Monday, December 21, 2009

A Wife's Biblical Submission

I found a great website recently that dissects Proverbs 31:10-31 and really tries to figure out biblical submission. There is a link on my blog, but here is the website:
It takes it one verse at a time. I am supposed to journal about it as I go in my personal physical journal as well as post blogs for the other women on the website to read when I feel led to. I am sending my blog to some family and friends, but I need to put some information in here that they may already know about me so that other women on this website will know who I am as well since I will be participating in the study.

I am Carly and I got married September 13, 2009. We don't have any children yet. I have lived my entire 22 years in Florida but moved out to the desert in California after we got married. My husband is stationed here with the United States Marine Corps. I found the website by doing a google search for "biblical submission study".

I knew before getting married how important submission was, but it is kind of intimidating since there is such a negative worldview. I was committed to being a submissive wife, but I have been slacking on figuring out exactly what that means and seeking out guidance. I have started to see the results of that in my marriage and at times tell myself that my husband is doing something wrong. I have a feeling I am not alone in that! But the reality is, I can only control myself and I don't always do a good job of studying what God's Word tells me about my role as a wife. I want desperately to fulfill that role, but how do I expect to do that without really studying it and finding like-minded women?! Duh. So, off I go. I am committed to it. There is NOTHING negative about submission. The world makes it negative. It is God's idea. However, I am absolutely positive that it will be difficult at times. There is a difference between negative or detrimental, and difficult. I am convinced it will benefit my husband and me and I won't let my fears or laziness or stubbornness get in the way. :o)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hunger Pains

So I had this moment yesterday. I don't know how to describe it except that something inside of me was so tired of being pushed back down, being questioned, being ignored, being told to wait, that I just imploded. Actually I don't really even know if it was an implosion or an explosion. Luckily, Aaron was there to listen (after being very confused at my weird mood all day that finally ended with this revelation). He is a saint.

A common occurrence in my short lifetime has been the formation of these crazy little pipe dreams of mine. They have come in different forms along the way. In kindergarten, I cried during a video about the rain forest being chopped down. I went through a phase where I would refuse to eat my chicken because I was sad for the chicken. When I was a little older, I used to pray while I was in the shower that I would be rich when I grew up so that I could pay off all my parents' debt and buy them a house. I was never quite satisfied with just living and spent a little too much time dreaming. Don't get me wrong, I kept on top of my school work, stayed out of trouble, did what I was told. But my brain was always very busy and I always felt a little useless and silly; like I was wasting a lot of energy just spinning my wheels.

As I got older, God kept pushing me a little more and started planting more intricate seeds. Obviously this was somewhat related to me nearing the end of high school, starting college, and being forced to consider "real life". But even then it was ridiculously hard to escape everyone else's idea of what you need to be successful in real life. I still had my dreams and God was very busy, but I still felt like I had to achieve them in the conventional way: do well in high school so that you have your pick of colleges, find a major that leads to a career that you will not only enjoy but will also provide financial stability and job security. Sure... There is a very nice formula that everyone seems to be following, but what happens when you get farther and farther into it and realize it doesn't appeal to you?!

So, the "moment." Unfortunately I have the type of personality where I am never satisfied with what is going on now; I always look to what could be improved and can find the faults in the system pretty quickly. I want everything to get better, to change. I rarely feel like anything is good enough. So yesterday, and with most patriotic holidays, not only do I reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans, or the freedoms we have in our country, etc, I also tend to get a little fire under my butt about what is WRONG with our country and how we need not forget that if we have these freedoms we should use them for good. So all of this stewed all day yesterday, and I was discussing it with Aaron all day long, somewhat cryptically though, until finally I just broke down crying. I said that I get tired of God giving me all these desires to change things and help people when I feel like there is no one around me who feels the same way or notices the same things I do or cares about the outcasts in society more than they want to put them down. I told him I could care less what people think about me or if I have unconventional views but that I just don't feel like there is anyone who has the same passions as me.

