Continued charity and also a break.

[Update: Thank you for your kind email notes, everyone.  For those interested, my thoughts on present matters are on my other blog.  And now I'll be away from my computer through Easter, so I won't be responding to email again until next week.  Have a blessed Easter.]

Several months ago, my father-in-law, who was a veteran of the Korean War, passed away; this weekend is his military memorial service.  We have family from out of town staying with us and will be busy all weekend, trying to conclude our grieving at my father-in-law’s passing by remembering his life and what a wonderful man he was.  Since the charity drive is still going on here, I would ask readers who are considering donating to a charitable cause to consider making a donation to the Veterans of Foreign Wars; you can read more about that organization in my post about the charity drive. Also, I’ve decided to take a blogging break, at least for the rest of Lent and perhaps longer, in order to attend to work and extended family matters which need more of my time at present.

I wish everyone a blessed Easter.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart (Book Review and Give-Away)

As I mentioned last week, the company that does publicity for Moody Publishers contacted me and asked me to review a new book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery, and I agreed to do so.  I have received no money in exchange for this and have not promised to give a good review of the book.  I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher and they will also mail a free copy to one of my readers.  Here is a description of the book from the publisher’s web site:

Christian women don’t have to choose between being sexual and spiritual. They have legitimate longings that the Church has been afraid to talk about, and books like Fifty Shades of Grey exploit. Whether you are single or married, sexually dead or just looking to revive your sex life, Pulling Back the Shades will address your desire to be both sexual AND spiritual. With solid Biblical teaching and transparent stories, trusted authors Dannah Gresh  and Dr. Juli Slattery, offer an unflinching look at the most personal questions women ask. The book offers practical advice for women to address five core longings:

  • to be cherished by a man
  • to be protected by a strong man
  • to rescue a man
  • to be sexually alive
  • to escape reality

God designed women with these longings and has a plan to satisfy them. It’s time for women to identify their intimate longings and God-honoring ways to fulfill them.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book.  After years around Protestant Christian churches, I had noticed that men’s sexual sin is not infrequently discussed in church but women’s very rarely is.  I have heard the evils of pornography discussed but I have never heard women’s preferred form of pornography – erotica – discussed.  I thought maybe the authoresses would try to excuse women’s sexual sin, but they did not!  Instead they lovingly, in the name of Christ, but very firmly, call erotica what it is: women’s pornography.

The book, though I have one minor quibble that I’ll explain in a moment, is excellent.  I highly recommend it and will be suggesting that it be used as a small group study book for our Women’s Ministry.

First, let me say that I have never been into reading erotica.  I don’t say this with any spiritual pride; it simply has never interested me, so I’ve not had a spiritual battle in this area (other areas, of course, I have – like anyone, I have my temptations).  Therefore, I didn’t realize that erotica addiction, like pornography addiction, was running rampant among Christian women − and not only women, but girls as young as 12.  I have never read the Fifty Shades of Grey series which is addressed in Dr. Slattery and Mrs. Gresh’s book, but according to their research, one in every five American adults who read Fifty Shades of Grey is a Christian (p. 134).

In fact, after I announced last week that I would be reviewing this book, I received an email from a reader who told me that her pastor’s wife was not only reading Fifty Shades of Grey but even brought it to church with her!  So, why is this a problem?  The authoresses explain this in Chapter 3, which I will excerpt here:

“Why Mommy Porn Is Spiritual” (excerpts from pages 46-50)

As mentioned earlier, I [Dr. Slattery] read all three of the books in the Fifty Shades series.  The explicit scenes bothered me, but what haunted me even more was the seemingly intentional agenda to drag God and His holiness in the sewer.  Most people who read these books seem to be so mesmerized by the sexuality that they appear to walk right past what I perceive as an even greater danger and offense: spiritual darkness.

…Fifty Shades has plenty of spiritual language, including the name of the main character: Christian. The books are filled with Christian metaphors and allusions like, “I”m Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he’s the serpent, and I cannot resist.” In the Red Room of Pain is an old wooden cross.  At one point, Christian and Ana have sex with her pushed against the cross.

…One more example of how the holy is profaned is particularly disturbing.  While in the Red Room of Pain, Christian has bound Anastasia’s hands and feet spread-eagle to the bed, blindfolded her, and is erotically flogging her.  The spiritual aspects of the scene are obvious based on the conversation surrounding the action.  Here are a few of [the] things Anastasia says:

…seven shades of sin in one enticing look.  My mouth dries, and I know I will do anything he asks.

…he sounds like the devil himself.

I am dragged into a dark, dark part of my psyche that surrenders to this most erotic sensation…I’ve entered a very dark, carnal place.

During this whole episode, Christian has music blaring into Anastasia’s ears.  She describes the music as a celestial choir – singing a capella in my head, an ancient, ancient hymnal. What in heaven’s name is this? T he ancient Latin hymn sung during this carnal bondage and fornication is called “Spem in Alium.” Here are the words translated into English:

I have never put my hope in any other but in You,

O God of Israel

who can show both anger

and graciousness

and who absolves all the sins of suffering man

Lord God,

Creator of Heaven and Earth

be mindful of our lowliness.

…I am absolutely convinced that Satan, through these books. intended to mock and desecrate things set apart to worship God. When I have talked to Christians who have read Fifty Shades of Grey, they are quick to admit the sexual themes in the book, but none of them mention or even seem to notice these more subtle offenses to our faith. Yet I believe this is the more direct and belligerent attack.

Not having read the FSOG series, I was unaware of this direct usage of Christian imagery, but I certainly agree with Slattery and Gresh’s conclusion: erotica, like pornography, is a spiritual battle with the enemy of God.

