Monday, February 1, 2010

My Blog Has Moved

To continue following please visit my new blog site: www.soulation.org/jonalynblog/
Please do not comment here as I am not moderating this site any longer.

Looking forward to more discussion at my new location,
Jonalyn Fincher

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Body, New Blog Location

I did something a bit unusual tonight; I stepped on our scale.

The scale was dusty and difficult to lug out without spilling the dog's bowl of water. After wiping it down with Simple Green, I stepped on top. It read 162 lbs. I almost gasped, that's almost 50 lbs more than I weighed this summer.

Then, I recalled something, someone else gained 50 lbs in her first pregnancy.

My very tall, very dignified, very lovely grandmother gained 50 lbs with her first child. She was only 17 years old, and when the baby was born she wanted to name her firstborn after her husband, John. Since the baby was a girl, she made up the name Jonalyn. I'm named after them both.

This all delights me, even more so as my grandmother (still) brags about her measurements in her younger years.

"I was 38, 24, 36," she'll say. And yet she gained 50 lbs in her pregnancy. She still cuts a lovely figure. In a few more weeks, I'd say, I'll be able to boast the same amount of poundage gained.

I told Dale the new updated weight number this evening and he kind of looked at my body suspiciously like, "Where exactly is it?"

He told me last week that he woke up in the wee hours of the morning, rolled over and saw my body's profile from the back. He thought for about 10 seconds, "Holy cow! I just dreamed that Jonalyn was pregnant, what a realistic dream!"

But this large butterball in front keeps reminding me that Birdie is coming soon and very soon. Tomorrow I enter the 36th week and I'm frankly dazzled by how well my body is doing. If it needs some extra pounds to do so well, then I'm not going to worry or scrimp on all the fruit and yogurt and milk and avocados I'm eating!

Carrying extra weight in such a concentrated area means it is getting much harder to move, today's snowshoe hike was more discipline than sheer pleasure. Notice my unusual back-bending pose here on our snowshoe this morning. It was to balance my weight AND keep out of the sun. Dale was blocking it's rays for me. Also please notice Dale's hat, which I newly knitted for him last Sabbath. I started another one this evening, in miniature for Birdie.

I hardly ever forget I'm pregnant anymore, except sometimes when I'm sleeping on my side and my belly is fully supported by the mattress and I wake up in the middle of the night. The thought lasts less than a second.

For the last few days, Zondervan (our publisher) sent out their audio produce, Brad Hill, a fun-loving hard worker who has become our friend, to record the audio version of our new book. As of last night at 5pm Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk is completely recorded. It should be available in audio version about the same time the book comes out (May 2010).

To celebrate finishing, Brad took us to our favorite restaurant. I got all dressed up (as much as my pregnant clothes allowed) and even whipped out a favorite silver bracelet. It got stuck halfway around my hand. "AAAAAH!" I yelled to Dale. "My hands are bigger!" It was easier to jam it on than take it off, but I had a heck of a time getting it off.

This new body of mine is still working well, I can still enjoy food without heartburn and walk on long snowshoe hikes and even do my prenatal yoga. So, no I am not complaining, nor do I want the baby out of his little cocoon. I'm still enjoying this process and amazed at how fast he's growing. But there are some non-ideal things about being pregnant, too. A few things that I miss about pre-pregnant life
  • laying on my tummy
  • wearing silver bracelets without bruising my hands
  • running
  • jumping up and down at a moment's notice without having to strategize
  • tying my shoes in a snap
  • clear nasal passages
  • sleeping through the night without 2 am treks down our ladder to the little princess room
  • hugging Dale close
But I do not miss the wondering if I will every be a mother. These last 8 months have been like waiting and wondering about when and what it will be like to have our son coming to live at our house.

In other news, this blog, that I've come to love and enjoy so much is going to be MOVING. I'm integrating everything here into our Soulation site. In a few weeks, I'll be deleting this blog. You can view my blog in it's new format right now, but I won't formally move until February 1st, only four days away. Please do NOT comment on this new blog site until Feb 1st. Before my move I will transfer ALL comments from this blog (www.jonalynfincher.com) , so feel free to comment here until then.

If you'd like to subscribe to this new location you will have to re-subscribe (see the top right column of my new blog and choose either posts or comments or both).

