Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wifely Submission, Part V: Wives, Submit Yourselves to Your Husbands

Austrian Infantry Officer With Wife
I searched all over for vintage photos of couples who looked happy.  I know they didn't smile in photos then, but even going by their eyes, nearly all the wives all looked resigned or scared.  Maybe they were following a less accurate translation?
When it comes to difficult Scripture passages, whether it is verses about the rod or about submission or anything else, one of the hardest things to do is to set aside our own cultural baggage and preconceived notions about what the text really means.  I suspect that God likes to challenge us.  To play hide and seek, in a way, so that we will look for Him more earnestly.

I believe that Scripture is holy, and that twisting it to make it more palatable to our own way of thinking is incredibly dangerous.  I have seen first hand the terrible damage it does to families and societies when it is warped and misused by those who want to justify their own sinful nature.  And that is especially true when it comes to the issue of Biblical submission.

Parts I, II, III and IV of this series looked at the issue of wifely submission in passages on Creation, the Fall, the Curse and the Gospels.  Over and over we saw that God's design was for unity and mutual submission.  Which is probably why people consider Ephesians 5 to be the big guns of the argument for hierarchy within marriage.  So let's take a look at it:
"Be filled with the Spirit, while you are supporting one another out of respect for the Anointed One, wives with your own husbands as to the Lord.  The man is the source of the woman just as the Anointed One is the source of the assembly.  He himself is the protector of the body.  Just as the assembly is a support for the Anointed One, so let the wives be a support for their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as the Anointed One loved the assembly.  He sacrifices himself to make the assembly sacred and to cleanse it with baptism by the spoken word.  He did this so he would have a a sacred and unblemished assembly, an assembly held in high honor, without stains or wrinkles or any flaws.  Husbands are obliged to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his own wife loves himself.  No one hates his own body, but provides for and cares for it, just as surely as the Lord provides for and cares for the assembly, because we are the members of his body.  The Scriptures say, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will be a single body."  This is an important hidden secret truth.  But I am referring to the Anointed One and the assembly.  So to get back to the subject - each one of you is to love his own wife just as he loves himself, so that the wife is able to respect her husband." ~ Ephesians 5:21-33 The Source
Wow!  That clears up just about everything right there!  But before going back into it, let's talk about the, er, source.  That ain't the KJV.  We all know that if John the Baptist used the King James Version, then it's good enough for us, right?  Except that he didn't, and neither did Paul or any of the other Biblical authors.  God has not changed since the Bible was written.  His Word is forever.  His character and His design for relationships have not changed. 

The English language has changed, though, and so has Biblical scholarship.  We have access to much more material than the KJV translators had.  We have a much better understanding of the Biblical languages thanks to that material.  Because of that, we are able to get a more accurate picture of what the Bible really said to the first people to read it.  And it turns religious patriarchy on its head.

The Source is a treasure trove of information, with extensive notes on the Greek texts and the most accurate translations of them available.  Let's break down a few of the key words in this passage:

According to the notes in The Source, hupotasso, the word translated here as "to support", and in many other translations as "to submit", is most often used as "to be attached" and "to support" (p. 338).  Even if you use the mistranslation of "to submit", the verse "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands" does not occur in ANY known Greek text!  This is a case of the early translators reading their own ideas of patriarchy into the text.  The idea of support is not only more consistent with Greek usage, it is also much more consistent with the rest of the Bible.

Also, the Bible *does* clearly state is that it is to be mutual.  Look back at the beginning: the instruction to both husbands and wives is to support (or if you insist, submit) to one another.  In other words, the husband is also called to support/submit to his wife! 

It then goes on to beautifully illustrate the mutuality of the relationship--we are not independent of each other.  Man is the source of woman (taken from his body).  The word used for head in this passage does NOT imply authority in Greek, just a physical head.  Much like the head of a river is the source of a river, not authority over it. 

