Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rick McKinley Talks Good Sense; In Related News, It Gets Dark When the Sun Goes Down

This is Pastor Rick.  Don't make him mad.

I just finished listening to the second sermon in Pastor (Dr.) Rick McKinley's latest sermon series, "Love. Sex. God"  Predictably, it is awesome.  But it's not awesome because it's predictable. His advie is counter-cultural, especially counter to the culture of Portland, Oregon.  Portland is a very "progressive" city and prides itself on its tolerance, its diversity of ways of living, and being weird.  Truly, there are bumper stickers that say "Keep Portland Weird."  But in Portland, what would REALLY be weird would be to be a person who believes in (and practices!) reserving sex only for the covenantal marriage of one man and one woman.  Such people would likely be seen as quaint (at best) and more likely as regressively puritanical and out of touch with reality. 
And here's his even WEIRDER idea: Christian parents are actually doing their children a disservice when they encourage them to put off early marriages.  To paraphrase Rick, if your nineteen year old son or daughter comes to you and says they've met someone wonderful who loves Jesus and loves them and wants to serve them and grow with them in marriage, and they want to get married in six months, do NOT try to discourage them merely because (A) they are young and (B) six months is not very long.  There is a pervading cultural attitude--alive and well in the church, I might add--that says it is insane to marry at a young age.  Culture would tell you it's insane because you need to play the field, date (and sleep) around so you can know what kind of men or women are out there and what you are looking for, and because you've hardly even begun to figure yourself out, so how can you make a lifetime commitment to someone else?  The church spin on that is that you need to make sure you have all your affairs in order and can support yourself and your spouse before you get married, and make sure you're fully mature and ready to enter into the difficulties that marriage can pose.  Well, I can certainly attest to the fact that marriage can be difficult and I imagine that marrying someone who already owns their own home and has a six figure salary job could be quite nice from a worldly standpoint (although I have no experience with that).  But I agree with Rick that as long as the two people in question are both going into the marriage with eyes wide open to the potential hardships and a solid commitment to Christ and the covenant they are about to make, age and socioeconomic status are of little importance.
I think of Andy and Alishia.  Both were 20 when they met (at church) and started hanging out.  I might have their timeline a bit off, but I think they started hanging out somewhere around the end of 2010.  By May of 2011 (at Ruby's first birthday party), they were a couple, and shortly thereafter they became engaged.  They got married in January of 2012: Andy was a few weeks shy of turning 22 and Alishia was 21.  Their courtship and engagement process was probably under a year total.  When they were telling people that they were engaged, they faced a great deal of skepticism from friends and family about the whole thing, and most of it hinged on their age and not having all their ducks in a row.  Andy didn't own a house; in fact, he lived with his mom.  He was beginning his own tutoring business and it was slow-going.  Alishia had a job as a pool and hot tub technician but quit it shortly before the wedding because it was extremely physically demanding and was bad on her back and joints.  Any "normal" couple would have perhaps moved in together and saved up for a few years before getting married.  Any "normal Christian" couple might not have moved in together, but they would have waited for at least a year or 18 months or two years, which for some reason is thought to be a more "respectable" amount of time to be engaged, but still remained chaste. Sounds torturous. 
Allen and I were sympathetic to and supportive of them in their desire to get married young and quickly because we had been in a similar boat; a faster track, even.  We went from total strangers to man and wife in 8 months, thanks in part to hearing Pastor Rick speak on this same topic while we were attending Imago Dei together early on.  Now, I am not wholesale recommending that approach for everyone.  But I am suggesting that maybe the church should be focusing less on getting 18 year olds to sign abstinence pledges to guilt trip them through college and more on getting them to think about what they are looking for in a spouse and what marriage means, and not scolding them or writing them off when they say, "We are okay with being a broke young couple if it means we're following the Lord and worshipping Him together in marriage." 
