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Entries in Women (62)


The time we covered up the urinals in the men's room

My disaffection with women's ministry committees was sealed when I was asked to take a green garbage bag and cover up the urinals in the men's room.

We were hosting a ladies' conference. We had invited a well-known speaker (whose price was much more than I thought we should have paid) and the committee wanted everything to be perfect. At one point, someone suggested covering up the various bulletin boards in the church so as not to distract the attendees with our mundane church activities. I think we were afraid of the famous speaker thinking that we were too ordinary.

We had a catered meal. We had a book table. We fussed over the centre pieces on the tables. There was no red carpet, but I suspect if we'd had one, we would have used it. Because we would be having more women than typical, we needed to use the men's rooms.

Apparently, the existence of urinals in the men's room was unpalatable. Were they afraid the women would be offended to think that men urinate in them or were they concerned the women would be confused and try to use them themselves? Someone suggested putting flower pots in them. I fiinally refused to participate in that activity and went to set places in the auditorium where the meal would be served. 

All that fuss. It felt like we were planning a wedding.

And the speaker was marginal at best. I could have put together someone as good as what we were given. And I wouldn't have purchased one of the books that was offered that day.

Women's conferences are a luxury. For some, it's everything they look for in a social experience. Some love to be with other women learning. I love being with other people, but personally, I'll take my groups of women in smaller doses; two or three at a time. The extravagance with which they are conducted bothers me a little as well. It is opulent at times. Some locations demand people spend as much money to attend as someone may earn in a month. That makes me uncomfortable. My days of attending a big Christian conference are done.

Locally, one of the best women's conferences I ever attended was held in a smaller church. Rather than have a catered meal, the committee made soups and sandwiches themselves. They made their own desserts. The speaker was not known to me, but she was to others. She was excellent. We were home by 6:00 p.m. that night. It was a totally positive experience.

Here in North America, what Christian women take as their "right" is alien to women elsewhere. At our conference with the well known speaker, the chair of our committee kept saying that women "deserve" to be pampered. That grated on me. Seriously? We already live in a pampered society. We need more?

My husband and I support missionaries in PNG. They live in a jungle. I keep up to date with them through Facebook. The kind of thing that women "deserve" here is foreign to that culture. What this couple does is about the gospel. 

If we as women feel that we need to have the gospel couched in luxury, pretty centre pieces, perfectly coiffed and made up speakers, and the absence of urinals in the me's room, maybe we need to re-evaluate.

And yes, somene did cover up the urinals in every men's room. And likely threw the plastic in the garbage afterward, totally wasting a perfectly good garbage bag.


What do women lose in seminary?

When I first began to contemplate seminary, a well-meaning women suggested to me that it would be dangerous for me to put myself under the authority of professors rather than my husband. I did not point out to her that I basically did that every Sunday when my pastor preached. But I understood her concern. I dismissed them, but I understood them, and I knew she only raised the question because she cared about me.

I was having a conversation with a friend about some of the things I was learning, and it really troubled her that in one of my classes, we discussed the ending of Mark. To her, the fact that it is in her New King James Bible means it is meant to be there. It also bothered her a great deal to know that professors I have don't believe in the rapture. It was shocking to her that an evangelical could possibly not believe it. I didn't have the heart to tell her that in the last year, I have had conversations with at least four young men (under 35) who have put aside their dispensational roots and begun to ask questions.

I have had at least one older woman tell me that I don't need to know Greek and Hebrew, and that by discussing things too deeply, I could lose my faith. I need a "simple faith."

There is something that I have lost since beginning seminary, and it isn't my faith. I am more sure of my need for Christ than ever. I am more certain that he is the author of my salvation; that I am powerless on my own. I am more amazed than ever about what it really means to believe in a God who created me and this world. But I have lost one thing: my fear of asking questions.

When I moved here to southern Ontario in 1996, I wanted very desperately to fit in; to have a community of support. I had left my family behind and put myself in a place where I had to start over again, building relationships. There was a particular view of womanhood in my church. The thought of a woman getting up on the platform to make an announcement was an anathema, never mind a woman song leader. When I became a Bible study leader with Precept Ministries, my pastor asked me if I was aware that Kay Arthur taught men, and did I want to put myself there?

