About the only way I really feel like an apostle is that we seem to get moved from place to place rather quickly and, if I didn’t know it was the will of God, whimsically. We are not whimsical people. And yet here I am again, just under a year from the last move, packing.

So what does God have in mind for us now? We are looking forward to returning to the East Coast, but why? We hope to revive our last mission, in a little more organized, but Spirit-filled way. We are definitely not the people we were a year ago. God gave us a good shakedown and brush-up, and in a strange but wonderful way, made us yet more serious as Christians and missionaries. More and more of our old selves drops away. More things are divested. We are in our quiet little way less frivolous than ever. (I don’t believe Nicholas was ever frivolous, but I have been known to frizzle on occasion, always to my own detriment.)

With the new depth of sobriety has come a new depth of joy. This is the reward for a calm soul and mind, that we can appreciate and love God even more, and have a deeper look into eternity. 

I do not know when the computer will be up and operational, but expect to hear more when we arrive within a stone’s throw of the Atlantic.

A Lot to Say about Modesty

I am so fed up with immodest people, especially immodest women! There’s the whole flaunting the body issue, and especially for me, there’s the “I want attention” behaviour issue.

My simple Baptist upbringing and my own life mistakes have taught me this: A Christian woman does not draw attention to herself by her actions. If people notice her, it should be because of her modesty, simplicity and virtue, not because she was making a loud ruckus.

Young women especially seem to want that kind of attention. They laugh loudly, shout to each other, say rude things, and generally make an exhibition of themselves. This is not Christian modesty. It is merely vanity. But it is not just young women; I see this behaviour in older women on “girls’ night out,” or any time they want to be the center of attention. This is sparked by envy, envy of those younger, seemingly prettier and more attractive. It is a desperate and unattractive bid for temporary notoriety.

We can’t simply set aside the precepts of modesty and Christian behaviour. We can’t say “On First Day and on certain public occasions, I will dress in modest and demure clothes, but the rest of the time is mine and I will do as I please,” as if all time does not belong to the Lord. We can’t say, “I will not pursue flirting and pleasure outside my marriage, but what happens in my head and thoughts is my own business,” because what we think and imagine becomes all too real, and no thought is secret from God. We may think we keep it private, but the thoughts will play out in how we treat others.

It is time to teach ourselves and our daughters about modesty, modesty of dress, modesty of behaviour, modesty of thought. Christian mothers cannot let their daughters run wild, or even follow the fashions of the world. It is time to pull them back from that dangerous game.

Teach thy daughters this: The body is a temple of God, and just as the Jewish temple was not entered by nonbelievers, and just as the msyteries of the Christian faith are not offered to outsiders, the temple of thy body is sacred space, and not to be revealed and offered to all gawkers and lechers. It is covered up, and saved for the sanctity of marriage.

Likewise, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves, lest we apear worldly and irreligious. We do not give our brothers opportunity to stumble. We hold ourselves separate, and in peace with the world. We are not circus exhibitions, to be admired or engaging for the curious. We speak quietly at all times. We do not shout at home or in public. We do not lose control. We carry the temple with us everywhere.

We do not make ouselves sexual objects for admiration. We practice modesty of the body, and we practice modesty of the mind. Our desire is only for our husbands. We delight in his love and regard, and we do not seek the attention of others. We do not encourage men to behave inappropriately and sexually. We don’t flirt, kiss, or flatter. Our behaviour is appropriate for the situation, and intimacy is not appropriate outside marriage.

Some may see this as harsh and old-fashioned. Pehaps it is, but it is necessary for Christian conduct in a troubled and sinful world.

“A Virtuous Woman”

I’ve joined a ning (a social network website) called the above, obviously taken from Proverbs 31. I’m not sure we can just go around congratulating ourselves on our virtue (as pride is not a virtue), but in the context of Proverbs 31, it’s a fair title.

The virtuous woman, or industrious wife, of Proverbs 31 is skilled int he household arts, in managing her own ekonomia. She has her own business manufacturing and trading textiles. In daily life and in bad times, she has provided for her household.