I know a lady who has two daughters.  One is 21 and the other is 19; the 21 year old just got married (while she was still 20) and the 19 year old is getting married in the coming spring.  I've also heard all of the shocked gasps from those to whom she reveals this information.  "What's the rush?" "My goodness, they're scarcely more than children themselves!" "That's so young!" "Aren't they worried about finishing school first?"  I don't know the reasons behind why the girls decided to marry early and marry young, but I don't automatically think they are nuts.  Would Allen have made a better husband if I waited until he were done with school (which would have tacked an additional 4 or 5 years onto our engagement)?  He might have made a less busy husband, but not necessarily better.  Would Allen have made a better husband if he had already found a job that paid five figures (forget six, five is good enough for us right now!!!)?  We might be more financially at ease, but I don't think that would have improved our marriage. 
My parents had a shortish dating period but a two year engagement.  My mom spoke highly of long engagements for young people as a way to learn more about each other and figure things out.  She never mentioned whether or not she and my dad (both Christians then as now) remained chaste during those two years, and I never asked because I didn't want to offend her.  Still don't; it's water under their 32-years-of-marriage-bridge, anyway.  I always assumed they did everything perfectly because, well, they were my parents. They didn't make mistakes.  From what I could see, they had a perfect love story, perfect courtship, and perfect marriage.  I never saw them argue and never saw evidence of any strain in the relationship, and still don't.  They are great friends and companions and I fully expect to be cheering for them at their golden anniversary with them in 18 years, Lord willing. And to be fair, when I told my parents that Allen and I were planning to be married, they did not try to stop me.  But I was also 25, almost 26.  I had finished my schooling and had a masters degree.  I had a good job that could easily support myself and my husband.  I owned a car.  Aside from owning a house, I had already checked off all the boxes under the list of "Things To Do Before Getting Married."  If I had been Allen's same age (he was 21, almost 22 when we got married), and still in college, would they have changed their tune?
Okay Mrs. Wise Guy, you say.  It's easy for YOU to talk because you are so far removed from that future possibility with your kids.  But what about if your kids come home at 18 or 19 and say they want to get married? Yes, what about when Ruby or Max gets to be that age? As a teacher, I know what young people are like, and I'm not THAT far removed from being a late teen and early 20 something. O, the DRAMA!! O, the CRUSHES!! O, the feeling that if so-and-so did not return my love I would probably DIE A SAD OLD MAID.  In my case, I was clearly not mature enough to be married at age 21, and God made that clear by preventing any of the men that I was desperately interested in from being interested in me.  Although I was SO not okay with it at the time, I can now clearly see that I would have been a trainwreck of a wife had I married young. It's still not easy to be a wife now that I'm 28, but I think I'm a lot better at it than I would have been younger. 
But even so...God uses trainwrecks, doesn't he?  My friend Katie (who got married last Saturday!) had a cousin who got married when she was 18 or 19, I can't remember which.  About a year into the marriage the cousin was not doing so hot.  Basically, she was acting really selfishly (oh, and Newsflash! Being married will help you uncover all the selfishness you never knew you had. And then you have kids and discover there's even MORE selfishness and that you are basically a wretch.)  But God used women in her life (including Katie) to speak some sense and rebuke to her and it helped her grow into a more mature person and a better wife.  I'm sure that people would be able to find lots of stories of couples who married young and got divorced a few years later, and that happens...but heck, with the divorce rate at nearly 50%, seems like a couple that marries young has the same odds as on that marries later on in life or marries after living together for years. 
And I would rather have Ruby or Max marry young out of Christian conviction and a desire not to sin sexually than to see them be more "conventional" in all of its implications.  If we're Christians, then we are called to live a different story, one that makes people sit up and take notice!  If children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior, those arrows are meant to be shot and sent out into the world to change things.  That's scary for the parents but ultimately their calling.  I would not counsel them to be "safe" in terms of worldly safety. As was said of Aslan, "Safe? Of course he isn't safe! But he's good.  And he's the king."
Well, I have gone on at length about all of this, and for what?  I suppose that I just get a little excited when I hear about something that makes sense and I want to share it.  Seriously, whether you're single, engaged, married, divorced, widowed, whatever, listen to the sermon series.  Even if you're not an "evangelical Christian."  Pastor Rick is an engaging speaker and you won't be bored, and you'll certainly find something that will rile you up and get you thinking.  Thinking: it's what's for dinner.  Okay, I must be tired if I'm starting to come up with sentences like that! Good night, all. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh, Wuby...

