Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

A Lunting We Will Go…

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 30•14

lunting-to-shareNow here is a British word that my Mortification of Spin cohost may need to put into practice. Because clearly, Carl’s method of sitting around on the beach got him into some trouble. Of course, Carl did pick up his habit from Todd, and Todd isn’t a big fan of walking. Of what am I referring? On this week’s Bully Pulpit, find out why two 7-year-old girls have Carl speaking french.

But we have more spin to mortify other than Carl corrupting our children with his dragon habits. This week we discuss pastor Ed Young Jr.’s 90 day tithing challenge. This megachurch pastor is promising a money back guarantee if you faithfully tithe for three months and God hasn’t held true to his promise of blessings. This leads us to ask how we measure blessings. Can we reduce them to material things? Is there a fine print that we are missing in this challenge? And how can we be encouraged to give generously?

Take a listen this week as we mortify the 90 day spin.

 

Walking Stories

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 29•14

A proper understanding of sexuality is important. Since last week, I critiqued the way that women are embracing 50 Shades of Grey, I thought it would be good to repost some articles I wrote three summers ago when the movie Friends with Benefits was released. Some of the material comes from Chapter 4 of my book, Housewife Theologian. Here is the second article:

What eternal value does our sexuality have? While we know that the supreme expression of our sexuality is shared in a covenantal marriage, Scripture points us in the direction that we will not be partaking in the act of sex in heaven. This may be hard for us to imagine. Picturing sex as the ultimate physical expression of love and fulfillment, we may feel that in our future state we will drearily face asceticism of some sort. Why would God give us something so pleasurable here, and then give us something less in heaven? And what could be better?

Many elements that were good in Old Testament times are no longer necessary after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Did you ever wonder why? Why do we no longer need to sacrifice an animal offering at the altar? Because Christ’s death was the perfect atonement for sin. The offerings and strict rituals required in Old Testament worship were types that pointed to the arch-type, Jesus Christ.

In this way, I believe that sex within marriage is both a gift and a type, pointing to the ultimate arch-type. My sexuality is my gift, and this is not something that will be taken away. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “neither men nor women will be asked to throw away weapons they have used victoriously”  (Miracles, C. S. Lewis, 160).  However, the sense of fulfillment and full expression of our sexuality will be different. Reflecting on this helps us to understand that our sexuality is way more than the plastic version our culture markets.

Sexuality is More than Sex

In my last article, I referred to Ephesians 5:22-33, where Paul exalts marriage as a reflection of Christ’s love for his bride, the church. Jesus cherishes and protects his church. Christian’s receive his special, saving love. As the second Adam, our Lord exemplifies the Hebrew Ish, meaning strength, for which Adam was named. Adam called his bride Isha, meaning soft.  Mary Kassian explains well, “He is ‘strong’ directed by inner softness.  She is ‘soft’ directed by inner strength” (Girls Gone Wise, 63). Even before the Fall, I believe marriage was instituted for the display of the gospel. Because of this, our sexuality reflects part of the gospel message.

In reflecting Christ, men have a story to tell about the Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus Christ is the initiator of our salvation. He pursues his bride. And he has already accomplished all the mediating work for our sin, paying the ransom for our redemption with his own life. He is our substitutionary sacrifice. Because of his perfect work, Christ rules at the right hand of his father in heaven, protecting his church from the evil one as his spiritual kingdom is expanding. Jesus is also preparing a place for our eternal abode. While we wait for our consummation, our Lord is transforming and leading us with his Word and Spirit.

The church is the ambassador of the gospel. We bear the name of our savior, Jesus Christ. We are a reflection of our husband’s intimate love. We proclaim his message. The church is given the Great Commission to go and make disciples. As we share the love of Christ and the good news of the gospel, we bring others into his house for baptism, teaching, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Throughout the week, we are to work in our vocations, as salt and light.