I consider myself a Proverbs 31 woman. My chief concern is for my ekonomia, and its care is part of my Christian service. I trust my husband is comfortable with my management and provision, and he has time for his own Christian ministry and pursuits.  I make my income chiefly from textiles, as well, including the various skills mentioned in the passage. I can shear, wash wool, card, spin, dye, knit, weave and sew.

Now, this particular group is heavily Adventist and Protestant in ways I am not, but we have a lot in common. Some of the women homestead with their families. Many homeschool. The group promotes active management of the household, and there are pages on line to compile into a household notebook, similar to my more loosely defined kitchen journal.

The household is an industry in itself. It needs care and planning. Modern life seems to be so whimsical and unplanned, that the idea of keeping a household journal, of budgetting and forecasting for the week, month and the year may be totally foreign to many. We are impulsive people. “What I want, now!” is the motto of moderns. Plan? That’s boring. Too limiting. Live in the moment! Eat, drink and be merry…

And who wants to worry about all that stuff? Who wants to cook, clean, sew? That’s so nineteenth century. Buy it, buy it now, buy it on credit, forget about tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.

Still, the Visa bill will come in the mail. The taxman wants his share. The roof will need repairing, and the children need shoes. It’s like the time of Noah, isn’t it? And then the deluge.

Maybe “A Virtuous Woman” will be a good fit for some of you. Maybe not. I’d say give it a look, at

Long Hair, Christian Women

Perhaps I should be reluctant to jump into this topic! There are so many interpretations of 1 Corinthians 11 that it’s a little scary that we can’t seem to agree. Did Paul mean all women, all the time? Is a woman’s long hair her covering? Why wear a separate covering, and what kind?

To my thinking, the Anabaptists have a firm understanding of the significance of both long hair on women and the head covering. (See their materials at I’m not quite on the same page in their headship interpretation, but I don’t disagree either! I think the significance of “covering” goes deeper than the Reformers thought it does.

 What is long hair? For the purposes of 1 Corinthians 11, it means uncut hair, not just hair longer than a “short” length. Uncut hair grows to a certain length, and then starts to shed and be replaced. This hair cycle is about seven years, sometimes longer. Hair generally grows at the rate of 1/2″ per month. These rates can vary, depending mostly on genetics, just as the number of hair follicles and how long they will produce hair is mostly genetically pre-determined. Various other factors come into play, as well, such as nutrition and environment. (When I was about twenty-six, I had a bout of stress-induced alopecia – significant hair loss. Quitting one of three jobs and changing houses finally reduced the stress and the thin patches filled in.)

It was the expectation in the early church that women would look like women, that sexual differences would be honoured. Paul gave the women in the church good reasons for keeping their long hair, while prohibiting them from turning it into an object of vanity.  So for generations Christian women followed this precept, and kept their hair long and uncut. Some achieved great lengths of hair, which had to be braided and wound up under caps and veils. (“Braided” and “broided” are not the same word. “Broided” means fancy work in the hair.) This is still the case in some sects, but those who have practiced this for time immemorial don’t make much of it. It’s the world that looks at naturally long hair as something freakish.

How long is too long? My own hair doesn’t get much past waist length before it starts to break. I have fine, fragile hair, so it will never grow to knee-length anyway, and if it should, there still wouldn’t be much mass. This is the case for many women, so the question of cutting doesn’t come up. We would never consider anything as decorative and frivolous as a bang (or “fringe”, as our British cousins put it.) I just brush it from a center part, pull it back with one hand, twist it into a bun, and pin it in place with bobby pins. Times when I have my hair down, I gather it back into a low ponytail.

Some women simply cannot grow their hair long. Women of African descent often have fragile hair that doesn’t get a great deal of length, and they should not be shamed into thinking that they need to get extensions or they are somehow inadequate . For those with hair that has a lot of curl, or very fragile hair, it may make sense to keep it at a manageable length and use pins or clips to keep it back. It might be good to braid it close to the head in “cornrows”, a very old practice which is very practical for those whose hair doesn’t fall straight.  A practiced braider can put up cornrows very quickly, and they don’t need more than a little maintenance day by day. This is not license for women with European ancestry to indulge in the long, beaded braids, though!

