What is Spiritual Soaking?

Why is spiritual soaking prayer relaxing for us?

Modern interpretation of an ancient religious practice, spiritual soaking is a form of prayer and meditation. It relaxes ones mind and relieves stress as side benefits.

A Method Of Praying

There are many ways that people relax and relieve stress. If that is the primary goal, this may be one avenue, but you have many alternatives to choose from. If, however, the idea of connecting with the Lord Jesus in a way that deepens your relationship and allows the “peace that passes understanding” to infiltrate your soul is important to you, you may be interested in what many call “soaking prayer”.

nosonjai / 123RF Stock Photo
nosonjai / 123RF Stock Photo

Meditation can be religious or secular, and as such has been found to have health benefits; but for Christians, prayer and meditation is more than the mere practice, it has a focus.

Everyone wants to pray more, pray better, pray more effectively, it seems. Libraries of books have been written, and almost every Christian gives lip service to the value of prayer, its necessity even. But this is no essay on that topic. What I would like to present is the way this form of prayer has given me a tool to overcome the stranglehold of stress in my life.

Soaking After Services

The first time to be introduced to this form of prayer and worship was after services where people had received personal ministry through laying on of hands.

It is usual for people to lay prone on the floor quietly while restful, quiet, music is playing.

THE RESTORATIVE QUALITY OF MEDITATION

To meditate on God has always been a part of the Judeo-Christian practice. Many references are found in Psalms. Focus attention on the acts of God, His Law, His work… the Hebrew word carries the meaning of musing thoughtfully, rolling over in ones mind, studying, ruminating. (1)

Now Science is finding facts in the physical universe that shed light or in some way give support to religious practices. For a person of belief it is fascinating and confirming at the same time. In no way would I think it is proof that we should think a certain way, but for me it underscores importance of such a thing as prayer or meditation for us as whole beings.

Prayer and Meditation reduce stress, they improve our mental capacity.

Why Meditation Makes You Feel Better

Both prayer and meditation focus the mind, and I can’t say whether those who are spiritually soaking are doing that or not. I do know that the whole experience of the soothing music, the restful repose of the body, and the sense of God’s presence work together in a way that I can only describe as restorative: giving back wholeness, a healing experience.

I think all types of prayer are important, so this is only an exploration of one way that is more recent in my own walk of faith. I found it to be a key in overcoming the chronic stress I was prone to.

Source: evan courtney
Source: evan courtney

Soaking Is Active

It may seem paradoxical to our minds, but often what we consider a passive posture is spiritually a very active one. “Waiting on God” is full of active faith and believing, not a useless waste of time. Similarly soaking prayer, while seeming empty, is actively focused on allowing God to be more important than our efforts or needs.

IS IT NECESSARY?

I don’t know, is relaxing necessary? Rest is needed – even required. But relaxing? I would say it is beneficial. I have found certain music, quiet and rested posture, time out from everything including other forms of devotion helps me. mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Of course, being more introverted, perhaps it is my way of recovering from an overstimulated world. Still, due to the references in the Bible that encourage “confidence and quietness”, and other such mental states, I can’t help but draw a conclusion that other personality types would gain in their devotional life from incorporating some of this soaking time into their lives.

Add Some Background Music To Your Meditations

Soaking In Glory Rain - Prophetic Instrumental Worship Music
Soaking In Glory Rain – Prophetic Instrumental Worship Music

Lovely and inspiring piano and some electronic keyboard songs. Very pleasing music that gives a restful background. I would call it quietly energizing.

Meditation and Soaking Prayer Are Not Synonymous

Prayer is communication with God. Meditation are thoughts aboutGod.

Both might produce meditative states of mind.

July True – Heaven’s Embrace

https://youtu.be/rc82PC7pV5w>

Julie True Interview

One Of My Favorite Musicians Is Julie True

I had researched ways to de-stress as part of the plan to lower my blood pressure and generally improve my life (stress is the number one factor in exacerbating diseases and interferes with relationships and well being.) While doing that, I happened upon “relaxation music”. This genre of music is composed of all sorts of styles and sounds, but with the goal of calming the listener.

Julie True was one of the musicians who produced music for “soaking times”. I listened to some samples and bought an album, “Spirit to Spirit”. I now own other music of this type as well, but this is what I like to listen to when having trouble going to sleep, wanting to have a background to create, etc.
It isn’t just this album or artist, there are other interesting types of music that have the type of meditating atmosphere I wish to rest within to “re-create”.

