Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for June, 2012

How To Land A Good Christian Husband

Okay, I promised myself I was not going to rant about this, but it doesn’t look like I am going to keep that promise…

I am tired. Tired of hearing that in order to get a ‘good, Christian husband’ a woman needs to ‘take care of herself’ (meaning her appearance). She needs to be thin, wear make-up, do her hair and dress well. This is so not God’s list!

First, let’s look at a few of the ‘good Christian wives.’ (Ok, they were actually Jewish, but you get the point.

Jacob met Rachel by a well. She had been tending sheep all day. She had been tending stinky sheep in a hot desert area. Yeah, I’m sure she looked her best…
and probably smelled great…

Zipporah, Moses’ wife. When they first met she had been tending sheep as well. Stinky, furry sheep.

Rebekah. When Abraham’s servant came to the well, she had been tending … Do I hear a ‘baa?’ That’s right. This girl had been tending sheep! And, what God told the servant to look for was a girl that would water the camels- all of them. God wanted a hard-worker for Isaac. ‘Raving beauty that pampers herself’ was not on the list! (Though it does seem that being a shepherdess may be the best way to get a good man! –You never hear that preached.)

Ruth met Boaz while working in his field. She was living in a cave with her mother-in-law. Likely not the best place to get a mani-pedi. What attracted Boaz was that she took care of her mother-in-law and worked hard. (There’s that stinking good-work-ethic thing again!)

The woman in Song of Solomon apologizes because she has been working in the field and has not been able to tend to her own vineyard (take care of her appearance). Yet she becomes the king’s beloved!

Esther goes through a year’s worth of beauty treatments, true- but this is at the behest of a pagan king who kidnaps beautiful women for his harem. This is not God’s ‘perfect plan.’ This is a horny dude who is making sure his harem is not only beautiful, but also not pregnant with someone else’s kid and is disease-free. STDs will not be taking down this king, nor will someone else’s son be sitting on this king’s throne. So while they wait to be absolutely sure, the girls are made pretty and trained to please the king (sexually). (I have noticed the year of sex training is often left out when people preach that this is the way to do things. Not that it is an overly bad idea, but that is another rant for another time.) The point here is that this is not the godly way to do things- but it is used as an example to tell women to ‘pretty up,’ ‘cause Esther did. Esther was a ‘sex-slave.’ Is this really what we are aspiring to? And, the reason we are given for Esther’s remarkable rise to power is her attitude. She won favor with the king because she was smart enough to listen to the instructions that the harem master gave her. Her wisdom, not her beauty won her the crown.

The point: Even in Proverbs 31 there is more about being hard working, and of godly character than there is about looking good. Is it wrong to look good? No. Many godly women were blessed with beauty, but it is not the primary thing God says to look for in a spouse. Scripture tells us that beauty fades, but a wife of noble character is worth more than rubies (a fortune)!

So why does this upset me so much? Because I see wonderful, Christian girls trying to be ‘perfect’ and ‘beautiful’ in ways that are counter-productive. God’s plan for them did not involve a 25 inch waist and a C-cup. Does this mean they are not lovable? No! There are men who marry them who would die twice for them if possible. Why? Because they possess character traits that are so much more impressive. They know how to love deeply. They are faithful. They have a sense of humor that always lightens his day. Etc. etc.

There are also men who do not want porcelain dolls. They want a woman who will hike, camp and fish with them even when showers are not available. They want to make love in the middle of the day without worrying about messing up her hair and make-up. They want to wake up in the morning and go without waiting for someone to ‘put her face on.’ They want a companion. Not someone to look at, but someone to live life with, a life that does not involve making sure someone’s hair is just so, or no one chips a nail.

I have also seen men of awesome character when their wives are ill, burned hurt or scarred. They do not care if they have to forego sex, or if she will never be beautiful again. They care that she is still alive, and in their life. One of the most touching scenes was after a hideous car accident. The wife was scarred badly- and I mean badly. The husband, a Nascar fan, comes in and she shows him the damage. His response, ‘You know I always wanted a wife with racing stripes.’ Now there’s a man for you! He is not focused on his wife being ‘hot,’ but on her knowing that he will love her no matter what. (It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about them…)

So is it wrong to like to dress up and look good? No, not at all. And some men really want that in a wife. If your husband loves seeing you look your best, by all means dress up. Just don’t try to force the rest of us to do so.