Why can't this happen at naptime at home?!

"OH WUBY!"
This refrain has been issuing forth from Ruby's lips often these days.  Of course she has heard me say it, and now she's saying it herself.  Usually it's when she's pitching a fit or doing something she knows she shouldn't be doing.
For instance:
*Taking off her eye patch.
*Getting out of bed at naptime/bedtime, turning on the light, and playing instead of sleeping.
*Rubbing yogurt all over her arms, face, and hair as if it is some kind of amazing anti-aging cream.
*Throwing herself down on the ground in a doctor's waiting room, store, parking lot, etc.  because she doesn't want to leave.
Just a few examples.  I suppose all this should be making me excited that work starts next week (at least, meetings start on Monday and kids come the following week).  But I'm not.  I know it will be fine when I'm there.  I'll enjoy my colleagues and the kids, as I always do.  But I'm not looking forward to being away from my kids, no matter how much they are driving me crazy.
My patience level has seriously suffered this week.  I've been a lot more snappish with Ruby in particular, and I hate it.  It's so hard to stay calm and reasoned sometimes when she is getting into things  and you don't feel like you can dare to take a minute to yourself or for Max.
Good news: OHSU does accept Max's insurance.  Now we just have to wait for all the appropriate people to call the other appropriate people to make appointments, check what insurance will cover, etc. I'm feeling very impatient about it all, but really, it's amazing just how fast people can communicate now.  You can fax or email documents and have them cross town in a matter of seconds. And yet I still spent a significant amount of emotional energy today fretting about it.  Why?  What good does that do? If God is powerful and detail-oriented enough to keep Max's brain working and heart pumping (along with everyone else on the planet), is He really going to sweat working out insurance stuff and coordinating doctors' phone calls?
I think not.
Good news!! Toby just came up and told me that he got the K/1 aide job at MRA.  It's not full time, but it's something.  And now we can carpool!  Oh goody!  He'll be awesome at it for sure.
Well, gotta finish putting away Gleaner food.  Lots of bananas this week; I'll probably be pureeing it for baby food.  Max turns 5 months tomorrow, and Ruby turned 27 months today.  Wow!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Torticollis, Scoliosis, Plagiocephaly, Oh My!

He's not looking at you askance; he was born that way!
My little Maxy-moo went to the pediatric physical therapist today.  Thank God, they had a location in Oregon City...his pediatrician was prognosticating that the only location that would take Max's insurance would be out in Gresham, and I wasn't looking forward to an hour commute each way.  Also I'm thanking God because they scheduled it on a day when Allen was off of work, so he was able to come with me and hear what the PT had to say.  
Her name was Rachel, and she was very nice.  She did an evaluation of Max and determined right away that he did indeed have torticollis which was causing him to hold his head tilted and rotated.  As a result, he also has plagiocephaly (the fancy term for having flat spots on his head) and she wants him to wear a brace (you know, those funky helmet things that you sometimes see babies wearing) to help with that.  Thank God she's addressing it now, when he still has several months of prime head growing time, and the brace will encourage his skull to get nice and round.  She also noticed (and this we hadn't heard about from his pediatrician) that he has a bit of C-curve scoliosis in his back which is pushing his rib cage out towards his back on one side.  She wasn't sure if it was "functional" or not: that is, a function of his head being all whack from the torticollis rather than something he was born with.  But seeing as this crazy little monkey spent a few weeks squished sideways in my uterus, I think it probably messed up all sorts of things.  Sigh.  
She taught us some stretches to do and gave us advice on ways to help, but she wants to start seeing him once a week at least to do PT with him.  
The part that worries me is that Max's insurance, which is usually amazing, doesn't cover torticollis treatment.  We simply can't afford to take him to see the PT with anything less than full coverage.  PT is pretty spendy, as it turns out, and we're pretty broke.  We explained this to her and she said that she would do what she could in his write up to get insurance approval.  So, now we're just waiting on seeing if the state (through which he has his insurance) will approve.  
It's a horrible feeling to think that you won't be able to afford to give your child everything he needs to succeed.  I'm thankful that we live in a progressive state that believes in providing quality health care for all children.  Yes, we have high income taxes (because of no sales tax here) and it initally stung to be sending off a check to Salem in January, until I thought about how much we have benefitted from the social "safety net" spread wide for us here in Oregon. 
As I write this, he's happily looking at the mobile in his crib and being a happy little guy.  On Friday we take Ruby to the eye doctor to find out what's going on with her after 6 weeks of patching.  Hoping there is good news in that quarter.  
"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul." (Ps. 143:8)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reflections on Weddings, Friendships, and Love Not Being What You Think

