July 31, 2014

June & July Favorites

This is right about the time where we're all now groaning for summer to be done and over with. Schools will be opening their doors again in a few short weeks, and fall can't get here quicker. At least for those of us who live in one of the humid, sweltering states. I was not made for summer. So let's pray for an early and exceedingly long autumn, and get on with some of my favorites from the last couple months...

june/julyfavs2014

My friend, Ashley, tweeted out about this new magazine Deeply Rooted recently, and I'm so glad I listened to her persuasion to order a copy recently. It's beautifully designed (no ads-yea!), has encouraging theology articles, recipes, and more! And singles, even though the subtitle and company brands towards wives and mothers, you'll still get a lot out of this publication; the marriage and motherhood articles only take up a smaller percent of the whole magazine. I'm really picky about that sort of thing, so I wouldn't recommend it if by in large, us single gals could glean much from it. 

She Reads Truth. A great online community of women who desire to be actively reading and studying God's word on a daily basis. They make some of the best Bible study packs I've ever gone through (and it helps that they're just beautifully designed).

Have you heard of The Giving Keys? They're this cool company that helps get homeless folks back on their feet by providing them with a steady job to build experience by creating jewelry out of old keys. The idea is that you pick a word that you desire to live more of in your life (e.g. strength, dream, hope, love, etc.), which they stamp into the key, then after you've worn it to the point where you feel like that word has become a part of your life, you pass on the key to someone else whom you think would be encouraged to live into that same message. Neat idea, right? I'm definitely going to pick out something from their shop soon! (Got 10-15 minutes to kill over your lunch break? Watch the TED Talk on the story behind the company and its founder here.)

To Read Over Your Morning Cup O' Joe: The God Who Shows Off Broken Seashells, Waiting, 5 Reasons Why Your Debate Isn't Helpful, 7 Mistakes We Make in Woman's Bible Study, and Are You Too Christian for Non-Christians.

Another intriguing TED Talk on why we all need to get out of the house and off our technology devices just to explore a little more.

Looking for a summer treat to beat this unforgiving, miserable heat? Get yourself some Talenti Gelato... and then try not to eat the whole pint in one sitting (speaking from experience). My favorite flavors for you to try are Sea Salt Caramel and Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip.

For Laughs: Heart of the Sea

And this album to blast with the windows down if your AC isn't cooperating with you (*because I haven't plugged this enough since it's release*)... just go right to track #7 Sweet Spot--put on repeat.


July 30, 2014

2 Book Reviews for 1 Post: Speak & The Nourished Kitchen


1 || Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, by Nish Weiseth (Purchase / Author's Website)

Does sharing our own stories have the power to change hearts, and thus the power to change the world in both big and small ways? Jesus himself, heavily used stories to evoke others to change and discover truth. We live in a culture that is increasingly becoming more and more polarized in their opinions over a multitude of things, but in that we've significantly lost the ability to genuinely listen and be gracious to one another. Behind nearly every opinion is a story, an experience that lead to the formation of it, and when we start sharing the stories we start to see change, we start to see one another better. Humans are not merely statistics, policies, etc. 

I'm in the Millennial generation, and one does not have to read many sociological studies or articles to figure out that we're sick and tired of the culture wars and the polarization we can see happening in venues all around us. Civility is lost on many of us, and we don't know how to truly listen. Story has the power for us to be and do the opposite of that kind of behavior though. So many of the chapters the author wrote resonated with me like the one on listening before speaking, sitting at the well, and using story to advocate justice. Weiseth beautifully shows us what happens when we put away our knee-jerk reaction and see people in light of the stories (experiences) that have made them who they are. However, in as much as I love the book, even after reading some of the stories I would find myself disagreeing with the author on some things. Experiences--the stories we live--are not always ultimate in defining what truth is. But even in my disagreement, which is a testament to the book's topic itself, I still value the author herself and the amazing work she's doing. Speak is also a quick read (I finished it in a day and a half) and after each chapter the reader gets to read other peoples stories as well (from Deeper Story, which Weiseth acts as editor-in-chief). It's a book that we can all take away something helpful from--and for me it will actually be sharing my own personal stories a bit more than I am currently. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


 
2 || The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle, by Jennifer McGruther (Purchase / Author's Website)

The Nourished Kitchen offers 160 recipes to support the home cook in the traditional foods movement, which focuses on eating meals that are nutrient dense, as well as a focus on sustainability in the environment and community--moving away from convince and processed food. The cookbook is divided into eight sections inspired from where the primary ingredients are taken from: the garden (vegetables), the waters (fish and seafood), the orchard (think sweets treats), etc. The book is stocked full of gorgeous photographs and the set-up is just lovely.

