Is Jesus a Feminist?

 

If you’re in the mood to be a rabble rouser among church folk, there are few things sure to stir the pot more than the verses in the Bible dealing with the role of women in the church (submission, women in a teaching/preaching ministry). You could also try bringing up abortion, gay marriage and the middle east crisis if you are really in the mood for controversy. Today I am talking about the role of women in the church. While I am not not trying to be a rabble rouser  (I assure you that is not my intent), I do happen to have an opinion about this very important issue.

I recently was forwarded a YouTube video of a short audio clip of John Macarthur, an American pastor, vehemently disagreeing with the question of women in ministry. He is of the opinion that a women must NEVER be allowed to assume a teaching/preaching role within the church. This video is nothing new. This position is widely held, and if you grew up in the church (particularly an evangelical Western church) then you may be quite used to hearing scripture hurled as a weapon by people who wish to serve their own purposes.  In this instance his cringe-worthy approach really rubbed me the wrong way.  The link for the video is below and what follows is my email response to the clip I was sent. I have edited a little for the purpose of the blog, but it is essentially the same thing as my original email.

Where to start. First of all, please understand that I am not an angry, armpit hair growing, anti make-up wearing, man-hater. I am a feminist in the purest form, meaning that I believe men and women are equal, and should have equal opportunities, and should not be discriminated against strictly on the basis of gender. Does this mean that I believe that businesses should have a quota of women they must hire? No, because then you are hiring someone simply because they are a women and not because they are right for the job, and that is not true equality, it’s a plastic and hollow substitute. In fact, when you hire someone just because of their sex, and not because they are qualified for the job, it is actually a subtle form of sexism. Also, I do believe women have different roles than men in different times of life, but I do not believe those differing roles would exclude women from being in the ministry. OK…

I believe John Macarthur  is reading the Bible through the wrong lens. He is quoting scriptures from 1 Timothy 2:8-15 that were interwoven into a specific time period and wishing to transpose them to the here and now without consideration of the historical and cultural context from which they come. Secondly, Paul was speaking to a specific situation in a specific church, with a specific purpose and end in mind.  I can’t get into full detail of the historical context right now, but many respectable theologians believe that Paul was referring to a specific group of young and widowed women within the congregation who were being led astray by false teachers and spreading gossip by speaking about it in church and visiting from house to house.  These women were also adorning themselves in such a way that would have made them indistinguishable from a prostitute.  Paul urges them to revert to the more conservative societal norms of that day so that their behaviour would not be a bad witness of the congregation and of Christ.

All scriptures are useful to us, but it is important to remember that even though these letters were written FOR us as the body of Christ, they were not written TO us, personally. Paul (who is thought to be the author of the pastoral epistles) is speaking to a specific congregation. I think many times we forget this fact when we read scripture.  This is not to say that the letters are not inspired, or useful for teaching, but they must be seen in their historical/cultural contexts. We need to study and be vigilant to make sure our interpretation is correct and God-honouring. Many of Paul’s letters are addressing very specific problems within the early church. Yes, the church today often deals with the very same issues (greed, false doctrine, hypocrisy, power struggles), but it is important to remember the time from whence these epistles were written (did I really just say “whence”?) I feel so British.

In this video John Macarthur quotes, “…women are saved from second class citizenship by having children” and then tries to relate it to what he is saying about women not being permitted to teach. First of all, that’s pretty ballsy! Talk about an utterly cringe-worthy thing to say. I assume that he is saying this to support his notion that women are to be silent in church and assume the more traditional roles of homemaker and wife (which, by the way, are perfectly wonderful things…I have personal experience in this area!), but I have to ask: do you think this is something that would translate into our postmodern times seamlessly? Does this sound like something Jesus would support?  If Jesus were here today, giving a modern day Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5) I cannot fathom him telling women they are second-class citizens unless they are redeemed through child-bearing.

What of the women who cannot have children? What of the unmarried woman? And also, what of the woman who chooses not to have children?  That is a valid choice for some women. When you make statements such as John Macarthur did, without seeking to understand the scripture in its entirety, bad things can happen. The bible, though the greatest book of all time, has been misused and abused perhaps more than any other book in history. By the way—when I say we need to seek to understand the scripture in it’s entirety, I am talking about a “big picture” view. Seeing things in light of Christ and his teachings and actions while on earth. Jesus changes everything.

When interpreting scripture you must do it through the “Jesus” lens. I can’t stress this enough. Especially when reading the Old Testament. Everything must be passed through the filter of Christ.  We can see clearly from scripture that Jesus was honouring and uplifting of women. And most certainly, there were women in the early church who were prominent leaders. There were women deacons (Phoebe) and apostles (Junia) in the early church (Romans 16: 1-16). In fact, I encourage you to read the whole of Romans 16 and see for yourself all the women that Paul names as being “hard workers” in Christ.  These women didn’t only work in the nursery or serve the luncheon, they were true world changers and apostles. That’s a fact.

