Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On not really being that ladylike

At the very delightful breakfast Rosie and I attended recently, I got a chuckle out of a table where all the ladies had made a point of covering up the LadyLike logo on our book promo pamphlet. One explained to me that none of them were ladylike. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to say that I don't really feel like I am either.

Does this book make
me look ladylike?
I am getting my cosmic comeuppance for having once said that I don't get along too well with the Christian ladies crowd. Honestly, that's still true. To me, "lady" carries a sense of propriety and dignity that I can't claim. I'm fundamentally a slob, too lazy to pick up my house right and too secure in my vice to care. I wear clothes only acceptable enough to let me pass as acceptable, and am squeezing every molecule of resistance from an age past which I really should be wearing makeup. I yell a lot.

But golly, the world is full of what in our house we teach the kids to identify as trashy ladies. The book of Proverbs has less nice names for them, but the fact that they're in Proverbs is a helpful reminder that they're nothing new. And whereas I don't much care for that tasteless, shameless unladylikeness, I think I can make some claim on being, if not quite a lady, at least lady-like. I brush my hair in the morning and try not to buy too many jewels with my husband's money. I think it's sad that feminism's most successful campaign was switching the great American sport from baseball to pornography. I would like not to be too lousy of a wife and mom and Christian.

Oh, and I am female. I think . . . I think? that despite the grubby shirt and debris-filled dwelling and propensity for attempting too many not-quite-funny-enough jokes . . . that adds up to something not unlike Lady.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ladies of a certain age

I have some kids, and I am helicopterish about what they read.  My 12 year old daughter doesn't need to read LadyLike for a few years. The book covers some topics falling under the sixth commandment that include more information than she would benefit from having right now. I still have a lot to learn as a parent, since the aforementioned child is also our oldest and therefore our grand experiment in adolescence and everything that follows (don't worry, I am ignorantly clinging to a lot of ignorant convictions and pre-decisions), but my view from here is that LadyLike is for ladies in their later teens and older. The younger end of the book's intended audience is women of a marriageable or pretty close to marriageable age (I am also OK with people getting married young).

Not just yet, little yeller.
One of my goals as a writer of this book was to state plainly a lot of things it was hard to find anyone stating plainly besides my own parents back when I was beginning to make my way in the world. My parents did a bang-up job, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt their case for any of the values they knew it was their duty to help me understand if someone else had been there saying the same things. Sadly, there kind of wasn't. So, for example, LadyLike includes an essay on virginity that I hope would be helpful to a young lady considering her options in life (there is also one on celibacy, since virginity and celibacy are the same only different, as my beloved father would say).

If you're considering LadyLike for your daughter/granddaughter/goddaughter/niece/other young lady, that's my assessment. If you have questions, please feel free to ask via the comments here, Facebook, or email (ladylikings at gmail dot com).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dear LadyLike: Daily devotions

Dear LadyLike,

Can I ask your gentle opinion, Christian women? Don't gasp... I don't often do a personally daily devotion/Bible reading. I go in streaks. I'm in an off streak--feeling sad that my Bible has become my "night stand". I'd like to do it in the morning, but find myself sleeping until I am awakened to an emergency every morning. I'd like to do it before bed, but find myself so very exhausted. During the day, I feel like I'm putting out one fire after another. And during "rest time," there's the bills to pay, school work to correct, laundry to fold. But, I feel guilty about it. At the same time, God is still feeding me. My husband reads the Bible aloud at breakfast everyday. Most days, I read a bible story to the children in conjunction with school. I have a bible verse calendar that I flip every day where I do dishes. There's church and Bible class. So, then I content myself to not have a personal devotion, thinking that there are seasons in life. I really don't know if contentment vs. guilt is Satan's temptation in my weakness, or the Lord's comfort for the weary. To some extent, I realize that thankfully, my need for God's Word will never be satiated, but how to balance everything in this world? I welcome your Gospel-centered discussion on this.

Dear Devoted Lady, 

Navigating the strait between a clear conscience and false guilt is always tricky. You have a lot of Word in your life, and you're also right that there's always room for more. At the same time, if it's OK for Christians to knit silly hats or go to elephant polo matches (and we think it is), it means that we don't have to devote every free minute to, um, devotions.

The center of Christian devotion is the Divine Service. Our most intimate access to God is in the Lord's Supper, where we are physically incorporated into His holy Body. This is our anchor for personal piety, and it helps us keep our perspective. Christian traditions in which the Lord's Supper is only symbolic have to look for divine intimacy somewhere else, and they find it in private prayer. That's how this whole thing has gotten confusing.

