Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't You Worry About My Size 2

Recently I decided I want to get back into some pants I could wear a few years ago. They are a size 2. Inevitably when a small person decides she wants to be even smaller, she gets a lot of opinions. Mostly based on the very popular, but inaccurate, belief that size equals health. There's no question that being overweight contributes to a myriad of health problems, but there is no universal number for what is overweight. The question is what is overweight for a particular person. The same holds true for being underweight. There is no universal number. You can't make a determination based solely on the numbers.

Right now, I wear a size 4. And some people are insistent that not only do I not need to drop a size, but that I am too small as I am. But the truth is that I am a small-framed person. I'm not tall, my bones are small, and I'm not naturally curvy. If I eat a bunch of junk, don't exercise, and carry around 15 pounds of flab... I end up a size 4. In the process, I've abused my body with poor nutrition and laziness.

The actual size on my pants doesn't matter. What the number 2 represents for me is a time in my life when I was taking better care of myself. And if I eat well, gain some muscle, and lose some flab, then I'll fit a size 2, and I'll be healthier.

If you take good care of your body, that's the only thing that matters. Not the size of your pants or the number on your scale. You've got to find your own size 2. And stop worrying about mine.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Confessions of a Mean Mommy

Yesterday morning, on the way to my daughter's piano lesson, I took my two children and my little niece to Wegmans to get a special breakfast treat. My 11yo. son couldn't decide between a donut and a bagel, and he didn't understand why he couldn't have both. He gave me all the reasons he thought he should be able to, insisting I was wrong to make him choose. My son is big on reasons, always trying to logic his way into what he wants. And when he thinks someone is being unjust toward him, he can. not. let it go. And he will punish everyone around him with his attitude. His sense of fairness offended, he announced we would be staying there all day because he couldn't decide. This is a scene played out over and over, just in different times, places, and for different reasons. The obstinance. The disrespect. The fighting. I was tired and couldn't deal with it.

So did I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and be an awesome mom to him? No. I did something that was so awful, I almost broke down in tears the moment after I did it.

It's not easy for me to write this post. I wish I didn't have the material. But, like most parents, I fail. And sometimes I fail big time. The sinner in me wants to hide my shortcomings, and pretend I'm the Christian that has it all together. Insert wild laughter here. And don't just laugh because you know me, and know I don't have it all together. Laugh because there is no Christian who has it all together. And if you think you know one... well, they are probably working hard to make sure they keep that facade (and are probably miserable for it). Because sin hides in darkness and secrets. There's a reason Scripture tells us to confess our sins one to another. It reaffirms what we all know, even if we try to deny it: we all sin. It also reaffirms what we all profess: that there is forgiveness in Christ. As we confess and forgive, we preach the Gospel. And here's my confession: I am usually a very nice person, but I can be really mean to my kids.

My two wonderful, beautiful, amazing children often drive me to the ends of my patience and grace. You with me parents? You get this, right? If we were perfect, this wouldn't happen, because God is always ready to extend his infinite patience and Grace to them through us. But, unfortunately, we are not perfect. And, for me, that means getting to the "end of my rope"more than I'd like to admit to you. And, unfortunately, sometimes I treat my kids worse than I would ever treat anyone else. (Why do we do that to the people we love?)

I promised myself that I would never scream at my children. That I wouldn't call them names or slap them in the face or cuss at them. And I've done pretty well, thank the Lord. Admittedly I raise my voice   more than I should (which is never), but my kids are quick to remind me, and I try to be quick with my apology. Here's what I know, though. Screaming and name calling aren't the only ways to be mean to your children.

Someone on Facebook shared this blog post called "You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations." He makes good points about all the ways we can break our children, and I encourage you to read every last word. (It's written to dads, but it applies to moms too.) At the start of the post, Single Dad Laughing Dan Pierce talks about the event that prompted him to write the post. A dad in Costco being mean to his child:

As Noah and I stood in line to make a return, I watched as a little boy (he couldn’t have been older than six) looked up at his dad and asked very timidly if they could buy some ice cream when they were done. The father glared him down, and through clenched teeth, growled at the boy to ”leave him alone and be quiet”. The boy quickly cowered to the wall where he stood motionless and hurt for some time.
The line slowly progressed and the child eventually shuffled back to his father as he quietly hummed a childish tune, seemingly having forgotten the anger his father had just shown. The father again turned and scolded the boy for making too much noise. The boy again shrunk back and cowered against the wall, wilted. ....
We were three from the front now, and the boy started to come towards his dad yet again. His dad immediately stepped out of the line, jammed his fingers into his son’s collar bones until he winced in pain, and threatened him. “If you so much as make a sound or come off of that wall again, I promise you’re going to get it when we get home.” The boy again cowered against the wall. This time, he didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound. His beautiful face pointed down, locked to the floor and expressionless. He had been broken. And that’s how his father wanted it. He didn’t want to deal with him, and breaking him was the easiest way.
While I totally agree with the majority of the points made, Dan Pierce writes with self-proclaimed awesome dad status. I would say all the same things about being an awesome parent he said. But I'd be saying it from a place of not-so-awesome. I really try to be a great mom. But yesterday at the grocery store I had a moment of colossal failure. Instead of being that awesome mom who recognizes the strong-willed child who hasn't had the years I've had to mature and learn to control himself, I sighed and said to my son,

"You make me miserable." 

Ack! I want to cry now just thinking about it.

My son countered by asking why I was being so mean to him. And I had nothing to say but I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so, unbelievably sorry.  And my son - my strong, sensitive, seeker of justice, gift from the Lord - said,

"I forgive you."

Just like that. He forgave me. And he apologized for his behavior. And I forgave him. Why? Because that's what we do in our family. We modeled Christ right there in the bakery department of Wegmans. Maybe I'm not such a bad mom. My kids know I'm far from perfect.  They know that's the human condition. And they've been taught to confess, repent, and forgive. 

Dan Pierce says he's far from perfect, but he also is very sure of his awesome dad status. And, he is critical in a way that leaves no room for failure and redemption. Who knows what kind of day that dad in Costco had before that point? Who knows if that kid had pushed his dad to the breaking point just that morning? Who knows if that dad didn't realize his failure and cry in the car and beg his son's forgiveness? 

If Pierce had seen me in the grocery store that morning, he would have made all kinds of assumptions about me. And if he had walked away before the Gospel started playing out, he might have gone home and written a post about the awful mom in Wegmans breaking her child.

Let me tell you something from one parent to another. You are going to break your children. If you haven't already, it will come. And you'll probably do it many times in the course of your parenting. I just hope you are awesome enough to beg their forgiveness. Humbly and immediately. And if you, as an awesome parent, have already taught them how to forgive like Christ forgives, those wounds can be healed. 

And everyone can try to do better next time, with the Lord's help. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Christians & Routine Circumcision, Part 2: Zipporah and Flint Knives

Part 1 of this post asked the question, "If circumcision is so bad, why did God use it as a covenant with Abraham?"

The simple answer is that the circumcision that was practiced in Abraham's day is not the circumcision practiced today, and thus not the circumcision God instituted. A "modern" Jewish circumcision involves at least two parts - Milah, Pariah, with possibly a third -Messisa. Milah involves removing the skin that extends beyond the tip of the penis. Pariah is where the foreskin is separated from the glans underneath and cut off. Messisa (also called Mezziza or Mizizah) is the third step, where the blood is sucked off the raw penis. Originally this was done by mouth, but because of the spread of disease, a tube became standard. (Messisa has fallen out of favor with all but the most orthodox Jews.)

There is plenty of historical evidence to support the idea that originally circumcision involved only Milah. Pariah was added over 2,000 years after the original covenant was made for basically political reasons. But let's also look at evidence from scripture.

When a baby is born, the foreskin does not retract, because it is adhered to the glans underneath. Click here for good illustrations of intact male anatomy (warning do not scroll down past the first two drawings if you don't want to see actual photos of adult penises). Pariah requires ripping the foreskin away from the sensitive glans underneath. In the past, the mohel would do this with a clean, trimmed fingernail. Today's mohels and doctors use various surgical instruments. The trauma to the penis is great and the chance of infection is high, so a person preforming a circumcision needs to take a great deal of care.

But look at Exodus 4:25 (New King James version): "Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!""  We see Zipporah, who certainly wouldn't have been trained in Pariah, cutting off her son's foreskin with a sharp stone! The NAS and NIV translate this as flint or flint knife, instead of stone.

What is a flint knife? Well, flint is a type of stone that breaks easily into pieces with jagged and razor- sharp edges. It would not have been a safe tool for the delicate separation of the foreskin from the glans. The only thing it could do safely was make a clean straight cut across the skin that hung over the tip of the penis and was not fused to it. We see the use of a flint knife again in Joshua 5:2 when God instructed the Israelites to circumcise all the boys and men that had not been circumcised while they wandered in the desert. An adult male's foreskin is no longer adhered to the glans underneath, probably making it a little safer to perform a circumcision like what is done today, but I have to ask why would they? It's a traumatic procedure and, for an adult, it has a 6-8 week recovery time!  By removing only the tip of the foreskin a baby's penis, including the remaining foreskin, would be allowed to grow and develop, maintaining its normal function. An adult who was circumcised in this way would also retain the normal function of the foreskin.  And as I alluded to in Part 1, retaining the function of a body part God designed is probably pretty important to Him.