Don't you wish there was a Money Fairy?  She would generously (or perhaps even sassily) bestow cash upon deserving recipients for non-emergent but still pressing desires.  If there were a Money Fairy, and she had come to visit me a few months ago, I would have asked her for the requisite cash to attend two weddings this summer.
First, I would have hightailed it to Colleen Smith's wedding, which was on July 21st in Colorado.  Colleen was part of my circle of friends in high school.  Oh Colleen, how shall I describe thee?  Colleen is one of those girls who looks just as good in rock climbing gear as in a formal ballgown with elbow-length gloves (although she'd much prefer the climbing gear, thankyouverymuch!)
She was such a tomboy in 7th, 8th, and even 9th grade.  She hated wearing skirts, heels, and wouldn't be caught dead in makeup.  She was all legs, rather scrawny even, with braces and long hair kept in a ponytail or a bun.  She didn't give a rip about fashion and only thought boys were of any use to compete with. She was so athletic, really smart (although somewhat self-denigrating about it), and had brass balls even as a 13 year old.  That girl was tough.  I was amazed by her.  Starting somewhere around 10th grade, Colleen got less tomboy and more girly.  She started wearing distinctly feminine clothes that showed off the knock-out body she had rapidly acquired over a summer.  She had boys lined up wanting to go out with her, and she was (in my memory) always dating someone.  She was practical and not too moony and mushy about it all.  She could swear like a sailor and still look cute doing it.  She LOVED music and had many, many CDs.  (CDs, children, are what existed before music was all in mp3 form on iPods and the like).  Guys felt at home around her and treated her as one of their own.  She was loyal to us, her friends, but not above calling us out on our crap if needs be.  She let herself get emotional when she had to, although she usually had a very devil-may-care attitude.  We haven't talked much since we parted ways after high school.  A few catch-up phone calls now and then, and it always seemed that she was living life in the fast and fabulous lane: being an ace salesperson, taking time off to travel the world, climbing, living life to the fullest.
She called me this past winter, in January or February, to tell me that she was getting married.  It was exciting to hear her gush, not unlike the way she used to gush at the many sleepovers we had back in high school.  I had been the first of our circle of friends to marry, and Rebecca looked to be up next in August 2012; and now Colleen was jumping in with both feet.
That brings me to Rebecca, who got married today.  I really would have needed the Money Fairy's help for this one, because she got married in England, home country of her (now) husband, Claude.  They met several years ago when Rebecca was taking a year abroad to study in England.  Their love story has some twists and turns and I honestly am not sure I have all the details straight, certainly not enough to recount them here.  But they've been living and working in California for the past few years and are tying the knot.  Rebecca was my closest friend in junior high and high school.  We bonded pretty early on and were constantly in contact.  I think I must have spent the night at her house almost on a weekly or at least biweekly basis; since she was an only child it made more sense for me to go there than to have her come to my noisy and crowded casa.  We talked on the phone multiple nights a week and emailed daily, perhaps even multiple times a day. My parents were flabbergasted that we could POSSIBLY have that much to talk about!  "Didn't you just spend all day at school with her?" my mom would ask in an incredulous stage whisper while I was tying up the family phone line talking to Rebecca.  I would shoo her away; she didn't understand.  Who could understand?  Even though we certainly had our differences, Rebecca and I also "got" each other, and she provided a welcome relief from the obnoxiousness of teenage brothers and a sister who was cute but--at 12 years my junior--not exactly peer/friend material.  We also spent a good deal of time (at least during the junior high years) revelling in our nerdiness and unpopular status.  Not that I really enjoyed being teased, unliked, and unlooked upon by the popular ones, but it was nice to have a friend there in the trenches with me.