Spirit to Spirit
Spirit to Spirit

Filled with uplifting lyrics done in Julie True’s inimitable style. I bought the CD rather than the mp3 download. But I think anyone who wants quiet, healing, background music will appreciate this album.

Good Vibrations

Music’s Effect

Almost all of us feel the effects of music. In some of us it reaches to our deepest core, and for most of us it certainly is a mood enhancer. But what has science discovered about music?

  • It decreases anxiety
  • Music heals
  • It enhances intelligence
  • Improves concentration
  • Helps you to be more productive

(2)

Music produces vibration, is vibration, and the universe is full of it.

MUSIC + PRAYER + RESTING

What does string theory have to do with prayer? Not being a scientist, I can’t draw conclusions, the import of it all is that there are real reasons to engage in this kind of prayer and meditation. I am a Christian, but you don’t have to be a Christian to benefit from the way things are set up. If certain sounds and vibrations are conducive to healthy bodies and peaceful minds, we can recognize those facts and maybe gain some benefit.

If music is deliberate vibrations of a certain type, and if it can both affect us mentally and physically, I am theorizing that its inclusion in the prayer process is also aiding us spiritually. If you are a believer in the Bible, it would not take much study to find reasons to accept that idea. If not convinced about that source of spiritual information… you could go with the physical and consider the effect of “good vibrations”, or destructive ones.

SteveR-
SteveR-

What Do You Do?

Do you pray or meditate regularly?

  • I often practice soaking prayer
  • Meditation and prayer are often a part of life
  • I meditate as a regular practice
  • I don’t do either of these things
  • Spiritual things are not important to me
  • What effect does this information have on you?

    Does it make you curious to discover more about prayer, or how meditation and prayer influence your brain and general health? Are you considering practicing it in a personal way?

    What about the effect of music or the use of music as a way to relieve stress? Are you interested in exploring more about that?

    Are you a religious person? If so, do new ways of worship or prayer make you uncomfortable or are you interested in it?

    What do you think is the answer to stress from modern life and mental distress?

    O American Church, Where Art Thou?

    Recently, Francis Chan (whose book “Crazy Love” we have been following recently), announced he was resigning as senior pastor of his church. As I viewed the video, there was something that stood out to me, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it except for the carefulness in which it was expressed.

    “There is no immorality, no discipline… no issues with the elders”. It had to come up. When a leader steps away from a ministry we have been trained by experience in past events to look for some sort of moral miss step. We almost brace ourselves as Christians, “another one bites the dust”.

    What an indictment of our American Church life.

    Once upon a time, understanding that a person was further following his calling was the usual response, as Chan is today. What happened to this? Why have we become so inured to the idea of corruption and moral failure that we jump to that conclusion, first… and must be reassured should it not follow the (now) modern norm of a “fallen leader”?

    Why have we become accustomed to that?

    Do You Like Women’s Bible Studies?

    I went to the first “woman’s Bible study” that I have attended for a long time. I was among a number of women who stated that they did not particularly care for these… but we were there, and it was probably partly due to the fact that our church is new and it matters whether you support things that are getting started. But it sort of got me thinking…for those of us who have turned off to women’s ministries, including the Bible studies, why is that? For one of the women who spoke up about her feelings, it was her lack of “emotional” approach- she just didn’t connect on that usual “feminine” basis. For me, I think it is that little promised has come through this means. I have loved studying the bible, but not in women’s groups so much…and it isn’t as if I haven’t tried. I’ve gone to plenty over the years.

    This one is in the format that many of the more recent ones that I had attended had been: centered around a DVD with workbook lessons to use during the week. It is a “Beth Moore” program, the first I’ve ever listened to. Maybe one of her proffered observations about the way women treat women (not always kindly) is one basis for women who have been disappointed in women’s ministries.

    Anyway, more for my daughter than myself, I will give it a shot and think a little more about how women’s ministries can be a benefit for those of us who attend them.

    Have any thoughts on your own experience?

    A Woman’s Place

    This was originally published on Intellectuelle

    Part 1, in the Church

    I don’t know of a more hot-button topic for both the churched and unchurched than this one. For that reason, we should probably try to take a fresh new look at threading out the various views on just what a woman’s place in society consists of.

