Saturday, March 30, 2013

Work, Family, and Anti-feminists

A dear friend of mine recently forwarded an article to me, published at Concerned Women for America by Penny Nance. The piece posits that women finding work/family balance is a harmful, "feminist" myth. Nance, along with every evangelical anti-feminist that I've read, makes some fundamental errors in fact and logic.

First, she takes an example of feminism used negatively/out of balance (Betty Friedan in this case) and applies that brand to all who identify as feminist. This mistake is incredibly common, and I don't know why- a cursory examination of feminism and its history tells us nothing if not that we're a diverse group. Whether you recognize distinct waves or not, the likes of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan really shouldn't be held up as examples of feminist behavior when there are Susan B Anthonys, Elizabeth Cady Stantons, Sheryl Sandbergs, and more who came before and after them. There are many, many evangelical Christian feminists of both genders who do not denigrate stay-at-home parenthood, who recognize the beauty of both genders working together, and who do not promote women by belittling men.

Second, Ms. Nance assumes that feminism, as a whole, is about shaming mothers who stay at home with their kids. This is patently false- feminism is not that at all. Feminism is about two things- equality (not to be confused with sameness) and choice. Feminism rejects the idea (apart from childbearing and upper body strength) that men are "better" at some things, or were designed for "leadership roles" where women were not. Feminism is about parents being able to choose their work/family balance, not about forcing any one situation on the society at large.

According to Nance, the question that differentiates feminists from "conservative women" (she has not, apparently, met many politically conservative Christian feminists) is this: Is professional and financial ultra-success ultimately more important to women than their kids?”
Ms. Nance assumes that conservative women, but not liberal women, would instinctively answer "no" to this question. I can't think why- feminists, many of them, are mothers too. We put our families ahead of our jobs too.

Ms. Nance quotes older women who say that "we can have it all" is a myth. To a degree, modern feminists like myself would agree with her. But unlike Nance and her cohorts, modern women know that we can have careers and motherhood- just not all in, all by ourselves, all the time.

"For as much as they talk of “liberation,” many feminists want to impose their own set of burdensome standards on women as to how they should think and act. They don’t want to admit that stay-at-home moms are fulfilled by devoting their attention to their households. Others, like me, find contentment in sacrificing some family time in order to work toward leaving a sound nation behind for our children.

Whatever mixture women end up choosing, they have the potential of finding satisfaction and contentment in their unique blend of callings. The point is that telling individual mothers what’s best for them based on some preconceived formula will not suit everyone, and will be doomed to limit and ultimately disappoint a huge proportion of women."

Need I point out that it is a fallacy to assume that all women will be fulfilled as stay-at-home moms, or that it contradicts her point in the next paragraph? Need I further point out that, as Nance blasts feminists for imposing their "burdensome standards" on women, she is imposing her own? Why must she justify some time away from her family as a national good?

The second paragraph above I agree with, but I find it odd in context with the rest of the piece. It's actually very good. If this paragraph stood alone, I would've enjoyed reading this article immensely.

The third mistake, and by far the most critical, is the gendering of the home/work balance question. Fathers struggle with this balance too! It is just as bad for a family to have a father that is always working/not present and involved as it is for the mother to be thus absent. Fathers miss their children and feel the tension between wanting to provide well, be personally successful, and have rich family lives too. If you ask my husband what his most important title is, he won't say "Contract Manager" or "Technical Expert"- he'll say "Dad", every time. The solution to the tension between work and home is, I think, for both parents to share those duties. Spouses should have each other's back when it comes to child care, education, and housework. Kids don't need Mommy all the time- they need a parent. And if Mommy and Daddy can both have flexibility in their jobs and responsibility in the home, then everyone can have that rich family life, that personal fulfillment, and that provision. Family will always involve sacrifice, for either gender.

To me, the single most important thing we can do as feminists to maintain a healthy home/work balance (assuming we want a family) is to marry men who want that balance and are willing to partner with us to achieve it. A true partner is a feminist's best friend.


