The S-word.

First of all, let me apologize for not posting so consistently, my problem is partly not having access to a computer as much.

But today I figure I need to post, so let’s talk.

Yesterday I had a unique experience, I went to teen bible study that talked about 1Peter 3. A little context, on that chapter, it’s about submission, honoring your wife, faith, and Jesus’ victory over hell and the devil.

Where do you start?

But of all the subjects that are controversial in a youth group, or in church period, or in any culture ever, submission is one of the top 3 or 4.

Now you all know my stance on feminism, and it’s no surprise then that I don’t view submission as a bad thing, but…I confess I haven’t liked the idea in the past, and I’m still growing into it now.

My problem with submission goes back farther than I even can remember; and it’s the same for many women. But it always, always is about not trusting men.

Most girls who have no initial problem with submitting to men have had good male relationships in their lives, and like a lot of girls, I haven’t. Partly because my contact with guys has been extremely limited living at home with my mom and no brothers, and only male in the house, my dad.

Despite my trouble with submission, I have stood up for it in the past, and still will; because it’s in the Bible, and God commands it, and for me that has to come first, before my issues, my mistrust, and my fears.

And fears are a big part of this. I don’t care how strong she seems, any woman who hates men and hates submission is afraid, deep, deep, down; and she is afraid of being found out.

Many women have been abused, physically and emotionally. Nearly all of us have been yelled at, manipulated, misunderstood, or mocked, by men. I won’t say it doesn’t hurt me when men act like women’s feelings are too much to handle or not worthy of respect, and then they mock things we are interested in.

But… that’s not every man. There’s a good portion of nice, sensitive guys, or strong and brave ones, hopefully a mixture of both, who are out there, and they treat women with respect. It’s a rare breed of men who would meet my standard of Uncommon (hence the term) but there are plenty who aren’t bad guys, and don’t deserve the sort of disgust and contempt they are often treated with.

And for the record, there are not many women who are what I would call a real woman, either. It’s rare for both genders nowadays to really be what they are. But I’ve talked about this before, so let’s get back to the subject of submission.

Like I said, women are afraid. That chapter we studied, 1 Peter 3, actually is one of the only passages in the bile to address that issue as the root of our struggles. It’s a big problem for men too, but women have a different sort of fear then men, and it’s harder to pin point, which is probably why it’s not talked about enough.

But in a nutshell, we are afraid of rejection, just like anyone, and also of not being enough; and if we’ve been hurt before, we are afraid that if we are hurt again it will break us.

So we tend to harden our hearts to avoid this, and we resist authority, or if we are not the type to do that, we resist love. Or maybe we hide instead, a lot depends on the personality, but the root of it all is fear.

I have been afraid, but unwilling to show it, so I would be belligerent instead. I’d put  up a fight over something not that important because something important had not been fought for a long time ago, and I was upset about that.

But the thing was, God never said you can get out of submission if you’ve been burned, on the contrary, it’s even more important then, and here’s why:

It’s easy to submit when you’ve never been deeply hurt, but it takes a very tough woman to submit when she has been hurt, and even more so if she knows she will be hurt again, whether she submits or not. (By submitting I do not mean submitting to being hurt on purpose, only to the possibility of it, which is very different.)

Doing the right thing is always harder at first than doing the wrong thing, but this rebellion against men has hardly helped our case anyway, and it’s destroyed many relationships. Sometimes you have to do the right thing and trust that God will take care of you no matter what.

And that’s a difficult thing to do, but so, so necessary if you want to heal. I know personally.

A word to the men: I just want you to keep in mind that girls need understanding. We aren’t taught about this sort of thing, and it’s left a lot of us feeling clueless about how to treat the men in our lives. Also, men need help with this too, it’s not just about girl power, it’s about man power too. I personally regret that guys get so overlooked on this front and they deserve respect just as much as girls do,.

But we need to keep in mind that it takes a lot less to upset a girl than a guy, usually; and so all of us need to watch what we say to and about people of the opposite sex. Also, though not always, it’s our actions that say the most to men about how we feel around them. And how we interpret their actions.

But since I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, I wont’ say anything about that, it’s just a general rule in any relationship.

Some final advice:

Men, don’t be afraid to invest in the women around you. Even if they misinterpret it, even if they hate you for it, and even if you have no clue what you’re doing, you’ll get better. And please, do not take any crud from girls just because they are girls. Stand up for yourself, but do it in the right way.

Women, don’t be afraid of every man just because you have been hurt. Don’t date anyone you can’t trust (a general rule actually) and don’t marry anyone who doesn’t treat the women in his life well. But also, don’t put down men just because they fail. We all fail. Most of us don’t really now what we’re doing. We need to accept that and be willing to forgive.

But even more so if a man (or woman) has been cruel to you, and especially if he or she has done it on purpose, the strongest thing you can do is let it go. It only gives them power over you if you let what they did ruin the rest of your life. And this goes for any relationship.

Now, read my advice to each gender and flip it around to apply to the opposite, because the truth is, we all struggle with the same stuff, in different ways.