    It seems as if there are more presumptions on what the Christian scriptures say than there are authoritative doctrines. And of the authoritative doctrines, few are widely agreed upon as to how they work in the modern world. I’d like to look at that. In fact, I’d like to look at that with one of the more curious variations of recent memory: that blogging is a questionably womanly pursuit.

    But first, what are some of the controversies? Women themselves are not agreed on what woman’s freedom, rights, and dignities are or ought to be. And this has lead to some confusion about what the reaction of re-instituting traditional roles should look like. An example: Feminists of today would eschew the mid-twentieth century persona of “June Cleaver”, TV mother. Neo-traditionalists seem to view those scenes with scentimental nostalgia. But what are we really looking at when we review mid-twentieth century female roles and lifestyle? Aren’t we seeing the Feminine Mystique generation? The women who oftentimes threw off the homemaker’s mantle and went into the workplace in hordes, who sometimes left home to ” find themselves”? Or had to make new lives for themselves as divorce rates skyrocketed? I know my mother had ‘Feminine Mystique’ on her bookshelf, had to become a breadwinner, and lived a very different life from the Donna Reed Show, et al. This is why I don’t think it is in looking backward culturally that we may find the defining roles of women.

    And where has the Church been in all this? Pretty much where the rest of the culture has been: experimenting and floundering around to define women and understand how society should work. The Church hasn’t had a voice of consensus. And I think it is out of laziness and self-protection that it hasn’t yet produced clarity for even women in the Church, let alone a view of women in the Culture.

    Further, the responsibility for this has lain with the Protestants. The ones who lay claim to Sola Scriptura, and studying to show oneself approved. But instead we are tangled up with reiterations of traditions and slipshod adoption of the culture’s lead on this. The Worldly culture. We are the ones who ought to be able to work at rightly applying how the Bible’s directives appear in our culture.

    The Churches View

    So first, what do the scriptures teach? Undoubtedly, the Bible gives a view of order and hierarchy. This is underlined in nature, but doesn’t have to be to give it moral force. The hierarchy of the Bible is: God, the man, the woman. Before I lose you modern souls, here, I ask the question: does this mean in all ways and at all times? If it did, there would not be so many permutations of leadership roles, and the reason I would give for this is contained in the word,”delegate”. Hierarchy is only the basic structure and not the immutable law of how all the players interact. But it is how responsibility is divvied up, and it is also the authority structure. Everything in life operates with authority structure of some sort:”You Gotta Serve Somebody” as Bob Dylan put it.

    I heard a teaching long ago that made alot of sense to me. It was this: that in the Genesis curse the paths of success and downfall for men and women, respectively, was stated. Men would gladly give up the mantle of authority if they could also divest themselves the burden of responsibility, women will gladly shoulder the most onerus amounts of responsibility if they can only be in charge. That was the reasoning given on how the famous curse helped outline where people go awry in their gender roles.

    To move on to a specific instance of scripture, let’s look at one chosen by so many raise controversy:

    1 Timothy 2

    11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
    13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived,
    but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

    That seems quite clearcut until you add Paul’s epistle to Titus:
    Titus 2:3-4: 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…

    Apparently, there is a place where women can teach.Then you have examples such as Priscilla, in the company of Aquilla:”when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately” -Acts 18:26

    John MacArthur points out:”In Romans 16:1, Paul indicates that women possibly serve or minister as Deacons (Diakonon) in the church. Then in I Timothy he sets forth the qualifications for a Deaconess.”

    If we understood that there are times when women are delegated place in the Church to minister in such ways we wouldn’t have foolish contentions about whether women may say things of substance in blogging, etc. If it were sin to blog it would be sin to write, and all women-authored books should be rejected on that basis. That is how I see the logical progression of such thinking. Yet, I don’t believe we see any such idea like that from the scriptures. I do think that the final authority in spiritual matters is given to men, but not just any men. Again, the hierarchy is that God calls and ordains who He wills, and this is the outline given for the Church.

    Is it an abrogation of hierarchy for women to produce something intellectual just because some man somewhere might view it and thus “be taught”? In the light of day that sounds a bit silly, but when a respected teacher throws out such an idea it stirs up doubts and confusion. I call it as I see it: such are irresponsible teachers who are sloppy when they ought to take the admonition of James,

    Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

    This sloppiness gives occasion for misunderstanding to a listening world. More circumspection and less retraction in important doctrines and controversial views becomes the more necessary when hostility and high rhetoric are rampant on a topic.