Benefits of moving:
  1. You will be able to search all my blog's content by keywords- Go to my new blog site and try to search by a word, such as "pregnancy", and see what I mean!
  2. In one month I'll have a new comment engine that will allow you see all the recent comments on the front page and therefore more easily join the discussion
  3. A new fresh look that ties into all our Soulation resources.
  4. In a month, quick access to Dale's blog and a new blog we'll be running together called "Hurdles of Faith" where you can share and read about how other people struggle in their love for Jesus.
I look forward to seeing you at my new blog site. Until then, all 162 lbs of me is delighted to wish you a very good night!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary and Minute Rice

I've been identifying with Mary lately, expecting a boy, the inconvenience of being pregnant and having to travel. Nazareth is 80 miles from Bethlehem, a distance in the first century that she could have covered in one week at best.

Today, Mary's journey to Bethlehem would be tantamount to me learning that a new tax law required Dale and I to fly stand-by to Alaska for registration a week before my due date. The kicker--there's no room in any inn, so we'd have to stay, and give birth to our firstborn son in the janitor closet of a Motel Six.

If that was what God had in store for his son I'd certainly wonder, "Couldn't you, the Maker of all things, orchestrate the arrival of the Son of God a little more majestically?"

Mary only got one dream from the angel Gabriel, only one customized message for her ears only, ordered by God to explain this Holy-Spirit-produced baby in her body.

Joseph got four dreams, explaining where to move, when to leave, how to find safety and what God was up to. I think I would have felt a little gypped, but Mary didn't.

How did she do it?

How did Mary have the strength to bear the Son of God and the serenity to respond to Gabriel's shocker of a newsflash with, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me according to your word"? (Luke 1:38).

Mary was not just a teenage woman pregnant outside of marriage. She was a good Jewish woman pregnant outside of wedlock.

As a Jew, she would have been familiar with one passage in the Jewish Scriptures that must have made her last minute trip to Bethlehem a little easier to swallow.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (TNIV, Micah 5:2).

Mary could see how the pagan Roman census was actually accomplishing God's promise for Israel. Mary knew about the God of Israel, the God who was faithful to Abraham, the God who could lift the humble up out of the pit. Mary knew her God, she also knew what her God wanted out of her.

Around Christmas time, I notice women running around with lists of things to do. Minute Rice put together an advertisement in 2008 that summed up the way I often feel around the holidays. Surrounding a package of Minute Rice with a Santa Hat are hundreds of things to do, including things like:

get decorations out of the attic, sew angel costume for Molly's pageant, write annual holiday letter and try to sounds modest while bragging about the kids, drop off food at church, buy poinsettia plants, hang candy canes, try not to eat candy canes, clean house, keep tinsel away from cat, shop online during lunch hour, buy stocking stuffers, drive around and look at lights, plan menu for Christmas Eve, make punch for party, have patience when visiting in-laws, read "Night Before Christmas" outloud, attend candlelight service with family, remember reason for the season, pray for peace on earth.

Minute Rice, however, is here to help.

That last item on the list makes me stop and wonder,"How on earth can you pray for peace when your life has no peacefulness in it? There's no shalom, the kind of peace that envelops every dimension (spiritual, physical, political, economic, emotional, social) in this ceaseless running-around living.

I think that if Mary had a Minute Rice list, she must have scrapped it so she could make time for the Son of God to enter her life.

I recently found that Micah doesn't merely contain prophecies about Bethlehem, it also has a better to-do list. One that I'd like to recommend this Christmas to all those women (and men) out there who find there is just too much to do.

Micah 6:8
"He has shown all you people what is good. What what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly
to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."

Three items.

What would it look like if we acted with justice this Christmas?

Even though I'm a fan of all the work for justice and social equality (Many of my posts are about the inequalities I see specifically with regard to women), one way I see women in particular refusing to act justly is in the manner in which we make time for ourselves. Women are perhaps the worst at taking a day off, of honoring the Jewish law of the Sabbath. Womens' souls are impoverished and run down because we try to love others so much we have no idea what Jesus means when he says, "Love others AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF." We don't know how to love ourselves, to let God love us one day of the week so we can love others the other six.

I don't think Mary had this problem with refusing to rest.

As soon as Mary learned she would carry a child without a husband she left her hometown of Nazareth and took a retreat. Not for a weekend or even a week, but for three months. Mary spent this time with her cousin Elizabeth (who was miraculously pregnant in her grandmother years) and I'm sure they cried and talked and grieved and laughed and rejoiced together. I imagine Mary did a lot of processing.

One things is certain, after her time away, resting and thinking, Mary sings a song that has gone down in history as Mary's Magnificat--a testimony to Mary's experience with the God of Israel (read it in Luke 1:46-55). It seems likely to me that Mary's time of rest provided the margin for something like the Magnificant to just bubble out of her.

So my challenge to women: take time to do justice to yourself by accepting God's gift of rest. At least one day in seven, 24 hours of true rest. If you have questions about what this might look like, write me a comment.