Practically Speaking

So here we are, sexual beings, reflecting the gospel of Christ. We can do that in our singlehood, in our marriage, and we will most definitely in eternity. Let’s bring this down to the ordinary. Men and boys too can reflect Christ’s loving and protection of his church by cherishing and protecting little girls and women. This could be something as simple as opening a door, or as serious as covering their shame by taking it upon themselves. We should teach our boys how to properly initiate and lead in service and love. Remember, Christ was qualified to initiate his love for the church. What could that mean practically for a man in love? It means he needs to be able to provide before he proposes—both spiritually and materially. It means that he will be equipped to lead with God’s word because he is intimate with it and has already led in this way.

And women; we take on a new name in marriage. We become identified by our covenantal union. It is a helpful reflection of the church as ambassadors of the gospel. We become the vehicles by which new life is created, mothered, and nurtured. How amazing is that? Having the proper demeanor and respect toward the heavy responsibility our men carry is essential to displaying the church as Christ’s bride. Do we help our men or do we sabotage their efforts? How do we represent the church’s love for Christ when we are belittling our men? This can be shown in something as little as allowing a guy to open the door for you, or properly submitting to your husband’s accountability in governmental priority.

What Do You Think?

What are some ways that a man confirms the gospel message by his outer strength and inner softness? How does a woman do this by her outer softness and inner strength? How would this be different for singles and for married couples?

Our Sexuality is Meant to be Shared

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 28•14

A proper understanding of sexuality is important. Since my last post critiqued the way that women are embracing 50 Shades of Grey, I thought it would be good to repost some articles I wrote three summers ago when the movie Friends with Benefits was released. Some of the material comes from Chapter 4 of my book, Housewife Theologian

Real friends with honorable benefits?

We have settled. For so many of us, when we think of our sexuality we think of our ability to pull off bathing suit season one more year. And this is the bane of our existence. To be sexy is to emulate a cover model. Being sexually desirable is equivalent to tempting many men to fantasize about you. And here is the conundrum for the Christian woman, because this sexiness is not compatible with mature Christian behavior. We all know that it is wrong thinking, and that there must be a deeper explanation, but we keep settling for the world’s “genitally oriented view” (a term coined by Debra Evans in her book, The Christian Woman’s Guide to Sexuality ) of sexuality. Regrettably, we find ourselves rejecting our sexuality all together, or crossing the line as responsible Christians.

Sexuality is a very complex issue. It is also a theological one. I think one of our biggest blind spots in the Christian community is to reduce our sexuality to a private act in the bedroom of marriage. Sure, this is the fullest expression and consummation of our gift in this age, but there is more to our sexuality than sex. And by capitulating to this narrow, genitally oriented view that our culture markets, we are missing great opportunities to express ourselves as men and women created in the image of God.

We tell our sons and daughters that their sexuality is a gift that cannot be opened until marriage. And by all means, I am teaching my children purity. But I am afraid that we are not properly communicating the contents and eternal value of that gift. Some expressions of our sexuality are actually public. And that is good. To my neighbor, my sexuality says that I am glad to be a woman; to my husband my sexuality says I am glad to be your woman.

Ill Communication?

Our sexuality is part of how we communicate to the world. It is a body language that speaks an awareness of the gift and power of our gender. I want to properly communicate this endowment that God has given me as a woman. Like every other gift it demands maturity and responsibility. I am certainly going to communicate my sexuality differently to my husband than I do to my neighbor.

To my neighbor, I convey through my sexuality that I love being a woman. I give praise to God by showing my joy and pleasure in expressing my femininity. My sexuality is not merely for catching a man. Sure, in the creation account we learn that woman was created for man. This gives us a distinctly relational purpose in our vocation. But both the single and the married woman already have dignity and purpose in being created in God’s image, to glorify him and love him forever. Our vocational calling is to love and serve our neighbor in response. We are told that Eve was created as a helper, corresponding to Adam (Gen. 2:18).  God created woman distinctly different from man, not only in appearance, but in her capabilities as well. In saying this, I am not appealing to a bunch of traditional stereotypes. I am recognizing that we need to take notice of how God has uniquely gifted and equipped us as women. When God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, it should have been apparent that He made woman to complement man, not as an exact clone of him.

