Godliness Over Girl-Power: Setting Priorities of Identity

Last night I went to see Wonder Woman with a girl-friend.  To be honest, I’m not really into superhero movies, and especially not ones with a female lead because they are usually even more far-fetched than superhero films with male leads.  But I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  Yes, Wonder Woman was strong, and fast, and GORGEOUS–deflecting bullets with her wrist-guards, leaping hundreds of feet in the air and flattening villains with her supernatural power.  But there were things she was NOT, which are worth mentioning.  She was not selfish.  She was not vengeful.  She was not easily discouraged or offended.  She was not a man-hater.  She was not prideful.

It was intentional for the story of Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) to be set during the 1920s when the War was amping up and women’s suffrage was a controversial issue. To see Diana in her tiny uniform barely hidden by her cloak, taking advice from corseted secretaries in their prim-and-proper dresses with buttons to their throats was quite ironic and comical.  But as I watched the interaction between the two primary female characters: one a dowdy receptionist and one a beautiful, warrior goddess, I found myself becoming grateful.  I’m grateful to be able to celebrate the freedom as a Western woman who benefits from the battles won for women throughout the 20th century.  But I’m most grateful that my worth as a woman does not come from what I can earn.

I know that I can celebrate my femininity because God gave it to me.  In some way, I am able to image Him.  This gives me meaning as a woman, and the fact that His son rescued me from sin and gave me new life gives me freedom.  It’s an ultimate freedom that has already been won and need not be proven by marches, by protests, by wearing my female-ness as a prideful badge.

Everywhere I look, there’s a groundswell of women on a mission to prove themselves. There’s an idolatry of gender that offends more often than it helps, alienates more often than it unifies, and embarrasses more often than it encourages.  And for Christian women, this is especially dangerous because the risk is that we begin to hold our cause higher than the cause of Christ.  Do we want to be seen first as women or as children of God?  If our goal is to have equal treatment, then we would be best served by remembering these words:

Galations 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for women who are marginalized or oppressed. There are women all over the world who are raped, enslaved, mutilated, ignored, abused, and mistreated in a number of ways.  These are real problems.  This is true inequality.  What I am saying is that as a Western, Christian woman, my goal is to be grateful for what I already have and to look for opportunities to glorify God in this body and in the feminine way that celebrates His goodness, not to complain that my life is different from a man’s.

The cause of Jesus Christ is my banner, my march.

Wonder Woman showed some Christlike characteristics: grace, generosity, a recognition of who she was, not what she didn’t have, perseverance, hope, LOVE.  In these ways, she is certainly a superhero that my daughters and I can admire.  But she is also fictional. There are real women who have made a mark on history, on the world, women who were heroic in their faith and strength–Hannah, Ruth, Mary, Priscilla, Elizabeth, Esther.

Theirs were voices of peace.  Theirs were hearts of love.  Theirs were hands of strength. Theirs were spiritual battles of heaven and earth, which they won without picking up a megaphone or a sword.

May we be women of faith, strength and gratitude.

 

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Worry: the “Mother” of Sins

It often begins as a small remark about someone’s health, a scary experience with a food allergy, a stressful day of travel with kids, an economic crisis or reports of crime in the news.  Something in us grabs ahold of a passing remark that elevates legitimate concerns to full-blown, action-quenching, logic-robbing WORRY.  And for some reason it seems to be an epidemic among moms.

I call worry the “mother” of sins because it is one of those qualities that runs rampant in mommy circles.  Not only is it common, it’s often somewhat reasonable.  It’s excused away.  We worry ourselves sick and call it “concern” or being “responsible.”  But here’s the thing—real worry goes beyond being aware and concerned for your family’s safety and well-being.  It can cripple you from engaging with people.  It can adversely affect your health when it robs your peace of mind, interferes with sleep and leaves you with no appetite.

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For the non-Christian, I would say that worry has gotten the best of you when:

-Most of your conversations are negative and focus on the hopelessness of your country, your political system, or factors that you cannot control.

-Your peace and contentment is based in how much of your life you can control.

-You obsess over “research.”

-You don’t participate in things that interest you because of what “could” happen or go wrong.

For the Believer, worry reveals selfishness, a lack of trust in the Lord or willingness to relinquish control to Him.  Worry as a verb is defined as “(to) give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.”   In its most extreme form, worry evolves into fear.  Lou Priolo has written a helpful booklet about fear and how to recognize when it has gripped you in a paralyzing, sinful way.  I think many of his points can be applied to worry as well.  Below are what he claims are characteristics of sinful fear/worry.

