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Archive for September, 2007

Lover of words that I am, that one has rolled pleasantly around inside of my head since I first heard it. It is the name of a new blog, a spin-off of Better Bibles Blog.

I like the word for how it sounds. And I also like it because I think it more or less describes my position in the complementarian/egalitarian discussion. You could take that to mean one of several things:

1.  Eclexia is very balanced. She shies away from the pitfalls of either extreme. (Ah yes, that would be a lovely conclusion to come to  🙂  )

2.  Eclexia is very compromising. She avoids taking a strong stand and instead waffles around in the middle, neither hot nor cold, and so is about to be spewed out (a double-minded man–oops, woman–unstable in all her ways.)

3.  Eclexia is very unconfident and full of self-doubt. She’s afraid to state any view strongly and confidently, because that might invite somebody to disagree with her.

4.  Eclexia thinks if these things have been being argued about by great scholars who read and understand the original languages better than she can ever dream of, she’s probably not going to figure it out, so she might as well stay open to hearing both sides, thinking deeply about what she hears, learning from the whole discussion, but  setting aside the need to come to any firm or final conclusions.

Number 4 is the way I choose to apply the word to myself. I had to throw in #3, because I often am labeled as unconfident and full of self-doubt, but I think those labels seriously misunderstand and underestimate me. And if they are accurate labels, well, I also don’t happen to think self-doubt or lack of confidence are as serious of flaws as they are often cracked up to be. (So, even if I don’t have enough confidence and have too much doubt, my self-image can handle being that way  🙂  )

I don’t like arguing with people about topics like this, not because I’m afraid as much as (1) the intensity can overwhelm me to the point where I can hardly hear what I think and feel about what’s being said and (2) I don’t find arguments to be especially productive for me, although I know some people find them invaluable as part of the process of fleshing out their theology or politics or other major opinions!

All that to say, I’ll probably follow along with the discussion at Complegalitarian, but not engage in too much of the dialogue.

However, from the safety of my own blog, where I can be clear on the fact that I’m not making a statement about anything or either side, but rather reflecting out loud, I wanted to mention a library book we ended up with this week (my children and I wander aimlessly around the library, randomly and eclectically picking up books, so we always arrive home with quite a variety.)

This particular book is called How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt, and inside the front cover, in large letters is this question, “Can Woman Ever Conquer Man?”   What’s this? Some sort of modern day feminist allegory? Well, actually, the book is loosely taken from a story on the papyrus scroll titled “Egyptians and Amazons”.

Even if you don’t like the story, you’ve got to love (well, if you’re a language lover like me) the hieroglyphs. Most of the pages have a phrase from the story printed at the bottom in three levels: 1st the hieroglyphs, then the transliteration and finally a literal translation into English. My 4 year old loved looking for similar glyphs in the two phrases on each page. The hieroglyphs with literal translations would be a fun first linguistics lesson, figuring out some of the rules of Egyptian grammar, noticing what symbols combine to make others, etc.

On the first page are these words, “There the Amazon women lived free, without men. They rode horses and hunted and were happy at their will.” Hmmm, it should be interesting to see where this story goes (I hadn’t read it before we set down to read it together).  My 12-year-old, lover of non-fiction, immediately said, “Mom, this story is crazy–you could never have a land of just women, because how would they reproduce?”

The story goes on to talk about how the Prince of Egypt comes and the two  nations engage in war. “Each Amazon fought like ten men. The Egyptians dropped their weapons and fled.” The prince of Egypt wasn’t fighting that first day. As he stood atop a hill and watched what was happening, he became enraged: “Women defeating my soldiers? No! Tomorrow this army of women will suffer a painful defeat. It will be beautiful after the bitterness of today.”

That night as he partakes of rich food and strong drink, he decides that the next day he and the Queen of the Amazons must engage in single combat (in case you wanted to know how to say “single combat” in Ancient Egyptian, you learn that it would be “er aha wa irem ef”. )

There is some heavy insulting and cursing at the beginning of the battle: “…you worm…You will be to me as an insect in the mouth of a bird. I will smash your face into your neck. I will break your legs into your heels!” The reply comes back, “…you will flee from me as a gazelle from a lion! Your limbs will weaken. Your knees will tremble.” (You’ll have to read it to see who gives which insult. Any guesses?)

