Monthly Archives: January 2014

“Once Upon A Time” instead of “Happily Ever After”

From the long, flowing, perfect hair that looks gorgeous even when wind-blown, to the teeny-tiny ten-inch circumference waists, to their dashing princes that come to their rescue and fall deeply, madly, head-over-well-shoed heals in love with their fair damsels, Disney Princesses have it made.  Or, we think they do.
As young girls we in the Western World watch their stories over and over, memorizing lines and songs, learning from a young age to dream of or wait for a Prince Charming that will come, rescue a girl from whatever her current trial is (cleaning her bedroom, doing homework, escaping from an emotionally unavailable father) and whisk her away on his white horse into the sunset – into their “Happily Ever After”.  And life will be perfect.  Any troubles will be gone – forever.  They will love each other perfectly.  He will fulfill any desires and expectations she has, and she will, of course, do the same for him.
In the Christian world, we dream that any sins we struggle with will also be instantly erased the magical minute Prince Charming or Disney Princess walks into our own story.  And so we create our own fairytale-endings, complete with white dresses, expensive parties, snappy clothing for our princes, and elaborate ceremonies with our kingdoms watching.  Because, after all, what’s not to celebrate?  Everything’s going to be grand now!
If only.
I think it’s about time we recognize that dating, engagements, aren’t an indicator that “Happily Ever After” (aka The Wedding) is about to happen.  “Happily Ever After”, folks, is when we’ve completed our time here, and we enter through those pearly gates (for the record, I have NO idea how gates can be made out of pearl; I’m pretty excited to see those.  Maybe it’s more like mother-of-pearl.  Either way – Gor-GEOUS!!!!).  The wedding is more like “Once Upon A Time”.
“Once Upon A Time” is the beginning (shocker, I know).  Once Upon A Time means there’s a story ahead.  A story full of frustration, hardship, obstacles to overcome, characters to get to know and to say good-bye to, character development, and love – much love.  Any good story has love at its center.  Maybe not romantic love, but love (for something OTHER than self) just the same.
I think maybe, if we start looking at weddings as “Once Upon A Time” expectations would be different, and maybe, more marriages would be saved.
Just sayin’.

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Bruises and Healing

My heart is bruised today.  Like a physical bruise, I can go about my daily life, and most people don’t even notice – I can act normal.  But the minute someone gets me talking, (presses against the bruise), tears flow.  It’s not like a deep, bleeding wound where anyone and everyone can tell something’s wrong just by looking at my face (okay, for me and my face, it only has to be a paper cut on my heart for the world to know, I’m apparently pretty transparent, but still).  For whatever reason, this is a bruise, and so I go about my day with a dull ache that can be ignored for a few hours at a time, but never for more than that.

See, I received some exciting, wonderful, scary heartbreaking news yesterday…and I’m hurt and thrilled and full of all sorts of conflicting, messy emotions.  Sometimes life can be that way – chaotic and confusing.  Right now, after spending all morning with teenagers, I want to curl up on my bed, lose myself under my thick blankets, tuck my knees to my chest, and cry into my pillow.  Yesterday, when I received the wonderful news (and thus, the bruise), all I wanted to do was laugh and hug someone, because the news was that amazing and breath-taking.  Seriously, I can’t wait to see how God works through this up-coming change!  Wonders and miracles and (even cooler) such stories are going to come of this.

But now, a day later and having thought about the news a bit, I realize there is a bruise on my heart from it.  Because it’s wonderful news, but it also means big scary change, and some pretty major loss in my life.  I suppose, because it’s a bruise, I could go about my days and ignore the pain; after all, that is what I’ve been taught is “strong”.  And we’re always supposed to be “strong”.  And bruises are easy to ignore – until the bruised part of your body bumps into something (and that ALWAYS happens with bruises or stubbed toes, isn’t it?).

But I learned a long time ago that trying to always be strong – especially when it comes to my emotions – is not always a good idea.  In fact, often, it is downright harmful.  So I journal, and then call my best friend and soak the shoulder of her shirt with my tears.