In John 20, when Jesus is resurrected, he appears to Mary Magdalene first, and entrusts her with the monumental task of bringing this unbelievable news to all the disciples. Does this sound like something Jesus would do if women were to be universally silent in the church and not permitted to teach? The earliest disciples of the church were great champions of women. In our modern culture it may not seem like they were so progressive, but when the culture around them told women that they were basically worthless, the early church gave women a voice and encouraged women to be witnesses. In the original Greek, the word witness or “martureo” means one who bears testimony, gives a good report or utters good news. In other words, women were encouraged to speak up for Christ. That was liberating for the women of that day who could scarcely speak in public.  We are talking about ancient times. That was a new freedom!

The GOSPEL of Jesus Christ was challenging all sorts of cultural notions, not just the status of women. Yes, Jesus was an advocate of women, but he was also an advocate of many other things that were completely unheard of in his time. When his followers wished him to be a militaristic ruler and to overtake the Romans he preached a gospel of peace. That was radical! Jesus challenged the people to love their enemies. This kind of stuff was pretty controversial. Again and again, Jesus reached out to prostitutes and spent time with drunks and sinners. Jesus showed them true friendship, and seemed to enjoy their company much more than that of the Pharisees (the religious “right” of his day).

It seems to me that some Christians are actually more in love with church tradition than the Bible, and impose a patriarchy that was never intended.

I agree that there are certainly different roles that men and women have to play, but, if a woman is a gifted speaker and leader, then by all means, I cannot find sufficient evidence in scripture that would make me think Jesus would be against a women being a pastor/teacher. I think women have a great deal to offer the church, and it is only seen as unusual because there are still so few women pastors out there. And to be quite honest, if there were more women entrusted to leadership roles within the church, perhaps the church might be in a better state today (maybe?) It seems absurd that some think HALF of the worldwide church should be excluded from pastoral ministry.

Don’t be too quick judge and try and peg me a certain way. Yes, I wear Birkenstocks but I also wear deodorant! I’m not what you would think of as a flag-waving feminist. Does all that I’ve said mean I wish that women would dominate over men? Absolutely not. Does this mean that I wish to emasculate men or have there be fewer men who are pastors or in church leadership? Absolutely not. It simply means that if a woman feels called to pastoral ministry, she should be allowed to fulfill her God given abilities. Is a man so proud that he feels he cannot learn anything of a spiritual nature from a woman? Then that man has other issues to deal with.

By the way, the denomination that J and I belong to, Brethren in Christ (The Meeting House is apart of BIC) fully supports the ordination of women. I have attached a video and article you may wish to peruse if you are open enough. NT. Wright (click on this video) is a well-known, and highly respected theologian. Please do watch, highly worth it.  And have an open mind!

I didn’t include this article in my original email but it also makes a good point.

“Last but not least, churches can hire women. About half of the students in seminary nowadays are women, which makes a powerful statement about women’s desire to bring their whole heart, mind and strength to Christ’s service in the Church.”

 

Sarah

Dear Daughter

Watching you as you grow up has been the greatest joy of my life. Just seeing you every morning fills me with a great sense of joy and a profound realization of the responsibility. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have been entrusted with you. I have the very serious job of raising you into an adult. Sometimes I feel anxious about all the things that could derail you along the way, but I am confident in you, and want you to know that no matter what happens I will always be here. I’ll always be mom. I will be a safe place for you.

IMG_0510 Your eyes sparkle and you have a way about you that is so sweet, but so strong. Some day when you’re taller than me, and all grown up, I know my heart will ache for the days when you were so little and we could spend an evening reading fairytales in your bed. Even now, I sense the way that time is slipping through my fingers when I look at how you’ve grown and the amazing young lady you are turning into. I experience little pangs of what it would be like to look at you as an adult…no longer in my care all the time.

I want to write this letter to give you some things to reflect on about growing up in this big world. I know you are too young to read it now, but maybe someday you’ll read this and remember how much I love and care for you. I wish I could create a perfect world for you, free from pain. But I can’t. So, instead, I pray that when hardships do come, you would have the strength and grace to endure and to shine. I am already so proud of you.

This world will try to tell you that you aren’t good enough. Over, and over and over, life will try to knock you down. Knock you down into thinking that somehow you were born lacking; you just aren’t enough.  You’ll be tempted to think that if you just looked a certain way, or had a certain accessory, clothing, shoes, device, or anything else, that things would be better–easier. You might feel like everyone around you has it better than you do and pity yourself. These are lies. No matter what the world tries to tell you, you are enough. You are so wonderfully made and were designed with a purpose. There is no one else in this world that can fill your shoes, only you. You have to walk in them and the world needs you to walk in them.

Always remember that you have been given so much in life. If you can’t be grateful for what you do have, don’t expect to be given more—either by us, or by your Heavenly Father.