I'm supposed to talk about risks. But I'm going to treat you like adults and assume that you would find out the risks before allowing your newborn to undergo a surgical procedure. Sometimes doctors gloss over these risks, so do your own research and ask lots of questions.

Now I'm going to tell you something personal about my husband (with his permission). He feels like something was stolen from him. He wishes it had been left up to him to decide, and there are a lot of men who feel that way. As a Christian, imagine your son coming to you and asking why, if he was fearfully and wonderfully made, did you surgically alter his functional anatomy right after he was born? What will you say?

So, we've covered that there are no religious reasons for Christians to circumcise and that modern circumcision is not the same procedure instituted by God, which would have fulfilled the covenant requirement while leaving the function of the foreskin intact. What modern circumcision does is remove a healthy, functional part of the male anatomy for reasons which deny the goodness of God's design. Think about it.   ... and please do your research!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Christians & Routine Circumcision - Think About It, Part 1: Why Would You Do That?

This is a hard post to write. The decision to circumcise or not is still considered deeply personal in our society. And because there are great Christians who love the Lord who have made the decision to circumcise, making it a spiritual issue might seem like overstepping. But, there is a saying, “when you know better, you do better.”  I’m hoping through this post to change Christian minds about routine circumcision. It's very important that you read this "Think About It" disclaimer post before you read on. And please leave your respectfully-worded thoughts in the comments.

Thinking about: Christians and Routine Circumcision.

As a childbirth educator and doula, I have a hard time addressing this issue head on. People are sensitive about this decision, especially if they have already had previous male children circumcised. I expect the general population to cite cleanliness, preventative health, and appearance as reasons for circumcision. What I don’t understand is why Christians continue to practice an ancient religious custom that is neither religiously necessary or affirming of  the goodness of God’s creation.

To be clear, in this post I am not talking about circumcision done for a valid medical problem. I'm talking about circumcision done on a boy within days of his birth for the simple reason that he was born with a foreskin. 

Here's the assertion I'd like you to think about: Modern routine circumcision removes a healthy, functioning part of the human body, and thereby rejects the fundamental goodness of God's design, with the added detriment of putting babies at risk.

No religious reason.
A lot of people cite religion as the reason they circumcise. Let's be clear from the start - Christians have no religious reason to circumcise. 

In Acts chapter 15, we see a dispute over a requirement that Gentile converts must be circumcised. After discussion among the apostles and other leaders of the church, the affirmation was that God had given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles without circumcision and therefore they could not require it. Picking up in vs. 23:
"They wrote this letter by them:
The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well
Later, Paul confirms in his letter to the Romans that circumcision of the flesh is not important, only circumcision of the spirit. 
"For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." ~Romans 2:25-29
 These two passages make it clear that God no longer requires religious circumcision. 

Hygiene. There is an argument that God gave us circumcision as a way to ensure the health of our boys. But God instituted the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, 20 generations after Adam. That's 2,000 years God allowed humanity to go without circumcision, and we have already seen above that the coming of Christ did away with the law of circumcision in the flesh. We have no scriptural or historical evidence that uncircumcised men before Abraham or after Christ suffered from hygiene problems. And, by saying that the design of the penis is inherently a health hazard is to deny that it was designed by a good and holy God. The care of an uncircumcised penis is very simple and can be taught to any boy in just a couple of seconds.

Prevent infections. Ok, this seems silly to me. Everyone gets infections in various parts of their bodies. We fight them, we take antibiotics if necessary, and we move on with life. The dangers of infection are not great enough to warrant removing a healthy, functioning part of a baby boy's body. 

Reduce the risk of STDs including HIV/AIDS. Scientist disagree as to whether circumcision actually provides these benefits to the average male. But let's say for the sake of argument that it does reduce the risk of contracting/spreading some STDs and HIV. Christians need to ask themselves a few questions here. By the time a boy is sexually active, he will be old enough to make his own decision about circumcision - shouldn't he have the option? Is the future "benefit" of reducing the negative consequences of sexual sin reason to remove a healthy, functioning part of a newborn's body? The lifetime risk of acquiring HIV for the average male is about 2%, while woman have almost a 1 in 5 chance of getting breast cancer.  Cutting out the breast tissue of a baby girl would eliminate her risk of breast cancer - would you do that to your daughters?