For women with very thick, heavy hair, reducing the length may be necessary to avoid the excess weight. I think it is allowable when very long, heavy hair is causing neck strain and head aches, if the hair can be kept at near waist length, or at least a feminine length below the shoulders, long enough to gather back under a cap or veil. It is ridiculous to endanger one’s health by legalism.

But that is not license to cut the hair off for fashion reasons! Most women who cut the hair short do so, they say, because it is more practical. They don’t want to “fuss” with long hair. How fussy is it to put long, one-length hair in a bun and drop a cap on it? The entire process takes me less than five minutes. I don’t even need a mirror.  Women with short hair have to wash it, comb it into shape, possibly curl it with a hot iron or blow-dryer, spray it with some sticky stuff, and check regularly in a mirror to see if any of it is out of place. Those who choose the butchered hair look without any of the fussiness often appear, as my mother would say, as if someone had dragged them backward through a hedge.

The Apostle was, in simple terms, telling women (all Christian women, not just the Corinthians) that they were to set aside vanity and keep long, unfussy hair, with no ornamentation (which would include dying) and properly covered so that it is not a temptation to vanity for the women or to lustful admiration for the men.

Hair care is big business. Those of us who have opted out of it are threatening the economy! We don’t go to hairdressers or salons or spas. We don’t buy hair dyes or those silly kits to add “highlights” or “streaks” or “chunks” of different colour to our heads.  We don’t need conditioners and gels and picks and blowdryers. We have a packet of hair pins and a few ponytail holders, a half-dozen clippies to keep caps and veils in place and that is it, besides a good quality brush and a de-tangling comb. We buy baby shampoo, not some fancy bottle with a salon owner’s name on it. We don’t buy hair-style magazines or watch television to see what Hollywood babe is doing to her head.

There are theological reasons for covering besides the practicality and the killing of vanity.  The Lord gives women an honour in allowing them to be covered before the altar. Even bishops must uncover completely when they stand before the sacrament at the altar. Women, receiving or serving, should be covered. This, first, indicates that they are under the headship of Christ. While the headcover also indicates that they are under the headship of a husband, this is not the case for single women, who must still cover before God. The second-class position women often suffered under ancient custom outside the church is thus removed.  For while woman is under the headship of man, as the first woman came from man, her position of equality before the Lord is restored in that the Son of Man came from woman. We honour His mother in emulating her humility in veiling before her son, our Lord.

It is obvious to me from scripture and the early church fathers that in the apostolic church women preached and prayed publicly, although Paul admonished some to stop interrupting the service, and hold their questions for later! The Holy Spirit speaks through women as well as men, and ministry is not limited to men, or the first Christians would not have appointed widows to minster, an important commission from Christ Himself. A witness is a witness, whether it is from a gold-draped, venerable bishop or a little girl of ten in pinafore and bonnet. God does not distinguish between His children in bestowing His gifts of the Spirit. A right heart and a steady faith are more than merit in the eyes of the Lord.

I believe all Christian women are called to the public witness of unshorn, unadorned hair and the blessing of the headship covering. It tells the world that we are Christians, and not afraid to be identified as such. We may have to compromise occasionally, when that witness is not accepted, but we are to pray for the blessing all the more. It is right to wear a full cap, with just a little hair showing, or the sisters’ veil, sometimes known as a charity veil, and wear them with modest, womanly dress.  These are readily obtainable, by purchasing from some God-fearing sister who sews or by making them ourselves. It is not difficult. On occasions when it is necessary to wear workclothes that exclude a skirt, then a covering suitable to modest pants should be worn, such as a scarf or soft hat. The unveiled hair is just for our families, and particularly for our husbands, who should love this feminine expression of our modesty.

