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Guest Post on Praying the Rosary

Woo hoo! I got to write a guest post for Carly Gelsinger‘s series From Grape Juice to Red Wine, stories of people shifting from mainstream, conservative, or fundamentalist evangelical to “high church” liturgical traditions.

I had the chance to meet Carly in person at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago.  She’s really cool, the sort of person who makes you feel like you’ve known her forever even though it’s only been a single weekend.  She has a way of putting people at ease with her warmth. The coolest thing was finding someone else who shared my own experience–that of choosing (rather than having it forced on us) a conservative evangelical path before finding our way out again.

I’m excited to add my voice to the conversation, especially because it echoes my own journey so well.  Go check out my post, and while you’re at it, give Carly some bloggy love on her other writing.  Happy Friday!

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On being “gifted”

Last night, I read Glennon Melton’s post about calling kids “gifted” and this response to her.  Today, I read Glennon’s response on Facebook.  Because I believe she truly does want to understand, here is my answer.

Dear Glennon,

You will probably never read this, but I’m going to write it anyway because I sense that you honestly do want to know why some of us felt a little (oh, fine, a lot) defensive about your post on giftedness.

I’m going to be honest–I didn’t actually read your blog before unless someone linked to it.  I admit that I always kind of felt a little judged by you.  That might have been because the specific posts I read were often passed along by people who actually were judging me, so please forgive me for that.  That said, I didn’t have an open mind when reading your post on the word “gifted.”

It made me angry at first.  I’m the mom of a gifted child (in the label sense).  My immediate reaction was, “Dang.  How did we become a culture of people getting all tied up in knots over a word?  Let go of your need to have your child be a special snowflake, people!”

So I did what comes naturally–I grouched about it on Facebook.  In the comments, a friend suggested I watch your TED Talk.  I rolled my eyes and replied that I would.  (Yeah, I’m not very nice sometimes; I’m not proud of that.)  And then I watched it.

Oh, my.

I cried.  I cried because I know intimately that feeling of wearing a cape and pretending.  I’ve done it my whole life too.  My cape is being angry and self-righteous.  I’ve mostly shed it, but it sometimes begs to be taken out and worn.  Kind of like how I reacted to your post about gifted children.

So I thought about it, and I decided I want to help you understand.  You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I wonder if you’re seeing the label of “gifted” as being a kind of cape–something to hide a child’s real self.  If that’s so, then I want to tell you that you have it backwards.  My son’s gifted label is not his cape; it’s his freedom.

For us–for my son and for me–being told that he is gifted and has ADHD gave him wings.  Suddenly, he didn’t have to try to be just like every other child.  He could have his needs met, just like the child who has a learning disability or autism or physical limitations.  He could be fully, completely himself.  No pretending.  No cape.

Sometimes, I envy my son.  He loves who he is: highly intelligent, creative, musical, energetic, sassy, cheerful, sensitive, friendly, confident.  Unlike me, he is entirely comfortable in his own skin.  Knowing there’s a name for some of the ways in which his brain works differently is an important part of understanding and feeling good about himself.

I know you believe the word “gifted” is a frustrating term.  Right now, it’s the best one we have.  It isn’t a descriptor of gifts, it’s about the overall way in which children like my son are unique, just like other labels for brain function.  It’s not a reference to specific talents, such as playing the piano or being particularly good at math or art or soccer.  One can be a gifted musician or a talented writer without being given the overall distinction of gifted.  They’re not synonymous.

Maybe someday, we will have a better word that explains the difference between a gift and being gifted.  Until then, children who are gifted should not be ashamed to be given that title, and parents should not be ashamed to use it to describe their children.  Nor should children be ashamed for not being labeled gifted, in the same way no one should be ashamed of not having ADHD.

I hope that helps bring understanding, and I hope I’ve said it in a way that is kind and not shaming or hurtful.  We’re all on this planet together, and we parents have the responsibility to our kids not to make it harder for them by arguing amongst ourselves, particularly over such small things as words.

