Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Artists are Funny Specimens of Humanity and Children Need to Not Slam Doors

We artists are funny specimens of humanity. We are "irony." In all our (I am being generous here with the use of "our," as I probably don't fit this stereotype) strivings to be unique, we become typical, usual in our uniqueness, common in our uncommonness.

[I interrupt myself a moment to interject a real "ponderance" that parents have undoubtedly pondered since time's beginning...or rather since the beginning of doors. Why can children not seem to close them quietly? Why must they be slammed, no matter the amount of pleading and shushing to shut them properly? This slice of reality brought to you in part by my door-slamming children.]

But back to artists and conformity masquerading as non-conformity. I looked at a picture of a group of artists and was struck by the oddly-red hair, the various Flat Caps (or Scally Caps or Salmon Hats or Smack Hats or whichever other name you should choose of the approximately 30 options for this type of cap), the poodle with similarly frizzy-fur-haired owner, and realized something. I didn't need to be told what profession these colorful (sometimes literally) aberrations belonged to. They were artists, naturally. Perhaps, then, an artist would do well to achieve uniqueness-success by being distinctly and decidedly normal...if the end-goal is simply the high rank of uniqueness, that is.

For me, the end goal is not uniqueness. Maybe I am unique and maybe I am yawningly mass-produced humanity. All I know is that I do what I do because I am who I am in Christ. If I'm a little odd or off, that is just the God-created me. If I'm not...well, that is just another part of me...the comfortingly normal part.

And that's all the musings and puzzlings I have about we artists...at this moment in time, while I await another slamming door, alerting me to hungry children ready for their dinner.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cease from Strife

Proverbs 20:3 "It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling."

The Strong's Concordance defines the word "strife" as it's used in this verse several ways: "Chiding," "contention", and "pleading." But the most interesting definition, to me, is "contest." The word "meddling," likewise, is defined as "obstinate." Often, when those closest to us, such as our spouses, make instigative remarks, the first thing we want to do is fight back. We see the impending argument as a contest that we are determined to win and we quickly become obstinate in our position. We may feel that we have a right to respond, especially when we perceive the remark as completely untrue. It's so easy to retaliate when someone hurts us or makes us angry, isn't it? How often do we respond in a godly manner and instead choose to turn the other cheek or bridle our tongues?

When we stand before the Lord in Heaven, He will not judge us on the actions of others, but He will judge us on our own responses. Do we "cease from strife" or are we "meddling"? Do we keep quiet and let the argument go or do we dig in our heels and try to prove ourselves right? God doesn't care who's right! He will not ask us who or what caused us to say harsh words. He will ask us why we responded in like manner. Take a moment to consider. Are you and honorable person, or a fool?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ Is Risen!

Three words. The number of completion. Christ is Risen! The thought so overwhelmed me that I needed to share it. I needed to tell someone! I told the people in the trailer park. I told the man in the car with his windows down. I told all of God's creation! I rolled my windows down, turned up my stereo, and "told" whoever happened to be within range of my car, my mobile church-of-sorts. And it felt strangely thrilling to be an anonymous messenger of the Truth on this day of victory. "Come awake, come awake!" Do you know what this day is about, children playing in the dirt? Do you know what this day is about, man with your arm out the window? Do you know what this day is about, birds, trees, rocks? Yes, rocks, you know. You will cry it out if I don't! (Luke 19:40)

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven's will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer's crown
No burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead
He's alive! He's alive!

Does your heart leap at these thoughts, like it's going to burst out of you? Does the thought of what Christ did for you thrill you? He conquered death with death! The beautiful eternal irony. We live because He died. He sees us as perfect because He saw His Son as sinful. He loved us. We hated him. We die in order to live...die to self to live for Him. The irony of the cross.

Do you know the beautiful irony?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Konur's Testimony

Today we have a guest writer! :) My son, Konur, dictated this testimony to me at age 6 and our pastor read it at his baptism. I know I'm partial, but I think it's pretty moving.