Number 2- Love Mercy

Isn't it interesting that Micah writes that we ought to love mercy? This means an ongoing relationship with mercy, not a one-night-stand, or even a hot/cold relationship. Loving mercy means steady dating, maybe even marriage.

I've lately been musing on what kind of relationship I've cultivated with mercy. With others? With myself? Do I love mercy as a friend? Or do I just use it when it makes me look kind and "Christian-like"?

Number 3- Walk Humbly with Your God

I've been doing a little more walking than usual lately, not much jogging at the moment. And often our three corgis come along for the walk. When we are walking together we encounter the same sights, smells and obstacles. Walking with God means much the same thing, bringing God into our days, our hours, our minutes.

So, for instance, Mary noticed that surprising events surrounding her son's birth and Luke says she treasured these things, "pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

This year I learned that I was pregnant with a boy the very same day I learned my husband has a form of skin cancer. I felt torn with two very opposite kinds of expectation. My hope clouded with fear. In sharing how anxious I had been feeling with a friend, I heard some wonderful advice from her.

She suggested I pray, "Jesus, I receive your peace." And then wait for God to show what this "peace that surpasses comprehension" is really like. I've had to pray that hundreds of times, inviting Jesus to walk along side me during the valley and the mountain top of expectation.

In the process, I've found that walking humbly with your God is a gerund, which, for you non-English nerds, means that it's an active verb, we're constantly doing it. There's always a new sight or smell or experience to share with our God.

We all need more of the Son of God in our lives. I imagine Mary as she walked the long road to her next destination (remember it was in Egypt), praying that God would help her do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with him.

Her son gives us the power to do just that this Christmas. Make this list your new to-do list for the next week!

An abbreviated version of this post can be read at Fullfill
"Mary and Minute Rice" originally appeared at the Christmas Banquet at North Coast Calvary Church in Carlsbad, Christmas 2009. To hear the talk visit soulation.org after the New Year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Musings on Pregnancy- Weeks 27-29

Walking down an icy hill to give a piano lesson, I keep getting distracted by what feels like air bubbles of pressure popping around in my stomach. But all I have to do is glance down and see my stomach rippling. The baby boy in my womb, who we affectionately call 'Birdie' is stretching.

Today was not one of the days I basked in my pregnancy. I still believe carrying life in my body is a privilege and honor, but as I ran an errand by myself I felt miserable, large and slow.

As I walked across the parking lot to give piano lessons I had to stop twice. Perhaps I was just exhausted from a full morning of dusting the house, cleaning the bathroom, writing blog comments, and writing 20 emails. Perhaps I felt blue because the skies were gray and sad. Perhaps I was just disgusted with my cumbersomeness, the heaviness I feel in my legs. Today was a day I would have loved to stroll briskly, but I physically cannot do anything briskly.

As I rested from the hill, walking carefully to avoid the icy patches I had slipped on the week before, I wondered about the way God designed things. I felt utterly amazed that a woman went through something like this for every single person who is alive.

You don't get human life without this experience.

It is a privilege, but it's also a task, a heavy one at that. My stomach has been unhappy all day long. I've felt both full and weak.

I've lumbered up and down the grocery store aisles and leaned heavily on the cart for balance. I spoke with the owner at Vino, a wine and cheese store, requesting some brie. I told him I was pregnant and so didn't want to buy a whole wheel of it, given that my doctor has encouraged me to limit my intake to one portion a week.

"Are you sure you're pregnant?" he somewhat pointedly asked.

I smiled wryly at him. He has little idea what it's like to go from having to tell everyone that you really are pregnant to watching others stare at your abdomen and ignore your face--all in a matter of a few weeks.

The prospect of traveling to speak in San Diego Tuesday, Vail on Friday and then to Diego again the following Tuesday feels enormous. I'll have Dale with me on the first two trips, but will probably travel alone next week.

I've never felt my vulnerability as much as I do now. The world is not designed to be navigated and successfully engaged for seven month pregnant women, sidewalks are too slippery, parking spaces too far, terminal corridors too long, grocery stores too big, luggage too heavy and snow too thick.

Pregnancy makes me think of the interdependence of men and women, as Paul says,

"For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God." 1 Cor 11:8-12

This mutual interdepence is something I feel every day now. Of course, this is one of my hard days where I feel my dependency on all those stronger than me. But my weakness is due to the work my body does in making a home for a boy, who will one day be a man, who will one day (I hope) help others who are weaker than him.

At home, after getting the mail, a process more involved out in the country than just opening a mailbox, and then putting the groceries away I did manage to ask for help from the man in my life.