I primarily liked all the education information the author gives on the traditional food movement (foods of our gardens and farms, as older generations would've understand it), such as sustainability, balanced eating, and nutrient rich foods. The stories the author shares as well before each section and recipe were also enjoyable to read. Who doesn't have a few good stories to tell involving delicious food? I loved her selection of veggie recipes, soups, as well as many of the deserts too. However, being a young, single, living on a budget, and given my location, many of the recipes I found to be impractical for me. In other words, some of the ingredients are just way too out of my price range or not even available for purchase in any of my local grocery stores. So a part of me found that really frustrating--kinda bummed me out. But, as mentioned before, I certainly did learn a lot about making more healthy choices in what ingredients I am selecting to make my meals at home. It would certainly make a great addition to those of you who are interested or already into the traditional foods movement. Finally it's a cookbook you can read. Even though there's a large chunk of recipes I will not be able to make from it for a while, I still just sat with it on my porch reading what the author had to say about each recipe.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Blogging for Books, as part of Waterbrook Multnomah‘s Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

July 28, 2014

Why I'm a Complementarian


 *To note: Below are just some of the things I've been ruminating over lately on this whole "new" complementarian wave. I'm sure this is not the last time I'll ever bring up this topic and that as I study/read about it more, I'll wrestle parts of it out more. Personally, I am more convicted of scripture's teaching on women to lean towards a more complementarian lense of theology via hermeneutics, but at the end of the day, this is not a primary issue, but a secondary/tertiary issue (i.e I play the whole teaching of the priesthood of the the believers card on this one). I will sit with my egalitarian sisters in Christ (of which I call many friends) at the marriage supper of the Lord, all beloved daughters of the Father. And we will take part in the new wine and celebrating together even though we may disagree on issues revolving around this topic now.

Why am I a complementarian?

What a loaded questions, that as a single I often feel I have nothing to bring to the table on. Most who converse on this topic are marrieds and mothers. Maybe because they're living it in a larger reality than I do. The women and men who I think really understand this rhythm and who've showcased it to me beautifully hardly ever get a voice at said table either. Too many people on every side are busy shouting over one another. But back to the question: Why am I a complementarian?

Because I believe that men have the great capacity and ability to reflect parts of God's character and His heart in unique ways that I, as a women, never have or will be able to myself. Nor would I be able to experience those distinct traits from another woman either. The reversal holds true as well: As a woman I hold great capacity and ability to reflect parts of God's character and His heart in ways that no male could. There are some things only men understand deeply instinctively, while there are other things that only women understand deeply instinctively.

It's not that strength is just a character trait for men, but rather strength displays itself differently between the two genders. It's not that gentleness is just an attribute for women to show, but that gentleness displays itself a little differently between the two. It's not an either-or kind of thing, it's a both-and type of deal.

Because God created us equal co-heirs, but not exactly the same--no, we're unique, authentic, extraordinary in our own rights. Yet, we still need of one another. I want to experience, respect, and enjoy what a man has to reflect that's unique to him alone. And I hope the reverse would hold true. God's design was always that men and women would be interdependent on one another, which means we each have things the other needs. Not one "lording" over the other in a domineering fashion. When men marry God's daughters, He beckons them to love His sweet, precious girls as Christ does--with sacrificial love. A love that's so deep and rich that they would lay aside their own lives for the betterment of hers (see Ephesians 5, right around verse 20 or 21).

Men, God is saying when you cultivate Christ-like love and cherishment towards your wife, you're fostering and encouraging the best possible growth to occur in and through her.

Women, God is saying when you cultivate Christ-like respect and submission in your relationship with your husband, you're fostering and encouraging the best possible growth to occur in and through him.

Marriage was made to reflect the greater realities of the Gospel. At the same time it's also called a mystery. I feel it's a legitimate question to ask ourselves: Why are we so anti-mystery? God is in so many ways mysterious Himself. Can we learn to make peace with this part of God, then seek and search out its many facets?

In showcasing the gospel to onlookers, as a woman I have unique strengths and a role apart from a man in the telling of this story, as does he. In many ways male and female are alike being that they're both image bearers, but God loves diversity too much to not also give us differences.

