Words in Red (that Jesus said) – a poem

red letterDid you really say what they say you said?
All those words I read in red?

How much of them are propaganda,
Meant to fit some neat agenda?
Should I believe everything I read?
Every jot and tittle–
Every deed?
How do I know what you said,
When though you’re alive–
It can feel like you’re dead?
There’s so much left out, so little left it seems,
To fill up my heart and inspire my dreams.
I want to know what you thought at night,
When the stars were out and the moon burned bright.
Were you afraid? Did you question your parents?
Did you think, “How the hell did I make the planets?
I’m just a boy, from a small dusty town.
How am I to be a king with a crown?”
Have you read what they wrote?
Their descriptions of you?
Please tell me Jesus
Do they ring true?
Did they say what you meant?
Did they bring their own slant?
Did they twist or omit or embellish away–
The true meaning of love or the way that you prayed?
When I read I often wonder what you were about–
Did you like to tell jokes? Where did you hang out?
I want to believe that your love is so true,
That you came to be with us–
That you make all things new.
But I have to be honest.
Sometimes I do doubt.
But I think you did too, so I can’t worry about
If they think that I’m crazy, they thought you were too.
I often sit and I puzzle until my puzzler is blue
And I wonder if you were too good to be true
Someday let’s hang out–
Just me
And
Just you.
Advertisements

Beauty, Ugliness & the Meaning of Life

I began writing this post once already and the Internet ate it. For a few minutes I was quite upset as I really liked the direction the post was taking. But now that the mourning period has ended, I have decided that perhaps those words were for me and me alone, and that because of their death, the evolution of my thoughts will have new life and I will be able to communicate with greater clarity.

Just a quick note: This is not a post about Frank’s book. This is a post about Frank and Genie (This ain’t no book cult after all – see what I did there Frank?). The book is all well and good and taught me a lot, however why would you sit with your nose in a book when its author is in the room and you can speak to them face to face?


 

frankeddiedeens This weekend Kent and I had the rare privilege of mingling lives with Frank and Genie Schaeffer as they stayed with us in our home. They were in town to promote Frank’s most recent book,
Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God.
Frank Schaeffer (son of evangelical royalty,
New York Times best seller and erstwhile architect an purveyor of the Christian Coalition and the Moral majority) and his lovely wife are among the most gracious, generous, unassuming and fun house guests we have ever had the pleasure of hosting.

 

This post is my attempt to allow you a glimpselilacs into the joy of this weekend in the same way that Frank’s painting of lilacs can transport me to my childhood backyard and the smell of spring. While it is a mere attempt to mimic the beauty, no painting can be spring and nothing I write can take the place of having been here.

 

 

f&gFrank almost always travels without Genie, as most groups do not choose to spend the money required to purchase the extra plane ticket or they somehow do not find value in having the spouse of the speaker at their event, I do not pretend to know their reasons. However, I can tell you that Genie Schaeffer is an endlessly interesting person and if you have read any of Frank’s memoirs like Crazy for God, you already know that. Genie is a pure delight and I feel very confident that Frank would agree that she is his “secret sauce”. By that I mean that without knowing Genie, you will never truly know Frank. Without her, he is an incomplete picture, as am I, without Kent. She is his muse, his greatest love and his anchor in a stormy sea. She is, as he says, the only person who truly understands him and knows with a knowing that only comes with experience what complexities of life have made him the man I now know.

 

As I mentioned before, Frank was in town to promote his book, and though we only brought together a whopping 30 people at most, Frank spoke to us with all the passion of a person who was in town (as Frank was in a former life) via a flight on Jerry Falwell’s private jet to be introduced as the keynote speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention by Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. And although Frank Schaeffer has held court with many, many famous and “important” people, he was most at home on the floor of the bar where we meet, building a castle of blocks with a 6 year old little girl. Why? Because, as he says, that is what is real and important. And believe me, Anika knew she was important to Frank. You could feel it.

