Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Compare Jesus" Part II- Jesus Outshines Mohammad

The founder of Islam, Muhammad (570-632 AD), had a marriage relationship he could brag about for both his faithfulness and his respect. His first wife was named Khadija, an exorbitantly wealthy woman fifteen years his senior. Khadija proposed marriage to Muhammad and their marriage played a big part in bringing status and leisure into Muhammad's life, allowing him the space to meditate and eventually hear from Allah.

But upon Khadija's death, Muhammad's behavior toward women took a turn for the worse. In the last ten years of his life, Muhammad entangled himself with women regularly. He married about woman a year until he died in 632. These women were from different faiths, often widows, some were attractive to him for their family's status, others for political statements, most, however, because they were absolutely gorgeous. At fifty-six, Muhammad visited his adopted son, Zaid. Walking inside he found his lovely daughter-in-law, Zainab, wearing little more than a sheer camisole. While deeply attracted Muhammad was obviously unable to marry her. Zaid soon after conveniently divorced Zainab, supposedly because he wanted out of the marriage. This allowed Muhammad free rein to satisfy his desire to “legitimately” marry her, an action Allah later sanctioned in a revelation (Qu’ran 33:37).
[1]

In those last ten years, Muhammad most prominent wife was Aisha, a woman several decades younger than him. Aisha married Muhammad when she was seven years old, but he permitted her to wait until the mature age of nine before bringing Aisha to his home and consummating their union. Aisha brought her toys with her when she moved in.[2] She soon became Muhammad’s favorite wife. Once when she was accused of inappropriate behavoir and deceit Allah was good enough to exonerate her of any guilt.[3]

William E. Phipps’ Muhammad and Jesus: A Comparison of the Prophets and Their Teachings while tolerant and careful to not accuse Muhammad cannot erase Muhammad’s statements in the Qu’ran, passages about wayward wives “those whose disobedience you suspect, admonish them and send them to separate beds and beat them” (Qu’ran 4:34); sexual conduct, “Wives are fields to seed as you please” (Qu’ran 2:223); women’s lack of self-control, “(Wives) are prisoners with you (husbands), having no control of their person”[4]; women’s desecration to prayer, “Prayers are annulled if a dog, donkey or a woman pass in front”[5]; women’s tendency to end up in hell, a place full of wives “who were ungrateful to their husbands, whose menstruation interferes with their religious duties and whose intelligence is deficient”. [6] In one of Muhammad’s sermons he goes so far to say, “Women are the snares of the devil . . . Put Women in an inferior position since God has done so.”[7]

Jesus also had female financial backers (Mark 15:40-41), but he never felt the need to marry them to secure their riches. Jesus protected women and widows not through polygamy, but through individual miracles (Mark 5:25-34), teaching (Matt. 11:21-27), interpretation of the Law’s meaning (Matt 5:27-28, 19:3-9) and praise for them, even if others considered them social outcasts, impoverished and undesirable (Mark 12:41-44).

[1] Muhammad (London: Oxford Press, 1964), pp. 156-57 as quoted in William E. Phipps, Muhammad and Jesus: A Comparison of the Prophets and Their Teachings (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company, 1996), 144.

[2] Mishkat 13, 3; Ehsan Yar-Shater, ed. The History of al-Tabari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990) vol. 9, p 131 as quoted in William E. Phipps, Muhammad and Jesus: A Comparison of the Prophets and Their Teachings (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company, 1996), 142.

[3]See Qu’ran 24:11-20 as quoted in William E. Phipps, Muhammad and Jesus: A Comparison of the Prophets and Their Teachings (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company, 1996), 138-143.

[4] Mishkat 26, 651 as quoted in William E. Phipps, Muhammad and Jesus: A Comparison of the Prophets and Their Teachings (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company, 1996), 140.

[5] Ibid, 111.

[6] Ibid, 148.

