Monday, December 17, 2007

An Interview with Ginger Garrett: Desiring Beauty, Wanting to be Loved

I've met a woman named Ginger Garrett who has carved a niche in ancient women's history. She co-hosts the cable television show Deeper Living, has authored six books and in the last few months has championed my book, Ruby Slippers. Read her review of Ruby Slippers on her blog (Fri, Nov 9).

I met Ginger through an email correspondence, where she proved to be a great source to investigate that interesting connection between women, beauty and God. She knows our hunger for beauty, our lack of satisfaction with our own bodies.

A Unique Voice

But here’s where Ginger stands apart from other Christian speakers and secular speakers. Ginger values the beauty secrets that affect both the soul and the body. She is my source for new skin care ideas (like honey-Wed Oct 17) and high boots that are customized for each women's calves (Wed Nov 21)). She’s also my source for the history of women’s beauty treatments of the Bible. Her recent book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, is available from her website. You might enjoy finding out by listening here that Biblical women had glitter eye-shadow, too. They weren’t quite as backward as we often think!

I caught up with Ginger to ask her some questions about the intersection of physical beauty and spirituality.

Interviewing Ginger

Hi Ginger! You once told me that there is a spirit/beauty connection. That piqued my interest. What sort of connection have you noticed in your writing and speaking to women?

Ginger: Americans spend about 150 billion on our appearance annually; that’s more than the government spends to cure AIDS, breast cancer, prostate cancer and diabetes combined. Yet, only 2% of American women would call themselves beautiful. We’re spending large sums of money to pursue something we don’t seem to ever actually get. This tells me the hunger for beauty is, indeed, spiritual, and cannot be satisfied with purchased products.

Have you found women who seek for beauty to also be more open to God? Why do you think that is?

Well, beauty is hard to define, isn’t it? It’s as much about a feeling as it is an appearance. It’s curious that the Bible references many beautiful women, and yet never describes what any of them look like. Even there, I think God’s message is that there is no one expression of His beauty. Diversity is His signature.

So the pursuit of beauty challenges every woman’s faith at some point. Is she, too, a wonderfully different expression of beauty? She must decide if she can love herself as she is, if she will be “enough.” That’s a scary risk to take, and prompts the natural question: do I trust God?

You mentioned that there’s a fabulous, but under-taught, story connected to the Exodus that talks about women and beauty. What is this story?

Ginger: When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, the men would go out and labor in grueling conditions, being whipped and treated like dogs. Jewish rabbis teach that the women used their beauty to “rescue” the men from the effects of slavery.

When men returned at night from the inhumane treatment, their wives greeted them looking like brides, sweet-smelling and lovely, without speaking a word, the women communicated to the men that they were honored, loved men, not worthless slaves.

Of course, God freed the people from slavery. But we see beauty re-surfacing in Exodus 38:8. When the time came to construct the first Tabernacle for God, the women donated their mirrors. The mirrors were a symbol to the women that their physical beauty had been used to honor God and defy evil.

I love the way you’ve given me new eyes to see the mirror donation as a way the women honored their God. It’s so different from what I have grown up believing, that mirrors are stumbling blocks and quick roads to vanity. I looked up Exodus 38:8 in my Bible and I had scribbled a sermon note into the margin. It read “women sacrifice vanity for a pure object.” How would you defend your interpretation if someone were to say that there is no “proof” that women were using these mirrors to honor God and defy evil?

Ginger: Like many sacred points of interest in Scripture, there is no further biblical teaching on the text. I rely on both Jewish midrash, (the traditional teachings of the Jewish faith) and what we know about this time in Israel’s history. They were leaving captivity in Egypt, a culture that venerated beauty and spent a great deal of their time and money cultivating it.

So the Israelite women were being set free from a culture that had enslaved them, a culture that worshipped physical beauty but not Yahweh. We can imagine that living in “the land of beautiful people” had only heightened their awareness of their own appearance.

That reminds me of the culture in most urban centers, where you must get "dressed up" to go shopping at the mall. I can see how the Egyptian culture could have been worked into the Hebrew women’s worldview and what a meaningful sacrifice the mirrors would be.

Ginger: Whether we rely on Jewish historical teaching, or simply apply common sense, we are left with the haunting image of women escaping this slavery who worshipped God by giving away their mirrors. The symbolism is rich and empowering, and I don’t believe it could be coincidental that this act was specifically called out in Scripture.

In our weight-obsessed culture, imagine if every woman on your street donated her scale so that the materials could be salvaged for building churches and shelters across the world. It would change the face of our culture and immediately put body image into its proper perspective. This is, in effect, what I believe the Israelite women did, and I can only imagine how sweet that final freedom tasted.

I like the parallel of donating scales. Even today, though, a “fast from mirrors” can be so helpful. When I’ve taken up that fast, even for only 24 hours, it has made a difference in how I view myself, other women and God.

What would you say is the reason women hunger to be beautiful? Do you find men hungering for this, too?

Ginger: A study was done by Joan Jacobs Brumberg comparing the diaries of Victorian girls to the girls of today.

In the Victorian Age, young girls believed the path to love and fulfillment was to be found in Christian deeds and morals. Appearance was downplayed in comparison to character. Today, Christian character is not the universal standard for gaining acceptance. As a result, girls funnel all their energy into their appearance, and a new generation of women dissatisfied with their appearance emerges.

Beauty is ultimately a quest for love. We think if were beautiful, we’ll be loved. When we’re standing at the cosmetics counter, we’re really trying to buy a feeling, not a product. That’s why we feel euphoric to find the perfect face cream, and six weeks later are scouting for a new one again. The high doesn’t last, and the cosmetics companies know this.

What we really want is lasting proof that we’re loveable and acceptable.

Men want this reassurance, too, of course. The pressure used to focus on their ability to provide a standard of living for women. Now women can provide our own finances, and we’re seeing men attacked more and more for their appearance. We’re seeing everything from calf implants to instant abs through liposuction, plus diet plans and “manscaping.” Poor men! They will rue the day we invented body wax!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A New Book Project

Susy Flory finished up her interview with me covering two questions. I wanted to share the last question with you. You can read the entire interview at Susy's Blog.

What’s next for you Jonalyn? Is there another book in the works, I hope?

A. I’m glad you want to read more. That’s so encouraging!

I want to write about how prejudice is overcome in friendship. I’ve been around too many women who are threatened by me and who shut the doors of legitimacy or support in my face because I’m too young, too thin, too articulate, too inexperienced, too whatever. I don’t fit theLored_shoes810680 kind of woman they want to meet and support. That’s a problem in them, but it’s also a problem in me. I have that same sort of tendency to pre-judge those who are different, the disabled woman, the single woman, the pastor’s wives, the perfect homemakers, the models, the old women, the young teeny-boppers, the missionaries, the house-keepers. It’s time for me to grow into seeing how God values all of us, in our differences.