Okay, I’ll stop this here, until next time–Natasha.

National Women’s Day.

A while ago, the women here in America celebrated this “holiday” by boycotting work and going on marches.

And I didn’t even know there was a national holiday dedicated to women.

Of course, I didn’t celebrate, but I got to thinking, maybe a day to celebrate being a woman isn’t such a bad idea. Or a day to celebrate being a man.

But I’d do it a bit differently.

I think celebrating womanhood should look less like one big hate letter to the male population and more like one big love letter to the people around us.

On that day, a woman would make it a point to either dress up or dress down, depending on what makes her feel more comfortable with herself. (Personally, dressing up does that for me.) She’d either do her make up or not do it, whichever makes her feel confident and pretty.

A woman would spend the day, not protesting that she was a victim, but taking control of her time and spending it doing things that she feels really matter. Which could be hanging out with her kids, cleaning up a park, volunteering for a charitable organization, or visiting her family, or going out with her other female friends for a girls day.

Then she should do something fun, like go on a date, or if she’s single, do one of her favorite things.

The perfect day would include the kinds of talks that women love to have, and the kind of peace that they love feeling when they feel loved and cherished.

A strong woman does not need a man’s permission to be feminine; she would celebrate whether anyone else did or not.

I’d put hearing my favorite songs; eating assorted chocolates; watching a good movie or reading a god book; and hanging out with people I care about in a relaxing place; all on my list of things that make up a perfect day. Not to mention feeling close to God.

How men would treat women on this day would just be to say the things they should say all the time. To admit that they need women in their lives. And to be equally proud to be men.

Because when both men and women are glad to be what they are, it’s an irresistable combination. People like to see it.

Which is not to say all the problems between men and women would be fixed in one day, or even that everyone would celebrate. But the point is, if you will celebrate, really celebrate.

I just don’t see the joy in ranting and raving about injustice on the one day you get to be celebrated on. Which goes for any holiday. Who celebrates Christmas by protesting all the people who don’t get of give gifts? Or don’t go to church, or don’t celebrate at all, no one does that. (If they do I feel sorry for them.) What people do instead is they give to someone who has nothing, or they invite someone to go with them, and take someone in.

Celebration is about joy, and sharing that joy with other people. There will always be those who’d rather be miserable and gloomy, or who will focus on the wrong thing. but no one should pay them any mind except to help them.

That’s what I’d call celebrating my womanhood.

If nothing else, just taking a minute to be glad for what you have is celebration. We have so much in America, and if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got a lot more in your hands than many people will ever get to see in their lifetime.

Let’s not complain so much.

Until next post–Natasha.

Crossed wires.

“Though I may speak, some tongue of old; or even spit out some holy word;  I have no strength, with which to speak; when you sit me down and see I’m weak.”

These are the opening lyrics to a song from Brave, “Learn me right.” (Yes, it inspired the titles of my last two posts.)

It took me a while to even like this song, but I realized eventually that it was a description of how I felt about myself.

You see, like many Christians, I believe that God endows us with some of His power. (My faith gives me strength in other words.)

Like the song says, as much as I could quote the Bible or pray or even speak another language, (I actually speak three,) I lost it when it came to speaking up for myself.

I have no problem standing up for other people. I actually can be reckless in doing so and get myself into trouble; and I have no problem defending myself when I have done nothing wrong, but when it comes to explaining myself, there I have a problem.

A reoccurring scene in my life is one of having an older person take me aside, with one or two other adults, and explain to me how I’ve offended them with my behavior. (I have talked about this before, but I don’t remember how many people read that post, so I’m retelling it.) This has not happened recently…exactly, but it has happened a lot.

Anyway, once I realize what’s happening–again– I start to feel nervous, I freeze up. I have a hard time speaking.

I came to see that this bothers me so much because I feel weak. I can’t defend myself, and there is no one there to defend me. I also feel exposed, and not by my own choice.

I get angry very quickly when this happens, and though I don’t feel angry at the time, the feeling comes later. I can’t believe how I’ve been humiliated. And let me tell you, I’ve had some mortifying things said to me.

Honestly, when you don’t speak, people take that as an invitation to keep explaining your problem until you want to scream. Though I know I have done this to others too, so I can’t judge.

What has always insulted me the most is that people go behind my back and appeal to someone who has the authority to threaten me, punish me, and make me miserable at home; instead of coming to me first.

I know they meant well, but that is not the same as doing well.

I’ve been around the block now myself, I’ve been in a position of authority and had children misbehave and disrespect me. It is very annoying. A lot of the time it is also unintentional.

I can’t say I always handle it right either, but I do try to go directly tot he person who I have a problem with, and then to an authority if and only if that fails. you know what’s ironic though? Often the authority I go do doesn’t actually fix the problem by backing me up; they often throw it back on me.

I’m not saying all this to vent. I’ll bet you’ve had similar experiences.

But let’s talk about the most painful part, being misunderstood.

“I’m misunderstood,” can be used as an excuse nowadays. When it is used in that way, it’s probably not true. You may be perfectly understood to be a brat, or a wimp.