At the end of a long day of fighting, the Queen suggests that they stop fighting and the prince agrees that fighting shouldn’t  happen after dark. The Queen then asks the prince why he came to the Land of Women. And from here, the story takes a twist that caught me by surprise. And yes, this is a spoiler warning, so if you want to read it yourself, stop here and go check the book out.

Here’s the Prince’s response, “I heard stories of the Land of Women who fight. And I came here to see your Amazon warriors with my own eyes. I never believed women could conquer man….Now I am so moved by the courage and strength of you and your woman warriors that I will put down my sword and stand by your side.”

The narrator pipes up with, “It was then that Prince Pedikhons looked at Queen Serpot and saw that she was his equal. And he did not know where on Earth he was, from the great love that entered into him.” (In Egyptian, that last phrase would be, “em-djer ta merut aat nety ak en im ef” or “because of love great which entered in to him.“) “And it was then that Queen Serpot looked at the prince and saw that he was her equal. And she did not know where on Earth she was, from the great love that entered into her. And later Serpot and Peikhons made an alliance and conquered India together.”

The End.

At the end of the book is a section that tells the history of this story, another explaining Hieroglyphs and the fact that the transliterations are really best guesses. This section also clarifies that the story was originally written in Demotic, not hieroglyphs. Finally there is a section explaining the symbolism of the paintings in the book.

Well, I offer no great conclusions or applications or points from the story (well, okay, one point–I never have gotten the whole business of conquering. I know “everybody does it”, but I still don’t like it! I was sad that once they got over the need to conquer each other’s nation, that the benefit of their alliance was being able to conquer India.) I did think, however,  it was a fun and interesting read that fit rather nicely into the part of my brain that looks forward to following along with the discussion at Complegalitarian.

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…”Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

This song began to run through my head tonight in response to the word “weary” being the most accurate description for how I’m doing at this very moment. I still have a couple more hours of work that I need to get done tonight. I may not be able to complete it, but I need to keep pushing towards getting it done until I’m no longer coherent. It’s only more complicated trying to do it during the day between homeschooling and taking care of other responsibilities that have to be done during the day.

So, I’m wishing I could literally lay down my head, but until I can, I’m spiritually responding to the invitation in this song, and once again, coming to Jesus (not that I have to go far 🙂 ) as I am~~weary, worn and sad.

Well, not sad so much tonight. But very weary and worn.

I think I might actually have some good news, or at least the possibility of good news about my housing situation. A Christian mortgage broker has taken on my housing situation very seriously and will be meeting with some underwriters with her company to discuss financing the house we are renting, which the owner has had to put up for sale. I was not very cooperative with this broker at the beginning. After four (or maybe it was five) failed attempts with other mortgage companies (my parents contacted a couple of them, I contacted a couple and the owners also contacted one or two on my behalf), I was very demoralized and did not want to tell my story to one more mortgage broker, confidently promising that she could arrange something, only to have it fall through.

My lifestyle is non-conventional and rather crazy. It doesn’t make any financial sense. God is providing for me? Well, that’s fine, but do you have receipts to show that? Can He write a letter to prove that He’ll keep providing? What, you’re a single Mom and you don’t have a “real” job? You work part time? You homeschool? You make how much each month? You’re self-employed? And you have skills that you could be working full time at a steady-paying job?  Well, for Pete’s sake, why aren’t you working full time at that steady job?

The questions were never asked quite that bluntly, but after several attempts at that, I was discouraged and demoralized. I didn’t need the repeated reminders that trusting God looks crazy.  Friends would say, “Oh, I know this mortgage broker that can really get creative financing.” But I just couldn’t face being told, yet again, that my lifestyle is so far beyond “creative” as to look financially irresponsible, even though I am not in debt and have a good credit rating. My parents have been highly involved in this process, totally willing to cosign, but my income is so non-verifiable that I didn’t even qualify as part of a co-signed agreement.