Much love on this parenting journey,

Amy

Notable News: Week of August 10-16, 2013

It’s been hard staying in a rhythm over the summer, with both kids and my husband home.  I’ve also had twice as many editing/proofreading projects as last summer, so that’s left me little time to keep up on my blog.  Along with that, we’ve had several unexpected things happen, including sending my faithful Nissan Altima to the Great Body Shop in the Sky.  I’m now the proud owner of an SUV.  I never thought I would say that–it really does make me feel like such a suburban mom.  Anyway, I may not have been writing much, but I’ve definitely been reading.  This week’s list is a bit short, due to my own limited time, but here are some of the things I really liked this week.

1. Penal Substitution

Anyone who’s been reading my stuff for a while probably knows (or has at least guessed) that I’m no fan of the penal substitution view of salvation.  This Naked Pastor cartoon nearly made me snort my coffee out my nose.

2. Too many to list separately

Registered Runaway is my go-to blogger when I feel like I’m just done being harsh and frustrated.  I have a pretty forceful personality, and that’s not going to change, but the gentle people in this world are a good balance and keep me from toppling over the edge into cyclical rage.  I couldn’t pick just one of his posts this week, so I’m just linking the blog and you can read them all.

3. Well, all righty then.

Simon Chan wrote this.  It made me wish I’d had time this week to write something scathing and witty in response, but buying a new car broke my sarcasm function.  Fortunately, there are other good writers on the Internet.  Check out these excellent responses: Women Are People, Too: A Conservative Baptist Take On Inclusive Language and Why We Call God Father: a response to Simon Chan.

4. Today’s short story

I just posted this on my fiction blog.  Haven’t put anything up there in a long time, so it feels good to add a new story.

I’m not sure how the next week will go.  I’m volunteering every morning at a summer camp, so it will be sporadic.  I’ll do my best to keep up, though.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Notable News: Week of April 6-12, 2013

Here we are, the end of another week.  I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here it’s rainy and cold.  I’d like to spend my day curled up with a mug of hot tea and a good book. Sadly, it’s not to be.  I hope you all are more successful in your plans for today.  Meanwhile, here’s what’s going on:

1. About that song…

By now I’m sure many of you have heard the Brad Paisley/LL Cool J song “Accidental Racist,” or at least heard of it.  I’m sure lots of you thought, “Wow! That’s very cool that they’re addressing modern racism.”  Yeah, not so much.  Go listen to the song (if you can stomach it), then read this post over at Shakesville.  This about sums it up:

What’s being described in the song is a White man wearing a t-shirt with a Lynyrd Skynyrd logo, which features the Confederate flag, and expecting Black people to understand it only means what he wants it to mean. That is neither unintentional nor accidental. That is obliging marginalized people to center privileged people’s rewriting of a history to salve their own discomfort with that history.

2. Hope for the future

This post, An Open Letter to The Church from My Generation, has gotten quite a lot of attention.  (This is one where I think you should just avoid the comments.  Not worth the headache.)  She suggests that the real reason young people are leaving the Church (and even their faith) is the Church’s reluctance to accept its position on the wrong side of history.  It’s an eloquent plea for the Church to stop fighting change and instead grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a chat.  Sounds just about right to me.

But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment.

3. About a body

I love this wonderful post by Andi Cumbo.  I think I’ve linked it everywhere except this blog (and now I’ve remedied that).  She puts words to exactly what I want to do–create safe space for my kids to ask questions.  As a child, I knew the hard, cold facts.  But questions were often off-limits because they were strange or embarrassing or “rude.”  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, at least in part because of this generational failure to be open.  It’s necessary, though, if we want our children to grow up with healthier views than we did.

I heard lots of conversations – a friend losing her virginity in a shower, another wearing a “promise” ring, boys and whispers about boobs and third base.  I heard lots of lectures, too – wait until you’re married, God made sex for marriage, women were made to be the helpmeet to men.

But no one talked to me about my body or about sex. No one answered my questions. No one asked if I even had any.

4. Beautiful honesty in struggle

These two posts–about expectations within marriage and about living with rapid-cycling bipolar–are both achingly honest and brutally lovely.  Everyone has challenges, and it helps to know we’re not alone.  Whatever you’re struggling with today, I hope that you find comfort and hope in these women’s words, even in the midst of difficulty.  Today, find a friend or be a friend, and open your heart to listen.

