I know you think we agree

Not on everything, but on what the Bible says everywhere. At least, that’s your thought if you believe there is a “clear and obvious meaning of the text.”

You think we read any portion of text and we all know it says X and that means if I do Y I have obviously rejected the “clear and obvious X meaning of the text” and I am rejecting Scripture.

I know that’s what you think because that is how you have behaved. It comes out in how you talk to me. It comes out in how you post to me. It comes out in your dripping sarcasm in that Facebook group. I’m not blind to it — I’m ignoring it. (Or, sometimes, just calling it out and letting you know I’m okay with it.)

I don’t take offense because I get that you think we agree.

I’m writing this to make it very clear to you that we do NOT agree. bible-428947_1920

For decades I have been studying the Bible — taking it very seriously, learning how to read Hebrew and study in the original languages, learning how to use study tools, learning everything I can about the culture in which it was written and the context around the verse in question, getting a Master’s in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and studying for my career — and sometimes where you believe it says X I am convinced to the core of my being and the depth of my soul and the fullness of my mind that it says Y.

You are free to disagree with me but know this . . . I disagree with you and I believe you are wrong.

I’m comfortable with that if you are. I feel no need to be right and have no interest in trying to prove you wrong. I believe you have come to your belief with what you’ve done to get there and that’s fine with me. If you believe it says X then you definitely need to be obedient to X. That is your conviction.

I believe it says Y. I must be obedient to Y. I answer to God for Y. I’m not going to do X just because you said I have to.

I’m writing this to share with you the real issue here . . . if I do X it will be out of fear of men. If I continue to do Y it will be out of respect for God. I’m going with God.

I’m willing to continue sharing. I’m open to hearing how you concluded it said X. I love engaging in dialogue with people and many times as they share their process I learn new things and I may end up respecting their position more. I am willing to share my process and how I understand the text and why. We can get to now each other’s opinions.

If you’re open to that let’s do it! If not, I respect your choice and we can end this dialogue. Perhaps our path will cross again. It will be interesting to see where we are if that happens. I wish you well and pray blessings on you.

Ephesians 5 . . . husbands/wives and Christ/Church

A human has a head with a brain and a body with a heart. If either is dead the person is dead. In Ephesians, Paul explains that, for the purposes of the analogy he is making — AFTER saying that all believers are to submit to one another — the man is the head of the person and the woman is the body. This fits with the idea held at his time that the man was closer to the mind of God and the woman closer to the heart of God . . . it also fits with the belief also held at his time that the heart was the ruling organ of the body and the Jewish belief that women intuitively understand things about God that men need to study to learn.

The human — who was one person until divided into two and then called to be Echad — a word that translates “one” but which is not “singular one” but is more like “one bunch of grapes” or a plural, multi-faceted one. I express it as plural unity because it is the word for the two shall become one AND the word used when Moses says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Just as Jesus said “I and the father are one” and he explains that he hasn’t do anything the hasn’t seen the Father doing. They function in plural unity.

One bunch of grapes

One bunch of grapes

And that’s important because Paul ends the section of Ephesians 5 with this statement “29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (yes, there is one additional verse here but it’s a practical summary moving back from the analogy and it’s been twisted so much that it warrants it’s own discussion)

Jesus loves the church how? By sacrificing, laying down his life, redeeming, and loving us thoroughly! Men — imagine your wives are like your own body — imagine you have literally become one flesh with them. That’s the mystery and that’s the picture — as well as you do this, that’s the picture you are giving to the world about what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like. Your picture will be imperfect, but that’s what you’re aiming for.

Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church

So Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church. And just as the church is supposed to strive for plural unity with Christ, that is intended to be expressed to the world when they see husband and wife functioning plural unity — the picture we give is what they will understand. And where we fail we destroy the picture . . . kind of like how Moses struck the rock and destroyed a picture of Messiah and the Jews know they needed and credit with their errors from that point on.

Women and Men really can be Friends

I know that most messages in our culture are saying the opposite. I know that everywhere we look we’re told that men and women can’t be friends.

Sam and Diane (Cheers)
When Harry Met Sally
Selfie (for the Millennials who might now know it was a modern adaptation of the classic My Fair Lady which also fits the list 😉 )

The reason that most books, tv shows and movies appear to be sending the message that women and men can’t be friends is that they are primarily about the two main characters who ultimately get together. This is why we watch — we like the romance, we like the idea that two people will find each other in the midst of the crowds of people we interact with on a daily basis.

The two finding each other is the crowd is so exciting is because it’s not our experience with everyone. We don’t fall in love or into bed with every person we meet. Which means that everyone we don’t find that romantic connection with has the potential to be something else . . . a friend.

women and men really can be friends!

women and men really can be friends!