Because, as painful as this is – I want to feel this.  I want to embrace everything going on inside me.  I want to know the joy, but that means also knowing the pain.  And this is too wonderful of a moment to ignore the upheaval just to look “strong” or like I have it all together.

Besides, nowhere in the Bible does it say we’re supposed to have it all together.  In fact, if you look at the characters throughout the story, not one of them (except for Jesus, of course) had everything all together.  Jesus didn’t hold those who were pretending to have it all together.  He touched and healed those who admitted to their physical pain.

And really, God gave us emotions.  They are wonderful things.  You CAN get lost in them, but so long as you use them healthfully, than you’re better off with them than without. God wanted us to experience joy and happiness – but those emotions are only truly sweet when you’ve experienced their opposites – disappointment and sadness.  Think of it this way – you wouldn’t appreciate the sun if we never had night time, or a cloudy day.  You need both.  And to ignore only the “bad” or “negative” emotions – the ones we try to suppress and not experience – only deadens your ability to enjoy the good ones.

So embrace both – the joy and the pain, health and the ache of a bruise, the light and the dark, that you might understand the value and beauty of both.  And yes, this sounds very “ying-yang” ish, but don’t take it that way.  The good is stronger (and does win) over evil.  Joy always has the last word.  But you need a dash of the pain, you need the bruise, to appreciate the rest.  I know, it sounds twisted, and if I wasn’t bruised right now, I’d probably be a whole lot more eloquent on the subject.  But I’m not.  This is me, raw, because I can’t think past the bruise at the moment.  I’m sure I will in a day, because that’s what I do.  Just not right now.  And that’s okay.

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Unseen Beauty

13.08.08 - hairbells!

If you know me, you know there are a few subjects I can get, um, let’s go with “passionate” about.  One of them is a woman’s beauty.  Maybe because while growing up I would look around at all the girls my age and wish I was as beautiful as them (I couldn’t be beautiful because of my curvy body that refused to fit into social norms, no matter how little or how healthfully I ate – or  how much I worked out).  I could see the beauty in each and every woman and girl around me, and I longed to be as beautiful as they.
Now, eventually, I have been able to gain a more healthful attitude on this issue, and thanks to God and some persistent, kind, honest friends, I can see my own beauty.  But I still see the beauty in every other woman, and it breaks my heart when they can’t see their own.  Or when they downplay it because they don’t fit into a certain jean size, or their skin has developed wrinkles, or they have freckles, or their hair color isn’t blonde (or brunette or glorious red).  I hate that!
I told one of the girls in my youth group a couple years ago that if I could give my life for the women of the world to see their own beauty and value, I would.  And that’s still true, but I’ve learned something since then.
You aren’t going to truly be able to see your own beauty, if you don’t know how Christ sees you.  It’s confusing and makes no sense, I know, and I’m not completely sure why this is the case, but it is.  And, unfortunately, it’s one of those “constantly work on” things.  It CAN go away if you don’t guard it.  You have to know how much God loves you, treasures you, and how you look through the lens of Jesus in order for you to see your own beauty.  Otherwise there will always be a flaw or someone prettier (thus rendering you not pretty) or aging that will bring your beauty into question in your mind.  That’s just how it is in this cut-throat, beauty-defiling world we live in.
And, as I have been discovering, once you know how God sees you, what He thinks about you, you can learn to love all the bits and pieces of you – the insecure bits, the scared pieces, those things you see as flaws (freckles or snorts or a temper).  And, the amazing thing is, generally, once you learn to love a specific bit of yourself, than that flaw no longer has power over you, and no longer can be used to whisper lies into your ear.
So, want to feel comfortable in your skin?  Want to feel beautiful?  There is absolutely nothing YOU can personally do about it.  So start praying that God, in His timing and His way, will start to show you how He sees you.  And then, that will be all that matters.
And that, Ladies (and Gentlemen) is beautiful.

