Denying Reality

Hans Christian Andersen would roll over in his grave.  It’s been nearly 200 years since his famous fairy tales were published, yet people persist in looking the other way, denying reality.

EmperorsNewClothes

We have come to a shameful state of affairs when a man can claim, “I identify as a woman,” and society is supposed to turn our eyes away and agree, “It’s okay. We’ll pretend you’re a woman trapped in man’s physiology.”  Balderdash!

Biology determines whether a person is male or female.  Doctors check the plumbing when a baby is born, and then mark the appropriate box on the birth certificate.  It might be possible to argue that genetic testing is needed:  two X chromosomes means the person is a female, while one X and one Y chromosome means that the person is a male.  People do not decide whether they are male or female; it is a biological fact.

If an XY person claims to be an XX person, there are a few options:

  • he is lying
  • he is crazy and in need of mental help
  • he is possessed and in need of spiritual help

The same holds true if an XX person claims to be an XY person.

The politicians got it wrong.  Any man who says that he identifies as a woman, yet exposes himself to complete strangers in the ladies’ room has proven by his behavior that he does not identify as a woman; he has no clue what it’s like to be a woman. Indecent exposure should get a person locked up.  There’s no way to identify your way out of it.  The fact that so many of these LCP men don’t understand that their presence in the women’s bathroom or locker room is a problem further illustrates their cluelessness about what it is like to live as a woman in this society.

We do everyone a disservice when we dance around admiring the emperor’s invisible clothes.

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At What Cost?

I knew that taking a missions trip would be a growing experience for my daughter. I didn’t know that her trip would be a growing experience for me.

In the planning stages, we were told that they’d go first to India, then somewhere else in Asia.  I had the vague impression that India is Hindu and the far east is Buddhist.  Bangladesh, between the two, would be one or the other — safe enough for Christian aid workers.

Religions of South Asia

It turns out this is not true.  Although Bangladesh has welcomed foreigners for at least a decade, recently two aid workers were murdered. Bangladesh is 90% that peaceful religion of terrorists that’s murdering people around the world.

Religions of Asia

It seems to me that reasonable people would welcome those who come to help.  Either that, or handle the problem yourself so you can legitimately claim that outside help is unneeded.  But to kill those who are giving up everything so that they can help you…  That makes no sense.

And a still small voice whispered that there was another who gave up everything just to help people, and was hung on a cross.

While I want my daughter to come home safely, I have to recognize that ultimately our purpose in life is to share the good news. Not everyone who leaves home will make it back safely — whether home is half-way around the world or just down the street.

Our Lord came to this earth to help mankind, and was killed.  Some of His followers will be martyred.  The same week that aid workers were martyred in Bangladesh, Christians were also martyred in Oregon.   And although I trust that God will take care of my daughter, I must acknowledge that for reasons unknown to us, sometimes God allows his followers to suffer.  Ultimately, God is on His throne.  He is in control regardless of the circumstances we face on this earth. So I pray that my daughter will effectively share our Lord’s love with those she is there to help, and I pray for her safety.  And I trust God with the details.

Please pray for the leadership of the outreach team as they determine where to go next, since it is no longer considered safe to help the people of Bangladesh.

Supporting Missionaries

While I am a huge supporter of missions, my perspective has changed recently.  No, I haven’t stopped supporting missions.  Far from it.

My daughter left July 1 and flew overseas as part of Youth With A Mission.  As a mom, it has been interesting to watch my daughter prepare for her trip — to see her trepidation in approaching us to say that she didn’t want to return to college (yet) because she believed God was calling her to do a YWAM DTS.

In our family, kids are expected to attend college once they’ve complete their high school studies.  Since we homeschool, not everyone is going to recognize my children’s diplomas.  I’ve told them that we therefore require them to earn at least an AA degree from an accredited school that employers will recognize.  We are not giving our children all the advantages of a custom-tailored education to then turn around and have them be unemployable.

As a mom, I want my daughter to finish college.  However, years ago I read Bruchko, and don’t ever want to be that parent who disowns a child for following God.  My whole goal in raising my children is to equip them to do whatever it is that God calls them to do.