Me. I live in the extreme. My husband is practical to a fault. Proof: the man asked me never to shave again. That’s right. He likes hairy legs! Why? Because stubble hurts and he wants to have pain-free sex whenever we want. (How’s that for TMI?) The irony- the women who preach ‘submission’ and ‘male-headship’ the strongest are the ones who hate this the most! Even though I am ‘obeying’ my husband! Why? Because it is typically not about actually obeying your husband, but about conforming to their rules. Conformity. It makes them comfortable. Truth: God made me so different in the way I process information and look at the world that I could never ‘fit in’ with these ladies anyways. Unfortunately many of us sit outside their tightly drawn lines. Thankfully there are men who are not looking for the ‘norm,’ but for the unique creation that fits them well enough to be called a ‘wife that surpasses them all’ (at least in his mind).

Being Skinny is Overrated

I was once one of those skinny people who never seemed to gain weight no matter what I did, then I hit 35…. Now I am thinking it is time to diet (shhh…. There’s a part of me that does not want to know yet!). So here’s my spoof on being skinny.

While most of us think we want to be super-skinny, we are obviously missing the fact that there are some serious disadvantages to take into account before signing up for this life style!

1. It’s tough to maintain. One large order of fries means at least 30 more minutes on the treadmill. For a more voluptuous frame you need to eat at least that much for snack just to maintain your weight!

2. Cell phones just fall out of your pant’s pockets because your thighs are just not be thick enough to fill a standard pant leg. And if you do wear ‘skinny jeans’ you can be sure that the more ‘stocky’ in nature will point out how immodest you are!

3. There is not enough room in your bra for cell phone, tissues etc. And if there is, you are just too dang sexy to get away with it!

4. If there is a famine, skinny people die first.

5. Being amenorrheaic means never knowing if your pregnant or not, and inconsistent periods (because you don’t have enough fat to manufacture hormones) means wearing white pants is probably not the best idea.

6. Children cannot get comfortable and snuggle on a bony frame. By being skinny you are not thinking of the kids! Shame on you.

7. You’re always cold because you lack insulation, and husbands hate cold feet in bed. (Not that gaining weight has helped this situation…)

8. It’s easy to overspend on clothes since everything fits and looks good on you!

9. People of the same sex assume you think you are better then the rest of us and don’t feel comfortable talking to you. And the less attractive don’t want to be seen near you.

10. People of the opposite sex want to date you for your body, not who you are. Think of the marital problems you could have avoided if you were just a little less ‘hot’ while he was dating you…

11. Sitting on hard surfaces hurts your butt because you lack padding.

12. Everyone assumes the dish you bring to the church potluck is going to suck.

13. People assume you do not want seconds, or desert, and don’t mind giving you the smallest piece.

14. When you burp, people notice. We expected more from you.

15. You will never win the armrest battle, or be offered the aisle seat.

Now on to try to lose some weight…

The ‘Good’ Points in Being a True 1950’s Housewife

When I began to pastor the church I found literature from the 1950s that was apparently being passed around as ‘the way women should be.’ (Our church was only 20 years old and did not exist in the 1950s.) While I did not agree with much of it, there were a few good points.

The 1950s woman threw on a ‘house coat’ or some other ‘easy to care for/ don’t care if I get dirty’ frock in the morning. She took the kids to school in this, cleaned the house etc. Just before her husband got home was when she, and the children, washed and made themselves ‘presentable.’ How many young mothers today, who are home with the children, find that they are not able to get a shower until 4:30 or so? This is not a bad plan.

After dinner was ‘family time.’ The dishes were often left for the morning (after the husband went to work) so that the whole family could spend time together. (There were actually dividers sold and/or doors at the entrance to the living room so that guests could not see into the kitchen.) The woman’s ‘work’ was therefore also done for the day at this time. And since only the living room was used for guests, if it had been a ‘tough day’ and the rest of the house was still a wreck, so be it.

The husband was reminded that his wife had a ‘ministry to the household,’ which he was to respect. While I do not believe that this is the only ‘ministry’ a woman can have, it is a tough one, and appreciation of what a stay-at-home wife does all day in taking care of the children and the house is wonderful thing.

Since all women were home with their children, a time to have each other over for ‘tea’ in the afternoon was expected. This is when the women and children visited, so it did not interfere with family time. Also remember that schools let out around 2:30, and there was no homework or extra-curricular activities until high school during these years. The visiting was done in your house clothes, so it was relaxed. You were not expected to ‘look good’ until your husband got home after 5. Looking good was for him, not something other women were to judge you on.