The verses about the husband loving the wife once again speak of the importance of echad--unity in the relationship.  But an incredibly important part of the last verse that is that subjunctive form in the Greek that is sadly omitted from some English translations: the husband is to love his wife just as he loves himself so that the wife is able to respect her husband.

I fully believe that wives are to submit to their husbands, in the sense of unselfishly supporting and caring for them.  I also fully believe that husbands are to submit to their wives and unselfishly support and care for them.  That is who we are supposed to be as believers.  Look at Phillipians 2.  How much more should that apply to the intimacy of a husband and wife!

Ephesians 5 is a beautiful passage about family relationships and what it means to love and support one another as we love God.  It is not about hierarchy of men over women, or even husbands over wives.  There are other Biblical passages to examine, too, but so far the trend is pretty clear.  God's Word doesn't change:  the picture from the very beginning is of oneness, not separateness.  Of both partners supporting and submitting to each other, not of one ruling the other.

For another look at Ephesians 5 from the standpoint of mutual submission and Hebraic thought, please check out this link:

Image credit: josefnovak33

Read the whole series :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The 10 Commandments for Parents: Honor Your Father and Your Mother

The commandment to honor our parents gets a lot of attention.  Not surprisingly, most of the emphasis comes from parents, even though it isn't written to them.  I wholeheartedly believe that the Bible commands that children obey and honor their parents.  But I also believe that we as parents must be exceedingly careful with this commandment for two reasons:  it is a commandment to children, not to parents, and our perception of obedience is often skewed.

It seems obvious, but the commandment is not, "Parents, demand honor for yourselves."  Read the Gospels and look at Jesus' response to the disciples when they started trying to grasp honor and position for themselves.  Arrogantly demanding that others honor us goes entirely against the nature of Christ.

Consider this other example of Biblical family relationships.  Husbands and wives are commanded to submit to each other, but they are certainly not commanded to coerce the other into submission.  We are responsible to God for following His commands to us.  We are not responsible for exacting revenge against those who do not soothe our pride.

Another important point is that obedience is far more than compliance.  Compliance is just outwardly doing what is required.  True obedience means that they hear with their hearts, they understand, and they choose to obey.  It is a heart response of united purpose.  It cannot be forced.  If it is done out of fear, it is merely compliance, not obedience.   And nowhere are parents given the authority to judge the hearts and intents of their children.  To attempt that is to try to usurp power that belongs to God alone, and a far more serious thing than any childish mistakes our little ones might make.

There is incredible power and beauty in a family that is united in their goal to love and glorify God.  So how can we help our children to hear, to understand, to obey?

To help our children to hear us, we have to have their attention.  Yelling from across the room while our own eyes are glued to the TV or computer doesn't cut it.  If it isn't important enough to me to get off my bum and take a second to focus, why should it matter to them?  We need to go to where they are, gently touch them, make eye contact, and then state the request.  It is also very important that we think through our wording.

Once we have their full attention and have clearly stated our request, it may take a few seconds for them to process it.  That is OK.  It may also mean that we have to help them to follow our instructions.  GOYB parenting teaches our children that our words have meaning because we are there to prevent them from being ignored.

Remember, they won't be able to hear us if their emotions are shrieking so loudly that they drown us out.  Research shows that children who are scared or angry aren't physically capable of reasoning and understanding well.  Entirely different areas of the brain are involved.  So if they are upset and we truly want them to hear and understand, we have to help them to calm down, not just outwardly, but inwardly.  That may mean that we have to listen, validate and comfort before we can teach.

Transforming instruction and teaching so that a small child can truly understand it is one of the best things we can do.  It can clarify and strengthen our own sense of purpose, or it may cause us to reevaluate our instructions.  If there really isn't a good reason for it, or not one we can understand and explain ourselves, then perhaps it isn't a good instruction.