If a man doesn't see his bride as a valuable treasure--made in the image and likeness of her Creator, and a woman doesn't see her husband as the valuable treasure that he is as well, then where's the oneness in that? If we're to be one, we take care of oneanother, because no one is there own--they are hemmed together.

The deepest truths about marriage are not to be found in culture--secular or even in much of Christianity's sub version. The deepest truths about marriage are found in a fixed study and wondrous gaze of the Trinity.

The trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--is oneness, but yet, each has distinctives. It's hard to wrap our minds around everything that entails. Marriage--husband and wife--is oneness, but yet, each has distinctives. Trying to make it so it isn't true (this distinctiveness) is not our answer. Our answer lies in reveling in the mystery of it all, while trusting God's heart that He knew what was best, so he weaved it into the tapestry of His image bearers, the tapestry of the marriage covenant.  

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I believe that the hardest calling on the complementarian woman in not submission at all. If we break it down submission means one who is coming under the mission--in this case the mission being marriage, and every mission has a leader (the husband). No, the hardest calling for the complementarian woman is trusting. Men have to fight to earn and keep trust; women have to fight to give trust and find freedom, find rest in that. Is that not part of what God was saying in the latter half of Genesis 3? To men: Everything that you try to cultivate will war against you. To women: Everyone you try to trust will war with you. Adam's curse would bring a kind of sensitivity revolving around his work, for he was taken and made from dust, but Eve was taken and made from Adam, thus her curse has heightened sensitivities in this real, raw relational way.

When we practice submission, really what we're practicing is placing our trust in the one leading us. We need to be cool with acknowledge that this is especially hard when so many of us women have experiences where trusting male leadership turned into an ugly battle, and men who proved untrustworthy left behind wounds and scars.

But in God's economy, there's Christ-like leadership, and in that kind of leadership there can be found a kind of rest, a peace, a settledness. A good and right kind of security for us to enjoy is birthed when men on earth seek to image Christ in this way.

Men are referred to as the head because God digs order. Adam was first, Eve second (not second-class, just second). Adam was not made 'head' to lord over Eve, for Eve was taken from his rib, near his heart (a pretty vital muscular organ if you ask me), nor his feet to be trampled under (as good old Matthew Henry put it). Women are meant to be protected and cared for by their male counterparts. Women are meant to be kept close to the hearts of men.

Adam is first, and as such he has added responsibility and accountability to those he cares for. It's not hard to really understand this if you're an oldest child like I am--I was born first, therefore my parents gave me more responsibilities and made me accountable to watching over and caring for my younger sister. Nobody in their right mind would say that I'm more important than my sister. We have the same parents and are loved equally (although, as parents often chime in "differently"). There are also times though, where in different contexts or situations, it's my youngest sister who's responsible for me. There is a level of mutual submission as well.

Men as heads... it's not an equality thing, but an order form. Or maybe see it as C.S. Lewis wrote in his beloved Chronicles of Narnia. The four Pevensie children are all crowned royalty: Queen Lucy the Valiant, King Edmund the Just, Queen Susan the Gentle, and King Peter the Magnificent. All of them lead together; "Once a king or queen of Narnia always a king or queen"--but in this Peter inherits more responsibility and is given the title of 'High King' of Narnia.

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It's so easy to talk about complementarian and egalitarian issues (like all issues) in a really generalized, ethereal manner. So much of it is just blanket statements.

In reality, complementarian women do lead their male counterparts in many, many ways, we've just done a horrible job at discussing them. But if we were to sit and attentively watch couples as they interact, I guarantee you I could point out the moments where she does indeed lead her man. We could sit in and point out how women do in fact lead in their complementarian churches too. We've trained ourselves to think that leadership has to look a certain way--the person who's up front, the person who takes all the outward forms of praise, the person who makes the final say on decisions--but that's only ONE way leadership looks, not THE way.

In reality, the majority of complementarians don't sit down and compile rigid to-do lists on the exclusivities to just men and just women. (Who honestly would even have time for that?) I'm not even sure if it's really something their conscious of for the majority of their everyday life. I know I sure don't think or dwell much on it unless it comes up in conversation, reading, or writing.

In reality, complementarianism isn't a cookie cutter approach. Onlookers want those of us inside this camp of thought to have nice, neat, clear boundaries, but at ground level that's just not how it works--it looks different for differing couples, differing churches, differing people. It's far more like a spectrum--we land and lean upon it differently. Lumping all complementarians into one group that's then characterized just doesn't work well, and the same goes for those of us who'd like to lump all the egalitarians together and characterize them.