So, Aaron asked me what kinds of ideas I had and I told him some of my more grown up dreams: a transition house for people who need to get off the streets or away from drugs where they can come and stay for a period of time, take free classes in things like typing, math, communication skills, personal finances, etc to get them prepared for caring for themselves and being able to get a job. They would also attend some sort of counseling or meetings or classes just to get some support for whatever they have going on and fully work through it, and also get an honest upfront dose of the Gospel. Or a community center (named Agape House in my head) strictly for women and children where they can go if they are leaving abusive relationships or again struggling to escape drug abuse or alcoholism etc that is a nice respectable place to stay. A place where they can't be found or lured back by abusive partners and a place they don't have to be ashamed of because it is called a homeless shelter, or a rehab facility, or an institution. And again, they would be equipped to overcome their struggles, make it on their own, and they would be introduced to the Gospel. I know these places already exist in some form or fashion, but I don't believe they provide everything they need to provide.

Aaron told me he would support me however he could and that I could write down any ideas I have and we would figure out how to get them started. He might have said 2-3 sentences in the midst of all my incoherent babbling, but he said what I needed. I just need someone to support me and reassure me that it doesn't matter what anyone else is doing or saying or thinking.

I really still have trouble describing these feelings, especially as strong as they were yesterday but whenever they have come up in the past as well. It is like hungering for something that already exists inside of you. On what hand that sounds crazy to me. On the other hand it doesn't sound crazy at all because the Holy Spirit is inside of me and He is probably getting a little impatient with me and my fears and my waffling and my excuses. We have been talking a lot about the Holy Spirit at church on Wednesdays. When Jesus was telling his disciples he had to leave them, he said he HAD to in order to 1) go prepare a place for them and 2) to equip them to do even greater things than what he had been doing. He was going to equip them by giving them the Holy Spirit. Not only was he sending the Holy Spirit, but he assured them that they did not need to be qualified for what God calls them to do. God WILL call them. He will keep calling. But if you wait until you feel ready, you will never get to doing the work God wants you to do while you're on earth. God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. He asks nobodies to follow Him and then miraculously he turns them into his hands, his feet, his mouthpieces. And once you jump on board with God, you can bet that he will not be willing you to do things the way the world does things. You may look crazy. You may look like you are giving up on everything that makes sense. You may have people close to you questioning you or becoming disappointed. But the reality is that the way God wants you to do things is so much more creative, exciting, risky, productive, fruitful, fulfilling... WHY would you want to settle for doing things how everyone else does them just so that you don't stick out and have a few eyebrows raised at you?

The bible also compares being filled with the Holy Spirit with being filled with alcohol. Why? When you are filled with alcohol, you undoubtedly walk differently, talk differently, think differently. Go ahead and think about it, and maybe laugh a little. But what is he saying then? If I am filled with the Spirit I SHOULD NOT look the same as I did before I was saved and I SHOULD NOT look the same as the world. The way that I talk, walk, act, think should distinguish me. People should be able to tell something is funny about me. If they can't, then why am I walking around calling myself a Christian, actually bearing Christ's name, and making a fool out of Him? Why was it worth Jesus dying on the cross for people to just wear his name on their sleeve while they turn their backs on Him?

