Sunday, April 6, 2014

I Saw a Thing and it Gave Birth to a Rant

A friend posted a post from someone who posted it originally and it contained a thing that made me go a little righteous rage on things and now you all get this post do do with what you will.

If you're a Christian, or you're around Christians, if you've set foot in a church Youth Group, if you were homeschooled, if you went to some sort of Christian youth conference, then you've heard this verse.

Chances are you've had it used on you at least one of the following ways: Someone quoted it at you to tell you that as a Christian you shouldn't be dating, or being in more than one relationship in your lifetime is bad; someone used it to tell you that you're crossing all sorts of physical boundary lines in your relationship that Christians aren't supposed to cross, or that you should commit to wearing a purity ring to keep yourself from doing so, or that you shouldn't be dating until x age or until after x milestone...you know - all sorts of things involving the words "courtship", "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", "defrauding", or anything implying that your first kiss should be on your wedding day and that your life needs a lot of chaperons.

Before I get any further, let me say this:

If you are waiting until you're married to kiss someone - good for you!
Do you have a purity ring and a solid commitment to what it means to you? Awesome!
Do you always leave room for Jesus/the Holy Spirit/a really big family Bible between you and your significant other? I'm glad you've got a boundary for yourselves that you're sticking to.
Are you determined not to date the way the unsaved do? GOOD.

I'm not necessarily here to say that all of those things are wrong, or at least not wrong for everyone. What I'm here to say is that at least one of the verses being used to ingrain these ideas into the minds of Christian youths (and therefore Christian adults, since we all grow up...wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey) might not actually be talking about those things, or talking about them in the specific way we're used to hearing them used.

I'm looking for someone to join me in an adventure through contexts and concordances, and you, beautiful reader, strike me as the perfect companion. Shall we begin? Very well. Allons-y!


Guarding Your Heart

I will be absolutely dumbfounded if you have had a Christian individual use this phrase to refer to anything other than a dating-in-some-sense-of-the-word relationship. Here's the verse it comes from:
"Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life." - Proverbs 4:23

One of the first things you should do with any scripture verse you hear - especially if you suspect it might be being used incorrectly, or so often that, while they keep using that verse, you do not think it means what they think it means - is crack open your own Bible and look at the context. So, without further adieu, here's the last chunk of that chapter in Proverbs (usually I find that there's a pretty clear beginning and end to where a verse came from, and I personally don't feel led to encompass the whole book or even chapter when looking for context on most things. If you feel that extra step is necessary, please do so - but in this case I think you'll still agree with my conclusion);

"My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings.
Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh.
Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you.
Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose] and let your gaze be straight before you.
Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright.
Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left; remove your foot from evil." - Proverbs 4:20-27
Now, two things make me want to dig deeper:

1) That whole section certainly doesn't appear to be about dating. That doesn't mean that verse 23 isn't, since the section is definitely talking about how to live your life overall, but it certainly makes me want to take a closer look at the meanings of the words in verse 23.

2) "...for out if it flow the springs of life", if the verse really means heart as in the one you use to love who you're dating...well, if the center of our romantic feelings is the place from whence flows the very springs of life itself - excuse me but does anyone else find that a little terrifying? That doesn't sit right with me, either.

It appears as though we're in tall grass, here.


Wild CONCORDANCE appeared!

MINDY uses SEARCH. It's super effective!




"Leb" is the transliterated word my lovely online concordance gives me for "heart," via an Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon. Here are all the things it can mean:

inner manmind, will, heartunderstandinginner part, midstmidst (of things)heart (of man)soul, heart (of man)mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memoryinclination, resolution, determination (of will)conscienceheart (of moral character)as a seat of appetitesas a seat of emotions and passionsas a seat of courage

"Seat of emotions and passions" is definitely one way it can be used. So who you fall in love with is definitely something you should pay close attention to.

But you know what else? You should be paying attention to everything that can affect your inner man - the midst of who you are. And do you know what can do that?

