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

Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

A Tale of Two Moms

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The other day I was talking with two mothers. We were all home schooling, and both mothers were new to it. As I recounted my life and experiences I noticed that each mother was reacting differently to everything I said. At the end of the conversation one mother exclaimed, ‘I know who I’m coming to with any questions!’ The other shrank away from my presence.

I’ve seen this reaction before. Moms who are not secure in what they are doing, and who dislike hearing that anyone is in a better place then they are. The irony is that years ago I was in the same place they were, and their results are likely to be just as good as mine are! I am just a little further down the road, and a lot more comfortable with what I am doing, because I have been there, done that, and seen the fruit of some of my work blossom into blessings for the children I taught- and they have not had that experience yet.

The problem is that we are trained, for the most part, by society to see life as a competition, and with that perspective we have trouble asking for help, or even utilizing the people God puts into our lives who are good for instructing others. The older cannot teach the younger if the younger are threatened and offended by the offer.

The woman who loved hearing that I had all of this experience is rare. And the irony is that I would love to help in any way I can, and now that mine are grown, and leaving the house at a rapid rate, I have the time (and energy- no more midnight feedings etc) to do so. I love this stage of my life, but it will all go to waste if the younger generation continues to belittle each other and make each other fear looking weak, or less than in comparison- especially when that comparison is the equivalent of comparing apples (an older mom) to oranges (someone still fresh and cheeky and ready to take on the world). And the irony is, in general, women love to talk, and especially reminisce about their children’s younger years!

I am the mom I am today thanks to a remarkable generation of older women. I went to their houses as a home care physical therapist, and gained mountains of insight and advice as we engaged in small talk about my children. Did I do everything they recommended? No. But I did learn a lot, and it is time for my generation to return the favor. Young moms, ask yourselves: Who you are allowing into your life to provide wisdom and insight that will make your life easier and more enjoyable in the end? (Pick some good ones!)

‘Women Are Emotional’ -Biblically Debunked

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One of the fallacies perpetuated in the church is that women are emotional while men are not. While, in truth, this statement does more to deprive men from healthy emotional expression, it is also commonly used to put down and undermine women in the church. So let us look at scripture, as it pertains to emotion:

1. Women cry, men do not.

Men in scripture cry, a lot. And for many, many reasons. Being reunited with estranged relatives (Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers), for the death of loved ones (Jacob, Abraham), because people are speaking badly of him and life seems to be overwhelmingly (David), when their inheritance is lost (Esau), for the state of a nation (Jesus) and when they are in real danger or pain (Jesus, David). Weeping is not reserved for women, and there are more scriptural examples of men crying loudly about life’s injustices than we have of women doing the same.

Men Weeping In Scripture (usually loudly): Gen: 23:2, 27:38, 29:11, 33:4, 42:24, 45:2, Num. 14:1, Jdg 20:23, 1 Sam 20:41, 30:4, 2 Kings 8:11, Job 2:12, Is. 16:9, 33:7, 38:3, Jer. 9:1, Lam. 1:16, Hos. 12:4, Micah 1:8, Mal. 2:13, Mt. 26:75, Lk. 19:41, 22:62, Jn. 11:35, Acts 20:37, Rev. 5:4 (This is an abbreviated list.)

2. Women are easily deceived.

Although Eve was deceived, Adam sinned purposely and brought death into the world. Sinning on purpose is always worse than sinning because one was deceived, so it makes little sense that this is used as an argument for why men are more fit to lead. But deception in scripture is not limited to the female. Jacob, Isaac, Laban, multiple kings who believed Abraham or Isaac’s wife was their sister etc were also deceived. There are also lists for what to do when you realize you have sinned unintentionally. Being deceived is not limited to the female, nor are the majority of examples in scripture of people being deceived of women. Deception seems to be an equal opportunity problem. Perhaps this is why a man is to choose a wife who is wise and offers good counsel….

