I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

10 June 2013

Where have I been?

Seerosengewächse - Luisenpark, Mannheim - Photo by J.Stahl

I've been trying to return back here several times in the past couple of weeks, and honestly, I didn't know what to write about. There's so much I could talk about, but I've started feeling slightly like a crazy person with many of the things that I've started realizing and noticing around me and it's... well, it's depressing!

Out of all the things I had hoped to observe, one of them is that men in Christian forums can be really nice and respectable, and if you express your opinion, it'll be taken at face value. [[buzzer sound]] WRONG!!!!!!!  I've had to block several people this week. Mostly because I could not bear to see the misogyny any more. I just cannot handle that insanity. 

 It's just the same crazy rehashed over and over. No one is moving forward. No one wants to hear the other side.Those of us who actually do try, keep being burnt.

Otherwise, things have been extremely busy around the house, I've been sick with an infection. I've just gotten caught up on Doctor Who. (From Doctor #9 to #11 from February until last week)  I've also just begun Series 2 of Torchwood - and I've been reading again!

I'm not the sort of person to read one book at a time since I have many different interests. I usually read three or four books at one go. Then I add in several magazines or short pamphlets as well. If I do not do that, I get extremely bored and forget about the book entirely.  Actually, that's about how I watch television shows as well. Multiple genres, several things recorded to watch later, and nothing that is only one series as I've been burnt over and over on cancellations. (Twelve of my favorites have been cancelled since early May - American and Canadian series. Two British series that I enjoyed have ended in a short run.) In other words, I've learned from my mistakes after Fox cancelled Firefly... I keep my options open.

Books I'm reading now include Hillary Clinton's  "It Takes a Village". I'd heard nothing but terrible reviews of the book since it came out, and honestly? I'm not seeing why. So far, it's really well written and her arguments are many of the same issues I've had with child-rearing, gaps in Child Protective Services and over-arching issues in schools. I purchased my copy used, since we haven't a library nearby that I can lend books from in English.

I recently finished Virginia Ramsey Mollenkott's "The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God As Female". Contrary to some things I'd heard about the book, it was absolutely wonderful!
Virginia Mollenkott raised a lot of imagery and questions that I have had since childhood and been told I was bringing in heretical doctrine.

Some of these images are expounded upon in Judaism, but Christians are afraid to entertain the idea that G-d has described imagery that is both masculine and feminine to explain what and who G-d is.

My particular copy is from 1983. I was two years old when this was published. Somehow that is extremely encouraging, as I'd wondered if perhaps I was going off the deep-end to assume there must have been scholars that were arguing for a more egalitarian and less masculine driven theology and philosophy about G-d; as G-d is not gendered.

One fun thing about getting older used books is that they often have notes already in them from the individuals that have read them before you.   I actually laughed while reading the book to find that I did not need my pencil as much as I thought I would. Normally I do not underline or mark in my books, but if the book is very thought provoking and I want to be sure to highlight some area to revisit, I do mark along the sides of paragraphs to pay closer attention, or if a phrase is particularly poignant, I'll underline something. Whomever it was that owned this withdrawn library copy before me, had done just that!  I decided to leave in the pencil markings and instead use a pen and make arrows to the areas I was particularly drawn towards.

One such area that stood out at me was from the chapter about "God as Mother Bear".
"Many women are struggling with their anger at a society and a religion that do not appreciate the full range of their gifts and relegates them always to a supportive, secondary, or self-sacrificial role... One-way servitude is not healthy, whether it be that of the Divine Mother or the human female."
Virginia Ramsey Mollenkott's "The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God As Female", pages 52-53
Another area was from the chapter "God as Female Homemaker
"Throughout the centuries of patriarchy, religious women have been told to model themselves after the exclusively masculine models... The masculinizing results are evident in various historical eras. ...ascetic women... were regularly compared to Thecla, the legendary disciple of Saint Paul, who cut her hair like a man, traveled with the apostle disguised as a man, and refused to let any threats from her family or the state stop her from pursuing her vocation. While we can be thankful for the courage of Thecla, her example does nothing for contemporary women who want to serve God without denying our womanliness."
Virginia Ramsey Mollenkott's "The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God As Female", page 63
My absolute favorite though was the chapter "God our Ezer". It reminded me so much of Carolyn Custis James' book "Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women".  Did you know that Ezer is used 21 times in the Tanakh and it is used twice to describe Eve? Every other time it is used to talk about someone, it is used to talk about G-d. Now, I'm not saying (and neither is the author) that women are more equal to G-d or some nonsense, but that we've lost this information somewhere in time and instead of having a balanced view of men and women working together (not in some sort of patriarchal way, but as true equals as G-d intended), we have chosen to put on "blue glasses" and view G-d in one way, when G-d is actually not presented that way at all.

