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

UnChristian


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.
and
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."