Awesome non-word of the day:

Apocryphreaky - "Of, like, or pertaining to the act of delving at the phrynges of orthodoxy, at times resulting in uneasiness or awkwardness for others"
-David Baker

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

And Can It Be

I love hymns. Well, good ones, anyway. I love the music, and I love the rich theology and prayers contained in them. One of my favorites is, having to do with the theology of Salvation and Grace, is And Can It Be. (UMH 363)

1. And can it be that I should gain 
an interest in the Savior's blood! 
Died he for me? who caused his pain! 
For me? who him to death pursued? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 

2. 'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies! 
Who can explore his strange design? 
In vain the firstborn seraph tries 
to sound the depths of love divine. 
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; 
let angel minds inquire no more. 
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; 
let angel minds inquire no more. 

3. He left his Father's throne above 
(so free, so infinite his grace!), 
emptied himself of all but love, 
and bled for Adam's helpless race. 
'Tis mercy all, immense and free, 
for O my God, it found out me! 
'Tis mercy all, immense and free, 
for O my God, it found out me! 

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay, 
fast bound in sin and nature's night; 
thine eye diffused a quickening ray; 
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; 
my chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed thee. 
My chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed thee. 

5. No condemnation now I dread; 
Jesus, and all in him, is mine; 
alive in him, my living Head, 
and clothed in righteousness divine, 
bold I approach th' eternal throne, 
and claim the crown, through Christ my own. 
Bold I approach th' eternal throne, 
and claim the crown, through Christ my own. 

Such powerful words here! Because Jesus emptied Himself of all but love, we dread no condemnation, and can approach the throne of Grace boldy. His Grace is so free, and so infinite, that even the angels cannot understand its depths. Truly, 'tis mercy all.


 "I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations.
For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds." Psa 57:9, 10

"Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun." Ecc 11:7

I have been reflecting lately on the many blessings and mercies I have and for which I am profoundly thankful. The one most on my mind is my family, my husband and children, and the joy and love they bring to my life. I have two sweet little boys who are always writing me notes that say "I love you mommy" and leaving them for me, who request snuggles, who run to pick me flowers the minute I let them outside, and who squeal with delight when I return home after even a short absence. I have a darling, dimpled baby whose face lights up when he sees me, who giggles and blows bubbles at me ad infinitum, and who cries when I leave. I have a husband who always welcomes me, who is visibly relaxed and comforted by my presence, who trusts me and shares his heart and life with me, and who never starts his day without a kiss and kind word to his wife. I am blessed, indeed! With all these, and the blessed security of my faith, I feel rather silly worrying about the future, or jobs, or finances, or minor crises that are ever-present. With these, I am rich in a way that no money, success, or earthly resources can replicate or destroy.

Prevenient Grace and the Solas

Husband and I are learning a lot about Methodist tradition and theology lately, since our family recently joined the United Methodist church, and we're loving every bit of this process. I love the fact that some of my favorite parts of the Wesleyan theological tradition are so compatible, and even complementary, with those parts of Reformed theology that I cherish. Take, for example, the Wesleyan understanding of Grace. Grace, in this tradition, comes in three principal varieties- Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying. Prevenient grace is, to me, a beautiful balance of Divine involvement and free will, and is very compatible with my understanding of the foreknowledge of God. (as opposed to Predestination; it may seem at times like a semantic argument, but the existence of free will is essential to a God-glorifying choice in both corporeal behavior and in the invitation to Divine relationship; therefore, I cannot claim a belief in Predestination.)