In Chapters 7 and 8, Slattery and Gresh then give the reader some ideas about how to become a sexually-satisfied and spiritually-satisfied woman.  My one quibble here is in Chapter 8, on being sexually satisfied.  After having discussed the neurochemical basis for arousal, and how novelty in sex can become addictive, the authoresses encourage women to be sexually adventurous with their husbands (page 105).  The problem I have with this is that being adventurous – seeking out continued novelty – teaches husbands and wives to crave that neurochemical “high” from novel sexual stimulation.  I don’t think this is particularly healthy; rather, we should be teaching husbands and wives to give sex freely and generously to one another with the understanding that its purpose is to be pleasurable, procreative, and unitive, not novel and “intense”.  I don’t mean that sex should be ho-hum, but the end result of always having to increase the thrill factor is that you end up having to seek out more and more novelty and more and more intense sexual stimulation when the entire focus of the marital bed is on producing that sexual high.

However, other than this disagreement, I can wholeheartedly recommend Pulling Back the Shades.  In the back are small group discussion and personal journaling questions, and at 165 pages, it’s a quick and easy read, which makes it ideal for women’s small groups.  Given the testimony the authoresses cite from so many women who are struggling with compulsive erotica use, it is obvious that this is an issue that the church needs to take seriously.

Pulling Back the Shades is available on Amazon for $9.25 (paperback) or $7.39 (Kindle).

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the winner of the book give-away, by random drawing is…

sosweet2362

Miss Sosweet2362 – you are the blessed winner!  I will email you later today to let you know how to get your free copy of the book. My thanks to the many people who emailed in to enter the drawing.  I wish I could give each one of you a free copy!

Russian Beet Salad and Turkish Kumpir

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When I was in Russia, I noticed that this dish was often served as a regular course at dinner.  The recipe varies but is based on cooked, chilled beets.  My friend Masha, who is from St. Petersburg, taught me to make this years ago, and I’ve adapted it to suit my family’s tastes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches fresh beets
  • 2 bunches fresh scallions
  • 2 large white potatoes
  • 2 large (3 medium) golden delicious apples
  • Chunk feta cheese (6-12 ounces)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • splash of lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  • 1 t dried dill weed or one bunch fresh dill, minced
  • salt, pepper to taste

1. Trim the greens and roots off the beets; scrub them well.  Steam or boil them until soft.  Slip their skins off, then dice or cut into shoestrings. If you are pressed for time, you could just use two cans of shoestring beets and skip this step.

2. Scrub and boil white potatoes; slip off their skins and dice.

3. Trim roots off scallions and the very tips off the greens.  Wash well.  Slice thinly.

4. Scrub and core apples, then dice.

5. Cut feta cheese into small cubes.

6.  Mix all prepared ingredients in a large bowl with olive oil, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper.  Serve chilled.

One way that we enjoy eating this salad in our house is over baked potatoes fresh from the oven.  I figured out to do this after a vacation in Turkey, where a very common street food, kumpir, is comprised of baked potatoes over which you can choose to have a variety of different toppings such as fresh or cooked vegetables, various cheeses, and cold salads:

 

Here is how I prepare my baked potatoes:

  1. Scrub potatoes under cold water with a stiff brush.
  2. Place them on a cookie sheet and prick them a few times with a fork to create steam vents.
  3. Rub them all over with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  5. Bake at 350 F for approximately one hour until soft.
  6. Slit lengthwise and then push together from each end to open the potato.
  7. Top with cold Russian Beet Salad if desired.

A Tale of Buckle Bunnies and Wives.

I was thinking yesterday about a quote I read way back in 1994, in a Spin Magazine article about Buckle Bunnies, which I wanted to use in an essay now.  I went looking for the article online and found it on Google Books; after re-reading this article 20 years after it was written, I found it so interesting that I have reproduced the text of the article below (you can click on the Google Books link to see the original article with pictures).  There are two interesting aspects to this story, both the content itself and the subtext implied by how the authoress, Elizabeth Gilbert, an obvious liberal feminist, relates the events.  I won’t analyze any of this article yet, but I have highlighted a few lines here and there which I found particularly interesting (please note that this article contains some very crass language):

“Charlie used to be able to call up Cocksucker any time of day and say, ‘Cocksucker, come over here and suck my cock,’” a cowboy named Jason told me.  “Cocksucker really liked Charlie,” he added fondly.  “She liked him a lot.”

This is a story about women in rodeo.  It’s not about the women who rope calves or race horses around barrels, or these days, get tossed off bulls for a living.  That’s another story altogether.  This is a story about the women who follow rodeo, or more specifically, the women who follow rodeo cowboys.

There’s Nasty Wendy, TJ, Tammy, and Angie.  There’s a girl called Fisheyes, whom the cowboys told me I would know on sight.  In Canada, there’s someone called Motorcross, for no reason that anyone remembers.  There’s Hoedown, who’s handy with a MasterCard, and Dawn, who will spend a week’s paycheck on a bull rider, if he asks her to.  There’s a little woman in Montana named Andrea, whom a cowboy can always go home with at the end of the night, if he hasn’t found anyone better.  And there are the famous Clarksville, Texas, girls: Peterbelly, Blondysocks, Grapenuts, Copenhagen, Tiny Tim, Hammerhead, Skoals-a-Little, and Cocksucker, who likes Charlie a lot.

Buckle Bunnies like cowboys enough to screw random ones rapaciously, often several at a time, and then provide breakfast, laundry services, telephones, and medical attention the next morning.  They like cowboys enough to pay their rodeo entry fees, which can run anywhere from $50 to $500, depending on the prestige of the event.