And what did we talk about?  Boys, of course, and how stupid they were. Stupid, heartless, brainless, exasperating boys.  While I had many different crushes (in varying degrees of hopeless intensity) throughout the six years that we were together at Burroughs, for Rebecca there was only one.  As you might guess, he's not the one who watched her walk down the aisle today towards him; he's not the one who took her hand in his and promised to love her forever more.  He got married a few years ago to someone who didn't go to our high school.  But back when we were in the thick of high school, Rebecca dreamed of being married to him someday.  We talked about our future husbands: I was sure I'd meet mine in college, just like my parents did. She was not sure in terms of certainty that she'd marry her crush; after all, she was practical enough to realize that they would likely go to separate colleges.  But she loved him with the kind of ardent, unrequited (mostly?) love that only a teenager can.  We graduated and for our first year of college (especially the first few months) kept up with daily emails and frequent phone calls.  I remember talking to her often on the hall phone, which was conveniently located in a closet with the water heater.  We discussed college life, college guys (who were not nearly as sophisticated as we'd hoped they'd be), and the hard work of making new friends, real friends.  I had a rough few months.  It took me a while to find my set of friends who would see me through college, and it was similar for Rebecca.  We both did, though, and our communication levels dropped off after that first year as we became busier with our own school schedules and also with our new friend groups.  After college our contact was sporadic, usually in the form of long emails trying to catch up on everything.  Although her goal in junior high had been to go into medicine and practice in a small town somewhere (and have a son named Kevin in honor of Kevin from The Wonder Years), she ended up working on a PhD and becoming a Shakespeare specialist.  She and Claude visited us for a few hours while they happened to be in town in March of 2011.  I think I had already heard of their engagement at the time but it was quite thrilling to see them both in person and think, "This really is happening, and not at all the way we imagined way back in 8th grade!"  I was planning to save up for a plane ticket, but then later in the summer discovered that I was pregnant with Max, which would pretty much put the kibosh on international travel.
If I were at her reception and called upon to make a toast, I think I would say something like this:
I'd like to quote Derek Webb's song title, "Love Is Different Than You Think."  That title says it all.  We spent so many hours giggling and dreaming and wondering what our futures would hold as far as love was concerned.  I know that my love story was nothing like what I had imagined, and I'm sure you would say the same of yours.  Dare I say, they are better than what we imagined.  We, who were SO insecure in our appearances, have found husbands who think we're beautiful and perfect and love us just as much when we have bed head and dark circles under our eyes as when we're dressed up to the nines.  We, who were so hungry to be understood, have found husbands who--when we rant, cry, dither, and fume--are there with arms to hold us and ears to hear us.  We, who just couldn't wait for our respective first kisses, now have husbands who are more than happy to oblige with kisses all the time.  We, who were so uncertain about what the future held for us in terms of careers, have husbands who support us, respect us, engage in witty and urbane academic banter with us, and cheer us on when the workload seems insurmountable.  We, who were all too aware of our flaws and failings, found men who became equally aware, perhaps more aware than we ourselves, and loved us anyway.  Love is different than we thought it would be; better than we could have dreamed.  May your marriage be even better in the coming years than you can even now imagine or expect it to be.  Cheers to Rebecca and Claude!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Hometown Prophet