Milk and other ‘staples’ were also delivered to your house (by men), so you did not have to run to the store as often. Bakeries and meat markets were within walking distance. Making dinner just got easier because you just ran to the corner (or sent a child) if you needed anything.

While I truly understand the frustration with never being able to use your God-given gifts as a woman during this era, there were a few perks to this time for when the children were small that we do not have today.

It almost makes a young mother long for the ‘good old days.’ (I have no clue what the women whose children were grown were supposed to do. In my family they drank.)

Are TV & Video Games Bad?

Is TV bad? It depends. If your child is watching it 24/7 to the point where they are not getting any exercise at all, then of course this is wrong. But, if your child is just sitting in front of it as a means to relax then- it depends.
It depends on the child. I have 7 children, 3 adopted, all different. For the most part, in regards to TV and video games, it boils down to two distinct personality types: The ‘followers’ and the ‘problem-solvers.’ How do you know which you are blessed with? Plop them down in front of a popular action-packed TV show. (When my children were little it was The Power Rangers.) After the show the ‘followers’ are re-enacting what they saw. The problem-solvers are at your side explaining to you what was wrong with the show and how the character could have done something better.

Some children are ‘followers.’ When they watch TV they tend to pick up the mannerisms of their favorite characters, copy their behaviors and internalize their values. These are the children who, after watching Power Rangers, need to immediately kick and punch their brother, parent or any other person in the vicinity no matter how many times you tell them not to. Since TV strongly affects how they live their lives, their TV consumption must be monitored and limited. But, since this is an issue that extends into ‘real life’ where they will also copy their friends and teachers without analyzing why, TV can be used to teach them to judge their actions and not follow so blindly. With these children parents can use TV as an opportunity to sit down and talk about the behavior of the characters to help them learn how to analyze and think before they follow another’s example (and without the child going back and telling their teacher that you said what she was doing is wrong).

Other children are more analytical. They problem-solve and need to think about everything. These are the children that, after the hundredth ‘Why?’ you really want them to shut up and go play somewhere else. These children, if taught a good set of morals, will get much out of TV. TV will help them to understand that there are evil people in the world, so they will not be naïve, and explain to them why people do the things they do so they will be more understanding with others. (These children have a tendency to be ‘legalistic’ and unbending.) Their problems in life tend to be because they believe everyone will think before they act and that no one would ever purposefully hurt them. (Can we say ‘naïve?’) TV helps them to process and learn so they are not surprised that not everyone behaves. It can be used as a tool to keep them from having to be hurt because of their naivety. Again, parents who are willing to talk with them about the shows they watch are key, even if it means answering a long list of ‘why’ questions. TV watching for these children is not as much of an issue since they are unlikely to blindly do what they see on TV.

The same goes for video games. Some children play them blindly. They need the high score and become frustrated when they lose or are told to turn them off. They are not problem-solving when they play, but just trying to ‘find’ what works. They also do not mind using ‘cheats,’ since it is not about how they got the high score, but just that they did. (Can you see some issues with this line of thinking?) Giving these children time limits helps them to learn to control their frustrations. Parents who sit beside them while they play and talk to them after their character ‘dies’ about what they could have done better can use the game to help them develop problem solving skills. But since these skills do not come naturally, the child will not enjoy this and will just want to get back to his game now. This is not to say that you should not hold the conversation anyways, but that you should keep it short and expect some push back.

Other children analyze the games. They are not just playing the game, but thinking about how they would create their own. Even the death of the character leads them to a new insight on how they should play differently, or how their game (the game they would invent) would be structured. For these children video games provide a lot of mental stimulation that does benefit them in the long run. Parents should always talk to their children about whatever they are currently interested in, but in this case, the parent should expect to sit down and listen to a very long explanation about everything (and I mean everything) to do with the game. The biggest thing a parent can do wrong in this situation is to act bored, or leave, so enter with a cup of coffee and be prepared to learn more than you ever wanted to know about some make-believe place.