Buckle Bunnies travel.  They hang out behind the bucking chutes at every rodeo with six-packs and ice-packs, waiting for cowboys to finish tempting death in the ring.  They stand in pairs at country bars, laughing crazily, as if standing with a girlfriend in a strange bar is the most fun a person can have in this life.  They fill arenas with their tight jeans, their pink blouses with the geometric holes cut out of the backs, and their Loni Anderson hair.  When the rodeo is over, the bullriders limp out of the ring with the adrenaline rush of firing-squad survivors, grabbing beers and girls.  And every night the grabbed girls shriek and laugh, as if all the attention is a big fat surprise.

“If you’re a top cowboy,” Jason said, “getting laid is never a problem.”
“What if you’re not a top cowboy?”
“It’s still not a problem.  It’s just that the top cowboys have more selection.”

A cowboy’s trophy belt buckle is engraved with every kind of necessary proof.  “Champion bullrider,” it might read.  “San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, 1993.”  It’s the shape of a shield and a little bigger than a nice bar of soap.  Since it’s a hideous offense to wear a buckle that you didn’t earn yourself, it’s a pretty safe way to tell quickly who matters and who doesn’t.

A cowboy will pass through a crowd with one hand casually on his buckle, touching it and shifting it, like it’s a satellite dish emitting and receiving information.  Which, of course, it is.  The buckle is conveniently portable, a trophy that only comes off when the jeans come off, at which point its work is done anyhow.  Girls in bars kneel or squat in front of guys to read the buckles closely, a gesture rich with promise for later.  In a sport without any protection, a buckle is the only point of invulnerability on a cowboy’s body.  And in a community where divorce and desertion are epidemic, a buckle is the only token of real worth.

One morning, bored in San Antonio, I called 68 local pawn shops and had this conversation 68 times: “Hi.  Do you have any rodeo belt buckles in stock?”
“No, ma’am, we sure don’t.”
“How about wedding rings?”
“Yes, ma’am, we’ve got hundreds of wedding rings.”

It means something to be given a belt buckle.  Wives get belt buckles.  Sweethearts get belt buckles.  Mothers get belt buckles.  Buckle Bunnies, generally, only get cowboys.  But a buckle can redeem a woman, too.  Many rodeo wives and girlfriends are ex-Buckle Bunnies, promoted out of trashhood to a moral high ground from which they can scorn the whores below.  And many Buckle Bunnies are ex-rodeo wives, who lost their marriages and their standing and are back in the bars, scanning the buckles for a different future.

I once asked a bullrider named Mel to describe the perfect wife.  “Tall, blond, long legs,” he said.  “Great job, great cook, great mother.” Then I asked him to describe a typical Buckle Bunny. He said, “That’s a piece of trash. You put it outside your windows when you’re done with it, and someone else will pick it up.” (Incidentally, when asked to describe the perfect husband, Mel said, “Great attitude. Not a woman hater.” Luckily for Mel, there are no height or salary requirements for men.)

A woman involved with rodeo cowboys can either be the wife who gets cheated on or the woman who has one-night stands with married guys. And while it may seem like a choice between nothing and not much, the distinction between Buckle Bunny and buckle holder means everything. Still not everyone gets it.

Several cowboys told me proudly, “Bunnies aren’t after the buckles. They’re after what’s under the buckles.”

Hey guys? Bullshit. It’s the buckle, stupid.

I could have used a buckle myself, because the Bunnies didn’t want to talk to me. I was only in Texas for a few days before word got around that I was asking around about getting around. It’s a small world for a big state. I was in Uvalde, interviewing a candidate in a bar when a woman came running over. “Don’t talk to her!” she yelled, pointing at me. “She’s doing a story about Buckle Bunnies!” Then she ran back out onto the dance floor. Her friend watched, then turned to me. “A few more drinks and she’ll be taking her shirt off,” she said sadly, then walked away. She wouldn’t give me her name.

“You only came over because someone told you I was a Buckle Bunny,” hissed a girl in the same bar. I had some trouble denying this convincingly.

She went on. “Well, you can write whatever you want, but I think there’s enough wrong with the world that we don’t have to worry about other people’s business. And if a girl wants to run around, or die of a disease, then that’s her business.  And I don’t care what people think about me.”

Well, I do. And she hated me. Finding a woman who wants to talk about her experiences as a Buckle Bunny is like finding a Frenchman who wants to talk about his experiences as a Nazi collaborator.

But guess what? Getting the cowboys to talk was no problem at all. In San Antonio, I met Kirby, a bareback rider who wanted nothing more out of life than to set me straight. “We don’t call them Buckle Bunnies anymore,” he said. “That’s a 70s expression. These days, we call them good old dirty-legged rodeo whores.”

Kirby had some swell stories. He sought me out one night in Cowboy Corner to tell me his favorite Buckle Bunny moment. It was about this girl in Somerville, Texas, who everyone tried to screw, and how he chased her down a road and caught her finally, and they screwed in the middle of the highway until a car came and scared her and she ran off into a barbed wire fence and cut her titties all up. Kirby was a million laughs.

I changed my approach. “I’m doing a story about Buckle Bunnies,” I started telling women, dropping the little Texas two-step of innuendo and evasion. “Can you tell me anything about them?”

They were delighted to talk. Every woman had an alibi for why she herself was legitimately at the rodeo. Either she was a cowboy’s wife or girlfriend, or a civic volunteer, or a former barrel racer, or the daughter of an old bullrider, or a rodeo queen from 1985. And while she may only date cowboys and while she may have traveled a great distance to get there that night, she certainly was no Buckle Bunny herself.

When I asked women if they would point out who in the room was a Buckle Bunny, it turned into a cross fire of gossip, a farce of indictments from across the bar. Two unattached girls told me heatedly that you can always tell Buckle Bunnies because they’re the ones all dressed up fancy to walk around in cowshit. Vicki, in a hot pink shirt so small it might have been a necklace, said, “You can always tell a Buckle Bunny by the way she dresses.”