[7] Ibid, 149

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Compare Jesus" Part I-Jesus Outshines Buddha

In 1873, the Reverend Thomas Webster published his book, Woman: Man’s Equal, a hot topic on the eve of America granting suffrage to women. The introduction opens with these words,

Christianity is the special friend of women. Christian civilization has exalted her almost infinitely above the position to which either paganism or Mohammedanism assigned her. This elevation is the natural outgrowth of the example and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

It's an argument over 100 years old, but it's time to update it for today. I believe Jesus
outshines any religious founder in his treatment and love, dignity and value for women. In this series I want to compare him to several popular ones: Buddha, Mohammad (founder of Islam) Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism) and C.T. Russell (founder of Jehovah Witnesses).
Let's compare Jesus' treatment of women with Siddhartha Guatama, the founder of Buddhism.


Siddhartha, later
known as the Buddha, was a prince born near India. From the little we can gather from his life it's apparent that his search for spiritual enlightenment lead him to do two extreme things.

One evening when Siddhartha was 29, he awoke among his harem. He noticed how the seductive bodies of the women around him did not allure him anymore. In fact, they disgusted him. Their bodies draped at awkward angles while they slept reminded him more of a heap of corpses than women he had dallied with the night before.*

In this moment Siddhartha wakes up, he is enlightened enough to want to change. He walks to his wife, Yashodhara, of 12 years, glances at her sleeping in her bedroom and bids her goodbye without waking her. Then he glances at his new-born son and abandons him as well. He deserts everyone (harem, wife and son) for his hunt for enlightenment.

In reading biographies of Siddhartha, I've found even the most tolerant ones note Siddhartha's feelings as a father. Karen Armstrong writes, “He had felt no pleasure when the child was born”, naming the baby boy “Rahula” or fetter.** Siddhartha feared that Rahula would chain him to the life and duties he despised. So he leaves his wife and son without a second glance.

Perhaps this doesn't seem so bad, but notice how spiritual enlightenment actually compete for Siddhartha's love. In the Biblical story, we never see God denying things that are key to our humanity. Jesus never commanded or endorsed a man leaving his wife or his child. Some might argue that Jesus says you must leave family in your devotion to him (Luke 9:59-62 or Mark 10:29-30), but if you closely read these passages you'll find Jesus never asks a person to leave his spouse or his children, only his parents, or home or lands. In other words, there is something God blesses and will not sever about marital relationships.

According to Jesus’ words a man and wife are “one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate,” regardless of spiritual quests, hunger for enlightenment or desire for experiences (Matt 19:6). I believe this is because Jesus knew that from the beginning (as he says in Mark 10:6) all humans are made to enjoy companionship, desire community, hunger to be loved and known (I Cor 13:12). God provides that in a spouse and he never asks us to desert our spouse in our pursuit of him. To leave a spouse is to cut apart what God originally created us to enjoy (Gen 2:24-25).

*Entering the Stream: An Introduction to The Buddha and His Teachings eds., Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993), 7, 9-10.

**Karen Armstrong, Buddha, (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2001), 1-2.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Shack- A Review

Note to reader- plot spoilers are NOT included, so feel free to whet your appetite here before picking up The Shack for yourself.

I started The Shack by William P. Young three times. The metaphors were so thick and ploddy that I kept losing the point of the sentences. And the syntax was dreadful.

But the book re-surfaced in my life, online, in personal emails asking me what I thought of it, my mom wanted to know if I recommended it and then the lynch-pin. I heard someone criticizing it as un-Biblical because there was no hierarchy in the Trinity. Now I had to read it. So last week while Dale pulled in a few trout along the Yampa River, I spent all morning with a determined look on my face, plowing through The Shack to find this Trinity stuff, to find why someone like Mark Driscoll would be afraid of his congregation reading it.

I gritted my teeth through the cumbrous Forward and first few chapters to eventually unearth a plot line that interested me. I came to like the main character, Mack who is a ragamuffin type (totally cool in my book) suffered a loss horrible, explained well enough to make me cry, and kept me shored up on the bank swatting mosquitoes for the next 4 hours.