Then there are the five Solas, which are the principal parts of reformed theology which I hold especially dear. The five Solas are, in English:

In Christ alone
By grace alone
Through faith alone
By the scripture alone
Glory to God alone

These five are by no means exclusive to a Calvinist view of the gospel, scripture, salvation, or systematic theology. Divine relationship with Christ is an essential element of salvation, and we need nothing but that relationship for our salvation. That salvation is by the unmerited favor, liberally bestowed on whosoever will, by our Creator. We have it through our faith in our savior, not through any work of ours, and it cannot be earned or lost by any action we might accomplish. We need no priest or other person to spoon-feed us the Truth of scripture; scripture itself is accessible to all and is the only Word of God given with Divine authority and inspiration. While this Truth is divine, any one man's interpretation is not. While the Christian life and faith is a communal one, our imitation of Christ and our obedience to Him is our responsibility and ours alone.

I do not need to believe in Limited Atonement to believe that the power of Christ's blood shed for us is without limit, either in scope or in efficacy. It is possible for the Creator and Sustainer of all to give us a choice; a choice to accept the gifts God offers us or a choice to reject that faith and relationship. Because a giver offers a gift freely does not mean that its rejection by the recipient renders the giver impotent. It is possible to have the power to sway human choice, and yet disdain to use it.

I do not need to believe in Total Depravity to recognize my need for a Savior and my dependence upon Christ. I believe that there must exist some ability to hunger for Divine Relationship, and to choose it, even before we are made new in Christ. Otherwise regeneration happens at divine agency alone; we have no part in this initial phase of sanctification, nor are we capable of choosing it. I firmly believe that the path to Divine Relationship is a voluntary one, taken from love and the recognition of overwhelming love, and not a forced march or a sedated journey in an ambulance. I believe, too, that while we are tainted and flawed in our human condition, we still touch God's heart. We still bear God's image. Scripture teaches us that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father's knowledge; are not we, all, more valuable than a sparrow to our Creator? God sees, and God cares, and God interacts with us in Grace. Whether we place our faith in Him or choose to reject the relationship that would redeem us, we are still of value and worth as His creation. No, not all will come to the saving knowledge of Christ. But whosoever will, can.

Plead we thus for faith alone,
Faith which by our works is shown;
God it is who justifies,
Only faith the grace applies,
Active faith that lives within,
Conquers earth, and hell, and sin,
Sanctifies, and makes us whole,
Forms the Saviour in the soul.
(Charles Wesley)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


"Eight issues that do not make or break Christianity"

This is an excellent post. To these I would add our position on homosexuality, marriage, birth control, and many, many more.

As our pastor said on Sunday, in a approximation of a John Wesley quote: On the essentials let us agree, but let us agree to disagree on the rest. The definition of essentials will vary, of course, but I would venture to say that a shorter list of "essentials" is better, in my opinion. The more something is an "essential tenet of faith", the more difficult it is to evaluate it objectively.

Half Notes

I was trying to instill the concept of a half note's getting two beats, (not one, nor three) into a student's comprehension during a lesson and I almost started in with "2 shall be the number of the counting, and the number of the counting shall be 2. Only 2 shall ye count. Ye shall not count three, nor shall ye count one, excepting that ye then proceed to two. Four shall ye not count, and five is right out."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stuff My Kids Like

1. Mr. 6-yr-old's lego WallEs

2. Star Wars toothbrushes
(Yes, those are light-up toothbrushes that look like lightsabers.)

3. The Explorer bible
Mr. 6-yr-old likes this even better than the Action Bible, and that is high praise indeed.
It was a gift from his Grandma, and he treasures it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ring

I wear two rings- three, if you count the wedding/engagement rings that are now soldered together as two rings. The Ring that is not wedding related is a garnet ring with a simple gold setting.
As it happens, my four year old is fascinated with ”mamma's gold ring.” I have no idea why, but he is.
So, today we were sitting the couch and he was looking at it. Unbidden, he very solemnly asked me if he could have it. Why, I asked? Because, he said, I want to give it to the mommy that I marry someday. She would like it. I told him that yes, he could have it someday for such a purpose. He was quite excited.
That ring has a story to it- a story involving two brothers who saved their yard mowing money for a summer to buy their older sister a ring she liked. So, while it is worth little monetarily, it is quite valuable to me sentimentally. Still, I can think of no nicer end for it. :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Daughters in Law