Vicki also told me that she and her friend Christy were not themselves Buckle Bunnies, but they play them as extras in the movie “8 Seconds.” Shannon in Houston said she thought Buckle Bunnies were slutty out of insecurity, and when I didn’t respond she said, “Don’t you think so? I mean, to sleep with someone? You don’t think so?”

Two women in San Antonio wouldn’t give me their names. One, because she’s a rodeo official; the other, because she’s the ex-wife of a well-known bullrider. The ex-wife, after a half hour, admitted that five years ago she’d been “the biggest Buckle Bunny on the face of the earth.” When I asked her to define the expression, she said, “A Buckle Bunny doesn’t care about a guy’s name or anything except that he’s a top cowboy. She’ll fuck him for one night, and never see him again.”

“Was that you five years ago?” I asked, and she froze, like a perjurer trapped on the stand. “No,” she said finally. “See, I knew all those guys.”

I asked Vicki if women in rodeo ever get hurt or raped. She said, “It doesn’t happen.” Doesn’t happen? “Well, if you’re stupid enough to go to a motel with a guy you don’t know, then you’re a Buckle Bunny and you get what you deserve.”

The next day, I called the local Planned Parenthood to ask about women’s issues in cowboy country. “This is not cowboy country,” someone named JoAnn told me. “That’s a misconception about San Antonio.” Then Little Miss Conception went on to say that it did sound to her like a girl who goes home with strangers gets what she deserves.

Then I called Joyce at the battered women’s shelter, and she said they get more victims of truckers than victims of cowboys. Then I called the courthouse to ask about divorce rates, and Mr. Garcia told me he thought rodeo marriages break up so often because cowboys have sex with their horses.

Then I called my sister to complain that the only thing a woman can be in Texas is somebody’s good girl or somebody’s bad girl. “Or somebody’s governor,” she added.

Then I called a friend in Philadephia and she told me to watch what I wrote, unless I wanted to become the Salmon Rushdie of rodeo. She called my story “The San-Antonic Verses.”

On my last night in San Antonio, I went to a place called Midnight Rodeo − one of those strange Texas bars big as Kmart, sunk in some epic parking lot. I met Tonya, who was born on an Austin ranch but now worked in the city. She was smart and funny and her hair wasn’t big. I asked her about cowboys, and she told it straight. “None of them are worth a shit,” she said. “They can’t keep a job. They cheat on their wives. They’re never home. They’re lazy, and you can’t trust them. None of them are worth a shit.”

As a visual aid, good old dirty-legged Kirby came over just then. He was staggeringly drunk, and he wanted to talk to me some more about girls. “I got a beautiful girl I’ll probably marry someday,” he said. “Sometimes I like being nice to girls, like, “Hey, how ya’ doing, nice to meet you.’ Other times, I just go around like, “Fuck you, bitch! Suck my dick!’”

I was writing all of this down. “You’re going to make someone a great husband someday,” I said.

Kirby considered this. Then he howled, “Hey! I’m young, I’m dumb, and I’m havin’ fun!” Suddenly, he noticed my new friend Tonya. “Wanna dance?” he asked her.

She looked up at him and smiled slowly. “Okay,” she said. “Sure.”

Later, I drove down to Schertz to drink at the Blue Bonnet Palace, a great big place with a great big idea: Live Bullriding! Inside the bar! I sat with the rodeo wives and watched the bulls circle that small ring like sharks. Kids hung on the fences, swinging like bait. Oddly, nobody was killed. Bulls are scary. So are rodeo wives.

An arch-blond named Lola told me about how she, an innocent, was deceived by Nasty Wendy, a legendary Buckle Bunny. “For a whole year I thought she was my friend,” Lola said. “I didn’t know she was a whore. I even tried to warn her that there are a lot of whores in this business, and to be careful to stay away from girls like that, but she fooled me.”

Lola was full of shit. Lola’s been around rodeo for years. I’d been in Texas three day, and I already knew all about Nasty Wendy, who is famous only for sleeping with the current top 15 bullriders in the country. The National Finals Rodeo Bulletin is known as Wendy’s black book. She’s a legend, for Christ’s sake.

Jennifer, a 20-year-old rodeo wife, told me, “Sometimes I’ll be in a bar with my husband, Beau, and some girl I’ve never seen before will run over and hug him and say, ‘Hi Beau, remember me from Denver?’ But he doesn’t even know those girls. They just think they know him because they recognize his name.” Jennifer seemed happy with this answer.

Later, I was interviewing a bullrider name Ronnie, when the bartender asked him, “Do you think all women should be treated with respect?”

“Every woman should be treated with respect,” Ronnie said.

“What about Buckle Bunnies?” I asked.

“That’s different. Buckle Bunnies don’t count.”

Hell, who wants not to count?  Sluts? Whores? Trash? Who wants to sign up for that mailing list? For all the cowboy talk about the freedom of the lifestyle, rodeo is basically a small town on the move, a road show of the same bulls, the same cowboys, the same bars, the same girls. It’s a circus, and everyone knows you don’t see the world when you run away with the circus. You just see the inside of the same grimy circus tent from Beaumont to Buffalo and back.

In a community where the only liberal thing around is the use of makeup, it’s not surprising that no woman is ready to stand up and say it loud, I’m a dirty-legged rode whore, and I’m proud. Which is a shame, because they subsidize the whole show. Without their cash and ass, the sport could not exist as it does, and if Buckle bunnies ever unionized, the changes would come fast and hard.