Examples of deception in the Bible: Paul Rom. 7:11, the church 2 Cor. 11:3, James 1:16, Eve 1 Tim. 2:14, Laban Gen. 31:20, Kings Gen 12:13, 26:7, Isaac Gen. 27:35

3. Women do not have the fortitude to lead.

There are many examples of women in scripture demonstrating leadership qualities and saving the day while the men were somewhat confused. Samson’s parents (Judges 13): The Lord speaks to Samson’s mother, not his father, first. When the Lord appears again, his wife takes him along to hear what He has to say. The husband then freaks out a bit, and his wife uses logic to reassure him that the Lord would not give them a prophecy then cause them to perish from being in his presence. There is also Deborah, who leads in battle when Barak is overwhelmed, the daughters who build the wall with Nehemiah while some elite men deem themselves to be too good for physical labor (Neh 3:12). Then there is the women who throws the millstone to save the city (Judges 9:53), as well as the one who has Sheba’s head over the wall (2 Sam. 20:22). The Queen of the South is also used as a witness to the wisdom of Solomon as a result of her testing (1 Kings 10:1, 2 Chron 9:1, Lk 11:31, Mt 12:42). Even Abraham was told by God to listen to his wife Sarah even though her wishes regarding Ishmael were in conflict with his (Gen. 21:12). (Sarah’s role as a parent becomes even more apparent when one realizes that Abraham had many sons, while Sarah had just the one. Gen 25:1-6) Women, good women, are typically portrayed in scripture as having wisdom, and making sound decisions that people respect and obey.

4. Women are nurturing, while men are less so.

God Himself uses feminine, nurturing adjectives to describe Himself. If Jesus Himself weeps and uses nurturing imagery to show Himself as a man who longs to gather His people to Himself, then a true man, walking in His footsteps should be able to do the same.

Paul too uses traditionally feminine imagery to describe himself and the others with him. (1 Thess 2:7 They were like nursing mothers.)

God as a nurturing mother: In labor Is. 42:14, Dt. 32:18, Suckling children Num 11:12, Is. 49: 14-15, comforts children Is 66:12-13, as a mother who births and protects Is. 46: 3-4, maternal Ps 131:2, Job 38:8, 29, Prov. 8:22-25, 1 Pet. 2:2-3, Acts 17:28, as a seamstress Neh 9:21, midwife Ps 22:9-10, 71:6, Is 66:9, as a mother bear robbed of her cubs Hos. 13:8, and a hen gathering her chicks Mt. 23:37

For more Biblical references to God exhibiting  traditionally feminine characteristics go to: http://clubs.calvin.edu/chimes/970418/o1041897.htm

5. A woman’s role is to teach other women and children.

There are more admonitions for men to teach their children than there are for women to do the same (though there are enough examples to prove that both are to instruct their offspring) and God states that on the new earth He will teach the children himself, indicating that teaching the children is the most important job there is (Is. 54:13). The Queen of Sheba tests a man, Solomon’s, wisdom, Priscilla co-teaches Apollo with her husband, Phoebe delivers the letter to the Romans and Julia is an apostle. The women are also the first to be charged with the message, ‘He is Risen.’ Women throughout scripture do more than work with children. They are a vital part of Jesus’ ministry, supporting the men financially (Lk 8:3). Women also run vineyards, work as shepherds, build cities, lead wars and make brave, quick decisions that lead to the defeat of the enemy (Judges 5:26). They also serve as leaders, prophets and have jobs at the Tent of Meeting (which seem to disappear after Eli’s sons rape them, not the women’s fault.) Women are more than capable of emotionally handling much more in life, and there are women in scripture for them to look up to as they do.

Further Jesus gathers the children to Himself, even though the disciples tell them to go away. Jesus, a single man, loves and is comfortable with kids. He also allows them to be present when He teaches (something not done during this time in history). Paul also has children he is close to who pray for him (Acts 21:5).

6. Men are stoic.

The psalms contain some of the best examples of worship and praise as well as examples of crying out loudly and emotionally to the Lord. And ironically, they were written by men, and many by a great warrior named David. He poured out his heart and soul in everything he wrote. Strong emotions resound, yet David is a man…

7. Women are better at relationships than men.

Many women do excel at relationships, but men in scripture are not lacking in this department. Isaac is caught caressing his wife in public, David and Jonathan are often used as an example of true friendship and the greatest love song ever written, The Song of Solomon, was written by a man. Men have relationship skills and, if allowed, may excel in this area as well.

8. Men are protective, while women are nurturing.

Except the Bible describes women as the protectors as well. It is the mama bear, robbed of her cubs who is fierce (Hosea 13:8) and God describing Himself as a mother who rescues you. (Is 46. 3-4) While men do feel a need to protect their young, it is not limited to the masculine.

Joke: A comedian once said, ‘Women traditionally have had no interest in auto-racing, but if you strapped a baby needing to be rescued to the pace car, no man in the world would be able catch up.’ Women too are protective.

