The paradox of faith that wrestles.

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet because I’m probably going to unfold it over several conversations over several weeks. It’ll be interspersed between lighter subjects, but it’s something I am curious if other believers think about.

I’ve never been able to relate to people with no tension in their Christian faith. People who somehow walk in the certainty that they are doing Christianity right leave me incredulous (stay with me because I understand that we don’t *do* Christianity). Despite the fact that I have spent the lion’s share of my adult life -including my young adult life- living what most anyone would declare the “good Christian life” of a “good wife and mother”, the comfort of having seemed to do a few things right eludes me.

This is primarily due to an intimate knowledge of the inner working of my mind and the struggle Paul writes about so eloquently in Romans 7 and Galatians 5.

It is largely understood that the former passage of Scripture denotes a season of the journey that everyone must go through. We should surely graduate from the place of doing the things we hate. Most of us do, and I have as well. It’s a mark of maturity to rise above how we feel and do the things we should even when we don’t want to and to avoid the things that would satisfy our darkest desires simply because they are wrong. Since we live in a culture where people reduce everything to one subject, I’ll offer an example in line with what I am thinking of.

Transplanted Floridians are the worst drivers and traffic down here is absolutely terrible at all hours except those between 10 AM and 2PM. That’s only true if there’s no construction, and there is always construction.

When you live with a schedule in your head like I do (24 years of loving a spontaneous guy has NOT tempered the tendency), it’s a short leap from a tolerable drive to one where I want to 1) curse, 2) zip by someone and give them a dirty look or worse and 3) just flip out and start yelling. I know these things are wrong, so I don’t do them, but I want to. I want to several times a week.

There are those Christians who would say, ‘Well, you don’t do it so that’s good enough.”

There are others who would say, “You should be beyond such the temptation to temperamental reactions to something so mundane after more than 2 decades of walking in the Faith. You’re still a baby Christian.”

My thoughts hang somewhere in between the two of those places.

I don’t have much use for Christians who are so spiritual that they are no longer tempted to anything. I once heard a preacher refer to them as being so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.

On the other, I wonder how good of a Christian could I possibly be if I think such thoughts in the first place.

I could go on but this road is windy, so I’m gonna park and rest for the night.

Wonder Woman fails as an empowering feminist trope.

At least it does in my opinion.

We were a family of four for most of the weekend and our twins wanted to see the new Wonder Woman flick. I was curious about it more than anything, and Benevolent Dictator went along in the interest of togetherness. He was tired, needed a nap, and slept (literally) through half the film.  Of course he has been known to doze during films he attends solely because his girls desire his proximity. This is no way offends us.

But I digress.

One would assume, given the feminist hype and press surrounding this film, that it’s a patriarchy crushing, glass ceiling shattering romp to make the suffragettes turn to one another in their graves and fist bump. One would be wrong. If there was ever a film which exemplifies the idea of feminists grasping at straws for evidence of an empowered woman, this is it.

Oh yeah..spoiler alert.

Despite the reports of grown women crying with joy during Wonder Woman’s fight scenes, there really is nothing novel here. Wonder woman is hardly a new character after all, and there have been other movies with strong, kick butt, human women in the leading roles. Those films were mostly far fetched drivel which received less commerical hype, but at least they fulfill the empowered woman trope.

How does the stellar fighting ability of the female progeny of Hippolyta, Queen of the [mythical] Amazons and Zeus, King of the [mythical] Greek gods in any way translate into something an average girls can aspire to? A goddess is portrayed as powerful.  Perhaps I am missing something because I left the theater telling my husband, “I didn’t get it”.

Despite The Guardian’s going on about Wonder Woman’s questionable sexual orientation, the central theme of her awakening is the love story between her and Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine. The only slight hint of anything resembling what this article implied was Diana Prince’s revelation that her sexual education (acquired through books on her island homeland) revealed that men while men are vital for procreation, they are not necessarily needed for pleasure. This is human sexuality 101, not female empowerment.

It makes you wonder, if this is what the film makers really wanted to convey, why Diana Prince and Steve Trevor spend a night together as a pivotal moment when their love is “sealed”, given that they were not married and procreation was not the intended aim. If she does not believe men are necessary for pleasure, and she does not want a child, what is the point of their union? It just smacked of more grasping at straws in an attempt to give professional SIW the nod they demand from Warner Brothers and DC Comics.

There are the obligatory scenes to reveal what ife was like for women in government and military settings at the dawn of the 20th century. Again, no new ground was tilled here, and it was nothing that you don’t see in any number of movies set in the early half of the 20th century.