I asked Dale to help me finish my laundry which involved a lot more instructions due to silk long-johns and wool scarves and other unmentionables that required special care and attention. He did it all beautifully. Meanwhile I finished putting my clothes away.

I watched the Incredibles and sat glowing in expectation for my dinner meal, which is the payment I receive for the piano lesson I gave earlier today.

Another glimmer was a package in our mailbox I just opened, a beautifully hand-crocheted baby blanket from my dear friend Jodi Holman, a woman I've been friends with since we were in diapers. Along with her exquisite labor of love came a baby size pair of blue jeans, a red flannel collared shirt, a matching faux fur trimmed aviator style hat lined in the same red flannel.

Little moments like these make the days more than just tolerable.

A few weeks later . . . (after learning that some of my fatigue was due to a sinus infection and completing the crazy week of travel to San Diego 2 times and once to Vail in which I rediscovered my love for speaking, ministering and then resting at home again) . . .

Little did I know that these last few days I've been actually training myself for a late night evidence that my body is actually stronger than I thought. Coming home from San Diego the 2nd time I decided that I had the strength to work out in some manner every day, even if this "working out" means a short walk.

So this last Friday I went on a snow shoe with the dogs and yesterday I actually swam 12 laps at the local pool, even while popping out of my pre-pregnancy tankini. Feeling very proud of myself yesterday I did another snow show before the snow fell by multiple inches.

There was over a feet covering our road by the time we made it home from our house church celebration late last night. Dale had just commented on how he worries on nights like this about getting stuck on the final steep "S" turn before we turn right into our driveway and having to walk up the rest of the way.

"I don't think you can walk up that far," he explained as he navigated the slippery road.

Indignant I disagreed.

Less than five minutes later we slid off the road into the ditch. We tried several times to power out and get back on the road, but the snow was like whipped meringue, it pulled us farther backwards, farther to the side until I felt more horizontal than vertical in my passenger's seat. I wound my scarf around my neck, jammed my gloves and hat on and clambered out of the car on the driver's side. My side would have left me waist deep in a snow bank.

You know, given that I had to walk over a 2/10 of a mile in knee deep snow, up a steep road, at 10 pm at night, in a tight pencil skirt and platform boots (waterproof, incredibly stable and comfortable, mind you!), in 25 degree weather (which, crazy as it sounds, really felt mostly warm except for the occasional wind), I did very well.

I'm very proud of my pregnant little body today, amazed at the strength I still had in me, amazed that my legs carried me and Birdie steady and true up, up, up the road, up, up, up the driveway, through the path into our warm house.

I'm determined to keep enjoying the tremendous compact feeling of having a child in my womb without having to worry about keeping him warm, fed, clothed, changed or burped... how marvelously compact he is. I'm delighted that pregnancy is so self-sustained that Birdie could stay warm and safe while I did the work of hiking.

I can get up for a 6am flight and not worry about waking him, I can swim laps at the local pool and not worry about watching over him, I can take all the leisure I need to get myself ready and not worry about bathing him. Of course when I get to worry about all these things, I plan to embrace them, but for now, I'm enjoying the portability of my son.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Does Buddha Offer and What Does Jesus Offer?

I've been in dialog with several Buddhists from around the world in my blog post "Jesus Outshines Buddha. Read the comments to see our dialog.

From my interaction with them, I've begun to believe that it would be helpful for me and for you, my readers, to encounter some positive comparisons between these very different worldviews. I've heard people say all religions or philosophies teach people how to be better. If so, I want to hear about how, specifically.

I hope and have been praying that this blog post will serve to invite Jesus followers and Buddhists to post comments answering this one question:

How has Jesus or Buddha's teaching impacted your life in a positive way? Within this question is embedded the further interesting query of what attracted you to either Jesus or Buddha's life and teaching rather than the other? The more personal and specific you can be, the more interesting your input will be to all of us.

Try to avoid writing things like, "Jesus has saved me" or "Buddha provided the Noble Truths" instead tell us precisely how you've become a better person and how you've appropriated your religious founder's teaching. For example, if you post about how Jesus has saved you, we all want to know what you mean. What has Jesus saved you from? What does 'salvation' mean to you? Please reference the passages in the Holy Book that back up your beliefs, so we can all learn and read more for ourselves.