Real Friends with Honorable Benefits

Paul explains to us that marriage mysteriously reflects Christ’s covenantal relationship with his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33). It is a great blessing to have a husband who models Christ in his vocation by sacrificing all of himself for the spiritual welfare of his bride. This initiating sacrifice warrants a submissive response from his wife. In the act of creation, we see Adam immediately having to sacrifice from his own body for the creation of Eve. In her book Girls Gone Wise, Mary Kassian explains how he poetically praises and names her Isha in relation to himself. Ish, Hebrew for Adam, means strength. By adding the feminine touch “a”, the meaning changes to soft. As these words come from the same Hebrew root, we can see how the words “man” and “woman” interplay. “He is ‘strong’ directed by inner softness. She is ‘soft’ directed by inner strength (63). And then God can say that his creation is very good.

Women are complementary to men—helping, enhancing, the perfect companion. Even in singlehood, this is part of our sexuality. Women are to be honored and protected. Are our daughters being educated to recognize and respond to male sacrifice and biblical leadership in an appropriate way? Are they taught expression of their femininity to the world in love and service to their neighbor? Do they know what qualities to look for in a man to whom they will give themselves over submissively in marriage to serve together? Even when we are blessed to be united to a godly man in marriage, and therefore completely share our sexuality, our full dependence is on Christ. That is what our men should be pointing us to. My strength is in the knowledge of my Creator and my Savior, in my gratitude for His love, and my trust in His plan. He is my strength.

Maybe, if we celebrate our femininity, receiving what God has distinctly given us and expressing it appropriately, we can teach and model real friends with honorable benefits. I’m not saying that this will curb and solve all improper sexual temptation, but it will show the world that our sexuality is a gift that is shared from day one of our birth. It is not a taboo that can’t be opened until our wedding day, but a gift that we will take into eternity. The act of sex, or even being sexually desirable, is not the only expression of sexuality. If we define it so obtusely, a virgin on her wedding day could be very disappointed (don’t believe me? Read this). A woman who better understands the beautiful dimensions and proper boundaries of her sexuality will celebrate its expression in marriage as a pleasurable communion in covenantal love.

Maybe then our girls won’t feel the need to physically over-share as an expression of their sexuality in their other relationships. Maybe then they will not need to feel physically desired by every man to feel like a woman. Our culture might pretend like our societal roles are androgynous, and that our sexual aim should be selfish pleasure. But the Christian knows pleasure in sharing our femininity within its proper boundaries to glorify God. Our sexuality is a priceless gift that’s worth protecting. But I pray that we can more deeply explore it’s saliency within proper boundaries before and after marriage before the unbelieving world.

 

So what do you think?  What ways can we express our sexuality as men and women in our culture today in love and service to our neighbor? As girls are transitioning into women, what may be proper ways to embrace this rite of passage without over-sexualizing themselves?

Next article: What are we achieving in our sexuality?  What eternal value does our sexuality have?

50 Shades of Strange

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 25•14

Well, I would say the first shade of strange hit me at a neighborhood Christmas party almost two years ago. Matt and I look forward to this annual event. There are some couples there that we hardly get to see throughout the year, and it is always fun catching up.

One neighbor I haven’t seen in a while asked me what I had been getting into over the year, and I had the opportunity to tell her about the book I had been writing. I explained to her that it was about how our knowledge of God shapes our everyday living. Now you never know what kind of reaction you are going to get when you tell people you write Christian books. But I wasn’t prepared for this one. She was thrilled because she loves to read, and as a matter of fact, she was currently devouring 50 Shades of Grey. I think I my facial expression matched that of Ralphie when he decoded his first Little Orphan Annie message in his bathroom.

Next thing you know, she calls her husband over to tell him about my writing. And she starts chatting away about 50 Shades. Her husband is smiling like it was so cute that his wife was “into” a book like that. It was all very strange and uncomfortable for me. This is a conservative looking woman, a mom of two boys, in her 40’s. If her husband was bragging at the party that he was reading a porn novel, I would think she’d feel very disrespected and ashamed.