I've been thinking, lately, about the sort of woman I hope my sons will marry someday. It's a little early, I know; my oldest is all of six. But, you, know, be prepared, know thine enemy, etc. (tongue in cheek there!)
While I'm well aware that I won't have any say in the person they marry, nor truth be told would I wish one, I will have a great deal of say in the sort of women they grow up hearing about, seeing, and hopefully one day searching for. I have a list, a very short list, of qualities that I hope they prioritize; not over faith or personal integrity, because I would hope those would be a given, but qualities that in some circles might not be as universal or intuitive as they should be. If given the chance, I'd advise my sons to look for:

1. A woman who loves;
Unselfish, gentle, kind, fierce, strong, tenacious love. Who shows empathy and compassion, bravery and honor.

2. A woman who thinks;
Who uses her brain, who is good friends with logic and reason, who reads.

3. A woman who won't ”play” them. Ever.
Who thinks ”manipulate” is a dirty word, and who thinks that the closer a relationship is, the more crucial is a commitment to open, honest, uncomfortable, vulnerable communication. Who can confront graciously and boldly and be confronted.

4. A woman who is big enough to admit it when she's wrong;
Who doesn't find her identity in a pedestal of perfection, who knows that she and others are imperfect and human and in need of truthful grace.

5. A woman who is independent;
Who wants them more than she needs them, who could survive, financially and emotionally, without them, who values the riches of personal responsibility, who faces life with them as a team but who neither needs nor wants to be controlled or coddled.

As I ponder the things I want to teach my sons to value and to search for, I feel very challenged- because, of course, it would be unfair to hold my future daughters to a standard that I cannot meet myself. Also, if my sons are to value those qualities, they should see them reflected in me, their first female influence. Some of these are definitely easier than others for my personality; I'd say gentleness, compassion, and empathy with others don't come as naturally to me, nor do meekness or unselfishness. I have my work cut out for me, indeed! Do I ever....

And lest you think my standards for women are impossibly high, it really boils down to this: I want my sons to marry an emotionally and spiritually healthy, thinking woman of personal integrity, responsibility, and loving, intimate, relational faith. Yes...... That's all. :) The women my sons marry need not be beautiful, it even a perfect specimen of physical health. They need not have a certain amount of education, or be intellectually brilliant. They need not be wealthy, have a glamorous career, polished manners, or dazzling social skills. They need not want children, know how to cook or ”manage a home”, be a spotless housekeeper, or be conversant in the ”womanly arts” like sewing, knitting, et c. They need not be smart or musical, though I'd love it if they were. No- all of those things are good, but most of them can be attained by study, practice,  or hiring good people. :) With a deep and personal faith, integrity, love, and love of logical thought, anything else is either gravy, as they say, or can be added later.


From the facebook status of Mark O'Connor, one of my favorite violinists:

I have gotten a lot of messages in the inbox and I am going to share this one: 

"I am an adult, advanced cellist. I am a cello performance major at Cal. State U. Northridge, classically trained. I love what you do. My problem is that I have not "fiddled" around enough on my cello. I am wedded to the written page. I have been working at improvising, using my ear, trying to break out of my classical box for about three years already and am making slow progress. Can you help me?"

Let me say, you have a LOT of company. Firstly... the ear training that string players "thought" they got as a child, is not ear training. Suzuki promised this to the student, and even traditional training has adopted this belief over the last couple generations now because of Suzuki's influence. If you ever learned something by ear as a young student, and you were in the current classical system of the last 50 years, it wasn't learning by ear, it was simply visual mimicking of either your teacher's fingering through repetition, or following your teacher's hand signals, or written symbols marking what finger to use. This is not ear training, it is learning music by a visual stimulus. Secondly, memorization for children is problematic. That is one of the biggest problems in our last couple generations of students, is that they are memorizing to the test. Memorization, the kind that Suzuki uses and other studios were influenced by consequently, is not ear training. Memorization utilizes sequential information and is related to remembering fingerings, patterns and finger sequences. It is a different brain path. In my own playing, when I use my auditory skills as a creative musician for playing or memorization, I imagine melody, harmony and rhythm and whatever I am supposed to play at once -whether it is worked out or not. It is why I can play my written concerto, have a memory lapse and make up some new notes instantaneously because I already knew what the harmonic and rhythmic context of it was. It is thinking through a different pathway. These problems in classical music learning have been accentuated by such early starts on the instruments over the last 50 years to where this particular "wiring" has been introduced so early in the child's brain development, that it is nearly impossible for an accomplished string player (such as yourself it sounds like) to undo.