When I was 5 years old, I became a Christian. I thought that everything I was doing was wicked. I heard about Jesus at church and I thought I needed to be a Christian but I didn't become a Christian right after church. I wanted to talk to my mom first. Then after a while, I thought it was time. So, that night after everything was over and my mom had tucked me in for bed, I thought, It would be nicer to be a Christian than to have to die in hell and die in pain. So then I thought, So I should be a Christian. So then I got out of bed and knelt down on the floor and prayed, “Dear Lord, I would like to be a Christian because I do not want to die in all kinds of horrible pain wishing that I had prayed to go to heaven. So, please help me to do better in what I do and to follow Your Word. Please take away my sins.” And then I got up from praying and got in bed and before I went to sleep I thought about how wonderful heaven might be if someday I died. And then I thought some more about how wonderful heaven would be and about one day seeing Jesus. I thought about what would be in heaven. Then I fell asleep dreaming more about heaven and how heaven would look someday when I died and I dreamed about one day seeing Jesus.

I slept until 7:00 and I felt better than I had ever felt. I usually had to stretch, but that day I didn't have to stretch. I felt so much better to know that I just became a Christian. The rest of the day was the best day I've had in my life. I think being a Christian changed my life so much that I am very glad I prayed that night to Jesus. One of the changes is being nicer to my sister. I think I have been really nice to my sister these days and I really think I have been getting closer to Jesus each day because I prayed. And I think that I should give more stuff to poor people because they don't have much stuff and we do. Every day since the day I became a Christian turns out very well and I think it's all because I became a Christian and I love the Lord so much. I want to thank the Lord for hearing my prayer and for letting me be a Christian.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Refutation of “Motherhood Bliss!”

Few things will stir up a woman's heart like the topic of mothering. So it must be handled with a liberal dose of grace and love, as well as truth. That is why an article that uses emotional language such as “abandon” and “hardening the heart” in reference to any method of parenting is sure to cause offense. Add Scripture, pulled out of context and used inaccurately, and you have a recipe for real controversy and a legitimate reason for the feelings of offense.

Recently, I read an article by Amie Gray on the Above Rubies website entitled “Motherhood Bliss!” that followed this recipe ingredient by ingredient. It offended me on three levels: my spirit, my intellect, and my heart. Had it been a simple offense of my intellect or heart, I could overlook it as a mere misguided view of one person, a response not necessarily being warranted. However, because it offended my spirit. . . that is, it was spiritually misguided and used Scripture out of context to support this perspective. . . and because it was posted on a fairly prominent Christian website, I felt I must respond. When Scripture is used wrongly to support any viewpoint, I believe it must be corrected lest anyone feel a sense of misplaced guilt or judgment.

First, I feel the need to explain my own “qualifications”, due to the nature of the article and the fact that I am refuting it. I am a mother, very similar to the author. I likely share many of her views. I am a Christian. I homeschool. I home birth. I home just-about-everything! I love my role as mother and keeper of my home (cleaning excepted, perhaps). And of course, I love my children, as much as the author clearly loves her own. However, the point where I do disagree with the author is the point where this article seems to imply that I don't, in fact, love my children because of the method of parenting I choose for my children during their babyhood.

I have never been a big “labeler”. Often, labels seem to confuse and distort rather than clarify. They may be a convenient convention when trying to communicate without
long explanation, but they are invariably weighted down with assumptions and prejudices. What is meant by one person's use of a label can be interpreted completely differently by another. The terms “attachment parenting” (AP) and the “Babywise” method or “parent-directed feeding” (PDF) are no different. Mention your
adherence to either method, and you may be in for a verbal brawl! Ultimately, however, we should be neither child-directed nor parent-directed. We should be God-directed! And, quite frankly, I know many in both the AP and PDF camps that are just that. They take principles from the method and let God direct them with how to apply those principles in their own families. I also see parents who subscribe to AP who allow their babies to direct the entire family, which is held hostage to his or her wants. And I see parents who subscribe to PDF who selfishly dictate schedules, ignoring their baby's needs. And I see some who are at varying points on both sides of the scale.