My opinion: TV and video games have their place, but it is not mindless babysitting. For the follower, they can be used to teach self-control and how to think before you act. For the problem-solver it provides new things to think about, and opportunities to analyze and learn from other’s mistakes without having to experience them themselves. The ‘follower’ has more to lose from watching inappropriate material, while there is some benefit to showing the problem-solver (who tends to be naïve) things they may want to avoid. The best advice: Know your children, listen to them and talk to them frequently about what is important in their lives, in this case, the pretend worlds that TV and video games have to offer. And remember, pretend people have problems that can be discussed without your child going back to the person and telling them what you said about their situation- This is a huge bonus!

Thoughts On Deborah And Barak

Oh Barak… When I first met you I thought, ‘What a wimp!’ But then I grew older, and saw something else. I saw a man who was not all that unlike the people I know, and the person I have become.

Barak is a warrior, the commander of the army, yet he will not go into battle unless the woman, Deborah, goes with him. The question is, ‘Why?’ Why won’t he just go?

God tells him that, since he insists on having Deborah with him, the credit for the victory will be given to a woman, and not to him. I am sure he is thinking Deborah will get the glory, and he is fine with that, after all, she is the leader of Israel, just please God let her go with him! What he does not know is that God, in a typical God-like fashion, does not like to do what people expect. God gives the victory over Sisera to Jael instead. But who cares? Well, any man at this time does! A woman being given credit for a military victory is unheard of and this woman has no status. At least if it was Deborah, people knew who she was, and that she was someone with power and authority! This will hurt Barak’s masculinity. Still, Barak does not care. Why?

Here’s my take on the situation: Barak has faith that God can deliver His people. He knows that God gives victory to the weak who are righteous. He believes that Deborah is righteous. What he does not have faith in is his relationship with God. He knows himself. He knows he is not perfect. Likely he does not feel that he prays as much as he should, nor does he read his Bible as he ought (and it is much shorter at this time in history!). But, he believes that Deborah does, and even though it will cost him in pride and kudos, he knows that Deborah is a person who God blesses and does not want the failings he perceives in his relationship with God to be the downfall of Israel. So give the credit to the girl, in his eyes, she is better than him. And to his credit he gladly shares the credit with her and Jael after the battle is won, singing a duet with Deborah when it is over. (Many men would have been walking around trying to explain that they did all the work, and the Deborah did nothing, and Jael did almost nothing since Sisera pretty much fell into her lap.)

The only thing Barak does not have faith in is his relationship with God. He does not feel ‘good enough’ to be used by God. But how many of us feel this way today?

What I realized is that the list of the faithful in Hebrews is not a list of people with perfect faith, but a list of people who were just like us, insecure and still making mistakes. The point is that God is not looking for perfection, and that we can be sure of our relationship with Him, even when we doubt. Remember: Abraham did not trust God to protect him and allowed people to believe that Sarah was ‘available’ to save his life –twice! Isaac did the same. Gideon too did not believe that God could use someone like him. Yet they are all listed as people of faith. The faithful have doubts. Barak had doubts. The beauty of Barak is that he saw a woman as a faithful person whom God could bless and use, a person whom he perceived as more godly than himself, and was not afraid to let her have the credit for what he, as commander of the army, should have longed to have credit for.

In Proverbs 31 the husband is told to give his wife the praise that is due her. This is exactly what Barak does. He allows women (Jael and Deborah) to receive the praise. This is tough for a man at this time, where prideful talk, patriarchy and war were a manly way of life. Yet Barak humbles himself, due to his own insecurities. But Barak deserves double kudos for this, because typically it is the more insecure who cannot in the end stand to share the spotlight and feel the need to hog the praise…

Many teach that Deborah was judge because there were no godly men at the time. I disagree. Only truly godly men could follow God even when He was using a woman, someone they thought of as lowly and weak, to do His will. This takes trust and recognition of what ‘godly’ is. It is easy to follow someone the world tells you is worthy of respect: the big, strong and powerful. It takes much more faith to follow, when you know you should, someone others would look down on you for listening to at all.

‘Rules For Dating My Daughter’ Are Counter-Productive

A few months ago one of those ‘You are not going to date my daughter’ lists circulated. I showed the list to my 17-year-old son and asked what he thought. His response was interesting, and I was proud of the amount of maturity it showed. Mother-pride aside, here was his assessment- He said that he would have no problem obeying any of the rules, or even doing a Bible study with the father, and that, while he believed that the authority to monitor his computer/ phone etc belonged to his parents and not his date’s father, he had no problem showing his date’s father his electronics. But, he still would not date this man’s daughter.

