Sunday, May 22, 2005

excellent failure

when i read this passage of brian mclaren's book a generous orthodoxy, i thought, yes, i know this. it is me writing this. this familiar failure that i've tried so long to shut out. but it will not go away. it dogs me. it gnaws at me.

blown it again. yes, i've blown it again.

exactly what, i cannot say.

those who know me well may guess, but i am not at liberty to say.

just know, i've excelled at failing once again.

that quote from brian is:

I often think my most valuable credential is my vast repertoire of stupid mistakes through the years, mistakes that can't help but teach their perpetrator something the hard way.


it is the numb ache of a rotten tooth. the dulling drone of a migraine. the head spinning frustration of missing the connection which would get you home tonight.

savor failure when it comes. when it lights upon you. don't flit it away like some pesky fly buzzing too loud in your ear. it must have something to teach you. something to say. listen. do not speak. do not block it out. just be silent and experience your failure, utter and complete.

it will teach you to relish success. at least i think it will. if i succeed, i'll let you know.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


i'm reviewing a book about the AIDS pandemic. the chapter on women and children infuriated me.

the author writes (in a section titled "the Patriarch problem"):

Christianity and other religions give lip service to honoring and caring for women, youth, and orphans. But reality rarely matches rhetoric so that, in truth, women, youth, and children, are treated as second-class or lower citizens. This discrepancy between the idealism expressed and the reality experienced is painfully evident amid the global pandemic of AIDS.

Christianity and other world religions developed amid patriarchal societies in which women are treated as objects rather than persons. To this day, women have neither been accorded equal rights within the society nor equal rights within religious communities. The male, in most instances, has been granted authority and power over women, especially wives, and this has led to devastating consequences for women and their health and well-being.

the author goes on to relate this directly to the pandemic and women being unable to protect themselves.

my anger is not at the men, as you might think.

i was raised in a matriarchal family. men in our family largely kept silent and were very passive aggressive. the women held the power and it wasn't long before the men learned their place. (scary, i know).

the Lord has significantly healed me of much of my matriarchal tendencies. by brining me into submission and teaching me about authority and covering.

i agree, women are not afforded the courtesy of dignity in many cases, but the problem is not patriarchy. the problem is men acting like buffoons. the remedy then is not feminism and matriarchy or swapping one bully for another, the remedy is mutual submission. rightful authority.

it troubles me that the church remains largely silent on this issue, but i think the pastors (most of whom are men) are afraid to bring up the subject and get the women folk all stirred up (i understand, believe me).

at one small church i was asked if i had anything for the newsletter, i said, a piece on submission and one on community. the one on community was opted for.

when i took the helm of that newsletter, i ran the piece about submission because it is not a taboo subject and needs to be looked at in the light of Truth.

once the younger adults in my family were discussing something controversial, as young people will do when they are grouped up at a party. we didn't agree and my matriarchal, older aunt stood up and walked to the door and said,
this is why we don't discuss things.

of course we all laughed. it was like watching the old guard say, see, if you put these blinders on you won't see anything.

but that's the problem. the disagreement is not the problem. not seeing anything is the problem.

i am not into submitting myself or subjecting myself to any power hungry church leader (and there are plenty, believe you me). prayerfully i listen to what the Lord says and try to submit myself where He bid me. when He tells me to hit the road and not submit, i do that too. but that too is a submission to the Lord.

i know all this talk of submission is too much for some women but let me tell you how the Lord explained it all to me, to where i could finally understand without some frightening male interpretation clouding my vision.

the Lord said,
you know how saul had his armorbearer beside him in battle?


that is how you are to be beside your husband in battle.

wow. really?


that requires stamina.


that requires strength.


that requires the ability to wield a sword.


aaahhh! i see.

perhaps we need a new word to describe this.

in sharing my thoughts with a friend, i told her patriarchy in its purest form is a mutual submission. a preferring one another.

i've seen very few relationships where this is the rule.

mostly i've seen one dominate the other. one rule the other. whether it be the man or woman is irrelevant, it is sin.

mutual submission is the only way (as much as i hate saying there is one way to do anything).

women have lost the tender place in the heart of men by all the bra-burning and insisting on their rights. fine. have your rights, but submit to the head of your family. submit to the head of the church. if he's male, so be it. it doesn't change the Bible. even neutering the language doesn't change the spiritual principle behind submission.

men have lost their God given stength. their masculinity, their power because they are afraid to tell a woman she is out of line. they are afraid to speak truth lest it be interpreted as politically incorrect. if a man can tell a woman, in all humility that she is out of line, without going overboard and telling her to submit to being beaten and abused, subjecting herself to degradation, then they can reclaim their rightful authority. but only by submission.

submission is not a bad word. it is a beautiful and excellent thing. it is the key to the kingdom. let me tell you one more thing before i away:

there is a wretched set of movies called the prophecy series. while i don't recommend watching them, there is one scene that sums all this up.

gabriel, the fallen angel--the angel of death in this series is outside a gate. he wants to enter. but michael stands watch.

gabriel says to michael,
let me back in the family brother.

michael replies

gabriel proceeds to find entry another way.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

art imitating life

i am probably the only person in the world who waxes philosophic after watching an episode of er. such is the case tonight.

as i watched dr. carter and that lovely brunette from mission impossible 2 dealing with the loss of their only child a year after his death, and how she pushed carter away when he spoke of it, i realized we all do that.

i've inextricably bound together the person involved (in some large or small way) to my pain and failure. they trigger those feelings of inadequacy and the resultant emotional upheaval that follows.

