, using Numbers 21 as an example. We err when we presume upon the grace we have been freely given and use it as an excuse to live a life without intention, ignoring the “minute” sins we engage in daily. Sins which we condemn in others and yet excuse in ourselves. Everywhere you look, listen and read, our culture is full of this. Complaining is the most ubiquitous.

Women complain about men complaining about women. Men complain about women who complain about men. Whites complain about blacks who complain about whites while both complain about Hispanics. Democrats complain about Republicans complaining about Democrats. Communists and Alternative Righters complain about them both. News articles and programs are speculation masquerading as facts. OpEds are mistaken for news, and we are constantly invited to point and stare at personal train wrecks made news which in years’ past we were able to live blissfully unaware.

Whole forums and platforms are chiefly dedicated to picking apart and condemning others for their views, lifestyles and choices. On and on they go. The most ironic and catchy title is one called ‘Get Off My Internets.” Christians, who should know better, have increasingly joined the fray.

I’ve made a pretty big push over the last couple of months to eliminate these kinds of things from my life, but as I noted before, old habits die hard, and it’s very hard to un-know something once you know it. None of this is to say that it is wrong to commiserate online or offer commentary on controversial topics. I have no intention of fully withdrawing.

It is, however, becoming increasingly obvious to me how much happier are the people who live blissfully ignorant; not only of news which they can do nothing about, but without a care in the world with regard to anyone but Christ’s opinion -along with those they are truly accountable to- about what they do, what they think, and how or whether they express it.

It’s one thing to understand clearly and without wavering that stealing is wrong, that lying is wrong, that divorce is bad, or that murder is evil. It’s also wise to be willing to acknowledge that not all choices are equal regardless of circumstance. These are things that we should encourage one another in so that we all come to a fuller measure of faith. Too often however, we use the worldly maxim “public knowledge means fair game” to allow ourselves a wide berth in condemning others without ever once stopping to consider how we might feel if we were in their shoes.

All of this points to something we neglect to consider. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too do our spirits. Absent the spiritual sustenance we need to think on the Beautiful, the intellectual stimulation we need to think on the True, and physical challenge required to keep us actively productive, we’re left with nothing more than spiritual death, mental junk, and physical atrophy.

This approach to life outside of eternal matters and minding our own business is greatly underrated:

don't know don't care

 

Mortality is an admonition and invitation to love harder.

Over in my Reading Room is an introduction to a series of posts on an insightful book discussing modern romance. It is written by a comedian, but it’s proving to be an good book. Early on was a quote from an author and relationship counselor I’d never heard of, Ester Peler. A short bit of reconnaissance led to an excerpt from her book on the subject of a supposed dichotomy between passion and security which she claims is inherent in marriage.

You can find the excerpt from her book here.

Peler’s overall assertion is that the very nature of marriage is designed to short-circuit passion and connection. Most people, she notes, are just not able to stay engaged in a satisfying way over several years of marriage. She describes what happened when she dared reveal publicly, at a party, what she was writing a book about:

As often happens in a public discussion, the most complex issues tend to polarize in a flash, and nuance is replaced with caricature. Hence the division between the romantics and the realists.

The romantics refuse a life without passion; they swear that they’ll never give up on true love. They are the perennial seekers, looking for the person with whom desire will never fizzle. Every time desire does wane, they conclude that love is gone. If eros is in decline, love must be on its deathbed. They mourn the loss of excitement and fear settling down.

At the opposite extreme are the realists. They say that enduring love is more important than hot sex, and that passion makes people do stupid things. It’s dangerous, it creates havoc, and it’s a weak foundation for marriage. In the immortal words of Marge Simpson, “Passion is for teenagers and foreigners.” For the realists, maturity prevails. The initial excitement grows into something else—deep love, mutual respect, shared history, and companionship. Diminishing desire is inescapable. You are expected to tough it out and grow up.

