Friday, November 30, 2012

Marriage and the church's handling it: A Retrospective List About a List

A looong time ago, early high school, there was this fad at the church I went to at the time, and probably other churches too, that had the teenage girls (I don't know about the boys) make a list of features they wanted their future husband to have/be.  Of course they didn't want us to just put stuff like "must be super hott".  They wanted us to think of the character of this alleged future husband of ours and they told us that in doing that, God would honor our list.  He would actually give us even better than our  list.  Oh Golly!, even better than our list?  I, of course, made a list.  I was trying to be super deep.  I actually think that was the time in my life when I was convinced that I would get married.  Even more than now, when people are getting married like it's the flu shot.  They told us that while God was making him (future husband) into the man I needed him to be, God was making me into the perfect woman for him.  Nice sentiment, huh?  I'm not entirely sure what the overall objective was for this whole list-preparing-yourself-for-your-future-spouse ordeal was; perhaps to keep us from having sex (that will likely always be the objective, in some underground way), perhaps to focus on our relationship with God, perhaps to grasp the holiness of marriage, perhaps to have us be in constant pursuit of becoming better people (even if only for your future spouse).  I don't know exactly what they were trying to accomplish, but I don't exactly agree with the mentality.

1) Marriage isn't guaranteed.  Getting teenage girls (and boys) all amped up about marriage when there's no guarantee they will actually ever get married seems terrible.  While this is the South, and people get married ridiculously young down here, not everyone gets married.  Having girls focus their hearts so fiercely on marriage seems sadistic.  Yes, you'll likely, more than not, get married, but what if you don't?  Does that mean something's wrong with you?  No, but, to me, it does mean you wasted a heck of a lot of time prepping for something that's not even happening.  I think this 'marriage will happen' mentality will inevitably backfire for anyone who expected to be married by a certain age and then isn't.

2) Purposeful life.  Raising girls to think that their sole purpose on this Earth is to be the best wife ever is wrong.  There's nothing wrong with being a wonderful wife, but that's not all you are.  And you certainly shouldn't glean your value from how good a wife/mother you are.  Our value as human beings rests not in what we do or don't do, not even if we do it well, our value rests in what/who our Creator says we are.  We are His beloved and He sees us as His Bride, His Love.  Being seen as so valuable by the Creator of the Universe is far more impressive than being liked and loved by faulty humans.

3) Useless Prayer.  Prayer's great, like really awesome.  I think nothing's too small/big/major/minor/augmented/diminished/whatever to pray about.  But I do often wonder if God gets annoyed at our prayers.  Something that I was taught was to always be praying for my future husband, praying that he was becoming and being the man of God I want and need for him to be.  That's a nice enough prayer right?  But I was taught to not just drop a prayer in the jar for him occasionally, but to always be praying for him.  Everyday.  To me, that seems a lot like nagging God.  Hey God, you're still molding my husband right?  Is he gonna be as handsome as I like?  Can he play the guitar?  Is it true about opposites attracting?  Have I already met him?  When am I gonna meet him?  Please let him be a vegetarian.  Are you still working on him?  Can it be that guy, he's super hott.  Is he gonna like me?  I mean seriously, already obsessing over this man before having met him seems like a terrible idea.  It's okay to wonder and pray about him/her, but to constantly be bringing it up to God seems like you don't trust God enough to just work.  He's the Creator of Time, He doesn't need constant reminders about your future spouse.  And He certainly doesn't feel pressured to work on your schedule.  Why don't you focus your prayer on Him (God) and how you can be more like Him.  Or, brace yourself, pray about something other than yourself and your life; there are few wars happening right now.

(just to go on record and say that this above prayer isn't at all useless, it's quite beautiful; I just think of this when I think of prayer)

4) Intrinsic Responsibility.  Something that's hard to teach my students is the intrinsic motivation to do the right thing.  They want stickers/points/tickets/candy/rewards (all of which are extrinsic motivators) for doing good things.  Good things like: fixing my chairs at the end of class, letting someone be in front of them in line (this is actually a HUGE deal for all grade levels), finishing their work on time, all stuff they should just do because it's the right thing.  But we want a world of people who do the right thing because it's the right thing.  We want people who practice self control because they know it's healthy for them and others and not because they can get something they want later.  Telling girls/boys to keep pure and live a Jesus filled life BECAUSE you don't want to make your spouse feel cheated (because he's/she's not your first or because you have a less than pristine past) seems a lot like extrinsically guilting them into doing the right thing.  Why don't we try a different approach and let youth experience, freely, the love and life God has for each of us.  It's not like we could ever earn God's love and approval so why should we be busting our butts for beings that matter less than God.  How about teaching youth to stay pure and live a Jesus filled life because that's the way it's meant to be.  Why twist their arm saying they'll be disappointing their future spouse?  They don't even know their future spouse or if said spouse even exists.  I want youth, and everyone, to have an intrinsic responsibility to do the right thing because it's what's best for them and everyone else, because that's how their life is meant to be led.

