Category Archives: Community

An Old Pattern with the LORD’s Justice Applied

Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. (Joshua 17:2-4)

I’m a firm believer that literature, as a form of art, contains patterns for life that get repeated time and time again. The Bible for most Christians is at very least a well-loved and highly-regarded form of literature.

Feminists often argue that the Bible is misogynistic, shackling, and demeaning. I would disagree–I would argue instead that the way the Bible is interpreted and applied can be misogynistic, shackling, and demeaning depending on who’s in power.

That said, there is a story in the Old Testament that argues for the love of a Father for both genders.

Zelophehad was an Old Testament man about the time of the Exodus. He is mentioned in the following passages:

  • Numbers 27:1-11
  • Numbers 36
  • Joshua 17:3-6
  • Numbers 26:33 (just a passing mention for the desert equivalent of a census, not pertinent to this post)
  • 1 Chronicles 7:15b (just another passing mention for the desert equivalent of a census, again not pertinent to this post)

Numbers 27:1 begins the tale of Zelophehad. We don’t know much about him, other than he died in the desert as a result of his own disobedience and he did not take part in any rebellious acts. He had no sons. In those days, this was a tragedy, but it wasn’t the worst tragedy since he did have children in the form of five daughters.

It is interesting that only three daughters have feminine names: Mahlah (Hebrew form of Arabic for powerful, narrow, tender), Milkah (queen), and Tirzah (delight). The other two have masculine names–Noah (rest, peace, comfort) and Hoglah (his festival or dance).

With no information on the father, we don’t know much. It is most interesting that two of the daughters have masculine names. It makes me wonder if after several daughters he so devoutly wished for a son that he started giving masculine names as a deep petition, a verbal expression of a strong desire to express his masculinity through masculine offspring.

At any rate, with no sons, he would have no property. Without property, his memory would be forgotten. It would be like he never existed. His daughters had other plans. They argued that they should receive their father’s portion of the inheritance. It was a risky and courageous move–women had well-defined roles and stepping outside those roles could result in community censure or even death.

Moses did not know what to do. So he went to the LORD with their request. In a move most feminists don’t seem to know exists in the Bible, the LORD stated their request was right (and just, although He didn’t say that). Further, in verses 8-11 He gave Moses the exact words to use to present the ruling to the people, who more than likely weren’t pleased to have a little less land to share.

Numbers 36 shows just how land hungry the Israelites really were. They challenged the LORD’s ruling, arguing that their tribe would lose land to the other tribes if the daughters ever married (verses 1-4).

Moses starts to give the LORD’s ruling in verse 5 with the end in verse 9. I can almost see Moses shaking his head and the LORD sighing deeply in between 4 and 5, but I digress. The LORD says that the daughters have to marry within their tribe if they marry. He also extends the ruling to cover any daughter who inherits from her father. Verses 10-12 indicate that the daughters of Zelophehad obeyed the LORD.

I suspect Joshua 17:1-6 happened between Numbers 36:1-9 and Numbers 36:10-12. In Joshua 17:1-2 the land for the tribe of Manasseh is being subdivided. In Joshua 17:3, we see poor sonless Zelophehad’s five daughters still without their land after the death of Moses. They proceed to petition Joshua, Eleazar the chief priest, and other leaders in verse 4 for the land the LORD had commanded Moses to be given them. Joshua consented.

It almost seems like an effort to prevent women from their due. But again, the LORD intervenes through Joshua to give the women what is legally and rightfully theirs. Admittedly, it was in their father’s name, but given the perversity of the Israelites, the LORD probably knew that had it been given to a woman in the name of a woman, the Israelites His people would have bolted; they just weren’t ready for the kind of equality we have today.

Makes me wonder: how many other stories of true equality are buried deep in unexpected places in the Bible?

 

An Open Letter to Jessica Valenti

Author’s Note: I interrupt my regularly scheduled blog drivel to share something that has hit me hard. I saw this article come across my feed today, stating that Jessica Valenti was leaving social media. It is about how some women are being targeted and forced out of social media because some people don’t like their views. I know I’ve written about this from a different perspective in Death of Blogger, so let’s flip this truth diamond and look at this from a different angle yet again.