Sisters, be bold in wearing the prayer cap and the veil! As much as possible, wear this symbol of our witness. It is now a revolutionary thing to do, to say in our way, “The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe the good news!”

More Useful Things

I have a huge dislike of plastic anything. It doesn’t last. It doesn’t last even a reasonable amount of time. I know, the cost of a computer would be ridiculous if the casing and external components had to be made of ceramic and steel, and it would weigh as much as a Volkswagen. So there are compromises.

If things lasted a long time, we would be able to keep using them and we wouldn’t throw them out.  We wouldn’t need to buy replacements. And maybe some people wouldn’t hang on to the outworn, broken and damaged plastic things, with some strange sense of frugality that maybe they can still be used or repaired, because, hang it all, it cost so much in the first place.

I am, of course, ignoring consumer pressure and merchandising and addictive shopping. I probably shouldn’t. Just because I’m off that treadmill doesn’t mean everyone has stepped away, too. We get told all the time that we need new things. We need this appliance, this style of shoe, this type of picture frame. Prety soon, people are wading through the cultural effluvia in their houses. Cupboards and closets are jammed with chocolate fountains, fondue pots, mini-grillers, rotisseries, toaster ovens, drink mixers, aroma disc players and electric potato peelers. Lime green is this year’s colour! Get new everything! Next year’s colour will look hideous with lime green, so all that lime-green will go in boxes in the attic, on the top shelf, or for those who smugly purge their houses (sounds nasty, doesn’t it?) off to the Sally Ann or Goodwill. Are we completely oblivious to the way advertiseers and merchandisers manipulate us? For those who don’t earn enough for all the latest devices and indulgences, there is credit, so we end up paying three times as much for something we won’t own by the time we have it paid off.

These are things that last, that we will keep using, and won’t go out of style: Wooden spoons, glass jars, clogs and rubber boots, and my latest indispensable tool, the kitchen journal.

By wooden spoons I mean good, heavy, possibly handmade wooden spoons. Any grade eight shop student should be able to turn a wooden spoon, shape the bowl, and sand it to a fine finish. Craft shops and fairs sometimes have some spendy exotic wood spoons, but I mean ordinary stuff. I have a  set that is American made, and has lasted several years. The dollar store ones are splintery and break easily. It takes a little looking around, but they are a necessity in the kitchen. I don’t like the sound of metal on metal when I’m mixing bread or cookies in my enamelware bowl, and they are easier on the finish.

I never have enough glass jars. I choose products in the grocery store by their jars. I love really big jars, and I used to buy sauerkraut in half-gallon sizes because the jars are useful. I reclaim other people’s jars. (Honestly – I’ve taken good jars out of the neighbours’ recycling bin.) Small jam jars are great for herbs and spices. Medium jars hold bulk-bought molasses or honey or beans. Large jars contain sugar, salt (when I ended up with an inexplicable stash of two pounds of salt), whole grains, rice. (My flour goes in a stoneware crock. I hope to get more. This one was a rescue, left on a curb by someone who couldn’t get it into the moving van.)

As a full-time boot-wearer, I rarely need other shoes. I have a pair of Swedish wooden and leather clogs for wearing in the house. I find they are not suitable for wet outdoor conditions, as the sole delaminates. Outdoors, when the water and mud are too high or too heavy for my regular boots, I have a pair of knee-high rubber boots. In black. Every farmer does. The bright-coloured fashion rubber boots are for little girls and dilettantes. I have had poor results from rubber clogs. The sheep would step on my feet and split them. The dogs think they smell like rubber dog toys and play with them. Besides, those garish clown shoe clogs that can be decorated are a little too cute and self-absorbed. I know people who wear the more sober coloured ones at home and like them, but real clogs work best for me. I’ve worn them since I was young, and have gone through about six pairs in 35 years.

My latest necessity is a kitchen journal. I am not one to journal my thoughts, experiences and dreams. I really don’t need to spend that much time thinking about myself. I don’t find myself fascinating. It might be a good idea if a person is in the midst of major life change, or regularly writes about spiritual matters, but my inward reflections are pretty orthodox and mundane.