EVERYTHING.

You need to be keeping a diligent watch over your memories, what you reflect on when you get pensive or nostalgic, what kinds of knowledge you take in, in what way you are determined and how much so (too much determination IS a bad thing, actually), and you should be watching over anything that wants in to your soul, because the Devil is out there and you should be making sure he's not getting at you through your job, your music, your movies, your family, your friends, your belongings, your workout schedule, your food, your drinking, your games, your motivation, or, yes, your romantic relationships.

This verse is telling you to be a watchman over your whole life.

It's not telling you anything about relationships specifically because that's not what Leb means! Leb means you - everything you have been, everything you are right now, and everything you will ever be. It means thing things no one will ever know about, and the biggest part of your legacy that you will leave behind when you go home to join our Father in heaven.

What it's definitely not telling you is how many relationships is okay before you find the one you marry, whether you should hold hands, or kiss goodnight, or make out, or cuddle, or whatever - that's never a black and white until you get to sex, actually, which Paul addresses later in the new testament, and he straight up says sex. The closest this verse gets to directing the physicality of a relationship is that it's saying "If you know you can't make out with someone without wanting to go all the way - back off." Just like it's saying "If you can't get within walking distance of a casino without blowing your savings account - stay away," "If you have no concept of bowls of ice cream and will eat the whole half gallon - leave it at Kroger, "and if you can't get on the internet without watching porn - cancel your service."

This verse is not just about romantic things - it's about SO MUCH MORE, and I really think it's deceitful and damaging how it's used these days. Your whole life does not flow from your romantic desires, and they deserve no more vigilance than the entire rest of your life deserves. (Which is all your vigilance, so break out the Armor of God and suit up, dearies - life is a giant, crazy, spiritual battlefield.)


Also, I have yet to find a single verse (including the ones about not awakening love until it pleases - I can post on those another time if anyone would like me to) that says you can't date, or that you should only date the person you'll end up marrying, or that you can't have opposite-sex, platonic friendships, or anything else "guarding your heart" is generally paired up with. In conclusion, I think the overall things the Bible has to say about how you conduct your love life are as follows:


  • Make God and His will for your life your absolute number one priority. This includes my last post about striving to be 100% of who He created you to be. When you were born, tiny little bald-potato you had all your potential, all of your personality, and a whole great big destiny wrapped up in that mini-Sontaran form. So unleash that all day every day and use it to do God's work wherever you find yourself.
  • When you meet someone the first goal you have should be to love them with beautiful, Christian love. Accept this beautiful human being that God made and treat them like we're told to - with reverence and submission to each other, with songs and hymns and love and acceptance. Whether you want to be friends or it's love at first sight - this should be first.
  • Because you started off respecting that person, getting them emotionally involved in a "summer relationship", "nothing serious", or something you want to "take slowly and see where it goes" so you can "keep your options open" should already be right out. If it's not, go back to bullet point one and repeat as necessary until you can actually complete bullet point two.
  • If that other person also loves you with Christian love and respects you as a human being with feelings, and you guys can reasonably forsee enjoying each other's company long enough and to the point where you want to enter into marriage and maybe raise a kid or two and otherwise support each other in God's will and generally Song-of-Solomon it up on a regular basis - DATE. Don't date like the world does, but DATE! Spend time together, one-on-one, with friends, with family. A bunch of days in a row and a bunch of days apart. Do that. Because it's one of the only ways to get to know a person on a "Yes. I can marry you and not murder/divorce/ignore-you-forever-because-I-actually-hate-you" way. And that's okay. 
Also, not dating someone will not protect you from heartbreak. I've had my heart broken by men I was not in a relationship with. I mean...think about the heartbreak that will occur when Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston finally get married! 