Dear Jessica,

I know I’m not a personal friend. My blog probably would never be followed by you. More than likely, we’d disagree on too many issues to number and discuss in this life time. And I’ve not yet read or heard your work, so I’ll have to do some due diligence later. :’)

I am so sorry you are going through this. I cannot begin to describe how you must feel, how precious your baby is to you, how hard leaving social media must be.

I can describe the fear and dread I often feel. I know in a way it’s cowardice for me, as I write under a pen name late at night after I’ve tucked my three angels with hidden disabilities into bed at night.

But I chose to write under a pen name so I could at least get my ideas out. I’ve studied history; tyrants often choose to take out those who are different, those who write and think, and those who would be the defenders long before they attack the rest of their “enemies.”

And growing up in a small town, I’ve seen how sometimes those whose gifts are different can be belittled, bullied, and emotionally destroyed by the majority who don’t have those gifts or ideas. Sometimes, they even tease children for what parents or relatives have done. Yes, not all places are like that, but some are. And in those places, not all people are like that.

I also learned that you have to assess the situation. Is this a bully you can kick between the legs and get some street credit? Is this a bully that you can hide from for a while so he or she forgets you and then you come back in a different part of the area? Is this a bully that you need to run and never come back to?

I think social media is our new small town. Trolls are just the new bullies. And we bloggers, podcasters, and whatever term is in vogue are the freaks, geeks, and outcasts they tear down to make themselves feel bigger, better, smarter, and taller. And sometimes, they will be so small they’ll have to target poor, defenseless children to feel better.

None of these realizations made me feel any better. I’m sure they won’t make you feel better either. Unfortunately, you cannot hide forever and you cannot hate an entire place for the actions of a few.

What can we do? I do applaud a temporary halt from social media. Completely disconnect everything, pack up your precious little girl, and go someplace off grid. Rest, relax, and revel in what I’m sure are some precious and precocious antics your daughter engages in. Yes, it will be hard at first, as none of us is used to the deafening silence that comes in the absence of electronics.

But don’t stay away forever. Come back with protections for your daughter that make you feel she is safe but leave you empowered to voice what you believe. I may not accept what you believe, but if I want the freedom to express my beliefs within reason and courtesy with respect, I need to give those who have other views the same freedom.

When things get bad again (and they will), I’m not going to say to suck it up, because the stress of sucking it up can be physically and emotionally damaging. I’m going to argue that we need to work together to shield one another, to circle the wagons, and to lift and encourage each other. And sometimes, we need to carry the deeply wounded off the field to a hero’s welcome and let them stay away.

I don’t know your religious background, so I don’t know if this will help. I intend to pray for you and your little girl as often as I see your name in writing, not that I would change your heart or views (not that it isn’t possible) but that you would both be protected and you would have the strength you need in that moment to speak the truth that is necessary.

Agape,

Kittie

Remembering the Innocents

A long time ago, one of my former denominational pews was the Roman Catholic church. They have tons of feasts and solemnities and holy days. The oddest one to me was always tucked somewhere in the week between Christmas and New Years. It was the Feast (solemnity?) of the Holy Innocents.

On this feast, the Gospel Reading came from the book of Matthew. It chronicled the bizarre decision Herod made.

In hearing of the birth of a new king and that the wise men had escaped reporting his location, Herod chose to kill every male child that had an age that fit the range of the new king. Meanwhile, Joseph smuggled Jesus and Mary to safety in Egypt. (Never made sense to me. In effect, he killed future soldiers and left himself short in about 15 years.)

Usually, the priests focused their sermons on pro-life, anti-abortion topics. Birth control was anathema, and women were painted as only having value as baby incubators. (Sorry, feminazi rising up. Back to topic…I’ve digressed.)

I want to propose this as a holiday for all people of good will who love life, light, and truth. Instead of focusing on abortion, focus on loving the children in your life. Not just the polite, kind children who are easy to love, but also the ones that break your heart.