 

IMG_8752My children who are 12 and 13 also knew that they were important to Frank and Genie. Do you know why? They took the time to see them­–to focus on them. They were never an afterthought to be ignored or talked down to. That is why my daughter’s lock screen now glows with the inspiration of the picture she took with Frank. When he heard she wanted to be an actress, they spent time one on one discussing Shakespeare. Frank challenged her and connected with her over her dreams. He recommended readings and movies and agreed to Skype with her to talk more about it after she read or watched. Frequently during the weekend when I would be looking for my son, I would finally find him sitting and talking with Frank and Genie in the backyard or showing Frank funny YouTube videos and Frank calling Genie over to watch too. “You have to come and see” he would IMG_8751say. One morning I even found Frank in the driveway feeding Caedmon the basketball so he could practice his shooting. When Frank or Genie were with them, they were the only thing that mattered. It was pure magic.

As for me, this weekend was transformative. We drank wine, we broke bread and though we did not call it communion, that is what it was. We talked about beauty. We talked about art. We shared music. We spoke honest words and we shared empathy. This weekend helped me along in my evolution. After all, life is about becoming not simply having the “right ideas”.

One thing Frank did say while he was here is that he tries to look at every situation and ask “Is it beautiful or is it ugly?” Does believing it help me behave in ways that are beautiful or ugly? Does saying it, or doing it make the world a more beautiful or a more ugly place? I will tell you this, Frank and Genie Schaeffer came to visit and they made our world more beautiful.

 

 

A Rude Response: Lessons in missing the point.

So there is a video that has gone viral this week of a Dad’s response to the song Rude by Magic!. So far I have had several people post links to it in my time line. The problem with both the original song and the tongue-in-cheek response to it is they both miss the point entirely.

Here are the lyrics to the original song:

Saturday morning jumped out of bed and put on my best suit
Got in my car and raced like a jet, all the way to you
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question
‘Cause I know that you’re an old fashioned man yeah yeah

‘Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? Say yes, say yes
‘Cause I need to know
You say I’ll never get your blessing till the day I die
Tough luck my friend but the answer is no!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too
Why you gotta be so rude
I’m gonna marry her anyway

Marry that girl
Marry her anyway
Marry that girl
Yeah no matter what you say
Marry that girl
And we’ll be a family

Why you gotta be so rude

I hate to do this, you leave no choice
Can’t live without her
Love me or hate me we will be boys
Standing at that alter
Or we will run away
To another galaxy you know
You know she’s in love with me
She will go anywhere I go

Hook-Chorus-Chorus- etc

Here are the lyrics to the response:

Saturday morning came without warning
Woke me up from my bed
Seeking permission to marry my princess
Son, what’s wrong with your big head
It’s the first time I’ve met you, why would I let you
Run off with my baby girl?
Get back in your Pinto. It’s time that you go.
The answer is no.

You say you want my daughter for the rest of your life
Well you’ve got to make more than burgers and fries
Get out your mama’s basement and go get you a life
Son you’re 28 don’t you think that it’s time?

Why you gotta call me rude?
I’m doin’ what a dad should do
Keep her from a fool like you
And if you marry her anyway

Marry that girl,
I’m gonna punch your face
Marry that girl,
I’ll make you go away
Marry that girl,
In the bottom of a lake.

You may not get this so let me explain
Cause you need to undersatnd
This is forever, she deserves better
She really needs a grown man
I know what you’re thinkin’
You think you’ll still take her
Give it your best shot
I may be a Christian
But I’ll go to prison
I’m not scared of doin’ hard time

Hook-Chorus

The answer is no
So why don’t you go away?

Did you see it? Or should I say did you not see it? WHERE IS THE WOMAN IN BOTH OF THESE SONGS?????  Both of these songs are about two men making a decision and coming to an agreement about what will happen in this woman’s life WITHOUT ANY INPUT FROM THE WOMAN. The most worrisome lyrics in both songs imply that this is some weak ass woman who has no clue what she is doing and needs the two men to decide for her.

 “Can I have your daughter?”
(Not can we have your blessing or your permission but, “Can I have your daughter” like she is property to be transferred.)