So the next book project is about meeting these women we love to hate, getting to know why we hate them and how we can move into respect and love. The working title is Walking in Her Shoes. I’m excited to walk with God into this new territory.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Human Side of Prostitution: Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy

There are women who walk in the night, hawking their wares of body. Women who sell their bodies are often despised as debauched members of society or pitied as abused victims of society. Either way misses that these are humans who are drawn to the life of prostitution for similar reasons that a lonely woman is drawn to buy a fur coat, it helps her feel warm and valuable. I have not met an author (at least not since Dostoevsky and Tolstoy) who faces the fact that many women choose their victimization.

A New Book
I've discovered a book you must know about, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden (1907-1998). Godden, a prolific author, writes beautifully of nuns. Not just any nuns, but nuns who were once women in hellish lives. Godden has shown me more of the nature of God by "wrapping it in a nun's habit and then unmasking it." (Introduction by Joan Chittister).

The Sisters of Bethany
This jewel of a story is built on the real story of a real convent, The Sisters of Bethany, a unique Dominican Third Order of the Congregation of Saint Mary Magdalen, nuns who come from prison to join the order. An order dreamed and built up by Pere Marie Jean Joseph Lataste in the 1860's. Godden's story, set in France immediately after World War II, follows the coming of age of Lise, a beautiful English girl, who finds herself compelled and attracted to the rich, smooth-talking Patrice. Lise's downward spiral is unique mainly because we see each step as willfully chosen, we understand her life as something Lise wants. The Catholic tradition of blurring the lines between Mary of Bethany (the one who sat at Jesus' feet) with Mary of Magdalene (the woman who had seven demons and was first to see Christ at the tomb) with the Mary who was a sinner and anointed Jesus' feet is worked throughout Godden's narrative. We see that Lise feels like all these Marys. We see that we identity with all the Mary's, the sinner, the first witness, the disciple, all longing for Christ's healing.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy is worth reading this Christmas, for it shows the significant depth a human can fall, it shows what it means to be human and horrid, and what it means to move out of abuse into life because of the persistent mercy of God.

For Those Who Love Women
It is a haunting story, but not gratuitous as it reaches into depravities of sex and violence. Godden opens up the darkness in the human soul, but always for the sake of understanding, compassion and hope. If you counsel, teach, raise or love young women, this is a must read.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy has been reprinted by Loyola Press. I found it in Bas Blue, (bä blũ French, blue stocking, a literary woman; a bluestocking) bookseller-by-post. Bas Blue is the self-proclaimed "champion of the odd little book." This odd little book will make an indelible mark on you. For purchasing information: Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, I'd suggest that you patron Bas Blue, rather than Amazon, as it's a chance to promote a bookseller than hunts for good reads.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Was it God's Plan for the Church to Repress Women?

I thought you'd enjoy another question from the conversation I had with Susy Flory about my book, Ruby Slippers. This one covers a controversial question, "Is Christianity really good news for women?" Read her entire interview here.

Susy Flory's Q: Many of the women who are embracing goddess spirituality point to the church’s ill treatment and repression of women. Was this part of God’s plan? Where did we get off track?

Jonalyn's Answer. God never intended his people to abuse one another. I imagine his pain when he watched the Jewish people suffering during the Holocaust or the unnecessary pain women were forced to endure labor as anesthesia was withheld from them during birth to “enforce” the curse. God hates abuse. But we cannot judge a thing by its abuse, especially the church.

Part of the reason I’m so impressed with Christianity is due to the way its founder, Jesus, treats women. Put Christ up against any other major religion’s founder, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, T.C. Russell or Siddhartha Buddha and you find his dignity for a woman body and soul to surpass all of the others in life and teachings. Most religions either magnify the male over the female or the female over the male, or they emphasize body over the soul or the soul over the body. I find refreshment in the Creation Story of the Bible because God created men and women to both need one another in body and soul. It affirms my intuitions, my reason and my experience.

The reason the church and any of these groups “got off track” is due to either exaggerating differences between the sexes to the point of devaluing the gender (usually women) who were different, or flattening the differences so that we don’t need each other. We will not value someone unless we recognize we need them. Valuing a different ethnicity or gender is just political genuflecting unless we realize we are deficient in something this group offers. If we really believed women, for instance, would bring necessary insights to preaching or decision making we would not have to make laws forcing companies or churches to hire them. We would promote them out of sheer concern to “get the bigger picture” and to understand reality more fully.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ruby Slippers Blog Interview by Susy Flory

Christian author and speaker,Susy Flory's mission is "reflecting light into the culture's dark corners." She has written about the problems of Wicca and Goddess worship in Today's Christian Woman, "The Goddess Unmasked" and is currently working on a book entitled Unmasking the Goddess: What Every Woman Needs to Know about Goddess Spirituality.

Susy wrote me a few weeks back, enthusiastic about her discovery of Ruby Slippers and curious about the intersection of Goddess Worship and the Woman's Soul. Today (Dec 4th) she posted the first installment of her dialog with me. To read the entire post see her blog. Susy Flory writes:

Try on these ruby slippers!

"Christianity...endowed the human female with a soul." (Simone De Beauvoir, quoted in Ruby Slippers)

There's a buzz growing about a new book called Ruby Slippers: How the soul of a woman brings herRuby_slippers home. A blogger friend of mine recently voted Ruby Slippers the best nonfiction book of 2007. Why? The author, Jonalyn Fincher, fearlessly tackles the core question of what it means to be a woman, helping us to sort out the truth from the competing voices telling us that femininity is all about glass slippers, romances, modesty, submission, and babies. Yes...there is more! What does it really mean to be feminine? What are God's ideas about womanhood? What does it mean that Jesus redeemed women as well as men?

Although she's a busy writer and speaker, I recently caught up with Jonalyn for a few questions... Read more at Susy's Blog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is "Femininity" a Social Construct?

In response to the Gifted for Leadership blog (see News at right), an ongoing, provocative discussion has been taking place at Emerging women (Nov 22, 2007).

I wanted to share a few ideas that the women there helped me clarify. I was challenged by the emerging women to show that femininity is something real and essential and not just a social construct. They thought female was something biological, but femininity was something socially constructed. It has been my ongoing desire to rescue femininity from stereotypes that harm women. Here's a cutting of what I wrote to them:

The term “feminine” often does refer to a sociological construct and not biology. But that does not mean femininity cannot be a real, essential aspect of every woman.

I’m afraid that because there are so many types of femininity (as you say feminine often changes between generations, cultures, ethnicities) we assume that there is no essence to being a female. That’s where I would disagree with you. I think you have assumed that variety of feminine codes entails no essential femininity. But if we applied that to morality, for instance (morals change between generations, cultures and ethnicities) we’d have to assume there is no timeless morality (a statement I’d disagree with since morality flows from the attributes of a changeless God). In a similar way, variety of female types does not prove there is no essence to femininity because femininity comes from God’s nature, as does masculinity (notice I do not mean female or male organs here, just the soul differences come from God). There could be a variety of explanations for the variety of femininities we see:

1- The Fall creates aberrations of the original intention of what male and female was to look like

2- God loves variety so he is honored by the differences in women, but this doesn’t preclude the possibility that God has given us a few essential things by which we know women are united.