The denoument, however, is where the feminist trope really breaks down. As Diana Prince/Wonder Woman comes to terms with the reality of human nature, she has a choice to make about who she wants to be in this complex human world. It isn’t her personal convictions or strength which drive her to make the right decision.

Rather, the audience gets to go back with her through memories of her moments with Steve, the wisdom he imparted to her, and the love he shared with her before heroically sacrificing himself to save the lives of thousands of people and instigate a moment so pivotal it turns the war toward it’s much needed end. In other words, it was the love a good (not to mention well above average) man which saves Diana from the despair that threatened to overtake her as she comes to terms with human corruption.

Like I said before, as celebratory feminist characters go, this one falls far short. They’d have done better to revamp Thelma and Louise with younger actresses.

Lest I am understood, and for those who don’t know, I have a healthy disdain for feminism and no desire to sit through a film which celebrates the notion of women empowered apart from men because girl power. As such, I was rather pleased that this movie is not at all what the left leaning press portrayed it to be.

The film itself was pretty well done. From an artistic standpoint, the visuals were nice and according to my comic book loving daughter, it stayed true to the original character. Gal Gadot is stunning, as any actress playing Wonder Woman would have to be.

The love scene between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor was reminiscent of the way it was done in eras of more propriety.  In other words, even though you know what happened, you weren’t subjected to the assault of having to watch it.

There is one scene where Chris Pine is 80% naked (not a sex scene, but still). Be warned if you’re tempted to take younger children because it’s a super hero film. DC Comics films are usually edgier than Marvel films anyway as a general rule.

If you’re looking for girl power you’ll find plenty of it, but it’s tempered. Diana Prince gushes over babies, relishes the taste of ice cream, and falls madly in love with a handsome hero. While she may not need him for physical protection,  Wonder Woman is not portrayed as a strong independent woman who don’t need no man.

I was reminded of fight scenes where one fighter taunts another with the question: “Is that all you’ve got?”

Friday Frivolities 3: Els’ Potpourri

We once went to a restaurant with an appetizer menu titled “a little bit of this and a little bit of that”. That’s what this is: a random mix of things I’ve thought about that won’t shake the world, but which I find interesting or enjoyable.

~My quest for the perfectly made bed: I make our bed every day, but I usually go about it the short and sweet way: pull the sheets on straight, smooth out the quilt, throw the pillows on top. In other words, just enough so that when we get ready to get in it later, it’s somewhat orderly.

I’m not sure what came over me Wednesday, but I was suddenly possessed with a desire to make our bed “right”. Y’all know, the whole “You can bounce a quarter on it” test.  By the time I was done, there would be no quarter bouncing on my bed, but it did take a long time to strip it, smooth the mattress pad, put on the sheets, straighten, fold and tuck them, put on the quilt, straighten it. Put the pillows on nice and neat, then arrange the decorative pillows just so.

We have a big bed so just walking around it repeatedly to get things perfectly straight took longer than usual. 15 minutes to make a bed that I usually make in three.

It didn’t look very different, but I put in more effort. If the husband responded positively, I’d keep doing it. He didn’t notice it at all. This is one task that I will unashamedly continue to do in shortcut version.

~ Fashion, proportion, and figuring out what works for you: Hearth posted a link demonstrating why women her height look better in skirts above the knee regardless of age. The woman in the linked post definitely looks better in a shorter skirt, and it wasn’t the least bit immodest.

It was a reminder to learn how to personalize your style based on what looks good on you and hold arbitrary rules loosely. I’m much taller than 5’4″, and much curvier (meaning larger bust, smaller waist, wider hips; not rolls of fat). So the lesson in her example wasn’t necessarily for me but there is a lesson in it.

~Birthday season has arrived in our house! Six of our seven birthdays will come and go between now and September 1st, not to mention a double college graduation celebration thrown in for good measure. This means perpetual “dieting” to compensate for all the communal feasting that will be taking place.

One thing I find very helpful during times like these is the motivation provided by non-scale victories that I will gain from eating healthy 75% of the time as the 25% of the time I don’t slows down the ability to lose the few extra pounds I want to lose over the summer. You can find a list here. Approaching health holistically has been good for me. Last but not least:

~Dance Party!!!

This is low culture and I realize that, but one of the ways I decompress and focus is by putting in one earbud, cranking up music with a good dance beat, and using it to keep up my momentum as I clean house. It’s good cardio too.

So, here are a few of the tunes I bounced to yesterday as I did my work.  I know that there are people who dance and people who don’t,  so your mileage may vary. Just find a way to infuse some joy and energy into you life this weekend.