The point I am making is this: A label cannot tell us everything we need to know, either about the method or about those using it. It has inherent limitations. Therefore, to make harsh judgments against one method or the other is to paint all
parents using that particular method in a less-than-flattering light, based on assumptions. To further bring in Scripture to support one's judgment is to prescribe a heavy dose of guilt to one who may be completely free of that particular sin-sickness.

So, now that the foundation has been laid, let's take a look at the article and discuss the problems, bearing these thoughts in mind, as I, too, am limited by the labels and by my own interpretation of how Gray is using them.

The article opens with a beautiful
background story of the author's life experiences and her coming to know the Lord as her savior. She clearly loves motherhood! And for that tender heart, I have great respect. Then, at the end of the following paragraph, the first mental red flag goes up:

In the same way God designed our bodies to give birth naturally, He designed us to mother naturally. I felt like I had stumbled upon some ancient mystery, and I knew the reason behind all those happy babies and children at the LLL meetings. Whether their parents knew God or not, they were raising their babies according to His design and received the blessings for following His plan! (emphasis mine).

Statements like this always make me nervous. Any time one makes the claim that a
certain practice, method, or action is “according to God's design”, we should stop and ask if this is a true claim. In this paragraph, Gray is stating that the methods of La Leche League are God-ordained. This seems a weighty and dangerous claim and needs to be rightly supported with Scripture. We go on to examine whether or not she will accomplish this.

On the tail of this claim, Gray quotes the following verses:

Isaiah 66:11-13 says, “For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. For this is what the LORD says: ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.’”

The picture of a mother's love is certainly a beautiful comparison of God's love for
Israel. But a support for attachment parenting? A refutation of parent-directed-feeding? I don't believe so.

Gray goes on to examine the lives of two biblical mothers: Eve and Mary. The problem is, she does not use Scripture in this examination, but rather her own visualization of their lives. For example, of Eve she states, “I can envision her carrying her baby throughout the day, and the new family sleeping all curled up together at night, just as God intended. A beautiful picture of simplicity and love.” (emphasis mine). Granted, we do have historical information that helps us in an understanding of the culture in ancient times. However, where the Bible is not clear, should we be building a philosophy off of our own interpretations? Should we assume that Mary followed the culture exactly? And assuming she did, can we take that as a mandate to our lives today? (WWMD?) She may have been a good model in many ways but, Mary, too, was human. She and Joseph scolded Jesus for remaining
behind in the temple during a trip to Jerusalem when He was a boy when in fact, Jesus was simply about His Father's business, doing His will. Further, there is nothing in the Bible admonishing us to follow the culture of its time. We are not commanded to greet our brothers with a “holy kiss”. We are not admonished to eat reclined around our tables. And we are not required to wash our feet before entering
a home. Learning from past cultures and gleaning wisdom from them is fine. Being bound by ancient practices in order to attain some sort of spirituality is legalism.

Further, the author states that Mary “had no clocks for feeding schedules, no bottles, no separate sleeping room for her baby, and no 'experts' writing books claiming to have a better way to raise her baby.” Do
we know this as fact? I think if I were Mary, I would have been using that sundial! And Jesus' first bed was a crib of the most humble makings, not a “family hay-pile”. I also suspect that there were just as many “experts” in Mary's day as we have today. Solomon wisely states that “there is nothing new under the sun.” If there are opinions on mothering, they have been already been seen in this world. Gray does, however, make an important point in the paragraph when she goes on to say, “They listened to the one true Expert, our Lord Himself! I believe both mothers did what came naturally, following their God-given instincts and mothers’ hearts.” Yes! That is the key! None of us should be enslaved to any method or expert opinion. We should all be subject to the one true Expert parent...our Father God...and the Holy Spirit that He has placed within us!