I just finished reading Hometown Prophet by Jeff Fulmer, another book I received from Speakeasy.  It sat on the shelf for a while with all the busyness of my life, but the other day I saw it and realized, "Eeeek! I'm pretty sure I'm close to my 30 days deadline for this review," so I sat down and made a concerted effort with it.  It was a pretty quick read; the writing style is simple and straightforward.  

The protagonist is Peter Quill, a thirty something guy who has been something of a drifter (spiritually and materially) and settles back into his mother's house in Nashville and goes back to the church he attended with her when he was younger.  He also begins to have extremely vivid dreams which turn out to be (spoiler alert!) prophetic and all come true in some way.  At first, Peter is not too excited at first to discover that he is a prophet of God.  His prophecies make him very unpopular with the local Christian bigwigs.  As the blurb on the back says, "It isn't until his dreams challenge the biases of people in the community that he comes under attack, discovering what it means to be truly a prophet of God."  For example, he predicts that a mosque is going to be vandalized, and tips off several local imams so they can keep an eye out.  Sure enough, a mosque is graffitied and arson is attempted, although the building does not entirely burn to the ground, thanks to the local members being on alert from his tip.  Peter wants to extend a hand of friendship and help to the Muslim community by having his church fund a rebuilding project, but his pastor--hitherto extremely helpful and friendly--refuses to pitch in and a few other local pastors/Christian talking heads call into question his status as a true prophet of God.  After all, would God really want to spare Muslims any kind of pain and difficulty?  

The story has many twists and turns, although none of them are what I would call mysterious or surprising.  It does keep one's interest, though, which helped contribute to my quick reading of it.  The book also has some romance for Peter, and I'll comment more on that later.  I don't want to give away all of what happens in the story, but I will say that there is a fairly happy ending where several people either come to Jesus for the first time or else are forced to face their own hypocrisy and alter their ways (to some extent).  

My main commendation for this book is that it addresses a subject always ripe for discussion: namely, that many "evangelical Christians" are not being as loving as they should and getting more wrapped up in thinking that the right politician or the right church or the right social platform will save them, rather than Christ.  Mr. Fulmer does a good job of exposing the hypocrisy of various archetypes of Christian fame (radio commentator and Rush Limbaugh soundalike Ed Pressman; singer Jordan Stone who has some moral slip ups not unlike Amy Grant; various megachurch pastors for which you can easily imagine Rick Warren or Joel Osteen being a model).  He, through Peter Quill's revelations, warn Christians about caring too much for their 401Ks and Roth IRAs than for the poor and needy.  For making such points (often in the form of Peter giving a stirring speech), I commend him and his book.  