Let’s be honest, it’s not cool to hang out with people who don’t have integrity and you don’t want to be romantically involved with someone who lacks integrity either! Just avoid them! And if you only hang out with people of integrity you can have wonderful friendships whether they are women or men.

Thomas Talks about Contentment

There comes a time where you have to acknowledge your limitations and rely on the people who God has put around you to shore you up. When you cast the vision that God put in you and trust that the people it relies on are going to catch the vision and do what they need to do to see that vision realized.

In this case the vision is for something I’m so very excited about — Thomas Talks.

The people I need to rely on are the amazing team of women that God has brought into my life over the years who understand, much more than I do, what it’s going to take to get this going the right way. I’m so grateful they believe in the vision and see what God is doing — but of course they do, God brought us together to do this!

Thomas Talks is a Reconciliation ministry.

What does this mean?

1) Thomas Talks is purposed to make amends where people have been wounded and wronged by those who claimed to be representing God — whether institutions or individuals. If someone was wounded and wronged then the one(s) who came to them were not representing God — whether correctly or at all. We want to remove unnecessary obstacles to God that have been put in people’s lives. What comes of that we trust the Lord and the individual to work out and while we’d be honored to be a part of that, we believe it’s inappropriate to create goals for other people’s lives.

and

2) Thomas Talks is about open and inclusive dialogue about anything related to Biblical faith. In too many faith communities there isn’t a respect for questions and those who have them are deemed trouble makers, doubters, and, if they are women, Jezebels. This is wrong and God is bigger than our questions! We believe questions are valid and are often an expression of faith, rather than doubt. We say ask the questions — and then get good information as you seek out the answers. We also say that too many people have been arguing about the right answers to the wrong questions and we want to help you ask better questions!

We want to provide comprehensive answers to questions that include what is really found in Scripture (in context) as well as the history of how issues have been dealt with over time and encouragement for how to shine God’s love and truth into those situations today. Towards these ends we are committed to collaborating with amazing people and ministries who are addressing relevant and important issues — and doing it well.

We have a website that I’m so excited about! ThomasTalks.net As it turns out, to get us started correctly it’s going to take a lot more talent and skill set than I bring to the table. We opened up a membership chat room right after the election because we wanted to make our space available, and several people joined. In the end, it was easier to move that to a Facebook group, but right in the aftermath I was so grateful for that space! We’ll use it again. In the meantime we have put out information about a Pre-Inaugural Time of Meditation and Prayer that we co-hosted with Imagine Yoga in our local area. Eventually we want to provide resources and encouragement for similar types of meetings that people might want to hold to address various issues. Goodness knows there is no shortage of issues right now!

While I give my team the time they need to build the site in it’s entirety and correctly I’m focusing my energies on growing the community. As I mentioned, we’re on Facebook. We’re a closed group, but you can find us and we’d love to have you if you need this kind of space. I’m also going to be blogging here more while I wait. The goal will be to move the articles from here out onto the Thomas Talks site so many of them will be written with the goals of Thomas Talks in mind. Feel free to comment and engage with me. I keep the comments moderated but I really do approve them! Just want to keep out the very clever spammers and the people who troll around without good intentions. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives so I try to keep it out of yours.

In addition, if you have a ministry (blogging, books, speaking, music, whatever) and you think that your heart meshes with what we’re trying to do here, reach out to me. Post a comment or contact me through the group on Facebook. I want to know about you so I can let others know about you. When people want to find good resources I want them to be able to!

So there it is. We’re in the stage of moving towards and I’m accepting the things I cannot change and working on what is mine to do. In the end I am convinced that God’s timing is going to be perfect and what God has called us to do will be amazing. I don’t want to do it in my own strength anyway. I just want to put my strength towards what I can do today.

Screen Shot 2016-11-19 at 3.53.09 PM

All I knew about love I learned from . . .

Here’s a plot line for you. Try to guess the movie.

A guy is dating someone for a long time and doesn’t have much respect for them. He starts liking someone else and finds out they like him so he’s thinking of cheating on his girlfriend.

She’s drunk one night so he just gives her to the guy who tells him information about the new girl and sends him off with her. It’s okay though because when the guy sleeps with rapes her — her thinking it’s her boyfriend because she’s so drunk — she kind of likes him more and he’s really tender and sweet.

The guy who gave her away like that is still the desired guy of the new girl and all of these things were just an obstacle to their love so when he shows up for her she’s over the moon and her wish came true.

Did you get it? Does it at least sound familiar? If you grew up watching John Hughes films you might have already pegged it as Sixteen Candles And if you haven’t watched it recently you might be having a moment of disconnect because we were sold this as an incredibly romantic movie and that doesn’t fit with what we now understand about rape and romance.