I couldn’t identify with the extremes her two camps fell into. Why you can’t have both? You may not have both 100% of the time, but certainly you could a lot of the time. Finally there was something later in the excerpt to which I could relate:
For a lucky few, this is barely a challenge. These couples can easily integrate cleaning the garage with rubbing each other’s back.
For them, there is no dissonance between commitment and excitement, responsibility and playfulness. They can buy a home and be naughty in it, too.
They can be parents and still be lovers. In short, they’re able to seamlessly meld the ordinary and the uncanny.

While contemplating how we got to be this way (since I don’t believe it’s because I’m a perfect wife nor my husband necessarily an alpha stud), I was suddenly reminded of what Paul wrote to the Romans (chapter 15) about the things recorded from before being written for our learning.

Depending on your perspective this might seem morbid, but we have been -ever since we’ve known each other-  intimately connected to the fact of our mortality. It is said that the young don’t believe they can die, but that was not true of us. My mother died when she was 31 (I never knew her). My mother-in-law passed away at 44 (I barely knew her). My husband had a strong sense as a young man that because of where he was culturally and geographically, he was as likely to be cut down young as old.

Our kids have experienced a lot of loss as well.. This may be a part of life when you hail from very large families on both sides, but when you’re paying attention, it can inform your sense of what’s important.

It is not at all uncommon for a knock down drag out fight to be concluded swiftly with one sibling making up with another before parting ways because they don’t want to part on that note. The Dictator and I are far from perfect, but we can really piss each other off, say our peace, go right to bed, and wrap tight around each other. The next morning it’s as if nothing ever happened.

I used to think this is what most couples do: Keep short accounts, expect that your spouse will be irritating sometimes, or that mundane routine might kick in, but knowing that you’d miss all of that if it were suddenly not there anymore. This is the kind of thing that keeps you turning toward your mate with a love, energy, and gratitude that can’t help but keep a spark there.

Peler did offer an example of one couple whose marriage floated on their understanding that life is fleeting, but their understanding did not produce much in the way of good fruit, which brings me to the point of this ramble.

Embracing rather than ignoring the reality of our mortality can make all our relationships better, starting with our marriages but certainly not ending there. The fatal mistake is believing the lie that we should do whatever we feel like whenever we feel like it because “we only live once.”

Understanding that this life is not all there is provides the missing link needed to distinguish between choosing to love your mate with abandon versus choosing to shower all that “love” on yourself.

Exceptions don’t validate fat acceptance movement.

This post is mostly fresh, and partly re-warmed leftovers from a 2012 entry on my now defunct blog. The message is still relevant as the trend of forcing the national consciousness towards acceptance of what should be rejected has gained more steam over the past five years.

This couple’s photo and story, along with glowing commentary on how this husband proves that love and sexual attraction are much more about what’s on the inside than the outside, is another boon to the fat acceptance movement. It comes when many women are working out harder to look good in bikinis and tank tops as summer kicks into high gear.

This hoopla is an attempt to do two things. The first is discouraging women from exercising self-control and taking charge of their health. The second is to denigrate natural, healthy male sexuality by implying that men who prefer fit women are evil, mean and shallow creatures who value a woman’s appearance over her character.

The problem with this is that our outer life is usually a decent gauge of our inner life. In other words, a few extra pounds as we age or after the birth of a baby are one thing. It’s easy to see how this can happen when we do not make the necessary adjustments to mitigate the natural changes which come with aging or child birth. Perpetually carrying around an extra 50 or more pounds for years on end, however, may indicate an issue with self-control that will rear its head in other areas of life as well.

To use a woman who has earned the love and devotion of a man over several years, has given him two young children so far ( this is a young couple),  as an example to indicate that any chubby chick can reasonably expect to land a hot guy is ridiculous on its face. Does it happen occasionally? It does, but exceptions don’t create new rules. Rather, they highlight the opposite tendency of most people.