I knew that God had been providing so that I could still mainly be at home. And I have no guarantees how long that I will be able to do that. But each day at home, I take as a gift from Him. I also knew that, if I were able to purchase this home, the payments would be very comparable to what I’d be paying for rent for a smaller place in the same town. But, without a mortgage, it didn’t seem like it would be possible to purchase the home and stay here, unless it were through a private investor, and no one was coming out of the woodwork for that, either. What I came to realize was that, if the only way I could qualify for this house would be to get a full time, steady job (which I could probably do immediately as a clerk for the school board), that I would rather choose to be at home with my children, even if it meant another move, as much as I dread that.

Now, with all of that background, I am asking that you would be praying tomorrow specifically about this. Because this Christian* mortgage broker thinks she has an underwriter willing to agree to a mortgage that my parents and I cosign. She is going to be meeting with some of the underwriters with her company tomorrow and will be explaining to them in great detail my situation. I am still in a bit of shock that she is very serious–serious enough that she wants us to go ahead and write up a contract and get the house appraised. Once they have a contract in hand, they will do the final deciding. But, tomorrow’s meeting is a significant one in this process.

So, here I am, back to “Your will be done,” holding my hands out. Tired of the uncertainty and strain. Confident God could provide so that I can stay. Knowing I’ll have to trust Him to carry me through another move if He doesn’t provide in this way. Weary and worn, but still hearing the voice of Jesus and still trusting Him to provide a resting place, even in the most unlikely of places and least restful of scenarios.

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* I don’t say “Christian mortgage broker” implying that God can only do miracles through Christian people. It has just been reaffirming to be working with someone who understands and is encouraging about my situation, which can only make sense in the context of faith-living.

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Well, I know my identity is rather obscure to most of my readers. There are several reasons, including wanting privacy because of some circumstances I have been through recently. But I’ve also been thinking that, even if those circumstances were different, I’d probably still like to blog more or less anonymously.  Iyov said something a while ago that resonated with me:

I post here anonymously. I don’t do it to be mysterious, but because I simply wish to have a forum separate from my “regular life” where I can speak purely about ideas — in a way that won’t make my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances uncomfortable.

So, even though I won’t tell you who I am (unless we strike up a one-on-one conversation by email :), I decided to tell you a little bit about Eclexia. Wayne’s post at Better Bible Blogs gave me the push to try to figure out again how to post my personality badge. Lingamish gave me instructions on how to do it. I’m so happy I was able to post something in HTML code, that I’m posting it again here:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

To quote Larry the Cucumber, when he first got a glimpse of the new neighborhood StuffMart: “What’s it mean?!?!”

(more…)

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I wrote the bulk of this post first as a comment in response to another comment on Better Bibles Blog. But I caught myself before submitting it, because I realized it would probably be better as a post here than a comment there.

For background, Wayne Leman has a survey in progress about personality types and Bible translation preferences. The whole comment thread is great reading. I’m always amazed at how many bloggers are iNtuitives (using the MBTI descriptions), and I’ve noticed that again in the comments section.

In any case, one comment pushed an emotional button. (Pushed a button for me isn’t negative–it’s just that when someone says something that touches an emotion, I respond in a way that I can never do when I just try to think about it or write about it from my head.) Here are selections from a commenter named Bill:

Now, to say that “I AM” a certain type… that assumes I always follow my own past tendencies. But then there’s following the Lord in my spirit…

What is the “tendency” of someone who follows the Lord?
They’re (hopefully) an L-O-R-D.  🙂

…to be completely fair, I’m pretty sure Briggs-Meyers professionals will say no one “absolutely” follows one of the 16 temperments all the time, either.But their point is that human beings are prone to patterned behavior. What kind of behavior are spirit-led (am I dreaming here?) christians “prone to”?