“You know she’s in love with me. She will go anywhere I go.”
(This can be a beautiful thing if you say to someone else I will follow you anywhere. However, in the song he is saying it more like, I can take her anywhere I want and she will go with me and you will lose her. It seems like a power trip.)

“I’m gonna punch your face
I’ll make you go away
In the bottom of a lake”

“I may be a Christian,
But I’ll go to prison.
I’m not scared of doin’ hard time.”
(So Christian dad just wants you to know (in all love) if you insist on marrying his daughter and “taking her” he will have to kill you.)

“you think you’ll still take her”
(Again with the “taking”, as if she is an object he can just take against her will. Obviously she is not thinking clearly if she chooses a mate Daddy doesn’t like.)

A while back I wrote a post called, Don’t ask me if you can marry my daughter. At the time it was a response to the rise of so called “Purity Balls”. In it I said, among other things,

My husband never asked my father’s permission to marry me. We also didn’t ask for his blessing. Not only that, I have a feeling if Kent would have asked him he would have said it wasn’t his decision to make.

Because it wasn’t.

It was mine. My life was mine to join to someone else’s. My future was in my hands. My heart was mine to give.

Once Kent and I decided that we were going to get married we told both my parents together. Simple.

My parents, wise as they are, knew that even though they had given me life, raised me and protected me, they did not have ownership of my heart and could not give the naming rights to whomever they chose as if I were a sports arena. They knew that even though they had dreams for me, and thoughts about how my life would turn out, those were not necessarily my dreams for myself. They knew that they had raised me to be independent, wise and trustworthy and they knew that they had given me more and more freedom to make choices, to try and fail and to try and succeed. They knew that if at some point I found the one person I wanted to give my heart to, that they had already done what they could to help me make the best choice. They knew that if I wanted advice I would ask them for it. And I did. Plenty. But they also knew, lovelies, that it was my decision to make. My heart. My future. My life. My choice…

I am proud to say, my husband and I are carrying on the proud tradition my parents started. We are our daughter’s parents, we are raising her to be strong, brave, independent, discerning and trustworthy. When the time comes I hope we don’t know about her proposal before she does. If her future spouse does come to us first, I know exactly what I will say, “She is not mine to give. Her heart is her own. You will need to ask her. It is her choice.”

 

 

A Prayer of Pulling

O great puller of the thread of time
That connects us all
Pull us
Coax us
Call us
Into your future
Inspire us to grab on and join in your stretching
Of our human fabric
Help us to help our kindred 
As we find our collective way home
Guide us
Instruct us
Love us
Into your perfect peace
Into your love of loves
Into communion with each other
We believe you are changing us
We can feel the stretching
in our very souls
Beckoning
Like the echo of every beautiful thing we have seen
Like every breath that has been slow to come
When we are trying to prolong a moment
Like the stillness we try to keep
When we breathe in the splendor of a sleeping baby
Or the overwhelming forgiveness in the eyes
Of someone we have inexplicably injured with a blow to their heart.
We taste you Jesus and we know with a knowing we can’t quite explain
That you are good
And all that is goodness in us
And outside us
And around us
Amen

I have seen the face of God and he looks like Nate Ruess (and you).

family#funSo last night we went to see Fun. in concert. To say they were freaking amazing is not even a worthy attempt to explain, so I will try more words because I really feel the need to share my experience with you.

There is something transcendent to me about being at a concert like that. There is something electric. Something like magic. I stand in the crowd, just one in a sea of humanity and a part of me feels like the whole thing is like an elaborate flash mob that someone lovingly crafted just for me. Nate Ruess, must somehow know me, the way his words peek into my soul and subconscious and give flight to things I didn’t remember I wanted to say. And his voice pierces my heart and I stand with my eyes closed and just give myself to the music. And. The Music. Gives. Back. And We Dance.

How is that lovelies? How is it that when I hear the words of Carry On or It Gets Better I feel like my heart will explode? And I feel more connected? And I feel more alive? I am not sure how that happens. All I know is that when I see the face of Nate Ruess, I see a glimpse of God himself and I am reminded that his image is EVERYWHERE. It is in Nate. It is in me. And, lovelies, it is in you.