Of course, there were many shades of strange like this when 50 Shades grew in popularity. Since it was one of the fastest-selling book series ever, I had already looked up the reviews. One thing that bothered me terrible was that discerning readers (who had no problem with the “erotica” genre) were complaining about how poorly the book was written. They point out the many overused phrases, the juvenile plot, lack of character development, and even how bad the sex scenes are described. One reviewer said it is clearly written for bored housewives (may I add, who must not ever read good books) and hormonal teenagers.

So I usually ask about the actual quality of the writing, since it is a book and all…

Now the trailer is out for the movie. And just this week, I am encountering more shades of strange for a movie that isn’t even releasing until February. I am shocked by some of my mom friends that have posted the trailer on Facebook, tagging some of my other mom friends about the “Mom’s Night Out” they look forward to having in February. Some of these women profess to be Christians. They all have daughters in middle or high school. And sons.

My first reaction was, “This is 50 shades of hypocrisy!” Would they want their husbands to be bragging about the porn they were looking forward to watching together? Wouldn’t they be humiliated? Of course, it’s a double standard: it’s somehow sexy for women to watch porn. And if these husbands are counting on a movie to make their sex lives with their wives better, well, that’s a little humiliating too. And sad.

My daughters are old enough to pick up on the 50 shades of strange that will no doubt be happening around them. I’m sure it will be talked about in the high school. And worse, they may find some of their friends’ moms going. I assume that the movie is going to follow the same BDSM so-called plotline as the book. In which case, Christians and non-Christians alike should be joining forces in outrage over the thought that women are portrayed as getting off on abuse. I suspect a lot more men and teenage boys will be going to the movie than have bothered to read the book. How are they going to react when unwanted beatings are glorified in sex? Is the message going to be “this is what women really want”?

I think that in the months building up to this movie, we need to be engaging this 50 shades of strange, asking good questions. This is an opportunity for believers to reach out to our unbelieving friends and ask if this is really the road that we want to go down. Do we really want to be encouragers of promiscuity and abuse? Do we really believe that this is good sex? Do we want our sons and daughters to think women want to be dehumanized and beaten to be aroused? This movie is a wake up call. And to think, it all started with bad writing…

Dirt Baked Hard

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 23•14

Cruella-glenn-close-as-cruella-de-vil-32652887-590-295Today on MoS, we discuss suffering and weakness. To give me a taste of affliction, my cohosts downgrade me from my previous title, “The Pat Benatar of Reformed Theology,” to “Cruella de Vil.” Hurtful.

But the good news is this means they must be afraid of me.

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There are a few other small matters to cover before we get serious. Like Harry Styles, Carl believes that his popularity is due to his face and not his hair. And like Shatner, Todd isn’t so concerned that people know him, but that they believe his version.

But on to serious stuff, do we have a problem with a soft prosperity gospel in Reformed theology? What implications does the weakness of the message have on those who preach it, and those of us who try to live according to it? How can we be encouraged to remain theologians of the cross when we are so tempted to a theology of glory?

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the guys seem to be a bit uncomfortable with the hiring of our new producer, and the resulting sisterhood. They have tried to bring back their majority with by bringing on their own intimidating Jack Bauer of MoS. Since Todd emphasizes in the podcast today that he shouldn’t be treated better than he deserves, I just want to reassure him that the Mad Woman in the Attic and I will make sure that doesn’t happen for him. But don’t worry, nothing to fear here. Or is there?

Take a listen.

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Reality in the Christian Life

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 22•14

Schaeffer-on-the-Christian-lifeI’ve been looking forward to taking Bill Edgar’s Schaeffer on the Christian Life to the beach with me this summer. One thing that I have been enjoying about Crossway’s On the Christian Life series is that you get to know two people: the biographer and the one whom the book is about. That is especially the case in this book, because William Edgar became both a Christian as a result of Schaeffer’s witness and his good friend. So he is part of his own story.