Holy Books

Like Christianity, Buddhism has different branches, Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana to mention a few, so let's be open to hearing about varieties within their belief system. For instance, as far as I can tell, Theravada Buddhists believe the canon to be closed with the Pali Canon Tipitaka and Mahayana Buddhists believe the canon is still open to more sacred scriptures. Christians look to the Bible as their holy book, Catholics include a few more books in this body of work, while Protestants a few less. Theravada Buddhists rely on the Pali Canon Tipitaka (includes Buddha's sermons, rules for monks and philosophy), Mahayana Buddhists favor the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-pundarika) and the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna-paramita) and other writings, Vajrayana Buddhists use the Kanjur and the Tanjur. So keep an eye out for these holy books in our discussion below.

Defining Terms

To get us started, I'd like to point out that there are significant differences in Buddhists and Christians understanding of things like salvation, enlightenment, death, worldview and the purpose of life. This means it is all the more important for each of us to define our terms.

I'd like to begin by re-quoting a few ideas my new Buddhist friend from Malaysia, Rahula, a knowledgeable blogger who I hope will be posting more of his insights here. To see Rahula's comments on the topic of Buddha and women look 1/2 way down in the comments on Jesus Outshines Buddha.

Enlightenment for a Buddhist means: the extinction of lust, hatred and delusion. (Samyutta Nikaya, 38:1-2). This is the definition given for nibbana and arahant.

In Siddhartha’s case, he is said to attain enlightenment when he had:

i)knowledge of recollection of his past lives;

ii)knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings; and finally,

iii)knowledge of the destruction of the taints/defilements (Maha Saccaka Sutta)

Rahula's explanation of enlightenment makes me think harder about what Buddha offers and what Jesus offers. How is Jesus' offer of "abundant life" and "living water"(John 10:10, John 4:13) different from Buddha's of enlightenment?

Rules of Engagement

Anyone can post here, I only ask you all abide by a few rules of respectful engagement in your commenting:

  1. Define your terms: whether they be "sin" or "samsara", "atonement" or "nirvana".
  2. Do ask questions of one another. Seek clarity from people who hold a different worldview than you do, ask them to help you understand better.
  3. Do not patronize, disrespect or in any way belittle other people's beliefs. If you do the latter I will reject your blog post.
  4. I invite you to include your email address at the end of our comment so that if your comment is rejected I can email you the offending section and you might be helped to re-post with offensive material deleted. This will help us all learn how to be more honoring in our discussion.
  5. I promise to carefully read every comment submitted. Since I come to this discussion as a follower of Jesus I want to be extra careful to not favor Christians more than Buddhists. So no matter how incredible your argument, do not insult, patronize or accuse others, if you do I will reject your comment. Ask questions, seek understanding, be willing to find Buddhists or Christians who do not fit what we may have previously believed about each other.
  6. I reserve the right to jump in and direct our conversation away from what appears to me to be a tangent and keep us on topic (the positive benefits of following Jesus or Buddha). My comments may be long or short depending on my job as facilitator. I ask that you, however, limit your responses to one comment to each person you are responding to (~4000 characters- blogger will let you know if your comment is too long). This will ensure our writing prevents us from overwhelming each other with exhausting, multiple comments to each other.
  7. As new comments come up feel free to post additional comments. I do not want to limit the times you post on this blog, but I do want the limit the number of comments you post to one person. We don't want to bombard or monologue each other away from discussion.
  8. If you have every taken a comparative religion class you will have amassed beliefs about other people's worldview. Take care when assuming this means you also understand the entire religion. I have been both falsely accused as believing things Jesus never taught and I have been guilty of accusing others of believing things Buddha never promoted. This blog and the ensuing comments are a place to learn. Please ask questions of one another for clarity, but do not assume you know more than adherents of any religion, unless you ask them first.
  9. If more rules are needed I will highlight them in the comments with "NEW RULE ALERT."
One Way Jesus Has Helped Me

I'll get this started with a few things I've found Jesus has given me.

Jesus has given me steady companionship, someone I can ask questions of and find direction from. He promised he would be a friend to his followers (Matthew 28:20, John 15:15). For instance, I've struggled with lust and Jesus has been someone I can actively engage in my struggle. As I've written in a previous post, I practice inviting Jesus into my lustful thoughts and he works a 180 degree change in my beliefs, thoughts and desires. I find myself not ceasing to have desire for men, but my actual desire changing into hunger to know them as people, noticing the men around me, not in a predatory way, but with new eyes, to see them as made in God's image, valuable and distinctly personal with family, friends and the capacity for dignity.