3- We haven’t hunted down and found the similarities, but instead are either daunted by the differences or frustrated at how simplified women are often described to be so avoid it altogether.

4- Or as you’ve pointed out, there is no essential femininity

When I use the word “feminine” I mean it to refer to the ways a woman can be female and I grant that there are many, many ways. But the variety of feminine ways to be does not, in my mind, undermine the importance of discovering some, or even one, of the essentials of females. Since our body seems to be one agreed upon, necessary characteristic of females, I think Christian women would serve theology, philosophy and spiritual formation disciplines well if we developed a theology of female embodiment (for instance, we need to question even the “scientific” evidence as has been popularized by The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine and Carol Gilligan’s In A Different Voice,and compare these findings against comprehensive meta-analyses on gender studies e.g. Dr. Janette Shibley Hyde's work. We need to guard ourselves from the modernistic, materialistic tendency to value science over theology, especially if we believe in the ability of all humans, including women, to be able to choose how to use our biological differences. A brain difference might not be quite as determinant as a soul difference. We don’t want to fall into the trap of elevating a body difference as more substantial than a soul difference).

In Ruby Slippers, I use “feminine” to mean the how we own the ways God has made us female. This will include a variety of roles, season, behaviors, occupations, etc, customized to each woman (childbearing for some, singleness for others). I do believe we have a need to feel free to walk with God into what he’s made unique about us. If we find there are other women similar to us (like when you discover you’re an extrovert, for instance, and that there are others similar to you) that helps us in companionship and community for the journey. That is why we gain by seeking out what makes women unique.

In Ruby Slippers I talk about how we are intricate strands of body and soul fabric, woven by God. Our soul permeates our bodies like salt dissolved in water. This enmeshed view of the soul in the body is over a thousand years old and philosophically known as Thomistic dualism. According to this view any body difference impacts our souls, too. Our soul-infused body is never generically “human.” Humans are only male or female. There is no such thing as a generic human. And it makes sense to me that the physical differences of sex (chromosomes, sexual organs, hormones,) make essential differences on our soul’s capacities (mind, will, emotions, spirit) and therefore on our essential selves. How can a body difference not create a substantial difference to who we are? All our experiences are mediated by this body which in turns informs our soul. And since our experience is gendered from conception, our souls are incapable of non-gendered existence. That’s what female embodiment is all about.

I love that you take the phrase “image of God” seriously in your investigation of what it means to be female. I’m glad you’ve chosen to embrace that. And I agree that men and women take dominion in all areas of life best when we are, as in Eden, side by side. My question for you is what makes your soul own your female body differently than if your soul owned a male body? How does that change the way you engage with the world, friends, men, superiors, inferiors, God, angels, etc? How is your humanness dyed female?

You’ve stated we cannot know which parts of God are female or male. This is why I believe “feminine” is the best word to describe the unique female soul characteristics of women. God is not female, but he own feminine characteristics. God is not male, but he owns masculine characteristics. How do I know? He says so in Scripture. I think it’s worth digging into these metaphors (father, son, nurse, hen, mother, birther) to know our God better and to know our humanness better. So in your life, how does your femininity change the way the parishioners see God? How does your female body and feminine soul round out, fill up and build up their picture of God? What does female embodiment look like as you pursue metaphorical fruit? I know you’ve said that you own some typically “masculine” traits. This is where your experience as a woman would help others round out our understanding of how femininity does look. You are fully woman, fully feminine when you own all the traits God’s given you. I struggle when people assume a trait is masculine even when it’s owned by a woman (from my reading I think this is much more Jungian than Biblical, if God made us male and female than the traits we have are things we can call feminine, another way God is shown through a woman). This why I want to redeem “femininity” not just toss it into the socially constructed milieu pile. This is what Ruby Slippers led me to work through. I think we all would profit from your investigation into these questions, too.

And I agree with you, defining femininity will not be a simple definition. I hope I don’t come across like femininity or masculinity is a simple, clear-cut matter. I don’t believe it is, but I still find it worth investigating, poring over, writing about, talking about, finding. I believe femininity is real and we can catch glimmers of it in all the women we know.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Her Opening Chapter

I dropped into my sister’s new home last Monday. She has lived as a married woman for over two months, now. I noticed how her neatly ordered life of sparse belongings had blended with her husband’s life. Everything was spliced in that newly-wed hodge-podge of new individuals learning to combine. Her husband’s large shoes lined up next to my sister’s rainbow sandals, an artistic canister from her childhood bedroom holding his scrolls of landscape drawings, her medieval pewter cups gracing his sturdy architecture books. It looked tidy, fresh, organized, symbolic, like the first pages a good novel.

There is that moment when you furtively duck into a rich beginning of a grand story. You read knowing that the strangers in the first few lines are worth noting as they will become beloved parts of your imagination. In those early pages a small point, a poignant adjective can make the utmost significance to how we see and know and love these fictional people. Small things loom large in the first few pages.

Small things loom large in the first few months of living in the covenant of marriage.

I felt the longings for unity in my sister’s home. In her restroom I saw two towels in hallelujah blue and glory yellow beaming from their respective pegs. Their colors were so bright I felt like they must have just bought them, then I realized they probably did. There hadn't even been time for them to fade from washings, nor time for their to be worn spots or spills on their furniture. There was one little framed picture, one of the few earmarks of their nuptials, a shot of them coming down the aisle after the wedding, my sister looking somewhat relieved to be out of the spotlight, her husband smiling. It was hung between their two mirrors above their two identical bathroom sinks.

When Dale and I were first married people got this look in their eyes when we told them we'd only been married a few months. Dale didn’t appreciate it, that cootchy-cootchy-coo attitude. He did not want to become a cutsy spectacle for others to fawn over. But seeing the intentional merging of my sister and my brother-in-law’s worlds, I understand that the look of older couples on us was more tender than patronizing. I realize that they were praying and willing us to make it.

The seeds are there for my sister, there is love from her to him and back again. They are beginning well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Biblical Womanhood?

When I sat down to write Ruby Slippers I got some excellent advice.
  • Don't assume that you have THE model of womanhood.
  • Take time to be freeing and flexible to your readers
  • Before normalizing any experience you've had look around, does it fit all types of women?

And God pointed my gaze to women (my agent, my publisher, my grandmothers, Deborah, Ruth, Priscilla) who didn't fit my neat list of feminine traits. Eventually, I came to a place where I could honestly say, "I am not offering an exhaustive index on femininity or the only biblical model for womanhood" (Ruby Slippers 25). Read more about re-working my original narrow conceptions of femininity in Ruby Slippers' "Epilogue" pg 192-193.

There is a steady stream of work, however, that says there is one form of Biblical Womanhood. Much to my dismay, the L.A. Times has covered one such example at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where you can get a BA in their newly opened degree in Home Economics (hooray for the Home Ec revival). Sadly, it's only open to women.

The journalist interviewed Dorothy Patterson who appears to be certain that her flavor of homemaking is biblical.

So in no particular order, here are some of the problems with equating Biblical womanhood with the stay-at-home flavor of femininity (a great way to be feminine, but by no means the only way!).