I wish I could make a path for you that glistens and is always bright. But I can’t. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. I don’t have that power. There are a lot of things that you’re going to have to learn on your own, and learn the hard way. Sometimes you’ll have to walk through dark and unknown terrain. You might stumble. You might go in circles. Keep moving; you’ll still make it if you don’t give up. You don’t have to go through all of life’s tough seasons alone. You have family. We will always be a support system for you as you grow up.

It’s not easy being a girl growing up into a woman. We live in a hyper sexualized culture. You’ll be bombarded by images, music, TV, movies and people that will make you think that being sexy is everything. People all around you will be doing things that play into this mindset. They will try and make you believe that you aren’t as cool, or desirable if you don’t partake. I know that no matter how hard I try to shield you from this, it’s still the pervasive way in our culture. But there is a lot more to you than your body. You are a precious eternal being. You have a mind and a soul and a voice to be heard. Your body is only one aspect of who you are; and the physical is the least important component.  Know that you are beautiful–truly, completely, and in every way. You can always talk to us. Even if you’ve made some big mistakes, we are here. We’ll be your biggest advocates.

There really isn’t anything you can’t do. I know that sounds clichéd and naive but it’s true. I wish that I had realized that when I was younger. With the right amount of hard work and sacrifice you can see your dreams come true. There might be failure along the way, but it won’t be a permanent setback unless you allow it to be.  I will push you to excel—not because I want you to be a certain way or do a certain thing—but because I know are capable of amazing things if you try your best. And there is nothing that builds confidence like realizing what you are capable of.

There is a lot of bad out there, but so much good too. Part of life is growing up and seeing things for what they really are. If you can develop the clarity and wisdom to see the real from the fake, things will be a lot easier for you. It’s a long process, because sometimes the superficial and the fake will seem so important and be all-consuming. Society will tell you that the in order to enjoy life, you have to have all the right stuff. But all that stuff can hinder you and start taking over your life if you aren’t careful.

You are so young and there are so many lessons to be learned. It will hurt me so much to see you learn the hard lessons, but I know it will build your character, and for that, I am thankful. One day, when you have children of your own, you will understand the sincerity with which I write.  You will understand the desire to shield your child from the world, but also realize the importance of allowing them to skin their knees once in awhile.

I’m proud of you. Not for what you do, but for who you are. I love you sweet daughter. And yes, no matter what, you’ll always be my baby.

 

 

Review of The Bible miniseries from the history channel

the bible miniseries

 

The Bible isn’t exactly something easy to depict on screen. There are enormous cultural differences and eons of time that stand between the writing of the text and our modern times. It’s almost too much to understand, let alone dramatize for TV. So I understand how hard an undertaking that is, and can appreciate that the filmmakers were willing to open themselves up to the criticism that will undoubtedly come.

I really wanted to like this series. Leading up to The Bible’s debut, I heard constant chatter on facebook and twitter about how amazing this was set to be.  So many Christian “celebrities” threw themselves behind it (the likes of Joel Osteen and Rick Warren).

I really wanted to like this for a reason, because as a Christ follower I believe there is great depth, beauty, poetry and truth in the Bible that can be brought to life. In my opinion The Bible jumped from story to story, rather than really getting to heart of it.  By only covering the highlights and leaving so much out I believe they created a shallow experience for the viewer.  For example, the story of Moses and the Israelites being freed from Egyptian slavery is a monumental story in the Old Testament. Imagine a 15-minute drama attempting to cover the abolition of slavery in the United States, it just isn’t possible to convey the substance of it all in such a short time. Likewise the treatment of this story was lacking the depth and soul that would have come from a little more time and detail.

They seemed to be more focused on making it look “cool” with GC effects and epic sounding music than digging into the emotion of the story. The ironic thing is that so much of the show was moments of high emotion, but you can’t connect with it because there was no depth to the characters and their relationships–so it’s hard to share in these moments with the characters when you weren’t there for the build up (metaphorically). For those who were raised in the church and are ultra familiar with these stories, it will be easy to fill in the blanks, but not everyone has that background.

I understand that all the nuances of these biblical accounts can’t be fleshed out in such a short time, but after watching I couldn’t help but wish they had focused on one, or maybe two stories rather than the “highlight reel” approach.

I still plan on watching the next episode of the series. Maybe I will be surprised and be able to get into it more. I can’t wait to see!

 

J’s Opinion:

As like Sarah, I really wanted this to be an epic Tolkien style account of the Bible. The possibilities of the stories that are there could be drafted into a spectacular script. I’m picturing clips of the battle scenes from Middle Earth, well, yes its TV, so maybe more like the battle scenes from Hercules featuring Kevin Sorbo or Xena the Warrior Princess featuring Lucy Lawless.

The trailers leading up looked pretty promising and we were planning on sitting down and following along with the beginning episode of the greatest story ever told. I quickly got over the accents, the usual traditional costumes used for these types of dramas and similar style to Hercules and Xena the Warrior Princess.