Airing out our unmet expectations didn’t magically transform our despair into joy and contentment . . . But it did allow us to evolve with one another, to reevaluate what our marriage would look like as Christians and feminists… [from Unmet Expectations in a Feminist Christian Marriage]

When depression comes. It’s a black numb night with no stars. Everything becomes about me: about how God is taking special notice of my situation and punishing me. How nobody likes me. How every movement of the world is designed for my special torture.

Mania is all about the stars. Or, rather, the star: Me. Because when I’m manic, you’d be a fool not to notice me, want me, befriend me, sit in the sheer awe of magnificence.[from I is for Me]

5. Christian identity

This fantastic post by Tina Francis about identifying as a Christian and being ourselves was one of the best things I’ve read this week.  The cultural differences are fascinating to me.  One of the things I took away from this post is that the way we come across may not be read the way we want it to when it comes to people who didn’t grow up in our western culture.  That understanding about what Christian discourse looks like makes me think that we Christians need to do a lot more listening and a lot less talking.

Because I did not grow up in the West,  I sometimes find it tough to follow social discourse. This is especially true for the plot lines (read: battle-lines) in the Christian Blogosphere. It’s like watching a game of tennis, with words instead of balls. My head bobs from side to side as I try to understand what each person is grunting about. You say, “Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory”; I hear, “Pee Pee Glibitty Glob.” I find myself lost because I haven’t read the right books, listened to the right music, or watched the right movies. So I don’t always get the references.

6. Naked Pastor takes one for the team

Because David so kindly tackled this, I didn’t have to.  Many thanks!  (And have I mentioned how much I love when men get all feminist?  Remind me to link to some other good ones sometime.)  Anyway, Lee Grady used some loaded terms in his post Six Women Leaders to Avoid.  Go read it if you want some deep feminist rage.  Instead of pointing out traits to avoid in any leader, he used words associated almost exclusively with things many people dislike about women.  Fortunately, David drew a great cartoon and offered a well-written commentary in response.  (Also, when you read the last part about traits to avoid in any leader, guess which well-known preacher came immediately to my mind?)

It’s that old fallacy that men allow women to do what men do but under certain restrictions and expectations. Our club has been dominated by men for centuries but we’re going to now allow women to join. Now these are the rules.

7. Your humor for the day

It is entirely possible that I know and am related to the author of this blog.  Maybe.  I might also be a little bit proud of the person for creating it.  I hope you enjoy the blogger’s take on Hilarious Lambs, More Hilarious Lambs, Even More Hilarious Lambs, and my personal favorite, Too Many Hilarious Lambs.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! Back on Monday for [DUN DUN DUN] 50 Shades of Lambs.

Notable News: Week of March 16-22, 2013

It’s been quite a week.  The big things have been the Steubenville case in the news and Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week on the blogs.  There’s been lots of other good stuff as well.  Here are some highlights:

1. On Steubenville

I don’t think I need to rehash the verdict.  What had me ready to reach through my computer screen and throttle people was the horrifying response.  First, the judge warned the teens about the use of social media.  Really? Social media is at fault here?  And also, nothing about “how you treat women who can’t consent to sex with you” was apparently not something he felt he needed to address; too busy admonishing them for their use of social media, I suppose.

When he sentenced the boys, Judge Thomas Lipps urged all those who had followed the case “to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends.”

Meanwhile, news outlets were also active in their campaign for worst response.  Fox, MSNBC, and CNN all ran the name of the victim.  I think CNN wins this round, though, for lamenting that the rapists’ lives were ruined by the guilty verdict:

“What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.

“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan remarked. “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law.”

“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

As well it should, Candy Crowley.  As well it should.

Be sure to check out this excellent response from Christianity Today on rape and human dignity.

2. On spiritual abuse

The Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week link-up has been going on this week.  You can read everyone’s stories at the following pages:

Day 1: Hosted by Hannah Chellase at Wine and Marble

Day 2: Hosted by Joy Bennett at Joy in this Journey

Day 3: Hosted by Shaney Irene at Faith-Filled Thoughts from the Front Porch

If you can only read one of these, make it Shaney’s from today.  The topic is why we need to care about spiritual abuse.

Simultaneously, Elora Nicole has been posting about abuse all week, and Rachel Held Evans has been hosting a week-long series of guest posts and interviews about different kinds of abuse (and frequently the way they intersect).

If you have been spiritually abused and need a safe place to find hope and healing, I urge you to check out this web site.