I went into town today to buy dog food. (side story: Aaron and I had a very good time in Vegas and might not have realized how close the dogs were to running out of food when we budgeted our weekend, so they've been a little hungry!) I always see this little bookstore on the way to Pets Plus, so I decided to stop there today just to check it out. Well, they have the weirdest hours ever and are only open Fri Sat Sun 10-5! But when I pulled up I noticed this lady standing on the side street by the bookstore. She was still there after I had parked, went to look at the hours and peak in the window, and get back in my car to leave. She wasn't walking, she didn't have a car or bike, she wasn't on the phone. Hm. So I figured, what the heck, I'll ask her if she needs a ride somewhere. I was worried I might freak her out and have her think I was crazy or something but oh well! So she said that she was waiting for the bus because she works on base at the P/X! (Umm what a relief that she actually needed to go somewhere that I knew where it was!) I think she figured once I heard she was waiting for the bus I would just keep going, I don't really know. But I told her I still didn't mind if she would rather have a ride. She was like Really? Am I safe with you? I told her that Yes, all I had in the car was a couple lamp shades. haha. She said something about Well thank you, you are a real blessing to me. I'm going for an interview for another position and now I know I'll be on time. So she got in the car and said thank you again and introduced herself as Rebecca. I wish I could remember all the transitions, but we asked where each other was from, I found out her neighbor is from FL, she is originally from NY and has been in 29 Palms about 7 years, which also coincides with the time that she got saved. I guess she used to be into drugs and alcohol and some other stuff pretty heavily back in NY. When she moved out here it was too different for her and somehow God got a hold of her and she just knew she had to make a choice. So now she is clean and loving life and just enjoys her coffee and cigarettes! Her daughter lives in 29 palms and so do her 4 grandkids. She was so happy and grateful and kept saying what a blessing I was to her which was so weird to me. Not bad weird, but she really made my day too. I was honored that she trusted me, had a great conversation with a stranger who knew what God could do and I really didn't know what to say when she kept saying that I had started her day off great and was such a blessing except, Well, good I am glad. I told her some about me moving out from FL with Aaron and she asked some about the dogs since I told her I was on my way to get dog food. It was the most genuine and comfortable conversation I have had with someone in quite a while. I think we will both probably be thinking about each other the rest of the day. I know her name is Rebecca Carter and she works at the P/X so I'm going to try to go visit her.

Anyway, it was just such a simple thing this morning that really made my day and made me grateful that God lets me in on little things like that. It was very humbling and pure and got me motivated! I will be praying for Rebecca whenever I think about her and I want to keep looking for what else God puts in front of me. This isn't really about me and what I want to do, it is about getting up more courage little by little to let God do what HE wants to do. I could say all kinds of things about this morning... I mean, I could see from the road that the bookstore was closed but I decided to stop anyway. Once I saw Rebecca, I was thinking we wouldn't have much in common because she was a petite black lady in her 40s or 50s. Once I finally decided to stop, she turned out to be a little ball of sunshine who was thankful to be alive and happy to give God credit for that. I knew where she was going. She works somewhere where I could actually see her again. I have a flexible schedule where I actually had the option of rearranging what I was doing to give her a ride. God used her to give me a kind of motivation and energy that I haven't had in a while.

Even after all that, I know I have a degree to finish. I know some of these projects I come up with may involve a lot of work, energy, discouragement, money, strain, etc. I know first and foremost my commitment lies with my husband and our home and our kids whenever they come along. I know all of it. Yes, it's there. I haven't gone off the deep end, but I have truly and finally begun to let go of being scared, being normal, sticking to the well-beaten path, and letting the world put limits to what God will do with me.

I am just ready to see what comes next!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bible Engagement

The above link will be plenty to read in and of itself, but this is my blog so I'll throw in my two cents as well! The statistics you will find on the website are unbelievable.

"In an interview with Assist News Service Rhodes quotes a recent poll, which indicates that 35% of born-again Christians do not read the Bible at all."

This website goes into all sorts of detail about a program they are developing, but if nothing else read the top of the page and watch the video on the right-hand side. The thing that gets me is that, not even just among Americans, but among born-again Christians there is a lack of biblical knowledge. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I should brush up in this area and approaching marriage has made me even more aware of this. But what about the people who are content where they are? What about the people who think it is enough to just believe in God? What about the people that memorize a few verses that give them warm fuzzies and then figure that they are a "good person" is enough. It's just disturbing. How can you claim to pursue Christ-like behavior when you don't have a good idea of how Christ behaved? Being a "good person" is not enough. How can you claim a desire for a deep relationship with God if you are not communicating with him? Go ask any counselor, relationship guru, pastor, someone in a successful relationship, accountant, sports coach, business partner, Christian or not, and they will tell you communication is key in any relationship.

So what about our relationship with God? The two main avenues of communicating with God are prayer and reading the bible. If you are not reading the bible very often, there goes half of your means. Then, if you are not reading the bible how can you get a true idea of how you should pray? Granted, none of us is perfect and the Christian faith involves a lifetime of learning, but there is a difference between complacency or ignorance and actively learning. We are instructed to not stay young in our faith.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (New International Version)

Warning Against Falling Away

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

You have open communication and the opportunity for guidance and friendship from the Creator of the Universe.