Mack has a chance to meet God, who appears, in a shockingly unfamiliar, but not unorthodox, way as Papa (a large, tall African-American woman who loves to cook and speaks with a southern accent), as Jesus (a rather plain looking Middle-Eastern carpenter) and Sarayu (an airy, powerful Middle-Eastern woman who has this calming, serenity-inducing affect on all she meets). These are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but updated to cut through some harmful stereotypes that need to be sliced and diced and thrown away.

From my speaking on the road, I've encountered time and again women and men, young and old who cannot fathom that God could be more than male. They don't see how they have any other choice but to worship God as male. I've listened to women tell me that they can't believe they are as fully made in God's image as men (citing I Cor 11). I remember when I first realized that it was Jesus' divinity that saved all of us, not his masculinity and what that did to my concept of my own femininity. I recall watching a college woman's eyes grow wide with wonder when I told her, "You are as much of God's image bearer as a man, whether you are married or single."

There are plenty of culturally sound, but biblically inaccurate views of who God is. There are even arguments arguing that God is male, which means that something about females is less "like God" than males. The International Council for Gender Studies claims to communicate a biblical theology of manhood and womanhood. But they believe, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit are masculine in names, roles and nature." What on earth? Where in God's word do they find justification for this?

I regularly talk with people who believe that reason, power, potency, leadership, mind are male based strengths. This subtle sexism is found in more places than male-controlled church settings. Oprah's new spiritual guide, Eckhart Tolle claims that, "the energy frequency of the mind appears to be essentially male." But this belief whether spouted by Christians or non-Christians is not Biblically defensible. Mind is neither male nor female for both men and women have minds. Leaderships is neither male nor female, in fact the Bible never says a man is the God-appointed leader in marriage nor in the church. God is neither male nor female and he does not want to be represented exclusively as one or the other neither in the church or the home ("You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman." Deuteronomy 4:15-16)

There are some awfully inaccurate pictures of who God is, from uber-masculine to hierarchical that The Shack does helpful work to erase. Here are a few things that will be cited as controversial, but to which I give a hearty encore.
  1. While appearing female, God the Father, "Papa" makes it clear that she is not essentially female (or male) when she says "I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature. If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it's because I love you. For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning" (While I belief "God's" syntax could have been better, I agree with what Papa is saying. I've written more about this in my first book, Ruby Slippers, see chapter 6 "Finding the Feminine in the Sacred")
  2. The argument that God must be three persons to be truly LOVE, finds a gracefully simple explanation when Papa says, "Unless I had someone to love then I would not be capable of love at all, you would have a god who could only love as a limitation of his nature." (This is the Love Argument, showing why the Trinity is itself an answer to a problem).
  3. On how the Fall affected men and women Young gets it right. The Fall wounded men's identity, for they tried to show through their achievements that they had value (listen to a group of men one-up each other about body parts, salaries, wife, kids, house, status). Jesus explains it in The Shack like this, "Men turned to the work of their hands and sweat of their brow to find their identity, value and security" The Fall wounded women's identity, now we tried to show through our relationships that we have value (listen to a group of women share their web of connectedness to their friends, their family, their children, listen to them measure their success by their relational intimacy). "Women turned not to the works of her hand but to the man, and his response was to rule over her, to take power over her, to become her rules." Just as it's difficult for men to turn from the works of their hands to Jesus, so it is hard for women to turn from demanding their man provide security to Jesus.
  4. Jesus later says that while women in charge would make the world much better, they would still not make it right. How I resonated with that as I try to show men how much they need me and how much I need them, I do NOT want to take over the world, the church, or the family. I want to partner with them because I know I am an essential part of God's image on earth. This is what Jesus in The Shack wants, too, "We want male and female to be counterparts, face-to-face equals each unique and different, distinctive in gender but complementary, and each empowered uniquely by Sarayu."
  5. On whether or not the Father has more authority or power than the Son or the Spirit, we get this beautiful explanation from the Holy Spirit, Sarayu, "Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself--to serve."
  • When Mack asks, "Isn't one of you more the boss of the other two" he gets to hear the orthodox explanation,
  • "We have no concept of final authority among us, only unity, relationships without any overlay of power. We don't need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually, this is your problem, not ours."
  • When Mack asks for an explanation Papa says, "Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge (translation: husband and wife can't have equal votes because you always need a tie-breaking vote.... where is that in the Bible?) . . . you rarely experience relationships apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you."
  • This explanation is actually the orthodox one that NO hierarchy exists in the Godhead. This view recognizes that the Son limited himself on earth to fully depend on both the Spirit and the Father for his power, but that the Son is now re-initiated into power, that he has received this authority back again (see Matt 28:18). This view of the Trinity as a unity of equals, equal in essence and equal in role (except for Jesus' earthly stint) was polluted by recent complementarians who have chosen to read their theory of gender (man is given spiritual authority or leadership of woman) back onto their theology of the Trinity. The best defense of the original Trinitarian doctrine is the accessible book by Dr. Kevin Giles book Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity. A quick defense of the equality among the Trinity can be clearly seen in the Athanasian Creed, one of the treasure chests of all Christian's beliefs, "And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and coequal"
  • Later Young has Jesus explain what mutual submission really looks like "That's the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not about obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way."
As one last note on the book, I found that the author gets the point of what we care about at Soulation, "Helping others become more appropriately human." Papa tells Mack that the reason he can't understand why Papa permits all this world's atrocities, why he lets humans choose and relinquish (of their own free will) their independence to God so slowly and painfully, so respectfully of us is, because Mack has "such a small view of what it means to be human." Later Jesus says, "Follow Sarayu, that's the point. Now you're beginning to understand what it means to be truly human."