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Wimpy King Arthur

Guinevere stood facing the audience, back to her husband, King Arthur (of the Round Table).  In other words – the air was thick with awkward tensions between the two, and the audience was holding its collective breath, waiting to see how King Arthur would respond to Queen Guinevere’s challenge.  She had just told Arthur that she would NOT do as he asked (give Lancelot her handkerchief as a token of her good wishes for the tournament tomorrow), unless, as her King, Arthur commanded her.  And then, she begged him, to not command she give her token to Lancelot, but to him, himself – Arthur (even though he would not be fighting).  The audience could see on Guinevere’s face that she wanted Arthur to admit he was jealous (an accusation she’d previously declared and he’d denied) and command her to give HIM the token of her affection.

Arthur stood there for a moment, staring at his feisty and attention-loving wife’s back and all the air that was puffing up his angry chest, left him as quickly as if he’d been punched in the gut.  You could see the pain and conflict on his face.  He was Arthur, King of the Britons, Leader of the Knights of the Round Table, the most chivalrous, civilized man around.  He was a leader, a manly man.  But when it came to women – most notably his wife – he was a coward.  He could not tell her that he WAS incredibly jealous; he could not command her to only give tokens of affection to him.  He told her to do as she wished, and then walked off.

And Guinevere’s heart broke.

And, in that moment, Camelot began to fall.

There’s a reason women – especially the good ones – have this stereotype of going for the “bad guys”.  It’s because there’s this sense about them that they’ll fight for us, and for their relationships – and that desire was built into women.  We want a man who will fight for us (dragons and school-yard bullies and the man behind the counter who is being a jerk to us while we’re in the process of renewing our driver’s license).  And we want a man who will fight for our relationship (even if that means the occasional fight WITH us).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many men out there like that.  Some hide behind “manly” jobs – like firefighting or being a policeman or fighting for someone else’s rights in the courtroom…but when it comes to something closer to home, like their own relationships, they don’t fight.  They don’t say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done.

And this breaks our hearts.

Now, not EVERY man is a coward.  There are some out there that will say the hard things (gently) in a relationship, in order to keep it healthy.  There are some men that will fight our dragons (whether they’re actual dragons, or simply stubborn whimsies in our heads).  But those men are few and far between.  But they are worth waiting for.

So wait for them, women.

Don’t give up, he’s coming for you – in God’s perfect timing (that’ s part of fighting for you too).   But make sure, before you hand over your heart to him, that he’s not faking being an actual man – hiding behind a manly career or a great relationship with God.  Make sure he’ll fight for you, and for your relationship.

And men, speak up.  Fight!

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Tamar and Judgments

Sometimes we have to do hard things.  Sometimes those things don’t make any sense to us or to those around us.

For my final project for my Biblical Interpretation class last semester I had the opportunity to do a creative project of my choice.  Which, for me, meant settling on a female character in the Bible and writing a monologue from her perspective.  After many suggestions and much prayer, I settled on Tamar in Genesis 38 (there are 3 Tamar’s in the Old Testament).  Her story has always intrigued me (well, always since I read it many years ago, not so much before I knew it existed!).  And the common person’s reaction has always frustrated me.  We make judgments so quickly; judgments made from how we see culture, God, and history.  But what if we lived in a different time and place, and our view points were different?  We would still make judgments about people, but we might come to a very different conclusion.  Our experiences and culture influence our judgment in ways we don’t even fully recognize.

ANYWAY, Tamar intrigues me.  SO, I studied her.  I read her story multiple times in multiple translations (not in the original Hebrew because I’m not that boss).  I studied the laws and culture of her time (I’m a nerd – I loved this part!).  And I prayed a lot.  And read the Joseph story that her story is stuck dead in the middle of.  And I learned a lot about her.

And I learned that sometimes, in order to fulfill God’s will, we have to do hard things.  Or things that don’t make sense.  Or things that sometimes, others theologically don’t agree with (this one is tricky, if you’re the only thinking God told you to do something, chances are it wasn’t God, but sometimes….well, have your listening-to-God ears turned on!).