And here’s the response that my emotions immediately concocted: (more…)

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This is a Test

I took the following personality test some time ago, but couldn’t figure out how to post it in my blog, even though they give instructions for it on the test site. Lingamish explained it again, so this is a test to see if I actually correctly did what he said to do (can you tell I’m not very confident about this technology stuff?) HOORAY! 2nd time’s the charm! It worked! Lingamish, did you know when you suggested I start a blog that would curse you to technical support for many years to come?! Click to view my Personality Profile page

I was motivated today to try to figure this thing out because of a survey Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog is doing, looking for connections between personality types and Bible translation preferences. I’ve got more thoughts to share on the topic, but am hurrying off to do some science experiments with a group of homeschool students who get together once a week for this kind of thing.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about contentment lately. And also feeling like something in my contentment wiring is about to short circuit.

In a previous post, I shared my struggle with the looming possibility of our having to move when the house we are living in sells, unless God provides a way for me to be able to purchase it. And so, I’ve begun to look at rentals that are currently available in my town.

Now mind you, I’m content where I am right now (that would be an understatement, actually). And as I look around, nothing that I see even comes close to comparing to this house (in my biased opinion!). BUT, as I consider each option, I can’t help experiencing what it would feel like to live in that place and the ways, as a family, we would settle (really live) in that place and what we would enjoy about it that we don’t have here.

All the homes and apartments I’m looking at are a lot smaller than our current home. But some of them do have bonuses we don’t have here–screened in porch. Or a garage. Or an apartment complex has a pool (that’s funny, actually, because it is a low income apartment complex, but it looks like I don’t even have enough verifiable income to meet their minimum requirements. Ha!  I’m too poor to make it into the low income apartment! I’m not too sad about that really, because pool or no, we’d sure miss a yard!) One tiny, but adorable house with reasonable rent looks a lot like the house we live in now, except that it is smaller, and it has a fireplace! (now I know most of you couldn’t imagine us needing fireplaces in Florida, but let me tell you there’s nothing quite like curling up with a book in front of a nice warm fire when it’s a chilly 60 degrees outside!)

It would be nice if I could just be rational about it all, and list out the advantages of each place in my head and leave it at that until we actually have to move. At that point, we’d move into what was cheap and available and get to work at being content there.  But, it is the FEELING of it all so intensely while trying to figure out my options that makes me feel like I’m going to blow an emotional fuse.

Maybe for you contentment is a choice vs. a feeling, but for me, it is a choice tied inextricably to a whole lot of feelings. And right now my emotions are bouncing back and forth in confusion–content here, hoping we can stay here. But then, truly beginning to feel content as I consider the possibility of another place that is totally different. I can’t actually think about living in any house I look at, without feeling as if I’m there, with my family, adapting, being content and already emotionally “moving on” from the house which I’m still actually living in–the house I want to stay in forever (well, the temporal kind of forever–not the eternal forever 🙂 )

I don’t like feeling such opposing contentments. It is confusing and painful. I greatly dislike the in-between time when I’m longing to stay here where I’m already content and yet beginning to accept and come to terms with how we’ll be okay and content wherever we go, if we do have to move. Even while I hope and pray we can stay.

A role model right now for me is George Macdonald. Here’s what C.S. Lewis said about him, “He appears to have been a sunny, playful man, deeply appreciative of all really beautiful and delicious things that money can buy, and no less deeply content to do without them.”

And here’s what George Macdonald himself says:

Let me, if I may, be ever welcomed to my room in winter by a glowing hearth, in summer by a vase of flowers; if I may not, let me think how nice they would be, and bury myself in my work. I do not think that the road to contentment lies in despising what we have not got. Let us acknowledge all good, all delight that the world holds, and be content without it. (both quotes from Legacy of a Pack Rat, by Ruth Bell Graham, p. 150)

Lord, let it be true of me.

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“Bayer understands lament against God as one of the most profound expressions of faith. This is because the foundation of lament is belief in the essential goodness of God and his creation”

I stumbled upon the above quote in an interesting post  by Without Authority which addresses, from a Lutheran perspective, some of the things I’ve been struggling with lately.