My kitchen journal is a bulletin board on the go. I leave myself notes, plan menus, make shopping lists, write down recipes and keep a schedule. (I am busy enough at home that I need a schedule.) The journal has fabric samples and receipts pinned inside it. It’s just a small journal, purchased at the Anglican Book Store, so it has scripture verse at the bottom of each page, which helps to remind me of what I work for.

Things are just things. They are not status objects. They are not valuable in themselves, but only in their use. I like wooden spoons, because I don’t find it practical (or sanitary) to stir food with my hand or a wooden twig from the yard. I like glass jars because they exclude mice and insects and moisture that can ruin food. I like clogs and rubber boots because they protect my feet. I like a kitchen journal because it serves as a “memory” for me.

So I don’t need jewelry or hair ornaments on my person or decorative objects in my rooms. They have no function beyond ornamentation, and ornamentation is a cultural imposition. I’m not spending time or money on it. I am not devoting brain power or mind space to it. Life is short, and the Lord has work for us.

The Plain Kitchen

I don’t like modern kitchens. I am not hopelessly romantic about the past, either, because I think indoor plumbing is a great luxury, and when we have it, I am pleased and happy with hot running water. (That is, until the plumbing goes absolutely wrong and everything is a mess, and then I say, as a  friend did back in my younger days: “Indoor plumbing is greatly overrated.”)

Kitchens are another matter. I know my grandmothers couldn’t wait to get modern ranges and not have to keep loading wood into the firebox on the old woodburner, but I like woodburning cookstoves. I like open fire cooking, too. (My husband will tell people that I’m quite good at it, and that food tastes so much better cooked over an open hearth.) I don’t expect to get the open hearth in our next real house, but I am adamant that I have to have a woodburning cookstove. (Preferably a Pioneer Maid, when the money is saved up for it.) I am thinking about having Nicholas polish up his old bricklaying skills and give me an horno, an outdoor bake oven which is the ultimate crockpot, as well.

We have a modern kitchen right now, with refrigerator, electric range, double sink, and the ubiquitous microwave. (Which is not ours. I am very dubious about the benefits of using it, and avoid it most of the time.) I do use the electric Crockpots frequently as a good substitute for the slow-cooking of a woodstove.

Nicholas noted the other night that modern houses, post World War II, are used as people kennels. Go to work, come home, cook a quick meal over an electric burner, wash up, sit in the living room and stare at the television, go to bed in your little cubicle, get up in the morning, wash, do it all over again. There’s no work space, no real gathering space for a large family. Kitchens are designed to be efficient. Even these oversized ultra-houses are meant to house just two to four people. They have huge rooms with no place for people. They are display chambers, vignettes of good taste. A friend with a beautiful, large home and a mammoth cave of a kitchen asked us to come over one Christmas Day. We planned a menu, which I then prepared in my funky little farmhouse kitchen on the old Enterprise woodstove, with a linoleum covered table for workspace. We carted the feast to her house, and I could not comprehend the weird electric burners on her state-of-the-art range. So I finished the meal preparation on her new and very lovely Enterprise woodstove!

This is what the Plain kitchen needs: a hearth of some sort, such as an open fireplace or the iron hearth of a woodburning cookstove, a source of warmth and refreshment and nourishment. It needs good workspace for chopping and stirring and kneading and rolling. It needs a source of water and a really big sink, even if that’s a handpump (as my great-grandparents had for many years) and a watertight half-barrel.

It needs room for people. It needs a big table that doubles as a worktable for everything from breadmaking to homework and sewing. It needs sturdy chairs and if big enough, maybe a wing chair for Grampie or a rocker for Mama. It needs to be the center of the house, where everyone naturally gathers. Who needs a living room? That’s just a sterile environment for watching the cathode ray tube and its inanities. Television does not interact with people. We stare at it, slack-jawed and slack-minded. The other people in the room get annoyed if we talk over it (or worse, to it, because that usually involves some shouting.) A kitchen encourages conversation.