9. Women are weak.

While men tend to possess more physical strength (though this differs on a case by case basis, and women tend to survive harsh conditions better so there is a trade off) the type of weakness attributed to women is often not a physical, but a psychological weakness. Again, referring to scripture, there seems to be more cases of men falling in the area of moral fortitude than women, especially when it comes to the female. Lust takes down more men in scripture than their female counterparts (though we do have Gomer…). It is therefore the male, not the female, who has much to learn in this area. But that is the point. We are to learn. We are to mature and overcome. Scripture is not about staying weak, but about becoming a mature, stable, capable human being. And this admonition to emotional maturity is not limited to the male.

So, men, as well as women, are to be fully emotionally equipped. But those emotions are to be handled maturely, and there are examples of mature men and women who showed both wisdom and self-control throughout scripture. To say that ‘women are emotional’ is to not address her need to mature out of petty things. To say that men are not emotional is to deprive a man of his right to express what he feels. Neither is good. Emotions, when handled appropriately, are a God-given gift that every member of the Trinity also possesses. To deny or belittle their place in the human experience is to be less than the image-bearer of God, and to deny that we are to love Him with all of our strength, mind, heart and soul. (Luke 10:27) Emotional maturity is therefore the goal for all Christians, male and female.

Outside the Camp

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I have never viewed being ‘outside the camp’ once a month in the desert as a bad thing.

It always looks like a glorious week off!

No children (except maybe the one you are currently breastfeeding), no chores, no responsibilities save taking care of yourself.

A monthly week off to visit with friends. To relax. To enjoy the company of other women and refresh. To be without the demands of everyday living.

And then to come back, having missed those you love, appreciating them so much more and ready to do what needs to be done with renewed vigor.

I have always viewed Sunday as a day of work. Children to be gotten ready, Sunday school to teach, music to be learned hurriedly before service, and a schedule that is completely out of synch with the rest of the week, that inevitably puts small children off kilter.

The anticipation of ‘rest’ and the reality of chaos.

The Sabbath is not a rest for a young mother. And I doubt it was much different in the desert. Children’s needs do not go away for a day.

In my mind, God ‘redeemed’ the working Sabbaths by giving young mothers a week away. And I was a little jealous of them.

Photo by Matija Barrett, effects by Kristin Andraka

Hiring a House Keeper

Now I know the Proverbs 31 woman had servants who helped take care of her house, but if you are a woman living in a Christian society today you have probably felt the pressure to do it all yourself too. Somehow we have made cleaning your house into the ultimate womanly virtue, and we use it, meanly, to compare our worth to others. So hiring a house-keeper becomes a huge emotional issue for most Christian women. It’s like admitting you are a failure as a wife and mother. Except it isn’t.

The irony in my life is that I am finally taking this step at a time when I have the least I have ever had to do in life. Maybe I am just burnt out, or maybe I just don’t care anymore. I tried having someone clean my house once when the children were little. There were seven of them and I was over-involved in both the church and home school community and wanted to stay that way. A woman from the church was starting a cleaning business so we signed on as her first client. She was wonderful, but soon began receiving job offers that were nowhere near our house, making ours a difficult location to clean. This was fine with us as I had grown tired of hearing all of the little remarks made by the other Christian women about my choice to have her clean. My favorite was, ‘If you work with her maybe you will learn how to take care of your house yourself.’ Now I ran the church karate club, was in charge of the Sunday School (and wrote the curriculum), taught two classes at the home school co-op and home schooled seven children. Obviously I was not doing enough.

Today I am older. My children are growing and most have moved out of our home. It would seem that this would be the time of life where I needed a housekeeper the least, but not having as many children to help with the chores makes for a much longer day, and having cleaning be the only thing I do makes it oh so tedious. Believe it or not the ‘breaks’ chasing the toddlers provided helped me keep my sanity! (Who knew?) It also gave me an excuse to not have finished everything I wanted to get done. Now all I have is, ‘If I scrubbed another thing I was going to go nuts.’ It’s just not the same. So I hired someone to clean.