But, often the claim is made in frustration. Someone may have tried and tried to get their point across and found it was like they were speaking gibberish to the other party. That’s legitimate pain, and it’s happened all through history as well as our private lives.

If you’re like me, your personality may be so unconventional that people don’t know what box to put you into and so misunderstand your words, tones, and actions often. And sometimes, I actually deserve to be reprimanded, I’m not faultless.

Or you could be misunderstood because of crossed wires due to someone else’s accidental or sometimes intentional interference. That hurts a lot and you have my sympathies if that’s you.

Or, you like completely different things from the people around you and they think you’re a freak, or at the very least an oddball and they can’t connect with you.

whichever of these you are or have been, you’ve probably asked, along with me, what’s the solution?

Well, what’s not, is to do what a later verse of the song describes:

“So I had done wrong, to prove (put?) me right, my judgement burned in the black of night. When I gave less than I take, it is my fault, my own mistake.”

Two wrongs do not make a right. The worst thing for any of us to do would be to react poorly. Don’t retaliate. Don’t send a hate email or whatever. Don’t blast the person in question to you friends on social media.

Don’t judge too harshly,  remember the chances are you will do the same thing, we all have misunderstandings.

Also, and this is hard for me, don’t be afraid to look in the mirror. Make sure you were giving it your best effort, otherwise perhaps some of the criticisms or miscommunication is your own doing.

Give more than you take. Then, at the very least, you’ll be able to look back and say “I did my best, and I put the most effort into making this work. It was not for lack of trying.”

It rarely happens that the situation has changed drastically for me, but I have changed. I’ve gotten tougher, but also more willing to apologize, even if I believe I was in the right.

I’m still working on the right way to stand up for myself, but nine out of ten times, peace is better.

“We will run and scream, you will dance with me, we’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free. We will be who we are, and now heal our scars, and this will be far away.”

–Natasha.

 

Learn me right–2

So, as I said at the end of y last post, no one can make you stop caring except you.

But what do teens care about? Is it really video games, and dating, and drugs, and pop starts.

Well, most of us do care about at least three of those, and often too much. But I think we choose to zero in on those things for a few specific reasons.

  1. We don’t listen to our parents.

I’m serious. Just about every parent I know thinks kids should not spend an excessive amount of time playing with a little screen in their hand. My parents would have never let me date till I was a reasonable age, which is not 13 or 14, like a lot of kids start now. And parents also disapprove of a lot of music and the behaviors of many celebrities.

If teens listened to their parents on this, being obsessed with that stuff would at least be harder, or more in check, then just having free reign over their choices.

2. Nobody stops us.

A lot of us are just dying for someone to keep us more in line, but we often end up being the more strong willed person in our interactions with authority figures. (Thanks due in part to the many unnecessary law suits over disciplinary actions.)

3. Perhaps most importantly, we aren’t given a reason to look beyond what’s right in front of us.

It really saddens me to think that by the time I have kids of my own, things like books, and manual driven cars may be close to being extinct. I miss letter writing or even email being a thing. And I miss people taking notes on real note paper instead of on an app on their electronic device.

Technology has its uses, the problem is we have this immense amount of power when it comes to information, yet we are not taught how to use it responsibly.

For my money, the experience of going on a field trip yourself beats any instructional video you can find on the internet. There’s no movie you can watch that make you actually be there, be breathing n a different culture or place. And nothing you see on a screen exercises your imagination like reading a page of  a book.

It’s fine to use a computer for things that aren’t super important, and won’t shape your character in a large way; but when that becomes our main mode of interaction, we fail to see anything beyond that.

I’m sure this is nothing you haven’t heard before, but though we talk about it, what do we do about it?

May young people who have ideals do not reach for them simply because they don’t know how. If fact, our technology may be the most contact we can have with something bigger than our own lives, which is very sad, but all too often the case. This is nothing new, teens have wanted to be part of something greater than their world for ages. Whether it was getting out of a small town or getting out of the city, or getting out of their country; they wanted more.

It’s my firm belief that we were all meant to have more. Way back in Genesis, God placed man and woman in a garden, but He told them to fill the earth and subdue it.

Think about that for a moment. A garden is a wonderful place, I’d gladly live there, but I would not stay there, and neither would you. A garden is a place to rest in and nurture, but we all want to expand, and we all want to go out and conqueor challenges. We are meant to.

I’d like to quote two characters from that old-ish show Kim Possible.

Both of them have something to say to this subject. The first one, Shego, my personal favorite, really won me over when she replied to her boss’s condescending suggestion that she spend more time on the internet “No thank you, I have a life.”

I cheered.

The other, Kim herself, once was summing up her accomplishments, and on top of saving the world, she added “And looked Josh Mankey straight in the eye.”

I thin Kim has a point here, not every thing has to be big and fame worthy to be important to you. And Shego at least understands that internet subsistence will leave you starving for real things.

Actually one of Shego’s better traits is to do things herself in the most efficient way she can, versus Kim who likes jumping over stuff, even when she could just walk through a door.