I invite you to share how your spiritual journey, with either Jesus or Buddha's teaching, has changed your life positively. Let's learn and challenge one another toward truth!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

When Women Carry . . . Handguns: Sergeant Kimberly Munley and Fort Hood

The recent shooting at Fort Hood has left me sober, but also grateful. If you have not heard the story I recommend you read it here:"Hash Browns, Then 4 Minutes of Chaos." Below is a significant section that I want to highlight this morning:

"Kimberly Munley, a 35-year-old police officer, happened to be nearby, waiting for her squad car to get a tune-up, when she heard the commotion. She raced to the scene . . . As she rounded a corner, she saw Maj. Hasan chasing a wounded soldier through an open courtyard. He looked as though he was trying to "finish off" the wounded soldier, Mr. Medley said.

"He looked extremely focused," said Francisco De La Serna, a 23-year-old medic who had fled the building and was watching the same scene unfold from a hiding spot across the street.

Ms. Munley's first shot missed Maj. Hasan. He spun to face her and began charging, Mr. Medley said.

The time was 1:27 p.m., just four minutes after the initial 911 call.

Authorities haven't said precisely how many shots were fired during the running gun battle between Maj. Hasan and Ms. Munley. But one of her shots hit Mr. Hasan in the torso, knocking him to the ground. With that, officials say, she quite likely prevented more injuries or deaths on the base.

Ms. Munley took two bullets to her legs. Both entered her left thigh, ripped through the flesh and lodged in her right thigh. She also received a minor wound to the right wrist.

Specialist De La Serna, the medic hiding across the street, sprinted to the scene as the shooting stopped and put a tourniquet on Ms. Munley, who was fading in and out of consciousness, he said. Then he moved to Maj. Hasan, who had a gunshot wound through the chest.

Ms. Munley underwent surgery Thursday night to halt bleeding and faces at least two more operations to remove the bullets in her thigh." quoted from The Wall Street Journal, to read more from this article or from another in the WSJ "Lethal Rampage at Fort Hood."


In these pictures of Major Hasan and Ms. Munley, both man and woman involved in this gunfight look like kind people. And yet they each took their weapons out to kill one another. This forces me to note an unsettling and significant fact of our fallen world.

When Sergeant Kimberly Munley pulled out her handgun to shoot Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, a man who had killed 13 and wounded 30, she put herself, a woman, against a man. Without her gun she could not have matched his strength, but with her sidearm she was capable of meeting his aggression.

Ms. Munley makes me think of the unnecessary losses when a man pits his strength against a woman's vulnerability and dominates. Makes me think of the students at Virginia Tech. What if one female student at Virginia Tech, with the same tenacity to run after the assassin as Munley had been permitted to carry concealed weapons? Makes me think of my neighbor whose close friend was hunted down at her own home by a serial murderer and despite a long, physical struggle against him, eventually decapitated in her own home. What if she had had been carrying a concealed weapon and knew how to use it?

What if women were encouraged to know how to use guns, instead of our society relegating guns to violent, dangerous, testosterone-fueled obsessive types?

Munley laid her own life in harm's way to protect those who could no longer protect themselves. She was equipped not only with a weapon but with the courage and skills to protect herself and others. She bent stereotypes and for that I am deeply grateful. I feel my heart quake in me when I think of her running toward Maj. Hasan, drawing his fire away from the wounded. I'm sure she knew she might not come through alive. Still, because she was armed, a woman's strength was on equal ground with a violent man's. It surprises me that there are not more feminist's blogs commenting on the need for women to carry a concealed weapon.

Ms. Munley's heroism and willingness to attack an aggressor, rather than run, speaks to the power a sidearm when held by a capable woman in battle. Because she was trained and armed she was a force powerful enough to stop Maj Hasan.

Upon moving to the woods, a remote region in the Rocky Mountains, Dale and I both filed for concealed carry licenses. We had to take a three hour safety class and then endure fingerprinting and knowing we're under suspicion (you should hear some of our big-city friends when they find out) for the offense of wanting to exercise our Constitutional right (something I thought only fanatical, kooky people every wanted) of carrying our own guns.

Last month we took a handgun defensive training class, in Eastern Oregon at Thunder Ranch. Their goal, "Our primary concern is that people who come to Thunder Ranch® leave with a peace of mind in their heart and head. We strongly hope that they never have to use any of the skills or things learned here for the defense of themselves or their family, but if they do, we want this knowledge to be used confidently and with great vigor."

Still, I was, frankly, afraid. I didn't know my 40 caliber pistol all that well, I was nervous about making a mistake with so much risk at stake and the gun is just LOUD and forceful. Besides, I was 16 weeks pregnant. Was this a wise thing to do? My doctor, surprised at my request, said the baby would be fine and to be careful. If I learned anything at Thunder Ranch it was awe for the power of a gun. We NEVER allowed the gun to point at something we did not want to destroy. I'm more careful now than I was before, but I'm also a heck of a lot more accurate. Dale says he's glad to have me at his side.