    But the counterbalance for women who minister through preaching and teaching should be:”What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” Our Churches and society as a whole welcomes and gives a place to women, but in the economy of God the truth is not in any one persons personal possession. If there is not a position given to a woman within a Church that does not mean that there is no avenue for teaching, simply that there is no officially ordained position within that group. No Christian ought to strive for pride of position, and it is disappointing to see so many women disdain opportunity unless it comes with a full set of perks and prestige.
    I think the example of Deborah in the Old Testament is one of the most telling on this subject.

    The Christian Opportunity

    Should the Church abide by these standards enough to have a body of evidence for the culture to view, I think the high esteem for women, and their opportunities for fulfilling their potential could be seen plainly. In fact, I think this is what we see in the the way Western culture has grown to give Women the place they enjoy today. Unfortunately, the extrapolations of those high views under the secular watch seems to be leaving women highly vulnerable to harm. This is seen in too many ways to go into with proper depth here. Everything from increased vulnerability from easy divorce to the emerging picture of exploitation due to ideas of “sexual freedom”. This is all hotly debated even within the feminist camp. Not just between Christian traditionalists and Feminists.
    Some of the examples are enumerated by Melanie Phillips, arguing in books such as “The Sex-Change Society Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male” that “feminism has distorted its own agenda of equality by replacing it with sameness”, “women are being encouraged to work at all times, whether they want to or not” . (I cite this book because it articulates some of the conflicts and issues. It makes some accusations that I am not prepared to defend. )

    Is this the pattern the Church wants to emulate? One which has not and will not work? Or ought we return to looking at what our own guidelines and mandates say? And figure out which is which?

    I’m not sure we can do that if we forget Christ’s example of Lordship was also one of humility and service, and think that men in authority means that women’s voices are silenced. In all cases, if God gives us words to speak, how can we not speak them?

    When qualms such as these are brought up, I ask myself, what is the actual articulated fear here? Is it blogging and accidental teaching?
    Is it the idea that women must have a restricted place in the church ministry? I do not think this is what is actually being verbalized. I think the actual fear is the breakdown of accountability, and that is something that doesn’t get addressed in the calls to shut women away from the internet or to stop blogging or writing books. It is a different problem that has symptoms and poor outcomes in some of these areas. Putting a band-aid on the gushing hemorrhage, or cutting the rest of the hand off, isn’t the solution. The solution is to strengthen the Churches structure to function properly. And just as there are times a husband should listen to his wife, there are times when men in the church should give ear to women. Not in exchanging authority roles but in the mutual respect and honor that Christ teaches and Paul explained.

    If we restored such accountability in the essence of Christian brotherhood, we would make inroads against other problems such as pornography use, that is eating many men alive. Men in the Church. Accountability would strengthen them and help them to grow into the husbands and fathers that watch over the welfare of those in their care. I think this is the needed emphasis and that the squabbling over women somehow wandering into conflict with biblical wisdom is a red herring. The reason Deborah was called to lead, (Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.) may well have been due to a dearth of men vigorous enough in the service of God. But perhaps I am wrong about that, perhaps there are times that God shows His sovereignty in working through those whom He chooses.

    Please do not take this as a doctrinal statement on the idea of women leading the Church, the only expression given us is that women have callings and gifts, and that these should be used. I have no ambitions for women in specific roles, and I think there are many ways to serve God, some of the best without titles. Best because they are the more free, and I would conclude my thoughts here with the idea that our expression, as Christians, about the place of women in society is that they should be free to fulfill their potentials, and that we all appear before our maker without designations of gender or nationality or prestige. We ought to value that freedom and use it to its fullest in the service of God and mankind. It isn’t the licentiousness of the worlds version of women, it isn’t the subdued version of domination from the power hungry, either. What it is, is a respectful and responsible form of what best expresses woman in the full version of her humanity, and spiritual heritage.

    “What of the future? We live in a day that is fast-moving. The United States is moving at great speed toward totally humanistic orientation in society and state. Do you think this will leave our own little projects, our own church, and our own lives untouched? Don’t be silly. The warnings are on every side. ”
    -Francis Schaeffer.

    A Woman’s Place, in the Culture, what might that look like? What does it look like now? Who’s going to draw the template?