Dale and I ground our lives, our apologetic, our reason for following Jesus in the fact that of all religions Jesus dignified and validates our humanity. And I haven't even touched on the masterful way Young works through the problem of pain, which is actually the heart of the book, nor the way he talks about a Spirit-powered life, or the love that limits itself and the way the Trinity each and together restore Mack's soul.

Contrary to much of the alarmist reviews out there the book does not teach that "all will be saved", it does not distort or demean the Trinity or the body of Christ, within it's pages I found nothing pagan, nothing un-Biblical, nothing unorthodox. I found it helpful and God-honoring. If it is dangerous, as Mark Driscoll's words indicate, "If you haven't read The Shack, then don't!" then it's dangerous in all the ways Driscoll should, as a WWF wrestling-loving man, love.

But The Shack's danger is something Driscoll cannot embrace because Young effectively blows apart the argument that men should always be in charge, just like God the Father is in charge. It's dangerous because it claims that unconditional love is actually more powerful than male authority and female subjugation. This is the danger I love, for it frees and equips the Body of Christ to give to one another in mutual love and respect, not just one-way love and respect. It is the danger that flows from a God like Aslan, who is not safe, but good.

Read the book, wrestle through the poorly written points to get a refreshed experience of the depth of our God. So not let someone's alarm-ism or protectionism prevent you from dipping in.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Would Women Wear? a smattering of thoughts from two artisans

I have a dear friend whose ability to spin the simplest of clothes into a fashionista's outfit have left me feeling slightly envious. She's slim, beautiful and gracious.

I've come to count her one of my dearest friends.

I love and respect her for more than her clothes. I've come to value her mind, her love for beauty and her resourcefulness. As followers of Jesus we've been b
atting around the question: What Would Women Wear (WWWW)? What is the purpose of style and clothing, attraction or distraction in our lives? Together we've done 2 things to aid our discussion:
  1. Fast from retail for the summer
  2. Read Judith Levine's Not Buying It and share our thoughts of it
I highly recommend Not Buying It to anyone who thinks they are losing too much money or time to STUFF. Get it at your local library and delve in. Warning: Levine's contents are flaming liberal in places, openly atheistic and irreverent in others.