There is a line in The Gambler (which is about Nate’s parents) where he talks about himself in the third person, he says, “He believes we’re all just lovers, he sees hope in everyone.” Me too Nate, me too.

The Hall Boys, Miley and the Moral Compass.

madonnaSo this week I watched as my feed filled up yet again with talk of modesty. The cascade of digital atta girls, also known as reposts by people I know and love were of an article by Kimberly Hall called, “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” (If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out. I will wait right here).

These reposts were prefaced by statements like,

“parenting win”
“it’s about time”
and
“as a mother of sons, thank you”

I was also encouraged by a number of response articles. Some grace filled, some snarky; some from other christians and some from non or former christians. Posts such as Seeing a Woman by Nate Pyle, which said in part:

Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each is rooted in fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control.  In some ways, the church has added to this.  We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous.  We’ve been taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin.  We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things.  Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you.  Her body will not cause you harm.  It will not make you do stupid things.  If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things.  So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.

A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious.  Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings.  Let her be confident.  Encourage her confidence.  But don’t do all this because she is weaker.  That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there.  Women are not weaker than men.  They are not the weaker sex.  They are the other sex.

I’m not telling you to not look at women.  Just the opposite.  I’m telling you to see women.  Really see them.  Not just with your eyes, but with your heart.  Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being.  

My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them.  Don’t just be around women.  Be with women.

Or this gem from Renegade Mothering (Language warning): FYI (If you’re a Hall boy)

In other words, it places the responsibility of YOUR morality on the shoulders of others, and that is wholeheartedly idiotic. I mean, how could anybody ever be a decent person if circumstances beyond our control determined what we think and how we behave? It also, incidentally, fuels what we like to call “rape culture,” wherein the girl is raped by the boy because she was a “slut” and therefore “asking for it.” The boy was the real victim because he was rendered powerless by her unprotected vagina and lack of bra. Your mother’s idea that GIRLS need to cover themselves so YOU can behave like a gentleman is the exact same mentality that fuels rape culture, and results in things like Steubenville or 30-day sentences for pedophile rapists.

And this one. THIS ONE. I want to post it in its entirety because it is just that good. But I trust you, go read this one yourself. It is called An “FYI” to My Daughters by The Lippy Lactator. Here is a small taste of the greatness:

Don’t get caught up in it all, my darlings.  Don’t wear that mini skirt because you want the attention of that guy.  If that guy is worth your time, he will like you regardless of what you wear.  Sex obviously sells, which is a sad thing.  You see it everywhere, I know you do.  Remember that you are MORE than just sex to the world.  You deserve to be treated that way, and the way you dress doesn’t make you any less deserving of that.  However, if you love how confident you feel in that mini skirt, or that bathing suit is *just* your style…by all means…rock it, sister.  Wear the clothes you love for you.  But be sure to take the time to get to know you.  Take the time to learn to love you.

Parents need stop with the gender stereotyping.  They are doing much, much more harm than good.  They teach their boys that girls who dress a way they don’t find appropriate aren’t worth the time and acceptance of their son.  They teach them that girls are just temptresses out to muddy the thoughts of their precious little boy.  They teach their children that it is OK to sit down as a family and scroll through their social media and shame anyone who doesn’t fit in the tiny little box they keep them in.  They teach them that girls who act or dress or believe differently than them have no character.  No self respect.  No right to be respected by others.  They are doing nothing but perpetuating this horrible cycle.  And trust me, no matter how much you try to be *perfect* for their son, this type of person will always find something “wrong” with you.  No girl will ever be deserving of their perfect little son.  Ever.

Now, let’s flashback to the VMA’s of a couple weeks ago when my feed was full of Miley & Robin. Well, actually if we are being honest, it was full of Miley, because frankly we all know Robin Thicke had nothing to do with what happened to him on that stage. He was the helpless male totally at the whim of Miss Cyrus and his own libido. I mean if presented with the opportunity no man alive would have the power to make another choice. Nevermind that Ms. Cyrus was nowhere to be found when he made his Blurred Lines video. But I digress.