I kid, I kid. But seriously. Walk in the beauty of Ephesians 5:13 - be transparent and illuminated, flaws and awesomeness, and when you find someone you like, let them know. At best - you just found your spouse. At worst - they're not mature enough to say "hey, lets just be friends" and follow through, and you lose someone that wouldn't have been a good friend anyway.

So. Follow the convictions the Holy Spirit gives you. Go only as far as you are morally comfortable with physically. Keep your purity ring, but keep it because you feel led to, not because of a verse that doesn't even mean what they say it means. If you feel called to keep away from dating, you'd better keep away. But if you want to date - date. Date! Date with respect and the best of intentions. Date while being you and being vigilant about your whole life. 

And remember:








  • Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    What to Change About Yourself in Order to Become Attractive

    When I was younger, I backed into our woodburning stove and burned myself. It was for a fraction of a second and left me with a lovely red blister on the back of my right calf. I still warm myself by that stove every time I'm at my parents' in the winter, but even all these years later I remember the lesson I learned from that blister and I make sure I don't get too close; this way I enjoy the stove and my skin stays intact and everything's fine.

    When I was even younger I took a pan out of the oven with an oven mitt. A wet oven mitt. I hadn't realized it was sitting in a puddle of water by the sink and had gotten wet right around the fingers-bit and the heat conducted straight through the water and burned my fingers. I dropped the pan, ran my fingers under some cold water, and have never again forgotten to check to make sure my potholder/oven mitts are dry before I go grabbing hot items with them. Food doesn't get dropped, fingers stay un-burnt, and everything's fine.

    Last year I tripped running on an uneven sidewalk. Flew face-forward into the concrete, I tore my pants and lost a good bit of skin on both knees, my phone went flying and the screen cracked, my shoulder was sore for days, and I lost a chunk out of the front of my running shoes. Now I run on the road, I don't carry my phone in my hand, and I make sure my steps are high enough so I don't stumble and go flying again. Similarly, I had been doing some drills to strengthen my ankles when I was too sleepy to really be doing them. I knew I should have stopped, but I didn't, and then my legs decided I was done and I came crashing down. My ankle stopped working and I tore some more pants, drew a little more blood, and now I don't exercise when I know I'm too tired to do things properly. I haven't fallen since, or had to deal with the misery of a half-awake workout that winds up with me hurting myself.

    This logic makes sense.

    You hurt yourself and you adjust.

    This has left me with an issue the last few months, though, because I couldn't figure out how to apply that logic to relationships. Yes, kind of friends and family, but specifically, especially, and most definitely right now - romantic relationships.

    I dated someone once (if what you do in high school when only one of you can drive and you never go on a real date can be called "dating") who informed me multiple times that he might have loved me if I had lost some weight.

    I've talked to several men (I use that term loosely, since it doesn't here apply to maturity or manliness in any true sense of the word) who have been super-attentive, courteous, complimentary, and affectionate...for about 6 weeks. Then they disappear with no trace, no good-bye, no explanation; leaving me to wonder what on earth could possibly have gone wrong.

    The only serious relationship I've ever been in as an adult crashed and burned in a fury of heretical nonsense as I was informed that I was spiritually insufficient as a woman - somehow I was disrespectful, not athletic enough, not philosophically trained enough, and again, too fat. After spending the better part of a year loving all-out, growing spiritually, and achieving more health goals than ever, I was infuriated to hear such things.

    Other things I've learned from some of the men I've encountered have been that I talk too much, I'm too loud, I'm too nerdy, that art isn't as valuable as the ability/desire to run a marathon, that asking a man to take an interest in art or dance is emasculating.