I watched it with my daughter last night. I was sharing old movies with her and we watched Pretty In Pink. We talked about how far at least our area of the world has come with breaking tPretty In Pinkhrough socio-economic barriers that would have meant so much more in the 1980’s and she asked questions about why these people couldn’t even talk to those people and why was this even an issue? I told her movies like this caused us to question our social expectations and made us look at people differently.

We did talk about the reality that Duckie was an unapologetic stalker who sexually harasses every girl he comes in contact with all while declaring his undying love for our main lady who gets 100 messages from him while she’s not home and he forces a kiss on Annie Potts’ character . . . but it’s okay because it’s a good kiss.
I had seen Sixteen Candles on Netflix. A friend had mentioned watching it with her daughter recently and being a bit surprised at some of the subject matter and the language that we just took for granted. I was prepared. . . but I wasn’t. Because I was suddenly confronted with scenes that we just took for granted as being normal that were horrifying me.

Like the scene when she is physically trapped on the bus by the King of the Dipshits as he tries to force himself on her and he blames her for being rude and not wanting his advances. She’s made to look rude and even feels badly enough about it that she gives him her panties so that he can tell everyone in the school that he slept with her.

Sixteen CandlesI’m not even going to get into the ageist portrayal of the grandparents or the racist portrayal of the Asian exchange student and what a mess Long Duck Dong was–from his name to his finally having a “place to put his hand” on his “sexy American girlfriend.”

I want to grab the birthday girl and ask her what she’s thinking. Does she really want to imagine spending the rest of her life, or even giving her virginity, to this guy who treated his ex-girlfriend likes such human property and garbage. He literally sold her to a guy she didn’t know in exchange for information and the underwear he’d been given. He told her, in her drunken state, that the other guy was him and then sent her off into the night with him. Is that what she wants for her future? That is really her dream guy?

So we have John Hughes to thank for calling our generation to question socio-economic barriers and how we treat people who are different from us. And he carries blame for reinforcing sexual abuse of women and dismissing men behaving horribly.

At one point in the movie I turned to my daughter and said, “If you ever wonder why women my age are often so unapologetically feminist, this is why. We were sold this bucket of garbage as romance and some of us are really pissed about it.” She just nodded her head.

I am so grateful she lives in a different reality than I did and she can see this for what it is at such a young age.

Consent, Rape, Agency & Privilege

WARNING! This is sensitive!

And, yes, this is CRAP!

The big news for the past week is the Stanford swimmer who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and received a sentence of six months in jail.

Story here

Woman’s statement here 

I don’t want to talk about the rape. If you are able to read the woman’s statement, you will find that she has captured the vulnerability of being violated in all of the ways that a rape violates you—your body, your soul, your privacy, your confidence, your future —and REviolates you if you go through a court trial. She can speak for herself.

I don’t want to talk about the rapist. Nothing can undo what he has done and he has to live the rest of his life knowing who he is and what he did. I hope it bothers him and that he is motivated to change. I fear that won’t happen, especially after the judge trivialized everything to the level that he did. I still hope.

I don’t really want to talk about the judge.*

I want to talk about the ruling.

The details of this rape expose the actions of a man who has no regard for women and who used and violated a woman who had no ability to give consent. She was an object to him. He used her in the very place he threw her away. She was, quite literally, garbage to him.

As part of the ruling the judge had this to say:

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said at Turner’s sentencing on Thursday. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”

Did the judge mean to say this guy wouldn’t hurt anyone ELSE?

The woman who was raped could not remember the attack. Read in her own words how she found out what had happened to her (from her statement and edited to remove the most graphic details):

One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, (description of violations)…. by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. .… I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me, this can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. .…

And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming.

I want to talk about the ruling.

Six months.

Six months for rape.

Six months for rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

No matter how many times I say or hear it I just can’t wrap my brain around it.

Six months because the guy is good at swimming and the judge didn’t think he’d hurt anyone.

This ruling is INSANE!

Six months of which he will probably only serve 3 months . . . and he won’t need to go to prison. He can serve that in the local jail.  And now he’s appealing!

And then my head exploded . . .

Did the judge really think that this action was done without enough empathy and understanding of how much it would hurt her? Because if that is the case I’m terrified.

When I talked about this case with my daughter and her friends I validated her outrage and encouraged her to rage on, because this is rage-worthy! I also shared my perspective after being part of this society for as many decades as I have.

What I hear in this ruling is not that the judge really thinks that this sick rapist isn’t going to hurt anyone else.

What I hear in this ruling is that the judge had the opportunity to give a white, athletic, college kid at a good school a chance to achieve his potential.

And even more than that, I hear a judge paying it forward.

Please do not misread me — I am not accusing this judge of having raped someone under these or any circumstances. What I mean is that somewhere along the line this judge did something—could be anything—that had the chance to dramatically impact his life. When he did, someone was in a position to give him a break and a second chance and he went on to achieve something. I mean, look at him, he’s a respectable judge now!