By the way, reading the article (free membership required) will give you some interesting perspective and background on my comments.

Problem 1: The college is equating God's purpose for women with being a helper suitable for man (Gen 2:18, Hebrew ezer = pronounced "ay'-zer", best translated ally). That's fine and mostly good, but to them, being an ezer means being good at home economics. So "helper" means sewing buttons, sustaining sparkling dinner conversations, and making a delicious meal. One woman who gave up her career when her husband wanted children is quoted as saying "If we love the Scripture, we must do it. We must fit into this role." Is this really what Scripture says? I find that the word most associated with ezer is the synonym warrior-protector, not homemaker. This idea leaves no room for the Proverbs 31 woman (a female often esteemed by Southern Baptists as the ideal woman) who is part organics farmer (v. 13), artist (v.13), international exports and imports monitor(v.14, 24), chef (v.15), food storage and distribution expert (v.15), administrator (v.15), public relations officer, (v.15),realtor (v.16), oenologist (v.16), pilates attender (v.17), accountant (v.18), textile operator (v. 19), defense attorney for the poor and oppressed (v.20), interior designer (v.22), fashion designer (v.13,21,24), high-achieving-up-at-the-crack- of-dawn-coffee-drunk -paper-read-off-to-work sort of woman (v.15, 18), and most of these positions bring her earning, i.e. real world money. She is a real provider and protector for her family, in both the public and private spheres. And it no where says she has a joint checking account with her husband. Though she may have. The point is not to be overwhelmed by her, the point is that we've got options ladies, real options.

Problem 2: This view of "biblical homemaking" bars wives and mothers from taking co-dominion opportunities in the public market place: law, business, academy, church. Now don't hear me wrong, I don't mean to say that staying home with kids, or even being a homemaker without children is a poor decision, but let's not prescribe it as the only godly position. The minimal number of Christian wives and mothers modeling what it looks like to be professors, attorneys, public servants, itinerant speakers, corporate executives has hurt more than a few women in deciding on what options are open to them. Would that we really had more Prov 31 examples around!

Problem 3: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, et al., have constructed an artificial realm of womanhood (i.e. home economics), and failed to dig deeper into the real unique things women offer. A man can iron, sew, cook, entertain just as well as a woman, so making women Masters of Home Economics pretends that this is a "woman's realm" when in reality it's a human realm. Further it actually robs men from the work (both satisfying and grueling) of caring for hearth and home. If a wife prefers to be the home economics master, well and good, but let's not assume that this means she is
  1. more feminine
  2. more godly
  3. more biblically feminine
  4. more ezer.
She is not. Femininity, godliness and helper are more demanding than home economics. You can do home economics well, and still be unfeminine and ungodly (i.e. frigid or invulnerable or calculating or controlling or demanding et cetera).

Problem 4: Home Economics is something men can do awfully well. Shouln't we value men doing the dishes and loving through service? Shouldn't Eph. 5:25 "love your wives as Christ loved the church" invite men into home economics? We could empower and encourage men to find jobs that they do well around the house. If wives were submissive in all things, this would include letting men help us with the housework, right? In our home, Dale is the primary dish-washer, grocery-shopper and part-time vacuumer and does these tasks very well. I can do them well, too, but my femininity is not threatened by him doing keeping house anymore than his masculinity is threatened by scrubbing pots and pans.

Problem 5: The LA Times' journalist no doubt left this Seminary with the distinct impression that the Bible is the foundation for this narrow definition of womanhood. No wonder we're losing women to Wicca. Here's how I'd think if I were a non-believer reading this article, "If the Biblical god forces women into realms that do not fit their giftings, their passions, their goals, their soul, then perhaps this god isn't really God."

Problem 6: There appears a sort of sanctified Martha Stewart lifestyle in this training. With such a long list of home economics duties, the wealthy and middle class make out substantially better in fulfilling their God-given purpose than the women who are weak, sick, disabled, poor, divorced, abandoned, widowed. I don't think God would approve of that, since he's so big on helping the weak and oppressed. In fact, he's pretty angry with those who heap burdens on those who cannot lift them (Luke 11:46). And a well-managed household being a good testimony? Praising home economics too highly can begin to heap more responsibilities on women (who must be wealthy enough to stay home and manage all this) to perform well. Women already have a weakness here. For me, I don't need more spiritualizing of my home's cleanliness (for instance, do spiritual destinies really depend on how smoothly my home runs?) I already have enough tapes running in my head preventing me from taking my home less seriously.

Some of the women quoted by the L.A. Times said, "The whole point of taking college-level homemaking is to ensure that my husband won't ever feel that he has to darn a sock or do the laundry. Those are my jobs." and "I'm not one of those out to rebel, out-to-be-my-own-woman types." I want to say, "Do you believe it is automatically selfish, rebellious or unfeminine to follow Christ into unconventional places?" For a better read on Home Economics, I'd recommend Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, where Margaret Kim Patterson dignifies the menial aspects of housework into one way of worshipping God. But she never equates a woman's value with this good work.

One secular author gave these comforting words that to me, speak more truth into femininity. As we pursue God's thoughts on women, let's keep them in mind, "No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anyone, but oneself." Virginia Woolf.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Daddy taught me to rest

Growing up, my dad used to sit and stare into the fire. I used to wonder what he found so interesting, just staring there at the flames. Why was he so still and silent? It sometimes bothered me. What was he thinking about?

Last Spring we finished putting in a fireplace at the intersection of kitchen, office, dining room and living room. The fire is now the heart of our home. And I've found a new favorite spot in the cold mornings and evenings. Right in front of that fire, where sometimes I need to just look at those flames, licking the logs. I found myself staring in quietness at the movement. The colors dancing, the time ebbing away, unnoticed, for once, by me.

I have a lot of girl friends I love, many of them spread across this nation. So many of them are accomplished, energetic, proficient, whirlwinds of activity. So few of them know how to rest. It's easier to rest if your work is outside of the house. But with email and laptops at home, women, particularly mothers, have to work extra hard to plan to rest.

What would a day of rest look like for women? For me it means a vacation from several things: turning a computer on and checking email, making meals, setting the table, running errands, tidying up, checking the clock, checking off items on a list, wiping down, scouring, sweeping, mopping, dusting, vacuuming (a note to mothers, what if you rested for one day into the rhythm of nursing refusing to be distracted by rushing about during naps, but allowing yourself full, unadulterated lounging)

When was the last time you rested? When will you rest this week?

And yes, the meals might be unhealthy, messy ordeals as everyone scrounges for themselves, the house will be dirtier, the lists of things to do will be longer. And you might even feel curious about what you're worth at the end of the day.

Good and well. Bring that to God. Let rest be something you do, not to optimize your ability to work, not to obey an ancient command, but as a way to learn who God made you to be without your work bolstering your identity.

Who are you when you rest?