-Fear (worry) is sinful when it proceeds out of unbelief, or distrust, in God.  When you worry because you do not believe that God can or will do what he has clearly promised in his Word, your fear is sinful.

-Fear (worry) is sinful when that which produced the fear is attributed more power than what the Bible allows.  When you believe that what you worry about has more power than God, your fear is sinful.

-Worry is a problem when it is so paralyzing that it keeps us from fulfilling our biblical responsibilities (loving God and neighbor as the Bible commands).

-Worry is a problem when it reveals selfishness rather than love and sacrifice.

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Healthy, loving concern seeks the best interest of others.  Worry doesn’t mean you can’t plan for emergencies.  But worry does turn our focus inward and so distorts reality that we are blind to the needs of others.  This must be one reason why Jesus himself forbade it when he preached the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew, verses 25-34.

To you moms out there–you dear ones love your children so much that most of you would lay your own lives down for them.  I believe that is exactly how we parents are supposed to feel, and if the time ever comes for us to make such a sacrifice, it would be a noble and loving one indeed.  The fact is, we are not promised easy lives, and although most of us reading this are probably not going to face life or death decisions for ourselves or our children, there may come a day when something terrible happens that is beyond our control.  But if it does, I guarantee no amount of worrying would equip us for it.  Why waste the precious and glorious moments of this life in sinful worry that prohibits us from enjoying the Father’s blessings?

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6: 27, 34)

 

Truths and a Truce: a message from the heart for the LGTB community

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Just last night I got sucked into a debate regarding restroom rights and how they are impacting the general population and transgender people.  I had some valid concerns and was sincerely trying to express them in a straight-forward way, but as usually happens when you post something on Facebook, the discussion took an ugly turn and before long I became frustrated with other people, frustrated that I was being misunderstood and then utterly exhausted by the effort and time it took me to convey…really nothing super important.

And then this morning I tried to take a moment while the kids were occupied to have a quiet time with Jesus and found that I could not concentrate.  My mind was so consumed by this Facebook battle of ideological punches and counter-punches that I had forgotten to communicate the primary thing that the Holy Spirit would lead me to communicate: love.  This scripture came to mind:

Matthew 5:23, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

I am not gay or transgender.  I have no idea what it must feel like to be bullied, shamed, hated, ridiculed, or marginalized for the complicated issue of sexuality.  I am not too proud to acknowledge that it is something that I do not really understand or feel comfortable with, but that has also proved beneficial as it has forced me to consider how I am to engage with the LGTB community as a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ.  I believe in biblical precepts that God has revealed to us in His Word, and balancing my firm convictions with showing genuine love for people who are not like me can be difficult when I try to do it in my own strength. It is only when I am brought low at the feet of Jesus that I can abandon myself to Him, allowing His love to do something through me that no legislation or politician could ever do: change minds, hearts, create growth and understanding.

Here are some things that I know for sure:

All people are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139:14

There is no one righteous, not even one,” Romans 3:10

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus, Romans 3:23&24

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:38 & 39.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21

Romans is a good book, right?  See, sometimes as a bold, free American woman who has been told all her life that she can do or say whatever she likes, I forget the truth that “everything is permissible–but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:11).  The confusion begins when I try to combine my American citizenship with my Heavenly citizenship.  I can cast my votes and declare my opinion on various social and political issues, but when the results are not what I would have hoped, I then must choose instead to trust God and do the only thing He has really called me to do–bring glory to Him by showing His love to the world.

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I know that I have no right to judge or condemn others.  I was a sinner, wandering far from the Lord and bound for destruction before Jesus saved me.  The only thing I can boast about is His greatness and the Grace that I did not deserve.  And every other person, regardless of their sexuality, race, gender, past, present, future, economic class, social class, is as loved by God as I.  His grace is for all and for all time.  (Thanks Michael for reminding me of this.)  Sometimes we Christians are afraid to speak about God’s radical grace because we believe that it gives people license to sin and live a life that doesn’t reflect God’s righteousness, but those people have underestimated the absolute power of God and the transformation that happens when people have a genuine encounter with Him.  Here is another truth:

He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20.  As Christians ministering to a broken world, all we can do is love, pray and then get out of the way and watch God work.