Appearance. I almost don't want to dignify this by talking about it. One might expect this excuse from an average person in our society, which is obsessed with appearance. But a Christian has no excuse for performing cosmetic surgery on a newborn. Not looking like daddy can be easily explained (if kids even ask - my son is 11 and has no clue). But again, you're talking cosmetic surgery to force a child to conform to a physical standard.  

Notice above I keep using the phrase "healthy, functional part of a baby boy's body."  Many people think the foreskin is "extra," serving no purpose. Which is why they are swayed by the above non-religious reasons - the foreskin isn't necessary, so why not remove it? But nothing could be further from the truth. The foreskin has both protective and sexual function. How Stuff Works has a very concise description of the purpose of the foreskin:
The foreskin (also known as the prepuce) is a portion of skin on the penis that covers and protects the tip of the penis, also known as the glans. It can be a tough world for a glans -- there's abrasion from undergarments, cold winter weather and dry air. It's good to have a protection policy in place, and the foreskin provides that protection for the glans. 
When males are born, the skin on the penis extends over the glans, protecting it on day one from the wear and tear it will undergo in that lifetime. The foreskin can account for one-third to nearly one-half of total penile skin. 
While its outer appearance is the same as any other skin on the penis, the foreskin is home to many nerve bundles and blood cells, and its inner surface is similar to the inside of your mouth, helping the glans stay naturally lubricated. Between the outer layer and the moist inner layer is a ridged band with additional nerve endings. A piece of tissue called the frenulum connects the foreskin to the glans. It looks (and functions somewhat) like the connective tissue beneath your tongue. When the penis is flaccid, the frenulum tightens to narrow the opening of the foreskin.
Those nerves packed into the foreskin provide additional stimulation during sexual activities. Its lubricating function also assists in sexual intercourse. Additionally, the frenulum (which is removed in some circumcisions) provides stimulation. Since the glans is kept moist and soft by the foreskin, it too is more sensitive to touch.
I encourage you to do more research into the function of the foreskin. When you truly understand it, you will see just how highly functional and amazing this part of the male anatomy is.  Baby boys are born with foreskins as a functional part of their body. Christians believe that God designed the human body. In contrast to affirming the inherent goodness of this design, modern routine circumcision says that God made a mistake. Psalm 139:13-16 tells us:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”
Who are we to permanently alter a healthy body that God knit together, that is fearfully and wonderfully made? Who are we to put our babies at risk to change God's design?

Ok, this is about the time when people ask me something like: "If circumcision is so bad, why did God use it as a covenant with Abraham?" That's part 2 of this post, where I will also discuss the risks of circumcision. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pro-Life and Feminist... Is It Possible?

Recently in a Time Magazine article, Emily Buchanan, executive director of the Susan B. Anthony List, argued that women can be both feminist and pro-life

As you can imagine, a lot of pro-choice feminists are angered by this, insisting that it’s not true. One of those is Tracie Egan Morrissey, writing a piece on, entitled “There is No Such Thing as a ‘Pro-Life Feminist.’” 

She says this:
“The biggest card that groups like the Susan B. Anthony List play is invoking the names and quotes of 19th and 20th century suffragists to prove their point.  

While "the original feminists" were certainly admirable and courageous women, it is absolutely idiotic to consider their views on abortion as part and parcel to feminism. Could you imagine if we just blindly adopted all of the beliefs and actions of great thinkers who lived in the 1800s? Thomas Jefferson—the man who literally defined American liberty and said "all men are created equal"—not only owned a large number of slaves and participated in domestic slave trade, but he enslaved his own children, born of the slave that he took as a lover, who just so happened to be the half-sister of his wife. That's some twisted s*** and should never be held as a standard of equality.”
To answer the charge that being anti-abortion is an affront to civil rights- like Thomas Jefferson owning slaves- we must look again at the pro-life position. Morrissey admits in the piece that women have been debating the correct meaning of feminism since it began, but what she does know is that being anti-abortion can’t be part of it. At the end of the first paragraph, she asks the question, “But who the f*** are you to actively work at taking away other women’s right to make their own personal decisions about their uteruses? You’re not a feminist, that’s for sure.”

I’m sorry, ladies, the pro-life position has nothing to do with your uteruses. The point that pro-choice people don’t understand, or do but choose to ignore, is that pro-life people fight abortion because we believe that what is in the womb is a human being worthy of protection. As such, abortion is an affront to the civil rights of the unborn. It has nothing to do with wanting to control someone else’s reproductive rights. Infringement on reproductive rights is a straw man. The real debate is over the humanity of the unborn. Modern pro-choice feminists do not believe the unborn are human beings worthy of protection, which is different than what was believed by early feminists.