Hiring someone has its advantages. I now have time to do more things, things I really want to do, like writing this. It also provides employment for other people. I do not know the women who come to my house well enough to know if they are supporting a family, or if this is money for extras, but does it matter? They want to earn money doing something they are good at. I want to save time eliminating something I detest, so it is a win-win.
Are there some downsides to this? Yes. I am a bit territorial and like my home the way I like it, even if it is a mess. I need to get over this. There is also the feeling like I am surrendering something I should be doing to someone else.This is a false teaching I have unfortunately internalized, but before I consider myself a failure I ask myself what has eternal value. Raising godly children and writing books that will hopefully lead people to live in a more Christ-like manner is ultimately more important than my feminine pride. And I like it. I like coming home to a clean toilet and a shower stall where I can actually see through the glass surround. It’s a little thing, but it does make me happy.

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.

You Can Be a Proverbs 31 Woman- and Probably Are (Unless You Are a Guy…)

The Proverbs 31 woman has been blown out of proportion. She is larger than life- but really she is not. First, we need a little perspective. This is advice given to a man, who is to be king, by his mother on picking a wife. It is not advice to a woman on what they should do, nor is it a daily check list of what should get done. This man is a king. These are the requirements for a woman who is to be queen. If you are not marrying someone who is destined to be in charge of a country, or are not going to be in charge of a country, then these requirements must be ‘tweeked’ to fit the type of life you will enjoy.
So, let’s look at Proverbs 31 with a new perspective…
-First requirement: She must be a wife of ‘good character.’ I think we can handle that, especially since Biblically any woman, or man, who repents and turns to God is treated as a full child of God. So even Rahab the prostitute now qualifies.
-Her husband has full confidence in her, meaning she is a capable woman who makes good decisions. Her husband does not worry about her doing something stupid when he is not there. This is good marriage advice. Too many boys are looking for a girl who needs to be ‘rescued’ and who makes them feel like a ‘man’ because she ‘needs’ him to solve her problems. This is not the woman scripture tells a man to look for.
-She brings him good and not harm. No matter how she ‘feels,’ she works for his best interests and does not do things that would undermine him. This means no passive-aggressive behavior!
-She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. This means that even though she is to be ‘rich’ (the wife of a king) she has basic skills, so even if her circumstances change and her family needs her to do whatever, she can, and will, gladly. Today this would mean that she would cook and clean, shop at a thrift store and cut coupons happily if need be.
-She shops for the best price and quality. Since people walked to shop, this means she does not just buy the first thing she sees, but is frugal and good with money, even though they have plenty at the moment.
-She gets up early and feeds the servants. She makes sure the people she is responsible for are well cared for. Today this would mean that the children will get breakfast and their lunches are made because she is the type of person who would wake up in time to get them off to school.
-Since she is going to be a wealthy woman she should already have money of her own and be able to use it wisely. She can therefore consider a property and manage the vineyard (business) she creates. This means that she is able to manage any projects she becomes involved with so that they do not add to her husband’s responsibilities. She is not a burden, but an asset, increasing the family’s wealth without increasing the stress on her husband. (By the way, men typically work in a vineyard and she is in charge. She has no problem handling things at work, and has the respect of her employees so this is not an issue.)
-She works vigorously and her arms are strong. She is not a wimp. She is in good physical health, and is able to work hard. Think of the women that God chose as wives in the Bible. Many of them were shepherdesses, able to lift heavy things and do much physical work.
-Her trading is profitable. The projects she gets into make money. What she does in her free time is not a drain on the family finances.
-Her lamp does not go out at night. In Biblical times wicks needed to be trimmed and the oil lamp needed to be filled before bed at night. This is a woman who makes sure that the little things get done. This woman makes sure the garbage is out on garbage day, the iron is off before she leaves the house etc. Her husband does not need to double-check on the little things she is responsible for.
-She holds the distaff and grasps the spindle in her hand. She knows how to sew. If needed, this wealthy woman could make clothes for her family. She has skills.
-She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. She is giving, and is not afraid to mix with the less fortunate. She does not look down on them, and even though she is queenly, she notices people in need and helps.
-She does not fear the snow because her household is well clothed. She prepares ahead of time for things she knows are coming. This means that she is not running out to buy boots and coats on the first snow day because she did not plan ahead.
-She makes coverings for her bed, and is clothed in linen and purple. She knows how to decorate her house and dress as is fitting for her position in life. Her appearance is not going to embarrass her husband. When she needs to be elegant (as a queen often does) she can do so easily. For many of us, this is not necessary, and if we are trying to dress like a queen, when we need to be ‘functional’ because we are actually running after kids, then we are doing the opposite of what is necessary and are behaving contrary to this verse. This woman needs to look the part because her husband is king. If your husband is not a king, and your ‘society’ is blue jeans and flip-flops then you should dress and decorate your house in a way that will not embarrass your spouse.
-Her husband is respected. This implies that she does not embarrass him, and, because of what she does, people look more favorably on him.
-She makes things to sell. Even though she is rich, she does useful, profitable work in her spare time.
-She is strong and dignified. She is not full of anxiety and fear, but can laugh at the future because she is confident that she can handle whatever is to come.
-She is wise and is able to instruct others. She is not a ditzy airhead. She is smart, and paid attention in school.
-She manages her household well and is not lazy.
-Her children call her blessed and her husband praises her. This is a woman who has raised her children to respect her, and she is so capable her husband would feel awkward making derogatory jokes about her.
-She surpasses all other women. This is because she is the perfect wife for her husband. She fits him well. He can imagine no other woman being as good for him as she is.
-She fears God.
There is also a reminder that charm and beauty are fleeting. A man is not to pick a wife based on her ability to flatter him, or how ‘hot’ she is. These things will not last. Instead he is to pick a woman who has godly characteristics. She is also to receive the rewards her work deserves and is to be praised for what she does. This means that she may be pampered and complimented for doing all that she does.
When you look at the list what you will find is that there are many, many godly women out there, and husbands who are lucky to have them! Not married? This is the list to use. Men, don’t be tricked into marrying a woman who makes you ‘feel’ like a ‘man’ for superficial reasons. The point here is that you want a strong, capable woman, who enhances your life, not one who leans on you and cannot do anything on her own! And if tough times come, she is capable of managing in poverty without complaint as well. (Remember, kingdoms topple, and kings often find themselves in exile during this time in history… A good ‘queen’ needs to be prepared for this as well.)