Anyway, here’s what I came up with for her.  Go read Genesis 38 first.  If you don’t have a Bible handy, go read it here, and then read my monologue.  I’d love feedback!
You know, Judah, if you had just done your manly duty, we wouldn’t be in this mess.  You would have ended up looking like a man of honor, a man who trusted God, and I wouldn’t carry around the label of “prostitute”.  Which, by the way isn’t overly honoring for you, your now-dead sons, or the rest of our family either.

But no, you didn’t do that.  Your boys were wicked.  God killed my husband, Er, your eldest son, because of his wickedness, before I could give him a son, and God killed his younger brother, Onan, because of his wicked actions toward me.  Onan would not fulfill his brotherly duty.  He didn’t mind using me, no Sir, but when it came to planting his seed in me…well…he wasn’t such a big fan of that.  Did you know that Judah?  Did you know Onan was defiling me that way?  Was mocking God in that way?  I get it, he didn’t want his suddenly doubled inheritance to be taken from him by Er’s son…that HE fathered.  But that doesn’t make it right.

And then, you send me away from your house.  Afraid that if you gave me to Shelah, your youngest, he’d die too.  Even you shirked from your duty.  By law, you were just as responsible as your sons.  I’m not saying it was a wonderful option; that either of us would have preferred it, but it was an option.

But instead you sent me away, saying your youngest son Shelah was still too immature to do a man’s job.  Promising to send for me when he was a man.

So I went back to my father’s house, in shame, my future (and yours) still insecure.

Time passed.  And more time passed.  And Shelah grew up.  And still you didn’t call for me.  Your wife died, and still you didn’t call for me.

Perhaps you were afraid of losing your only family.  I can understand that.  But Judah, your God is a powerful God.  Why didn’t you trust him?

As I waited, I heard rumor of you going to a sheep-shearing festival with your friend.  And I knew this was my only chance, perhaps to right all the wrongs – whether or not I had inflicted them.  And, forgive me, I knew that, with your wife having died earlier, that you would be desirous of time spent with a female.

So, I did what the women in our area did, in worship of their god.  What was acceptable for them to do – even if not acceptable in the eyes of your god Judah.  I had to stoop to heathen practices  to help you do the duty you were supposed to do, years before.   I played the prostitute.

For the first time since you sent me away, I took off my widow’s clothes and put on the soft, seductive ones of a prostitute.  I covered my face, as prostitutes do, and went to meet you on the road, on your way to the festival.

And you did as I expected.  You asked me to let you come in to me.  I could see the desire in your eyes but I needed proof, for later on.  So I asked what you would pay.  The kid goat you offered was not with you, so I asked for your staff, your cord and seal as a pledge. I didn’t expect to get all three.   Your staff, your cord, your seal…those three together are your identity.  And yet, at the asking of a prostitute, you give them freely away, for a few minutes of pleasure.

When you were done with me, I quickly left that place.  I put my widow’s garb back on, and waited, and prayed.   And three months later, my father found out what I had done.  He was furious, and he sent you word.

And then it was your turn to be furious, though you had no right to be.  But I had thought ahead.  I knew this moment was coming.  I was not sure what you would do in it, confronted with what you had done, with what I had been forced to do.  But that was the chance I took.  One final chance.

And so I sent them to you, your seal, your staff, your cord, with the words, “It is by the owner of these that I am pregnant”.

It seemed an eternity in that moment.  Waiting to hear if you would still burn me alive.  Waiting to hear if you would finally call me back into your house.

And you did, to God be the glory, you asked me back.  It was overheard that you said I was more righteous than you, for you had not given me to your son Shelah.

So now, Judah, now as you hold your twin sons I have given you, you have a choice.  How will you raise them?  Raise them not as you raised my husband Er, and as his brother Onan.  Raise them instead to be men of God, righteous as their mother…and righteous as their father tries to be.

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Filed under Biblical Characters and their lessons