But as I read (and especially in the latter part of the book where Peter and his girlfriend--both Christians--decide to consummate their relationship outside of marriage), I kept being reminded of a sermon I listened to recently preached on Jesus's letter to the church of Thyatira in the book of Revelation.  Pastor Mark Driscoll (and I know some of you will want to stop reading right there, but hear him--and me--out) said this:
...it’s a sin for Christians to be more tolerant than Christ. He says, “But this I have against you, you tolerate.” Some of you are more tolerant than Jesus. Hey, bottom line, not everybody is going to heaven. Bottom line, not all religions lead to the same path. Bottom line, not all saviors can save. Bottom line, not all sacred books say the same thing or tell the truth."
"So this would be like in our day, someone becomes very popular because they say, “You could be a faithful Christian and a homosexual. You could be a faithful Christian and an adulterer. You could be a faithful Christian and a fornicator. You could be a faithful Christian and a porn watcher. And you can have both, and God doesn’t judge, and we shouldn’t judge, and we should be tolerant and diverse. And Jesus loves you, and we love you. And who are we to judge?” Jesus says, “This I have against you, you tolerate that.”
I wondered why Mr. Fulmer felt it was important to include his protagonist deciding to sleep with his girlfriend.  I'm guessing it was to make him more "realistic" (i.e. appealing to non-Christian readers).  His character does face a few moral qualms about it; since he's a prophet, shouldn't he, you know, not be having sex outside of marriage?  But then he rationalizes realizes that he already wasn't a virgin when he started having the prophetic dreams, and "being with Marian was a gift from God, too" (p. 236), so God must be cool with this affair.  Mr. Fulmer says of Marian, "So, because of her child, as well as her Christian values, Marian viewed sex as a serious step in a relationship that should not be treated flippantly." (p.228-229) Well, isn't that nice? She sees sex as serious because she's a Christian.  Not as seriously as Jesus does, but still, serious.  I'll quote Driscoll once again:
And he says, “I have this against you, you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice,” not alternative lifestyles, but what? “Sexual immorality.” Now when Satan and marketers got done with it, sexual immorality became alternative lifestyle, because alternative lifestyle sounds like, “Oh, I don’t know, chicken, ham, fish, I just don’t know, there’s so many alternatives.” Sexual immorality has a bit more of a loaded, moral implication. Amen? So it goes from being a menu of options, to obedience and disobedience. You can see why they killed Jesus, and were he not in heaven saying this, they’d try again.
Marian's theology tells her that sex is serious, not sacred; perhaps she trots out the "We're married in God's eyes" or "God invented sex so we're really just worshipping" arguments.  I don't know.  That's part of the problem: Marian and Peter are a bit two-dimensional, in my opinion.  We just don't know much about either of them, especially Marian.  We never find out why she got a divorce, what she does for  living, etc.  She seems a bit like a deus ex machina device to assure us that not EVERYONE hates poor Peter.  
Now, perhaps Mr. Fulmer's intent was more subtle; perhaps he intended to convey the message that God can use even sinners as his spokesmen.  Peter does, later on, say publicly that he is a sinner, but it isn't because he's sleeping with Marian.  Of that, he says, "I'm not ashamed of it."  (p. 267) Even his pastor doesn't seem to think much of it.  There's no mention of repentance.  I kept hoping that the other prophet in the story, Jesse, would come a deliver a bit of a slap upside the head, kind of like the prophet Nathan did to King David, but that never happens. In the "happily ever after" type of epilogue, they are still seeing each other, but not married or even engaged.  So, much as I would like to credit Mr. Fulmer with creating a character of some nuance who later repents of his sin, I can only assume that he shares Marian's view that sex is serious enough to wait several dates for.  
For Christians, that is a disobedient frame of mind.  I should know; I've been there.  Oh, I grew up with all the "True Love Waits" campaigns and heard many talks and read many articles about "saving myself for marriage."  I came to see it only in a technical light: as long as you don't have intercourse, you've saved yourself for marriage, hurray for you!  Sadly, I indulged in plenty of "fooling around" with a boyfriend in college and then with my husband before we got married.  I say this to my shame, especially in the case with my husband because we were both professing Christians whereas my boyfriend had not been.  We knew better, and I don't think we ever pretended that we didn't know better.  We just chose to disobey and to hope that God wasn't going to smite us.  He didn't smite us, but He permitted us to suffer the natural consequences of our sins: becoming practiced in impatience, selfish thinking, disregard for God's authority in preference to our own, losing our ability to tell our children truthfully that we set a good example, etc.  It really irks me, therefore, to see characters who call themselves Christians having sex outside of marriage and thinking that it is good and appropriate.  That is not a good message to send to readers, especially single Christian readers who might be struggling with sexual temptation.  In fact, for me, it becomes an extremely irritating distraction from the otherwise good messages in the book about loving your neighbor and basically not being a self-righteous jerk.  It's kind of like the typos that are in the book ("ruble" instead of "rubble", a character named Thom whose name is sometimes spelled Tom, "bard" instead of "barb").  Yes, I know what the author meant to say; yes, we all make mistakes...but with every error, the overall integrity is tainted or at least strained by their very avoidable presence.  Therefore, I could not recommend this book to younger, single or dating/engaged readers because I would not want them to pick up wrong teaching about how Jesus views sexuality.  
This brings me to another question: for what audience is this book intended?  I don't think many non-Christians would bother to pick up the book because it is overtly Christian, and many of the non-Christians I know don't want to pick up anything they think will be preaching at them.  At the same time, conservative Christians will likely put it down early on if they pick it up at all because of the way many conservative Christian types are portrayed.  I am guessing that the intended audience is those who have been burned by the church but still consider themselves to be followers of Christ, along with more liberal Christians and the category of "I'm spiritual but not religious" people.  [Here I must digress to say, that reminds me of Susan E. Isaacs's wonderful line she uttered at a reading of her great book, Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir.  She said, "I hate it when people say, 'I'm spiritual but not religious.' That's like saying, 'I'm crazy but not psycho.'" ] I'm thinking that this book will appeal to those in the emergent church or those whose understanding of God is primarily derived from The Shack or Velvet Elvis or A Generous Orthodoxy.  Not to knock those books: I enjoyed them for what they were...BOOKS and not Bible.  Interesting but not inerrant.  This, too, could fall into that category.  For those who are able to read with a critical eye and who are well-versed in scripture, this book could serve as a worthwhile catalyst for some soul-searching and reflection.  Then again, you could just read the letters to the churches in Revelation and get the real deal and skip the "sexual immorality=what the cool and truly liberated, mature Christians do" subtext, or the "Hey, I know, let's bring up all the weird stuff in Leviticus to make the Bible look irrelevant!" subtext.  
One final note: In the "About the Author" blurb on his website, Jeff Fulmer writes:
I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration. 