They are both right in a way though, it’s good to challenge yourself, but it’s also good to keep things in proportion. Which is why when we get bogged down in the everyday, like myself and my friends, we can lose track of the grand purpose of our lives.

I’ve never heard of someone being given an average destiny. God tells all his people that they are priests, and Paul tells all Christians that we will be rulers. There is no such thing as an average destiny.

Survival is really a myth. Human beings are not meant to survive, as a song I’ve heard says, we’re made to thrive.

To bring this back to my original point about young people and youth groups; my theory is, young people don’t truly want to survive. (Braveheart anyone?) They want to feel like they have an important role in life. But you can’t look at what everyone else is doing and figure out your role. Personally, I’ve realized I don’t want what everyone else has, I want, as Shawn Hunter from Girl Meets World said “What I’m supposed to have.”

I don’t think I’m alone in this either. We really need to listen to what teens actually are trying to tell us. And help them before they get caught in the web of survival.

Learn me right–1.

Today I started thinking about the years I spent sitting in Youth Group feeling frustrated.

I’ve started going to a new youth group by the way, which appears to be much better.

But I always wanted to know why youth don’t seem to take their faith or the bible seriously.

The conversations I’ve had with other teens about passages in the bible that aren’t often talked about, well their ignorance or indifference is surprising.

But over the years I’ve sat in Church services that talked to grown men and women pretty much how the youth leaders talk to their youth, only the adult services focus more on sin.

as any Christian teen over here can tell you, Youth Groups tend to cover purity, identity, and not behind addicted to technology by being a good example to your friends.

And all those are great messages, which I have needed and still need. The problem was, those messages should be seasonal, or every so often, but they made up the bulk of my youth group teaching.

As a homeschooler, I always felt like it was to easy for me. No one talked about books much, no one watched the same movies as I did, often enough; and no one expected me to retain much of what I heard, or to do the ridiculously easy assignments.

People could come to our youth leaders with their problems, but they couldn’t seem to actually follow their example. Why?

I don’t have a magic answer, but let me tell you about a contrasting experience I had.

When I went on my missions trip, the other teens were the most well-behaved, respectful bunch of peers I’ve probably ever been around. Except other homeschoolers. (Sorry, but it’s true.) We all wanted similar things, we all took pains to be nice to each other and to serve the people of Cambodia well. A lot of them also ate bugs, but hey, that’s normal in Asia. (And most other places except America.)

Phones were still a bit of an issue, but they at least kept it to a minimal. what made this group so different?

Well, the sad thing is, it didn’t stay that way entirely. Once we all go back, all of us hit some heavy obstacles in our everyday lives. Some of us floundered, others kept right on swimming. I admire one member of the group in particular for continuing to be of service to the people around them. I myself had to deal with a lot even the very day I came home.

I’ve never been common, and I don’t think anyone else would exactly fit the societal mode either, so what caused some of us to lose our grip?

My theory is it’s the same thing that plagues most other young people, here and in every place where kids have the opportunity to d more than survive.

You see, there’s a principle of life. Your situation is not what matters, it’s your outlook.

The fact is, no matter how hard our life is, we choose whether we live just for survival or not.

I have known plenty of people who are just trying to get through every day, whether its’ doing their school, their work, or possibly actually trying to keep food on their plate.

And like or not, when you live like the day-to-day challenges are the worst thing in your life, you have adopted an attitude of survival.

It’s not a good way to live, because it’s selfish, and it makes your vision very narrow.

They wonder why teens don’t care about church, it’s probably because they have learned to survive without it.

Personally, if I hadn’t found a good church to go to, I’d be at the end of my rope right now. I need the encouragement of being around other people who believe, people who I can sing to God with and they wont’ think I’m crazy. Non-believers take that kind of freedom for granted, I think. But it’s harder to find than it seems.

They say that the church is not relevent. That may true of some churches. But the ones I have gone to are usually quite relevant to some people. They feed the homeless, provide free childcare in a safe environment for busy parents. provide na alternative to secular culture; and give Christians a place to feel they are understood.

The church is much more than a safe haven of course, but the one problem is, very few teenagers appreciate having a safe haven unless they are in big trouble.

The teens I’ve known who came to church consistently were the ones with the most unstable lives, often enough. Sometimes they were more committed. Sometimes they were pastor’s kids and took more of an interest because of that. But I never heard any one of them say they came to church because it was a challenge, or because they felt it was dangerous.

That is, in my opinion, a huge percent of the problem.

we’ve taught kids that they can be anything, and prepared them for an adventure when they are young, but when they are teens, we start saying “Only a few more years of school.” There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, in other words. I don’t blame anyone for hating public school as I can’t imagine going to it myself, but church is treated the same way.

And I know you may not go to church and so may not care, but trust me, this is affecting you too. What do you get when a whole generation starts living just to survive. I almost prefer the past generations who lived for fun or to make a wealthy lifestyle, kids have grown up hearing that is not the most important thing, but they have no heard what is.

Or maybe they just don’t believe it anymore.