This judge connected to something in this young Stanford swimmer standing before him and saw the opportunity to give him a second chance to make something of himself.

That is not an inherently bad thing. There are so many times when someone who can empathize with your plight and extend you some mercy can give you that needed second chance. In this case it was done by excusing such a heinous crime that the absurdity would be hysterical if it wasn’t so horrific. This young man was privileged to have a judge in a position of authority who could be gracious with him, regardless of what he was accused of, because in some way the judge had been there, done that, and knew how important it was to get that second chance when he did.

“Prosecutors had asked for Judge Persky, a Stanford alumni, to sentence Turner to six years in a state prison. The maximum for the three felony charges – assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object – was 14 years.

In justifying the six-month sentence, Judge Persky said positive character references written on Turner’s behalf, such as that given by his father, had factored into his decision. His age, his lack of a criminal history, and the role that alcohol played in the assault were also mitigating factors.”

CkNAfpIWkAAGIEt

Positive character references like the one given by his father — the one where he bemoans the fact that his son raping an unconscious woman has taken away his appetite — are what moved the judge to compassion. For a rapist. The rapist just doesn’t enjoy steak anymore but there is no compassion for the woman who will always live with the damage done to her without her consent. Did the judge even ask if she’s enjoying her steak? Did the judge care? Or does he agree that what happened was merely “20 minutes of action?”

The rapists dad is honestly standing before the woman his son raped and saying he’s suffered enough because he doesn’t enjoy steaks anymore. As if these two things are even in the same universe. She was raped. He got in trouble for raping her. He’s the victim. I can’t even . . . NO WORDS!

What is most disgusting is that the rapist’s father considers the “wrong” his son did, “20 minutes of action.” Not 20 minutes of raping an incapacitated woman. Not 20 minutes of the worst decision he ever made. “20 minutes of action.”

He even referred to the rape as sexual promiscuity. The definition of promiscuous is “characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis.” I have to wonder how many people you are having indiscriminate sex with that you don’t notice the one you’re currently shoving yourself into isn’t conscious and hasn’t given consent. Or maybe you’re raping so many women that you didn’t realize this one would say something.

Here’s the thing . . . this man SHOULD feel guilty for what he did. He SHOULD have trouble enjoying a steak after raping an unconscious woman. This is the only thing keeping me from asking if he’s a full out sociopath.

And all of this is being argued in front of “Judge Persky, a Stanford alumni

The judge couldn’t empathize with an unconscious woman who was raped. That had never happened to him. He didn’t grow up in the world feeling victimized or not having the opportunities he had as a Stanford student. He didn’t ever experience being at the frat party as a woman. He didn’t ever have anyone take his unconscious body behind a dumpster and insert foreign objects. In his mind she’s culpable — despite what the unanimous jury said. In his mind she’s the girl who showed up at the party, got drunk, and should have known that being there is the same as consent.

Except it ISN’T!

There is a lot of talk out there right now about women having agency, and about crimes like this robbing them of their agency. The issue of agency is that we, as women, are supposed to have the right to speak for ourselves. We get to have a voice in our own lives and make decisions about our own experiences.

The right to consent speaks to the Constitutional rights of life and liberty, not to mention the pursuit of happiness. Without it your life can be taken and you have no say. Without it your liberty can be infringed upon taking away your freedom and have no say. Without it you lack the opportunity to pursue happiness, because you certainly have no say about what may or may not bring you happiness.

This type of situation is where the right to agency and the ability to offer or withhold consent runs smack dab into the wall of privilege.**

Think about this rape and imagine yourself there. If you are already thinking that you wouldn’t have raped her you have identified a privilege.

Many of us imagine ourselves in that situation and we are fully aware we would be the rape victim. Or we find ourself triggered remembering the time we were the one being violated.

Far too many people seem to not get the fact that there should be NO assumption that a man will have sex with any woman at all — even his wife — without her enthusiastic willingness and freely offered consent. Why? Because to do otherwise is rape.

You read that right – if you don’t have consent then any penetration with any part of your body is rape.

Ignoring the importance of consent is robbing someone of their voice. Without a voice you have no agency. Without agency what is done is happening to you, not with you.

Privilege is about thinking you are entitled to something — like this rapist thought he was entitled to jam himself into an unconscious woman, and his dad’s assumption that his son is entitled to happily enjoy a steak while the woman he raped is living every day with the reality of what was done to her and what was stolen from her in the process.

I believe everyone should have privilege! I believe everyone should have a voice everywhere without fear of repercussion! There really is enough to go around.