And then be ready to wait, which is tough.  Life will go on.  One debate will be replaced with another.  Issue after issue will rise to the forefront of American and global politics and social relevance.  Some of us will do and say great things that the world will applaud, and some of us will do and say brave things that the world will criticize.  An action is often only considered worthwhile if it makes the news, and love and kindness rarely get much attention.  But God is able to use things such as this to reveal His power and everlasting peace.

So to the LGTB community and to their loved ones, I am extending a truce.  I am sorry if I have ever said anything or implied anything hurtful or hateful.  It was not and is not my intention.  I am not naive–I know that on some positions we will never agree, but that does not mean that we can’t live peacefully.  I am not able to love you because I am strong.  I am able to love you because God is great.  It is my sincere hope that you would know Him too, and find peace in His presence.

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life,” Revelation 22:17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons in Embarrassment

No one likes being embarrassed. People will lie, squirm, shut down, walk away, and do just about anything to avoid embarrassment. It is not a comforting feeling. I really do not enjoy talking about my most embarrassing moments, but in the spirit of honesty and to level the playing field, I have compiled a top-ten list of some of Adrienne’s Greatest Embarrassing Hits.

1. The time that I was new at school, went to lunch with the cool girls, fell and slid on my rear down a muddy hill (age 14).
2. The time that I held a boy’s feet in gym class while he did sit ups, and he farted in my face (embarrassing for both of us, age 15).
3. The time that the whole audience laughed at me because I was cast in a male role in a school play and had to dance with the female lead (age 15).
4. The time that I served my family macaroni and cheese without draining the noodles (age 16).
5. The time in college that I angered a female softball player because she overheard me in the bathroom at a club talking about wanting to steal her boyfriend. (You do not want to mess with softball players!)
6. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.
7. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.
8. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.

Disclaimer: Numbers 5,6,7, and 8 are from my “dark days” in college and early 20s. BC and BB–(Before Christ and Before Bryan)

9. The time I served my family a shrimp salad–covered in raw shrimp. (Last week)
10. The time I opened my big mouth on social media and hurt someone’s feelings. (Last week)

Looking back over the list, some of these memories now make me laugh, but some of them still provoke a cringe and remorse. So why mention them? Well, it’s because I believe that a little humility is good for the soul and something that our world respects, whether we acknowledge it or not. And sometimes, being embarrassed is the way to humility, even if it hurts.

I think my #10 is a scenario to which most people can relate. Most of you have probably made a fool of yourselves on Facebook at some point, whether autocorrect had you saying something you didn’t mean, or you forcefully gave your opinion without giving your emotions a day or two to settle. And you may still believe that you were right, or you may avoid mention of that unpleasantness at any cost. Regardless of what you think now, we can most likely agree that when we realized that we had offended someone we cared for, we had an “uh oh” moment and reluctantly read their response. When it comes to embarrassment, I think what we do with the fall-out is crucial. Do we become defensive? Do we go radio silent and avoid the person for months? Or do we step back and replay the interaction with fresh eyes and ears and realize that we made a mistake, do we apologize and own up to our part of the problem? This kind of honesty and vulnerability is never easy–as humans it frightens us, but it produces humility which is key in any kind of relationship. It builds trust and strong connections.

Humility is rare. It is the quiet little sister to the loud, boisterous brother who shows off and elevates his persona to get attention.

Now, this is not a political post, but the fact is that one of the top candidates for the presidency is a reflection of what is valuable to our country. From Trump, to sports stars, to celebrities, to corporate execs, to prideful parents, to YouTubers and even to bloggers, our culture at large has adopted a practice of perfection. Our opinions and methods are so sacred to us, heaven help the person who offers advice or tries to give constructive criticism. We can’t ever be wrong, we can’t admit that we should have handled a situation differently. We have all but lost the admirable quality of humility and therefore, forgiveness is even more rare and strange to most. People would much rather exercise retribution–just look at the theme of many popular films.

Yet something beautiful happens when embarrassment produces humility: we get to witness altruism, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts. The world stops and notices. In this age, we can make fools of ourselves faster and across greater distances than ever. But despite how the world has changed in its speed of communication, people’s spirits have never changed. The practices of humility and forgiveness are just as effective and work just as quickly.

I want to close with some lovely quotes about humility. (And by the way, I don’t know anyone in history who humbled Himself more than this last guy!)

-We learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully, Mother Theresa

-Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right, Ezra T. Benson

-I believe the first test of a truly great man is humility, John Ruskin

-Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted, Jesus of Nazareth