However, Gray's writing unfortunately betrays this sentiment. The next line states of the mothers in Mary's culture, “They did not harden their hearts to their babies’ cries,” implying that PDF parenting relies on a mother hardening her heart. To this, many who espouse the parent-directed approach under the direction of the Holy Spirit (this author included) would take offense. And she further goes on,
The Bible talks about the peacock who is deprived of wisdom and understanding because she is 'hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers.' (Job 36:13-17)”
Again, I would kindly challenge Gray's use of Scripture to refute PDF. Scheduling feedings is not inherently a choice to harden one's heart against her baby! This is another instance where assumptions are made about the methodology and those using it.

Gray addresses the issue of putting others' needs above our own:

Then there is Jesus Himself. In Luke 6:31 He tells us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Matthew 18:33, He said, “Shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellow servant,
even as I had pity on thee?” Jesus wants us to put other’s needs above our own.

course we agree on this point! But, again, are these biblical references an indictment against PDF? There is a difference between putting the baby's needs above our own and making the baby the director of the home. Let me give an example. If my young child eats lunch at 12:00 and then asks for a snack at 1:00, am I putting my needs above his if I gently say, “No, Sweetie, I think you need to wait a little longer because you have just eaten”? Or am I, conversely, training my child to eat at regular intervals so that our family life can run more smoothly and he or she will learn to eat more at meals? Certainly, this gets tricker with a baby, but babies need to also learn such lessons. They need to be taught that they are not the center of the family, and they are quite capable of learning this! The difference is, we do our baby-training with a heavy dose of grace, knowing that babies are fragile and cannot communicate in words. That is where the “motherly instinct”, as Gray refers to it, comes in. Or to say it in another way, that is where we should be
God-directedand listen to His voice!

goes on:

In Matthew 25:35-45, He says, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing... And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these, my
brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”

Who is the “least of these” more than a helpless baby or child? When He said to give a drink to the thirsty, certainly He includes our own baby, when he/she cries out for it.

this verse is being misused to pass guilt on those who do not necessarily deserve to have such guilt heaped upon them. There is a difference between a mother's flat refusal to feed her hungry child and a mother's gentle training in scheduling. On the whole, a PDF mother does not simply refuse to feed her child. As the verses Gray
quotes even state, no normal mother can do that! It is contrary to the loving nature of a mother. She simply “tells” that child that he or she must learn to wait. We need to put others' needs in front of our own, while
teaching our children from the earliest age that they are to do the same! Here is where we must seek wisdom in attaining that difficult balance.

God wants us to love our children the same way He loves us, and not forsake them in their time of helplessness. Listen to what the Bible says in Isaiah 49:15, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” I will have to answer to God someday about how I cared for the “least of these” in my own home when they were in need. I want to be sure I did my best for Him.

We live in a modern world, but this neither changes God’s design nor alters God’s best. God never changes. By mothering this way, I teach my children about God. I show them every moment how God is always available for us, how He does not abandon us when we need Him.

the implications of the preceding paragraphs are fairly unkind towards PDF. Gray seems to say that if I use a parent-directed approach to feeding, I am “forsaking them in their time of helplessness” and teaching my children that I might abandon them.One should be extremely cautious about painting a method with such broad strokes of judgment.

brings the article to a close by telling more of her own motherhood experiences
. . . how she loves sleeping with her baby and husband and carrying her baby close to her throughout the day. If this works for Gray and her family, then that is wonderful for them! Personally, I would find the intimacy of my relationship with my husband greatly affected. As wives, we are to put our husbands first after God and I believe children need to understand this family order from the earliest age so that there is never any doubt or insecurity. In our home, we constantly remind our children that they are third to Daddy's heart. I am second after God. From the beginning, they need to understand their place in the family structure. The way in which we teach them this is an individual decision for the parents. But I would be hesitant to have my baby in my marriage bed with me, as I believe it would be too easy for my children to become a greater focus than would be healthy to my marriage.