Why? Because this list showed that the father was overly controlling. My son wants to eventually be a ‘man’ in his own home. He does not want to deal with an overly controlling father-in-law for the rest of his life. This list is an indication that ‘dad’ will not remain neutral when he feels that his son-in-law is doing it all wrong. For this reason, my son would decline to date this girl rather than risk a future where his father-in-law feels he is still the ‘man’ in his daughter’s home.

We have seen problems like this. These fathers do not mean to interfere, but they see the world as black and white. There is only one way to run a Christian marriage- their way. So when their daughter and her husband choose a different way, they need to ‘intervene’ and ‘disciple’ him. They don’t mean to be ‘controlling,’ but they do mean to make sure everything is done ‘Biblically,’ and ‘right.’ Good, strong men are going to see this coming, and run. In reality, the father’s interference is not driving away the ‘bad’ boys (They will lie to your face and pretend with ease.) but the ‘best’ boys, who actually want to stand up, and be a strong, godly man that your daughter would be proud to have in her life.

The solution: Train your daughter right so that she would never think to drag home someone who would do her wrong. Then, actually get to know the boys in your area, so that when she brings one home and wants to go somewhere with him, you will already know whether, or not you can trust him. Being involved in your daughter’s life will do more to protect her than any list of ‘rules’ ever will.

How to Keep Focus While Raising Children

Raising kids is tough. Add to that the extra responsibility of home schooling and the feelings of insecurity and self-doubt can be overwhelming. Here is some excellent advice from one of my friends.

Sit down as husband and wife and decide what goal is most important. If there is more than one goal, then prioritize, and decide which one is the most important, and then rank the rest accordingly. Hang the list on the fridge, or the bathroom mirror if necessary, then, every time you make a decision, remember what your goal is.

For most Christian households, the goal is to raise godly kids. Sometimes life gets busy. We realize that things are chaotic and everyone is stressed, but we have trouble deciding what to do about it. Remembering what our ‘goal’ is helps bring clarity to the situation. It also helps us feel less guilty, or adjust our priorities when we do not accomplish everything we wanted to that day.

For example: Let’s say that today we ended up getting home late and eating cereal for dinner. Why? Because our neighbor’s dog got loose, so we ‘wasted’ much of the afternoon chasing it down. But is this a problem? One of our goals is to cook healthy meals for our family, but the main goal is to raise godly children. Helping a neighbor is godly, and one night of cereal instead of a home cooked meal will not greatly affect the children’s health. Plus we have just taught our children to be flexible, and put someone else’s needs before our own wants. I’d say this is a ‘win.’

Some days we do not do so well. The children are fighting, very little schoolwork gets done and the house is a wreck. Everyone lost patience, and behaved badly, including mom and dad. This is a ‘loss’ day. What we need to figure out from these days is not how not to have them, with children these days are inevitable, but how not to lose our cool and become someone who sets a very bad example when things get tough. Remembering that your first priority is to teach your children to be godly means that your focus is on the children treating each other with respect. The schoolwork is probably second in importance, so any punishment given cannot make schoolwork impossible. Your job: Talk with your spouse and figure out punishments that work, so that tomorrow will be different.

The best punishments involve ‘natural consequences.’ These are consequences that are the natural result of what was done. For example: The children waste their time bickering all day and don’t get their schoolwork done, then there are no ‘fun’ activities later because the schoolwork is more important and needs to be done first. Knowing what is important allows you to focus only on what needs to be done, and ignore the less important things during a tough time. This keeps you from being overwhelmed and helps you to make better decisions that actually fix the problem. Later, when the important things are dealt with, you can work on the things that are less important.

These rules can also be applied when deciding which activities your children will, or will not participate in. Sometimes the activities are fine, but they take up so much time that there is no time left to be a ‘family.’ It is okay to miss a season of soccer. It is not okay for your child to grow up not knowing who their mom and dad were and what was important to them. If you do make them sit out for a season, you cannot forget why and get busy yourself. Make sure you are replacing whatever you took away with quality, fun family time or you will just look like a selfish hypocrite whose only real reason for not letting them play was so you would not have to be bothered driving them around…

So, when your spouse comes home and stupidly asks, ‘What were you doing all day, the house is a mess?!’ You can answer, ‘Making your children more godly.’ Implying that they were anything but godly today! (By the way husbands, never, ever say this! No jury of her actual peers would convict her for anything she does to you if you do…)

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