I am not letting teens off the hook. No one can make you stop caring except you.

But I’ll have to continue this in part two. Until then–Natasha.

Not real?

I had a new experience since my last post. Somebody online got a bit aggressive in a discussion and I felt somewhat like it was a personal attack. Thankfully, it got no worse because I did not respond.

I’m well aware  I may be the only person on this blog, ironically, never to have had this happen before, so I’m not going to act like it was a big deal. It is actually the topic we were discussing that bothered me, because I’ve known many people to get defensive about it.

Well, specifically, I’ve known many people to get defensive about how they like to watch horror movies, or read what I would call horror novels, though I believe they are mostly known as Young Adult Fiction. (Yeah, burn.)

Seriously, the amount of times this conversation has happened is a bit scary to me:

Me: You like to watch so and so?

Person: Yeah, I love that (show, movie, etc.)

Me: But it’s horrible.

Person: ( a little less enthusiastically) but I like it.

Me: But stuff like that leaves images in your brain…

Person: But I know it’s not real.

Me: just because it’s not real…

Person: Well, it doesn’t affect me.

It doesn’t always happen in that order, but I can almost guarantee the words “I like it”,”It’s not real”, and “It doesn’t affect me”, will come up.

I should fill in a little bit more of that online debate. See the debate was about books and writing, not movies. That’s mainly because the people I was having it with are readers, and likely not as big on movies as the people I debate movies with. I used to assume that people who were readers didn’t have the same problems (content-wise) as people who weren’t, but I have been disillusioned.

I find to my shock that many teens of about my age or younger write mainly one kind of story. You know the type if you’ve ever browsed through the Young adult section in a bookstore or library. (I avoid that section now.) It’s dramatic, it’s about teens, it usually involves mutants, vampires, zombies, or a post apocalyptic setting that might have a combination of two or all of those choices. The narration is usually in first-person. There is a lot of fear, confusion, and fighting back happening in that person’s mind, soul, or surroundings. On top of this, the person tends to be either incredibly immature, or incredibly callous and cynical. And they can be as young as 12 or as old as 16, usually.

My point being, these books are almost always garbage. Even if they are well-written, there are still several inherent problems with them.

The first one would be they are extremely dark. And that is what my debate centered on, how dark can a book be? (And still be healthy? I presume is the implied question.) Most of the people in this online thing thought it was all right to put a lot of darkness in a story, if, in the end, good overcomes it. Others cautioned against putting too much, and one or two thought it was perfectly fine to get in touch with you inner-villain and go all out on your characters.

Something you guys need to know about fiction writers: our characters become real to us.

The evil characters are not like real people to me, personally, but the ones between good and evil can be,  and the good characters always develop a lot of personality.

But the good ones suffer the most, and that is why the darkness question centers on them. But it also centers on the reader. And on the movie watcher, because movies and books have this in common, they make you, the participant, part of the adventure. They have you rooting for the hero and getting upset when things turn out badly. At least this is what a movie is intended to do. A book does even more in that it can leave it up to you to judge what should have happened. A book gets your mind involved, a movie may only get your emotions. Either way, you are meant to get something out of it.

If there is a lot of darkness in a book, that is what the reader will walk away with. I once got a nightmare from such a book, and I am not a person who usually gets nightmares relating to what I read. When I read such stuff, something inside me just says “This is not right.” But personal feelings aside, I think there are biblical reasons not to focus on darkness.

Suffering, evil, and all that goes with it are a part of life. But going to great lengths in your imagination to see and create such things is unhealthy. We are not meant to live that stuff on purpose. As evidenced by the fact that actors who played too many psycho characters have committed suicide, and many bands that have music centered on darkness are not composed of very stable people.

All I am stating is common sense. If this is where darkness leads then don’t go there. But it makes people angry when I knock their favorite material. Which to me is more evidence in my favor. If someone knocks my reading and watching habits, I’m not going to get super defensive unless I personally have misgivings about it already. When I am confident it’s good, I don’t give a rip what anyone says.

But if a part of me were saying “maybe this isn’t good for me.” I would be defensive, or, I’d choose the better option of considering that this person might be right.

That’s what I ask of my readers, who may already agree with me, or maybe only read all of this because they were mad. I can’t know for certain.

But I know that this stuff is important. The fact that it is fiction only means that it represents what people will learn to expect instead of what they already have; and if you expect bad things, you will get bad things. That’s all I have to say on that. Until next time-Natasha.100_4316

My Report Card.

How do you handle disappointments?

I’ve had a lot of them over the past couple of months. They always center around people doing things differently than I was expecting, and not just different, but badly.

As everyone knows I have high standards, and they may be too high at times. I don’t see myself failing as much as I can see other people failing, and I feel let down. Sometimes I do actually have a legitimate reason to expect differently, but not always.

Can you relate?

Well, I can not write some inspired post about how to fix disappointment once and for all. If we were to grade our lives like a report card, how many Ds would we give them? D for a disappointment, D for feeling discouraged, D for despairing of change.