What follows are snippets of our discussion (you will hear both our voices in the dialog) and how Levine, despite all her faults, has inspired us.
  • What do we expect shopping to do for us? Levine describes a New Yorker cartoon by Barbara Smaller. It stood out to me, reminding me why I work for Soulation.
  • It's easy to become smug (Levine calls it "anti-consumer moralism") about not buying what we aren't even tempted to buy. For me I can feel proud that I don't buy "Juicy Couture" clothing, but it's not really attractive to me. But don't get me started on my NEED for books or good food and the temptation thereof.
  • On the revolving door of style: clothing, the fashion-experts would indoctrinate us, teach us how to treat other people, who they are, what class they fit into, if they're relevant or not. But, we've found some clothing is timeless and therefore less distracting.
  • As Levine says, “Just as (the marketplace) promises to buy us love, the marketplace buys us freedom from relationship, releases us from needing other people.” Without money she says, we are like children, money makes us into adults (in American society). Perhaps this is a good application of Jesus’ words “Unless you become like a child you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Unless you humble yourself like a child.” Hmmm. . . the humility of having less.
  • Thoughts on coveting: Recently had 2 women writers visit and one had the world’s most beautiful lips. I found myself noticing them often, and once thinking of how my lips weren’t as lovely. But I only that this one, so I thought that was rather encouraging. Most of the time I just admired her lips for existing. I want to do that in all thing: to admire beauty and not demand to own it. This admiring can create humility, I can find warmth in other’s possessions, even when they’re not capable of being shared. Lack of possession doesn’t mean I have to feel dispossessed.
  • On Location, Location, Location: I think being in Vermont would probably be easier to not buy things than being in NYC. It takes more restraint to not buy when I travel to more metropolitan areas. Is it just because those places are more fashionable? Or maybe it is just the metropolitan aspect of it - the community of commerce, exchanging dollars and goods, showing the salesperson that you have purchasing power. I remember in high school I was shopping for shoes and tried a pair on at Charles David. I, clothed in my thrift store attire, clearly didn't impress the saleswoman and she didn't pay me much attention. When I told her I would take the shoes, she looked surprised. I felt purchasing power then. But I think my itch to buy is more mixed with asserting my power and wanting to be fashionable.
  • On saving nice things: We have a beautiful golden buttercream-colored spun silk duvet with Indian embroidery border (we got it when we were engaged). I stored it away because it was so delicate and special I was afraid it would get ruined if we used it. I found it under the bed last week when I was cleaning and realized I should make the most of what we have instead of "saving" things. Food, clothes, decor. I need to use them or there is no use hanging onto them. When my grandma died we went over to her house to clean and sort through her things, and we found unworn shoes still in their boxes, unopened boxes of perfume (she was saving them to use up her old ones first) and it made me realize that I probably won't have the chance to use up my "favorites" if I'm always storing them away to use up the old first. The silk duvet is now spread across our bed, brightening and lifting the room.
  • Levine's thoughts on a pair of flimsy, romantic heels (I've heard a teenage girl call these “sittin’ shoes.") Levine writes, “These shoes conjure dreams of dancing and kissing, of hobbling over curbstones as the dawn comes up.” Fashion is about flirtation with a product, not to last, not a marriage. Levine calls it a mini-relationship. She closes the month of April with fear about dissuading girls from buying the flimsy, crippling shoes because “I don’t want to risk suggesting they give up the sexy dream of dancing the night away. That dream is stitched into the soles (and souls) of the shoes.” And I think, WOW! Have we personified, animated a pair of shoes and bequeathed them too much power, or what? And yet I know what she’s talking about. What is it about flimsy heels that give us a feeling of romance? Is it the helpless way they make us walk? Do you think it’s a suggestion made possible by media (Hollywood’s Casablanca, etc) or part of the ontology of the shoe? I’m thinking it’s a cultural endowment, cause you can have some wicked cool romance in flats
  • On the pros and cons of shopping
    • Pros:
      • buying good equipment ensures a more enjoyable experience (e.g. good running shoes)
      • thrill of “the hunt”
      • thinking and planning with someone else about putting together a gift for a friend
      • finding the “fit” what’s appropriate to wear/give/share/use (though this has been abused by making what’s a “perfect” fit too difficult and pricey to find), reminders of what you do love (if you can allow your tastes to rule you and not the fashion) like when Mary Jane’s come back in style I scarf them up because I’ve loved them since I was 5.
      • I guess it allows us to relate to culture, but then again if that's an important mode of relating, we ought to be doing a better job in other areas. I actually don't think this is a great excuse.
      • if it's part of our profession, it could allow us to compare make/model of clothes.
      • In NJ we're always looking for warm places to walk around to get exercise in the winter months. Malls and Target serve that purpose.
    • Cons:
      • In Levine's words shopping “saps your energy, reduces ingenuity, harms your health (huh?), makes you unhappy, makes you false, a traitor to who you really are. Without shopping your life allows your individual soul to awaken.” Well, sometimes..
      • “the good thing about not buying clothes is that you don’t have to engage in the level of microscopic self-inspection the activity promotes”
      • it could make us rely on trends to express ourselves instead of truly expressing myself, uninhibited by trends.
      • it creates covetousness (We think this is the worst one for us)
      • there is something about it that always leaves me wanting more - more than just what my neighbor has but more and more and more, regardless of what everyone else has. Everything is on display and marketing does such a great job of leading me to believe I would be better with the product.
      • I agree that it is really, really fun to buy gifts for others, but I wonder if we're curbing our creativity by rushing to buy something when we can make it. One of our most treasured and precious gifts we have received in the past year were the hats you knitted for Micah. Not only were they so beautifully handmade and special because you took the time to design them, make them, and ship them, but what was most special was that you are so busy (so busy!) and you still took the time, when it would have been a hundred times easier for you to buy something. My sister and I started a new rule for birthdays and Christmas: we have a $5 dollar limit or must be something we handmade. It has been great. I've received CDs full of good running music, a beautiful bowl, and a madeline pan she found on clearance. I've given her a used cooking light cookbook I bought from the library, etc. These gifts forced us to be more creative and thoughtful.
From the minds and hearts of two recovering consumers.