I seem -perpetually- to be losing (and gaining) 20-25 pounds so this isn’t body shaming. I am also, despite the extra weight which makes me painfully average among American women my age, married to a man who is above average in looks and indisputably conventionally handsome. He is not rocking abs anymore like that guy, but I digress.

Like the husband in the Yahoo story, mine is virtually blind to what I view as the disparity in our presentation, roundly dismissing with incredulity any assertion on my part that he is the better looking half of this duo. Gratitude doesn’t begin to summarize my response, but I’ve also had nearly 25 years to rack up the track record that led to his love blindness. I was also pretty fit when he first laid eyes on me.

There is a bigger problem here though, no pun intended. I was discussing this with a friend and she pointed out that we (the larger culture) have reduced this subject to black and white, when there is plenty of room for gray.

We have relegated “fit” almost entirely to the realm of emaciated models or world class athletes. Normal healthy ladies who aren’t obese yet also without muscled arms and bikini worthy abs lament their lack of fitness. So you’re either a total health nut or you eat donuts and Doritos, without much middle ground in between.

For those women who can’t or don’t want to get to super fit, they give up on just trying to be a normal healthy human weight. It would be good for us to accept that normal human doesn’t usually look like an athlete or a model, but nor does normal healthy human equal obese. We’ve fallen into the ditches of extremes.

As I thought about her words, I was reminded of a trip I recently took with our girls into an Under Armor outlet store, drawn in by the desire to take a closer look at a very large Incredible Hulk statue they had placed there. Instead of being shirtless, as the Hulk is normally seen, he was wearing an Under Armor shirt.

The store was a picture of the extremes my friend mentioned, with the super fit perusing the racks alongside those who clearly seemed to view the clothing as athleisure rather than something to get sweaty in. Since I don’t fall into the former category, I voiced my concern that I looked like I belong in the latter category. Our daughter looked at me and assured me that I am not what anyone has in mind when they think “fat people”. In other words, I’ve allowed my mind to be trapped in the thinking of extreme dichotomies when considering what it means to be healthy. And I know better.

Even though I find this love story romantic and sweet, it’s a bad idea in these cases to celebrate exceptions. Especially at the expense of encouraging the greater population to do their best to be as healthy as possible. It is not only foolish. For many women, this is downright deadly.

Feeling Used and Unrealistic Expectations

This post was ripped in its entirety from the blog Lindsay’s Logic:

I hear from women fairly often that they don’t like sex because they feel their husband just wants their body and they feel used. There are women out there who have really selfish or abusive husbands, but many times when women have this feeling, the problem isn’t the husband being awful. It’s the wife having unrealistic expectations.

For one thing, men don’t have quite the expectations about sex that women have. In many cases, men want the sex itself while women want everything around the sex like feeling close. And while women like to integrate everything, men tend to think of things separately. Women tend to multitask, but men tend to focus. While a woman is wanting sex to be everything about their relationship all rolled into one, with appreciation for minds, emotions, bodies, and abilities as part of the experience of sex, men are usually just wanting to focus on the physical at the moment. So when that happens, women might think they’re only being appreciated for their bodies and they get offended. But it’s not that they’re only being appreciated for their bodies. It’s just that appreciating her body is what the man is focused on at that time.

There’s a scene in the old Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace where Cary Grant’s character, Mortimer, has just eloped and he takes his brand new wife back to her house to pack her things for their honeymoon trip. He’s chasing her around a tree in the yard, hinting at how much he’s looking forward to that night, and tells her she’s so beautiful. She responds by saying “But Mortimer, you’re going to love me for my mind, too.” He says cavalierly, “One thing at a time!” He’s focused on just one thing at the moment, and it’s not her mind.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay for men to have that urge and fulfill it within marriage. It’s okay for a man to appreciate his wife’s body without also paying homage to her mind every time. People used to understand this. The movie came out in 1944. Today, it would be called sexist. But you can’t change human nature. It’s okay to focus on just the physical sometimes. It doesn’t always have to happen on the woman’s more emotional turf, where she is most comfortable. It doesn’t have to be all candles and going slow. It can be raw and needy and gritty and crazy too sometimes.