Homeschooling, Growing Kids God's Way, courtship; all of it. I accepted it without question. And a lot of it blew up in my face when my children began to question what I had been too afraid to ask. I was more concerned about fitting in. And of course, all these years, I have never felt like I fit in unless I was conforming to whatever group I had aligned myself with. It even happened when I began blogging.

I'm tired of working to fit in with other people. When I think back to the woman I was in 1996, I realize I have re-made myself into something that isn't entirely me. While I have grown and matured (thankfully), and put aside some things which needed to be discarded, I had begun to fear asking questions, and I was careful where I asked them. 

It is fear that keeps us from asking questions. We fear that we are wrong in our core belief systems. We are afraid that our faith isn't strong enough. We are afraid to seem vulnerable or dependent. But the reality is that we are dependent. We are weak. We are limited.

This past semester, I had a class in the Pentateuch. The prof is wonderful. He is sharp, articulate, passionate, encouraging, and a very conservative complementarian. I asked him a question about the meaning of the words in Genesis 3:16, that verse that supposedly tells me I want to control my husband. There was a bit of awkwardness at first, but he answered it, and we moved on. I drove home agonizing over even asking it. He was going to think I was crazy or apostate. But it was okay in the end. Having the space to ask questions is a huge relief.

So, no seminary won't make me lose my faith. If I can lose it, did I ever have it? When people ask me that question, do they know what they mean? Maybe they should ask themselves.


Giving up on page 207

I've spent this week reading Mary Pipher's Women Rowing North, and for the most part, I have enjoyed it. It's not hard reading. But I'm not finding this as helpful as I did Reviving Ophelia, which I read years ago. Maybe it's the place where I am at.

One thing comes out loud and clear in this book with regard to women aging: you need people. Page after page, chapter after chapter, Pipher talks about having people around us as we age. She is absolutely correct. However, Pipher seems to have had herself a life full of people. Perhaps it is her profession as a writer and therapist which has assisted. It is also evident as one reads the book that she has been blessed to have positive family ties, and a solid sense of where she has come from. This isn't true for everyone.

Last night, I got to 44 pages remaining. Chapter 17: Grandchildren. I can sense what is coming, and I've decided not to finish the book. In all honesty, it was depressing me. I don't have any grandchildren, and I don't see any in the foreseeable future, and I don't want to be depressed further.

I do not have the kind of connections Pipher recommends and has herself. I don't have a group of girlfrirends who stand by me when all else fails. I do not even have a close female friend I'd call my "best friend." And when I began to compare what her standard is and what I have, I started feeling like a failure.

Am I going to be a little old lady, hermit-like in my house full of books, with no one to talk to?

Of course not. I'll be a little old lady hermit-like in my house under the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, and in the sovereign care of my God. There is a big difference. And even as I say that, I know I need to cultivate more friendships. I'm working on it. I'm afraid as I get older and begin to understand myself better, I can see how very deep my fear runs with regard to making friends with women.

It's okay to stop reading a book before you end it. Maybe I will finish it later. But there are other books I want to read. The summer will fly by, and by September, I will be buried under learning Hebrew vocabulary and unable to read much else.

I have appreciated much of Pipher's writing, but this book has only emphasized again the reality that when we have a Christian worldview, much of what the rest of the world says will not work for us. We can agree with one another, but there comes a point when we must part company.


Music and memory

I'm reading a book called Women Rowing North, by Mary Pipher. Years ago, I read her book Reviving Ophelia, and found it quite profound. This current book is about women facing the challenges of age. The reality is that being an older woman is totally out of step with the fascination culture has with youth and beauty. That issue could be an entire blog post.

Pipher is not a Christian, but many of her observations, while outside of the Christian worldview, are beneficial to us. Many of her observations are ones we could come to as Christians. In discussing how to deal with challenges and creating ways to deal with them on a daily basis, Pipher mentioins music:

Perhaps the most evocative of all the senses of auditory, especially if it's a musical memory. We remember music from both sad and happy periods of our livse, but if we focus on the music from our happy times we will recall events that make us smile. Ellen langer's research demonstrates that when people hear the music of their youth, not only do musical memories return, but many other memories as well. Her research also shows that we can improve our health and mental health by listening to music from times when we were happy.