    If I based how I should respond to those situations on how you normally respond to being hurt, I would assume I needed to adjust the following things about myself:

    - Talk less, and only about things that interest the man I'm interested in.
    - Be more quiet in general.
    - Focus less on art.
    - Re-orient my physical goals to focus more on immediate weight loss and less on my own goals of eating cleaner and being more active overall and just letting my body do...whatever it'll do as I follow my personal health convictions. Because it's not healthy if I'm not losing weight quickly. And I'm not skinny enough to be attractive.
    - Never ask a man to take dance lessons with me or go dancing.
    - Learn not to need to talk about how I feel and what I need to decide. That's boring and it's not how men work, so it's wrong.
    - Less costumes and cosplay and dressing up.
    - Less enthusiasm about anime and comics and science-fiction.
    - Don't act interested; play hard to get. Men like a chase.
    - Give up more physically, men have needs.

    Because that's how it works, right? You make a mistake, you get hurt, so you adjust your methods so you are no longer making that mistake or getting hurt.


    Right?

    Sometimes.

    But not always.

    Because yes, sometimes the oven mitt is wet because you stuck it in the dishwater and didn't realize it.

    Sometimes you cut yourself because you're holding the knife improperly.

    Sometimes you trip and fall because you should have worn your glasses or run on the road.


    But sometimes you burn yourself because the oven mitt is cheap or damaged. The fabric is thin or there's a hole.

    Sometimes you cut yourself not because your technique was wrong, but because you have a crappy knife and it's dull and it's old and it needs sharpened or replaced immediately.

    Sometimes you fall when you're running because your shoelaces broke and tripped you up, or someone bumped you or pushed you. 



    So the answer isn't always that you need to check more often, learn how to hold on to something, adjust your gait, or fix yourself. Sometimes you've got faulty equipment and you need to leave it behind.

    Because I don't need to be quieter, or less enthusiastic, or like less comic books, or defer to someone else to decide if my hair needs cut or if my workout plans are good enough. God knit me together in my mother's womb and knew before the beginning of time that I had this body type and metabolism and if I am taking care of this gorgeous body He gave me in the way He tells me to and I am never a size 10, or 8, or 00, I am still gorgeous and I will not be called fat like it's derogatory. I don't need to worry about how fast I run or how far, because God didn't give me the gift of athleticism, He gave me the ability to make art, and that is amazing, and beautiful, and every bit as good and important.

    I don't need to play hard to get, or act less interested, or more interested, because any one of those things is literally lying. 

    I don't need to kiss sooner or more or less or have sex with someone or get to x base by x date because morals and convictions and willpower are important and attractive, and God will bless me for having and sticking to them. If you need that from me, I don't need you. 

    I will not hold in issues because men aren't good communicators. The ability to empathize and understand and convey thoughts and feelings is not feminine, it's human. Sorry I'm really not sorry for saying that a real man knows how to communicate.

    If a man thinks dancing is emasculating, I hope he enjoys dating basically anyone other than me.

    If me asking a man to take an interest in what I knit, draw, paint, sew, bake, and create is "asking them to be gay" - then I will be single forever before I put up with that kind of absolute crap.

    I will not hide how much I desperately love and need my Lord God, my Savior, and His Spirit. I will not compromise and pretend it's not important to me that everyone else needs Him just as much. I won't start viewing God in a manner that is inconsistent with who He is based on how He has personally revealed Himself to me to be just because someone else views Him differently. I will never alter my convictions, loosen my morals, or make more narrow my view of my Creator for anyone. I would honestly rather die.



    Yes, I have my flaws, but the Holy Spirit is revealing them to me every day and I work on them in every moment, and it is absolutely no one's business to judge me about any of them. I am not above correction - I appreciate those friends in whom I can and do confide and who are gracious and encouraging in consistently holding me accountable, and that's important! But I do not have to and will never again stand for being judged, or made to feel less of a person because of who I am.



    I am perfectly fine exactly the way God made me. 