If you get your ideas about sex today from Hollywood or pretty much any kind of media, they depict sex as both man and woman crazed for each other and can’t keep their hands off each other and it just happens. And it’s usually so romantic. Candle-light and soft music, staring into one another’s eyes, etc, etc. The problem is, this is not real life.

I’m not saying sex can’t be romantic. Only that it isn’t always romantic, and it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t have to both start out equally passionate. It’s okay to start and then get warmed up as you go. It’s okay to not be in the mood, but engage anyway and let yourself get carried away.

When you’re married, you’re not the only one who matters any more. You’re one with someone else. And if they have a need, you have a need too, even if you don’t feel it. Meeting that need might take some sacrifice sometimes.

It’s okay for sex to sometimes be about meeting a need or giving to the other person and not about romance. That’s not being used. That’s being unselfish.

Being used is when you have sex outside God’s plan – outside marriage. Those people in the movies who have all the candles and music and can’t keep their hands off each other, but aren’t married? They’re using each other. It looks like romance, and our society tells us that’s the proper context for all sex – some feeling of love and passion. But without a marriage, they’re using one another. They wake up in the morning and they have no commitment to one another. They walk away, not giving of themselves, but thinking about what they got from one another. A feeling. For a little while.

In marriage, it’s different. In marriage, you belong to one another, so there’s no taking from one another. You’re not being used. You’re fulfilling the vows you spoke to one another. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do together.

Ladies, embrace your husband wanting your body and revel in his appreciation of it. There are times for appreciating minds and times to just be physical together. Learn to love the way you can both drive your man crazy and satisfy him too. God made you to do this. It’s not bad to embrace the physical side of your relationship, and that side isn’t less important than the emotional or mental side. Your marriage needs both.

If you need to make some changes to make it feel better or to add some romance, that’s fine too. But don’t fall for the world’s idea that sex without romance is necessarily bad or being used. When you belong to one another, giving freely to your spouse is a gift to yourself as well.

 I would much rather have you offer agreement and encouragement for these thoughts over at Lindsay’s Logic. 

My familiarity with Lindsay doesn’t go much beyond this post, but she did a commendable here and I agree with her post in its entirety.

Whitewashing black fatherlessness helps no one.

While doing research for an offline project, I ran across this article advertising a book on the impact of fatherlessness on the lives of black men who have produced famous and widely read  literature. These portions jumped out at me:

“One question pulls this together: What is the impact on black men when their fathers are absent?” said Green, who is also an associate professor at UNCG. “It’s quite significant, but it’s not debilitating. It doesn’t mean life is over for them, that they’re ‘at risk’ or that they have a target on them.”

Later, the author continues:

The success of the profiled authors proves that the absence of a paternal figure doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle, Green found.

“I’m not saying in this book that not having a father doesn’t make a tremendous impact, because it does,” Green said. “I’m not saying they will all become award-winning writers or the president of the United States. What I am saying is that they have a chance to be something – and we need to encourage that.”

It is a monumental mistake to use Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright as templates for the typical black man who grows up without his father, which is what this book does. Exceptional cases are just that; exceptional. That we know their names at all is reason enough to discount them as indicative of the average man, regardless of race.

This is not helpful.

At all.

 

Friday Frivolities 4: Fashion, funnies, and furniture notes.

It’s been a very rainy week and as such we’ve been indoors a lot, with exceptions for a couple of trips to our local library which has amazing activities, events, and classes to beat the dog days of summer doldrums in our city. Even if it wasn’t raining all week, it would be a sweltering sauna all day, followed by a hand swatting mosquito farm at night. Such as summertime in a tropical climate. We’ve made good use of the time though.