1. Guidance: You spend endless amounts of time and energy thinking, worrying, researching, agonizing over decisions of what you want out of life and how/where to find yourself, how to be of benefit to those around you, how to live the life you were created to live... We've had a book for years that will, without a doubt, provide all of those answers. Yet people still choose pop culture to solve their problems or they choose their selfish idea of "happiness" over walking with Christ. Living by biblical principles is not an option if we claim the Christian faith. Being a good person by worldly standards does not cut it. Reading a book that inspires you that goes against biblical principles does not cut it, no matter how many warm fuzzies it gives you. Walking with Christ does take a leap of faith because it requires giving up control. It requires abandoning your definition of happiness because you know that, ultimately, God knows better what will bring you true happiness. But if you never take that leap, then you are destined for a life of complacency, misery, and confusion where you continually struggle with happiness and being a good person all on your own terms. I can assure you, this will get exhausting. And if you don't feel that this is happening to you, then I assure you at the very least that you are causing pain to those who love you. Man wasn't made to do things alone or by his own terms. Man was made to live in perfect communion with God and be fully dependent on God's plan for what will ultimately make Him happy. Our true happiness should come directly from striving for God's happiness. That is the true happiness that some people will never experience because they can't remove the cloud of selfishness long enough to truly seek out what God wants.

2. Friendship: When you think of the people that you love surrounding yourself with whether it is your best friend, your spouse, your children, your church family, the "work crew", how do you handle that desire to draw closer to them? You spend more time with them, you learn about them, you feel loved when they want to learn about you, and you look to those people for encouragement and advice. God calls us to a relationship like this with Him but on a greater and even more intimate level. People get stuck thinking that the Christian faith is all about rules and choosing misery over joy, but that is because they do not pursue the benefits of having a true relationship with God. If you think back to all of the friendships you recalled earlier, those would not be enjoyable relationships if all you did was give each other guidelines. You learn about each other and you learn to enjoy each other and respect each other and hold each other accountable. Then all of a sudden when it comes to God, we want to be handed the benefits of a relationship with God, but we do not put forth the effort to maintain that relationship.

The Christian faith does not consist of a one-time decision to give your life to Christ, reading a few verses that make you feel loved by God, and then going about your life pursuing your own selfish desires. It is not about checking in with God when we choose to but ignoring Him when He seems to want us to make a hard decision. It is not about choosing to live by some of the bible but disregarding other parts because they probably don't apply to us or "God must understand that my situation is different". The Christian faith is about pursuing a relationship with Christ and it is about the ultimate goal of pleasing God and being used by Him to do His work. In other words, it is about God, not us. We live in our heads every day. So if we are going to escape our selfish desires and learn to do everything to the glory of God, it is going to take some studying, struggling, and wrestling with God. The result of all of this will most definitely be peace, fulfillment, receiving the desires of our hearts, and the love and grace of God. But to get to that end result, I believe the first step to take is to gain a greater and ongoing knowledge of the bible.

There is something encouraging about all of this though. As frustrating as it is that I easily fall into the trap of forgetting to communicate with God, and as frustrating as it is to see people I love do the same, it is encouraging that the solution is very simple. The solution does not involve 10 steps for success. The solution does not involve a list of do's and don'ts. The solution starts simply with reading the bible. That is it. As this habit grows into a hunger, a desire, and something you get excited about, the relationship with God will grow, your decision-making will become solidly based on biblical principles, and what you thought was a nasty list of Do's and Don'ts becomes the natural way for you to honor God and achieve true happiness knowing you are following God's plan. And God's plan involves 100x more fulfillment, happiness, joy, excitement, adventure, love, etc than any plan you could even imagine...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday and Easter

The following article is located at:

What's So Good about Good Friday?
Learning to see darker days in a different light
Carolyn Arends | posted 4/08/2009

I love Easter Sunday. I love the way my church's normally casual congregation takes everything up a notch (or three)—the girls in new linen dresses and the boys in once-a-year ties. I love the jubilance of the music, and the preacher's grin when he urges us to turn to one another and say, "He is risen!"