Better When I’m Dancing from The Peanuts Movie, by Meghan Trainor:

Beautiful, by Mali Music:

Adventure of a Lifetime, by Coldplay:

Beautiful Day, by Jamie Grace:

This last one is by a rapper one of my kids is into. Apparently ALL of his music is free, which hasn’t hurt his popularity one little bit. I don’t do rap and never have even when I was young. However, since the girls are geared up to hit the road to go see him this summer, he’s an unashamed professed Christian (that not without controversy), and this hit song is his tribute to his grandma, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a listen.

Sunday Candy by Chance the Rapper

Have a fun, family-filled, worshipful weekend, huh?

Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

Stop it!

Annasach echos some thoughts I have been having about a few things. Since I am low on time -summer school is starting on June 1st here- I’ll poach her thoughts and hopefully have something of worth to say later.

Annasach

I’m thinking some explanation would be good. I haven’t decided quite what I’m going to do but feel like it’s time to start a different project. Of course, I tend to do this often, so even I don’t know how long it will last, but there have been things going on that kind of follow a theme for me.

I’m not sure where it started, but it may have been when I flipped out last month and decided I wasn’t going to smoke anymore. I came to the conclusion that most so-called addiction is really mostly habit. It’s not a genuine addiction but a compulsion. It is the habit pull that is hardest to break, and you simply have to be either very stubborn or very determined in a way that once you make a decision, your integrity depends upon you sticking to it.

It’s been over a month and…

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Friday frivolities 2: Natural living

We live in the suburbs and drive a lot, but we really enjoy nature and time outside and have to take it as we can get it.

Fortunately, some of my in-laws live in the country on a sprawling bit of land with lots of natural beauty all around. We get up there a couple of times a year, and even stay in a beautiful log cabin my uncle-in-law and his wife built with their own hands. They belie their years, not only in appearance, but energy.

Recently we took a jaunt up for a few days and walking along dirt roads with no signs and forests as far as the eye can see is a wonderful respite, both mentally and physically:

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Here at home in my own back yard, spring has sprung. With it, we started our gardening and so far, so good:

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Purple peppers

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Mint

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Tomatoes

 

The recent drought down here, coupled with water usage restrictions, cause me a little concern but things are growing nicely. It seems the afternoon rains of the wet season are about to return as well, which brings the challenges of pests which to date haven’t been much of an issue. But they will.

Y’all get outside this weekend and have some fun. I certainly plan to, after I finish torturing myself at Saturday morning boot camp.

Have a blessed weekend!

On the contrary: Getting proper sleep keeps you young.

One of the wonderful things about a household where there are multiple adults is that there is always good conversation to be had and myriad perspectives to consider.

Among the topics du jour this morning was the subject of sleep. Like most Americans, we struggle to get enough and when I have gotten six hours, I consider it a good night. My goal is seven hours, but I only hit that twice a week. On a good week.

Of our older daughters, one in particular is pretty zealous about her sleep, and during a discussion with co-workers about how little sleep they all get, she mentioned that she makes sure she gets 7 hours of sleep most nights. The questions started:

“What time do you get up in the mornings?”

“5:30”

“Even when you don’t have to work?”

“Yes, I run with my mom and sisters the other mornings and we have to do it at 5:30.”

“What time do you go to bed?”

“10:30.”

“That’s so specific! You’re like an old person!”

We laughed at that because not only is she routinely mistaken for a 16-year-old (she’s 21), she is also pretty energetic. She’s not the only one of our daughters who prioritizes sleep and that decision doesn’t in any way indicate a staid, dull, life lacking fun or vibrancy.

They go out with friends, got to movies, go to concerts, out to dinner, and travel occasionally, things that cut into getting a full night’s sleep.  In short, they live like young, single people with the exception of those norms which violate their faith and values. They’re not living like senior citizens, although I know quite a few senior citizens who don’t live “like senior citizens” either.

Of course, no one goes to dinner with friends or concerts every night, so when home, rather than stare at screens or text until the wee hours, they go to sleep. I reminded them as we discussed it to mark this day because the time will come when their good sleep and health habits will be more evident than ever as they grow older alongside some of these friends.  As if on cue, I ran across this today:

Too little sleep can increase risk of stroke or heart disease.

This article, however, targets people who are already at increased risk to begin with (and most young people are not), so I wondered about the general population, and found this:

How sleep deprivation affects your heart

And since I am personally interested in staying sharp, I did another few clicks and found this:

The Science of How Sleep Changes Your Brain, from Infancy to Old Age

There really isn’t anyone regardless of where you research, who would discount the importance, restorative power, and preservative nature of sleep.

So the next time someone tells you, “You can sleep when you’re dead”, let them know you have no desire to speed up the process unnecessarily just to have one more drink or catch a television show that you can stream tomorrow without the annoyance of commercials. And got to sleep.

I’m feeling like a power nap before I cook dinner.