Ingredients become food in the kitchen. It’s a kind of miracle. Things that we can’t eat in their natural state get boiled and roasted and steamed and baked or something and become nutrition. Things we can eat raw get better with preparation, mingling, and seasoning. Mothers are in kitchens, feeding their families well past infancy, and everyone can feel secure and loved there.

The Plain kitchen has sturdy, well-chosen utensils. Forget the fancy china and delicate serving dishes. We need cast iron,  enamelware and stainless steel. We don’t own plastic anything. Dishes are heavy ceramic, purchased with the object that they will last a lifetime. Glassware is simple and heavy – champagne flutes aren’t required. The flatware is similar, heavy stainless, hard to bend or break. It doesn’t take a lot of different kinds of pots and pans and bowls or such to prepare Plain food.

And we don’t need a clutter of small electric appliances. These are just sales gimmicks, pitched to people who wonder why their food is so uninteresting. Maybe a new electric grill or whip-foamer will improve it! No, the trick to flavourful food is cooking it, preparing it, and doing it mindfully. It takes time to produce good food. Even a really good salad depends on carefully chosen greens and vegetables, washed and dried and torn or chopped appropriately, with a decently made dressing of oil and vinegar or lemon juice. 

The Plain kitchen may produce Plain food, but it is good, nourishing food, not an amalgamation of salt, sugar, artificial flavouring and chemically produced vitamins.

This is my favourite meal in the Bible: The apostles are out fishing all night. They are tired and hungry and discouraged, for they have caught nothing. Suddenly, unexpectedly, they are told from the shore to lower their nets for another try, and they succeed. Success, though, doesn’t alleviate hunger and fatigue, and when they get to shore, they find a meal waiting for them, of broiled fish and bread. And who has prepared it for them over a little beachside fire? The Lord, who says to them, “Come and eat.”

Come and eat. It has been prepared with love and care. It is real food. Come and eat!

Husbands and Headcovers

Being Plain is ordinary for both my husband and me. We made the decision together. I am more obviously Plain, but that is expected since I wear a Mennonite style prayer cap and the old-fashioned traditional clothes of the Plain sects. His clothing doesn’t draw as much notice, unless he is out on the street in the Plain black brimmed hat. Nicholas and I are both dedicated Christians, both Anglican priests, and we have well-matched views on everything from theology to finances. 

I am finding that many couples are not so well-yoked. I hear particularly from women who find that their husbands just aren’t walking with them on this path. I’m sure that there are husbands in the predicament, but my ministry is to women drawn to traditional ways of Christian life.

One point of our tradition is that the husband (or father) is the head of the household.  When decisions in the family are not mutual, then his decision is the final one. And that leaves some women in a quandary. They believe that they are called to follow the Biblical injunctions of modesty and humility handed down from the early church, but their spouses do not approve or support that decision. What are they to do?

My advice is to follow their husbands’ wishes. Gentle-spirited obedience is a wifely virtue, and that willingness may even sway him to see the wife’s point of view. If he opposes the wearing of the prayer cap, or any headcover, it is best to  agree. The opportunity will come to show the righteousness of her conviction, but it may take some time.

I’m going to add a caveat here, as I often do. A broken heart and fear are not gentle submission. Threats from a spouse are not acceptable. And a woman has a right to her modesty. A spouse who wants to control what the partner wears, even if it is against his or her taste and desire, is too controlling. Counseling and support from a competent person are necessary then. I have seen this particularly in the case of women who find that their husbands dictate what they wear, not because they are unacceptably immodest, but because the women’s taste is too quiet and traditional for the lifestyle the men think they should have. Women are not possessions, dolls to be dressed up and paraded around, like some young guy with a new car.

Some husbands are wary of the headcover in particular. They may not want to be viewed as belonging to what they see as a rigid religious group. They may not want to be singled out as different. They may belong to mainline churches that frown upon or even openly disapprove of such outward symbols of Christian faithfulness. They don’t want themselves or their wives to be mistaken for something they are not.