    The Executive Pastor’s Guide to Social Media

    The Right People
    “anyone can be trained to use the tools, but the ones who have a deep rooted passion and interest in web technology are pretty safe bets. Why? Because people who are already engaged have a sustainable interest that will far exceed any tool, initiative, campaign, or project.”

    Are You A Christian Luddite?

    That’s OK. Really. And in a minute I’ll tell you why I think so. First, for those who aren’t sure, here is the definition of a Luddite:

    “…the term Luddite has been used derisively to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change.”~ wikipedia

    Christians have often enough taken the reins in that seat (a metaphor which might well be Luddite itself! certainly anachronistic). I’ve heard many a preacher rail against the evils of TV or the Internet; and in the previous generation, it was radio. And they weren’t all wrong, but not completely on target either. These things are all tools.

    But at the moment as the internet becomes well established in the general populace as a mainstream activity, and geeks are relegated to the furthest reaches of technical know-how (who thinks of a “Geek” as someone who has a website or knows how to code mere html?), the complaint of many Christian leaders is more that we are somehow falling behind. The Church isn’t “with-it” or in the parlance, “doesn’t ‘get it'” enough for this generation.

    I don’t think that is true.

    At least not in the sense that Christianity is going to be less relevant. Maybe our bells and whistles become so, but the Faith itself is extremely robust.
    Continue reading Are You A Christian Luddite?

    Gender Issues: defining the categories

    In Complegalitarian: Making Distinctions, Part 1, Letitia of Complegalitarian has written a really excellent clarification of the terms and the thinking in the gender debate. This debate is finding top headlines in many Christian blogs. I appreciate her fine distinctions and clear explanations, and if I would compile a must-read list for understanding the discussion- this would be first on my list.

    I especially found helpful the comparison “Between Complementarianism and Patriarchy“, two categories that get interchanged -but shouldn’t be. While I might find places to further discuss, or even argue, within her post, on the whole it is a well thought out and sensible pathway through the very rocky terrain of gender debate within Christian circles..

    Theological Gobbledegook

    Absurdities of the religious I could call it, and this post is likely to make some people angry I suppose. No one likes their carefully constructed ideals poked at, but then I don’t like foolishness under the guise of well thought out theology.

    I read through some teaching on “the use and application of the manifestation gifts”, and started parsing out the veils and layers of high sounding language. Finally, I ended up just plain disgusted with what gets passed off as relevant teaching. I’m not linking any examples because it has nothing to do with the church or individuals who wrote the offending pablum, it has to do with what we are all engaging in when trying to give the gospel a makeover.

    There are many people who decry “experiential faith”, but sometimes that is the kind that is needed. Let’s get out of the ivory tower before we start to talk “theology”. Theology without reality is just myth, friends. We can insert all the high falutin’ godwords we want, but it won’t bring truth into ivory tower once the fairy tales start.

    The trouble is that we take our ideas and theories and try to make the theology fit that, instead of taking what is actually in scripture and then applying it to ourselves and our practice. It just gets more and more fantastical as we move along with it in the directions we feel we would like to take it. Pretty soon we are saying some pretty silly things. Not at all pretty.

    I’m for plain talk and plain truth. I think that is more than enough, if we would just partake of it and serve it to “whosoever will”.

    So how did the bat get in my belfry and the bee in my bonnet? I read some things like: “Spiritual Gifts…-Holy Spirit power to meet human need through the life of a yielded believer”. Ok. How then does one explain individuals like Leroy Jenkins? You don’t have to be “yielded” to manifest spiritual gifts, and that was the big part of the problem for the original Corinthian church. Manifested gifts are given by God for His purposes, yes, but they are entrusted to believers and sometimes the believers don’t earn that trust… but that doesn’t mean that the gift gets rescinded. If Christians understood that they wouldn’t be so dazzled by the display of gifts and would understand more of the importance of “fruit”.

    Then, “Worship services are practice sessions for real life”
    No they’re not. No, they’re not. Worship services are to give worship to the most High God. Worship services are to render the service of awe and honor to the Lord in a corporate body. It is in real time… not a practice session for anything else. You know how that phrase strikes me? As idolatry. The idolatry of the big US and OUR IMPORTANCE. If we don’t come before the Lord for real, then that is pretty pathetic.

    “Avoid sounding spooky” That sounds cute. It is cute until you realize that trying to avoid something just is so contrived. The spookiness is probably one sort of contrived “holy sounding” fake spirituality standing in for an actual relationship to God and the person God is ministering to through you, but trying to not sound spooky (and doing anything but serving as a conduit) is just something artificial…too much about you again.

