re|think everything

(re|think)

noun

Pronunciation:/ˈriːθɪŋk/

[in singular] a reassessment, especially one that results in changes being made.

I am thinking about many things including the future of this blog.  I was particularly challenged by a conversation this weekend.  My sister questioned why I “live so much in the past?”  She was wishing for me that I would be able to “get on with my life.”

Long before that conversation, I have asked for a clear insight about what is next for me.  I have been seeking — praying — listening.

Rethinking What I Know about Myself.

  • I need to know  that my life contributes to a grander and larger story than simply my own.
  • I have certain passions — God-given, I believe.  Most notable photography.  biblical studies.  women.  any injustice.
  • One spiritual gift I have seems to be Mercy. My heart breaks over the corruption and greed in some that leads to poverty and pain for others.  Over persecuted people groups.  Over homophobia, racism, sexism.  Over anyone being homeless.
  • My voice, in writing, is loud and clear and sometimes even challenging.  Out loud I am meek and unclear, which I experienced this weekend to my dismay.

Rethinking Biblical Translation & Interpretation.

I have a hunger to understand scripture for myself.  Dare I say this?  It frightens me that so much of (most or all) biblical interpretation throughout history was done by men.  It gnaws at me from inside out.

I am not a raging neofeminist or even a strong proponent of a feminist or liberation theology.  (I guess I don’t know enough about them to say one way or another.)  Simply put, things have been stacked against us:women

  • A patriarchal society& culture brought us the message of the scriptures that we live our lives by. 
  • Another group of men translated it into the language for “everyone.”
  • And, then in most churches today men stand up and interpret scripture every Sunday and all week long.

“The Bible has shaped the life of the church in a way that nothing else has done and Christians today are the product of the history of its interpretation.” 1

Why should I trust their translations and interpretations categorically without question?  This is simply foolish, in my opinion.  And still I pray for a spirit of humility — that I would be a fertile ground.  I ask why do I think these things and if my motives are wrong or I am simply being foolish in my thinking, that this thinking would change.  And, I have thought of many responses to this conundrum, from applying to be an unpaid intern at my church in biblical hermeneutics, I would hope, to bring a feminine voice to the teaching being done, to going to seminary.

Rethinking My Role.

As I seriously consider the perception of being a “woman of leisure” which I wrote about recently, I get mired in my own frustrations and can’t pull together clear thoughts.  Because it is emotional for me!  I don’t care about the money (perhaps I should) but I want respect.  And I know if I don’t respect women who stay home, then how can I expect others to respect me?

And before you email me about the value of being at home with kids, know that I’ve had more than ten years to ponder this subject.  I don’t need “encouragement” in that regard.  It is an incredibly complicated personal decision for every women and I do respect the difficult place women (so much more than men) are in.  So if you are a man, butt out. No one can make this choice for a woman or explain away her doubt, fear, aspirations, goals, or desire for “accomplishment” or get why she cries to be away from her babies.

Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama was named Most Powerful Woman of the Year, beating out heads of state, chief executives and celebrities in Forbes magazine’s annual listing.  Some women came out saying Ms. Obama talks about herself as a wife and mother and were questioning how that makes her influential?   Gr…..

But I digressed into an issue that is only a side story in my search for a place to make an impact and contribution.

And I am still left thinking at this point, is this blog much ado about nothing?  Is it time to stop?”

Rethink Everything.

It is difficult for me, at times, to look back over the last decade of my life.  In human terms — quitting  a meaningful, challenging job, succumbing to clinical depression, becoming addicted to alcohol, and straying far away from the LORD — it was all failure on my part. And yet, it was through those experiences, as mortifying as they are and were to me, that I have come to recognize many things.

I am actually grateful to have been brought so low.  I can only hope that I am still learning and am becoming a person useful to the LORD.  I had to trudge through the violence of my childhood and my feeling of betrayal and disappointment towards my parents — and forgive them.  This has opened me up to a new life.

Christ’s broken body for me was real and meaningful in a new way never understood until my humiliation.  And gratefully I can say, this drove me to my knees.  I went from someone who felt she was competent, powerful, knowledgeable and puffed up with my importance to a broken reed, hardly knowing up from down.  Alcohol devastated me — became the thing that I lived for.  The passion, the dreaming, the hoping, the living stopped.

I am so grateful to not have lost everything. It is humbling to sit here in the comfort of my home knowing that I am loved by my husband and adored by my children.  Undeserved, as I know how close I came to losing  all that I now hold dear and even my life.