I wasn’t totally disappointed; the Asian martial artist angel sent into Sodom seriously kicks some ass with dual wielding swords (00:26:29). However, my enthusiasm was quickly deflated when we came to the story of Moses and the Exodus.

The first clip was of Moses (played by Jack Gleeson from Game of Thrones) and the child version of the future Pharaoh dueling it out with swords. I couldn’t help but think of King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, the sniveling weasel king… anyways, moving on. The wider shots of the Israelite slaves just repeatedly being whipped (00:42:04) plays into the memories of the previous versions of these stories, and not an adult mature version. We know that if a slave was constantly whipped he wouldn’t work, and the slavers arms would get pretty tired after a long day of whipping innocent slave workers. The slave would be conditioned to work with the fear of pain as the motivation to continue working – I guess the reason I find these scenes frustrating, is because its like a remake of a remake of a remake, it’s the same bible images from felt board cutouts in Sunday school and the Hannah Barbara version– right down to the stripped cloak Moses wears .

The last disappointment I’ll point out is another Israelite slavery scene: there are a few times where there are two thin workers walking around with a stone on a stretcher (00:42:19). The stone is about 1.5ft by 3ft and the two guys are walking around like its no problem “just heading up to the pyramid with this 700lb stone”, I wish that was rethought, I don’t remember reading about the immense super powers of the Israelites, however on second thought, I guess that would answer the age old question how the pyramids were built…

That’s my take.

On Guilt, and Where it Intersects with my Faith

Rain Happens.

Rain Happens.

In my post a couple days ago, I wrote about the nagging guilt I’ve been feeling over being part of the worlds richest. To us, when we have bills we aren’t sure we can pay, and expenses out the wazoo, it certainly doesn’t seem like the title “rich” is appropriate. But the fact remains that we are privileged beyond belief, and I suspect most reading are in the same boat.

Clean water to drink? Privileged.

Food readily available? Privileged.

These things should not be privileges. They should be accessible to the whole human race, but unfortunately, for reasons that I’ll have to tackle on another day, equity is not the case in our world.

Just Keep it to Yourself?

There is another aspect of my guilt that is even more troubling than the guilt I experience for being a part of the worlds most affluent. In a nutshell, sometimes it feels like I shouldn’t bother praying, or assuming God is interested in my personal life because, really, is he? Does God really care about my petty thoughts and requests? I mean, if God is so interested in our personal lives, then where is he for all the suffering people out there with REAL problems and pain?

I feel guilty for bringing such paltry things to God when there is so much pain in the world; so few people, globally, that have their basic needs met. Unlike the guilt I talked about in my last post, that spurs me on to give, I’m not sure that this guilt is very productive.

God is Present in Pain

This leads me to question–or not so much to question, but it points out the gaping unknowables in my faith. A small part of my brain thinks that perhaps we have misinterpreted Christ’s involvement in the life of the believer. I definitely don’t subscribe to the whole Jesus is your buddy and wants to make your wildest dreams come true type of thinking. The early believers accepted suffering for the cause of Christ as a part of their calling, and Jesus himself was well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

As soon as that thought passes, a new one enters my mind:

How do I know that God isn’t there with those people in the midst of their suffering, their pain and heartbreak? How do I know that he isn’t interested in their personal lives? Why would I assume that because one suffers, God has neglected them? On the contrary, God is made more real through suffering.

 Suddenly, it seems daft for me to assume that because God allows pain and suffering he isn’t there, in the trenches, with the downtrodden. Even though I say it seems daft to think that way, it is also an understandable position that many people take. I remember a conversation with a coworker a couple years ago. He remarked that suffering and pain are incompatible with a loving view of God. He was a believer in God, but because of the existence of evil chose to view God as capricious and somewhat unloving. It’s interesting food for thought at times.

Though I don’t always know why, suffering and pain are somehow part of the human story. Interwoven through our lives from the time we are born, until our death. No one will be untouched by it. But in the West we are more insulated from it and thus have a harder time reconciling our faith with the question of pain.

The Big and the Small Matter

The conclusion I’ve come too, is that, even though my prayers and problems may be about little things (on the global scale), there is no thing or situation or relationship that we need to feel guilty for bringing before God. That is what prayer is all about anyway: talking to God. Even though I don’t believe in “buddy” Jesus (i.e.; Jesus exists to make me feel good and affirm me) I know that God still cares for the big and the small. I know this in the way that I can see beauty in the small things of life: a smile, a delicate flower or a sunny day. I also know this in the way that beauty can be seen through suffering—a redemptive beauty; gritty but nonetheless beautiful.  A lot of times we are too busy to notice the small ways that God shows his goodness. I know I am. I have a tendency to focus on all the ways I don’t see God in the world.