Love the little street urchin in ragged clothes with a dirty face and unwiped nose. Give him a treat, or buy her something slightly used to keep the chill out. Or invite them inside on a cold day for videos or family game time.

Have your kids be friends with that teen no one wants to hang out with. Maybe she’s overweight and covered in pimples the size of Mount Olympus, or maybe he’s always angry and tired for reasons he would never speak of, even to closest friends.

Open your home to that Goth kid. You might find he has a dazzling singing voice, or she has an active heart and mind writing the next great American tragedy. All the kid needs is a safe place to grow and explore without fear of teasing, bullying, or criticism.

If you’re a mandated reporter and you’ve seen something, make that call. Nothing may happen, and the abuse may continue. Or you could save a child a lifetime of pain and agony, as well as prevent a societal tragedy in the form of a school shooting or mall firing spree.

Befriend the single parent. Add some extra food for a family dinner and invite that family over. Offer to keep the children and hand the parent a gift certificate for a movie, coffee shop, or spa treatment. Or write a letter of encouragement listing all the good skills the parent has.

It isn’t enough to say we love someone. We have to show our love by our actions. To remember those snuffed out tragically and too soon, we need to love the ones left behind. Let’s remember the holy innocents by honoring and loving all the children in our lives, especially the tough nuts to crack.

Mission Impossible: The Blessing War

One-two-three-four, I declare a blessing war!

Five-six-seven-eight, let’s prove Jesus truly great!

This is the impossible mission of every Christian, to reflect the glory of the risen Christ and to continue to write the next chapter in the ongoing saga of the life of the Church as documented by Luke in the book of Acts.

 

This message will not self-destruct. The sun and moon will pass away, but God’s Word remains forever intact, unchanging, and true.

 

To participate in this war, the challenge is simple: find the most annoying Christian you know, and begin to bless them.

  • Babysit the kids of a stressed parent
  • Buy a cute outfit for the single parent (or the child of a single parent)
  • Buy staples for the large family that looks more like a chaotic circus in number and lifestyle
  • Clean the house for someone who’s been sick
  • Give him or her a ride to work when the car breaks down
  • Give time to the charity they most support
  • Invite someone with no other family to a holiday meal
  • Make dinner for your pastor’s family
  • Offer to mow the yard
  • Offer to take him or her out for coffee
  • Pray a blessing over that Christian in the privacy of your home (the Aaronic is particularly generous)
  • Serve coffee to a recovery group
  • Take the nursery for a day
  • Take a newly beamed up stepparent out for a quiet day doing some refreshing activity
  • Visit that crotchety great uncle twice removed in a nursing home
  • Volunteer to chaperone the next teen road trip
  • Walk away silently and say nothing out loud about your frustration because you too probably have an area that annoys other Christians

 

Seriously, in the war to win souls to Christ, it’s all about perception. Do you love others the way Jesus did? If outsiders (those who don’t serve Christ) can’t see your love and your unity, they don’t see Christ and will not choose to serve Him. And that could have destructive consequences for an eternity.

 

PS — If you don’t like this post, you can thank my senior pastor for another wonderful sermon on applying the Bible to modern life. Any resemblance to persons living or dead may or may not be intentional.

 

The Fool?

We’ve all seen the outfits… the historical prototype of the modern clown with the piebald outfits who told jokes and sang songs and did various creative feats of skill.

The court jester figures throughout history and literature as the character sometimes loved and sometimes hated. Although on occasion the jester was more the village idiot (which I won’t discuss here because his behavior was excused due to biology and misfortune preventing the person from following standard social etiquette), the more interesting figure is the licensed jester.

The licensed jester was hired by nobility and royalty to provide entertainment. The fool told stories and jokes, sang songs, did magic tricks, and performed juggling and acrobatics to entertain the employer and the employer’s guests.