p.s. who have chosen a new identity, that of two artisans.

artisan
1 : a worker who practices a trade or handicraft : craftsperson
2 : one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WALL-E and EVE

I went to see Wall-E (with the family that visited us last week) and found myself thinking of several lovely, pertinent points made about men and women.

It's strange that two robots could illustrate something about humans, but these did. Wall-E, a robot designed to be an (as his acronym explains)"Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class" works all day long compacting human trash. When he goes home he's got a robotic cockroach buddy (that he regularly accidentally runs over).

Wall-E is alone on earth (all humans have left because the trash and pollution have made earth unliveable), but even his cockroach pal doesn't help his loneliness. Wall-E is the only one left, alive, of his kind. And he longs for someone like him. It made me think of Genesis after Man is done naming all the animals, how he realizes he's sort of a lonely guy, no one around like him (Gen 2:20). Wall-E's so lonely that he practices holding hands with himself and watched "Hello Dolly" ceaselessly. There is no companion for Wall-E either.

Until EVE arrives. EVE (Extra-Terrestial Vegetation Evaluator) is a green-hunting robot from the humans' space station checking out to see if earth's inhabitable. Several things strike me about EVE. First she's strong, very sophisticated (she's just a WOW! piece of machinery, next to her Wall-E looks clunky, but we find he's got quite a resilience and prowess that get easily overlooked next to EVE), she's a bit of a mystery and puzzle to Wall-E and sort of intense. I thought, "BRILLIANT! A strong female lead, hope she doesn't do what many over-powering women of the movies do (I'm thinking of Catwoman types) stifle, one-up, belittle the males in the plot." At first you're sort of worried she's going to blow-up Wall-E with her space-age blaster. But interestingly enough, despite quite a few painfully awkward moments for Wall-E, EVE brings out Wall-E strength, boldness and love.

EVE makes Wall-E stronger. And Wall-E changes EVE, too. But you have to see the movie to discover how.

I love it when I see movies pair a strong female (even if it's a robot) with a male who is not lessened by her strength. My soul gives a sigh of delight.