Someday, when I do have to face huge crises (that day will come for all of us), God will be there in the midst of it. And in that moment Jesus will become more real to me than ever before. Because He dwells in the valley with those that suffer—not just on the mountaintops.

 

**Upon finishing this post I feel the need to clarify a few things:

 

1.)  This post was not an attempt to tackle the extremely difficult questions on God and why evil and pain exist with an all-loving God. This topic is far too expansive to be addressed in this post and would require far more research and insight than I have given it in the brief lines above. These are simply observations on my own guilt, and thoughts that cross my mind as I pray and contemplate.

2.)  I still have many unanswered questions about God and the existence of evil (pain, suffering, etc.) I am not sure I am ready to write profoundly on the topic yet. But it is a goal of mine to educate myself more and do some soul searching so that I can someday write about this epochal topic with some clarity and wisdom.

3.)  I don’t pretend to have all the answers. If my observations on faith, life, or any other topic have helped anyone in any way, then I am happy. BUT—all of my observations come from being an ordinary person. It is never my intention to be up on a soapbox!

 

And with that I will end!

On Guilt, and Winning at the Birth Lottery

 

Guilt

It’s something that rears its ugly head from time to time. I’d rather not deal with it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and I wish I could banish it forever.

Three healthy children. I thank God for them. But it also reminds me of others who haven't been so fortunate.

Three healthy children. I thank God for them. But it also reminds me of others who haven’t been so fortunate.

Unjustified guilt serves no purpose but to make us miserable and question our self worth. It’s unproductive and can be debilitating. But guilt can be good. It can show us where we have strayed and encourage empathy. It can move us to action and be the cause of much needed change. That’s the kind of guilt that we all need to experience from time to time.  And I think I’ve got a case of that good kind of guilt going on right now.

It’s hard to explain what I feel guilty for because it’s not something that I have done; it’s more about what I have been dealt: the birth lottery. I was born to a middle class home and I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world. I have no idea what it’s like to be hungry—I mean really hungry. I don’t know what it’s like to live with war or disease being rampant. We have cars, we have a roof over our heads and my children are healthy. Sure, I have “first world problems”, but I have no excuse to feel anything but blessed and grateful.

I was dealt this amazing hand in life and I didn’t do anything to earn it, I was simply born into it.  Everyday there are thousands of mothers that lose their children to disease and famine… there are families torn apart by war. I feel guilty because I could be that woman in Africa that has to keep burying her children, but I’m not. I know it makes no sense to feel guilt over this– it’s not as if I chose where to be born, and yet there is that gnawing feeling…slowly festering away.

I have two options

Either I stuff that guilt away and go on with life as it is, continuing to get caught up in the everyday happenings until one day, long from now, I realize that I’ve done nothing but care for myself and my immediate family, OR I find a way to face it head on and deal with it.  If I want to face it head on, I have to actually do something. And that’s the hard part.

It’s all too easy to be a complacent online activist. You know what I mean, ‘I feel slightly convicted by this emotionally moving video about how we need to drill wells in Africa. I think I’ll share it on my page and everyone will think I’m such a concerned citizen.’ I am guilty of this. Yes, it’s a good thing to spread awareness, but the problem with this is that it makes it too easy, and people end up feeling they have done something to give back when they haven’t done very much at all.

Too big a problem?

I think people feel powerless to do much in the face of such monstrous problems, both locally and globally. I know I do. Many feel they can’t afford to donate, or don’t have time to get involved.  In our case we are a family of 5, and we live on one income. We don’t have much to spare. But we need to rethink the value of our money. We need to realize that our currency can go a long way in other parts of the world.  Most people can afford 30 or 40 dollars a month, and that can make all the difference.

This post, I think, is more for me that for anyone else reading.  It’s been a long time since we have actually been sacrificial givers, and as a family I think it’s time to start making some changes.  Every child is so unique and valued in God’s eyes. How many pictures of malnourished children will I have to see before I am moved to help? We are taking baby steps. Our church is putting together AIDS care kits that will go to support families in southern Africa affected by HIV/AIDS.  As a family, we are going to make up a kit to donate. It’s something small that will have a tangible impact.

When I really think about it, it’s the least we can do. We have so much and it would be wrong to sit back and do nothing while so much of the world suffers. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Slowly, we have to change our thinking so that we are always looking for ways to help, and eventually, it becomes second nature. What a gift that would be if I could raise my children to see a need, and be the first to help.

If you want to donate, or make up an AIDS care kit yourself, go to: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/getting-involved/compassion/global-compassion/aids-care/

 

 

In my next post I will be talking more about the guilt I’ve been feeling, and how that impact’s my faith in God.

The Biggest Change of All

 

Me with newborn Aliyah. My sweet little babe who taught me how to be a mom.

Me with newborn Aliyah in March 2007. My sweet little babe who taught me how to be a mom.

For a while now I’ve had thoughts swirling around my head that I haven’t been able to put to writing. I may be a little late in writing this, since I have been a mom for almost 6 years now, but yes, I am talking about motherhood.