As I consider what the future holds for me I want to be fertile ground.  Looking back, mostly glad to have fallen.  To have learned.  As I look ahead there is no perfect plan.  I must trust while serving, not knowing the future.  Trust that I have a contribution to make, but if that “thing” the “plan” never happens, hope that I will continue to be grateful and if I am never made whole, still I will ask for it.  And hope.  And stay open.

===================================

I have more than fifty poems I have written here.  This one, is called addict.


Being an addict catches me by surprise.  Today,

seemingly innocent things — a drink, a smoke, a purchase, food, even exercise can become

urgent

need.

In the time that it takes to feel a flash of happiness, sadness or regret;

less than 60 seconds of my life

and I remember,

I am an addict.  How could I have forgotten?

Today I must ask what brought this on?

For tomorrow I must fill the need

with OTHER.

As for yesterday, I can only look back and remember

I am an addict, but I am stronger than my need.

And as for this moment — I know I am an addict;

I am. I was. I always will be, always will be

an addict.

ADDICT written april 9, 2009 by melody harrison hanson

Those that have no background in addiction look at the word ADDICT and the word alcoholic as kind of wicked and weak.  Face it, our culture doesn’t understand.  But if you’ve been there, if you live there, if you love someone who does or has you know exactly what I mean.  And I thank you for understanding.

1 Bray, Gerald.  Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present, 1996, IVP

When I’m thin, I’ll …

This is me in Honolulu, about five years ago or six or seven …  With my good soul mate and friend Junko and her son.  I put it here, because I was probably 25 pounds thinner and I thought at that time I was fat.  Just goes to show….

I just found myself writing on Facebook: “I am feeling dissatisfied and out of sorts.”  I know this is true — it has been so for days.  It put me in such a funk last week I thought I was coming down with the Black Dog (you know, depression.)

But I wonder why.  Examining ourselves is hard.  And I get the feeling that I do it a lot.  But I can easily not engage with things emotionally and stay on the surface of life.

On the level of superficial, surface things, I know why I’m grumpy:

  1. There are piles of laundry that are never “done.”
  2. The stuff, everywhere! And I can’t keep up.  My kids are clueless, and useless!  No matter how many reminders, of the stuff they leave  around the house and yard — practically dropping it anywhere they finish with it — it is everywhere.
  3. There is no open surface in my life – except the kitchen – after I clean it – daily, sometimes twice depending on things in the evening.
  4. my garage is driving me nuts.  my basement is driving me nuts. my bedroom is driving me nuts.
  5. I can never keep food in the house.  My preteens are eating everything that isn’t nailed down.  and what we have is never what they want.  Now I’m not one to really care about that, them getting what they “like”  but it starts to rub me wrong, after a while.

That’s the surface and it’s bad, but then if I go below the surface:

I never see my friends.  Rarely have deep conversations with people.  Just living on the surface of my friend’s lives and I feel lonely.  Did I just write that.  I think I’m not sure.  Do I feel lonely?  I mean, I could choose to pick up the phone.  I like isolation I think.  But then, internally, I know accountability in friendship is good and deep connections are so life-giving. Yes, connection is important to me and I don’t have it.  There is no where in my life, not church, not my kids schools, where else do I go – not the grocery store, that I connect with people.  Okay, at Trader Joe’s they are really nice and I always leave there feeling good, because they are quite happy to be talking to you.   That is so pathetic.

Another thing. I decided last year, to not buy clothes for myself, for a year.  Mostly, cause I’m fairly stupid about spending money and I was wasting away the fortune we did not have on this and that.  I mean how many hats does a girl need?  And to be honest, since early October I haven’t spent a dime, on myself.  I did find myself buying a lot more clothing for Emma.  That had to stop cause it definitely defeats the purpose and she’s swimming in clothes.  Really though, I haven’t missed shopping.

I worried about what ideas I was giving my daughter about looks. (I blogged about all this in October of last year.)

The other reason that I stopped was because I was tired of thinking and caring so much about image.  But that bit hasn’t changed (much) and frankly I’ve let myself go over the last six months.  I feel shabby, and dumpy and what was that word that my friend in college used to call me?  Frumpy.  What a word.  I’ve lived up to that of late and I hate myself.  And we won’t even go into the weight thing.  No, not today.  When I say hate I’m talking about the suicide kind of self-hatred, or harming yourself, or anything tragic like an eating disorder.  I’m just referring to simple self-esteem.  Body image.  Naked in the mirror stuff.  Can’t find an outfit that feels good to me kind of days.