What to do. There is no teacher that is going to undo this for you at this point, you will need what I call a cultural intervention. That could include learning an entirely different instrument creatively. For you I would actually suggest the fiddle since you are a cellist! Or the guitar, or mandolin. The other thing I would do, is to either go to weekly jam sessions with welcoming amateur players or actually join a rock or pop band or acoustic jamming ensemble and just make up everything you play and let the guitar, bass and keyboard player give you tips gradually over time. That is the best bet for an advanced classical musician at this point. It can work. Academic lessons in jazz, altered scales or theory will just waste your time as an adult, advanced player because academically you will approach it just like your classical wiring will allow you, and it won't be applicable. It is better for you to find the culture through the things I have mentioned! And please visit me at one of my seminars or camps one day soon!
I really like this. Honestly, it's far, far easier to teach music reading than improv ability. You can learn a degree of basic improv through theory, chord recognition, memorized patterns that can be played over a variety of meters, etc. This is how I've always taught music-dependent adult pianists to ”jam.” This is accessible to anyone, regardless of innate musical ability, because it is at its core the memorization and implementation of patterns and mnemonics. With some students, we go a step further- they will learn to hear, not just a note, but other notes that harmonize with it, or hear a melody and harmonize it logically/creatively in their head. Those that "have the ear" will take things, put their creative spin on them, and make something beautifully their own. Others will become competent enough to, say, play for a worship band, but they are more implementing patterns and harmonic habits than creating something clever and delightful.

All of my students learn to read music, and all of them are required to "practice" improvisation regularly. We practice, teach, and learn, but I must say I don't think the sort of creative thinking that allows us to improvise notes in a concerto based on harmonic and rhythmic context is taught that way- I've always believed it was more innate than learned. Therefore, I find Mr. O'Connor's perspective very interesting. Is this ability innate, or are we simply teaching it incorrectly? I think my experience affirms the former, but I wonder sometimes. Nature, or nurture? Either way, I like it. Improvising/composing have been natural to me since I was very small, and I don't think anyone ever "taught" me how, so it's been a fun journey as a teacher learning how to teach those for whom it does not come as naturally to "speak" that musical dialect.

In my opinion, there are too few musicians who can operate from sheet music, a chord sheet, or their own head with equal fluency. My goal is to foster this fluency in all my students, but I must say, some adapt to/become fluent in all the above with much greater ease than others. That nature is at least somewhat the culprit is clear; but if there is a way to narrow the gap I'd very much like to find it. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I love, love, love the music I'm hearing from my Pandora station playing on the Roku right now. In the last hour I've heard selections from Michael Card's Brother To Brother, In Christ Alone, Before the Throne of God Above, and some other really beautiful, uplifting pieces of music. If only all Christian music were so sound, so stirring, and so well done!

If you know me you probably saw the title and thought this was going to be a rant about the Greek view of gender and its effect on conservative evangelical theology. ;) No such luck...... just music on the interwebs.


Husband and I homeschool our boys, ages 6, 4, and 8 months. 

We used Abeka K and 1st grade workbooks (except for phonics- I've done my own thing there) with Mr. 6, and we're doing the same with Mr. 4. Mr. 6 will start second grade this summer. I don't care for some aspects of Abeka in general, (racial/gender stereotypes out the wazoo, outdated scientific info, et c.) but we'll probably continue to use them for now. 