The reason it doesn’t change anything to start listing all the ways your life has been hard as evidence that you can’t have privilege is that it’s given to you by those who can relate to you and your struggles. It’s something you give to others when you can relate to their struggles. It’s a kind of empathy that is great . . . except when it’s inclusive to ‘your kind.’ The only way to extend it to the “other” is to spend enough time getting to know them and learn about their struggles.

I have no doubt that in this man’s future he will bring up this situation every time he wants to prove that he doesn’t havep privilege. He will talk about how he was dragged to court despite being rich (by the state in defense of the woman he dragged behind a dumpster and violated). He will talk about how he had to go to jail even though he’s a great swimmer (but only jail and not prison, and for 3 months compared to Corey Batey who raped an unconscious woman but is black and is currently serving 15-25 years in prison). He will talk about how hard it was to not even enjoy a steak with his father. Poor baby.

He will probably not appreciate how much privilege he has because he believes he is entitled to more. But he got off so easy because he is privileged to be in a situation that the judge in his trial can empathize with.

The judge identified with the poor Stanford athlete who got drunk and did something so many guys before him have done.

The judge didn’t identify with the unconscious woman being raped behind a dumpster.

And that is a big ole pile of crap if ever I saw one.

*The judge identified with the poor Stanford athlete who got drunk and did something so many guys before him have done.

**The judge didn’t identify with the unconscious woman being raped behind a dumpster.

Love Wins – Last Two Chapters

I’m finishing up the review today so that my husband can take the book back to the library. I finished reading the book over the long weekend but we were very busy as a family and I didn’t have time to sit down and write much.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and wasn’t sure what all the controversy is about. The few people I specifically talked to about the book who had read it also couldn’t tell what the controversy was all about. My best guess is that those with the biggest problem with Bell’s book haven’t taken the time to read it. Isn’t that usually the case in Churchianity, though.

In the second to the last chapter, <em>The Good News Is Better Than That</em>, Bell takes a look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. I rather like what he does with the parable–I think it’s supportable and consistent with the bigger picture being conveyed in the Parable. He basically suggests that both of the sons’ problem is rooted in their story of their life being inconsistent with their father’s story of their life.

The youngest son’s story, at the time of his return, is that he isn’t worthy of being a son anymore. He’s too “bad”; he hasn’t lived “right”; the best he hopes for from the father is to be hired back as a slave–he knows his father treats his slaves better than he was being treated in the world. But the father says to him that the real story of his life is that he is the son and what he is worthy of is a party with the finest.

The oldest son’s story, when he returns from the field and finds the party being thrown for the younger son, is that he has been there the whole time, slaving away, and the father hasn’t acknowledged his good work and how unfair is that? Not even a goat for him to throw a party with his friends–nothing special has been rewarded him for doing what he was supposed to do. But the father informs him that while he has been there all the time everything the father had was available to him.

Ultimately, when our story about ourselves is wrong we can’t appreciate the awesomeness of someone else’s story. So many people need there to be a hell because they can go yet another day suffering and struggling to do what is expected of them as a Christian with the assurance that at least all those people out there doing what they aren’t allowed to do are going to get theirs someday. But God doesn’t tell that story in His Word.

Lots of people have their hope tied up in a Rapture where they get to escape all the suffering of the Great Tribulation because they’ve done what they needed to get out of that–and that Fire Insurance is going to pay off for that high price they’ve believed it to cost. All those people who wouldn’t listen to them about Jesus are going to know who had it right in the end! But God doesn’t tell that story in His Word.

If it turns out after we die that we find there is a hell something like traditional Christianity adopted from the Greek and Roman mythologies then isn’t the response that reveals a love for your neighbor that is like your love for yourself to be broken-hearted and tormented to learn that anyone has gone there? If there is going to be a Great Tribulation the likes of what is described in Left Behind theology then isn’t the response that reveals a love for your neighbor that is like your love for yourself to be a desire to STAY and help them through it since you have the hope of Jesus and they don’t?

And maybe, just maybe, no one will need that kind of “reward” for themselves or “come uppance” for their neighbor if they really understood the message that God has written in His Word about them. Because those of us who have been in the Father’s House all along are not slaves–we’re His Children. And those of us who have gone out into the world thinking we could do things better if we followed our own ideas aren’t so damaged and broken that the best we can hope for is a position as a servant in the Father’s house–we’re His Children. And maybe, just maybe, THAT is the kind of love and the message of hope that would cause people to rush in droves to the Father. I know it has transformed my life.