Easter Sunday is the Christian faith's gold medal victory lap and its raison d'etre. It's the Happily Ever After to end all happily ever afters. Easter Sunday shouts: "Death where is thy sting?" and "Love wins!" and "God is alive!"

But here's the rub: I dread Good Friday. I dread the images of torture and suffering. I dread the somber music and the awful remembrance of the violent death of a loved one—of Jesus, the Loved One. I dread the smothering grief and the inescapable remorse and the terrible recollected cry, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Left to my own devices, I'd probably skip Good Friday. But I suspect that if I did, Easter morning would become increasingly hollow. I'd forget how much my salvation cost.

What's more, I'm pretty sure my Good Friday avoidance would cause me to lose touch with certain realities about the way the universe works on this side of eternity. I'd start to believe that you can have victory without sacrifice. I'd convince myself that you don't have to die to live the resurrection. I'd buy the lie that Christ's ultimate victory over death—and my decision to follow him—means life on this earth will be trouble-free.

The biblical writers warn us repeatedly that the Christian should not expect a life exempt from Good Fridays. They encourage us to consider every hardship pure joy because suffering is an opportunity to identify with Christ and become more dependent on him (James 1:2-4). They repeat Christ's plainspoken invitation to "take up his cross" (Mark 8:34-35).

And yet for many of us Easter Sunday Christians, when the job is lost, or the tumor is malignant, or the friendship is betrayed, we grieve not only the wound but also the fact that we can be wounded. We feel that either we're not doing faith right or that faith—that Jesus—has let us down. We don't consider it "pure joy" when our faith is tested. We consider it failure.

I'm beginning to think our expectations are not just unrealistic, they're anti-gospel. But our confusion is hardly surprising. According to some experts, we're bombarded with more than 3,000 advertisements a day, telling us we're entitled to (and must pursue at any cost) an easy, ageless, worry-free life. When we meet and accept Jesus, many of us can't help but distort his promise of abundant life into something that resembles the illusion advertisers sell us every day.

So how do we become Easter Sunday Christians who truly see (and even embrace) the good in our Good Fridays? How do we resist our sense of entitlement and the distorted expectations that are so deeply ingrained? I've found the following four principles helpful.

Check the Definitions
When I read that God "works all things together for good," I can't help but think of the marketers' definitions and assume that "good" means "easy," "youthful," "desirable," and "wealthy." But when I read the Bible, I discover that God defines "good" in entirely different terms.

New Testament Christians seemed to believe the greatest good is to become more like Jesus. They took it for granted that this process wouldn't be easy.

"What do people mean when they say 'I am not afraid of God, because he is good?'" asked C.S. Lewis, musing on this idea. "Have they never even been to a dentist?"

Evidently, early Christians also assumed that the "good" God is working toward is much more expansive than one individual's personal circumstances. God is establishing his kingdom, doing nothing less than "reconciling all things to himself" (Colossians 1:20), and the ultimate good for the believer is to be included in that process.

I'm immensely comforted when I remember that the God who cares deeply and personally about even a fallen sparrow is watching over me. But I've been a parent long enough to suspect that my heavenly father knows more than I do about what I need and where I'm going—and about what's best for the whole family. So it's a safe bet that his definition of "blessing" is different from mine.

When I'm expecting Easter Sunday and I get Good Friday instead, I'm trying to remember that God's definition of "good" undoubtedly confounds and far exceeds my own.

Re-evaluate Death
Almost all the new beginnings in my life have come from what felt at the time like terrible endings. So I know I need to re-examine my concept of "death." Frequently, what seems like a small (but devastating) death is actually a chance at new life. I can point to dozens of "dead ends" in my career, ministry, or relationships that turned out to be opportunities to change direction.

Nature gives us vivid examples of this principle. Like seeds, we must be willing to be broken in order to grow into what we were made to be. Like reptiles, we have to shed old skins. Like caterpillars, we must be entombed so we can emerge as completely new creations. When I think of all the energy I've expended resisting endings and change, I wonder what new life I've missed.