***

DTS – Discipleship Training School.  What a great idea.  Students spend twelve intense weeks getting to know our heavenly Father even more intimately (classroom time, study, and lots of prayer), followed by three months of outreach where they apply the things they’ve learned as they share the Good News.  Many DTSs have a theme (medicine, sports, compassion, music, etc.), and the students get training in their theme, too, so that they are better equipped for the outreach portion.

When my daughter was two years old, I suspected she’d grow up to be a nurse.  when she was four, it was apparent that she would also be a missionary.  I can’t say that it came as a surprise — now that she’s grown — to hear her express interest in a medical DTS.

Then we discovered the cost. Oh, my.  There is the cost of the DTS ($3651), airfare to get there (less than the first estimate, but still $2054), and airfare for the outreach ($2000-$5000 – not yet determined).  She needed roughly $10,000!

What we’ve discovered is that there are more costs.  We’ve also seen a beautiful demonstration of the fact that when God calls you to do something, He provides what you need to get it done!  As people learned what our daughter was planning, they started giving her money.  Our church rallied to help her, and raised about half of what she needed.  It’s been amazing.  God is so good, and has used people not just to bless our daughter in supporting her trip, but to also bless us as parents, demonstrating clearly that He is in this.

As my daughter prepared for her trip, she had all sorts of expenses that I never really thought of missionaries having.  Some are obvious once you think about it:  she needed a visa ($500), and the government in the country she is in requires special insurance ($300).  She needed travel vaccines, which were a lot more expensive than anticipated.  Anti-malaria medicine was another $250.

Then there were other expenses.  The DTS sent a list of things she was required to pack, some of which she didn’t own and needed to purchase.  She shopped around and found great deals, but still spent another $200 on clothing she wouldn’t have needed at home but which is required where she went. (Plus we’ve already been told that they’ll be required to purchase native garb when they get to India.)

And then there are the things that have caused me to change my perspective a little bit.  Like a camera.  In high school, one of my daughter’s electives was photography.  She studied with a professional photographer and worked hard to earn that credit on her transcript.  She has a very very nice camera.  Unfortunately it is too big for someone who has limited space, and is completely inappropriate to carry on outreach to third-world countries.  Be that as it may, when I think of missions, I think of helping the poor and needy, not of buying a camera.  I told her that it is not right to take money that people donate for her outreach to buy a new camera, even if it is to get a smaller one that is more suitable for her trip.  As parents, we bought her a new camera so that it didn’t come out of donated funds.

But I’ve been thinking, I like seeing pictures from missionaries.  The whole “A picture is worth 1,000 words,” saying is repeated so often because it’s true.  Honestly, if missionaries asked for funds to get a camera so that they could better share with people back home what they were doing, I would be willing to fund that.

One of the missionary families we support has a (sporadically updated) blog.  I like following what’s going on and knowing better how to pray for them.  However, updating a blog requires having internet access.  One cannot have internet access without a computer.  That means that if a missionary wants to use a blog to keep in touch with people back home, that missionary needs a computer.  If that missionary is going to be living out of a backpack while working in third-world countries, that computer needs to be a small tablet, not a desktop computer or even a laptop.  Would I be okay with a missionary using donated funds to buy a tablet?  Now that I think it through, yes, but I don’t know that I would have felt that way before.  My perspective has changed.

Then there are living expenses.  While food and housing are covered in the DTS fee, apparently laundry is not.  The laundry facilities cost $7 per load (which is apparently about half what it would cost if they went to a public Laundromat).  On one hand, they have a limited wardrobe since they’re living out of a suitcase, but on the other hand, they need to clean their clothes regularly.  Two or three people can combine whites to reduce expenses, but they still end up paying for two or three loads of laundry every week.  My best guess is that everyone will spend an extra $200 to do their laundry by the time this 12-week classroom portion is over — plus whatever it costs to buy detergent.  Before this, it never would have occurred to me that missionaries might need an extra $14-21 per week to be able to launder their clothes.  My perspective has changed.