Perhaps you'll find yourself gazing into a fire, forgetting how much you're not doing, forgetting to even think, as those flames quiet you into peace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Last Spring, I was asked to contribute for a book that the President of the Barna Group was writing, a research project showing how 16-29 year olds have horribly negative perceptions about what being a Christian is all about. This demographic believe Christainity is about being anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, clueless and boring. This book, "UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...and Why it Matters" has just been released.

I was asked to respond to 2 questions:
1- What experience have you had with being judgmental and healing from it? Thanks to Amazon reader you can check out my response here.
2- What should Christians be known for in 30 years? How would you envision the way Christians should and could change their image? You can read my response here.

You can read a positive review at Ariel Vanderhoorst blog (Oct 14). I'd recommend you take a moment and peruse the Amazon reviews, too. It's exciting to see a project like this getting some press!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Apologetics in the Wall Street Journal

This last week was full of surprises. I was called by the Wall Street Journal for a short interview on the recent trend in apologetics. Even more surprisingly, I was quoted in the article. Check it out here. I was impressed by the article's impartiality. It shows how Christians like Dr. John Lennox can hold their own against atheists like Richard Dawkins in rhetoric, argument and cogency.

A month ago my publisher alerted me that I just might be interviewed by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal. My mind darted to the scenarios. Would they want to know about my book? Would I be able to share about Soulation? Would the journalist be antagonist about Christianity?

I wondered about it for several weeks, but when nothing materialized, let it go. Then I got the call, yes they wanted a short interview. We coordinated a time. The day came and, thinking the agreed on time was Mountain time, I hopped into the shower. No sooner was I completely wet that my husband came running in with the phone, WSJ on the line.

So, sparing you the details, I did the interview slightly damp, robed and in front of a raging fire.

It went really well. I got to share what I would say to someone who disbelieves in God’s existence, how I would answer the problem of pain, why immaterial things exist (which I was gratified to find was the same argument Lennox used in debate, see article). I shared how other apologists (Josh McDowell, Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias) were key in spurring Christians towards engaging with ideas, I could hear her typing in the background.

At the end of the interview she shared how she went to a Dawkins/Lennox debate in Alabama over God’s existence and has since been wanting to write about this intellectual interest in Christian circles. May God use this piece to show others that you don’t have to throw out your mind to follow Jesus!

I was thrilled to be a part.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An open letter to Christianity Today and Mark Driscoll

Nearly a year ago I finished my three year project about femininity and the ways men and women's souls are distinct (Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home). Since then I've discovered that it's not just women wrestling with their gender. Men are as confused about what makes them masculine. Men feel like they've got something to prove as well. A friend sent me this video from a blog. I watched it, did not do any other research on the speaker and commented on the blog. I was told by aforesaid blogger that I clearly didn't know enough about the speaker to comment. Since then I've read a bit more about Mark Driscoll in a Christianity Today article that was, as Mr. Driscoll writes in his own blog "a fair story." So while I'm not a Driscoll-expert, I have read enough to make a comment on the way he views "femininity.”

I’m not out to slam Mr. Driscoll. I admire his verve, his boldness to confront and his quickness to ask forgiveness. I believe he loves Christ deeply, whole-heartedly. But I believe his view is incorrect.

I believe he's using his gifts to pin men with more responsibility than God intended for them to handle and to distance women even farther from coming home to their femininity. Mr. Driscoll represents a common attitude and belief in conservative Christianity that needs to be addressed.

The worst part is that I don't think Mr. Driscoll has any idea of what he's doing.

For thousands of years, and even in some chauvinistic cultures today, men must vie against one another to prove they are "real men." In America, you might see it clearly on the inner city streets of large cities. In the gang culture there is a basic barbaric maxim: honor is a slice of one pie. You get a slice not by loving Christ or living in obedience, but by robbing someone else of a slice. You get a slice of honor by shaming someone else out of theirs. Mr. Driscoll, it so happens, grew up on these streets, under this maxim.

This code of living isn't gone from Mr. Driscoll's logic. He might be right that many Christian men are too passive. He might be correct that churches are often tacky. But to win back the honor for men he's stolen a slice of honor from women. He shames women by using "feminine" as a slur against men and women. I've used and defined feminine elsewhere to mean "the unique, unfallen ways God shows himself on earth in women….femininity is the way females are made in God's image." But Mr. Driscoll doesn't agree. He uses "feminine" as an invective, as a catch-all for the ways women are chickifying, tackifying, passifying (as if any of these are essential feminine attributes!) the church. Check out this video and note the way he spits the word out. I don't care if his church is growing; it's a barbaric, fallen, destructive move. From his words, I can only surmise that innovative, young men count more than faithful Church-attending women. He doesn't need to shame women to elevate men. But even in our Christian culture, he's been given a slice of pie.

I shouldn't be surprised that I'm offended. I read that Mr. Driscoll offends lots of people. His justification, “Dude, this is what Jesus said.”

I'm going to take Mr. Driscoll and Jesus seriously here. I want to list some of the ways Mr. Driscoll has unjustly accused men and women. It's up to him, I believe, to show the link between his offensiveness and Christ.

  • Where does Jesus teach or model that males are going to create the culture of the future?
  • Where does Jesus say that 20-25 year old males are the only innovators in his church?
  • Where does Jesus says that tacky church colors or architecture are inherently feminine?
  • Where does Jesus say that "soft-spokeness" in a man makes him feminine? Where does Scripture say women who are soft-spoken are feminine? (Peter says it's a 'gentle and quiet spirit,' not a 'gentle and quiet' mouth.(I Pet 3:4)
  • Where does Jesus (or Scripture) say that men are supposed to protect women by leading them in church and family? Wasn't the first provider God, then Eve who provided herself to Adam? I realize Scripture says the husband is the head of the wife. But this is a hotly debated, flexible and freeing metaphor, one in which we need both men and women's metaphorical intelligence to interpret and then apply.
  • Where does Jesus say slaughter, fighting, intimidation are earmarks of a "real man"?
  • Where does Jesus say that emotion is a mark of femininity? Mr. Driscoll is himself highly emotional, but he is not less masculine.
  • Where does Jesus say that slow-moving, inefficient forms of government (church boards, Congress, committees) are inherently feminine?
  • Where does Jesus say the fruits of the Spirit are more pink than blue? Supposedly self-control, patience, gentleness, joy, peace are more feminine than masculine?

Mr. Driscoll is not only familiar with street culture. He's also been trained—by his admission—on John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Because of their teaching on women, Mr. Driscoll is going to believe the Holy Spirit gives out pink and blue spiritual gifts. According to their manual Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood a woman who has the gift of teaching and exhorting must limit her authority to women and children of the church. For problems in this view see "Unmuted." Mr. Driscoll will not be a believer in women who can expound, preach, lead or innovate in church. I'm not sure what Mr. Driscoll would say of the innovative leaders like Deborah in Judges, Priscilla in Acts, Nancy Beach, Anne Graham Lotz, Nancy Ortberg, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice. I have a feeling he wouldn't be complimentary.

Mr. Driscoll is another unfortunate example of theology that justifies strict gender roles wedded to a fallen male-driven honor culture. The mixture is toxic, not just for women, but for the men who must now take all responsibility for success or failure. Not even God thought Adam should handle all that.