Both Edgar and Schaeffer have proven to be great companions to take to the beach. Without any disrespect, I would say that they have become “Bill and Fran” to me over the last few days. One reason I’ve been looking forward to this biography is the influence Schaeffer’s writings had on me in my early twenties. Fresh out of college, when I read Schaeffer’s teaching on the “upper story” and “lower story” categorizations that we tend to put faith and “reality” in, I was hooked. That is exactly what I noticed, but could not articulate, in my university years. Schaeffer’s teaching on “true truth,” “the God who is there,” and the “mannishness of man” (see Edgar’s summary on p.66) is both gritty and inspiring. This short little man who stuck out in the 60’s and 70’s with his goatee and knickers was resonating with me as a young woman in the late 90’s.

However, as I read some of Schaeffer’s later works and learned more about his involvement with the Religious Right, I became a bit confused by how political he had become. And I was saddened and perturbed when I heard about his son Franky’s book, Crazy for God, that painted an ugly picture of his dad. Kim Riddlebarger’s Academy series on Schaeffer was helpful, and I recommend them to anyone who would like to learn more about the life of Schaeffer  (scroll down from link to that series). That’s when I first learned about the crisis of faith he encountered and how that influenced his writing. That series also gave me a better understanding about the climate that lead to Schaeffer’s political influence in his later years. I appreciate how both Riddlebarger and Edgar discuss Schaeffer’s strengths while being upfront about his shortcomings. In his book, Edgar also focuses in on this crisis and it’s impact on Schaeffer’s teaching. And he gives a personal take on how the Schaeffer’s extreme hospitality affected Franky, leading to some of his unfair accusations, without excusing Franky’s error.

Anyway, this spiritual crisis Francis Schaeffer encountered had to do with the reality of his faith—not only an evidence of the historicity of it, as important as those issues are, but the effect. He was discouraged that his own life and those who professed an orthodox confession did not show forth the fruit or reality of that faith. The description of his long, reflective walks during this year actually made me crack a smile because I thought of the scene in Forrest Gump when he ran and ran after Jenny had left. Edgar explains that Schaeffer came out of this “Slough of Despond” with a stronger resolve. “The apologetic answers are important, but knowing the present value of Christ’s work of redemption is paramount…This crisis sent Fran to look into the present meaning of the finished work of Christ for our lives in a way he had never done before” (82-83).

Isn’t this a question we are faced with every time we are called to resist a strong temptation to ungodliness? When we find ourselves rejected and tempted to retaliate in an ungodly way, or disrespected, lonely, or even if we are just feeling rebellious, we are faced with what we really believe to be true about God and it’s reality in our life at that very moment. Christ’s person, his love, his work, his sacrifice, his presence, his intercession, and more all have meaning in this very moment, not just in our prayer for salvation or in his glorious return.

Schaeffer was “obsessed” with this reality. That is what so attracted me to his writings. Edgar summarizes it well in his biography. Here are a few great lines:

The final reality is not chance, or even the Bible, but God himself.

Indeed, love is real because there is a real reason to keep the human race alive and not plunge humanity into death.

Further, the reason one can trust in the historic Christian position at all is that it is realistic about evil. Without this realism there is no hope. The Christian view is neither optimistic nor nihilistic, but realistic.

Science can succeed because the same God who created the real world also made our minds to recognize it.

About eating in our future, resurrected bodies, he says, “Among the many things which are marvelous about this is the very reality of it—the solidness of it.” Many of us love the picture in the Gospels of the disciples marveling at the sight of the resurrected Jesus as he says, in effect, “Got anything to eat?” (Luke 24:41). 

While Schaeffer taught that we should expect progress in the Christian life, he strongly warned against perfectionism. Only the reality of Christ’s accomplishment can keep us where we need to be. (92-94)

In reading through this book, I am thinking about the life of Schaeffer, the Christian life in general, and the irony of how “countercultural spirituality” is a challenge to live according to the reality of God. Indeed, the gospel is real, and that changes everything.

Your Naked Truth

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 18•14

I read an article the other day that is still bothering me. I think that it captures a lie that many men and women believe about beauty and love. A 59-year-old wrote it, but this is the same problem I see in 18-year-olds.

The article starts out with a brave, naked, woman really looking at herself in the mirror, trying to just get honest with herself after a cold rejection. You see, she had met someone on the Internet, and he seemed like a good match. He made an effort to make the drive to meet her in person. She describes him as gentlemanly, and interested in the same active lifestyle as herself. So she was looking forward to getting to know him better by spending the weekend together.