What about some other letters, hmm? How do I personally handle the first D so I don’t get the other two?

Well, I always think about my problem for a while, I weigh it. I may decide I just need to move on, I may decide I need to do something, but the main thing is that I have to give myself an F.

F is good on this report card. F means Forgiveness. Forgive the people who let yo down, forgive yourself for getting discouraged or upset. Forgive God even for doing something you cannot understand. (not that God needs it, it’s for us.)

Then you might want to give yourself a C for comparison. Compared to bigger issues, this may not really be important, but if it is, C is for Conversation and Companionship. I find it helpful to talk to people about what happened, let them point out things I hadn’t considered, and provide comfort, and then be grateful that they listened to me.

B is for Be Real. It’s not all about me, and the people who let me down often have mistaken ideas about what I want, or they just forget, or they are truly wrong but still need grace. I’ve probably done similar things, so don’t be too harsh.

A is for acceptance. Stuff happens, but often it can end up being a good thing. Never forget that God might be using you in this to help someone else, or that you might be learning something important that you couldn’t otherwise know. At the end of the day, just accept that people will never make you completely happy anyway. It is partly a choice, and partly God’s gift.

You know, I just made this up off the top of my head, but it is what I do to beat disappointment, and  I think it’s pretty good advice. (I might want to copy this list for myself.)

So, how was your report card and do you have any other ideas about not letting disappointments discourage you? Feel free to share them below.

Until next time–Natasha.003zhaoshaoang-flower-bird

Get Wise

SO, my next writing project is about Wisdom. My virtue speech went well by the way, it was even kind of fun, and I got a fairly good response on this blog. Since that worked out so well, I thought I’d try to post about Wisdom.

The reason I don’t mind using an assignment as blogging inspiration is that I’d like to talk about Wisdom anyway on this blog.

I could give you some dictionary definitions, but defining wisdom is not as simple as just looking it  up. I realized a long time ago that to even recognize wisdom you need to have a tiny bit of it.

And the best way I know of tot est your wisdom is to read the Bible. I’m serious, the more stuff in there that you can understand, the wiser you are.

Lest I risk alienating everyone who doesn’t read the Bible with that statement,let me explain it a little more. I am not saying only Bible–readers are wise, and that it is the only way to become wise. I’m still talking about what wisdom is.

Proverbs is famously known for being the book about godly wisdom, but a lot o proverbs have been retold, or hit upon, by other sources. Aesop’s Fables for one often has stories that line up with Proverbs exactly. In Proverbs we are told to desire wisdom above rubies, above gold and silver, to get it and understanding above all else. The word Proverb actually just means a wise, pithy saying that is usually just common sense. You probably knew that already. Of all the biblical books, Proverbs is the least spiritual and most practical. I don’t know why more non-Christians don’t study it.

Most of the sayings in this book are attributed to Solomon or his mother, Bathsheba. Solomon apparently wrote the book for his son.

I promise I’m giving you this background for a reason.

Solomon is known also as the wisest man on earth before Jesus. He was not born that way, but when he was still a child (by Hebrew standards) he became king, and God visited him, telling him He would give him one request and whatever he asked, he could have it. How many stories and movies have been centered around this idea? The Midas Touch, for one. I am sure there are others, the Fisherman and the genie; any Arabian night story almost has some point where the hero gets a wish. Well, digressing. Solomon must have thought about it, and he says (to condense it) “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king…but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in…Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge you people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:7-9.)

Sometimes in the bible, God has one of those jaw-drop moments, or so it seems from His reaction. Of course, He knew what Solomon would say, but God has this ability, kind of like a mom’s to know what to expect and yet still be surprised. he was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he promised him wealth, honor (respect and fame), and long life, on top of wisdom. Later Solomon wrote that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of  wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10.)

very few people like that answer. Why should we have to fear God to be wise?

Well, in my own experience, before we fear God, we always fear something else, whether it’s failure; rejection; people; pain; or loss. Sometimes we fear ourselves. Human beings have to fear something, fear is a natural emotion, but like all emotions, it needs to be directed at the right thing, in the right amount. The fear of the Lord is the healthy kind of fear. Until we fear Him, we will not cease to fear anything else. You have to be more afraid to be out of God’s will than to be out of your own controlled area before you can really do anything for God.

That said, wisdom is born out of knowledge of life, and the principles therein, and those come from understanding. The other thing Proverbs is always telling you to seek, usually right along with wisdom. It is because to be wise, you must first understand things as they really are.

This is why the Christian believes true wisdom is from God alone, because he can show you things as they truly are, and no one else can do that.

The word understanding that Solomon used in the above verses is synonymous with Hearing, a hearing heart is a wise heart.

This is important. In Shakespeare’s great play “the merchant of Venice” the heroine, Portia, utters a candid speech about being good. “If to do were as easy as to know what it were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages, princes’ palaces…I can easier teach twenty what it were good to be done than be one of the twenty to follow mine own instruction!”