Mr. Driscoll and I agree, churches need help, marriages need help, men and women need help. Mr. Driscoll's targeted passive, 'feminized' men as the real problem. I'll be quick to admit that it is wonderful when men take ownership of problems, when they love their wives, when they show all the fruits of the Spirit. But because the complementarian/patriarchal culture makes men the leaders, the tie-breakers in marriage and the final arbiters and authority in churches, his culture must, ipso facto, hold the men responsible at all times.

I believe Christ wanted something better. Take a moment and think of the healthy marriages you know. Don't they function with more equality? Women are given final say and authority in many areas because (as all healthy men know) women are gifted and knowledgeable about life too and understand some areas better than men. Even Jesus thought so when he made women the first preachers of his resurrection. So, please let's not assume men are responsible for church problems that span beyond their gender (Sure it's tempting to tag it all on men, it easily absolves me of responsibility and action--before I studied femininity, I would've flocked to Mr. Driscoll's church and signed off on my character and career goals, too).

Assuming responsibility is a mark of healthy humans—men and women—not of "real men." Anytime a man is using his masculinity he will increase the health of the church. But the same applies to women. Men who own up to their mistakes and accept responsibility are a breath of fresh air, but let's not confuse healthy humanity with masculinity. The most masculine man I know is my husband, but his masculinity is measured, not by how many slices of pie he's stolen from other men, not how many deals and conflicts his won, not by the authority or leadership he demonstrates, but by how much he is like Christ—in both tenderness and strength.

Masculinity is no savior of the church. It wasn't even Jesus' masculinity that saved us, it was his deity and sacrifice. You get a church with only men in charge then you have a church with another problem--only half of the image-bearers on earth are represented. And God said it best, "It is not good for man to be alone."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Walking My Tightrope

Sitting in the fading light of Sunday evening, after three full days of traveling and speaking, I'm feeling like I need to share what it's like to speak.

Last week I poured over my old notes, adding quotes, rearranging slides and organizing my ideas. I was weaving something that needed to be strong enough to support me in the weekend's work. I was spinning a spider's thread. I was weaving a tightrope, working late to add layers of strength. So that when I got on that plane for San Jose, unpacked my speaking clothes and walked behind that podium, I would have a rope I could walk out onto.

That's the scary bit. Because the work of weaving the tightrope is one thing, but stepping out onto the rope, balancing your arms and trusting the strength of your arguments is another. Am I making sense? Do they think I'm too young? Can I really be a voice of truth and inspiration in these women's lives? Will my ideas hold me up? Will they hold them up? Who's going to steady me when I stumble?

There was another strand woven into my thread. The Spirit of God went before me, opened up the room and the women's souls to words I had prepared. He wove strength into my tightrope.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hitler, Propaganda and Models

Have you noticed how hard it is to like someone you don't identify with?

Hitler proved it when he change public opinion about Jews. His propaganda machine, headed by Joseph Goebbels, distorted and enlarged pictures
of Jewish faces and placed these billboards in prominent public arenas. As non-Jewish people passed these pictures they began to believe the theory that Jews were subhuman and eventually to believe killing a Jew was not the same as killing a human.

Interestingly in Goebbels library were several books by Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays who has been called "the father of spin" adapted Freud's ideas to control public opinion in ways he hoped would be more helpful. Read more

It was Bernays who figured if you could use propaganda in wa
r, you could certainly use it in peace. Bernays renamed propaganda "public relations" and began playing into people's irrational emotions, teaching them they needed things to be happy. He's responsible for enticing women into seeing smoking as socially acceptable. J. Randolph Hearst employed Bernays to link products to famous movie stars. Watch more in The Century of Self.

Today we see how public relations and marketing creates more to desire than we could ever need. In moving from Whittier to Steamboat, I'm constantly annoyed
at how much I've been duped into accumulating.

If most marketing is mere propaganda, how are we as women being trained to desire what we don't need? How hard it is to notice a model on the cover of Victoria Secret's catalogue and say, "How God has blessed her. I'm glad for her beauty." She's there to tempt us to want to look more like her and less like ourselves. Models are chosen because the clothes look better on them. Models are standards for us to note, compare and mold ourselves into. Is this the good life? To model ourselves into the sexy barbie, or the perfect athlete? These models all work as propaganda in our lives.

Last Thursday I volunteered for a modeling show. My friend and I had our eyes lids glued with false eyelashes, my face already had a base primer of foundation. We got more blush and eyeshadow and mascara on top. We wore outfits that were not exactly fitted for out bodies. We looked fun, attractive, interesting, eye-catching, but it really wasn't us.

There are clothes and make-up that fit me and there are clothes and make-up that are only me playing a part.

We had fun, helping the cause, hanging out with other women. But as I stepped boldly down the catwalk, wearing 5 inch heels that were killing my feet, that I never wear because they squeeze my feet, I wondered at the way I was contributing to the problem.

Women could love one another better if we dressed in clothes that suit us, that neither minimize or enlarge what we have, that are fit to the occasion, vocation and environment we are in. We would be more human if we let our clothes fit us rather than making our bodies fit out clothes.

propaganda machine grinds forward, but we don't have to power it anymore.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Found: Mean Girls. Lost: Solution

My husband watched The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet two weeks back and was surprised to find these lightweights targeting the heavy problem of mean girls. The author of Tripping the Prom Queen was in the line-up as well as a psychologist and two self-proclaimed mean girls.

That got me searching for more books on this subject. Guess what? the story has already blown. Catty, conniving girls are out there. Amazon lists scores of books that target the phenomenon, and of course there's Lindsey Lohan's movie Mean Girls.

But is there a mean streak in all of us, one we're often too embarrassed to talk about? Maybe we wouldn't call it mean, just competitive or even better insecure. How do you react when you're insecure?

I'm going to begin plowing through this literature on the mean women out there to see if the solution has already been found. I want to see if Christian writers show us how to fight the urge to compare, claw and captivate in order to get ahead. Are we any more reformed than our secular friends? Do you think so?

How do other women react when they meet a woman who is totally "other" from them? The otherness could be in body, in interests, in relationship, in sexual orientation, in country, in family. It's perhaps easy to develop interest in a Florence Nightengale way, "Oh that poor pathetic thing, she needs HELP! " And then we reach out of pity which, for me anyways, too easily transmogrifies into patronizing, unhealthy mothering and setting ourselves above the poor darlings. Our pity becomes another way we prove we are better than they.

How do you get to know those who are different without resorting to patronage? Better, how do we learn from women who strike us as very different?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Knitting in Black

Today on a long road trip I started knitting a black and red purse. It was a pattern I had anticipated buying and attempting for 3 months.

I cast on 60 stitches, the yarn coarse and thick in my hands. From a few feet away it looks like black velvet, but in my fingers it felt like hair. It was really substantial, weighty to me. I thought of the way Walter Wangerin Jr. described Hagar's hair in The Book of God. I thought of my mother's jet black tresses gilted with silver. I thought of the hair of most the world's women, Asian, Indian, African, black and beautiful. I turned my needles to begin the first full row and worked in a cable pattern.