Jesus tells us to die so we can live. He invites us to surrender all the illusions we have about what makes a life good and worthwhile so we can discover real life. And then he walks with us, every step of the way, as we die a thousand deaths in the process of letting his life go deeper and deeper into us. Until at last we really and truly physically die, only to live forever.
The rumors of our demise, it turns out, are greatly exaggerated. With God, the end is the beginning.

Keep Time
In my non-liturgical church tradition, a "church calendar" is a list of youth group meetings and members' birthdays, not an ancient rhythm of days and observances. But I've been learning that many branches of Christianity throughout the centuries have used liturgical time as a way of keeping believers connected to the realities of both life and death in the faith.

Cycling through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and back through "ordinary time" to Advent again, Christians are reminded that suffering is an expected part of human life, and, more important, that God is constantly redeeming that suffering through his resurrection power. I'm just beginning to discover how helpful the church calendar can be in correcting and realigning my own expectations.

Lent, in particular, is a fascinating season. A few years ago, when I became aware that some of my Anglican and Catholic friends went through an annual ritual of giving up some creature comfort for 40 days every spring, I responded with what I thought was a clever line: "This year for Lent I'm giving up self-control." My friends would smile but challenge me to give Lent a serious try.

This year, in my desire to more fully embrace Good Friday, I'm observing my first Lenten season. It's an experiment to see if denying myself one small but habitualized comfort (in my case, a certain kind of food) prepares my heart to more fully enter into every part of Easter.

My Lent-experienced friends tell me that disrupting even one routine can expose the crutches and illusions and substitutions that keep us from authentically participating in the life Christ offers. Lent, they claim, can facilitate a small death to self that becomes an opening to new life. I aim to see if they're right.

Expect the Unexpected
Endings that are beginnings, death that is life—God will always confound our expectations.

A couple years ago, during a jubilant Easter service, our pastor said something that stopped me in my mental tracks: "The world offers promises full of emptiness. But Easter offers emptiness full of promise."

Empty cross, empty tomb, empty grave-clothes … all full of promise. If I were writing the Easter story, I don't think I'd choose emptiness as my symbolic gesture. But then, I also wouldn't be talking about strength being made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), foolish things confounding the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), the meek inheriting the earth (Matthew 5:5), or the poor in spirit getting (in every sense of the word "get") the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). And I certainly wouldn't be talking about dying in order to live.

What is it about God that makes him so favor this kind of paradox? I guess this is what we should expect from the Servant King—the God who decided that the best way to save the world was to let it kill him. I don't understand the way God thinks. But on those days when I feel hollowed out and broken—half-dead, even—it makes me glad to remember that for Easter people, even death is full of promise.

The world makes a lot of promises. Smoke and mirrors, mostly. Frantic, cartoonish attempts to distract us from the gaping holes in the middle of our souls (or to sell us the latest product in order to fill them). There's no life in those promises.
So I'm hoping that this Lenten season, I'll be a little more willing to die to that stuff. I'm praying I'll become more aware of the empty space within, and that I'll resist the urge to fill it with any old thing I can find. I'm going to wait, carved out, vulnerable, a cracked and crumbling jar of clay, on a life God's offered to deposit anywhere there's room. I'm going to believe that if I'll just leave my empty spaces empty, he'll fill them. That, I'm convinced, is a reasonable expectation.

I'm writing this article during a particularly long Good Friday season in my own life. My mom is battling cancer, and I'd be lying if I said I was able to watch her suffer and "count it all joy."

I pray for healing and hope desperately it will come here on earth. I ask all the questions people have asked at the bedsides of sick loved ones for thousands of years. I vacillate wildly between hope and despair, faith and doubt, openness and bitterness.
But I know that we do not suffer alone, because the God of the universe wore our skin and died our death and removed its sting forever. This is no meager consolation. And even when I'm desperately sad, I look at my mom and I remember: Without Good Friday, there would be no Easter morning. So I pray through the night, and I wait for the resurrection.

Carolyn Arends is a columnist for our sister publication Christianity Today and the author of Wrestling with Angels: Adventures with Faith and Doubt (Harvest House).
Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
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