In closing (if anyone’s still reading), let me tell you about vaccines.  Insurance does not cover travel vaccines.  Many doctors don’t do travel med.  You must go to a special travel medicine clinic (which is over $200, not covered by insurance) for a doctor to provide information that you can find for free on the CDC’s website.  The doctor will also (for another fee) provide the travel vaccines you’ll need.  To save money, you can sometimes get those vaccines at a pharmacy, but some pharmacies require a prescription from the travel medicine doc, which means you didn’t really save money after all.  After some searching, we found a pharmacy that would sell whatever travel vaccines we wanted.  We did our research (the CDC’s website is a valuable resource) to see what was needed.  My daughter had already had some of the shots when she went to Guatemala, so only needed two.  The typhoid vaccine was $117.  The Japanese encephalitis vaccine was even more expensive:  $330!  Per. Dose.  Here is the cool part:  the pharmacy my daughter got her vaccines at is a small, independently-owned pharmacy, not part of a big chain.  In visiting while giving the shots, the pharmacist learned about my daughter’s missions trip, and my daughter learned that the pharmacist is a believer.  When my daughter returned for the second dose of her very expensive vaccine, the pharmacist covered the cost for her!  God is so good.

There are so many more ways to support missions than I ever realized.  Yes, giving cash is still important, but the pharmacist supported my daughter. The people who donated to and worked the rummage sale to raise funds supported my daughter.  The people who understand that there are a variety of unusual expenses and are willing to help out are supporting missions.  Those who loan a suitcase or backpack or  ___ are also supporting missions when they are meeting a very real, very practical need.  Most of all, supporting missions means praying.  Those who pray are going to follow through — after praying, they’ll meet practical needs in whatever way God instructs.  And that is the best way to support missions.

Christians & Tattoos

Does the Bible say that it is a sin for Christians to get tattoos?  Some people quote Leviticus 19:28:

“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

There are a few different ways to view this topic.

Some people believe that if it’s anywhere in the Bible, then we must obey.  To them, the Bible says no tattoos, end of discussion.  Interestingly enough, the verse immediately preceding this one says not to cut the hair on the sides of the head, nor clip off the edges of the beard.  Consistency requires that those who hold a strictly legalistic view also refrain from trimming the beard, cutting hair on the sides of the head, eating pork, etc.

Others look at Peter’s experience in Acts 10, and say that we have been released from the Old Testament dietary laws,  however people should still keep the behavioral laws.  People holding this viewpoint would have long hair, untrimmed beards, and no tattoos (but are okay with eating pork).

Another view is that the Old Testament laws were only for the Israelites.  This viewpoint says that we are no longer bound by the law, but are freed by grace.  This interpretation says that the Levitical injunction against tattoos doesn’t apply to modern-day gentiles.

A fourth approach requires a look not just at the words written, but at the reason those words were written.  Cultural issues are often addressed in the Bible.  Since we have a different culture, it’s the principle that’s important.  Likewise, in the New Testament when Paul wrote to address specific situations, the principle rather than the specific long-ago situation is what is pertinent.  This requires prayerful discernment.  Interestingly enough, this approach to Biblical interpretation tends to be anti-tattoo (read here for one such discussion).

Those are the only legitimate options.  The Bible isn’t a smörgåsbord, where we get to survey all the contents and pick the parts we like, but reject what doesn’t suit our fancy.  In civil law, that’s called anarchy.  In religion, it’s called hypocrisy.

If, from a Biblical standpoint, you believe that the prohibition against Israelites getting tattoos does not apply to us today, there are other aspects to consider.

Health

Can tattoos affect health?  Absolutely!   Talk with a GI who specializes in hepatology.  Talk with a dermatologist.  Nobody ever gets a tattoo in pursuit of good health.

Finances

Do you believe that God cares how we spend our money?  Is it ours to do with as we please, or are we managers of God’s resources?  I believe that there are much better ways to invest my cash.

Witness

In following Christ, we have a responsibility to 1) present the good news to others, and 2) help fellow believers in their walk.  Insofar as presenting the gospel to others, some people will be turned off when they see tattoos.  However, with other people tattoos might open a door for conversation.  That aspect is probably a wash.  As for how tattoos affect fellow believers, there are many people who just don’t care, but there are some whose faith might be hurt.  Considering 1 Corinthians 8, as well as Romans  14, it would be appropriate to voluntarily refrain from things that cause problems for fellow-believers.

Any time someone asks, “Can I be a Christian and still ___?” my response is more about the heart than the specific activity in question.  If we love God, we ought to be seeking out things that please him and draw us (and others) closer to him.  It’s probably not a good idea to see how much we can get away with.

