7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.16)

Guess what: it's still Friday!  (At least while I'm writing this first of my 7 Quick Takes.)  I call that victory, compared to last week.  (Hey, I'll take victory where I find it, lol.  I've written twice in eight days.  That's a win.)

All joking aside, the truth of the matter is: finding time to write of late has been extremely difficult.  Yet I know that I know that I know that writing is THE thing that God is calling me to right now.  So how do I reconcile my sense of calling with my extreme lack of time to pour into it?

I have no idea.  But I do pray for time.  For more time to write, and for energy to coincide with the time that I do have.  And if you wanted to pray that along with me, that would be awesome.  There are good things ahead for Simple Felicity, if all goes well.  Looking forward to filling you in on what that actually means soon.  (By which, btw, I mean: sometime before Christmas.  Or maybe on Christmas Day.  Time will tell.)  ;)

Also, confession: I hit the wall halfway thru writing this.  So technically, it is 7 Quick Takes Saturday.  Again.  Maybe I should start writing these on Tuesdays...  Then I'll have a chance at getting it done by Friday.

Alrighty - let's dive right in.  There's a post that has been making the rounds this week via social networking sites entitled: FYI (if you're a teenage girl).  I think that at its heart, it was meant to be a good piece.  It's a mom writing an open letter to the girls who are posting pictures of themselves on Facebook that cause her sons to (in her opinion) "stumble."  Yeah... I'll bet that was an awkward conversation around their dinner table.

But if God ever grants me the privilege of having sons, I hope it won't be nearly as awkward for us.

Because here's the thing...

Well, wait.  Let's come back to that.

Mrs. Hall, in that post, was legitimately trying to watch out for her sons.  But I think this post by a dad highlighted a very important point in response: boys, you have the ability to decide what to do with what you think and/or see.  SO much of the "purity" culture in the North American Evangelical Church deals (I think inappropriately) with what women do or don't wear - when the truth is, modesty is so much more about a heart-set than it is about rules.  Many young women have grown up feeling unnecessary shame about their bodies, because well-intentioned parents and leaders have told them to cover up and hide their bodies so that men won't lust after them, as if being created the way way they are could make someone else's sin their fault.  And the idea that women covering up is the answer to preventing men from lusting not only shames but objectifies women, robbing them of their value as unique and beautifully created people, whose curves and beauty and hearts reflect God to the world in ways that are right - and intended.  In our culture, where thin, tall, and flawlessly beautiful is the standard, the one place women shouldn't have to wrestle with shame is in the church.  Oh, how I dream of a day when that will be the case...

And in the meantime, we all need to just start giving each other the grace we say we believe in.  This satirical response to Mrs. Hall's post cracked me up (because satire is just funny) - but it also made a very valid point about how important it is, especially for Christians, to extend the grace we've received.  Sure, parents absolutely ought to be helping their children navigate what it means to be male or female and how to process and handle it when someone else is behaving inappropriately, and it's just fact that in our culture there are going to be boys and girls that dress immodestly and our kids will have to figure out how to get past what they see to understand that there are real and hurting hearts behind the facades presented by those other kids (and sometimes our own kids are going to have to deal with their own hurt and why it drives them to act/dress/talk etc. the way they do) - but those conversations should be full of grace.  And blocking someone on Facebook - which in this day and age can say so much about the level of engagement we are willing to have - for posting something inappropriate could be perceived as judgmental.  What about actually talking to that person first?  (Or if it's a teenager, their parents?)  I think "unfriending" - or drawing boundaries that create what Henry Cloud calls a "necessary ending" - should be a last resort, not a gut response.  We can't live with blinders on.  And yes, everything in us wants to shelter our kids - but we also need to teach them how to cope with what they'll encounter when we can't shelter them anymore.  I don't envy my friends who are parents this task.  But I admire it so much when they help their kids face difficult things head on.

So circling back to #2 - the thing is - conversations about modesty and friendship can be awkward, but they don't have to be.  If we change the culture and make it appropriate to have open and honest and healthy conversations about these things instead of shaming and objectifying people for their behaviours, then sitting around the dinner table, discussing it with our kids will just be normal and not weird or awkward at all.  If I'm ever privileged enough to have them, I want my kids to grow up discussing culture and theology and physics and stories and what it's like to be them and to grow up and what's hard and what's awesome and everything and anything else they want to talk about around the dinner table.  And I want us to have a dinner table that we all sit down to every day, because community happens around the table.  Good food and good conversation are two of the best things in life.  I want my kids to grow up with both.

There was a fascinating article in Psychology Today a couple of years ago called The Trouble With Bright Girls that talks about how the kind of praise we receive as children determines how we think about our ability to succeed.  If we're told frequently that we're "good" at something and "smart" - then over time we're likely to start believing that those qualities are innate rather than achievable with hard work and perseverance, and therefore more likely to give up than try to accomplish something difficult later in life.  I don't think this means we should stop praising girls for doing a good job or being smart - but it does mean that we need to be careful about how we speak, and encourage them to remember that perseverance and effort are just as important to mastering difficult skills as intelligence.

This is just one example, but it feels like a lot of the conversations I've had with people lately (about a number of different things) all come back to this one thing: language matters.  We need to think about what our words (about anything) tell us about the attitude of our hearts and what we really believe.

And last but definitely not least: I came across an article in Relevant Magazine that made me want to cheer.  It's called The Trouble With 'Just Friends' and it talks about the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of believers, and the wonderful awesomeness that being a part of the body of Christ is meant to be.  The author says (and I agree wholeheartedly) that we settle for so much less than God has for us.  He says: "How we see think, act, react and speak to one another have all been so heavily influenced by the broader culture (and our dating-obsessed subculture) that it requires a deep intentionality about developing a proper theology of Christian relationships if there is to be any hope of building an authentic community."  Oh my goodness, yes.  But I will keep hoping.  And I will keep on entering these "awkward" conversations about "proper theology" until it's just normal to have them - because a better and healthier Christian community is part of His vision for His church, and talking with openness, honesty, and vulnerability through the issues is one of the ways we'll find the healing we didn't even know we needed.

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