I have been thinking about writing about “The Performance” on and off since it happened. Part of me was exhausted by just the thought of trying to organize my thoughts on the topic and part of me was just bored of it all. I mean, a shock value performance on the VMA’s? Ho Hum. Hasn’t that been happening like, forever? First there was that grandmother of all shockers, Madonna, then came her offspring… Brittney, Christina, Gaga and Miley. [Special mention to Prince and his assless pants: what you don’t remember that?] I guess the girls are the ones we remember most] Its like 4 generations of powerful women shocking people all the way to the bank.

Admit it. America kind of gets off on feigning shock and outrage over these performances. And yes, I agree they don’t do much to elevate the conversation on gender equality. Except, I suppose, when they shine a bright light on our tendency (as made blatantly obvious by the general pass given to the married, 36 year old father, Robin Thicke) to throw out the boys will be boys cliché and make sure we tell the women involved to cover up and be a lady.  I mean, Mrs. Hall, back me up on this one…have the women of our generation who ran around dressed like Madonna in bustiers, crinoline and rubber bracelets forgotten that a little rebellion and a little sexuality didn’t kill us like so many thought it would? Or that most of the women who were doing that are now grown up productive members of society, some even of churches?

This morning I read a piece by Christian Piatt over at Patheos in which he discusses the Miley post fest and I couldn’t help but think of it in light of Mrs. Hall’s letter to teenage girls. He writes:

Although in some respects, women and girls have made strides toward gender parity in our culture, there is still a persistent, if sometimes subtle, subtext narrated to our girls, which is that sex is the most efficient and potent mean of access to power they have. Yes, my daughter is told now at such a young age that she can be anything she wants when she grows up. And I hope that is true, but I already hear the comments from friends, family members and teachers about her appearance and anticipated future success with boys, and how it affects her behavior. and honestly, it only gets more pronounced as girls reach puberty and beyond.

So perhaps, rather than men in power resisting the progress of women being the greatest current barrier to parity, it now is the unpleasant reality that sexualizing young women works for innumerable purposes in our world. None more so, perhaps, than the popular music industry. So it’s really a bit disingenuous of us to express shock or disgust when Miley Cyrus fondles herself or engages in orgiastic dance numbers in front of an audience of millions. After all, the culture set up the rules of the game long ago and, in spite of our assertions to the contrary, the economies of power, money and fame depend heavily on appealing to our baser instincts.

So judge Miley if you must, but in doing so, realize that she is only a speck that is part of a much larger log in our collective cultural eye.

Do you see lovelies? When Miley states that she told people her performance was going to make history and then it becomes one of the most tweeted events ever we expose our morbid fascination with the perceived sins of others. We are all stuck with Miley on a merry-go-round that is very hard to get off. The cycle goes something like this:

  1. Women/Girls are slut-shamed and told they are responsible for the sins of men and protecting their morality –>
  2. Women/Girls act out in an attempt to grasp power not afforded to them in equal measure by other means –>
  3. People say “see, Women/Girls really are sluts at heart and must be told to cover up before they corrupt men who are just being who God/nature made them (visual creatures who are compelled to spread their seed and are slaves to their anatomy)” –>
  4. Society believes and perpetuates through feigned shock and shame that women/girls are responsible for the sins of men and protecting their morality.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4.

And around and around we go.

side note: I actually read one article today posted by a friend that made many good points. But then he lost me. He kept saying that the reason the church is obsessed with modesty is because of get this, “the church has become feminized”! Once again, it is made the fault of women. The reason women are told to be more modest is because we have believed the lie that we have power over men. He says,  

“I believe the Church has become feminized in this: we talk about the Woman as being in control over the Man.  She can dress one way to seduce him, or dress another way to leave him free to choose.  This is not so.  The Man chooses to be seduced or not seduced.”  

While I agree that the man is free to choose, I emphatically disagree that this is the result of the feminization (the shift in gender roles and sex roles in a society, group, or organization towards a focus upon the feminine) of the church. This idea that women are responsible for all sexual sin including having the power over a man’s impure thoughts comes not from women or feminism but from the church fathers. Look it up. John Wesley, Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Saint Augustine and many more including scads of popular pastors even today espouse this very doctrine.