The lives of women feel the opposite of this knitting, they feel unraveled, as if because of the description of life in Genesis 3 we must always be vying for a slice of the power on earth. As if we must set our face against our sisters to get what we really want. I had dinner next to Lake Tahoe tonight and in the posh West Side setting I felt noticed by more women than men. I felt sized up on my way to and from the restroom. I felt separate as if a specimen being recorded and then dismissed. It was a brief moment, but I wondered at how God must feel. Does he long to weave women back together? To redeem not only the woman against man battle that the judgment brought on, but also the woman against woman?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prayer Journal Day Five- Strength for Lati

Yesterday I got so much done and I never blamed or lashed out (which is a sure sign of my lack of peace). God gave me more serenity than I've had in a while. I wish I could just keep praying for so many of these things every single day. I wonder how that works, so many things I pray for are not recorded and so I don't see if or how God works.

Today I ask God for Lati who is one woman we support in Africa. She is going to be moving into her own house (her husband disowned her for her faith in Jesus the Messiah) this month, setting up the new boundary lines of her land, moving her children in with her, asking the current renters to leave and raising her own money to meet the rest of the loan. She needs strength to become a manager of her land, her home, her family. God be her shepherd through this.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Prayer Journal Day Four- Serenity

Yesterday my sister got married so I didn't have the space or time to write. That was a glorious day, everything a wedding should be surrounded by community from 3 generations in the garden of our childhood home. We all cried aplenty. It was pleasant to be part of so many behind the scenes details. Besides the typical heat of August, it was perfect.

Today I want to pray from serenity in the many, many errands, meetings and work I need to do. Though it's Sunday it's also the only work day I have had for a few days. Soulation emails need to be answered, students need to be written and my own personal correspondence is falling very behind. Emailing tends to get me agitated and restless. For me, it takes a lot of focus to plow through them at a steady pace without working overly hard on some and then wanting to give up on others. God give me serenity (peace, tranquility, even-temperedness) as I work today.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Prayer Journal Day Three- Vision

Well, I have confirmation of what I prayed yesterday. My friend right after I wrote yesterday's blog called me and told me she was going to take a long hike. So I prayed for that hike to be full of quietness and thoughtfulness. Later I found out that the hike provided just that: quiet, solitude and thought.

Today I want to pray for a new friend who is in charge of an important apologetic organization. God give her vision in the next year's events. As she is young let her show herself an example of leadership and faith. I pray that this morning she would see clearly what you want to do with this organization and that this afternoon, during the important board meeting she would have courage and boldness to share what you have revealed to her. Give her tenderness toward you.

I need vision, too. God help me to see myself differently. Help me to be free from wanting to be needed or liked by others. Help me to relax into who I am, especially this day before my sister gets married. I want to keep serving others without having to maintain anything fake. Make me a relaxed person today, relaxed that God is crazy about me, no matter who betrays or deserts me. Today, may my confidence and strength flow from that. Show me your confidence that no matter how jolted only spills out quiet strength.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prayer Journal Day Two- Time of Rest

Yesterday I saw God at work. In several situations that should have sparked envy in me, I was at peace. I couldn't believe it. I could observe something I could not have, should have wanted and yet, was happy without it. Last night I felt more calm, relaxed and enjoyed my time with other women more than I could have done, had I just tried with sheer will-power. Here's a pic of what I did, a shot of my 2 sisters with me. All I can say, God was working in me.

Today, I want to ask God to give a good friend of mine a few hours of peaceful rest and contemplation. She has asked me to pray this for her. She wants to slow down, God help her to do that today. Help her to say, "No" to events that would clutter her day when she wants to be still, journal and think. I pray that you would give her two hours of quiet today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prayer Journal Day One- New Eyes

For readers of Fledge (sign up here) we're doing a prayer journal this week. I've decided to post specific prayer requests as a means of watching God as work, where he says, "Yes" and where he says, "No." After quieting my heart and asking God what he'd like to do with me, in me, for me, here's a request that popped up.

God I ask you for a non-competitive spirit today. Help me to measure my success not by the stories I tell or the friends I impress, but by a new set of eyes to see these women as you see them. Show me their strengths God, and don't let the spark of envy flare in me. Show me their weaknesses God, and don't let smugness smoulder in me. Give me new eyes today.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Woman against Woman

After a disappointing meeting with an influential woman, an older, male pastor told me, "Jonalyn, you know who the worst enemy of women is?" He paused with a slow, sad smile spreading across his long face, "Other women."

My heart sunk. This is the legacy we find ourselves living in, a tendency to confess, even if only to ourselves that we'd love the world more if there were less of a certain time of woman. We have the types that bother us. We'd like less of those "passive, mousy women" or "less of those arrogant, male-hating, bossy, self-sufficient women" or "less of those sexy, mincing stepping, buxom air-heads" or "less of the passive-aggressive Christian wives who control their church with a well-placed disapproving glance."

We might want to disavow all the women we love to hate with grand sweeping statements, somewhat like one fictional character in the Angela Thirkell series. Mrs. Brandon let's out a sigh and exclaims,"I want to go to a monastery." To which her older, male friend corrects, "I suppose you mean a nunnery." But Mrs. Brandon was sure she meant a monastery. For a world devoid of women sounded safe, pleasant and less vexing, provided of course that certain women like that brilliant writer Mrs. Moreland and, of course, the Headmaster's wife were admitted.

We all, male, female, European, African, Hispanic, Asian, Indian have our little lists of tolerables and intolerables.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home Alone

I've been alone for 2 days in this new town of Steamboat. As it has happened, my books have become closer friends.

But, over dinner I have decided that Annie Dillard, for all her deftness with words, must be shelved while I'm eating. At least her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where insects get dis-emboweled or eaten alive while I’m trying to enjoy Trader Joe’s Teriyaki Bowl of Rice.

When I’m alone I forget meal time. I tend to get into super-Jonalyn mode. I become a whirlwind of industrious, impetuous activity. I get much done, but I forget to eat. Tonight I unpacked dozens of boxes and organized the sewing room. Now it looks more like piles of stuff and less like piles of boxes. Because it’s not a beautiful improvement, I kept working at it and didn’t break for dinner.

At first it’s a rare luxury to skip a meal. Then several hours after meal time I feel that empty, fainting sensation that is only romantic in Victorian novels. I reluctantly pull out a pile of distasteful looking leftovers and try to warm or sauce them into a meal. Last night’s attempt of combining Marinara sauce with rice pilaf led to an uncomfortably unsettling feeling in my tummy. Tonight I dug a styrofoam carton out of the back of the fridge. It held seven-day-old Buffalo wings. They looked like shriveled mummies.

When I’m alone I become more dutiful and courageous about leftovers. I warmed those wings and waited in hopes that the oven would return them to their once tender and moist form. I was relieved when the oven failed. Relieved enough to wonder why I tried to resuscitate the wings in the first place. From whence do these rules dominating my dinnertime arise?