In summary, it is possible to view the Biblical prohibition of tattoos as something that was written thousands of years before Christ, and not applicable to the era of grace offered by Christ.  However, there are still financial, medical, and moral arguments against Christians getting new tattoos.

That said, I’m not going to negatively judge people who decide to get a tattoo.  My focus is on my conduct and my walk with the Lord.  I’m not answerable for anyone’s actions but my own.

Go, I Wish You Well

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

 — James 2:15-16

Imagine the heartbreak of going into labor at 23 weeks.  Recently a friend-of-a-friend did just that, and God has been challenging me to do more than pray about this situation.

In keeping with James 2:16, I’ve been searching.  It’s hard to find preemie clothing (for babies 4-6 pounds).  There are even fewer options for micro-preemies (2-4 pounds).  I have found some patterns on the internet, though, along with some tips.

The tips include things like:

  • Contact the NICU to find out if they allow/prefer flannel.
  • NICU babies can’t re-use hats. If a hat falls on the floor, the baby needs a new hat. Knitters looking for a project could make a zillion preemie & micro-preemie hats.
  • Traditional baby colors don’t look very good on jaundiced NICU babies.  White with a few colored accents is better for the appearance of preemies.
  • Make sure you pre-shrink your fabric, and do not use fabric softener.

If you’d like to help but don’t sew (or don’t have time to sew), consider buying fabric for somebody else to turn into preemie garments.  The high-quality fabric needed for tender skin is expensive.

With one exception, these patterns are free.  You can click the link and print the free pattern immediately.  I’ve also discovered that, since these are pdf files, you can print at 75% (or reduce whatever amount you wish), to make a preemie pattern small enough for a micro-preemie.

Patterns for Preemie & Micro-Preemie Clothes

Free Hat & Bootie Patterns

Other Free Patterns

Subliminal Messages

If someone responded,

While it’s true that circles don’t have angles, triangles only have three angles, not four.  A figure with four angles is called a quadrilateral

would you take them to task for missing the point?  Would you say that this isn’t about triangles; it’s about circles.  It’s about all those poor, poor conic sections without any angles – that’s what this is about.  It’s cruel to talk about triangles and quadrilaterals and their angles, when there are shapes out there without any angles.

Ludicrous, you say?  What if, instead, it’s a Facebook post that’s making the rounds:

Yes, the death of a child is tragic.  That is in no way diminished by pointing out that, no, a person who loses a partner is not called a widow.  Widow, like triangle, has a specific definition:

  • Widow:  a woman who has lost her husband by death and has not remarried.
  • Widower:  a man who has lost his wife by death and has not remarried.

Partner  is a loaded term.  Remember the phrase shacking up?  It’s not politically correct to say that anymore.  Ever wonder why?  Using the word partner  is an attempt to have marriage and shacking-up viewed as equivalent, with no moral strings attached.  They are not the same.  People who live together without being married can walk away from the relationship at any moment because they have chosen to remain uncommitted to the other person.  They are committed to having an easy out if the relationship gets rough or if someone “better” comes along.  It’s nothing like the dedication of making a marriage work.  People who choose to remain single do not have a change in marital status if their loved one dies.

Just as claiming erroneously that triangles have four angles will surely gain corrections, so will misdefining “widow.” If the focus is on the tragedy of childhood death, then don’t take away from that message. Say what you mean. When an inaccurate post is used, then you’ve detracted from your message and have no grounds for being offended if your inaccuracies are pointed out.

If the focus of the Facebook post is on the tragedy of childhood death, then the post could easily be corrected:

In using the term “partner” instead of husband & wife, you’re subtly planting the idea that living together outside of marriage is acceptable.  It is not.  People don’t always like hearing that God has standards, but that doesn’t negate the fact that God is very clear about appropriate behavior in & outside of marriage.

God’s laws aren’t restrictive.  He loves us and wants what’s best for us, just as I love my children and want what’s best for them.  Sometimes that means making rules.  For example, I have a rule that my children aren’t allowed to play in the street.  That isn’t because I don’t want them to have a nice, smooth surface to rollerskate and ride bikes on.  It’s because the speed limit is 55, but nobody drives that slowly.  It’s dangerous to play in the road, and I don’t want my kids to get hurt.  Likewise, God’s rules aren’t about taking away our fun.  God’s rules are for our good.

