Peace: A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Things used to freak me out a lot. I’m a person with a short fuse, descended from a long line of people with short fuses, and when I ran into a setback or some other form of adversity, I could lose my temper fast. I would get angry, and most people didn’t like me when I was angry. If I wasn’t getting angry, I was otherwise pushing the “panic” button.

I find that, these days, I’m seldom like that. I can’t even remember the last time I got angry or upset. The biggest reason for the change is that I’ve learned peace.

N. T. Wright explains it as follows:

Joy: A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

Joy is a Christian virtue that I find especially difficult. When life is going well, you don’t need to be told to have it. When life isn’t going well, having it is nearly impossible.

The Bible tells us otherwise. It tells us to be joyful, even in tribulation (James 1:2-4). Gotta admit, still getting there.

What I do know is that, when I look back over my life at the times when I have been most filled with joy, I see that those moments occurred after painful trials. Moments like:

  • When I was accepted to my undergraduate school, having been rejected the first time I applied and having spent the previous six months trying to improve my high school résumé for the re-application.
  • When my son was born after an emotionally difficult pregnancy, and after 8 hours of laboring without pain medication.
  • When I finished my master’s degree in spite of my ex-husband’s abandonment.

I may not have always had joy while these things were going on, but once I overcame them, the joy I experienced was nearly overwhelming. I’m not sure this would have been the case without the preceding experience of pain.

The victory and promise of Jesus is that his people can and will, someday, overcome all things. Even death.


Love: A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent

Realizing that I was not loved turned out to be one of the hardest parts of my divorce journey.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I do not believe Ephesians 5 applies to modern-day marriages any more than Ephesians 6 applies to modern-day slavery. That said, those who do believe Ephesians 5 applies to modern-day marriage seem to spend enormous amounts of time agonizing over what female submission should look like: its theory, its practical applications, its limits.

Seems to me that they ought to spend a lot more time agonizing over what male love should look like. In general, there is far more benefit to be derived by pondering what love is and how it should be applied than there is benefit derived from pondering submission, obedience, and subjection. Jesus said that all of the law and the prophets hung on the commandments to love God and love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). That’s how important love is.


Hope: A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

On October 29th, 2013, I asked my husband of ten years for a divorce.

Our newborn son was one month old, exactly. The previous nine months had served up near non-stop, blinding emotional pain. The pain of his glaring and inappropriate devotion to his co-worker, the pain of his declaration that supporting the family and keeping a roof over our heads were my problems (not his), the pain of job interviews spent trying to hide my baby bump with strategic wardrobe choices, and the pain of nights spent not knowing where my husband was, having to deal with his lame excuses when he finally materialized the next day.

I remember visiting a two-bedroom apartment model and looking around, then closing my eyes. I pictured me and my children living there, on our own, surviving, even thriving. I pictured my unborn child’s crib in the master bedroom with me, my daughter occupying the other room. No more surprises in the bank account, no more waking up in the middle of the night and wondering where my husband was.

I opened my eyes and sighed. Those apartments might as well have been on the moon. No one was ever going to rent one to me when I had no job and no savings.

And yet, there was the hope of a better life, even if I had to go to the moon to get there. So I set my sights above, and I set out.


Eat This E-Reader: A Reflection on Reading the Bible

I’m old-fashioned about many things. I didn’t own a smart phone until 2014. I still believe in saving sex for marriage (and frankly, all of you “very serious” Christians announcing on your OKCupid profiles that you’ll have sex “within 3-5 dates” need to read 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and repent). And I love me a good, paper-and-glue book. I’m a proud member of Book of the Month Club (est. 1926) and they deliver me a hardcover copy of a 2017 new release every month.

I was also pretty stubborn about sticking to a paper copy of the Bible for daily readings. Until recently.


Disabled Kids in Church: Remembering Pastor Ed

Trying to manage disabled kids in church is hard.

I was attending a small church in Tacoma in 2008. It was so small, it met in a yoga studio. There was an area for childcare, but my 2-year-old daughter had a lot of separation anxiety and could be difficult for the workers to manage, so I sometimes kept her in the main service with me. She would entertain herself by running from one end of the back of the room to the other.

One day, I mentioned to someone from church that I thought it was adorable when she did this. He frowned and replied, “Some people would find it distracting.”

I didn’t say anything, but my heart froze. Distracting. My disabled toddler was being distracting.

It’s been 9 years since that day. I now have two disabled children, and accusations that my children are difficult or distracting during church still periodically crop up. (more…)

We Need to Talk About Heavenly mother!