A final fascinating point about EVE. She, like her Biblical counterpart (Gen 3:20), is holding life within her body. And this life, given to her by Wall-E, is the linchpin that solves the earth's and human's problems. Reminded me of another Woman who held life inside her, a Life that was the linchpin for all our problems (see Romans 8:20-23).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Heart Brimming: Meditation on Friends

We’ve just returned from a fishing trip at Fetcher pond. I took our three corgis, the Ladies, out for their bathroom break. As I walked around on our grass, watching the dogs bark I could hear the rodeo and raucous cheers and hoots echoing up to our home on the hill.

I gathered the Ladies up and walked inside. That’s when I saw the four chairs we had set up last night, chairs to watch the 4th of July fireworks. There’s something bittersweet about those empty seats. They were filled with a family (Brian, Audra and three of their children, Ashlynn, Blane and Anna) that we love and now they are empty.

The whole house has felt cold today, empty and silent. I started making a little pile of things they forgot to pack, sweet reminders like Ashlynn’s pink rubber band next to the soap in the bathroom, Blane’s plastic parachute on the balcony, Anna’s pink glow stick in the freezer. Dale and I alternately pass the Superman card (that sort of resembles Brian) and open it to hear the theme song, smiling to ourselves as we re-read Audra’s note. Dale has collected all of Brian’s notes in the kitchen and they lie where our Wall Street Journal paper usually lies on the kitchen table. I wrote a long list of things to do on our wipe-out board but took care to not erase the large “We love you guys” scrawled on the bottom. I have a gallon of Birthday Cake ice cream and 3 Otter pops in my freezer that we will never eat, but I’m not ready to throw away. The sheets are being washed and dried of their last night’s work warming and covering a family we love. I’ve already put the fresh sheets and pillow covers back on the bed, readying them for our next guests. But the action feels a bit like a trespass. I’d rather those rooms remain theirs for awhile.

Lady Lucia feels the same way. I keep finding her hunkered down under Ashlynn’s bed and she was hardly willing to come out from under it when we wheeled Anna’s hide-a-bed back under the empty place she claimed for her stake-out.

On the lake with Dale I had time to think and pull together the memories of our 10 days together. Watching the wind ruffle the tips of Fetcher’s surface I thought alternately of Jesus walking on the water and my heart’s heaviness. We’re studying Mark 6 where Jesus walks on water and I thought of how I’d feel if Jesus were suddenly buoyed up on the waves coming in my direction. Would I be altogether thrilled or nervous by his strange water-defying gait? My mind caught hold of C.S. Lewis’ reminder in The Four Loves that God’s face will hold within it all the earthly loves we found so dear. So all that I miss in the Burbach’s, Audra’s gentle reprimands that gave me freedom, her quickness to laugh, Brian’s wit and humility, Ashlynn’s listening significant presence, Blane’s single-hearted devotion to Jane regardless of her bites and barks, Anna’s ceaseless hopeful questions proving her desire to love and belong will find their source in my Lord’s eyes as he walks toward me.

My heart feels heavy still, but I realize next to Fetcher pond that it is not just with sadness, but with fullness like it’s topped off, brim-full, like a Sunshine wheat beer at the Smokehouse. I look over at my husband who has just caught his first trout for the evening. I watch his eyes light up, his gentle handling of the flopping silvery flesh, the way I know he will rejoice that he gets to interact with a wild animal for even a moment before removing the barb-less hook, filling its gills to return to its wet and dark world below. He glances at me in proud pleasure and my cup spills over.

My heart is full. My tears flow. So many pictures of how God works, who Jesus is and who he has given me to enjoy.

It’s good to gauge my life by the these friend’s visits. Three summers of memories now. To see how I’ve grown between summers, to see how I’m slowly moving from being a woman who has to please all and entertain perfectly, to learning to rest in the midst of company. I wonder if I have become more like Jane Bennett who can enjoy more because she is good. I hope I have goodness growing like a seed in me.

I feel like Jane this evening, who said, “How will my heart contain such happiness?” The sun is setting, the Ladies are cuddling into corners and under legs ready for their fifth nap. Dale just put on an episode of The Office. It seems a propos to join him now, since it was the Burbachs who first introduced us to this sitcom last summer. We enjoy the last of our 4th of July brownies together and laughed at Michael and Dwight, Jim and Pam.

Until we meet again, dear friends!