Portia makes an excellent point, it is easier to know the wise choice than it is to make it. The wise choice is always the best one, morally, practically, and in the long run, emotionally. But we all know people very seldom make the best choice. It is not hard to find wisdom, Proverbs 2 talks about her crying out in the street, for anyone to get. But they are not interested.

In the end, getting wisdom is not hard, wanting it is. Fools are the people too set in their own ways and own opinions to seek counsel and to learn by it, according to proverbs. getting wisdom requires wanting to hear it, and many prefer rather to talk about their feelings and their problems till the cows come home rather than spend five minutes listening to good advice. A prime example is Lydia from “Pride and Prejudice.” Who, in the author’s words, seldom listens to anyone for more than half a minute, and never attends her sister Mary at all.

The conclusion I come to after this is what I originally thought: asking for wisdom already demonstates that you have it. The beginnings of it.  That is why Solomon exhorts us to seek it, because if we do, we have already started to find it. Wisdom is tuly it’s own fuel, it builds upon itself.

Those are my thoughts for now, until next time–Natasha.

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Poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.

Ladies and gents.

Ladies and gents, may I call this phrase to your attention?

The one I just used, yes.

I talked about what it is like to be a lady, and now it only seems fair to say a word about the term gentleman.

I explained what gentry were in my last post, but though we still use the term gentleman (often sarcastically) today, a lot of us haven’t heard the term “gentlewoman.” Though it was also called being a gentleman’s daughter if I understand correctly.

There’s a scene in that classic book Pride and Prejudice in which the heroine, Elisabeth and the aunt of Darcy, Lady Catherine De’Bourgh, are having an argument.

It is without a doubt  one of the best scenes in my opinion. And at one memorable moment, Lady Catherine, (not at all acting like her title) accuses Elisabeth of trying to quit the sphere she was brought up in. The translation of that is: Mr. Darcy is too good for her. By this time Elisabeth herself feels this is true, but angered by the Lady Catherine, she retorts that he is a gentleman and she is a gentleman’s daughter, thus far they are equal.

Let me pause there. A huge complaint about men doing the things that used to be called chivalry is that they think women can’t take care of themselves. That’s why gentlemen get such a bad rap. But here Elisabeth states the culturally held opinion of her time, that a gentleman and a  gentlewoman are equals.

And if you examine the story, you will find no indication otherwise. In that time, and between that class of people, there was a code of conduct. Followed by everyone. It didn’t matter whether you were male or female. If you were well bred you followed it and were expected to understand it. In one example, there was a rule that only two gentlemen could initiate an acquaintance with each other, under certain circumstances, such as one moving into an new neighborhood.Under any other circumstances, a polite person would never walk up and introduce themselves, a mutual acquaintance, (male or female, it didn’t matter,) would make the introductions. In this way friendship circles would grow bigger and bigger, but also could stay very small if the friends so wished.

I point this out because it is just one example of how their society worked, and one we no longer use so no one can possibly get offended over it.

It applied to both genders; and that’s the thing we don’t remember anymore, that courtesy is gender neutral.

I could make a list of the few gestures of chivalry that men still attempt to make, but it’s not necessary, we all know them. I just wonder why we’re so hard upon them.

Gentlemen have  a hard time now, because  a lot of the world hates the very idea of them. They mark a clear distinction between male and female, dare I say, roles in society.

I think also the stereotypical image of the man, who’s really a boy, wearing kid gloves and lace, turns off the modern mind; but I might point out not long ago it was acceptable for guys to wear sparkly vests and frizzy hair and that was cool. I’m sure there’s some weird things we still allow that the 18th century gentleman would have found to be ridiculous. this isn’t really about looks.

There’s another novel, “North and South,” by Elisabeth Gaskell, that deals with the idea of being a gentleman, among other things. We meet several men in that novel who are not gentleman by rank, but demonstrate some amount of chivalry that prove that in their hearts at least they are noble.

The mark of a gentleman is strength. And it’s odd that I say that, for traditionally gentry did not work or exercise a great deal unless they so chose. But it’s strength of mind.

What good breeding was all about, at least before priggish people got ahold of the term, was teaching children how to handle things like criticism, being insulted, being ignored, or just having someone be rude to them in general. It also taught them how to treat each other and themselves with respect. how to disapprove of people without dehumanizing them. How to disagree with someone without making a scene or resorting to violence. Of course, if he had to, a gentleman was allowed to defend someone with force, but if among other gentleman, as he was always supposed to be, it was assumed he would never have to.

On a lady’s part, she would also never resort to violence, because it was seen as a mark of weak self control, not of strength. If ever she was in need of defense, she was trusted to have enough gentleman about her at all times to be able to look out for her. This was not a mark of weakness. It was simply a lady’s duty to set an example of gentleness, and a gentleman’s duty to see that she was always free and unafraid to do so.

That’s why to be a fatherless, husbandless, and brother-less girl was so serious. It was a matter of honor.

That’s not to say there wasn’t sexism, there always is, but sexism is not a class thing. It’s the choice of men and women, and it’s a private choice.

Being a lady and a gentleman was actually the best defense against sexism, because it taught you from an early age to treat the opposite sex with deference, and to respect their own accomplishments.

