8 Nov 2013

On 'Real' men.

I've been pondering what it means to be a real man. Or a real woman for that matter. Stereotypes can be so misleading. A young boy was suspended from his school for carrying what the Americans call 'a purse'. It looked like a colourful hippy bag to me, but what do I know.

Cue lots of discussion about whether it was appropriate for a boy to wear a 'girl's' bag. Someone used the word 'sissy' and mentioned the phrase 'real man'. Which was probably unhelpful as far as terminology goes, but it got me thinking about 'real'.

By real, I can only presume people who use this term mean 'stereotypical'. My husband is a real man, in that he is corporeal, masculine in given gender, shaves his face, and almost always wears trousers. But that's not what they mean, is it?

They mean 'qualities'. Now don't get me wrong. My husband is not a 'sissy'. He exhibits traditional male qualities, and it suits him to do so. He is a natural leader in our family, and enjoys sports. But you know what - he's far more nurturing than I am. Since the very beginning, he has always been the one to get up in the middle of the night to crying and distressed children. I never hear them - he sleeps with one ear open.

He spends many hours in the week doing housework, and will often cook dinner. He enjoys a wide variety of music, and plays violin regularly. He has 'masculine' and 'feminine' qualities, and put together, they make what I can assure you is a 'real' man.

I believe in traditional ways of doing things. But I'm not a rigid ideologue. Family life needs to be flexible, and real men and women are flexible, creative beings. Be who you genuinely are. That's 'real'.

7 Nov 2013

On fleeting things

The internet is a funny old thing. We treat it like it's a repository of all our information. I think, that despite warnings about online safety and the nefarious aims of spam bots and hackers, we treat it like a safe place. A place we can share information about ourselves, pictures, ideas, recipes...

I love Facebook - I enjoy the instant interaction and the freedom to share photos I enjoy. But as I was looking through my photos the other day, it occurred to me that the only format I have these pictures in, is digital. Now, it is true that some photos in my possession are in hard copy, no negatives. Stored in the loft for sure, but still real.

All our digital information, pictures, updates, music, is practically imaginary. We need fancy devices to access it. Without PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones, all of that 'stuff' just simply wouldn't exist. Quite a humbling thought when approaching a blogpost. Or indeed any of it. It is a study in ephemera.

The internet can teach us many things, and gives us many opportunities, to learn, to share. But what it should teach us, above all things, is that we are like a breath of air, gone in seconds. We are but dust   and He remembers we are.

for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14

3 Nov 2013

On Doug Phillips and convictions

There's a lot of things I used to be that I am no longer. I don't go dresses only anymore, and I don't cover my head. We don't Home Educate, and we don't spank our children. I don't use Flylady, either. Some of it is because my convictions have changed, some of it is because of simple practicalities. Flylady is simply because I was sick of a ridiculously unhelpfully full inbox.

Doug Phillips' fall from grace this week has had me musing about things. Early on in our marriage we were heavily influenced by Phillips' ministry, and looking back, I'm not sorry about that. The things he stood for were healthy relationships and the courage to be different and swim against the tide.

A lot of posts like this one, about the moving from one viewpoint to another often give the old viewpoint a good kicking. I'm not going to do that - in the providence of God, He brought us to various convictions and life choices that made this family what it is today. And I think this is a good family.

My husband still leads us, we're still strict but fair parents, and we still attend church regularly. Everything that was good about Phillips' ministry was good because it was good, not because of who and how it was promoted.

One of the things that I am grateful for, is that my association with extremely conservative Christianity introduced me to the doctrines of grace - and if anything defines us as a family now, it's not how I dress or how obedient our children are - it's that we cling to grace. Here's hoping Doug Phillips, his family, and the families of those influenced by him can do the same.

30 Oct 2013

On lighter things

The 23rd of November draws closer every day. Normally at this point I'd be totally Christmas focused - and a regeneration at Christmas is like Christmas come... well, exactly on time.

But the 50th anniversary is like an extra kick of fun, and I am so looking forward to it. Uncharacteristically I am going spoiler free, with the exception of what is common domain - knowing John Hurt is in it, and that wondrous multi-dimensional trailer that I keep watching just for the fun of it.

It's a great experience, though I'm not sure I could do it all the time. I've blogged before about my dislike of dramatic tension - I will always read the last page first. Can't really explain why, it's very personal. But anyway, I'm not spoiling myself for the 50th, and am expecting a rollercoaster ride.