Some men are proud of how their wives look. They enjoy the feminine beauty, perhaps like to show off their wives a bit. It’s a bit of an ego trip to them. Are they afraid that other men will disapprove, even laugh at them, if they are out in public with this Plain woman? Will they look hopelessly old-fashioned and unsophisticated?

I’m sure people make all sorts of assumptions about us. They think we don’t know how to work computers, automatic tellers, or other modern conveniences.  My innate distrust and distaste for these devices probably reinforces that attitude! We get a fair number of stares in shopping districts and even grocery stores. Some are a little hostile, but most are just curious. My sister-in-law says that we get better service in stores, government offices and restaurants because staff expect us to be friendly and easy-going. (This is true.) Since moving from the other city in Ontario where we used to live, people have been kinder and friendlier.

When we were in our previous city, my husband became somewhat troubled that I seemed to be a target of unkind remarks and even hostility. He worried about my safety. (A near hit-and-run reinforced that worry.) He asked me to stop wearing the head cover. I did for a short while, but when I asked if I could go back to it, and he realized how convicted I was in the Spirit to do so, he completely agreed. I was willing to take the possible abuse and hostility. I was called to that witness, and it was painful to my soul to let it go. 

Husbands who are not believers may have trouble understanding that. Perhaps wives who wish to cover can find an analogy to help them. The cover in itself is a strong message about Christian faith, about sober-mindedness and about womanly maturity. It really says, “I am dedicated to God and my husband”, more so than a wedding ring. Plain, covered head and sober, modest clothes tell the world that a woman expects to be taken seriously.

We are not to be afraid of our Christian witness. I believe that all Christians are called to represent themselves as such, in the ways the New Testament tells us. We are to follow Jesus as Lord, God and Saviour. He calls us to holy poverty and total dedication, to a life of service and humility: Not just a few of us, but all of us. The apostles called us to express ourselves publicly as Christians in what we do and how we appear, in ways that are faithful to God’s plan for creation. Men are to look like men, women like women. Men should not wear effeminate hairstyles nor women’s clothing. Women are to wear their hair long, and dress in women’ clothes, and they are to cover their heads in an act of submission to Christ. I believe we are to do this all the time, not just for church. How we have come so far from that standard so quickly is frightening. We see it every day -women who have cut off their hair and wear pants, like men; men who style their hair and fuss over their complexion and clothing like the silliest of young women.

The modest dresses and headcovers of Plain women are a quiet reminder that God had expected something else from His creation rather than sinfulness. We are obedient not just to husbands and fathers because they are men, but we are obedient to God and the Way of Christ. Our earthly obedience is synbolic of our spiritual obedience. Wives, obey thy husbands; husbands love thy wives,  as Christ loves His Church.

On Families and Abuse

This is a huge issue, I know. A few years ago I presented a workshop on family abuse in the hospital where I was chaplain. Medical personnel and clergy are often the front-line in confronting abuse in families.  Abuse crosses all economic and ethnic lines. It can be perpetrated on spouses, children, and dependent elders. I know that there are many readers out there who have questions about relationships, and because we ourselves are traditional people, I want to make it clear that conservative, traditional churches do not condone abuse and control of others in any way. If a church does give permission for abusive situations, then its leadership is not following the way of the Lord.

Abuse can be manifested as emotional, physical and verbal abuse. It is an unethical control over another person or persons.  Usually, if one form is present, the others will follow. Abuse always escalates unless there is intervention.

Emotional abuse is controlling another person through shame, guilt and humiliation. It can take the form of whining and complaining, or allegations of neglect. Passive-aggressiveness is a form of emotional abuse. 

Here are some typical statements of emotional abuse:

“If you do that, you’ll break my heart!” ‘That’ can be anything from a spouse going on a business-related trip, to a child contemplating leaving home for college. It is disproportionate to the event.

“You never do anything for me!” or “That’s not fair!” In a normal relationship, both partners are equals in maturity, and understand that they share equally in responsibilities and advantages. This is a childish protest to get one’s own way, understandable in children, and ludicrous from an adult.