But there’s no danger of this. The ethic of rodeo forbids boat-rocking from any angle, and the urge to conform shows up in weird ways. One night in Houston, the announcer asked the 58,000 spectators, “Is anyone here not from Texas?” A dead silence fell over the Astrodome. It was exactly as if he’d asked, ‘Who here likes taking it up the ass?” If there were any among us who were guilty, we weren’t talking. I sure didn’t volunteer. I may be from out of town, but I’m not stupid. When in Houston, Ich bin eine Texan.

A bullrider named Will said to me one night, “Buckle Bunnies get a bad rap. But when you’re 1,000 miles from home and broke and hurt, and it’s 2:30 a.m. in Iowa, and the bar is closing, they’re pretty nice to have around.”

A kind statement, sure, but this is the same Will who described his girl-selecting process to me in scientific detail, finishing it up by saying that if he’s still solo at closing time, “It’s time to change weight class.” He pointing to a chubby girl across the bar and said, “If I really needed a place to stay tonight, that would be my target, right there.”

“So go talk to her,” I said.

“You don’t want to get one too early,” his friend explained. “Then you gotta buy her a beer.”

The older guys seemed capable of greater generosity. Mike, who’s 37 and still riding bulls against all advice, calls the dedicated Bunnies “campaigners” and “solid sons-of-bucks.” He told me about being rescued in Canada by a girl when his friends had left him, broke and broken-ribbed, after a rodeo. She took him home, and the next morning her mother came into the bedroom to ask how they wanted their eggs. Mother and daughter took care of Mike for a week, and then lent him the money to fly back to Midland, Texas.  They still send a Christmas card every year. He said campaigners will do anything for anyone, and it’s not all about sex. It’s about something weirder than that, about some fascination with providing the most macho guys on earth with the only brand of nurturing they will accept: a one-night marriage.

Will went with me to Houston, to make sure I got into the Chute Club, the bar under the Astrodome where the big-name Buckle Bunnies would absolutely be hanging around. A pretty, pregnant woman called Will over. While they talked, I read a note on the bulletin board. “Jerome Davis,” it said. “We are here. Where are you? Meet us at the Chute Club entrance one hour after the rodeo is over. Love, Tiffany, Cindy, Linda, Patty, and Kelly. Think you can handle this?”

Will kissed the pregnant woman, and came back over. “That was Wendy,” he said under his breath. Nasty Wendy, of the National Finals Rodeo top 15. I felt like I’d seen God.

Around midnight, Wendy and a handful of the most legendary Buckle Bunnies in Texas invited me to play poker with them at the Holiday Inn bar. I can’t relate much of what happened because my permission to be there was a fragile thing, hinging on my emphatic promise of no names and no questions. I also can’t remember a lot since we were drinking pretty seriously.

Someone made a toast, “To bulls that buck and girls that…dance good.”

I told a joke, “How come Texas never floated away into the Gulf of Mexico? Because Oklahoma sucks so much.”

I had a spectacular losing streak. When I ran out of money, Wendy paid my ante and TJ kept dealing me in. The place was packed with cowboys, but it was all women at the table, with their smart bets, cigarettes, and inside jokes.

The Holiday Inn campaigners were wonderfully content, the only women I met around rodeo who weren’t nervous about something. By late night, the rodeo wives were all at home, worrying about their marriages, and the young bunnies were in scattered hotel rooms working hard. The campaigners were left in the calm company of their own people. And if a cowboy stopped by the card table to say hello, he would sit on the edge of someone’s chair and get a warm, wifely kiss. He would watch the poker game for a while. Then one of the most famous Buckle Bunnies in Texas might lean forward and let him see her cards, easily, comfortable, as if she held no secrets in that hand at all.

On a final note: does the name of the journalist who wrote this, Elizabeth Gilbert, sound familiar to you?  It should; Ms. Gilbert is also the authoress of the 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which is like the Frivorcees’ Bible.  However, she wrote this Spin article when she was still a young, twenty-something journalist trying to make it in the world as a writer.

[Note: Just a reminder that comments are closed for Lent.  The charity drive is ongoing.]

 

 

On the extreme feminism of the Girl Scouts organization and a few thoughts on American Heritage Girls as an alternative.

A number of years ago, when our eldest daughter was in Kindgergarten, I signed her up to participate in a Girl Scout Daisy troop.  I hung around during the first session, and I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but something felt really off to me about the group.  She went twice more, and I continued to have this weird sense of unease, so finally I removed her from the group, politely explaining that our schedule was too full.

A few months later I got a call from the county Girl Scouts office, wanting to talk to me about my experiences with that group.  “Well, my daughter only attended three times, so I can’t really say anything good or bad about the experience.  Why?”  I inquired.  She told me that there had been “problems” in the group and they were calling all the members to try to figure out what was going on, and our name had not been removed from the roster.  My sense that something was wrong there had been correct.  That was our last involvement with Girl Scouts; I vaguely remember reading a news exposé about some of the national Girl Scout leaders using GS funds (all those cookies sales!) to attend lavish events in Hawaii but paid no attention.

Then in 2011, two young sisters, Tess and Sydney Volanski, chronicled their experience at a Girl Scout event during which they were given a sex-positive feminist brochure.  On their site, the Volanksi sisters write:

“The first eye-opening, and quite honestly, jaw-dropping, example of this difference in values that we became aware of regarded GSUSA’s involvement in the Girls Only Workshop at the United Nations involving a very offensive Planned Parenthood brochure. It was difficult to accept that this corrupt behavior was of Girl Scouts, whom we both trusted and honored, but after communicating directly with witness, Sharon Slater, and seeing the post on the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) website advocating for “affordable, accessible, safe abortion”, it was clear to us that Girl Scouts was far from trustworthy or honorable and that we wouldn’t, couldn’t, support the group in name or financially any longer.  (Note:  See GSUSA’s statement that every member of GSUSA is automatically a member of WAGGGS and supports them in name and financially.  The $12 annual membership fee girls pay to GSUSA triggers a quota that is paid by GSUSA to WAGGGS.  See this resource explaining the GSUSA-WAGGGS money flow.)”