Those early days as a first time mom have been fresh in my mind since having Kaylin almost 4 months ago. Even with my third I still face challenges, but the perspective I have gained makes things a lot easier to handle. With a 4 month old, a three year old and an almost 6 year old, you would think this would be the most challenging part of motherhood thus far, but I have to say, the transition to first time mom takes the cake. Having to balance life at home with three kids is somewhat of a juggling act (of which I often drop the ball). I have days where things are so chaotic that I feel like locking myself in the bathroom for a little time out, or I have to pack up the kids and go for a drive, just to gain a little headspace while they are all strapped in the back.

All this to say, that even though having three kids is busier, more demanding and requires more hands on work, the transition from being a married adult, into being a first time mom was the hardest of all. I know many of you can relate to this.  With your first child, you cross a precipice into new territory and you are changed forever. With the birth of your squirming little bundle, you experience instant change. The world in which you grew up suddenly looks a little different and you start to see things through the “parent’ lens.  Society expects you to adapt perfectly, and if you are feeling anything other than pure elation, there must be something wrong with you, right?

When I had Aliyah I was 23 years old– a very young mom by today’s standards. And in some ways ill equipped.  It’s not that I didn’t know how to take care of a baby; it was more that I didn’t quite understand the scope of how much things would change. During my pregnancy I thought very little about the ways in which I would have to adapt my life. Instead I thought about the love for I had for my baby, my excitement to bring her home and start life as a mom. I didn’t really consider the sleep deprivation, and at times, the loneliness that I would feel.

What followed was a bit of a shocker. I went from being a student, working part time and spending my evenings hanging out with friends and with my husband, to being a full time stay at home mom…spending my evenings rocking, singing to sleep, soothing and generally nursing around the clock. We did a lot of nursing in those first few months, and that is an understatement!

I can still remember the raw emotion of those early weeks–looking at my new little baby with such wonder and amazement; marveling at every little feature and every little sound. It was an amazing time in my life, full of so much joy and excitement, but at the same time so much change and sacrifice.

Fast-forward a few months into motherhood… I was exhausted and felt emotionally/physically and mentally drained a lot of the time from being home alone with a baby. On the one hand I would feel totally enamored with my baby, and then an instant later have more negative feelings for all the ways my life had to change, and the freedom I no longer had. Then I would feel instantly guilty for having negative feelings. It’s a crazy dance that I think a lot of new moms go through. And all the post partum hormones don’t help either.

IT’S NORMAL!

I felt so guilty at the time for being anything less than thrilled, but I see now that It was not a reflection of me as a mother, just the growing pains of having to adapt to a completely different lifestyle. A lifestyle that required me to be unselfish and give more of myself than I thought I had at the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still loved being a mom, but change is always uncomfortable, and it took me a while to find my groove. I missed my friends and I missed being a student. I missed being able to come and go as I pleased, without having a tiny tyrant dictating my every move. I was also the first one of my friends to have kids, and I felt isolated because I had moved into a realm that they had not yet entered and couldn’t understand.  At the time, it felt like things would never go back to “normal”, but they do. It may not be the normal you are used to. It’s a new normal; one that will require a lot of sacrifice but also pays you back in the currency of pure love. You also get to witness the beauty of perfect innocence!

Having been a mother now for almost 6 years, I have gained some perspective.  Already Kaylin is out of the newborn stage. She is smiling and giggling and engaging with everyone around her, and I am filled with an overwhelming sense of how fleeting these moments are. I wish I had known that when I had my first. I would have spent less time reading baby sleep books, and more time enjoying her while she was awake. Don’t get me wrong, sleep deprivation can be a serious issue for new moms, but I think I made it worse by all my fretting and my preoccupation with trying to get her to sleep through the night.  This stage goes by so fast, and even though it can be wearying beyond belief, I know that I will look back someday with fondness and a bittersweet ache in my heart.

A couple of weeks ago I was running errands around town with Kaylin. I got into the elevator at the mall with two elderly women, probably in their late 70’s.  They were beaming at Kaylin with such amazement, and one of them casually said, ‘How I wish we could have our day back.’ In that instant I realized something so important. Right now is my day. I am smack dab in the middle of what these older women remember as the sweetest time in their life.  I am done with trying to rush my kids on to the next stage all the time. I am so thankful to these women for giving me that “Aha” moment.

 

Buyer Beware

These people look like the perfect little family. It must be from the Zoom whitening they all had done...

These people look like the perfect little family. It must be from the Zoom whitening they all had done…

Once upon a time a bunch of business executives sat around a table and surmised ‘hey, how can we get people to spend even more money on products they don’t need?’