The life changing magic of tidying up rather than reorganizing old, useless stuff:

We’re doing some much needed redecorating and painting of the interior of several room in our house which offered the perfect opportunity for some much needed purging.  I have been following along as Annasach documents her adventures in minimizing her spaces, and I found it rather inspiring as well.

Our children have faced this purging of their things with mixed results, but when their room is restocked, it should be much easier for them to keep clean when there is less junk in there to contend with.

They don’t make things like they used to:

The man and I recently shopped for living room furniture. After visiting every major store in our area, I narrowed down what I liked best; a sectional which easily seats the seven of us plus one more person and an oversized matching ottoman.

Before finalizing the order and ponying up the cash, we did some research: reviews, etc. We couldn’t find anything about the particular furniture I’d chosen, (new release), but we found plenty of negative reviews about the company I’d chosen to buy the furniture from.

Before I panicked and headed back to the drawing board -since I really liked what I’d chosen- we decided to check consumer websites for reviews of every major furniture store in our metro area. After all, people usually on put their thoughts on record when they are disgruntled  rather than pleased and the company I was ordering from is pretty big.

I included stores known for producing high quality furniture as well, since I was prepared to get what I paid for and shell out more cash for better pieces which will last many years. I am glad I decided to do that, because the results were telling.

Even among companies such as Ethan Allen and Thomasville furnishings, it was easy to find numerous complaints of workmanship, service, delivery times, etc. While that was a little bit discouraging, it did settle me down about the choice of furniture I had settled on since there was clearly no guarantee that going with another company, and buying something I didn’t like as much (I’d already been to all of them anyway) was necessarily going to yield better results. Bottom line is that they just don’t make things like they used to and all the stuff is probably being made by the same company anyway. Just another one of those little things that you miss from yesteryear.

Feminine fashion and perception:

Every couple of months or so I click over and see what interesting stuff has been presented at the website Beyond Black and White. I have a whole lot of opinions and thoughts about their overall agenda (some favorable, some not), but one thing I appreciate is the blog hostess’ push to encourage black women to embrace a more feminine attitude and persona.

Recently she discovered the lure of the pinup girl look after seeing a lot of women dressed in vintage wear while on vacation. She decided to try the look and was amazed at the reaction she got from people. People were suddenly drawn to her, and she the only thing she’d done differently was girl up her look. A lot.

I liked the post because we have known about models like Angelique Noire, the black pinup for a few years, and I wrote before that one of our daughters is very drawn to the highly feminine vintage clothing look.

In reality, it’s not just black women who could use some girlying up. Women as a whole have lost touch with the innate desire to embrace and be beautiful, but black women do have a steeper curve when it comes to the perception of femininity, which is one of the things I do agree with Mrs. Karazin about.

Friday funnies:

I am not, I repeat NOT like the parody Kyle Exum masterfully presents here in his “Mom Rap”. However, our 10-year-old says that there are a few lines in this funny video that for sure remind her of me. It is very funny, so enjoy, the Mom Rap:

 

And enjoy your weekend!

 

 

 

Sitting Kills, Moving Heals.

Sitting up way too late watching the Finals game 3 when it occurred to me that I haven’t moved in 90 minutes. Yeah, it’s 11:30 PM, but still.

I am reminded of the principles in this little book.

El's Reading Room...

sitting kills bookSitting Kills, Moving Heals. By Dr. Joan Vernikos. Published in 2011. 150 pages.

This is another one of those books I stumbled onto while perusing the shelves of the local library. Just as its title implies, this is a little book which explores the science of how gravity, and our use of it benefits our body in terms of health and longevity. I found it fascinating because it the findings of the studies Dr. Vernikos unveiled were an education of gravity that I was pleased to get a refresher on.

It’s not a secret to anyone that sedentary living is damaging to our health and vitality. This is as common to us as our knowledge that the sky is blue. What this life scientist from NASA found however, is that the commonly proposed solutions -30 minutes or more of exercise, 3-5 times per week- is ultimately not the long…

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