And then this trip to the Bahamas comes (two and a half weeks and counting) and I start freaking out.  For some reason, I have this crazy need to impress and  seem cultured and look urban and eclectic and interesting.  It matters to me (and that’s a long story from being an MK that I think I’ve written about here before.)  So I wasn’t going to buy anything.   And then I started obsessing about this awards night banquet that everyone gets all spiffy for and I couldn’t let -it -go.

I looked at my clothes, of which I have an abundance, in sizes 10, 12 and 14 and I don’t have anything  for an evening dinner in the Bahamas, not fancy but not too casual. So, I “don’t have anything” and yet I know that if I was saving money for my kid’s transplant or something I could find something to wear in my closet.  So it wouldn’t be Tommy Bahama   or nicely starched from newness.  But it would be just fineOne night.  One outfit. Perhaps three total hours of my life.   But there’s no transplant needed, and Tom doesn’t care if I buy a dress, he’s getting a new shirt.

So dammit I bought one, online, it probably won’t even look good.  Which is okay cause I can return it but every time I think about that stupid trip I get all anxious.  Like what’s on the outside is what matters.   Tho I don’t believe that, already I’ve fallen back into that kind of thinking.  …. If I have a new dress, I will also need new shoes, a necklace, earrings,and a decent bag. Oh, and can’t forget the very important cover up for the cool nights and to cover the flabby size 14 arms…..  so I spend the evening last night (while watching Idol among other things) tooling the internet looking for the perfect dress.  And even this morning ….

No wonder I feel dissatisfied and grumpy.   As a friend just said, (on Facebook not in person, I told you I have no face-to-face friendships any more.) I need to check this more closely.

Identity.  Self-esteem.  Body image.  Eureka!  I have ignored the root of my problems with shopping.  Wow!  I can’t believe I’ve been able to stick my head in the proverbial sand about this!

We all do it.  I know we do.  Except for those few say 20% of exercising folk, most of us ignore our bodies a good part of the time.  Just living with regret, or wishing it were different, or saying when I lose those ten pounds, I will  …

Absolutely what I’ve done!

“I will like myself when I’m thin.  I know I’m thin inside there somewhere.  I was thin(ner) for most of my life and that person is still in there.  When I’m thin, I’ll … pursue showing my photography.  And take more risks like searching for a publisher for my poetry.  And ….blah, blah frikin’ blah…”

Well, isn’t that interesting.

P.S.  If you’re one of those actually thin people or in your early thirties (or younger) and you don’t know what I’m talking about — related to your body, just wait.  Call me when it hits.  I will so be there for you to cry on my shoulder.  By then, I’ll be thin.  Surely.

This Strange Desire: On Materialism and Image: How it all started, the year without new clothes.

What Can’t our Daughters Do?

I’m re-posting something I wrote a year ago.  It was my most popular article ever written with more than a thousand viewers.  So I thought it was worth posting again.  

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Quickly — I want to thank all my visitors from the homepage of wordpress.com. Welcome!  Wow!  A lotta love happens when you get featured on the homepage.  Until yesterday, this was a little ol’ blog visited by some of my friends and a few Facebook contacts. I was essentially writing to myself and my lurkers (I do have quite a few of those.)

It would kill me to have you think I’m some ranting feminist and that’s what this blog is about.  Because that is not true, about the blog, I mean. I am a feminist.  And I can rant (at times.)  Okay quite often.  But I rant — ahem write about many topics.  I post my poetry, and talk about all sorts of things from politics, faith & (dis)belief, family & parenting, depression & mental health.  It’s varied.

I’m a Haus Frau, free-lance photographer and generally vexed person who writes.  If it were not for my faith I’d be mean and ugly things would come out of my mouth.  But if you find anything golden here it is because of grace of God in my life.   Melody


I started writing these thoughts about two months ago.  But Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s NY Times entitled, Religion and Women, got me thinking, again.   I am a regular reader of his Op-Eds.

Do you believe this little girl does has the right to the same opportunities as these boys?  (Even if she felt called to be a Pastor?)

Kristof mentions Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, which I read when it was first posted online.

(I think I’m “in love” with Jimmy Carter because he lives his life with principles.  And standing up for women is sexy!  But that’s irrelevant here.)  I don’t have complete or even very coherent thoughts on the topic yet, I just want to ask some questions:

  • Is feminism as simple as giving women equality in work, home, church life?
  • Do women deserve access to anything that men have access to?  Why do some men have such a problem with this?
  • Do you believe your daughter has a right to every opportunity that your son has?  Why would a loving God say she doesn’t?  What can’t our daughters do?