Honestly it is hard for me to blame Miley (as uncomfortable as her performance made me). She has followed the script and played a role played by many before her. She has taken the reins of power away from the people who have held them in her life and is attempting to chart her own course. Yes, IMHO she is making the mistake of confusing notoriety for respect and fame for admiration. But it is a mistake I have seen over and over. People who were given little or no freedom or autonomy to make decisions, and yes even mistakes (PKs, Quiverfulls, Ultra Conservatives, Child Stars and kids with over protective helicopter parents and yes, perhaps even the Hall boys) sometimes, when they finally get an opportunity to taste freedom, make some pretty destructive choices before they figure out how to lead a balanced life and what course they want to follow. For child stars, children of politicians or mega church pastors they have the unenviable lot of having to do it in the public eye. Their mistakes and missteps while trying to figure out how to live a life of freedom that doesn’t lead to destruction can be very difficult and some sadly won’t live through it. [Here is a question, how could we actually increase the odds that they do live through it? Perhaps a little grace or maybe even just a little less judgement?]

For me lovelies, it comes down to this: Growing up is hard. Raising kids is hard. Stopping the cycle mentioned above is hard. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I empathize with Mrs. Hall in that she really thinks she is helping by joining in the chorus of voices telling girls to cover up and blocking people we deem unworthy by virtue of their perceived shortcomings. But here is the thing: We do not learn to make good choices by turning over our moral compass to someone else to police and we cannot teach our kids to find their moral true north on their own by never letting them hold their own compass. We do not do them any favors when we tell them that an entire gender, a preacher or even we can read the compass for them and that if they follow the bearing of our denomination, gender philosophy or political party they will be safe. Sooner or later they grow up, and they must navigate the often choppy waters of this life for themselves. Hopefully by then the compass we give them has a needle that points them straight to the true north of love, grace and mercy for others and for themselves. And hopefully they know how to read it for themselves.

In the end, it is for me like this song…and I pray that what we have taught both our daughter and our son is enough. That they use the love of Christ as their compass. Love that covers a multitude of mistakes. Love that forgives and keeps no record of wrongs. Love that sees past twerking and selfies and awkward teenage hormones. Love that speaks truth and healing. Love that gives second, third and ninety-fifth chances. Love that says we are all valuable and equal and bear the image of the living God.

The Boat
Billy Falcon

I built this boat
The best I could
With hands of love
From the finest wood
I braced the bow
I stitched the sail
I blessed every brass screw and nail

Lord, go with her when the sea is angry
Lord, go with her in the raging storm
Lord, go with her when the days are cruel
Lord, go with her when the night’s too long

Studied the stars, searchin’ to find
The safest course, and the kindest tide
Lifted her down the stony trail
I set her in the water, and raised her sail

Lord, go with her when the sea is angry
Lord, go with her in the raging storm
Lord, go with her when the days are cruel
Lord, go with her when the night’s too long

Worrying from the watchtower
As the red sky fades
My heart drops to my stomach
As she tumbles through the waves
She slips past the horizon
That’s when I realize
She was always yours
Never really mine

Lord go with her when the sun is golden
Lord go with her when way is clear
Lord go with her when the whole world loves her
Lord go with her When I’m. no longer..

Lord go with her when the sea is angry
Lord go with her in the raging storm
Lord go with her when the days are cruel
Lord go with her when the night’s too long

P.P.P.P.S. This is a thought provoking article called The Moving Target of Morality. I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in so I am just tagging it on as a value added bonus.

Found Object Poetry

Credit to the brilliant found object artist Michelle Stitzlein

I collect pieces of thoughts
On cocktail napkins
Like old hubcaps
Snippets of words
clipped out in my virtual brain
Make note of the humanity of pain
Scraps of my heart
Found on the sidewalk
And dirty thoughts
Dropped by passers by
Tiny words
That come in the twilight
Between sleep and wake
Loud words that you can’t even say
Picked up along the way
Cobbled together
In dreams and poetry