In reality, just because there are popular leaders in ministry shouting generalizations over the masses, does not actually mean that people who hold to the titles believe and practice as they do. What we say on a main stage at a conference takes on a different look in the daily life. There's much said from other fellow complementarians that I would disagree with for one reason or another. Those who dictate to the masses do not necessarily speak on behalf of or for all those they claim that they do (in totality).

In reality, even though I am a complementarian, I still think we have a great deal of work to be done in our homes and churches in empowering women to live out their full potential and flourish as image bearers.

I think we need to greatly reconsider the language we use when we talk about this topic, because the words we choose and how we wield them creates our home and church culture. There are many words and phrases those in the 'camp' I find myself in use that I cringe strongly at. Complimentarians ought to examine the verbiage of submission and headship as their primary language, and instead adopt a language that elicits more encouragement to trust and of pursuit. Pursuit language--that I like and am honored by as a female.

Men who demand and parade there headship feel like a weight I have to get out from under. Men who lovingly and patiently coax me to trust--those are the kind I can follow. Because those are the men who are acknowledging it's not easy to trust, but there's a banner, a covering, a wing of grace and refuge for me. There's so much reflecting of Jesus heart here.

I think we need to greatly encourage women to use their gifts, because biblical womanhood and complimentarianism... it isn't all about homemaking, being a wife, or raising kids; there's so, so, so much more! All those are honorable and extremely important, but so are the other facets of this jewel--sadly, many we don't notice or take time admire. For single women, like myself, often we don't even know where we fit in with all of this. (But that's a conversation we can have later...)

At the end of the day I think we need to come away and say that there's no such thing as this "new" wave of complementarianism. Another wave--yes. Another wave of women asking questions and examining answers our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and daughters of Eve have been asking for centuries. There's grace for us all as we wrestle with the answers and questions, so let's start showing it to one another, because sometimes I feel we loose that in a lot of debates that come out when this topic is on the table.

July 24, 2014

Women are Emotional. Good. I Vote We Stay That Way... but with a Caveat.


Dear Disney,

Thank you for writing a scene that's so reflective of the reality of my emotions and feelings at times.


Sincerely,
Natalie

P.S. Why is it taking so long for Finding Dory to come out? I've had to wait ten years for this you know.

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Are women crazy? Why are they so emotional? It's a legit question that I think most men ask as well as women.

I don't particularly like that we women get this reputation as being more emotional then men. It's always such a negative outlook on a whole. I think women and me are both emotional creatures, who show those colors in different ways.

Now I do think you can make the argument that many women display their emotions in more public form then the gentlemen do. You can also easily make the argument that the two genders process them differently.

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I'm starting to hear more young women my age and younger in the Christian community talk about how they don't know how to "deal" with their emotions because they're too scared of becoming that girl we all know who's just... we lover her, but she's "too much." We don't want to be the girl who just vomits her heart on everybody, vents non-stop, is overly-dramatic... you get the picture. So what have many of us done? We've tried to hide emotions and put on a strong front.

OK, you're free to disagree with me if you want, but I kind of think that as women we tend to want to process our emotions out-loud--we talk about them, we feel them deeply, we cry, we want to cuddle our spouse/boyfriend (or if you're like me and single, you cuddle the dog)... And I don't know when that became so wrong.

I'm not saying all feminists here (because that wouldn't really be fair), but it seems to me that there's this group of feminists (in the secular context and more so in recent history--I'm all for women voting and the like) who's sole goal is ultimately to make women in the image of men, to make women more like their male counterparts, instead of celebrating femininity and all its beautiful unique intricacies. Their voice is pretty loud, and in some small ways we've bought into their idea that as women we should process our emotions like men tend to. This has even bled its way into parts of Christianity.

Let's chat about that...

I get it, ok? The crazy, crying girls can be overwhelming and are capable of really sinful habits--like that whole venting and heart vomiting thing. But likewise, it's not helpful to constantly be avoiding emotions for the sake of not want to overwhelm another. For the love--it's not even how God designed women to be. Women display emotion differently because God wanted us to reflect His emotions in a unique way, and it's fine that that's different from men.

I am for grounding our hearts in Godly wisdom. Godly wisdom creates healthy boundaries for our hearts to live in and thus emotions to flow out of. Proverbs give the illustration of putting reigns on our hearts, because we have to let wisdom lead us, and sometimes we have to pull up and stop.