I have a few "oldie" playlists on Spotify. I was listening to one recently, and immediately I was taken back to a really wonderful time in my life in my late teens, after I was out of high school. I was fearless then. Life seemed very full of promise. It was a cheerful moment to remember those times.

This made me think of the sacred music we listen to or have listened to. Some of my most difficult times were about ten years ago, when my husband and I were involved in youth ministry, and that meant a lot of Christian contemporary praise songs. I can't bear them now. But when I think to the early years of my faith, when I was learning hymns for the first time, there is real sense of joy. Hymns like "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," "It Is Well With My Soul," and "Holy, holy, holy" remain firmly fixed in my mind and heart. When my son was in Bible school, he and group of other music students recorded a CD of worship music. There are one or two on that CD that, when I hear, I remember how proud I was of my son for recording and mixing that CD. 

Lately, I have been strugging with the issue of how worship music can look like a performance. It troubles me a great deal, because, unfortunately what I'm seeing in my own church is a tendency toward the performance. I wonder if some day I will look back on the songs we are singing now with sadness.

We all know the profound bond between music and memory. There are dementia patents who can't remember the faces of their children, but can remember how to play something on the piano. How many of us in my generation can remember the words to the songs we heard on "School House Rocks?" I feel like I've been delinquent lately about listening to good devotional music -- notice the operative word, "good."

There is never a bad time to embrace good, doctrinal hymns and implant them in our memory. Some day, having those in our internal warehouse will be very helpful.


Christian women must be thinking women

In 2001, my husband and I decided to take a big leap and homeschool our children. There were some issues at our kids' school. Our decision was initially temporary, until we made a decision about what to do in the long term. It turned out to be an eight year adventure (which I would do again; in a heartbeat).

One of the other homeschooling families in our church offered to discuss the matter with us. They had been doing it longer, and we valued their input. To our surprise, the counsel focused on taking the "Growing Kids God's Way" parenting program. The sentiment had merit: you can't homeschool children without boundaries and expectations. We really felt like we needed support in this new endeavour, so we signed up.

At the time, in our church, the Ezzo regime held great influence. In fact, sadly, it became a bit of a clique. There were "Growing Kids" families and those who were not. I had one friend who would not let her children play with kids who weren't "Growing Kids" kids. I should not have been so dense as to fail to realize that her willingness to let our kids play together increased when my husband and I began taking the class.

The long and short of it is that after a couple of years, we began to have concerns. It was more than just the punitive nature of the program, but as we began to talk to other parents who used the Babywise material, we started to look more closely at other aspects of the program. It seemed to be more motivated by a desire to have compliant children, not necessarily godly children. While the program did encourage making the conduct a heart issue, there was more emphasis on achieving control. It was more about micromanaging kids' behaviour. Its notion that a child of eight could be "morally mature" just because he knew how to parrot "Yes, mommy," without fail seems ridiculous to me now. 

Growing Kids thrived in an environment where parents desperately wanted to know they were being godly parents; and desperate people will not always think things through. A dangerous notion is that our parenting assures our godliness. Good kids = godly parents. Well, that simply isn't true. There are a lot of good, ungodly parents out there. Godliness is about our relationship with Christ, not whether or not we have compliant children. For me, personally, I felt pressured by the influence of the program in my church. I was still quite spiritually immature at the time, and I bought into it, hook, line, and sinker.

I've come a long way since those days, and I have learned a lot. Much of it could only come from time and reflection on mistakes made. Our disillusionment with the Ezzo program was gradually a concern both my husband and I both had, but I was the one who started doing research. Homeschooling introduced me to women who rejected the program. I began to listen to their voices. I began to think more. I started sharing these thoughts with my husband. This was information that helped us, as a couple, make a decision to distance ourselves from that material. I am thankful for the online information that shared the experiences of people who used the program. It gave me something to consider as I began to have my own doubts. When we have doubts, we need to investigate; even if we think it may take us somewhere difficult.

This goes for all we as Christian women confront daily. We must be thinking women. If we are married, then, yes, by all means consult our husbands. But our decisions are made together as couples, and that means I must be just as informed as he is. To expect a man to do all the thinking, all the deciding, and all the leading, is an onerous expectation. As helpers to our husbands, the expectation goes beyond the practical. We must be helpers in thinking through things.

And that means learning to think ourselves.