‘Authority’ in the Bible

Okay, answer me this: If women cannot have ‘authority’ over men, and the Bible never contradicts itself, then what in the world did Paul mean when he said that a woman could not have authority over a man?
He obviously did not mean that she could not lead a country. Deborah did, and Miriam (according to Micah) is listed as a ‘leader’ in Israel as well. (Mic 6:4) Junia is an apostle (church-planter) and Phoebe is a deacon, so church leadership is obviously not prohibited, unless the person who gets people saved, organizes the church, puts others they have taught into positions and then moves on to do it again is not really a ‘leader’ and has no ‘real’ authority.
‘Authority’ cannot be listening to God and instructing people (men) regarding what God says or Philip’s four unmarried daughters would not have been given prophecy, it would have been wrong for the men to seek Huldah when there were other male prophets at the time, Miriam would not have been given prophecy since Aaron and Moses were around, and Isaiah’s wife would not have been known as ‘the prophetess’ since Isaiah himself could have done the job. (Do you see where this is going?) So God talks to women, and He expects the men to do what He says through them. Hmm… and this is not authority?
Could it be that Paul was talking about authority in the home? Should women have no authority there? Was God wrong to tell Abraham to listen to his wife and do what she says regarding Ishmael (Gen. 21:12)? Was God wrong to give instructions to Samson’s mother instead of his father when his father was begging to be told as well (Judges 13:8-11)? Was God wrong to give the prophecy about Esau and Jacob to Rebekah rather than Isaac (Gen. 25:23)?
Or, could it be that the KJV actually got it right? That the correct translation of the word here is that women cannot ‘usurp authority’? Could it be that Paul was talking to people, some of whom grew up in a culture where the women ruled the pagan churches and the men were made into eunuchs and he did not want to see that happening in the church? Could it be that he told the women to be silent and ask their husbands because he wanted them to stop talking in church so they would shut up and actually learn- especially if they were to be ‘workers’ in the church? Could it be that the Jewish women, used to being segregated in the synagogues and Temple were used to gossiping and not paying attention and that this is what Paul was trying to change? God knows it would have been difficult for Phoebe to deliver the letter to the church at Rome if she was not to speak!
‘Silent’ can also not mean that women cannot spread the gospel or Jesus would have been in error sending that Samaritan woman away from the well without clear instruction about not telling anyone, and the women at the tomb should not have been entrusted with the first report about the risen Lord. John should also not have written that scandalous letter to the woman in 2 John- according to the ‘rules’ he should have written it to the man of the church who was over her. Unless she was the head of the church that met in her home…

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