Our instruction, Clint Smith, marine corps veteran and police officer, nationally known for training SWAT teams in urban defense, and his wife and one other assistant, helped me and 11 others learn the importance of steady, careful gun drawing, shooting, re-loading, clearing jams and re-holstering. We fired over 800 rounds in 3 days. And I've never met a more conscientious, respectful group of strangers. None of them fit the stereotypes of gun-carrying fanatics. You can, by the way take classes like these all over the nation, but Clint's record of safety (he's had NO accidents and 19,000 clients) and professionalism motivated us to make the trip.

The cost of the class was severe, not only in dollars, but also in energy, strain and fatigue. By the end of each day my pregnant belly, around which I could barely squeeze my belt to hold my holster, were aching. While the class included several couples, I was the only pregnant woman. By the second day I had rubbed my fingers raw with clicking the safety on and off of my handgun. It was very cold most the time (watch the video below to see our breath in the air as we practice a leaning drill to know how to be off balance and shoot around corner). We could not wear gloves, so we would know how the gun felt without any protection. I felt every bump and button, I know how to load and ask for "Cover!" while I'm vulnerable. And Dale and I know how to work as a team. The ear protection helped, but the repetition of drawing, firing, belting out verbal commands to "Get Away" or "Stop" combined with the ceaseless vigilance, left me utterly exhausted at the end of each day. Then we had to pick up all our shells, carefully unload, clean our equipment, then finally off to find some dinner.
video
While men and their guns has grown into a stereotype mixed with red-necks and caricatures of violence, I know many gun-carrying men (many who attended the class at Thunder Ranch) and women who carry their weapons with humility, respect and utmost safety. I would trust them to defend me. I'm grateful for their willingness to carry a dangerous weapon so others might be safe. So as I move on to catch up with the rest of my life, as I read the week 24 update on my pregnancy, as I think of protecting the lives of those nearest to me, I'm grateful to have a husband who wanted to educate me about concealed carry.

And in light of the sobering murders committed at Fort Hood, I want to salute the women across the country today who bare the disapproval, misunderstanding and mockery of carrying a sidearm, not only for their own safety, but for the love of their fellow men and women.

To read more about the Biblical justification for carrying a handgun see this helpful blog: The Cornered Cat

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Women- Sexy, Sexual, Feminine

Since Halloween is today, the one holiday where women can get away with dressing in the most sexual version of their favorite animal or occupation, with a recent speaking engagement on women and sexuality under my belt (listen at Irving Bible Church, select "Sexuality"), with a baby boy in my womb, reminding me that I'm currently enjoying the supposedly ultima of all feminine experiences, I think a post on what it means to be a woman, to be sexy, to be sexual, to be feminine, is in order.

Sexy

What does it mean for a woman to be sexy? And is that something we can be without defrauding (arousing desires others cannot righteously pursue) in men (and women) around us?

Can you be sexy without being promiscuous, flirtatious, trampy? What are the core components of a sexy woman? Are these the same as the qualities of a sexy man?

When you say, "She's sexy!" what do we mean by the words? Are we speaking of a woman's power to dominate or attract the opposite sex? Or does 'sexy' mean something about her confidence. I remember C.S. Lewis' comment on a beautiful woman, "Just to watch her watch across the room is a liberal education."

Okay, this is where you comment below :)

Sexual

What does it mean to be sexual? Lilian Calles Barger, author of Eve's Revenge, says we are sexual when we give ourselves; it's our capacity for self-giving. I beg to differ.

The act of sex, or erotic expression is by nature an act of self-giving and therefore an act of love. All self-giving acts are by nature loving, but I would not call all loving acts sexual. Would you?

When God the Father sent God the Spirit to live among men and women, to comfort and guide us, he was self-giving, but this wasn't sexual. Put another way, all sexual acts are self-giving, but not all self-giving acts are sexual. I can give chocolates to my mom for her birthday, but I wouldn't call the gift a sexual expression.

And yet, everywhere we go, we bring our whole selves into the action and part of being human is to have a body that is gendered... from conception we have the capacity for erotic love, we just need time and nutrients to grow the capacity into possibility/actuality.

And in ever encounter in life we are gendered (which has hints of sexuality) beings, whether we're "having sex" or not.


Feminine

Have you ever noticed how every encounter between the sexes (brother/sister, father/daughter, co-workers, pastors on a church staff, bank teller and customer) has a sexual dimension to it. I'm not saying every person of the opposite sex creates a temptation for us to imagine sexual intercourse, this would mean every person struggles with incestuous thoughts.