In other words, it's as if we've sat back and tried to watch a 3D movie without the wonderful advantage of having the glasses to go along with it. We've seen the same film together, but some of us have gotten more out of it by using the proper glasses to view the film with, than those who chose to go without and watch a distorted image.  Everything would simply change if we were on even ground.
"One of the direct results of sexism is that it blinds us to the humble nearness of God, the internal presence of God who is our ezer, our servant as well as our master."
Virginia Ramsey Mollenkott's "The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God As Female", page 77
 To that, all I can say is "Preach on, Sister!

I've also read and finished Firstfruits of Zion's "The Sabbath Breaker". I really liked the book, but I felt like it could have given us a little bit more. It was very good in explaining three different views on whether or not (and how) Y'shua broke the Sabbath and IF he broke the Sabbath that he couldn't be Messiah because that made him a sinner and not qualified to be Messiah.

The book goes on to explain the 39 Melachot (Forbidden types of work on Shabbat) and where Y'shua diverted from one interpretation and accepted another.

Where I felt the book fell short, was that it didn't really explain thoroughly how Y'shua was a rabbi in his own right, recognized as a Pharisee and therefore qualified to argue the finer points of one observance over another sect of Pharisees.   (For those that might not know, there were seven types of Pharisee, which were mentioned in Scripture and alive and functioning at the time of Y'shua and into the end of the times the Apostles were alive.)  Honestly, I would have loved to have more explanation there rather than needing to get another book that explains how Y'shua and the disciples/apostles were all functioning as Pharisees and Essenes, and that this is not a bad thing.

I do enjoy the brevity of the book for people who are rather argumentative and want short easy answers, but for those of us who are a bit further along or want meatier material, it does fall just short of that.

My other issue is that the 39 melachot are accepted without much argument as 100% valid "Must do's" without fleshing that out further. I believe that this may be better handled in another book to explain how and why this would be so - given that I'm such a person that doesn't learn well unless my hands are busy taking down notes, or otherwise occupied in some sort of crafty manner. I know many women who are exactly the same. We don't find our handicrafts or taking notes as "work" at all, but as a way to keep the mind flexible so that what we are hearing will be assimilated knowledge.

I do not believe at all that anyone who observes these rules are legalistic, but I find it short sighted to say that those of us who don't are "missing out" or otherwise creating by taking notes. I'm one of the few people who has trouble keeping in knowledge that I must be sure to act upon or remember if I haven't written it down.

I know it is not the author's intention, but the feeling I get about this is that the next step would be to suggest a separate women's area - and then women's attendance will fall because they are not as involved in services, are relegated to the back (or balcony) and are unseen and unheard by the male populace. I pray this is not so, but I've seen many Messianic congregations head that way and I'd rather not be involved in such a congregation where I am made to feel unwanted and unneeded.

This will be one place that I am unconvinced and lean more Conservative with my observance. I would like to see more and explore more, but at this point, I just don't see quite eye to eye with this point of view. I am however quite giving in that I don't think it's really something to quibble over or let divide otherwise lovely individuals from having great interactions with each other.

Two other items from Firstfruits of Zion that I'd recently purchased and finally perused. (Color me embarrassed - life just seems to get away from me. I'd had it for over a month before I sat down to look it over.)

Kiddush Shabbat is a wonderful fold out guide to the opening Shabbat liturgy. This would work fine for home or synagogue observance.

The wonderful part about this guide is that it includes suggestions of songs, and is well annotated for those of us who like looking at the Scriptures from which this liturgy was inspired.