One aspect of this I noticed particularly around Christmas time was “Give and Get”. If you spend money on certain products you can earn rewards for yourself. So, buy a Subway gift card, and get a free sub. Spend $50 on our merchandise and receive a $10 gift card for yourself. I suppose this isn’t to different from credit cards that allow you to earn certain reward points, or air miles, (with which I have no problem) but the difference here is that it is aimed at people’s gift giving during the holidays, which seems a little out of line with the spirit of giving, wouldn’t you say? Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this concept, but what bothers me so much is the sneakiness factor. We all have this innate selfishness, but now big companies are capitalizing on it through our gift giving as well. Do we have to taint the simple pleasure of giving with the need to sneak something for ourselves in with it?

The ‘give and get’ marketing that we see during the holidays takes a different shape the rest of the year, but is basically the same thing; you deserve it.  You work so hard, you take care of everyone else, you put in the hours, you do so much, or maybe you don’t do anything at all, but still you deserve it! You are such an amazing person, so you deserve to spend this money on yourself when you buy our product, and incidentally, we get rich! The problem with this type of thinking is that it leads one to believe that all rewards must be in the form of material goods. Sure, you can be an amazing person, and there is nothing wrong with treating yourself once in awhile, but don’t get caught up in this type of thinking that equates material goods with happiness. It will deplete the bank account and the soul.

Another tactic used in marketing is the appeal to our emotions. This is fine if it’s a commercial for Sick Kids Hospital or a reputable charity that relies on financial support to do good work—indeed we should be moved by emotion when we see things that seem wrong or unjust. But corporations also play on our emotions in a big way. We are flooded with images of people living the good life: people with perfect families and perfect friends and they are always happy and have astonishingly white teeth. I doubt they ever get stressed out or have to worry about finances, illness or family issues. They have perfect lives and it must be because of the products they own, right?

Insurance companies often use fear as a motivator to gain new clients—painting pictures of all the horrors that could befall you without insurance. Yes, it’s a good idea to have insurance, but be aware of the tactics that are used to gain your business. Open your eyes. There are great businesses out there, but not every company is as trustworthy as your favourite uncle.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty for buying things or treating themselves, but I am saying that we need to be more aware of the way companies are targeting us and make informed decisions when we purchase things. As a society we are hoarders, maybe not in the TLC reality show kind of way—but we all have too much stuff. And as a society the acquisition of more stuff is often on the forefront of our thinking.

Some might say, ‘if you have such a problem with ads and marketing then just turn your TV off’. I understand that perspective, but I’m not ready to go to that extreme yet. I would rather be a smart consumer than shut myself off from the world.  I believe it is possible to be a member of society that goes against the current. That is what I’d like to be, and I would love it if my kids could make it to adulthood without feeling they need a certain bag to be cool, or a certain yogurt brand to achieve a zen-like happy state. Marketing to children is a whole other topic for another day. As a parent, I always have to be cautious of the way brands are affecting the way my children think.  I have to be aware that the world they are growing up in is already very different than the one in which I was raised.

 

 

The Great Uknown

ethereal skyIt’s amazing the way questions from a child can trigger so many of your own. On a rainy drive the other day, my 5-year-old daughter announced she was going to sing a song for God. She sang a cute song that she made up herself and then looked up to the sky. As far as I know I have never said anything about God living in the sky or heaven being above us; I guess it must be intuitive to look to the sky when talking to God.

She paused, waited a little and then exclaimed, “Hellooooooo…God…did you like my song?” Followed by a slight pause, and then, “Mommy, I didn’t hear him say yes.” She had a genuinely perplexed look on her face. I think she expected to hear a voice from heaven affirming her. All I could do was let out a sigh because so many times I have thought the same thing. I didn’t have an answer for her, nor do I have a definitive answer for myself.

My daughter often probes me with spiritual questions, and despite my degree in theology I often don’t have answers for her. There are very few things I can answer with absolute certainty when it comes to spirituality.  God, Jesus and Eternity, are cloaked in mystery. Not that we shouldn’t seek to know more; simply that we just never will have all the answers despite our best efforts! I don’t want to give her some clichéd Sunday school felt-board answer. I wasn’t satisfied with that as a child, and I don’t think she will be either.

My own faith journey has been rife with potholes and highs and lows. The mysteriousness of God is almost too much for me to handle at times. I think the phrase “mind blowing” would be appropriate. I am a ‘seeing is believing’ person, so my faith has taken many twists and turns. In vulnerable moments I have asked myself if I would really believe in God had I not been raised from infancy to believe. Perhaps not, or just maybe my faith would be stronger for having to flesh it out on my own. If I am being honest, I have moments where I have serious doubts, but then I also have moments when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a greater power is out there–the creator and redeemer of humankind.

The other night as I read a children’s bible story to Aliyah, I again was overcome with a great sense of uncertainty about my faith, and not having all the answers. Do I turn away from God because I can’t figure it all out? I can’t do that, because there is that spark within, the soul, that believes in something greater than us and yearns to connect with our creator. There is a little bit of God’s image within all of us. And then there’s the beauty of nature.  If there is one thing that displays the presence of God, it is the wonder, awesomeness and subtlety of nature. And yet, my brain screams for answers to so many things that are seemingly impossible… unknowable.