    I am not too fat.
    I am not too loud.
    I am not too nerdy.
    I am not boring.
    I'm an artist, not an athlete.
    I am not desperate because I'm honest about how I feel.
    I'm not a prude because I don't want "test driven" before marriage.
    I'm a virgin and that doesn't need "fixed" - thanks but
            nothanksseriouslygetawayfrommewiththat.
    I am not "too Christian".
    I do not need to forego everything I have felt called to to meet someone else's needs: my calling will fit with my husbands, not be overshadowed by it, and someday someone will fall madly in love with my boisterously bubbly, definitely loud, fanatically nerdy, extremely artistic, honest, talkative, passionate and pure, sold-out-to Christ, dancing, knitting, cooking, not-hard-to-get self.

    Because neither me, nor you, beautiful reader - nor anyone else - needs to change one blasted iota of themselves to be acceptable to a single other human being.

    Ever.

    And just because one oven mitt was faulty, and one knife cut you, doesn't mean that the next ones will do the same.

    Just because one man said "I love you," and was lying, doesn't mean the next one will be. Just because two men don't think you're their type because you're "too fat" doesn't mean you are. And just because a dozen, or a hundred, or even a thousand-and-one men might tell you that they're going to call you and they don't, or that they care when they're kissing on someone else behind your back doesn't mean that that cute boy across the dance floor is a jerk, too.

    You can trust in that, because you're not trusting my word, or trusting any of those men - you're trusting in God and His ability to work in the lives of every human on this planet and make them beautiful saints, right with Himself, who respect each other.

    So I choose to love myself as I am, because God does; to work every day to be more like Jesus; and to trust God as I continue to be open and honest and 100% of the person He made me to be. And if no man ever comes along who appreciates that, then that's okay. It really is.

    But I don't believe that's what's going to happen, and I can't wait to meet that man who loves me for me.

    Please wait for the person who loves you for you, and asks you to change absolutely nothing about who you are.

    "For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.

    My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].

    Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them."

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    In Which Memes Tell a Tale About Fandoms.

    I distinctly remember my first bit of conscious exposure to the concept of "fandoms" as I now see them represented.

    I was at a Josh Groban concert with my mother and was  thoroughly confounded by "Grobanites." What the what? Who are these (seemingly) mostly middle-aged and older women who are OBSESSED with this artist? Weird! Old ladies! I was 14, I didn't give it much thought beyond that. Also, my Grandma was very active in the Andrea Bocelli fan community so these women were just like Grandma 2.0.

    Then in college came Lady Gaga's "Little Monsters."

    I was confused.



    Why did they need a name?

    "Eh. Stephanie Germanotta is off her rocker, it's all probably part of that."

    But over the years that have passed since those moments, this phenomenon of people defining and labeling themselves based on someone else's work has just increased. The next thing I noticed were "Beliebers". Then "Directioners." Again, I reasoned it away - "They're mostly tween kids, probably mostly girls; if there had been a group name for 13-year-old-girls-obsessed-with-Elijah-Wood" my Frodo-infatuated self would have been all over that."

    But then it started becoming an EVENT for fans to pick out a name for themselves and make sure it was just right. During my own Twilight fixation I remember the debate other fans would get into over who they wanted to be - "Twi-hards", "fanpires", "twerds", "twilighters" the cast of the movie even got involved in picking this thing out because the fans themselves couldn't even decide. I thought it was ridiculous, and rejected the labels myself thinking "I'm just a fan, I don't need some lame name to prove that I like this stuff, I just do!" It struck me as being a lot like picking out your own nickname; you can't really do that - friends have to give it to you. I thought if you were a fan with a title you were a Trekkie, because someone started calling them that in the 60s and it just stuck. Like...it's almost derogatory but you take it with pride and insist it means you're awesome and you kind of get a cool support group.

    However, a few more years and this whole thing has compounded to the point where I am legitimately concerned about the entire phenomenon of "fandoms" and anything with the word "fan" in it.

    Why?

    Look at them all.

    Whovians.
    Sherlockians.
    Oncers.
    Hookers (Awesome way to degrade yourselves, ladies.)
    Cumberb!tches degrading again, so much so that Benedict Cumberbatch himself  was embarassed and requested that his female fanbase refer to themselves as "Cumberbabes" because he wanted them to respect themselves.