I hear a lot of  "I'm the parent, that's why!" and objections to explaining things to children on the grounds that in an emergency there won't be time for explanations.  I think the progression is backward on that, though.  If we explain so that our children fully understand, it builds trust so that eventually, the past history of the relationship, and the confidence that has developed from that, will help them to comply when it is necessary.

Although ultimately, the choice to obey is between our children and God, there is much that we can do to enable them to want to obey.  We can courteously get their attention, speak clearly when they are able to listen, and we can focus on building the trust and connection that will help them want to share our vision.  Only then will they truly be able to obey and honor us from the heart.

The rainforest path was treacherous and slippery.
But they carefully followed and obeyed because they understood and shared the vision.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Confessions of a Real Food Convert

We have started eating real food, and I like it.  All of our kidlets have had food allergies, and I had used that as a mental excuse to eat any safe junk food we wanted.  Thankfully, many of the allergies no longer affect them, but that had just widened the crack in the door.  Our schedule also means that we are frequently out of the house during mealtimes, so we were doing quite a bit of fast food.

Usually, when I make a radical change, it involves a ton of research, hours poring over books and websites, weighing different alternatives, and then finding a group of people who feel the same way to support and encourage me.  This time, it was a little more...excuse the  It just felt right.

I have never been a fan of diet foods or artificially colored/flavored anything, but we ate a LOT of sugar and conventional meats.  Last year, we started using more honey and less sugar, all organic milk and eggs, and some organic produce.  This year, we switched to all pasture-raised, organic, grass-fed meats and dairy and nearly all organic grains and produce (and we are eating much more fruits and veggies than before, especially veggies!). 
Carrots - Carota - Wortels - Geze - 胡萝卜- zanahoria - carotte - ニンジン
The kidlets think that the greens on top look fancy and more like *real* carrots.  They love to peel them and eat them now!

I have been so excited about it!  Without even trying to, we are eating less and less junk.  It just doesn't appeal as much now.  Real food has just replaced it most of the time.  It does cost a little bit more, but not nearly as much as I feared, since we are eating less of other things.  And it may be my imagination, but it seems like I feel full faster and am crashing/snacking less.

With all of this, I was really excited to participate in the recent 10 Day Real Food Challenge along with Child Organics, The ArtfulMama, Simply Natural Mom and some of my other favorite bloggers, thanks to 100 Days of Real Food.  I admit, I cheated on Easter, since it is a feast day, and had a lovely dessert bread stuffed full of fruits and nuts that contained some sugar and more than 5 ingredients.  Otherwise, though, I followed the rules and found it easier than I expected.

Completely eliminating sugar was a little tough, although being able to use honey and real maple syrup satisfied any cravings for sweet stuff.  I was also delighted that my favorite muffin recipe made with honey instead of sugar turned out fabulous.  But a lifetime with no chocolate?  Um, no thanks.  We don't use granulated sugar much at all, but I am not going to completely cut out all items that have sugar.  Especially chocolate, thankyouverymuch. In the future, I will also use items with more than five ingredients as long as they are things that my great-grandparents would have recognized as food, and some fast foods. Although I find that there, too, my preferences have changed quite a bit.  Once you eat grass-fed beef, burgers from other sources just don't taste very good!

With those modifications, though, I am finding that eating real food doesn't feel restrictive in any way.  I eat whenever I want and whatever I want.   You don't miss Tootsie Rolls if you are feasting on Godiva truffles.  I have whole fat, grass fed butter every day, sweets everyday (with honey or maple syrup), and plenty of protein (my hubby's favorite meal now is burgers since we started buying the meat from a local farm.  He says that before, he never could understand how Bobby Flay could say that a burger was one of his favorite meals, but the grass-fed beef made him a convert, too).  The funny thing?  With all this, we have both lost weight!

Our younger kids aren't fully on board yet, but that is OK, too.  I am buying less of the processed foods and just by having more real food available, they are starting to prefer it, too.  The baby loves my smoothies with spinach, kale, cod liver oil, fruit and yogurt.  My son told me yesterday that he liked the Subway sandwich better than McDonald's.  Our three year old daughter's favorite snack ever is celery with bleu cheese dressing.  They still like the junk, but are asking for it less.  It is important to me that their changes be like mine--made from their own preferences and enjoyment, not us forcing them.