But prayer is still a duty of and a gift to every Christian. Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread. This tells us that prayer is a daily event in the Christian life. Maybe your dilemma is also best faced on a daily basis. If there's ever a time in your day when it strikes you that a little push of Christian discipline might mean a few minutes for personal prayer and the Word of God, go ahead and push. If that time never comes, reflect on the Word that the Lord brought you that day in the normal life of a Christian family, and go to sleep at once and in good cheer.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Dear LadyLike: Mother's Day

Dear LadyLike,

I always end up hating mother's day. It's just a bunch of work for the mom to make it happen for all the other moms in the family. How bad am I?


Dear Lady with a bad 'tude, 

We're not sure what your life sitch looks like, but hear, hear: 
Your mother raised you. Your grandmothers raised your parents. Your mother-in-law raised your husband. Your daughter(s) and/or the in-law form of them raise your grandchild(ren). 

It's not all about you, see? Write some nice notes for the ladies in your life, send them a DQ gift card, or call them up and tell them they're a big deal. More of them, less of you. That's our advice.

Happy Mother's Day!


Steven Pinker would probably not call us his kind of scum, so we're really surprised that after he helped us write our book, he's even decided to argue some of our points:

It remains to be seen how far artificial intelligence and robotics will penetrate into the workforce. (Driving a car is technologically far easier than unloading a dishwasher, running an errand, or changing a baby.) From this super weird conversation.
Or, as my husband enjoys reminding me, "If you're irreplaceable, you're unpromotable." What a charmer!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sin, sins, sinners

Interesting article at the Atlantic about the (brief) history of American Christianity with homosexual conversion therapy. This topic is probably at least as sad and wearying for you as it is for me, so I will skip to the part that got my attention:

"According to Kenneth Lewes, in his book,Psychoanalysis and Male Homosexuality, some began to view same-sex erotic behavior less as sin than as a mental-health disorder as early as the 19th century. This was true of other “sinful” behaviors as well—for example, drunkenness morphed into alcoholism and demon possession became schizophrenia or a personality disorder."

This is one of those places where the [presumably secular] reporter starts missing the point. Even if we understand alcoholism or schizophrenia as a disease, the actions which grow out of alcoholism or schizophrenia are still sins. Sin is not just about motive. It is about actions, about deeds. No context exculpates acts of sin. Or put another way, the absolute motives of fallen people are always wrong.

Looks like she couldn't help it!
This is why we ask God to forgive not our sin, but our sins. We need forgiveness for our individual acts of rebellion against Him and our neighbors. It doesn't matter if I didn't know any better when I bashed up my neighbor's lawnmower with a crowbar (because I was drunk or schizophrenic or angry or bored). That act was a sin, no matter what was in my heart, mind, or stomach when I did it.

So we pray in the liturgy, "I, a poor miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities . . . ". We do not confess " . . . my totally non-specific and therefore way less embarrassing sin and iniquity." Sin is not abstract. It always take the form of sins, which are real, historical events. If they weren't, Jesus wouldn't have to have been crucified in a real, historical way. This is why Jesus also gives us holy absolution as a real, historical event. I sinned that sin, and I need to hear that that sin is forgiven, not just that I am generally forgiven as a sinner. To be a sinner, to sin, always means to commit individual sins.

To be a Christian is to ask for and receive forgiveness not for sin but for sins, no matter what those sins are, or out of what level of consciousness they were committed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What's the deal with this book anyway?

LadyLike is a collection of essays about things human females of the Christian persuasion might find interesting or germane.

There are a few reasons we did it this way. First, both Rosie and I like several books that fall into this category. We think it's a good way to get a lot of angles on a few central ideas. Second, neither of us have the intellectual wherewithal to construct some massive infrastructure of rhetorical supports around a skyscraping concept. (We barely even understand that there sentence.) Third, neither of us really have time to read a book like that, and we figure everybody is basically like us.

So we wrote essays, and strung them all together like Froot Loops on yarn at the preschool Christmas party, and we hope people will have time to sit down with the book now or then and gnaw on some of the zany notions we tried to serve up in manageable portions. LadyLike is not a devotional. It is written more for the Christian mind than the Christian spirit, but what's a spirit that can't think? Or a mind whose work is not ultimately spiritual?