Morrissey says that, “the nature of a progressive movement is to keep moving forward, to evolve. You can't do that by going backwards, by getting stuck in the past.” But by using Thomas Jefferson as an example, she has affirmed that some past ideas - in this case that all people are created equal - are worthy of keeping as we move forward.

The burden is on pro-choice feminists to prove why the idea that the unborn are human beings is no longer valid. Especially considering what the advancement of technology has brought to the discussion. We know there is a heartbeat at 4 weeks past conception. We know that by 6 weeks, all organs have started to develop, including the brain. We know that the unborn can feel pain at 20 weeks, and possibly earlier, as well as showing reactions to sound stimuli. (These are all fetal ages, not gestational ages). Advancements in medicine continue to lower the age of viability. At the same time it is legal to abort a 22-week old, babies survive at this gestation. It is illogical to say that a trip through the birth canal made that baby human. New information has given us more reason to believe in the humanity of the unborn, not less. 

Whether these things actually prove, rather than just suggest, that unborn babies are human beings is a matter of debate. I won’t get into that debate here, but the point is that it *is* a debate. And my belief on the matter is no less feminist. 

A pro-choice feminist would argue that unplanned pregnancies can ruin a woman’s life and livelihood, and keep her from achieving independence and success in her life. To force her to continue an unplanned pregnancy is essentially an attack on her bodily autonomy and a denigration of her as a person. There is no doubt that an unplanned pregnancy can drastically affect a woman’s life. I’ve seen it. But if the unborn are human beings worthy of protection, the practical reasons for terminating a pregnancy are no longer valid. When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, he didn’t care that thousands of plantations in the south would grind their operations to a halt because they couldn’t afford the labor to continue, and plantation owners would lose their livelihoods. Or that the resultant lack of crops would drastically raise the prices on necessities like cotton. Abolitionists didn’t care, because slavery was wrong. Period. 

Cheris Kramarae, co-author of A Feminist Dictionary said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”  I say that pro-life is the radical (these days) notion that the unborn are human beings. And as Emily Buchanan said, these are not mutually exclusive. 

If you are a pro-choice feminist, you don’t have to tell me you disagree. I already know. And you can’t “kick me out of the club.”  You know... thinking about it, it doesn’t really matter if you deny my commitment to women’s equality. I know what's true. And I decided I don’t want to be in your stupid club anyway. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

By We, I Mean You

Do you ever use this phrase?

By we, I mean you. 

Here's an example from my household. I'll say something like this to my kids:

We're going to clean up the basement today. 

Then I'll follow it up with:

And by we, I mean you. 

What I'm actually saying is that I want them to do it, and I'm not going to help. But somehow, using the word we in the initial sentence makes it sound less... commanding. More... we're all in this together.  And, hey, that's my prerogative as a parent, right? Even if it is a little manipulative. Or, deceptive? Maybe a little of both.

Okay, so I should break myself of the habit.

But when I said it to one of my kids this morning, something else popped into my mind. (I love the way the Lord uses random moments to teach and admonish me.)  How many of us have this attitude in life, even if we never say the words? My thought this morning was about about church ministry specifically. For example:

We should start a youth ministry. (Thinking, by we I mean you, because I don't have time.)
We should help at the soup kitchen. (Thinking, by we I mean you, because I am uncomfortable around homeless people.)
We should have a VBS this year. (Thinking, by we I mean you, because it's too much work for me.)

Am I saying that we shouldn't make suggestions for how our church or other spiritual group should improve itself or minister to others? Not at all. What I'm thinking about, and what I've seen in myself, is the tendency to come up with ideas I think are great, but not finding some way to help, even if it's just by hosting a planning meeting or praying for it daily. And then I get frustrated there isn't enough ministering going on. When I tell my kids what needs doing, I expect them to do it. In the same way, we often expect things from others when we're not willing to help make those things a reality. And by we, I definitely mean us.

If I were into making New Year's resolutions, I would make this one: No more by we, I mean you. If we have an idea, but can't help, just say you. And then leave it to the you to decide if they can and want to. Without judgement or expectation.

We can go one better, and commit to making this an us year. In our homes, churches, work and everywhere else. Look for ways (big or small) to be a part of worthy things.

This isn't a resolution in honor of the changing of the year, but in honor of God's changing of my heart. On that note, let me wish you a year of making the changes that God puts on your heart. And by you, I mean us.