    Animals.
    Potterheads. (Drug use references! YAY! A lot of these fans are CHILDREN. Come on.)
    Katy Kats.
    The Echelon.
    Hiddlestoners. (MOAR drug use references! Yay! Except no!)
    Gaimanites.
    Trubies/Fangbangers (You...you don't want to stop degrading yourselves? Not yet?)



    Whedonites.
    Browncoats.
    Tributes. (To be a Tribute was TERRIBLE. Why would you pick that name?!)
    Tolkienites/Ringers (That was painful just to type.)


    In conclusion before my head explodes looking at all these "fan nicknames":


    Seriously?



    Seriously.

    What is this insanity?

    I am a fan of a lot of things, including a lot of the things listed above, like Doctor Who, Sherlock, MARVEL comics, Lord of the Rings, Joss Whedon's work, and Once Upon a Time (Captain Hook is, incidentally, my favorite character.)

    But I am not a "Whovian". I am not a "Ringer" or a "Oncer" or a "Hooker." I have a lot of respect for Benedict Cumberbatch's work as an actor - he is brilliant but I am not his babe, and certainly not his b!tch. (And I'm glad he wouldn't WANT me to be - more props to Mr. Cumberbatch!)

    I am not any of those things.

    I am not in a fandom.

    I don't even want to use the word fan to describe my love for my interests anymore.

    I don't want to get excited about Doctor Who and have someone say "Oh, you're a Whovian?" - so obviously sick of hyper-active fangirling. I know people who will not watch the show because the fans have driven them away.

    I don't want to say "Oh, I loved the new Star Trek - didn't Benedict Cumberbatch make a great Khan?! So different from Sherlock, and he nails both!" and get "Oh, are you one of those Benedict Cucumber-patch people?" You can't even have a discussion about an actor's excellent work without someone not even wanting to hear about them. The people you shouldn't want anyone to talk to you about are the Kardashians and the cast of Jersey Shore. I don't want to be part of a group of people that has gotten a talented actor even a fraction of that kind of attitude because his fans have gone ape-crap about him in an illogical manner.

    BUT.

    I really do enjoy these things themselves - the stories and the people who create them.

    These stories, characters, and artists have, through their work and their willingness to share it, have helped me realize important things about God, myself, others, and life in general. They have made me bolder, more confident and courageous. They have inspired me in many, many areas, and the fact that I enjoy and identify with these stories and characters who have strong moral values and great life lessons helps send a message to those familiar with the stories about who I am as a person, but I do not and never will define who I am as a person by these things.

    I am defined as me by one thing and one thing only - God. Who He has made me and the talents and gifts he has blessed me with, and the Son he sacrificed for me so I could BE that woman he made me to be.

    I'm thankful to be the child of a God who can speak to those he loves through fantasy novels and films, through sic-fi TV shows and the work of talented people. They inspire what I do, the have helped me become a better person, and liking them, I believe, says good things about me because they are good stories about good people. But I am also thankful that I have the sense not to make them my whole life.

    I honestly believe the people who created those things don't want us to be this way with them. Having people who believe in what you do, who support you and allow you to make a living doing it; they are wonderful and essential. But unless you're corporate, money-hungry scum, you don't want people to make it their LIFE.

    It's wonderful to have other people who share your beliefs and interests - to discuss them, be excited about them, make costumes, go to cons, premieres, and theme parks, to read and re-read, to watch and re-watch. To learn and carry the lessons and inspiration with you always.

    We need knights in shining armor, and heroines who slay Nazgul.

    We do.

    But at the end of the day we also need to know who WE are and what we are called to do - perhaps through, but also beyond - all of the things that we love.

    Maybe we will go on to be show writers, costume designers, and directors. Some of us clearly do. But we are not ourselves if we make these things all we are.





    Also - I left fanfics/slashfics out of this.