I was too hungry to find out. So, I picked up Annie Dillard and dug happily into a Teriyaki bowl of rice. It’s 10 pm, I’m getting some strength back and I feel an inexplicable, unreasonable sense of pride that I gave the wings a chance.

But Annie hasn’t really cooperated with dinner time etiquette. She’s just described a tremendously vivid picture of a frog being eaten alive. At least I was half way through the bowl of rice before I got to this point.

How I wish I could write like that, not about dying frogs, but about what I want people to notice.

Where do people learn to write like that? My husband says its due to Annie spending most of her time alone. If that’s the key then I’m doomed, I love regular meals and my husband too much.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ruby Slippers at my door

Dale and I just moved. We took the plunge. We packed our boxes (well actually a wonderful moving company did) and drove 16 1/2 hours to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, three dogs and one very noisy cat in tow.

And now we're settling. In the dust and dirt, boxes and stuffing paper, tape and peanuts (I hate styrofoam peanuts, hate, hate, hate them) of unpacking, I found one welcome package on my front door.

Inside were my own pair of ruby slippers, all sequined up and glimmering in the sun. The note read, "Welcome Home." It was signed from the team at Zondervan.

Even though Steamboat is so far from so many I love, even though I can't seem to find my address book or any of my pots and pans, it is good, very good to be home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Praise of My Man

Two weeks ago I got to watch men working together along the dusty, rocky outdoor adventure land of Moab, Utah. This was a motley group, though disguised beneath their sunburned, unshaven faces and dirt flecked clothes were accountants, firemen, web consultants, waiters, nurses, retirees and one philosopher / theologian / speaker / writer that was my husband.

The first morning was scorching, pushing 90 degrees before 8 o’clock. In the small cab of my husband’s khaki Jeep, who we've dubbed "Conrade," I bounced along the scenic “easy” trail that led us to a look-out point aptly named "Top of the World." We dared to swing our feet over the ledge long enough for this picture.

On the way down the mountain my patience got tested because it was MUCH bumpier and hotter. And I began feeling that sickness feeling (the sickness I got, see "Inopportune Sickness" post) way in the back of my throat. To top it off, Dale’s sway bar (read the thing that keeps the car from bouncing like mad) broke (well it didn’t really break, but that’s laywoman’s terms for what happened). The entire caravan of 30 Jeepers stopped on the road, scores of men got out of their Jeeps, swarming around injured Conrade.

I sat inside, trying not to think of other places I’d rather be. That’s when I realized that while I was sitting inside these men were giving up their own air conditioned cabs to lay down in the dirt and inspect Conrade's problem. Two men were laying flat on their backs, squinting into the dark recesses of Conrade’s front end. Prying, levering, suggesting, I heard, “Hey JT you have an allen wrench?” “What about using this rock, it’s large enough to jerry-rig the sway bar from re-attaching.” Tool bags come piling out of Jeeps, men are getting greasy, sweaty, but even more determined. I watch sort of dumbfounded that they want to help make this happen. I want to announce, “Hey, it’s not really worth all this work in the dirt and heat of the afternoon, let’s just get out of here and get home.

Then I overhear one of the guys say to Dale, “It’s really hard on her, huh?” I glance over and see he’s talking about me. I quickly pretend I didn’t hear, trying to wipe the disgusted, befuddled look off my face. I sit and feel like a wimp. Then I hear Dale’s rejoinder, “Actually, she hasn’t complained at all.” I feel my heart jump with amazement. If only I was as good a woman as he thinks me.

The men never did get that sway bar working, but I learned that controlling my tongue mattered more. Because I did I can look at the pictures and remember the men’s teamwork, Dale’s trust that I could make it with him, and his praise of me in front of those hard-working Jeep guys. I'm proud to be his Jeepin' wife.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why Value Mothers?- Part I & II

Before Ruby Slippers was published, I remember how skeptical people were about my writing project. I'd hear things like, "Wow! You're writing about the woman's soul?" I'd see a doubtful glance at my youthfulness and then a slow smirk, "Good luck!" Some would tease, "Nice, small project!" The more outspoken gave unsolicited pointers, "Women are emotional, make sure you put that in your book." Others would counter my enthusiasm with, "I'd be very interested to see what you find." Some would just state that women are complicated and mysterious and change the subject.

Ruby Slippers is now out there, living, moving, and having its being. While the comments keep coming to my inbox, they've changed their tune. Recently a friend from seminary days now working as a church leader called. She told me that she was planning to buy her mother and mother-in-law a copy of Ruby Slippers for Mother's Day. I wanted to know why.

"It's got a great cover!" she said laughing. "But, really, your book is going to give both my moms a new perspective into their womanhood. For their generation this is not a very familiar topic. They haven’t thought a lot about what it means to be a woman. You've respected femininity here, giving it new life, breathing purpose, value and dignity into something that the church doesn’t know what to do with. You've helped women see they don't have to be smashed into one place. They can have full life, now. I just can’t wait to hear what they think, to talk with them after they read it."

Read the rest of these Mother's Day musings, including Part II at Zondervan's Blog.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Inopportune Sickness

This morning I awoke with a relapse of a cold that has lingered uninvited and mostly unappreciated for the last three weeks.

I was sick with a wretched sore throat while visiting my long time friend Erin in Dallas, TX. The only mercy there was that she happened to be sick, too. So we took it easy and watched lots of Anne of Green Gables. (It was while visiting her that we happened in on a Barnes and Noble where I got to see my book in a bookstore for the very first time!) The visit proved to be more memorable because I was sick. Pain sharpens my senses. I enjoyed the salty bacon she made for me upon arrival much more than I would have had I been well.

The cold revisited me while Dale and I camped in Moab, Utah, the very next week. This was our first long vacation in awhile. No speaking, no Soulation Chat, no email. It was supposed to be an adventuring, holiday time for us. But I got that razorblade feeling in the back of my throat again. So when I faced the windy, dusty, lightening, rainy, windy, sleety climate of Moab with three Welsh Corgis and an adventurous Jeeping husband (More on that week's learnings later) I felt attuned to notice more. I had my cold to reckon with and it kept me thankful for the little things like sturdy tents, friends to repair broken down Jeeps, air conditioning and sunscreen.

I thought I was better, but two days back home and the cold has re-appeared, which makes me suspicious that I never really got over it. As each swallow reminds me, pain brings us into the present. Each moment of this long day has stretched out, from the wee hours of morning to the dark clouds of afternoon. But today I've also seen more, the courage, willingness and capability of my husband who has fetched and carried for me again and again, the sweet laziness of dogs who are happy to cuddle and doze with me, the amazing power of chicken broth to soothe and the temporary relief of throat lozenges.

When I'm sick I see the hedge God has put around me. This morning as I shut the window on a cold, icy wind I thought of Corrie Ten Boom who was sick when carted off to a dank prison. I don't think I would have survived.

Though the pain makes me perk up and notice, I'm ready to be well. That's one of the lessons of colds, they require stopping, resting. There's no hurrying good health. In the meanwhile I will wait and watch and taste and see that God is still good.