    I’m not going to fisk the entire teaching, these examples are enough for the point made here.

    The people who write those ideas, and think that way, mean well. I’m sure of that, and likely don’t feel they deserve to get slapped by this, but we need a real faith more than we need to be artificially nice and careful about everyones feelings. The teachers trying to get their points across are probably pretty terrific people, I have no doubt; but they are trying too hard to please men, and missing the whole point about who the Lord is in this whole matter. The confabulations of that sort of theology is simply foolishness, and it is not the answer for how we should speak to a post Christian culture. or to each other… or at all for that matter. At best it is a waste of everyone’s time and at worst it is confusing and misleading.

    We need to get our facts straight. Then preach and teach and live it that way.

    Bon Mots

    Some good words picked up from pursuing conversation @ Intellectuelle:
    John Piper had to say this in conclusion on his post about the Barna statistics on Evangelical immorality rates:

    Good Doctrine Makes Better (Teenage) Saints :: Desiring God

    Sider lists the kinds of behaviors this more doctrinally rigorous group tend to show.

    They are nine times more likely than all the others to avoid “adult-only” material on the Internet. They are four times more likely than other Christians to boycott objectionable companies and products and twice as likely to choose not to watch a movie specifically because of its bad content. They are three times more likely than other adults not to use tobacco products and twice as likely to volunteer time to help needy people. Forty-nine percent of all born-again Christians with a biblical worldview have volunteered more than an hour in the previous week to an organization serving the poor, whereas only 29 percent of born-again Christians without a biblical worldview and only 22 percent of non-born-again Christians had done so. (Scandal, p. 128)

    Sider concludes with a word that pastors and youth leaders should hear with great seriousness—mainly because the Bible teaches it, but also because Regnerus’s new book points in the same direction. Here is Sider’s conclusion:

    [The] findings on the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology. Biblical orthodoxy does matter. One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches. (Scandal, pp. 129-130)

    Yes. Pray for sure. And work our heinies off teaching and preaching and modeling the Truth. And resist an entertainment model for youth ministry. And cultivate a joyfully blood-earnest atmosphere for worship. And call for our youth and our retirees to go risk their lives somewhere for the risen King Jesus. This is where serious truth-driven ministry takes us.

    Then there was this grounded comment on a thread from Today’s Christian Woman:

    It is easy to feel left out at times but we have to remember God made us all different so we will not be in the same place as everyone else. We get in trouble when we start comparing ourselves to other people. We can’t do that. We are unique people living unique lives. We should embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ as a family unit….not separate ourselves into groups. It takes all kinds of people to make up a family. We are all valuable. We should not be complaining like the world does. God has set us apart from the world to be thankful, caring, loving, tolerate people. So what they concentrated on families at your get-away. You are part of a family. Use that time to enjoy you mother / daughter….don’t complain. God had you there for a reason. I wonder if you learned what he wanted you to learn?
    -from reader Debbie

    Just Who Are These ‘Church Ladies’?

    Inspired by Sarah Flashing who is doing an admirable job of providing commentary on our culture, and recently on specific Church culture, I started to think about how I define this term that I have used, ‘The Church Lady‘. I pretty much presumed that we all know this lady and have similar thoughts and feelings about her. As she has become defined, however, I am not so sure I presumed correctly.

    So, how do I see ‘The Church Lady’? And how far have I conformed to this stereotype, myself?