Reader, take a moment to click on their link to the Planned Parenthood brochure they were given.  Is this what you would like your daughter to be learning on her Girl Scout outings?

At a national level, the Girl Scouts organization is not a mild supporter of abortion; they are extreme advocates.  Consider this:

“…the Girl Scouts designated Wendy Davis as an “incredible woman” who deserved to be on the list of 2013 “Women of the Year.” Only a month earlier, the organization promoted Kathleen Sebelius as a woman of “courage” on its Facebook page. Davis is not known for much more than exaggerating her life story and for her filibuster of a pro-life bill in the Texas legislature. Her critics point out that the bill she filibustered was one that limited abortions after viability. Kathleen Sebelius has been the bête noir of the pro-life movement for her role in Obamacare and mandating abortion coverage even for religious entities, what some Catholic bishops have called the largest expansion of abortion in the country since Roe v. Wade.”

At the national leadership level, Girl Scouts are overt feminists, that is to say extreme liberal political feminists.  American Heritage Girls, like any group comprised entirely of females, runs the risk of covert feminism.  I tend to call this natural feminism, since it is rooted mostly in a desire to control and rule over men that has been with women since, oh, Eve I guess.  This kind of feminism, though still sinful and problematic, is less socially destructive in my opinion, though it is still something to be aware of.

We did not have time to participate in American Heritage Girls this year, but we have done so in the past and it’s almost exactly like Girl Scouts except without the overt sex-positive feminism.  I understand that individual Girl Scout troops may seem perfectly fine, not infected with sex-positive feminism at all, but your troop is part of the larger organization, which is strongly in support of organizations like Planned Parenthood.  Don’t believe me?  Read this article (it’s short, but very well supported):

GIRL SCOUTS AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD: ARE THE COOKIES FINALLY CRUMBLING?

Now, consider the fact that the Girl Scout leadership are sex-positive feminists and that the organization at the national level is an extreme advocate for abortion “rights” and then consider the fact that your daughter can begin her involvement with Girls Scouts as a Daisy at age 5.

Maybe Girl Scouts can get Daisy troops some of these from Planned Parenthood?

 

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OK, this is not a real book so far as I know, but peruse Planned Parenthood’s and SIECUS’ websites and you’ll find resources that seem to be meant to achieve this objective.

So, how is the sex-positive feminist community responding to the exposing of Girl Scouts’ radical pro-abortion agenda?  How are they responding to parents removing their children from Girl Scouts and seeking out alternatives such as American Heritage Girls?  Why, by attempting some very lame exposés of their own, of course.  Only there is nothing but decency there to expose, so it falls rather flat.

Consider this article from Jezebel, which Dalrock kindly emailed to me last month (h/t to Mrs. Dalrock for finding the article).  Notice the sarcastic attitude and how the authoress blames on AHG the very thing that GSA does – namely, pushing a radical agenda on innocent children.   Accusing other women of doing the terrible things that she herself is actually doing is typical behavior for a feral female:

Fed Up With the Slutty Girl Scouts? Meet the Conservative Alternative.

“Want your daughter to learn all about camping, sewing and car repair, but with a heaping helping of Jesus? You could try to find a local Girl Scout troop with an especially Bible-thumping troop leader. Or you could just skip straight to the American Heritage Girls, conservative Christianity’s very own copycat.

Pro-lifers are mad that maybe, possibly, someone at the Girl Scouts of the USA could’ve conceivably obliquely hinted that Wendy Davis isn’t …

It’s a common trope on the far-right that the Girl Scouts have become an out-and-out liberal organization with ties to Planned Parenthood.

And so, amid the bombardment, right-wing media outlets are trumpeting an alternative, called the American Heritage Girls. While much smaller—something like 30,000, compared to 2.3 million Girl Scouts—they’re held up as a competitor. A columnist at fire-breathingly conservative outlet Breitbart, recently cheered: “AMERICAN HERITAGE GIRLS OFFERS FAITH-BASED PATRIOTIC ALTERNATIVE TO DECAYING GIRL SCOUTS.” Glenn Beck’s site, The Blaze, did their second piece on the group, following a 2012 intro. TheNational Review ran a Q&A between founder Patti Garibay and Kathryn Lopez, carrying the headline, “Good American Girls.”

So what’s a gal gotta do to qualify as a “Good American Girl” these days? This video from September 2012 provides a nice introduction. The group paints itself as a force “countering the culture,” which “provides girls the necessary tools to defend their faith and to live righteously despite the mixed messages of a culture devoid of a moral code.”

The group was founded in 1995, when Girl Scouts began allowing members reciting the organization’s Promise to replace “in God” with alternatives like “Allah” or “my creator.” You know—dogs-and-cats-living-together level stuff […]

Their uniforms look like Girl Scout uniforms, complete with sashes, except they’re red, white and blue. Proper treatment of the flag gets 7 pages. Girl Scouts rise through the ranks as Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors and finally Ambassadors, while AHG goes a little more Captain America: Tenderheart, Explorer, Pioneer and Patriot. Each is associated with a person who’s “made a positive impact on our country.” Examples include Harriet Tubman and Dolley Madison—as well as Eliza Shirley, who founded the first Salvation Army Corps in America.