They get in bed together. Naked. He doesn’t really make a move. (Did I mention that this wasn’t a “Christian” article?) All her attempts at “intimacy” were dodged over the three nights and four days together.

Confused after returning home, this woman had to know what the deal was. So she calls him up to ask. He answers matter of factly:

“Your body is too wrinkly,” he said without a pause. “I have spoiled myself over the years with young women. I just can’t get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can’t deal with your body.”

He then proceeded to offer her suggestions on how she could distract from her age, dress in a way in which he was attracted, and maybe move their physical relationship forward.

Read more

The Last Bastion of Freedom

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 16•14

Being an honorary guy has its perks.

I was able to be smuggled into a frat house with Carl and Todd to discuss a development and trend in college campus ministries. For this week’s Bully Pulpit we react to a First Things article written by Robert Gregory, Bowdoin Told Us To Go, where he explains why the campus ministry that he was a part of is now leaving the campus due to their new policy. New laws are allowing universities to implement policies so that there is no discerning criteria for the leadership of all student-led groups. What this means in a Christian ministry is that one doesn’t need to confess belief in the most basic tenets of the faith, belief in God for example, to be able to lead a group. The ministry cannot have standards in picking their own leaders. We discuss what this means for the culture, campus ministry, the Christian witness, and the church.

Meanwhile, there is a downside to being an honorary guy as well. While Carl and Todd discuss whether the tobacco shop is the last bastion of freedom, they think of a more humorous way to corrupt their West Virginian co-host. Not going to happen, guys.

Take a listen here.

Hopefully obvious disclaimer: This. Is. Not. Really. Me.

Hopefully obvious disclaimer: This. Is. Not. Really. Me.

Women of the Word

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 14•14

Wilkin women of word pic_1405028999Books at a Glance has posted my review of Jen Wilkin’s new book, Women of the Word. Here’s a short teaser:

“The Bible does not want to be neatly packaged into three-hundred-and-sixty-five-day-increments” (75). No, no it doesn’t. But too often we think this is the only way to spending personal time in God’s Word. While we all know we are to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11), the sixty-six bound books of God’s living Word can be intimidating. And so Jen Wilkin begins her book disclosing the “mountain of biblical ignorance” she had after church hopping her whole life. Growing up visiting many different denominations, she wondered who had it right:

“Was there a rapture or not? Did God have to answer our prayers if we prayed a certain way? Did I need to be baptized again? How old is the earth? Were Old Testament believers saved differently than New Testament believers?” (16-17)

You can read the rest here.

Sunday Mornings

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 11•14

So I was sitting on my back porch, all ready to answer my own journaling questions for Housewife Theologian, Chapter 10. As it turns out, making the questions is a lot easier than answering them. I was preparing to lead a small group, and thought I would breeze through number one pretty quickly. It’s meant to be more of an introduction question before we get into the theology of the church:

1. How would you describe your current attitude toward regularly attending church on Sunday mornings? How do you think your attitude affects your family’s view of the church service?

This one should be easy enough, since I love going to church. And yet, I have found that the devil works the hardest in the Byrd household on Sunday mornings. It’s inevitable: I will be challenged with multiple obstacles while we try to get out of the door by 9:00 AM. One child will come waltzing in my bedroom with a ridiculous outfit choice, the dog will NOT come in, and there is of course the expected breakfast stain all over someone’s (by someone, I usually mean me) church attire. This shouldn’t be difficult, since I’m awake three hours before “go time.” But it’s seems like the Sunday morning version of myself is like those slow-motion dreams when you’re being attacked. I’m clumsy, ineffective, and can’t seem to get the right words out of my mouth.

Sure, we always make it out of the door. But often my family ends up seeing an annoyed, stressed version of me on Sunday mornings. So I titled my answer: What I want my family to see on Sunday morning. Here’s my bulleted notes that provoked some great discussion that evening:

Read more here, and I’d love for you to come back and comment about some practical ways that you and your family try to iron out the Sunday morning wrinkles.