[Part 2: mother! Explained, Heavy Spoilers]

There are two main theories on Darren Aronofsky’s provocative mother!:

  • It’s a film about environmentalism. Jennifer Lawrence is Gaia / the Earth Mother / the Spirit of the Earth. The house is Earth. The people who assail the house, invited in by Javier Bardem (“Him” on the credits, but I’ll just call him “the Poet” or “God”), represent humanity and its destructive effect on the planet.
  • It’s a film about the events of the Bible. Ed Harris is Adam / Man (complete with the fresh wound of a missing rib), Michelle Pfeiffer is Eve / Woman, the smashing of God’s precious glass curio by the Woman represents the Fall, the couple’s sons are Cain and Abel, Cain murders Abel, a flood temporarily wipes out humanity from the Earth, Jesus Christ is born then murdered with the people of earth ritually partaking of his body, and the Apocalypse wipes out the earth.

It’s clear that the filmmakers intended some version of each of these interpretations, but they don’t entirely blend well together at first. How is Earth the mother of Jesus Christ? And who is Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the biblical events? Michael J. Knowles of Daily Wire suggests that Jennifer Lawrence isn’t Mother Earth, but a sympathetic Satan whose negative perceptions of God as a generous but egotistic maniac can be attributed to unreliable narration.

Which is interesting, but 100% wrong. The film tells us exactly who Satan is when Lawrence finds the ripped-up picture of her husband on the floor, horns and demon eyes drawn onto it. See also the flames that encompass Bardem on the movie poster (above). In this movie, God and Satan are one and the same.

The key to understanding mother! and winding these two narratives together is to remember that there isn’t just one Mother in the film. There are three.

And all three of them are deities (more…)

We Need to Talk About Heavenly mother!

[Part 1: Spoiler-Free Review]

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (yes, the title is uncapitalized with an explanation point) has been getting some well-deserved buzz in spite of a lukewarm performance at the box office. The film ekes out a 67% “certified fresh” rating among critics at Rotten Tomatoes, but received a rare F grade from audiences at CinemaScore, with many audience members declaring it to have been “the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen in” their lives.

And they’re not wrong.

But I can’t stop thinking about it.

This is one of those films where the less said about the plot, the better. (more…)

Anna: The Woman Preaching in Your Bible

*The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple* by James Tissot, 1894

“Women are not called to public preaching!”

I’ve honestly never understood people who take this position given that the Bible contains a very specific example of a woman preaching in public:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to [Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)

Some notes on this passage:

– The temple was both public and holy.

– Anna is noted as holding an authoritative calling (prophet). Paul said that the church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20) and that prophets were second in authority after apostles but before teachers and those with gifts of leadership (1 Corinthians 12:28).

– The text takes pains to establish Anna’s holiness. The wife of one husband (1 Timothy 5:9) then widowed, one who frequently fasted and prayed, and one who never left the temple.

– Most notably, Anna spoke about Jesus Christ not just to Mary and Joseph, but “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” In other words, this was not some doting grandmother figure uttering a private prayer over a sweet little newborn. Her meeting with the infant Christ prompted her to turn and preach Jesus Christ to all those gathered there who were expecting a Messiah.

I honestly have no idea how complementarians and other hierarchists try to conform this passage to their anti-woman theology, but I’ll hazard some guesses:


Can History’s Flawed Heroes Save Robert E. Lee?

We’re all upset about that Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, it seems. Either we’re upset over its proposed removal or we’re upset that it’s still there. The rally carried out by a group of torch-wielding “white nationalists” was probably counter-productive in that, now, any chance that the statue had of being seen as a remnant of a complicated and heart-breaking conflict in human history (which is what it is) rather than a clarion call of undiluted racism, has evaporated.

The Activist Mommy thinks she has the solution! They can’t take down the statue of Robert E. Lee (or other confederate monuments) unless they also take down the bust of “racist” Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger . . . can they? She explains:

As a Washington Times article from earlier this year points out, Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood “on racism [and the] belief in protecting society against ‘the unfit.’”

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” she wrote in one 1939 letter to a friend.

A look at the numbers proves that Sanger’s dream for Planned Parenthood has been realized; currently, Planned Parenthood kills more black people than all other causes of death combined.

Think about that for a moment.

The founder of Planned Parenthood was racist in her ambitions. Her organization today continues to exterminate black babies at alarming rates.

The Activist Mommy is dead wrong in her assessment of Sanger. The quote on exterminating blacks appears on dozens of right-wing blogs and newspapers accusing Sanger—and pretty much nowhere else.

That’s because it’s out of context and ambiguously worded in and of itself. (more…)