Ultimately I don’t hear Bell saying that there isn’t a hell, or a heaven, or judgement–what I hear is Bell challenging why so many in the Church NEED there to be these things. Most of what people believe about these things comes from a handful of verses that may or may not be talking about what they are constructing them to be about–like a lot of doctrinally “sure” things people are convinced of. But if God wanted us to really understand the afterlife–and wanted that to be the reason we live however we live in this life, I have no doubt He could have been very clear about what would be awaiting us. Yet He wasn’t. I think that is because when we know Him we can trust Him. And when we don’t know Him we often don’t care much about what happens to us. I’m all about loving my neighbor enough to share with them that they can enter heaven now–the Kingdom of God can be in their hearts NOW! And I love God and trust Him enough to trust Him with the neighbor who seems to not want anything to do with Him in this life. If there is something akin to hell in the afterlife I’m convinced that those who go there will really have to want to be there–and if God were to choose at the last minute to let everyone stay with Him, I’m okay with that. I don’t believe that scenario is given in Scripture, because I do read of not everyone wanting to be with Him–but I do believe that the opportunity for everyone to be with Him has been extended. And I think a lot more people are going to be there than some people seem to think.

And I think when we see what the real plan is for eternity we’re going to be so amazed–and whatever we have thought about it will seem so silly to us. Every time we humans think we have the mind of God I figure that will be the case.

The “M” word . . . Modesty

I somehow got the idea, growing up in the church, that humility meant making myself as small as i could be and taking up as little space as I could. There was this idea – especially and specifically attached to women – that the smaller I could make myself the more I was honoring God.

This inevitably meant laying aside the gifts and talents He had put into me so that I didn’t cause men to feel that i might be wanting to usurp their authority. It meant silencing my voice and trusting that God would take care of me when those around me didn’t see the need. And the more I suffered the more God was being glorified because when we are weak then He is strong.

Then I learned the understanding of the Hebrew words addressing ‘humility’ and not only was my mind blown but my life was forever changed.

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up – no more (as that is being arrogant and trying to steal the space that God gave to someone else) AND NO LESS (as that is false humility that says God did not create me to be who I am and I must give more of my space to others because they deserve it more). Both taking up more space and taking up less space are BOTH a violation of God’s intended purpose and plan for our lives.

Revolutionary! Life altering! No going back!

This meant that living a life of humility really means:

  • exercising the gifts and using the talents that God gave me in the situations in which I find myself for the good of the Kingdom and the glory of the King!
  • not allowing others to steal my space, and when they try to I can trust God to be my defender and know that vengeance is His and it is actually Him that they are violating
  • And, this is important as it pertains to the issue of breastfeeding and modesty, when I am feeling offended it is because I believe myself to be entitled to space that was not given to me.

Modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

The way this relates to modesty is this . . . modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

Think about that for a minute.

If we believe ourselves entitled to more space than we deserve we will make a show of what we have and even attempt to create the illusion that we have more.

If we believe ourselves to be unworthy of what we have then we will present ourselves as less than and either give everything away or try to hide that we have it.

Both of those are immodest. One draws undue attention to ourselves and the other tries to give away something that God intended for us.

Modesty is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Modesty that the Bible speaks of is living out healthy humility – it is about us simply being who God created us to be and doing what God created us to do without any extra effort to steal someone else’s space, or refusal to step up and fill ours. When this is expressed in dress, and all of the ways we present ourselves to the world, it is not about meeting some checklist of criteria for “modesty.” Rather, it is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Is this modest if it's in the wrong period of time? What are my clothes inviting you to do with me? Nothing - they say I'm having fun!

Is this modest if it’s in the wrong period of time? What are my clothes inviting you to do with me? Nothing – they say I’m having fun!

Modesty and the Breastfeeding Mother

IMG_0541I have been beyond my own breastfeeding days for several years but I often find myself in an advocate role on behalf of Breastfeeding Mothers in a variety of settings. It’s a passion of mine and, honestly, I’m tired of the judgements, accusations and, frankly, so much ridiculousness that has come to swirl around this topic in our culture, and, especially, within churchianity.

Inevitably the attack argument comes down to this:

Of course a nursing mother has a right to breastfeed, but I have a right to not be offended. If her breastfeeding in any way offends me then she’s doing it wrong. It’s really an issue of modesty and if I’m uncomfortable (or aroused) she must be immodest.

It might be worded all manner of ways – some more eloquently and magnanimous than others – but it’s the same argument. So I want to respond to it by sharing some things that I have learned over the years that I hope will encourage some and challenge others.

I somehow got the idea, growing up in the church, that humility meant making myself as small as i could be and taking up as little space as I could. There was this idea – especially and specifically attached to women – that the smaller I could make myself the more I was honoring God.

This inevitably meant laying aside the gifts and talents He had put into me so that I didn’t cause men to feel that i might be wanting to usurp their authority. It meant silencing my voice and trusting that God would take care of me when those around me didn’t see the need. And the more I suffered the more God was being glorified because when we are weak then He is strong.