Seeing as Peter Quill retraces those same geographical steps, I must assume that Peter Quill, while not a carbon copy of the author, shares some convictions of his.  Some of those I find quite laudable and well-said (his speech about what it means to be a modern-day good Samaritan being one of the best).  But if Christianity is misrepresented for personal and political gain by conservatives (and I believe it is), it is just as misrepresented by liberals.  If conservative Christians are tempted to be "holier than thou", liberal Christians are tempted to be "more tolerant than thou."  I definitely haven't discovered how to be loving people like God loves people and hating sin like God hates it.  But I know that He hates sin, and I think Pastor Mark's warning to us must remain as we read this book: Never be more tolerant than God.  


Monday, August 13, 2012

Still awake...

I so should be sleeping right now.  Really, I should.  I didn't really get a nap today and have been waking up early lately.  Oh well.
Random thought for the night/wee hours of the morning:
There are way too many awesome names in the world and I can't possibly have as many children as names I like.  It would lead to a family of Duggar-esque proportions (and NO they would not all start with J.  What the HECK people?  Jinger?? Every time I see that, I think Jing-er, not Ginger).
True story: when I was about 8, I received two dolls for Christmas.  There was a boy and a girl.  I was promptly asked what I was going to name them.  I agonized over this for the better part of the day.  I had to pick just the right names, because I wanted them to be good.  But which ones?  I finally decided (and announced to my parents and grandparents) that I would not give them permanent names, but would instead rotate through as often as necessary so that they could always have a name I liked.
When I hit age 11 or 12, I got really into "creative spellings" of names.  You know, like spelling Janie "Janiy" or "Jaeney" or the like.  I also liked the names Juniper (for a girl) and Jaymes (for a boy).  I made the mistake of telling my mother this; she told several of her friends, who had a laugh at my expense.  I felt like poor Ramona Quimby, who named her doll Chevrolet because she liked how it sounded.
For that same reason, I'm hesitant to list any further names that I like here.  One, because I don't want to get nailed down to having to choose one for a future child.  Two, because I don't want to get made fun of or told "Don't name your kid THAT!  You'll ruin his/her life."  I've already ruined my son's life by giving him a hyphenated first name AND a middle name...how swank of me.  Three, I know that my taste in names changes.  For a while there I really wanted to name any future girls we may have Petra.  Then Freya.  I'm not disavowing either name, but I don't suspect we'll go with either after all.  There are just so many beautiful, interesting, meaningful names out there, and it seems a shame that I'll never get to use them all :(
Which leads me to this question for you, readers: have you ever played the game where you think of a friend and then try to imagine what you would guess their name was if you were just meeting them for the first time?  Or do you ever sit at the mall and look at people and make up names that you think will "fit" them (whatever that means!)?  I do, or have done.  Do I look like a Jenny?  My parents told me they were considering "Lydia", and I feel like I look more like a Lydia than a Jenny...but what does that even mean?  Not much, probably.  It is 12:27 AM, so none of this is very deep.
Okay, off to bed with me.  Zzzzzzzzzzz.