5) Embracing Youth.  Also, why are we having kids focus so hard on marriage?  Isn't it illegal for kids to get married, or something?  Yes, children grow into adults, adults typically get married.  But if we're doing a good job of modeling wonderful marriages and of raising intrinsically motivated people, then why do we have to have this big even when talking about marriage and family?  Children have so much to worry about just being youth.  They have the ever competitive school, they have have puberty (which takes up a large part of their brain power), they have peer relationships, they have so many things they need to think about.  Let's not preoccupy them with a possible future marriage added to their load.  They have enough responsibilities as youths to think about, why add something very adult to their plate.  Of course what they do in their youth effects their futures, but if they are becoming wonderful human beings (who are compassionate, respectful, communicative, and responsible), then the transition to adulthood, with all it's glory, will not be nearly as bumpy as people anticipate.  Kids shouldn't be worried or preoccupied about adult things, they should simply be becoming.

I really wish the Church did a better a job at growing youth with a healthy view on marriage.  I know there are presumptions about marriage I am dealing with now because of how marriage was handled in the churches I went to as a child.  I know that marriage isn't something I'll truly understand unless I'm married, but that's really all that needs to be said to kids.  Don't try to explain away the holiness of it, just tell the kids it may or may not happen, but you are no more or no less whether it happens to you or not.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I am thankful

Just shy of three weeks I have been in constant pain, all day, every day.  Sometimes the pain is managed through slowing down and taking deep breaths, but as the weeks have progressed, the pain is less manageable and I have had to take large amounts of meds every few hours to be able to function as I normally would.  It's been frustrating and exhausting and confusing, and, at times, debilitating.  I know there are people who have/do face worse pain longer than I have, but this is a very new thing for me.  This week's post, I have decided to reflect on the things I'm thankful for.  For obvious reasons, I hope.  But also because it's easy, at least for me, to let my circumstances and fleeting emotions cloud all the greatness in my life.  Yes, there are always going to be serious, difficult things to overcome or tolerate in life, that's unavoidable, but to let them taint the goodness in life is your choice.  Choose wisely.
Here's what I'm thankful for, in no particular order.

1) Money.  Although I don't like the effect people let it have on them, it is necessary to function in this world.  I have three jobs, none of which I'm super fond of, that enable me to make enough money to live month to month.  I think I'm technically living within the poverty bracket, but I live a comfortable enough life and don't ask for much.

2) Childlessness.  I work with kids a lot.  And the more I teach and care for kids, the more I am grateful that I am not a mother or have any direct responsibility in the 24/7 well being of a small human.  I don't hate kids; I love teaching them and I tolerate nannying them, but the thought of actually raising kids is a recurring nightmare of mine.  I don't have a desire to flex that maternal muscle of mine (if I even have said muscle). Click on this.

3) Residency.  I live in a big house with four other women. The house is a safe place for all of us to discuss sweet & savory topics authentically and freely.  I look forward to going home because I know there's a dear friend who lives across the hall/across the loft/down the stairs from me...and that makes me feel loved and known.  We make each other better.

4) Health.  Yea, I've been feeling pretty crappy the past few weeks, but overall I'm a healthy person.  I'm grateful for all my body can do.

5) Loved Ones.  The last couple of weeks I have felt filled to the brim with love, from receiving and from giving, for people.  Just people in general.  I often feel really hurt by people; I'll take everything personally or feel like I can't speak my mind because I'll hurt someone else.  But I've gotten to spend quality time with friends & family in Greensboro, Winston Salem, Charlotte, Concord and I am thankful for each of their lives.  Not just because they are a part of mine, but because they are making this world a more bearable place to live.  Thanks y'all.