So, we are doing it our own way, but I believe that this won't just be 100 days of real food, but instead a lifetime of happier, healthy eating.  :)

Image credit: color line on Flickr

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: The Other Baby Book

The Other Baby Book Virtual Tour
When I became pregnant with our first baby, I spent hours reading mainstream baby books.  It was frustrating.  The information seemed to be pure conflict--advocating conflict with our baby (leaving her to cry, weaning from the breast by nine months), even conflict with other chapters of their own book (don't wean before a year, you can't spoil a baby).  Most of all, it conflicted with my heart.  Much of the advice seemed fear based, and instead of feeling empowered, reading those books left me full of doubts. 

Reading The Other Baby Book was a lovely breath of fresh air!  It is full of up-to-date info on everything from birth to breastfeeding to starting solids and other first year topics.  Even as a mom of four, I found new and interesting info on elimination communication, cloth diapers and baby led solids. That is important.  But I also enjoyed reading it.  Because what new mom has time to wade through a book that is a chore to read?

The tone is neither condescending or cheesy--it is just what you would expect if you had curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a dear friend.  It is funny and down to earth, but also full of excellent references and solid information.  The excerpts from some of my favorite authors (Jan Hunt, Alfie Kohn, Naomi Aldort and more) were a delight as well as a wonderful intro for further reading, and the real-life voices of Megan and Miriam set it apart as moms who have been there, not just researchers who have compiled data in a lab or library.

My only quibblette (too tiny to be a real quibble) with the book is that I wished the section on vaccination had been a little stronger in support and info for those who choose not to vax.  That said, it was still better than the mainstream baby books I have read, and I recognize the many difficulties it could present.  Also, although it does offer some information on infant development, it does not have any "what your baby should be able to do at x months" sections.

There are a lot of excellent things to say about this book, but for me, the greatest was that reading it brought a sense of peace.  As a follower of Christ, I believe that one of the greatest reminders from the Bible is that whatever we do to the smallest of these, we are doing to Jesus.  That flies right in the face of advice to schedule feedings, leave our babies to cry alone, or to imagine evil intent behind their attempts to communicate.

The Other Baby Book uses research and common sense to support the convictions of my heart to treat my babies as I would want to be treated.  Reading it filled me with peace and a sense of freedom to listen to my spirit as I mother my children.  It is a wonderful thing to find that science and love come together and say the same thing!  This is a baby book that I look forward to sharing with my new mom friends, knowing that it will be a source of wisdom and peace for their families.

The book is excellent, but make sure you check out all the other ways to link up with these fabulous moms!

Twitter: @otherbabybook

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy for review purposes.  My opinions are sincere and honestly presented in the review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hairbrushing is a Safety Issue--April Carnival of Natural Parenting

Do you have children who hate having their hair brushed?  Today I am over at the Natural Parents Network explaining what I am learning from my daughter: that hair brushing really can be a safety issue.  And don't forget to check out all the fabulous posts from other mamas on children and personal care!
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vanity and Accepting Compliments

Image credit: Valerie Everett on Flickr
When I was little, a huge percentage of morality tales and teachings seemed to be about pride and vanity.  I soaked them up without question.  After all, Pride was The Sin that Made Satan Satan, right?  Yet somehow, the teachings were a bit warped, or maybe it was my own mind that twisted them.  Instead of seeing the sinfulness as grasping equality with God, it came to mean that accepting credit for anything good was prideful.

It wasn't specifically my parents who taught me that--they actually praised us quite often.  It was more the culture that surrounded us.  Girls, especially, were supposed to be humble at all times.   The funny thing, though, is that I didn't know any girls who were truly prideful or stuck up.  Most of the ones that I knew struggled just as I did with the opposite end of the spectrum.