3. On homophobia and progressive Christianity

One of the reasons that I identify as a progressive Christian but refuse to identify with the progressive Christian movement is that I don’t always find myself in alignment with other “progressives” in areas of importance to me–chiefly, feminism and LGBT issues–and how churches need to grow on those points.  (For example, I don’t think it’s right for old, white, heterosexual cis-men to sit around thinking up ways to “make room” at their table for people who are not old, white, heterosexual cis-men.)  I also find that progressives have this strange attitude that refusing to tolerate bigotry is somehow not in line with the goal of tolerance.

Anyway, for all of those reasons I was very interested in what Kristin Rawls, a fellow writer I follow on Twitter, had to say about her interview with folk singer Michelle Shocked.  It’s quite a read; I suggest you click the links in the article for some background on the situation.

Since the news of her antigay rant went viral, Shocked has issued a public mea culpa of sorts. It’s probably significant to note that 10 of 11 of the shows on her tour have been cancelled since. I read it as an unprincipled attempt to placate LGBT people -– note that she says she supports tolerance, not acceptance, and that she’s calling for LGBT people to tolerate the people who trample on our rights. Anyone acquainted with post-evangelical faux-progressive Christianity
has heard it all before.

4. On having fun with my words

A couple of weeks ago, I was tweeting about an evangelical novel I was reading that had some…interesting views on spiritual warfare.  One of my followers made an off-hand comment about the “royal family of Hell,” and it sparked something in me.  This week’s fiction on my other blog was inspired by that tweet.

The real reason for Lucifer’s disquiet was the fact that his daughter refused to tell him which demon she had ensnared. She had remained silent, and no amount of demanding, pleading, or wheedling would draw it out of her. It was both maddening and worrisome.

He suspected she had gotten herself involved with a junior demon far below her station as Princess of Hell and was appropriately ashamed to admit it.

Have a great weekend, folks!

 

Notable News: Week of February 23-March 1, 2013

What a great week it’s been.  I have been honored and thrilled to participate in the feminisms link-up and be included with some of my favorite bloggers.  Today I’m highlighting the best of what I’ve seen this week.

1. On the Body and Blood

There’s a lot of my spiritual past I still have to sort through, even as it relates to women in the Church. It’s not all so tidy, but it does mean that when I approached the rail for the first time to receive the Eucharist, it was the most unconsciously natural thing for there to be a woman with the Body and Blood in her hands, just as a woman held the Body and Blood two thousand years ago.  [“feminism & me, whether i knew it or not,” Antonia Terrazas]

2. On (literal) bra-burning

Those scraps of fabric finally started burning well, the polyester fibers casting out light and all of our bold pronouncements at the injustice of the world. We stared for a brief moment at our success.

The flames blossomed.

“Oh my gosh!” someone shrieked. “THE TRASH CAN IS ON FIRE!”  [“The Fires of Feminism,” Emily Maynard]

3. On not being half

I was angriest that day because a boy had said out loud what I’m always afraid men are thinking.

That, as a woman in the church, I am by very nature a HALF.

Half a heart. Half a body. Half a purpose.  [“today i embark on an expedition to take back my personhood,” Jesus Gypsy]

4. On needing femimism

This is how I feel. When someone asks me why I believe inequality exists, I want to scream, “Why do I believe you exist? You’re standing right in front of me!”

So actually, Christian church, you need feminism like the dying need a tourniquet. But I need your attitude like a fish needs a bicycle.  [“What I Learned: Like a fish needs a bicycle,” Emily Joy Allison]

5. On being a feminist for our sons, too

I’m a feminist because I want my son to see all people as valuable human beings, created in God’s image. I want him to reject culturally constructed ideas about what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” and to embrace biblical truth about what it means to be human, male and female, created in teh image of a loving God.  [“for my son,” Amy at Making All Things New]

6. On the control of women’s bodies

everything about my mother’s experience tells me a story about someone else deciding what women should do with their bodies. It tells me about dangerous assumptions and naive women and sickness being passed from one generation to the next, daughters without mothers and mothers without daughters.  [“FemFest : My Daughter’s Body,” Bethany Suckrow]

7. On love and justice

But I agree with hooks that there can be no love without justice. Where unfairness, inequality, abuse, disrespect, victim-blaming, and rape exist, there is no love.