Compare the groups Oath to the Girl Scout Promise, which goes:

On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

AHG’s update is damn near identical, except God is presumably obligatory: “I promise to love God, Cherish my family, Honor my country, And serve in my community.” And religiosity pops up constantly. The welcome letter of the group’s handbook sets the tone:

“Welcome to the American Heritage Girls! I hope that you find your time in AHG to be filled with adventure and fun. The AHG program will help you learn many things about yourself and about God’s purpose for your life. May your times be memorable and may you truly become a woman of integrity who loves God, cherishes her family, honors her country and consistently gives service to others.”

The American Heritage Girls’ Creed lists 10 “traits of a girl of integrity,” including:

  • Compassionate
  • Helpful
  • Honest
  • Loyal
  • Perserverant
  • Pure
  • Resourceful
  • Respectful
  • Responsible
  • Reverent

Each is illustrated with a Bible verse. The badge program features lots of relentlessly practical skills that’ve got nothing to do with religion, like fire-building, cake-baking and money management. But they’re often illustrated with tangentially related Bible verses.

It’s the “Personal Well-Being” frontier that’ll really make you feel like Alice tumbling through the looking glass. Sure, there are badges about stamp collecting and personal style, for instance. “All God’s Children” teaches about the disabled, but it’s often through Bible verses. “Best Me I Can Be” crams in hand-washing and dentistry, plus manicures (“visit a nail salon”) and modesty (“Consider visiting a modesty website such as Pure Freedom to learn more about this important value”). There’s a “Bible Basics” badge (“God has given us a wonderful gift — an instruction manual on how to live our life according to His will”). Girls are encouraged to read the books of Ruth and Esther, in particular […]

It’s natural for parents to want to raise their children in a way that reflects their own values. But it seems pretty obvious that the American Heritage Girls is pushing an agenda far harder than the Girl Scouts of America.”

American Heritage Girls’ agenda is to protect children’s innocence, give them a moral grounding and engage in good, clean fun.  Girl Scouts of America’s agenda at the national level is to promote sexual perversion and abortion. Which one reflects your values, reader?

[Note: Just a reminder that comments are closed for Lent.  The charity drive is ongoing.]

 

Bridling our tongues.

I was meditating yesterday evening on what causes women to stumble in showing respect to our husbands, and the word “bridle” came to my mind because I recalled there was a verse in the Bible using that word.  I looked it up and found James 1:26:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Bridling one’s tongue means controlling it in the same way a bit and bridle control a horse and allow it to be directed in the way that it should go.  Of course, in the Middle Ages, a woman who did not exercise self-control over her tongue might find herself fitted with a Scold’s Bridle:

scold’s bridle, sometimes called a brank’s bridle or simply branks, was an instrument of punishment used primarily on women, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. A bridle-bit (or curb-plate), about 2 inches long and 1 inch broad, projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue.The curb-plate was frequently studded with spikes, so that if the offender moved her tongue, it inflicted pain and made speaking impossible.  Wives who were seen as witches, shrews and scolds, were forced to wear the branks, locked onto their head.

Thankfully we can just choose to control our tongues ourselves now.

The sheer number of Bible verses that popped up on bridling one’s tongue or guarding one’s words surprised me; the Bible has a lot to say about this issue.  I think the most serious verse is this one:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

Of course, the tongue as an anatomical structure isn’t what is being spoken of here: rather, it is the words we use our tongues to speak.  It isn’t only women who struggle with keeping our words God-honoring, of course, and certainly it isn’t only when speaking to our husbands that we need to guard our lips, but for today let us focus on wives bridling their tongues when speaking to their husbands.  I’ve pulled out ten verses and tried to apply them to how a wife can make sure her words to her husband are loving and respectful.

1. Speak words that encourage and build your husband up:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

2. If he is angry, especially if he is angry with you, speak words of peace in a gentle tone.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

3. Never gossip about him to your girlfriends, even if you think you have legitimate reason to be offended by something he has said or done.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)

4. There are times to let your words be few; in general, listen more and speak less.  It’s easy to verbally run up one side of your husband and down the other when you are angry, but don’t do it:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)

5. If you’ve quarreled, let it go.  Apologize for your part in it, accept his apology if he offers one, and then let it go.

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

6. Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes into your head as a response.  If he addresses you about something serious, pause and take some time to ask yourself if what you are about to say is necessary and helpful.

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (Proverbs 15:28)

7. Make sure your words are kind.  If what you are about to say to your husband is unkind, don’t say it.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)

8. Do not use your tongue for nagging.  You will do better to use gentle reminders and patience than complaining and nagging:

With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. (Proverbs 21:15)

9. Speak words that give life; ask yourself before you respond to your husband, “Is what I am about to say meant to heal and give life or to crush and destroy?”

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21)

10. And finally, pray daily that God would help you maintain control over your tongue:

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)

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[Note: Just a reminder that comments are closed for Lent.  The charity drive is ongoing.]

The four states of the marital hierarchy, Part 2: the disrupted marital hierarchy of hate/indifference and submit/respect.

[Before we start, I want to remind readers that I am neither a Bible scholar nor a marriage counselor; please don't just take my word for anything I write here. I have done my best to be faithful to God's Word in my suggestions, but I might get some of this wrong.  I present these thoughts with humility, in hopes that they will spur my married female readers to examine their behavior, compare it to what Scripture calls a wife to be and to do, and discuss these issues with their own husbands.]

Two weeks ago, in The four states of the marital hierarchy: an introduction to love, indifference, submission, and rebellion, I wrote about the four states a husband and wife might be acting out in their marriage:

  1. Hate/indifference + rebel/disrespect
  2. Hate/indifference + submit/respect
  3. Love/lead + rebel/disrespect
  4. Love/lead + submit/respect

Last week, in The four states of the marital hierarchy, Part 1: the disrupted marital hierarchy of hate/indifference and rebel/disrespect, I wrote about the disruption of the marital hierarchy in which the husband’s behavior is characterized by hatred of or indifference toward his wife and the wife’s behavior is characterized by rebellion against and disrespect toward her husband, and I gave suggestions to such a wife about her own behavior and responses, based on Scripture.