Keep in mind that men and women's encounters need not always end in sexual intercourse. I think of the tender knowing between Matthew Cuthbert and Anne of Green Gables, when Anne says, "We're such kindred spirits he knows my thoughts." I recall the wry mutual respect between Elizabeth Bennett and her father as they mock the odious Mr. Collins. I notice my grandmother's relationship with her brother in law. They spend hours driving to visit his sister, sometimes my grandpa accompanies them, sometimes not. But they know each other personally and interact with mutual regard and delight.

I sit at an airport and watch male and female coworkers joking and teasing one another, three women and two men, tossing lines back and forth with ease and interest, witty enough for a sitcom script, enough mystery to keep me interested. I enjoy watching the sexes interacting with freedom and respect. After the men leave to de-ice a plane, the three women, all middle-aged, repeat lines, rehearse what they could have said and laugh all over again.

Now, several minutes later another woman walks up and the conversation switches to creating a wishing there were a magical machine that could lift their wrinkles and commenting on one woman's new hair color. The women switch gears, they mutually admire, they joke, but the hues have changed. They can let their hair down with each other in another way; their conversation has shifted into the ways they mutually understand female embodiment.

Unfortunately male and female friendships where the sexual element is neither erased nor swollen into raw erotic desire is hard to find.

Since most of our day to day interaction with men will be in the realm of friendship, if we're afraid that every close female/male friendship will erupt in illicit sex, we will not interact with men well. We will close off our person-hood and femininity and interact in functional ways. Kind of like the way I interact with my car: I expect it to offer a service, I feed it gas and oil and sometimes clean the windows, but I do not want to know what it thinks about, how it feels, what dreams it has. I see women relate like this to men, there's a cold efficiency in their actions, little eye-contact, a mechanical-ism that isolates and dehumanizes both parties. Perhaps it makes us feel safer. I know I whip out this functional behavior when men whistle at me, I stiffen my neck and regard them with the same interest I'd give a fence post. They've reduced me to merely my body, so I return the favor. I do not look into their eyes with any warmth. I can't and remain safe.

In a world where people are wounded and wound each other, I wonder if there are places women can be warm and fully embodied in our femininity with men?

I believe women, for instance, are always aware of the otherness of men (as men are of women), in a way that colors all male-female interaction differently than the hues in female friendship can.

When I meet a man I note the way he is different, no matter how similar our interests, training, upbringing, ethnicity or faith. A man incarnates to me another way to be human. And this otherness imbues my conversation with him with a brighter spectrum of mystery, more discovery, more suspense. This interest between the sexes is in part responsible for our love of movies where the guy and girl meet and navigate their relationship. What will they become? How do they see each other? Who are they individually and separately?

All humans come with a body predisposed to offer love in one of two ways, we give either female or male love. Instead of calling this our sexuality, since sexual can refer to the sex act or our gender, I'd prefer to talk about how we give to others in either feminine or masculine ways. So, how does a man love? What makes his love different than a woman's love?

The answer, I think, will constitute our femininity (or masculinity) and I believe begins when we realize how our souls are wrapped into this body we have, with male and female parts, hormones, experiences.

I believe men and women in the church easily believe that women can tempt a man beyond what he is able to resist (the vice versa is also true), so rules to guard marriage and prevent temptation get set up. Rules like, "Never be alone with a woman (including offering rides, meeting for a meal in a public place, meeting for a project)." Perhaps this feels safer, and sometimes it is.

But when do these rules prevent the divine alliance of masculinity and femininity from learning how to relate in sexually honoring ways. Sometimes stringent male-only and female-only activities keep men from personally knowing any women in their lives, save family members and spouse. It also inflates the mystery between the sexes, which, in my opinion, balloons out into misunderstandings, unBiblical Mars-Venus ideology and even provides more room for fantasizing about our co-workers. It's easier to project upon a mysterious man the ideals we want, isn't it?

Nothing cures a fantasy like a dose of the real person, in a friendship. When I've grown attracted in a base way to the bodies of friends' husbands, I used to think I had only one option: get away from temptation. Cut off friendship with him and maybe even with his wife.

But there is another option, I've found learning to know them better can actually douse my sexual fires with a cold splash of water.

My only rule of thumb: I do not let myself grow close to a married man without first growing even closer to his wife. Out of these friendships I learn about his masculinity, his person-hood that will be inevitably more flawed than who I made him out to be. He's not particularly patient with his children; he runs away from confrontation; he is more fallen and more human than I could have believed.

I believe this was Jesus' way of being so close to women, without giving into the temptation (he must have felt) to make love to them. He knew the dance of personal intimacy without sexual innuendo. This is how I want to treat the men in my life.