6) Books.  I have always loved reading.  I've been reading since I can remember and it's stayed a huge part of me.  Right now, I'm being intentional about always having a book I'm reading.  I'll read this book when (if) I go to the gym and after the kids I'm babysitting have gone to bed (or are taking a nap).  Reading has been a constant means for me to escape my world and learn about the World.  It's made me better.  Right now, I'm re-reading Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.  This book, this writing, literally gives me chills by the pages.  Griffin is a sensational writer and his true experiences he recorded have made me hold my breath, laugh, cry, gasp, despair, and every other emotion under the Sun.  The book isn't just about civil rights for Negroes (in the late 1950's), it's about being human, the human condition.  I, essentially, want to quote the entire book to you.  So much goodness.

7) Singleness.  Today, I am content being single.  I'm glad women can not just live, but live well, without having to be married (with kids) first.  I'm glad my worth isn't wrapped up in another human, even if it is a great man.  The longer I'm single, and the more I grow up, the more I'm learning what I'd like and need in a man if I'm to be married to him.  I used to think I needed to have a very specific list of everything I wanted and (thought) I needed in a man.  Then I ditched the list and 'just trusted God to provide the perfect man for me'.  Now, through different experiences, I'm redefining what the 'perfect' man for me looks like.  I know he's just a man and no human will ever be flawless, so I don't expect him to fulfill me 100%, only God can.  Whether I stay single forever or I eventually get married, I always want to live a life full of love and joy.  I basically want to be awesome all the time.

Alrighty folks!  What you thankful for?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top 9 Worst Christmas Songs

I'm a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to the Holiday Season.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE CHRISTMAS and get all gooshy when talking about how great of a Savior Jesus is to be coming to this earth as a helpless baby.  I really do love Christmas.  I don't love the Christmas/Holiday 'Spirit'; what is this 'Spirit' and why does it look a lot like a neutered Winter celebration partnered with consumerism?  The true meaning of Christmas isn't family time and giving (that should be year round), the true meaning of Christmas is celebration and adoration of the arrival of the Savior of mankind.

So you might imagine that I dislike Holiday songs.  That is both true and false.  I love Christmas songs rich in the Gospel, telling how God came to His Earth to save His people because He loves us.  Those songs are beautifully written and have such sweet language, they capture the true meaning of Christmas.  Then there are those songs that only come out during the Holiday Season, but really don't have anything to do with actual Christmas.  Some of those songs I don't mind, some make me angry because they're so inappropriate/dumb/shallow/ugly.  Also, please keep in mind I've been in band since I was 10.  In band/orchestra/chorus (and in my music classroom now) we start preparing/rehearsing Holiday music in October.  I kid you not.  So by the time Christmas and Hanukkah (we don't really play any Kwanzaa songs because there aren't really any) actually arrive we've been over the music since mid November.  We've heard and played the songs ad nauseam.

Here is a list of (in my opinion) the worst Christmas/Holiday/Winter Season songs.  These are not all of the worst ones, just some.  In no particular order.

1) Frosty, the Snowman.  I never really cared for the song, I never requested it.  But this year my second and third graders are singing it for the school's Winter Program and, upon typing out the words, I realized what a truly terrible song this is.  It's about this snowman who comes to life and leads this group of kids into town knowing that he's gonna melt and leave the kids alone.  Why aren't the kids' parents stopping them from following a snowman?  Why would said snowman lead kids into the streets of town?  Why would Frosty purposefully go out in the sun, with kids in his care, when he knew he would just melt?  He essentially stole a bunch of kids and then stranded him.  Also he smokes, which makes no sense on several different levels.  People think this song's jolly, it's not.

2) Santa, Baby.  This song captures, perfectly, the consumerism of Christmas.  The song is literally a woman rattling off her Christmas list in a seductive tone to Santa Claus.  Santa is married and you are a grown woman...materialistic home-wrecker.

3) Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  The only redeeming quality of this song is that it helps me remember the names of the reindeer.  But other than that, it encourages kids to only like someone if they do something for you; much like how the reindeer bullied (by exclusion, teasing, and name calling) Rudolph until he did something for them to 'earn' their positive attention.  I don't want kids growing up thinking it's okay to treat others like that.  My advice to Rudolph is to find some truer friends than those eight.

4) Jingle Bells.  This is a song about one of the most annoying instruments that exists in auxiliary percussion.  The song is overplayed and has no meaning.

5) Jingle-Bell Rock.  The third and second graders at my school are learning this song and I've come to realize it's dumb.  The words "jingle-bell(s)" occurs way too often, like two to three times in a two measure phrase.  The song has even less meaning than Jingle Bells and doesn't make any since because no one would write a rock song centered around such an instrument.

6) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.  It didn't occur to me until last night that this is a really bad song.  I adore the Jackson 5 version, but I also just adore the Jackson 5.  I never really thought it was that bad because, growing up, I was told my Daddy was Santa Claus.  Like, he turned into Santa on Christmas Eve.  So of course my mom was kissing Santa Claus, she's Mrs. Claus.  But if this song is functioning on the premise that Santa Claus is real, then there are bigger issues at hand.  Santa is a married man and in the song, so is the mom.  There is an affair at hand and the child doesn't realize the severity of this situation.  Heavy stuff for a Holiday song.

7) The Christmas Shoes.  I don't think this is a very popular one, which is a good thing.  It's just such a downer.  It's about a boy whose mom is dying and he wants to buy some shoes for her but doesn't have enough money.  Seriously.  Of you need a good cry, watch this video I found of it.

8) We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  What could possibly be wrong with this song, right?  I didn't realize until last year when my the Kindergartners and First graders sang it for the Holiday Program, that the song is downright rude.  There are different versions, but a very popular version says "Now bring us some figgy pudding (4x) and bring it right here!...We won't go until we get some (4x)..."  The song goes from wishing someone a Merry Christmas to demanding figgy pudding and refusing to leave until they get their way.  In what world do we want people to be so rude?

9) Mr. Snow Rap.  This song is literally only performed by tiny children (my Kindergartners and First Graders) and I know people will think it's super cute, but I hate it.  The 'rap' is simply explaining how to make a snowman.  This is basically what's it's gonna look like at our Winter Program except with over 200 kids rapping this stupid song.

This list is from the bottom of my heart...just like my wishing you a Merry Christmas con prospero año y felicidad.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Trying to be polite here.

I have a lot of opinions about this whole election business.  I don't want to be rude or crass like I feel like we've been treated for the past several months.  So, for now, I'll plug this blog from a friend.  It's about presidency, but it's much lighter than what I'm feeling.

If I were President

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm fairly certain these things are in Heaven

I believe in Heaven and Hell; anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and owns their brokenness is automatically going to Heaven.  What's Heaven like?  Well there are plenty of theories and dreams about what it'll be like, but one won't really know until they arrive.  With that being said, I pretty sure these things will be in Heaven.

1) Falafel.  Let's just be honest, it is delicious.  I will always be 'in the mood' for it.  It is perfect, which is why it can be in Heaven.  Heaven is said to have a big banquet table and falafel is on the menu.  We will get to eat falafel for all eternity.  I am excited.

2) Memory Foam.  I know sleep is unnecessary in Heaven, but I'd like to think it'll be an option.  Or, if some of your friends (including Jesus) wanna have a no-slumber party, they will be the bed of choice to swap jokes in.  Actually, I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and say that the ground, chairs, and stools will be made of memory foam.

3) Frijoles Negros y Arroz.  Black beans and rice are, literally, in the Top 5 of perfect combinations.  Notice that I used the word 'perfect', only good and perfect things are in Heaven, thusly beans and rice are in Heaven.  Sound logic.

4) Musicals & Music.  Of course they will be about how wonderful Gods is, but that's okay because we won't be limited to the Western/Eastern Styles of music; we'll have infinite tones/pitches and infinite instruments and will, of course, have infinite combinations to create.  Music is one of the best things about life.

5) Ethnic Food.  In Heaven, we'll all be able to communicate with each other no matter our earthly background; and since we're coming from different earthly backgrounds we're bringing excellent food to the table (this includes all Morning Star Farms products).  All the food will be purified (and I feel like since there's no death/dying in Heaven it will all be vegetarian, which I'm pretty jazzed about) and only do good for our body.  Please expect me to be table hopping forever.

6) Hula-Hoops.  They're just plain fun.  Heaven's pretty fun.  Just look how much fun they are having.

7) Animals.  More specifically, dogs.  I also expect to encounter a unicorn and a friendly dragon.  All animals, like humans, will be vegetarian because there is no death/dying in Heaven.  It's just not allowed.  All animals will be treated with the utmost respect and will have all the love they could ever want and more.

Alrighty, seven is the perfect number and that's what I have given you: a perfect number of reasons why Heaven is awesome and why you should want to go.  Let's print this list and when we get there compare; I'm certain my list fails in comparison to the Glorious Perfection that is Heaven, but these things would still be pretty great.