While none of us wants to be a fool, the licensed jester got away with a lot of things because of his skills:

  • Psychology: The jester had to know people to tell jokes and stories that made sense and did not get him ousted without further employment. He also had to be able to find ways to criticize those he was entertaining without getting undue negative attention and punishment.
  • Politics: The jester had to understand the way people interact to wrestle for power and position. If your joke or story made an enemy for you, you might find it difficult playing to the crowd in the future.
  • Current Events: The jester had to understand all the contemporary people and happenings in his corner of the world to be able to tell stories and jokes and sing songs that would both entertain and educate without the listeners even being aware.
  • Communication: Not only did the jester have to have a mastery of the language in which he was performing, he had to read the non-verbal cues that told him the audience was bored or he pushed a boundary too far.
  • Wit and Wisdom: The fool had to be creative in selecting songs, stories and jokes to remember and share. He also had to sometimes create songs, stories, and jokes that satirized the life and times of his patrons.

Maybe, in getting to the root of the jester, playing the fool isn’t such a bad thing after all.

And Now For Something Completely Different

This is going to be an outlier from my usual blog posts. I definitely don’t have the majority view, and it’s definitely going to be a Christian view.

Recently, a little rural farming community skyrocketed into local news. It wasn’t for the good they do for the homeless or the poor. It wasn’t because of the latest sports or movie star that used to live there. It was because of a scandal involving a teacher and alcohol on school property.

I could respond as Kittie, the awkward recovering ex-teen nerd. I could decry the system that creates easy targets for bullies through rewarding students and teachers alike based on schmoozing and popularity and ignoring (perhaps even ridiculing) those who have strong intellectual and technical skills and those who have artistic or musical talent and those whose sole talents are compassion and mercy.

I could respond as Kittie, the outraged community member. How dare they hire someone so dysfunctional? How dare they wait so long to notify the parents? Why should the administration be trusted to deal with this openly instead of turning a blind eye and sweeping this under the rug?

Instead, I am going to respond as Kittie, the very weary and tired working Christian mom. I am going to share exactly (well, almost exactly) what I have shared with my children about this situation.

**************************************************

I know this is all very hard for you to understand. I’m going to try to explain it for you. Then I want you to go away and think about it at your own speed and at whatever time God tells you to. Our God is not the Author of confusion, but in working all things to our good, He helps us bring order to the chaos.

I know this teacher made some unwise decisions.  The good thing is he was caught before any other students or faculty were harmed. I can’t tell you why he made the unwise decisions he did; maybe there’s some dark part of his past he can’t talk about or process, or maybe he has a family member who needs more help than he can give.

The reality is we all make unwise choices in this dark world. We are all broken, the world is broken, and sometimes, we make broken choices that break us and our world even more. Some people never get caught in this life by their unwise choices; they either never know their choices are unwise, or they get to learn from their unwise choices without anyone they know ever knowing any better. Others get caught in the consequences of their choices. Unfortunately, some have to deal with very real and public results from the consequences of their choices.

Regardless of the choices of others, this teacher included, we need to work together as a community. We cannot hide unwise choices in the darkness and pretend that they don’t happen. Instead, we need to snuff out the dark light of gossip, slander, and judgment, even when they masquerade as prayer request or small talk required by social rules. We need to squelch the noise of public attention and interviews to focus on the good we do as a community without ignoring the good we fail to do and still need to.

Then, we need to choose to serve the Light of Truth. We need to stop hiding behind our denominational pews and choose to live a life of authentically following Christ. This includes disciplining our tongues to avoid the quagmires of gossip, slander, and judgment and to ardently and passionately seek prayer.

In this case, I think the following things are probably pretty wise, reasonable prayers that our Heavenly Father would find acceptable:

  • That the Father’s Will be done in this teacher’s life
  • That the teacher’s family is strong in the Father and strongly supported by the community
  • That this teacher’s co-workers hold no shame or guilt for unintentionally missing any warning signs and that they would choose to bring good from this situation by learing new skills and ideas to be applied to the school and community at large
  • That all the leaders of spiritual homes in the community begin to work together to share resources and contacts, not only for this issue, but for all the issues facing this community
  • That all community members remember all the addicts in their social networks, both those addicts not yet ready to begin to heal and those addicts struggling for recovery each and every day of their lives
  • That the community shrugs off gossip, slander, judgment, bickering, and self-absorption; puts on the agape love of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and prayerfully notices the broken and hurting around them, not to shoot the wounded in the foot but to circle the wagons and strengthen the hurting and broken

Lazy Shame and Guilt…NOT!