Whenever someone complimented us, instead of preening with satisfaction, we were more likely to panic as an internal chorus began to shriek that we didn't deserve it.  (They wouldn't say that if they knew...)  The screams that we were a fraud and fear of subsequent failure (What if I mess up next time?  They will be so disappointed!) were almost loud enough to drown out the love of the original words.

That makes accepting compliments really awkward.  Gothard had a nice formula for that: you simply redirect the praise to another person.  So if someone says something nice about you, you simply explain that the credit really belongs to God, your parents, your teachers, or someone else.  There is truth in that.  But, when your idea of responsibility means that you always accept blame for things that go wrong, but never for anything that goes right, it becomes twisted.

And if your primary love language is words of affirmation?  Ugh! It winds up being a huge emotional mess.  Recently, I have been so incredibly blessed by so many of you who have left encouraging comments on my blog or Facebook page.  My soul has desperately needed to drink up your kindness and affirmation.  But, each time, I freeze up inside.  (This is why it often takes me so long to respond!  I can answer critical questions much more easily some days than a compliment!)

That chorus begins again.  If they knew that you yelled at your kids yesterday, they wouldn't think you were a good mom.  If they saw how messy your house is...  If they knew that you gave your kids ice cream for breakfast yesterday just so you could get a few minutes on the computer...

I don't want that for my daughters.  I don't want every kind word to be distorted by internal critics.  I want them to be able to graciously accept credit for the things that they do right just as much as responsibility for things that need to change.  Which probably means that it would help if I modeled that, huh?  I am trying to work on responding with a sincere "thank you", but I still have not quieted the shrieking demons inside.

Have any of you dealt with something similar?  How did you retrain your mind and feelings? 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Help My Unbelief

My three year old is sick. Nothing terribly serious, I believe. But she is miserable. She has had a fever and headache for the last 36 hours. I haven't slept more than an hour each of the last two nights. I keep anxiously checking her neck for any signs of pain or stiffness. I know menengitis is rare, but that hasn't kept me from worrying. I have been doing all the things I know to keep her hydrated. I know that less than two full days of a 102 fever is not unusual. I know.

But something about this little third-born of mine always leaves me with a muted sense of panic. Like some horrific challenge is ahead for this tenderhearted warrior princess, and somehow every little illness with her rattles me more than similar bugs with the other three.

I give myself all the pep talks on faith and conquering fear that I have heard since childhood. I believe in healing. I've experienced it. I come from a family whose faith that God will heal our physical bodies is vibrant and justified. Our automatic response to any sickness or injury was prayer and confidence that God would act. And we have seen miracles.

But part of me doubts, too. I've also seen terrible suffering that leaves me screaming at God for allowing it. Yeah, I know all the explanations about free will and the results of living in a fallen planet, and the charge to do what we can ourselves to fight injustice, etc. None of that satisfies my emotions when people I love are hurting.

I cuddle, and kiss her forehead again, wincing at the heat against my lips, and I pray. Oh, how I pray. And I hear the hissing voices that tell me I'm not doing it right. That if I would just pray with this attitude or those words or change my heart, then somehow I would unlock the magic formula. I recognize the lies. The God I serve is not cold and merciless, so petty as to withhold healing from my daughter because of something stupid like that. I know that he is always, always working for our good. I believe that the dust and mess and even pain in our lives still forms living Nazca lines.

Still part of me whispers to Him that we had better not ever face a real tragedy, because what if I crack? I would rather be an untried coward than someone of heroic faith. Help my unbelief.

Yet I know, really know, that He is a God of grace. The one who looked at the multitudes of dirty, smelly, grouchy and noisy people pressing him and had compassion on them and healed them.

I kiss her again (is it my imagination, or wishful thinking, or is she a bit cooler?). I pray again, mingling confidence and faith and fears and exhaustion. I believe. Help my unbelief.