Then I learned the understanding of the Hebrew words addressing ‘humility’ and not only was my mind blown but my life was forever changed.

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up

Humility means that we are taking up exactly the amount of space that God created us to take up – no more (as that is being arrogant and trying to steal the space that God gave to someone else) AND NO LESS (as that is false humility that says God did not create me to be who I am and I must give more of my space to others because they deserve it more). Both taking up more space and taking up less space are BOTH a violation of God’s intended purpose and plan for our lives.

Revolutionary! Life altering! No going back!

This meant that living a life of humility really means:

  • exercising the gifts and using the talents that God gave me in the situations in which I find myself for the good of the Kingdom and the glory of the King!
  • not allowing others to steal my space, and when they try to I can trust God to be my defender and know that vengeance is His and it is actually Him that they are violating
  • And, this is important as it pertains to the issue of breastfeeding and modesty, when I am feeling offended it is because I believe myself to be entitled to space that was not given to me.

Modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

The way this relates to modesty is this . . . modesty is the manifestation of our humility in our words, deeds, and presentation of ourselves to the world.

Think about that for a minute.

If we believe ourselves entitled to more space than we deserve we will make a show of what we have and even attempt to create the illusion that we have more.

If we believe ourselves to be unworthy of what we have then we will present ourselves as less than and either give everything away or try to hide that we have it.

Both of those are immodest. One draws undue attention to ourselves and the other tries to give away something that God intended for us.

Modesty is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Modesty that the Bible speaks of is living out healthy humility – it is about us simply being who God created us to be and doing what God created us to do without any extra effort to steal someone else’s space, or refusal to step up and fill ours. When this is expressed in dress, and all of the ways we present ourselves to the world, it is not about meeting some checklist of criteria for “modesty.” Rather, it is about being experienced by others as an authentic and whole person who is not seeking to manipulate how the world experiences us.

Here’s where I share how this relates to breastfeeding and as I do I want to point out 7 things I have learned about this issue in our culture today.

1) Because every person was created by God to take up a certain amount of space in this world, when a mother has a baby the amount of space that she will take up has increased to reflect the addition of another person (or more if she has multiples). Her taking up more space is not immodest and does not reflect a lack of humility or a desire to take space away from others and draw undue attention to herself.

2) Very often, it is the act of becoming a mother that provokes a woman to stop trying to stuff herself into too small a space while the men around her manspread themselves into any space she is able to be pressed to relinquish. The presence of this baby in her life – this person for whom she has been entrusted by God to care for, protect and nurture – is one of the things that the Rabbi’s wrote about causing women to intuitively and experientially learn things that men would need to study to learn. When this happens she often realizes she must find her voice in order to accomplish the responsibilities newly given to her and when she finds her voice for her baby she often finds her voice for herself. If she did not already have her voice, the experience of finding it may be challenging and she needs incredible grace for the missteps she will have. A healthy community wants women to have a voice and needs to support them in learning how to use it.

3) I know it changes a man to become a father, but it’s not the same thing and when you really look into the fully systemic changes that a mother experiences as she grows a life within her and then labors to bring that child into the world, the oxytocin cocktail of love hormones that she is flooded with when that child is born and they gaze into each other’s eyes, the experience of producing milk to nourish the child and providing them sustenance from her own body, regulating their breathing and body temperature as they sleep beside her, or on her. Every act of mothering is an act of walking out self sacrifice for the sake of the other. Every act of mothering is learning what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

4) Being uncomfortable does not mean someone has wronged you and does not mean someone is sinning. Our culture seems to worship the idol of personal comfort and anything that makes us uncomfortable must be wrong and needs to be eliminated. Except we have become the princess and the pea and we simply cannot get a good night’s sleep if even one legume is present anywhere in our lives! We need to look to Scripture to determine if something is really a sin before we even dream of going to another person and speaking about it with them. Even then we are instructed, according to Matthew 18, to go and talk to them about what they are doing that is a sin and how it is affecting us. This is not a power play and we do not get to demand anything of anyone.  Any effort to shame them for what they are doing or blame them for our own struggles is an expression of our lack of humility, our immodesty, and we are sinning against them.

All too often women, especially breastfeeding mothers, are being held accountable for someone else’s sins of lust.