Today’s discussion will center on a marriage in which the husband’s behavior is characterized as hate or indifference toward his wife  and the wife’s behavior is characterized as submission to and respect for her husband.

My first advice to such a woman is to check herself and make sure that what she is communicating to her husband is actually respect and submission.  Whatever we may be feeling inside, it is the behavior that we demonstrate to others that communicates the loudest.  Only your own husband can say for sure whether he feels that you treat him with respect, but here is some practical advice from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect that might give you a place to start (pages 67-68 in the small group discussion guide):

As Your Husband I Feel Respected When…

I feel you appreciate my pursuits in my field (my desire to work and achieve) when you tell me thanks for going to work everyday for the family, cheer my success whether in business or in sports, and ask me to talk about my dreams.

I feel you appreciate my position as overseer (my desire to protect and provide and even die for you) when you say to me “I really do look up to you for feeling responsible for me,” tell me that you are deeply touched by the thought that I’d die for you, and praise my commitment to provide.

I feel you appreciate my power on your behalf (my desire to be strong, to lead and make decisions) when you tell me I’m strong…, praise my good decisions, and honor my authority in front of the kids and differ with me in (only) in private.

I feel you appreciate my perspective and proposals (my desire to analyze and counsel) when you thank me for my advice and knowledge, let me fix things and applaud my solution orientation, and tell me up-front you need an ear to listen and not a solution.

I feel you value my partnership and pastimes (my desire for a shoulder-to-shoulder friendship) when you tell me you like me, do recreational activities with me, or watch me do them, and encourage alone time for me.

I feel you appreciate my passions and pleasures (my desire for sexual intimacy) when you initiate periodically, respond more often, and let me acknowledge my sexual temptations without shaming me.

Don’t take this as a set-in-stone list; each man is an individual, so talk to your own husband about what you do that communicates respect and disrespect, but this list is at least place from which you can start.

Second, remember that submission and respect are generally enjoyable for a woman to give to her man because God created us to fulfill this role as helper and we want to think well of and esteem our husbands.  However, obedience to God’s commands to submit to and respect our husbands is occasionally unpleasant or difficult, especially if you are married to a man who is not displaying much love or leadership.  What should our response to such difficult times be?  In his essay The virtue of obedience (I highly recommend reading this in its entirety), Bonald writes (all highlighting mine):

Now, the disposition to conform and obey is itself a generally positive thing.  In everyday life, the psychologically easy thing to do is usually also the correct thing to do, and I doubt even the liberals’ own order could last a day without this basic instinct to obey.  However, this instinct is not the virtue that we call “respect for authority” or “obedience”.  Obedience is a part of the virtue of justice, and it requires that we obey licit orders from legitimate authorities simply because this is a moral duty.  It may or may not be psychologically easy.  Usually it is, but we shouldn’t hold this against the virtue.  Virtuous acts are usually pleasant, or at least less unpleasant than the alternative.  This only sounds counterintuitive because our moral energies concentrate on those rare times when desire and duty clash.  Ordinarily, eating, wearing clothes, being friendly, paying taxes, and pulling over when the cops signal are the right things to do, but we don’t need to moralize ourselves into them because self-interest suffices.  However, like the other virtues, obedience shows itself most clearly when it is unpleasant, when the virtue is performed for its own sake.  Thus, the best image of obedience is the menial sailor who remains loyal to his captain even when the whole rest of the crew is crying mutiny and demanding he join them; the sailor does this, moreover, not because he particularly likes the captain, but because he knows that the captain is the one he has a duty to obey.  In such a situation, the one with a mere disposition to obey will not remain loyal; he will line up behind the powerful and charismatic leader of the mutiny.

Finally, if you are submitting to and respecting your husband yet he continues to show hatred or indifference rather than love and leadership, I want to speak some encouraging words to you:

1. Don’t grow weary!  Persevere in your biblical role of submitted, respectful helper.  God will sustain you because He does not ask the impossible of us.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

2. Understand that you are in a spiritual battle.  Make a little prayer spot for yourself in a quiet place if you can; I have a little corner in the basement where I go to pray.  I encourage you in the strongest possible way to have such a spot, and then go there daily and get on your knees (literally) before God.  Ask Him to give your husband a new heart, to take away his heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.  You do this because you want your husband to be reconciled to God for his own sake but also because you want your husband to love you.  It is okay to want that.  It is not selfish to hope that your husband will love you, even though you must be prepared to patiently do your duty to him and submit to him even if he never chooses to love you.  But the Bible does say:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:11-12)

3. Your continued submission and respect in the face of hatred or indifference are not only commanded by God, but God also tells us that He can use a woman’s submission to draw her husband unto Himself (and likewise He can use a husband’s love to draw a wife unto Himself).  Consider:

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

4. And finally, memorize 1 Peter 3:1-2 and recite these verses daily, even hourly if need be.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 

A respectful, submitted wife is far more lovable than an angry, disrespectful or rebellious wife; showing him a gentle, respectful response even if he is unloving or indifferent can go a long way toward softening a man’s heart toward his wife.  But even if his heart does not soften, your Father in heaven sees your obedience to Him and is pleased.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,
    and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
    and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:35-39)

Next week, we will consider a marriage that is characterized as Love/lead + rebel/disrespect.

 [Note: Just a reminder that comments are closed for Lent.  The charity drive is ongoing.]