It’s true, that sunk to some shallow proportions for shallow people. Like valuing a woman only for her talents and fine clothing instead of for her mind, and a man only for his style and talents in sports, or cards, or dancing.

But class did not create shallowness, shallow people will be shallow whatever class they are in, and as far as that goes, the gentry probably had the least dangerous way of handling it.

My conclusion about gentleman is that, like ladies, they are made what they are by their hearts. If the way they show it outwardly is different than it used to be, fine. But whatever way they show it ought to be appreciated, not scorned.

Until next time–Natasha.

Doves: A classic symbol of gentleness.

Doves: A classic symbol of gentleness.

Thorns and Stones.

I was away for the weekend and couldn’t post. But here I am again.

So, I was at church camp, something just about every Christian kid has heard of or been to; and a lot of us love it; but some of us have skepticism about the results.

Maybe you can relate, people have an amazing, emotional experience, they say their life will never be the same, and in a month or so they start acting like they always have. and you think “Well that was a lot of nothing.”

This is not just a Christian thing, everyone from pop stars to homeless people knows these kinds of experiences. Those of us who just know people who’ve had them can get pretty skeptical. So why? Is it really true that people just don’t change? And religion, or at least epiphany, is just emotional hype.

I’ll tell you that everyone from public school teachers to youth group counselors are puzzled about this problem. Why? they ask, can’t kids stick with change? Then they sigh and shrug it off and say, oh well. Back to the drawing board. Hey, I admire they’re perseverance, I just wish they didn’t relinquish they’re expectations.

The Bible sums up this problem perfectly in a parable Jesus told, famously called the Sower. The Sower is sowing seeds and they keep falling in the wrong places, some on the road, some among thorns, others among stones, and some on good soil. The ones on the road get eaten by birds. But the ones among the thorns and the stones sprout and grow for a time. But then the thorns grow up and choke the wheat, and the wheat on the stones withers because of the sun, since it has no deep roots.  Jesus then explains that those seeds represent people who hear the word and rejoice but then the cares and troubles of the world (the weeds) choke them, and they fall away. Others rejoice and grow for a time, but they have no root in themselves, and when trouble comes because of the word, they fall away.

I want to point out that the two enemies here are distraction and difficulty.

This camp I was at, the preachers warned us, don’t get distracted when you go home, and not live out what you were taught. Do you know what I started thinking about before I even left?  The things I wanted to do when I got home, and how I wanted to eat a decent meal. (Camp food is okay, but I’ve never eaten much of it. I have low appetite in high altitude.) And do you know what met me when I woke up this morning? The buzz of the TV in another room, and the things I wanted to  get done today.

Distraction.

There maybe not a single thing that more quickly kills passion. And not just spiritual fire, I mean any kind of passion. Except, you’ll notice, the unhealthy kinds. Like addictions to substances, electronics, or gaming, or whatever. Because those things are effortless.

You’ve heard the saying anything worth doing is worth doing right, but there’s another saying, it goes something like “nothing worth having comes easy.”

And it’s true. Experience and Success at worth having, but they aren’t easy. Even if they are, in rare cases, an overnight sensation, it doesn’t last without hard work. And what’s worse is the people who succeed quickly often don’t have the character or the know how to keep on succeeding, and when trouble comes, they fall under.

Think of Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back.” He’s all set to take on the enemy, but he’s warned by Yoda about his anger. He also fails because he doesn’t believe enough in what is possible. In the end he recklessly tries to rescue his friends, and receives a major setback, it literally costs him a limb (well, a hand.) Plus, he doesn’t help his friends, they have to endanger themselves to go back and rescue him. In the end, he has a burden he was not ready for, the knowledge of who his father is.

In the end Luke’s mistakes do end up helping him, after he learns from them. But he demonstrated a lack of maturity in making them in the first place. Like the seeds on the stony soil, he hadn’t enough root.

It’s good for us that you can change the kind of soil you are. Weeds can be pulled out, rocks can be removed. If someone else puts the time and effort into doing so.

And the thing is, usually we do need help. It’s rare that we change without receiving a wake up call from someone or something. Usually it has to be their intention to stir us up. Some of us can just go to a camp, or a conference, and that’s enough. Others need a person to walk with them and encourage them.

But sadly, a lot of young people don’t put out the effort to find such a person, and even if they do (as I have) it can be hard to find anyone who really believes you can handle being pushed. And if they don’t, they won’t do you much good.

My last resource, as I have explained in recent posts, is also my first: I go to God. He’s the sower and He knows how to tend the soil to make it better. I used to be poor soil, but I finally caught the fire, and I haven’t lost it yet. But I’m aware that it is not my own ability but God’s careful leading that is responsible for that.

Maybe you have a parent like that, or another mentor, like a teacher or more distant relative. Maybe you don’t, but I encourage you anyway to do your part. Distraction and difficulty are hard obstacles to overcome, but it is possible if you don’t quit.

That’s all for now, over and out–Natasha.

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Weeds, a bird, and clutter.