The main reason for this is that, since we only have the workbooks, Husband and I teach concepts as we choose and use the workbooks as a guide for what the kids should be able to easily do. We explain and teach concepts ourselves, and then the kids do the exercises from the workbooks. I like how things are going so far- for instance, we are able to teach concepts of Newtonian physics with qualifiers, and as "this is the short version/approximation; you'll get the rest when it comes up/you want to learn it" and thus avoid having to contradict ourselves later. Also, we teach some concepts "out of order" (before they're required to know them in order to complete their work) because I want them to have a sense of logical progression in what they're learning; I really can't think of a concept that is "too big for young minds," as long as it is broken down into a simple, basic explanation. I've also avoided teaching "sight words" with the exception of "rule exceptions" such as "said" or "eight," instead progressing phonetically through reading. I think the boys, particularly Mr. 4, have taken a bit more time learning to read because of this, but once they know it they've got it. Mr. 6 is reading the Hobbit unabridged, and loving it. I started them both at 3 with letters and sounds, started really working on reading/phonics at 4, and they are both on track to have begun to read quite fluently before 5. I've wondered if it's a mistake to give in to their pleading and start them so early, but they seem to love it, so I think we're ok for now.

I'm curious to see how all this will affect their learning/learning styles later. At this time, we don't intend to homeschool all the way through. Husband and I were both homeschooled, and we both had primarily positive experiences with it. However, we both had gaps to fill in college/adulthood, though not in any critical areas. I would like to avoid gaps with my kids as much as possible, but I'm very fallible, and it may happen. For now, I'm 1.Researching what kids in their grade should know according to US Ed standards, and 2.Trying to teach them how to learn and how to think. We're not even grading them at this point- because, for now, who cares? I want them to know and to think and to do, not to worry about grading, measuring,or "good enough." 
Really, being able to self-teach and work out logical progressions and evaluations for themselves is the one main educational goal of our homeschooling- because even if there are gaps, those skills will allow the boys to fill them.
So- for now, there are no grades, but there are workbooks completed, books read, field trips taken, innumerable "why"questions explored together, and lots of long conversations about gravity, cookies, vacuums, motion, mass, rhythm, bedtime, teeth, puppies, piano, soccer, Jesus, Sunday school, analogies, Ezekiel, get the picture. 
It's a little scary, really- until school happens, these little guys are utterly dependent on us for a decent education. I hope and pray we can give them what they need, and foster a love of learning, searching, experimenting, and exploring in the process.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Husband and I were talking about arguing and being willing to be proven wrong, and I have just this to say: I do not find my identity in having beliefs or "standards" that never change. I find my identity in searching for Truth, and in being willing to go where logic and reason and the Holy Spirit take me. Therefore, I am not emotionally invested in my beliefs being right, and if you can prove me wrong- bravo! Cheers! I'd rather change than be wrong. :) With one exception- I am very crystallized in my belief in the the deity of Christ and the Truth (actual or factual, literal or not- concept vs nuanced interpretation; whatever) and Inspiration of Scripture. I tend to get emotionally invested in those issues/discussions because I have a lot to lose; if I'm not right about those two most basic elements of my faith, my entire paradigm/worldview falls apart. Is this a fault, an inconsistency, or a logical and rational line to draw? I don't know. But it's where I'm at now. Here's what I think- if we view everything as the thing on which the faith hinges, then we are unable to examine, logically, biblically, and without bias, any doctrine, tenant of faith, or social issue. But if most issues really are not issues which must remain static if our faith is not to crumble into nothingness, then we can examine those issues honestly, and with a willingness to question, probe, and test. We can search, and enjoy the searching, because we have little to lose. We may not change- or we may. Finding Truth and growing closer to our Lord should always take precedence over being able to boast in our unchanging convictions, or on the other hand being able to side with a comfortable or popular position. Personally, I want my identity to be in my relationship to my Lord and in imitating Him, not in a particular belief, doctrine, or position.