Also Rosie wrote a lot of funny stuff.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pray tell

Hello. I am an antiquated person who does things wrong, such as posting posts way longer than anyone would read without any real effort toward Pinnability. Nice to meet you! :) Rebekah

I get flummoxed by popular perceptions of prayer, by which I mean, people seem to think they pray a lot. You sure bout that? Prayer is hard, it is a discipline, it is deliberate. It is not "the hopes and the dreams of all."

A medium time ago, I watched Bruce Almighty, a movie in which "God" and "prayer" are central concepts, though our Lord surely is not. Prayer is actively portrayed once in the movie, at the end, by Jennifer Aniston. As I remember it, she gets weepy on her bed with a pillow and asks "God" to help her get through something hard.

I was fascinated by this scene. How does someone with a personally invented creed come to the point of actually offering a prayer? That point is so pointy. It is truly an act of faith to speak to someone you don't KNOW exists. It proves that you are certain enough of things unseen to do something that would otherwise be the height of foolishness. It differs from going to church because at church you are sharing the risk with other people. Praying privately has the same feeling you get when you fall on the ice behind your house with no one else there. (One Epiphany I did that with a King Cake. Cake totally stuck the landing.)

So prayer is an expensive thing to ask of someone, or at least, it is an expensive thing to ask of me. I know it shouldn't be, and I know I'm terrible, but there have been times when I've felt very burdened by someone's request for prayer. Especially if the request is from someone I don't know well, or on behalf of someone I don't know well or at all, I've sometimes wanted to say:
"Dear Christian, I am nowhere near as good as you. There have been vast stretches of my supposedly really Christian life when I have barely attended to prayer at all. I often struggle to begin my day even with the smallest of prayers. I hate days when all I do is shoot up sporadic selfish petitions which amount to little more than asking God to give presents to some of my friends. I am straight-up ashamed when someone else talks about praying for something daily. So, to be honest, I'm probably not going to pray for that problem of yours I don't really care about when I have such a hard time praying for the things I care about more than anything."
And then there are all the thank yous for prayers that are "working," and people calling you a prayer warrior, and so many other prayer-related ideas that just sit funny with me  . . . .

I don't even know if it's allowed to be as bad at praying as I am. Is it better to pray in an impious posture than not to pray at all, or does an irreverent position indicate that I'm not really serious about praying and therefore cancel out the whole thing? If I pray hungry and end up thinking about a banana the whole time would it be too spiritually tacky to just eat the banana first and be able to focus? If I pray the prayers of my heart, was it my good heart or my bad heart? Etc.

I'll try to say a few helpful things. First, all corporate worship is prayer. If you went to church, you prayed. If you went to your school's or VBS's chapel, you prayed. Family prayers are also prayer. Meal prayers are real prayers, not just something we do to look more Christian. Those things count.

But I am still mostly talking about personal prayer. I totally did not understand prayer books when I first learned there were such things. I learned to pray the American way, which is to say, making it up as I went with the primary goal of keeping it real. The trouble is that real me is real dumb and also impossible to distinguish from not-real me. 

So when I hazarded to open a prayer book, I learned that their prayers did not sound much like my "real me" prayers. The two I came to rely on most, Starck and Loehe, were in some ways even MORE about me than "my" prayers had been. They went on and on about my sins, something I had spent time on in the past but not nearly as much as I'd spent asking for, well, presents for my friends. But in going on about my sins, the prayer books ended up going on FAR more about Christ than my own prayers had ever done. They were worshipful and confessional (broadly speaking) and jammed with Scripture, if I knew my Scripture enough to recognize it, and if I didn't recognize it, they were still teaching me to pray with the Wordful words of God. I have found prayer books really helpful for pray-er's block. I use Loehe more than anything. And while I'm doing commercials, why is it so easy to forget that Psalms is the church's original prayer book which, being inspired, will never expire? Psalms! Pray them!

My colossal impiety is surely operative in my thinking that a lot of people who think prayer is natural and/or easy don't really know what prayer is. I know that telling myself I pray all day long is, for all practical purposes, a just plain lie (maybe someday it won't be if I ever learn how to/ make myself really pray, but for now it's a lie). I know I probably shouldn't have written any of this since I still haven't read that Kleinig book, but I probably shouldn't have ever written anything.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Eating soon at a breakfast near you, if you're near St. Louis

We can't promise to be great at making appearances since our line of work renders us mostly unavailable in person. However, St. Louis types can hear us speak at the 17th Annual Women's Breakfast, hosted by St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Des Peres, Mo., at the Greenbriar Hills Country Club in Kirkwood on Saturday, April 18.  Learn more here!