    1. She is the SNL caricature of old fashioned clothing, and as recorded in Wikipedia:”uptight, smug, and pious”…”She often takes others to task”…”whenever she felt that she had demonstrated her superiority, she would do her “Superior dance” in which she would rhythmically strut to organ music in front of her alleged inferiors”
    2. Much of the Church Lady’s attributes in our real churches are the result of following the prescribed dress, demeanor, and attitudes handed her by the mainly male leadership. This is usually in the name of various virtues and denominational references. Some women sincerely try to emulate the sets of rules with the best of intentions, some struggle without knowing how to be otherwise, and some find themselves completely at home in the persona.
    3. Church ladies are secure in their constricted world of social rounds inside their church circles. They are – and often proudly so- a callback to the ’50’s women of the past… with their own substitutions for bridge parties and coffee klatches. They make it equally as difficult to break into their cliques as any elite social organizations of that time.
    4. They are mixed in among the sincere and the faithful, so that they are not identifiable by image alone, but rather by the undermining critical spirit hidden in their pious smiles, the impossibility of gaining their acceptance by any except their own standards.
    5. Her view is small and parochial, she doesn’t want to be bothered by larger concerns of the world, except in the most generic way possible, she stands aghast at the great unwashed masses. Her world is neatly pressed, and deodorized… brightly smiling, preferably.
    6. But sometimes she is determined to break from that smallness, and sometimes she proves herself a tireless worker in ministries to the less fortunate
    7. Sometimes she provides a safe haven of grace and hospitality, lovingly setting a fine table for guests or providing meals for the distressed. Her home cloistered from the outside world can be a place of peace and respite.
    8. She is mindful of boundaries that make the difference between a place of order and grace and chaos
    9. She is the amalgam of women, both sincere and hypocritical who seek to have a Christlike life. The one succeeding in spirit, if encumbered by distractions to many rules of appearance and lifestyle…. the other giving rise to the many jokes and bitter memories of being ambushed by her.

    My own Church lady role has consisted of trying to conform to the mold of my newfound Christian faith, back in the day ( 1970’s ). Some of it was finding my way through the maze of real versus substitute virtue.

    Real modesty vs. a dress code for Christian women, real charity vs. a knee-jerk reaction to every church related plea for time and money, time managed by priorities of a spiritual demand rather than the merry go round of meaningless, time-filling (killing) Church activities. Real piety of prayer and compassion vs. the religious conformity to outward shows of pseudo-holiness, real love and sense of ones own depravity vs. bemoaning the world going to hell in a handbasket, real investigation of the Word of God rather than Bible study by rote in hand delivered palaver. Real devotion to Christ rather than hard-driven, hard-bitten dogmatism to the party line.

    Mark D. Linville in his all too accurate picture of a fundamentalist’s church life, leaves us in his essay, IN PRAISE OF THE CHURCH LADY ( a pdf file) with these thoughts:

    I suspect that the Church Lady—who, in my memory is more an amalgam of many people who had an early influence on me than an actual person—had something less than an articulate and carefully reasoned theology. I would not be surprised to learn that she harbored some religious beliefs that were downright silly. I know that I could take her in a fight today. But she is yet another example of those crude earthen vessels, in which God has placed His treasure, and which He is able to use for His good purposes.

    …I am convinced that the Church Lady is needed today more than ever. It would be the height of foolishness for anyone to expect to pass on the baton of a robust faith to their children in these days and in this culture without immersing them in a community of
    believing people as I was. The unchurched child in the nominally Christian family today will find anything but a Christian role model to set his course. There may be attempts within the home to instill faith and Christian virtues, but the prevailing winds of our culture are blowing strongly in the opposite direction.

    What defines the difference between those church ladies who are affectionately, if amusedly, remembered and who left a positive impact on ones Christian life and those who are recalled with some bitterness and disdain? I believe it is the element of love. Love which is sincerely desiring the best, and in this view the proverb that love covers a multitude of sins may be our very own. That for all the faults of many well-meaning Christian women, the deciding factor of reflecting Christlikeness is this quality of love.

    As a ‘Church Lady’, this is the goal: not throwing off rules or remaking images, but reflecting Christ Jesus, Our Savior and His gospel. These women who provide nourishment, who clean the hallways and rooms of our lives, who are available for prayer, who seek to the best of their ability to serve and support are mixed in with some who are hypocritically self-serving under the pretense of their pious smiles and their eternal preoccupation with the small details of rulebook infractions. The Gladys Kravitz‘s of our churches.

    I personally desire to be a Church Lady with a difference, one that aspires to all the virtues of Christ in a faith the genuinely works by love. One that is honest enough to look at herself, and look at her world and adjust the lens, and throw away the false filters. I chose to be a stay at home, homeschooling, home birthing, fundamental doctrinally, conservative dressing, values-oriented woman for reasons. Well thought out reasons, but not those that I would apply universally to every other Christian woman. My mainstay of a message is that we appreciate each others sincere effort to follow Christ Jesus, that we honor Him in our lives and in the world, that we support each others efforts, even when we don’t fully approve or understand. The benchmark is whether one loves Christ. Church ladies have a responsibility to adjust themselves to that benchmark. And when they do, who will be laughing, then?