 

It’s not as if faith is something that can be explained logically, and yet people all over the world believe because we have it in us to believe in something greater than what we see.

So why I am a believer in Jesus despite all the unanswered questions I have?  In my first year of college I wrote a bible study on The Sermon on the Mount. I think more than any other theological topic I tackled during my studies, these teachings of Jesus had me transfixed. The Sermon on the Mount highlights all the teaching of Jesus and it is done so in a way that the average person can understand and connect with. Matthew 5:13 (TNIV) talks about a Christian being the salt and the light of the world: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”  These words etched into my brain as I ruminated on them. So simple: Christians MUST be the SALT. We must be the ones willing to help, lending a hand, a shoulder to lean on and an outstretched arm. We have good news to offer. It’s not about politics or conservatism or any of that nonsense that Christians can get so easily entangled in.

 

The bottom line is when I look to Jesus–his example, his teachings, his philosophy and his redemption of a broken world–things make sense. My head stops swimming for just a little while. When I look to everything else, that’s when I get confused. And while I don’t have all my questions answered, and so much is still murky, Jesus is the clearest picture of God.Even though I can’t be sure of everything, I can be sure that following Jesus and modeling my life after his teachings, is the way to true life.

 

I know that I will still have days where I have faith crises, and shake my head in disbelief, but I choose to look to Jesus as an example of the Creator’s love. I choose to raise my children that way as well. They are always welcome to ask questions, and no question will be taboo. I will never force them or shove the bible down their throat. They will have to arrive at their own path. I can try and show them the way, but unless they decide for themselves their faith will always be shallow and contrived. I am the first one to admit that things don’t always make sense when it comes to spirituality, and I won’t hide that from my children.

 

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – CS Lewis.

Since we didn’t perish on Dec. 21, 2012…

Frozen Lake

I remember New Years 2004 very clearly. It was freezing cold, and I was in Nathan Phillips square with a group of friends, and about a million other people. There were a myriad of smells in the air and the crowd of people was thick. More than a few times I had my toes stepped on.  Jordan, my husband, was one of the friends I was there with, although there was a lot more going on. He braved the cold and snow to spend time with a girl he was interested in. He had no interest in crowds, the music, or the general din of it all, but he came to see me. I was in my second year of College and living at Yonge and Finch in an apartment with three other girls. I had no idea what direction my life would take over the next nine years, and if you told me that within three years I would be married, and expecting my first baby I would have laughed.

Life isn’t always what you plan or what you think. Me, a mother of three at 28? Still no career per say? Never in my wildest dreams I would have thought. For sure I thought I would be successful, but I didn’t know that success would be in my ability to change a diaper while talking on the phone WHILE making dinner and checking emails. When I thought about being in my 20′s I thought it would be full of excitement and new experiences. What I didn’t know was that the fun would be watching my kids grow up, and going tobogganing with my son for the first time today. New experiences happen every day. Every new smile, loose tooth and everything in between. I may not be taking exotic vacations or traveling the world (yet); I might not be learning new languages and I’m certainly not climbing the corporate ladder –or any kind of ladder, but all of these things probably pale in comparison to the way my baby looks fresh out of the bath, or seeing the excitement on my 5 year old’s face when she reads a new word all by herself.

You can do your best to surmise what your future holds but none of us really know. Sometimes I find this disquieting. The unknown and uncertainty of life. I think I have a trajectory of where the next ten years will take me, but I can’t be sure. Nothing is etched in stone, and as my doctor so eloquently put it when discussing the failure rates of vasectomy (eeek)…”nothing in life is 100%”. That simple phrase, oddly enough, struck me as being very profound.

So, now it’s 2013, and though I think a lot of the New Years frenzy is just that–frenzy; there is something to be said for a fresh new year. A clean slate. The opportunity to shape your life and start something new. It’s about closing the book on a year that perhaps was full of heartache, or stress. Maybe it was a year of new beginnings and laughter. Either way, for most people it signals a fresh start.  In years past I use to take a more thoughtful approach to new years resolutions; spending time contemplating life and then writing out a detailed list of ways I could improve. Usually this list consisted of things pertaining to the physical. I sort of scrapped doing official new years resolutions somewhere along the way, and try to look at the new year as not just an opportunity to change A, B and C in my life; but to start a new path altogether.  Of course, any day is just as good as January 1st is to make changes, but the New Year usually prompts this self -reflection in most of us.

That New Years I remember so well from 2004, in a lot of ways was the start of a whole new path in my life. The start of my journey into marriage, kids, and all that entails. With so many road bumps and so much change, and yet so much happiness and new life, I can look forward to 2013 knowing that whatever may come, with God’s help and that of my family, we can look forward to each new day, even during challenging times (that inevitably will arise).

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!