And feminism is one movement that fights for justice for women.  [“Feminisms Fest: I need feminism because there is no love without justice,” Sarah Moon]

8. On taking ownership of misogyny and healing the hidden wound

We hear sermons telling women their only place in this world is the home. We buy toys that are deliberately designated for either boys or girls. We see movies that portray women as one-dimensional manic pixie dream girls who’s only mission in life is to rescue “sensitive” moody guys from their self pity.  [“FemFest: The Other Hidden Wound,” Travis Mamone]

9. On speaking blessings over the feminist women and men of faith

So, I’m bending the rules a little bit. Next week I’ll probably do my own wrap-up, as well as a list of contributions that I thought were particularly helpful or well-done. In the meantime, I’m going to write something that’s on my heart: I want to speak a blessing over everyone who has participated this week. [“People of Valor,” Shaney Irene]

10. On places where you can read more

Guest Post: Decisions, Not Resolutions

Today’s guest post is brought to you by the letters Ad and Vil and the number 200(mg).  Thanks to my kids, I have a cold with a scratchy throat and sinus headache.  Thanks to James Prescott, you all get a fantastic blog post anyway.  Enjoy!

Patrick Mackie [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why I’ve made decisions for 2013, not resolutions

Many of us make new year’s resolutions. But usually, even by now, they are a thing of the past.

If we’re honest, resolutions never last do they?

Why?

Because we haven’t changed. We’ve not made a decision. We’ve not committed to anything. We’ve simply elected to stop doing something we were doing, or start doing something differently.

All of us, whether we know it or not, want to grow. To change. This is the impulse which drives new years resolutions. But simply resolving to change won’t make any difference.

If we really want to change this year, we need to get back to our core values. Those ideals which guide us. And we need to make decisions based on those values. Not set goals, but make decisions based on values.

For example, we could have a value of looking after our bodies, being healthy. So instead of just resolving to lose weight and eat healthier – which we all know is going to fall apart within a week or two – we make a decision, a commitment to regular exercise and healthy eating.

Instead of some vague promise or resolution, we’ve made a commitment.

We’ve made a decision.

And we must get accountability with close friends – the kind who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear – to ensure we keep to those commitments.

We may begin slowly, but because we’ve made a commitment, we are more likely to stick to it. Because we are changing a value, not simply making a resolution, we are more likely to change in ourselves.

This is how we can affect positive change in our lives this year. For example, here are the values/decision commitments I’ve made going into this year.

  1. Have the value of respecting and loving myself – So many others respect me, value me and my gifts. I have a responsibility to look after myself, mind, body and soul. So this year I will take more care of my body by eating better, doing more exercise, and getting more good rest. I will take more care of my mind by reading more and studying the Bible more. I will take more care of my soul by spending more time with God.
  2. Committing to honour the gifts God has given me – Steward my writing gift well by producing great work, by writing regularly, by investing in growing my writing gift and by shipping, putting work out there for others to be blessed
  3. Deciding to respond to differently to temptation – when I am tempted to get angry unnecessarily, give into old/bad habits, comfort eat or be lazy, I will learn how to spot those moments and figure out how I can respond differently. How I can respond in a way which shows value and respect for myself and others, honours the gifts I have and honours God.
  4. Learn the value of self-discipline and hard work – don’t become a workaholic or disciplinarian, but do choose to work hard, be professional and also exercise self-discipline in diet, exercise, writing, work and dealing with temptation.
  5. Value others first & Choose to serve – I will choose to put others first, commit to learn to find joy in serving and preferring others, in listening and in giving.

I might not keep 100% to these. In fact, I probably won’t.

But because I’ve made a commitment to changing my values and decisions drawn from this commitment, I’m more likely to achieve real transformation.

I may slip up along the way, but unlike when we fail resolutions – where the first slip up means total defeat – I can pick myself up and learn from the mistakes. I still have those values and those decisions which I’ve committed to.

So how about this year, instead of resolutions, you go back to your values. Make a decision what values you want to live out in 2013, and make some decisions related to those.

Then by the time 2014 rolls around, you might find you’ve undergone some real change.

Are you ready to begin?

James Prescott is a writer & creative exploring how we find divine hope in the messiness of life. He blogs regularly at James Prescott.co.uk & is a regular guest blogger for several sites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.