The book being discussed on this post is Living by Faith  by Oswald Bayer (a new name for me). Here are some thoughts from the post:

Lament is only possible because of the promise that it will be heard

That addresses one of the paradoxes I hold firmly to: that as miserable as I sound in all of my lamenting, I actually experience lamenting and the expression of sadness and anguish as a very hopeful process. Not only does lamenting make me “feel better” (as in getting it off my chest), but there really is a hopefulness in crying out in pain and confusion to God, believing that He knows, hears AND cares, even though I don’t see what He is doing.

When I’ve lamented, I do feel better, because I know I am choosing again to entrust the pain, suffering, confusion and mystery to God. None of my hope is resting in myself and my ability to make sense of it. As crazy as it seems sometimes, I am still choosing to believe in the goodness and mercy of God, even when I cannot make sense of that in the context of the suffering which I see all around me in this world. 

Sometimes people hear my laments as an indication that I’m not trusting God in that moment, and the result is that now I’m complaining. For me, it is actually the opposite. I would not be crying out to God if I truly had given up all hope that my cries were heard by Him. I couldn’t lament deeply if I didn’t trust deeply (For one thing, I’d be a lot more concerned with trying to “hold myself together” emotionally, if I didn’t have the safety net of being able to trust God.) I don’t understand or see that He always acts on my behalf, in response to my cries, but being able to cry out the full extent of the confusion and pain to Him flows out of a strong belief that He does hear and is attentive to my cry.

Faith does not conduct a debate about God and God’s righteousness, as does the natural, the redeemed, or the presumably already glorified reason before its own forum. It conducts a dispute with God in prayer and lament.

What do we do with suffering in our theology? How do we make sense of it? And at what cost do we make sense of it? One option is to systematically theologize until there is hardly any room left for confusion or mystery. I’m all for trusting the sovereignty of God in suffering, but I have a hard time when we bring the sovereignty of God down to a manageable level. Sometimes it seems like once we start emphasizing the sovereignty of God, we think we now have the front row view of God’s purposes, and instead of sticking with trusting that God does have a purpose, we feel compelled to jump to conclusions about what those purposes are.   

The passion of lament acknowledges that things really are not as they should be. Lament is not satisfied with philosophies (such as Hegel’s) that seem to make sense of the senseless, and in effect, numb the passion of lament. I don’t know–sometimes I am comforted by understanding (sometimes I desperately crave it), but a lot of times attempts that seem to make sense of what doesn’t, appear to minimize either the goodness of God or the reality of evil.  And for me, the price of accepting that type of “understanding” is too great. I am not willing to trade the passion of lament (as much as it hurts) for the “passionless stillness of knowledge that only thinks”.

Without Authority goes on to say,

…most people, whether they believe in God or not, have their preferred method of explaining away evil and suffering. Even in the church, there is a sense that we should never protest against God, that God is our friend and he only wants the best for us. Like Hegel’s system, our theologies absolve God and try to erase the pain by explaining that “it’s all for the best.” But this is simply not biblical (just read the book of Job!)

And here’s Bayer on Luther’s take, which stands in contrast to Hegel and popular Christianized views of suffering:

[Luther] does not ignore experiences of suffering. Yet he refuses to accept their finality. He flees from the hidden God to the revealed and incarnate God. He presses on “toward God and even against him calls upon him.”

The post, which I have heavily quoted from, has given me lots to think about. I’ll be pondering these things, including this final quote by Bayer, for a while to come:

Our most profound testing is that God, who has promised us life and external communion, who has guaranteed them, is still the God who does not lament death or destroy it, but who is at work in life and death and all things.

That is the context where I trust. Not because I understand how God is at work in life and death and all things. It is trust/faith precisely because I DON’T know or see or understand. My lamenting puts words to the place where my faith flows out of.  Even if. Even if. Even if. Yet will I trust Him. Yet do I believe God is good. Yet do I trust that God is faithful. Even though. Even though. Even though.

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