as i watched my daughter sleeping tonight, i wondered if she would bind me to her pain and failure, or if she would see the "better angels of my nature" as susan ashton so aptly put it. will she remember that i didn't doctor her ouchy and told her to stop crying and go to bed now, or will she remember that we spent hours outside today walking and talking? what will prevail in her little mind? who will i be to her when she is grown? a monster or a mom she fondly remembers?

of course this calls me to question all the thoughts i've thought of my own dear mother. how i wished she were this or that. i once sent her some very blunt poetry (are you surprized? really?). and i expected misunderstanding.

she stunned me.

she said, essentially
you don't know me.

and i didn't.

i had her pegged for something she was not. for a weakling. for a whiner. but she is a strong woman who survived many, many trials and pains i know nothing of, and cannot possibly begin to comprehend.

she is a woman who chooses to see the best in people and releases the painful memories from her mind, allowing those who flounder and fail in her presence the grace to try again.

but i have only come to realize this because she said that to me. she said,
is that who you think i am?

and i had to ask myself. i had to stop and reconsider all my ideas and concepts of her. i had to step out of the childish role of being able to comprehend and embrace the incomprehensible. allowing my mother to be who she really is, a strong, beautiful, surviving woman who made lemonade from lemons. she is truly amazing.

so tonight, i realized when someone triggers our pain. as is said in theophostic ministry, we have to stop and consider what that pain is about.

or run the risk of so identifying a person with our pain and failures that they embody nothing more than our pain and failures. they become our pain. they become failures. they can do no right.

how many souls i have damned to this place in my life.

i praise God for one mindless television show, that He used to reveal it.

Friday, May 06, 2005


i've written on penance before, i'll try to dig it up and post it later this week. to amuse myself, i guess.

you've gathered now that i'm roughly hewn. try as i might to come off as a polished stone, i've still some jagged edges which catch a few unwary souls. they typically happen to be the soft-spoken, gentle, peace-loving, couldn't-hurt-a-fly types. those are the ones who starkly contrast me and make even the raising of my eyebrows appear to be something questionable.

one such soul was talking with my daughter whom i'd asked to renew our library books. this lady is so nice, so kind, so gentle. speaks barely above a whisper and carries herself with meekness.

my husband and i were discussing my contrast to that the other day, i'm loud (most of my family is loud) even my whispers are loud. i'm out there, i speak my mind. and i don't roll-over for just anyone. such is me.

i've stopped trying to fight who i am, it only exasperates me and my poor family who live with me. they have to deal with my sharp edges most, you see.

i've started trying to roll with things. to let the water off my back, rather than gathering it up and trying to spit it all back in the face of whatever sent it my way in the first place.

somedays i do this better than others.

yesterday, i was shelving books at my library (i won the i love the library contest and got $100 just the beginning of april, fast forward to now, i'm doing penance. this is my life).

i have learned you can get out of having to pay for a great many things by simply asking, is there some way i can volunteer (that's the magic word). please is also helpful. but volunteer does wonders.

so my fines get cancelled ($15 worth, yikes! my hubby just started working last week and i'm getting fines like we're the worthingtons).

i offered to come in and shelve books because i found the error to be on my part, not theirs (as i had so arrogantly put it when i spoke to the kind, gentle lady on the phone).

i snuck into the library trying to be incognito and then finally found the nice lady and apologized. i told her i'd shelve books to take care of the fines.

she was pleased, she had three double-sided-three-shelved racks overflowing with books you see. she let me help with those.

i got in a groove, worked up a sweat and shelved two whole carts and part of a third in one and three quarter hours.

penance feels good, i kept thinking. once i do this, i'll be scot free. because i've "earned" my good name back. i've "paid" my price. sigh.

i would have done all three shelves in two hours, but my girl got tired of waiting, so as i was checking out, i told the lady,
i should have been a catholic, i love penance.

she laughed.

i did not think it so funny deep inside.

i rushed home to make a quick dinner for my family so i could rush off and be appreciated for my "volunteer" service with a particular organization.

i pull into the parking lot and there were only two cars.

not again,
i sighed.

for you see, i, the baffoon i can be, did the very same thing last week. i pulled into the parking lot and waited. i'm usually the first one to arrive as i read until people get there. i've taken to setting up the room, so the janitor lets me in, poor soul, then helps me set out all the tables.

i waited until 7:25, a full 25 minutes after the meeting was to have begun and no one showed. ugh. i knew i couldn't be the only person who missed the info. i suddenly felt like a heel. i couldn't undo the tables, they are these huge foldy things with chairs attached. so i had to leave it all for the poor janitor to fix.

talk about feeling like a heel. i thanked him as i drove away. i guess i could have gotten him and fixed the room with him. but i didn't think of that till now. (maybe i can do some penance?)

well, all this to say, i want to be appreciated just like the next guy. i want to be forgiven, just like the next guy. i can't earn any of it. i can make a fine mess, but i can't undo any of my messes. without help.

i'm reading in my Bible this morning, because that is what good christians do, and i was angry and just wanted to weep. the Lord said, it's okay. i even ripped a page of my Bible. and for book lovers, that is nigh apostasy (or bookostasy). so i fixed it, and shut it to come here and write.

somehow my convoluted little world, my random thoughts make more sense on paper (or computer screen) than they do in my head. they line up in nice little rows and actually say something.

but even that, i cannot do alone. i excel at making messes. i can offend and argue with the best of them. i cannot, however, manufacture an ounce of mercy or forgiveness. i cannot do anything good on my own.