Personally, I think oppressing  a woman, from war lords raping women in the Congo, to Afghani men who throw acid on girls faces, to men who psychologically abuse women, or the British woman who was arrested for being raped in Dubai, all of this should make us sick to our stomachs and even more culturally accepted things like putting women down, objectifying women.  And yes even keeping them from leadership opportunities they are obviously qualified, all of these things give men the chance to believe that women are inferior human beings.  And when you do that, bad things happen in our homes, institutions and relationships.

Sexism is any mistreatment of women, ranging from violence against women, to treating women as inferior, to objectifying a women. Any time women are treated in any way other than a respected human being with every opportunity in the world!

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted.  “The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Jimmy Carter sees religion as one of the basic “causes of the violation of women’s rights.”

As a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, he is speaking out.  The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”

Why do I have a problem with women not being elders at my church? Because in its simplest form it is saying:

  • That women are not trusted by God with the complete story, or
  • that women somehow don’t have what it takes to lead the church, or
  • that women don’t have full access to God, or
  • that women  don’t have the wisdom and life experience,
  • We do not have whatever it takes.

Oh, believe you me I know (some) churches will allow you to do anything else! Serve, give, teach, be missionaries.  Just not be the spiritual guide.  It just doesn’t feel right.  In my gut.

Eugene Cho, is a pastor and leader and all around amazing, wise and prophetic person who has written and thought about this subject saying:

“Shouldn’t we work together to build a culture (even amongst our own churches) of respect and dignity? How do we do that beyond the debates of the ordination of women?  How do we do that in our lives, families and churches (or must it be connected to the issue of ordination?)  What’s clear to me is that it’s really difficult to pursue these things when we don’t hear directly from women. Or allow ourselves to listen to women… aka – that we take a posture of humility and submit, believing that God can actually speak through women as well. Why?”

I’ll tell you why.  Because they do not fundamentally believe they should be listening to women.  You can’t convince me otherwise.

Surprisingly, in a progressive place like Madison we settle for less on this subject.  It is rare in Madison that are women subjected to overt forms of sexism.  Most of the men I know are loving and open-hearted.  And so, in the church especially, women let a lot go.  We ignore the whole Elder and women being ordained issue, just glad we’re all getting along.  And in fact my church is ahead of many other Evangelical churches in the area.

What I don’t like is that we aren’t willing to talk about these things.  We need to talk about these things.  The fact that we don’t talk about it is painful to me. I believe if we want grow, to heal, and to have everyone truly empowered and working out of their gifts and abilities, it is crucial that we be willing to talk.

It takes an immense amount of energy to challenge someone on their sexism. It is much easier to sit here and write about it.  Even a situation that is simple and straightforward, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, sent me into a tailspin for about 12 hours.  I knew it was sexist.  I couldn’t believe how bad I felt and wondered how my sister, an ordained minister in her own church felt being spoken to in such a demeaning manner.  I suppose in some ways I forgot, being out of the workplace and not heavily involved at church, that this is still common, and widespread.

It would seem that sexism would be easy to recognize.  As with any type of discrimination, sexism can be both personal and institutional, obvious and much more subtle.  Do you think you could spot sexism when it occurs?  These are all in the category.

  • Definitely commenting on a woman’s looks when you should or could be talking ideas with her can be a form of sexism.
  • The use of pejorative names like ” ‘girls’ at the home office” and other patronizing terms can be a form of sexism.
  • A teacher or pastor or youth worker offering more attention to one gender can be a form of sexism.
  • Only hiring people of a certain gender for a specific type of job can be a form of sexism.  (Every support role in a church or ministry being filled by one gender, female.)
  • Expecting only people of a certain sex/gender to be interested in specific activities can be a form of sexism.
  • Identifying activities, roles and chores as male or female can be a form of sexism.
  • Steering students towards specific subjects based on their gender can be a form of sexism.

Mutual respect, openness and conversation are what we need.

I have rung the bell too many times within my church on the role of women. I try to be respectful and teachable. But I am tired of being told “Talk to so and so, who is a woman who leads…” so that she can tell me why she’s accepted the fact and is okay that she will never be an elder in the church.  Pass.

I’ve decided it’s the denomination that speaks.  Women are not pastors or ordained in our denomination.  I cannot change the Evangelical Free Church of America denomination (Or can I? my son would say.  But I know I cannot.) so I have to decide if I can live with it.

And it comes down to whether I can counteract the message, subtle as it is from the platform, that says to my 12-year-old daughter sitting in the pew — you will never do that job.  You will never be a pastor.  You don’t need to study scripture as seriously as the boys, because you aren’t accepted at their seminary.  Women do not preach.  You will not see women preach in our church.

I just think that’s sad.  It makes me very sad.