Matt Smith has been a really good Doctor, as was Tennant before him (and, to be fair, Eccleston before him), and I shall enjoy his last adventure. But then Christmas comes, and I shall watch him turn into one of my favourite actors of all time, Peter Capaldi. It's a great time to be a Who fan.

29 Oct 2013

On providing cover for heresy

Adrian Warnock asks 'Why can't we all just get along?' It's a plaintive plea. I can understand the desire for unity amongst the brethren. Here's the problem - 'everyone getting along' isn't the paramount requirement in scripture when truth is at stake.

Paul would have been a much more muted character had unity been the absolute pinnacle of Christian experience. Don't get me wrong, love among Christians is of great importance. But it's part of Christian love to point out error.

Others have quite competently given lists of the many aberrant teachers in Charismatic circles, and they're long, long lists. I'd like Adrian to address those lists and call them out. But that's not going to happen because it's part of Charismatic teaching to remain 'cautious but open' - and couple that with the desire for unity at the expense of truth, and you have a perfect storm of error.

I'm sure I'm being harsh - it feels very harsh to be saying this. But no, we can't all get along while heresy is cosseted so that you can keep your version of 'prophecy'.

On hearing voices

One of the features of my illness is auditory hallucinations. I haven't experienced one for a couple of years now, but when I have it has been a profoundly disturbing experience. Therefore, another feature of those who argue for continuationalism, the 'audible voice of God' sets off red flags all over the place for me.

I could be completely sceptical and say I don't believe such stories, but I am a little wary of simply calling such stories lies. I think there's more to it than that. But I would like to ask something of those who hear 'audible' voices. I can understand following the promptings of an inner voice - I think we can all agree that there is a voice of conscience.

But this idea of hearing voices outside of you, like another person in the room with you - is that what it is like? Having experienced such phenomena, in a state of extreme insanity, I can think of nothing more frightening. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

28 Oct 2013

On false prophecy

When I was at university, I spent about 3 months in a cult commonly called the 'Jesus Army'. It was an intense experience - high octane charismatic teaching.

I encountered them after a failed romance, I was emotionally very vulnerable and looking for reassurance and I thought this group that showered me with affection was the answer. They had distinctive clothes, and lively worship meetings. My faith at that point was at a real low - so their passion really appealed to me.

I call them a cult, but it's important to note that they are accepted as genuine by many in the charismatic movement.

So what happened? Well, a lot of late night meetings and a lot of singing and a lot of prayer. They believed emphatically in the second blessing and gibberish tongues was encouraged. One of their distinctives is the calling to be a lifelong celibate, and quite a number of them have embraced this calling. I make no negative comment about that - being a lifelong singleton is undoubtedly a calling and I have nothing but respect for my brothers and sisters in that position, through choice or circumstances.

Let's bring it back to what actually happened to me. The house I was connected with had a number of people who were designated 'prophets'. One of these was a good looking, charismatic young man who had been with the group since he was a child. He was well respected.

On one occasion, the young people took a drive to a local seaside town and we had a jolly old time after dark, larking about on the sand, enjoying each other's company. Eventually things turned to talk of spiritual things - these were people 'on fire' for the things of God. The prophet began to prophesy. He gave each of us a prophecy in turn.. when it came to my turn, I was devastated to hear that God was calling me to be a lifelong celibate. I spoke of my horror to one of the elders later, and he told me that, as a lifelong celibate himself, he too had been horrified by the initial call and that I should pray about it, which I duly did.

Now I know the drill at this point. I've been in enough mainstream charismatic churches to know that prophecy is meant to confirm something God is already speaking into my heart. Which does rather require the question - what's the flaming point of the prophecy in the first place? I cannot affirm enough that this was a false prophecy. As I'm now married with four children I would hope that was obvious.

I've received other 'words' over the years, mostly vague encouragements that were very sweet thankyouverymuch, but hardly Thus saith the Lord. What do I think of it all nowadays? I charitably think it's utter nonsense, at best wishful thinking, at worst prideful posturing. And is it necessary? No, not really. I've been posting this last week about discovering new things in scripture that have really helped straighten out my thinking. I'm still learning, but one of the things I have learned the hard way is that looking outside of scripture for guidance is a fools game.