What makes a man?i27m2bglad2b8bmp

And what makes a woman?

It is a perennial topic of discussion, debate, and even defense. And when you substitute the word “Biblical” for the word “real,” things get really heated. There is a huge assumption, among evangelical culture especially, that God has ordained men to be a certain way and women to be another certain way.  And while we can all agree that there are certain, unchangeable differences between the sexes, determining exactly what those are can be a little tricky.

The discussion came up again recently with me, quite unexpectedly with some high schoolers.

It’s a fitting topic for high schoolers and it isn’t the first time I’ve been in the thick of this discussion, because they are just discovering themselves and each other and wondering where they are going to fit into the world.

And what I have discovered is that by and large, our kids know a lot of rules about what it means to be good at being men and women.

And that is exactly where our churchly education on gender roles stops – how to be good at being men and women.

And that is exactly why we have so many Christians who are still confused about what God has designed for men and women.

Here’s what I mean…

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I always think of “Great Men” as very secure in themselves.

They know who they are. They know what they want. And they know how to get their way.

And as far as great men go, President Theodore Roosevelt ranks near the top of my list.

Yes, I’m an American history lover. But Roosevelt was practically more machine than man. He dominated every room he entered. He was exceptionally smart, voracious in his studies, and even more voracious in his physical exploits. He enjoyed his adventures, his accomplishments, his family and the power of his personality.

Essentially, no man could compare with Roosevelt.

But something tells me that old T.R. knew what insecurity meant. Maybe it came from growing up as a sickly, smaller child. But Roosevelt knew that he could not be happy comparing his life to that of his fellows, any more than they could be happy comparing his life to their own.

Nothing we have, nothing we do, nothing we are seems quite as good when we scrutinize it in the light of what others have. Everything we do not have or do not accomplish feels like an insult when we see our neighbor does or has or is what we desire for ourselves.

I see it in my art room students every day and tell them to keep their eyes on their own work.

Because comparison does one thing:

comparison

Today, I’m going to be the best possible “me” and stop trying to figure out where I rank amongst my fellows, neighbors, friends and rivals.

As I write, the wind is gusting around my house.  It’s pretty much been doing that all week.

The wind promises to bring with it a change.  We don’t know what it’s going to bring.  But it will be different from the status quo.  For some reason, the blustery wind that has been rattling my storm windows and keeping my tired body up at night has felt extra poignant.

It’s been a week of contrasts, that is for sure.  Here are a few things that fueled me.

In My Kitchen

This week, I’ve been running around like crazy at school putting together our school’s art show which runs this weekend.  So it only makes sense that my few hours at home would be voluntarily spent…working on the art show.  This is how my wife and I spent a couple of evenings together – making these cute little sugar cookies to look like painters’ palettes – white and chocolate.  I would never have been able to do it without her doing most of the work.

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In My Netflix Envelope

And we finally got Nebraska in the mail from Netflix, and I felt long overdue in watching it.  It was hilarious, thoughtful and at times was uncomfortably familiar in its satire. If you have the “silent Midwestern” type of family, you will basically be watching yourselves on screen, while the people on screen stare silently back.

In My Blog Reader

It’s been a pretty ragged week, I’d say.  There are glimmers of hope, people who still unite in the face of hardship, such as told about by Eugene Cho.  There was another post from Kathy Escobar about healers, bridge-builders and community cultivators in the church.

But unfortunately, such stories of hope were not the norm. Maybe we do better uniting around people who are near to us.  But Elizabeth Esther tells us that it’s as bad as I thought.  10,000 children have lost their World Vision sponsorships.  That’s ten-thousand children who have nothing to do with our squabbles, and I just cannot imagine that God won’t hold us accountable for that.  Jeremy Statton also writes a great post about why we must respond in love, bringing personal stories of people affected by extreme poverty. As he says, choosing to love always makes a better story.

And finally, Mary DeMuth launched a new Uncaged podcast, discussing God choosing the powerless.  Really relevant stuff, especially this week.

I’m off to school, where I’ll be most of the weekend!  Those are a few things that fueled me this week.  What about you?

 

You may have heard, because the internet lost its mind temporarily last week.Gift Catalogue - Kandia ADP - Animals

World Vision, known for sponsoring desperately poor children in dozens of countries revised its hiring policy, opening the door for employment to legally married homosexuals…

Then they revised their hiring policies again…back to their original status.