Yesterday was election day. Here in my corner of the globe we have the right to vote to determine our leaders. Actually, it’s more of a privilege. And I chose not to exercise that privilege. *ducks for cover*

I can hear the lectures now, droning on and on about having a voice in government and using the rights (I hear privilege) that so many risked limb and life to preserve. I can also hear the emotional trigger words like shame and guilt and laziness thrown in there.

Among my more Christian friends, the talk will turn to civil responsibility tied to morality and honoring our elected officials. I might even hear a challenge with a sin buzzword in there based on “he who knows to do good and does it not sins.”

You can probably lump me in the group so often debated as “disenfranchised.” Except I don’t think I fit as disenfranchised…

Disenfranchised speaks to me of a boredom grown out of never quite fitting in the political system and never quite participating in the political system. Disenfranchised speaks of passively choosing not to act in any part of the process due to issues with power and perception of the election process.

For me, frustration is more the word. I have voted since turning 18. Some years, it was easier to be more faithful than others. As a matter of fact, I have an astounding track record of managing to always pick the loser, but I digress…

Within the last year or two, I have found causes that I was passionate about. I visited my representative to discuss his position and intelligently review the potential outcomes. I have written to various governing bodies.

All this did not make a difference. I and my family are still subject to laws that don’t work and don’t take into consideration our situation. We still pay taxes at a very uneconomical rate, and we still see limited return on this investment in our government. The books containing all the laws to which we are subject would outweigh our family vehicle fully loaded with us and our vacation gear, and we have to hire a lawyer to fully understand the laws that apply to us (which isn’t in the budget).

The reality is our two-party system doesn’t work. Each party is engaged in a constant war of one-up-man-ship. The election cycle gets so long that less than half way through I feel like the walking wounded or the living dead. The 30-second sound bites from the candidates feel like fiery darts of negativity and falsehood designed to obfuscate the judgment of the listener. Even debates, designed to engage those who enjoy thoughtful analysis, have provided less substance than smoke from a chocolate cigar.

I chose not to vote yesterday because I didn’t have enough good information to make an informed decision based on my conscience and the positions of the candidates. I chose not to vote yesterday because I have learned that even when we the people join our one voice to each other’s it is still not enough to overwhelm the minority who have designed the stage so what they want to happen will happen.

Some can (and do) argue that I wasted my vote. How is not voting any less a waste than voting based on the lesser of two evils?

More and more, I have been thinking of the Israeli government. Their president is a figurehead. They have a judicial system similar to ours. Their executive branch is like our Cabinet, and it is led by a Prime Minister. Their legislative branch includes 120 individuals from a multitude of parties (think of the cost savings… 120 versus 535). They can’t just set policy; they actually have to work together with all parties, and all parties negotiate and win and lose. The legislative branch can listen to the people and vote to oust the executive branch in times of gridlock or unwise decision-making.

Do I want to see our Constitution overthrown? Hell, no!

I just don’t think the forefathers could envision a day when with just two parties we would teeter on the brink of perpetual gridlock, when the people would be nearly enslaved to pay for all the big dreams government holds; that would be too close to disaster for a group of strong, intelligent, stalwart freedom fighters who had just narrowly won our freedom to even remotely consider (although they did understand the evil that lurks within the hearts of men and women).

I truly believe that we need a multi-party system here in my corner of the globe. I believe this would inject new life and vitality into our government and ensure a greater representation for all people.

To that end, I will investigate changing my political affiliation. I’m not yet sure where I’ll hang my hat to call it my political home, but I’m sure the research and investigation will lead me on a merry, wandering path.