I am not for this weird brand of biblical womanhood that looks too subdued and passive. That certainly isn't the answer here. Passivity never flies well with God. In fact God pretty much dislikes a lukewarm, passive, emotion-less posture. He's never passive about anything Himself. I cannot find it anywhere in scripture. Women, just like there male counterparts, are to work, minister, subdue, speak, and steward actively where God has placed them. And there are emotions that have to follow this posture likewise.

Put some reigns on your heart, not because your emotions are always "sinful" (I've already gone over that whole idea here), but because they need wise direction to travel the course. Keep watch over and examine your emotions: They should be proportional to the given situation and context that brought them out in the first place. That means there are days where you should be having an ugly cry, there are life seasons and situations that call for that. Don't hide away and isolate yourself on those days.

Take an adult time-out and pray through your emotions. Process in community. I know how to make a pot of coffee or drive a car to Starbucks, and I value making the time to do that with others. Take time to do a little self-care. It's not sinful, and you have my permission, because Jesus was the son of God and you're not. You need rest, you need stress relievers, you need others to help you come full circle and find resolve, you need to let God pour into you. The world and all of its demands are in His hands, not yours. It will not all go to shambles if you check-out for a short period of time.  

God feels emotions very deeply (and I avoid using the word very 90% of the time, so when I say he feels them very, very deeply, I mean it. As women we get to reflect that here on earth in a special way; don't try to live by another blueprint you weren't designed for. 

And just as a side tip, when you're worried about overwhelming a guy with your emotions, go watch this, and maybe send him the link as well. 

July 22, 2014

Not Stuffing, Nor Enslavement--But Prayer

Throughout scripture we don't get a ton of specific teaching on emotions, but they are the colors the bring vibrancy to so many of the people in scripture, and we also serve a God who is emotional Himself. Take just a small peek...

God gets righteously angry, as well as compassionate over and towards brokenness and sin over and over again. Hannah wept and cried over her lack of children--to the point where Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. Naomi experienced a season of bitterness. David... David has this bi-polar behavior that comes out in all of his psalms; it's like one minute he's in agony, crying, confused, and questioning, then the next he's joyfully praising and shouting. Then there was also that time he worshiped in the city streets practically in the nude (that's a fun story to study). All the prophets lamented and had experiences with isolation, fear, anxiety, and depression. Job... oh man, he got hit hard. Jesus, God made man--the incarnation--He laughed, joyfully partied, got angry at the Pharisees time and time again, cried with and for his friends and followers, then suffered the greatest amount of pain and rejection any human ever could on the cross.

We cannot stuff our emotions. There's a huge group of Christians who have been sold into the idea that emotions are bad, and to be avoided. The problem with that is that as human beings we were made to reflect a God who has and shows us His emotions, and hiding or stuffing emotions is the building of a bomb within the walls of our hearts. At some point it is going to go off, leaving worse debris, had we not diagnosed and tended the feelings and emotions in the first place.

We cannot be enslaved to our emotions. Sometimes we can swing to the other side of the pendulum and trust emotions as king, as our guiding compass to everything. This is likewise just as damaging because on this end of things we excuse wisdom from the table. Emotions that are ill-informed can lead to selfish behaviors in the long-run. This skips over the whole bit on establishing our hearts in the love and knowledge of Christ.

But...

We can pray through our emotions. I so appreciated how Tim Keller put it in one of his sermons as he was preaching through the book of Psalms, which for the record is an emotional roller coaster ride. Often, as already mentioned, in the Christianity we've taken a path of pushing feelings and emotions aside, declaring that they're not good they cannot be trusted, and that we should avoid them. On other end, culture encourages people to be totally free with their feeling and emotions; these are the guiding lights to a life of happiness, but both of these are inaccurate. With the Bible we have another way of handling these messy feelings and emotions that Keller talks about: pray through your feelings.

It's in prayer that we examine and wrestle through whether or not our feelings our rooted in God's wisdom. Prayer offer the place of quiet to untangle the mess our feelings can become jumbled in. When we pray through our emotions, we're taking a step back--we're giving ourselves the space to not react without thoughtfulness.

All those men and women in scripture who are, you know, kinda crazy emotional? They all have this thing in common: The were ferocious at praying--at pouring out their cries and feelings to God. We would do well to take note and do likewise I believe.
Every single emotion you have should be processed in prayer. ~Tim Keller