The entire process took about 48 hours, give or take.

And in between the beginning and end was a whole lot of yelling (virtually speaking). A lot of people lashing out at World Vision, heaping on condemnation, so much so that apparently World Vision could not ignore the protests.

This would probably have been an event that I would have been able to ignore entirely if it wasn’t for the collective outcry that drew so much attention to it.

And in retrospect, I have come to an inescapable conclusion, that this event says more about all of us than it does about World Vision.

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What makes a person great?

I think most of us are taught that a great person is someone who has an “impact” on the world.

And so, we go around, trying to have an impact, trying to change the world, trying to make a difference.

There are lots of ways to do this.  Some people try to shout over all the noise, just to get some attention.  Other people try to gain their fifteen minutes of fame through the internet.  Maybe we stomp around and just try to create controversy.  It is clear that just setting out with the goal of having an impact is not enough.  Because there have been lots of lousy ideas foisted on humanity.  There have been people who have made a difference, sure.  But it didn’t make us better.  There are plenty of people to whom a legacy means conquering the airwaves, invading our collective consciousness and just saying, “Look at me!”

The thing is, a meteor makes a big crash when it hits the earth.  It leaves a big impact.  But that impact is not useful.  It doesn’t make things better.  It’s just a big rock that makes a lot of damage, pushing everything out of its way.

Jesus said that the best impact we can have, the best things we can do will be the things that no one notices.  It’s not about stomping around, making a lot of noise, building a platform, getting attention through retweets and likes on our Instagrams.  It’s tiny little unnoticed things that make a true impact.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Bhuddist peace activist and was a close friend of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and I think he says it pretty eloquently.

walk

What if today, we didn’t worry about making something that was seen by a whole bunch of people, but created something that made actually made a good difference to just one person?

Hey everyone.  Wow, what a week.

This week, I’ve been busying myself with putting together our school’s Spring Art Show, which is happening next week.  I’ll share some pictures when it’s all said and done.  All told, I’ve been able to get our kids’ artwork up five different public places around Kansas City this year, including a show next month in our town’s big arts district.

Anyway, there has been a lot that has been fueling me lately, which is great, because I’m exhausted!

Blue Highways51jN-UIN+XL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

My wife got an old copy of Blue Highways for Christmas, but that isn’t stopping me from stealing it.  The book is about as old as me and tells about the author’s journey around the backroads of America.  It’s a bestseller, but it’s new to me, and if there is one thing that gets me excited to hit the road this summer, this is it.  And hey, if you’ve purchased any Kindle books, you probably have a credit coming to you, thanks to Amazon losing an antitrust lawsuit, so time to load up on reading!

I Don’t Know If I’m a Christian

Micah Murray never ceases to amaze me with his writing.  I just feel like we are kindred spirits, two lost souls in a life raft.  In many ways, I don’t know where I belong in the world of Christianity.  I can go just about anywhere and hear some teaching, some theology that just doesn’t sound right.  If I decided I was going to cut ties with everyone I disagreed with, I would be very alone, so I choose to try to love people anyway.  But there are many times I have heard what other Christians claim to be the truth, and it leaves me, like Micah, not knowing if I can call myself a Christian.

The Day I Almost Killed My Family

This isn’t the first time he’s posted it, but it’s new to me.  KC Proctor, who is a great guy, by the way, gets vulnerable on the anniversary of the day he almost killed his entire family in a car accident.  Powerful stuff.

If We Live Right…

Of all the Christian heresies and misnomers, perhaps one of the most indelible is this idea that if we live right that God will bless us.  Clearly, most of us aren’t reading our Bibles, because you don’t have to go far to see godly people dying in the desert, getting the crap kicked out of them, or just having their entire lives stolen.  Chris Lautsbaugh takes on this topic far more articulately than I could.

World Vision and Soul Stigmata

Finally, there were a few great people who commented on World Vision’s decision to hire legally married gay couples (and then reversing the decision just days later).  But I enjoyed, related to, and was affected the most by Erika Morrison, whose whole-body-pain is just dripping through her words.

And that’s what fueled me this week.  What about you?