Closing Shabbat is a wonderful guide that I believe would help a lot of people who are not quite used to Shabbat liturgy find their way and help them to memorize a home service or have a more easily fluid Melaveh Malkah

I love the fact that the card has a slight gloss so that it won't glare either by sun or candle light  and that it is well annotated so that you can look up the various Scriptures that each part of the service is drawn from.

I would however recommend laminating your copies of each pamphlet if you will be using it frequently.

For those of you who saw my "Spank Out Day USA Musings", you would probably not be shocked to hear that I have been reading Pastor Crystal Lutton's books "Biblical Parenting" and "Grace-Based Living".

Due to my living in Germany, I had a terrible time trying to find "Biblical Parenting". We didn't have it available on our Amazon. Amazingly, there are now a few used and new copies being offered for over 30€. I found my copy on E-bay for a little bit less than that, which is crazy for a book that runs around $18 in the United States.

I do know Crystal a bit from our online interactions together on Skype and Gentle Christian Mothers, as well as her new group on Google Plus, Grace Based Living. I wish I had known her long before this and my parenting would have certainly gone a whole lot smoother. 

There were so many awesome take-aways from this book, and it is a really quick read. The book was written in 2001, when Crystal had only two children - but it is just as valid in 2013 after many children. 

Crystal references several different authors who teach along a similar premise, as well as those who explain about healthy boundaries to quickly sum up what she (and many others like her) believe are Biblical parenting methods.

The basics that every Christian and Messianic parent needs are: boundaries, grace and tools to navigate normal child development.  (These tools do not include beating your child.)

 When Crystal's book "Grace-Based Living" was offered on Spank Out Day for free, I snapped up a copy. I'm currently in the middle of it, and all I can say is that you really need to get a copy if you are moving away from a punitive mindset.
This one has a lot more tools in it than the previous book, probably as it was originally written in 2006. 

In chapter three, Crystal discusses a Grace-Based Marriage. Unsurprisingly, she mentions the issue of Eve being described as a wife, an Ezer Neged:

"In fact, the woman was not created only to be ezer to her husband. she was created to be ezer neghed. This translates as a 'helper who opposes.' When the rabbis talk about the responsibility of women in marriage, they speak of her having been created to walk side by side with her husband and carry the burdens of this life with him as long as he is on the path of righteousness.
If he attempts to stray from that path and pursue some sinful or unrighteous effort, it becomes his wife's responsibility to throw herself in front of his path and, to the best of her ability, block him from leaving. She is to help him in righteousness and oppose him in sin."
"...Most popular teaching today on submission is really about how women can biblically manipulate men. It is not worded that way, but as we talk about boundaries and other relationship principles and dynamics, I believe you will see better where I am coming from. Women are taught that through submission they can control their husband. Every time a woman has been told, 'If you would only submit more/properly/better, your husband would...' That is the language of manipulation, not submission."
Crystal Lutton, Chapter 3 of
Grace-Based Living

I'll leave you with those two quotes to go on and beg you to get a copy whether you now have kids, never will have kids, or plan on having kids in the deep dark future somewhere, sometime. It really is a wonderful book that touches on many issues of marriage and child-rearing.

 I'm noticing that most of the books that I'm reading are really looking at the deeper issues of seeking Tikkun Olam. Repairing relationships (parental, with one's children, and with others in the community and world at large) is the main focus, but also following the mandate in Genesis to take care of and help repair the world.

You see, I was raised in a rather spiritually abusive environment. I could have simply walked away. But I chose not to. I chose to step aside and just watch it play out while being very rude and sullen about it all, until I was ready to delve in and start exploring again, after I had my oldest son.

Maybe that could be something I write about. Coming to terms with my spiritual abuse and horrible childhood experiences..?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I love the books you are reading!! Im especially drawn to Crystals books (which I still have not downloaded or read) and the Divine Feminine. I've never heard of something like the Divine Feminine before, but I have at times noticed that some descriptions of God in the Psalms SOUND feminine (Umm, covering us with his feathers sounds distinctly feminine, motherly) But I have never heard the concept before you wrote about it here. Ill have to see if I can find the book on or ebay....maybe even amazon...