The question, is, then, when people (intentionally or not) spread subliminal messages, do we say anything, or do we keep quiet and imply that we agree?

In a work environment, it’s not necessarily appropriate to say anything, but for generic Facebook posts, I’m going to speak up.  It’s true that circles have no angles, but pointing out that triangles have only three angles doesn’t have any implications for circles.  Likewise, clarifying the definition of widows and partners doesn’t take away from the tragedy of childhood death.  Some people are touchy about things, though, and I’ve been amazed at some of the responses from complete strangers who claim to be Christians.

I am glad that there are people in my life who embrace loving relationships differently than me.

How sad to feel that way.  I am not glad; I am grieved to see people reject a loving God who wants only their best.

 I know so many people, who will not even listen to the loving, gospel message of Jesus Christ, because of this type of talk.

That’s like saying people won’t study conic sections if we point out that triangles have three angles.  Nobody seriously believes that.  It is true that there are people who don’t want to be told that they’re in the wrong.  People might reject the gospel because they like their sin and don’t want to be reminded that their actions are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the opportunity to hear.

It is important that we love each other and not condemn those who choose to live lives and/or have relationships that we may not agree with or choose to have ourselves.

I love my children enough to tell them that they can’t play in the street.  If they do so anyway, I don’t reject them or tell them to go find a new family.  I don’t say, “Oh, everyone has to make their own choices.”  I love them, accept them, and care enough to correct them.  As for condemnation, that’s up to God, not me.  John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and choices.  Far be it for me to judge anyones choices.

And far be it from me to let those I love think that they can flaunt God’s laws without there being consequences.  How sad to think that there are those who care so little for others that they’d silently watch their loved ones choose to spend eternity separated from God.

All Things

Two months ago I spent five horrible days in the hospital.  During my stay I added a gastroenterologist to my collection of physicians, and after my release my FP referred me to a surgeon.

It was surprising, a week later, to get a phone call from a GI’s office that I’d never heard of asking if I was ready to schedule my appointment.  Surprising and frustrating.  My FP is great, but about a year ago a new staff person was hired who never seems to get anything right.  That’s the person who was at the front desk when the doctor gave me my referral, so I wondered if I was really supposed to see a second GI in addition to the surgeon, or if she’d made another mistake.

She made a mistake.  Somehow the paperwork for the referral was sent to the other GI in town, instead of to the surgeon.  They fixed the problem.*

Oddly enough, my GI did want me to see a different GI for a special procedure – not someone local, though.  Trying to be seen was a horrible ordeal that I’ve ranted about endlessly on my other blog and won’t go into here.  Finally, one Monday morning I  phoned my FP’s office and explained the pain eating, the no response from the place I’d been referred, no follow-up from my GI, and asked if there was any way they could get me in to see someone else.  I’d called around to five other GI’s offices and found someone who could do the procedure.  My FP was happy to write a referral.  I didn’t even need an appointment.**

I was told to wait a day before calling to give them time to do all the paperwork.  I waited two days.  When I phoned on Wednesday morning, the receptionist couldn’t find the referral.  She did, however, find all my information already entered in their computer.  “If you’re in the computer, your paperwork is here somewhere” she told me, and promptly scheduled my appointment for the next day.

She was wrong.  It turns out that my referral didn’t arrive until the following day.  It arrived in the doctor’s office about an hour before I arrived for my appointment.  The mistake – the referral that had accidentally been sent the wrong place a few weeks earlier – is what got my information into their computer system.  That mistake made it so that I got a quicker appointment.  If that hadn’t happened, it would have been Thursday before they would make an appointment, and the middle of the next week before I was seen.***

A mistake was made, but it turned out that mistake helped me in the long run.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

When things aren’t going so well, it’s nice for little reminders that God has everything under control.

_____
*It’s funny, because I figure something like that is just a clerical error and will be taken care of in the front office without bothering the doctor. Someone told him about it, though, and at my next appointment he apologized for the mistake. Wow.

**I expected to need an appointment for this.  I don’t expect my doctor to do all the work of writing a referral, faxing reports, and sifting through letters from consultants without being paid for his work.

***They only had that one slot available on Thursday – the appointment I was given.  The next opening was well into the following week.