5) All too often women, especially breastfeeding mothers, are being held accountable for someone else’s sins of lust. Breastfeeding is not a sin. Lusting after a woman is. The appropriate application of Matthew 18 would be for the breastfeeding mother to sit down with a man who is leering at her and confront him about his lust issues and how they are violating her and her baby. If he does not acknowledge the issue and make action to change, then she would be right to call in others to go with her and help her make her case to him. Eventually, if a man continued to gawk and leer at her, it would be appropriate for the church leadership to step in and speak with him about his sin issue and how he is wronging women by how he is using them and refusing to show them the respect they deserve as fellow believers and fully participating members in the community. If they insist they are helpless in this area of their life or refuse to acknowledge that they are wronging the women of the community by their refusal to address this area of sin then they might need to be removed from the community until they are ready to take responsibility for this sin issue and seek to be free of it without blaming others for their struggles. He is free to censor his own life and capable of leaving the area if he is facing the moral struggle lusting and coveting. If a man knows he has a struggle and he is working to be free of it and surrender it to the Lord, and is taking responsibility for this being his issue and not trying to blame others for his struggles, he might choose to go to a woman and share that he has a struggle in this area. By owning the issue and not blaming the woman for his struggles he is honoring her and exercising modesty and humility – he is not trying to steal her space for himself or asking her to shove herself into less space for his comfort. I do not know a woman who, if approached in such a sincere way, wouldn’t act in sensitivity to the man before her. Perhaps he will suggest she let him know if she is going to be nursing so that he, being the one with the issue, can leave the room. Perhaps she will offer to nurse away from where he is. By humbly sharing his struggle with her and asking her to support him in his efforts at righteousness, he has honored the space she was given by God to take – and the space her baby was granted by the Creator – and given her an opportunity to act in love for him as other as well, without it being a burden and without the implication that his issues are in any way her fault or responsibility.

6) If you are offended by what a nursing mother is doing as she breastfeeds her baby then it is you who lacks humility and is at risk for being immodest. If you find her breastfeeding to make you uncomfortable or you feel as though she is trying to take space you believe was intended for you, then it is you who is mistaken about how much space you were created to fill. Healthy boundaries mean you get to decide what you will and won’t do – and that you have no say at all in what another person does or how they do it. It may be that the woman before you is being immodest and has an agenda and is trying to steal space not intended for her and/or her baby. That does not mean you have to give it. If you are uncomfortable you have a beautiful opportunity to practice humility as you avert your eyes. If you do struggle with lust then do not gaze on something that is provoking you to covet or lust. If you are prideful and arrogant then it may be that your emotional response is revealing this to you. Develop the discipline of staying within your space and not trying to steal space from others.

7) Mothering and caring for a baby – even while breastfeeding – is not inherently immodest and no mother should be asked to put the needs, much less the WANT of comfort, of every adult in the community ahead of the very real needs of her baby. When you truly love your neighbor as yourself you will not put your personal comfort above theirs, you will not blame them for your sin, you will not try to steal the space God created them to occupy, and you will want them to care for that new baby in a way that honors and nurtures their arrival in your community. That mother and baby are your neighbor.

I know that becoming a mother feels like taking the weight of the world upon your shoulders, but it shouldn’t come with an expectation that you will actually be responsible for everyone around you in a way that hinders the real responsibility of caring for that new person.  My journey of mothering that started as a breastfeeding mother means I am raising children who are becoming adults in this world and if my daughter and future daughters in law have babies I want them to have an experience free of having the baggage of others projected onto them. I know I can’t create that completely, but I can do what I can to make it a little bit better. It will happen as God changes one heart at a time.  Thankfully, He can do that!

A dance mom’s gotta do what a dance mom’s gotta do

Anyone who knows me knows how proud I am of my children. They’ve been subjected to the random dance videos and the recital recordings.  They’ve been invited to the shows my children do all around town and told about the times they were the kickoff performers for the Fiesta Bowl Parade, danced in the Disney parade, all the times they performed at Disneyland, early morning TV spots, etc., etc.

And they know about all the times I’m off working football or hockey games, or NASCAR weekends, or even Super Bowl on Central, with the Booster Club.  The more my children get involved in competition dance, the more it costs and the more I have to find ways to pay for it.    I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I have to earn money for their dance.

At our first competition this year – Dupree Dance Convention – my daughter was awarded an All Star Scholarship!  This means she was chosen to attend their 3 Day Intensive in Chicago and will be on their All Star Dance Team that is performing for everyone there.  It’s an amazing opportunity to work with the professional dancers and choreographers who are part of the Dupree team and all we have to do is get her there.

That “get her there” is why I have relaunched my Adorned By Crystal Etsy store!

Adorned By Crystal is now carrying Cool People Ponchos, Scrumptious Scarves, and, being added as I finish them, original beaded jewelry.  I’m going to embed a storefront here on the site and wanted to make sure everyone knows why it’s there.

All of the profit from the Etsy store will be going towards the goal we have set on our Go Fund Me account “Dancer To Chicago!”.  If you would like to be a patron of the arts, please consider supporting my daughter in this.

My children who dance want to dance for life. It is the careers they are working towards and it is the gift that God has put into them.  I am grateful that they found their passion so early in life and it’s a privilege to support and guide them in their efforts.  I’d love to have you on my team!