Finally, I would address the author's comment about her baby never crying in the four months of his life, due to her attachment style of parenting. Beyond the fact that one baby cannot be used as evidence to support an entire philosophy (could this not be a simple correlation?), I would address the negative view of crying. While I think that parents should not be hardened toward their children, they should also not be upset by or fearful of a crying baby. Tears are a part of this life. Pain is a part of this life. Even God allows it in the lives of His children. He does not keep us in some kind of “padded” world to avoid all of life's bumps and bruises. He knows that with pain comes growth. He knows that we need stretching at times so that we may learn to lean on Him and be better equipped for
whatever else may come to us. As an example, we have at times warned our children of an impending accident and then, if unheeded, allowed them to fall and get hurt. These are the lessons best learned because of the pain they associated with it.

We as parents are the “God-figures” in the lives of our children. We do not purposefully put them through the kind of pain that would damage them or erode their trust, but we must help them learn to stretch and grow by sometimes allowing discomfort. We must care not just for their physical bodies, but for their spiritual ones, as well.
By scheduling my baby and allowing him or her to sometimes be in a bit of discomfort, I am teaching him or her that there are times of “discomfort” in life (more often, true pain!) and that we must yield to them. I am laying the foundation for their trust in God. Teaching gently from birth helps the child learn this in a gradual manner rather than abruptly when he or she is older and has already been inadvertently taught that life is never a bit uncomfortable and that whatever he or she wants is there for immediate disposal.

closes with this statement:

God’s way is about the heart, the connectedness between moms and babies, rather than rules, so-called experts, and schedules.

Yes, we can agree that God's way is about the heart. And, while I disagree with much of her article, I believe Gray has a beautiful mother's heart and I commend her for that. But I'm simply not willing to agree with the article's implication that there is no place for rules and schedules (and even some carefully chosen “experts”. . . i.e., older women in the church as in Titus 2:3-4), as long as the focus remains on the heart! And I believe God substantiates this all throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament laws, to the Ten Commandments, to the Beatitudes. He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it and show us the way. He showed us how to abide by the rules, while focusing on the heart. The heart is of primary importance, but rules and schedules are still there to help guide us. Whether a proponent of attachment parenting or parent-directed feeding, the focus should always be ultimately on the heart and on what is best for the family as a whole, keeping the God-ordained order of subjection in place (God, husband, wife, children). And we
must not judge another mother based on a mere label, which will nearly always be an inadequate characterization and never a good substitution for a full conversation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If one reads my "About Me", they may wonder about that. Friend-in-Training? Why not just say "Friend"? But it seems an entirely appropriate moniker. To bestow upon myself the title of "Friend" feels presumptuous to me. Jesus calls Himself our "Friend". Do I live up to that? I think not! I have much to learn about being a Friend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And Thus Begins My Blog.

My blog! Irony is the fact that I have not yet had one. I feel the need to pour out words on paper like...(well, the word picture that instantly popped into my head is not too flattering to my skills. Let's find something better.)...like...I don't know. And the irony continues.

But here's a funny bit of information for you. While I was looking for a URL (thinking I might go with the hosting company I already use for other sites), I had a few humorous automatically-generated suggestions from the domain name service. PiecesOfMyMind.com was, unfortunately and not surprisingly, taken. However, if I act fast, I can be the proud owner of "PiecesOfCakeMyMind.com". Flip it around and you're onto something: "PiecesOfMyCakeMind.com". Now who wouldn't want a piece of mind-cake! I'll take one! Maybe then I could think of some clever little word picture to slip into the beginning of this somewhat useless post.

At any rate, welcome to my strange and eclectic world. Tell your friends.