“That’s all right – do what you want, I don’t need anything.” Self-pity is manipulative, and this sort of statement is meant to force the other person to change his or her mind.

Refusing to follow through on promises made is passive-aggressive.  Neglecting one’s duty as a deliberate punishment for some transgression by the other is passive-aggressive. So is refusal to discuss important issues, and then acting unilaterally.

Emotional abuse often takes the form of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is insults, shouting, profanities, and public humiliation. Name-calling is never acceptable in relationships. I mean terms such as “stupid,” “idiot,” “b**ch,” and so on. When this is a repeated aspect of a relationship, then it is a serious form of abuse. Belittling is a form of verbal abuse: “Why can’t you do anything right?” Funny insults are still insults. Making one’s partner or child the butt of a joke isn’t funny – it’s abusive. When this happens publicly it is especially harmful.

The partner or parent (and sometimes the adult child) who tries to overpower the dispute with a family member by shouting and screaming is exercising verbal abuse. Raising the voice is always aggressive. It is a threat, just as the loud bark from a dog or the loud screams from an ape are signs of an intended attack. When this is done in public, it is meant as a form of humiliation. The intention is to get the other person to back down and give in.

Sometimes verbal abuse can take the sophisticated form of verbal correction. The partner can do nothing right, and has to be told continually how to do everything. This goes beyond ordinary instruction and reminder, and is meant to belittle, accompanied by statements such as “You couldn’t do anything without me,” or “My wife can’t remember the simplest things,” or “That’s all right, dear, you don’t have to think, do you?” This puts the humiliated spouse (or family member) in a state of dependency.

Eventually the verbally abused will come to believe what is said about them. It’s brainwashing. They’ve heard it so many times, and never been able to disprove it, that surely, they think, it must be true. I am stupid. I am silly. I am weak.

No one spouse should make all the decisions unilaterally, without consulting and discussing. While we think of women as susceptible to this kind of abusive control, it is happening more frequently to men, I believe. We used to say things like, “She wears the pants,” or “He’s quite the milquetoast.” But women are not just more assertive now, they are more aggressive, and sometimes that aggression is taken out on family members. Television especially is responsible for the kind of “humour” that is subtle put-downs and humiliations, making men look weak and foolish and women look authoritative. Television comedy gives the impression that parents are bumbling fools, and the children must run the household themselves. This distorted view of family life contributes to modern verbal abuse.

Physical abuse is the most obvious form. Physical abuse is slapping, kicking, punching, pushing, pulling, scratching, throwing objects with the intent of harm, hair-pulling, biting, burning and spitting. Spanking of young children is not physical abuse unless it leaves bruises or the blow is anywhere but the buttocks. Children should not be spanked above the age of ten at most, and I think that no object should be used but the cupped hand. I did not like to spank my children, and don’t remember administering more than one or two spankings.

Fighting is glorified in films and television events. It is ugly fighting, not the rule-bound and regulated contact sports of football, hockey, rugby or boxing. It is brawling, street-fighting elevated to a pseudo-sport. Professional wrestling, with its cartoon-like heroes and dramatic conflict, led the way. Martial arts, once a sport of almost no real contact, has become a means of inflicting pain. And UFC, a weird amalgamation of boxing, martial arts,  kickboxing, and wrestling, is a futuristic gladiatorial match of blood and injury. In these Hollywood-generated “sports,” strength is the only real power, and power is the only real goal.

Physical domination is thus a sign of power and status. It becomes a seemingly valid way to settle a dispute, and this is going to infiltrate family life. It is not just men who use physical force to dominate. Women can be just as guilty, against men much bigger than themselves who will not fight back, or against children and elders who cannot defend themselves.

No relationship can survive abuse. The abuser needs to receive counseling to change the behaviour and understand the reasons behind it. While the Bible is sometimes used to justify unreasonable control in families, it is certainly not what the Lord taught us. Jesus Christ taught us to be gentle in spirit, meek, and self-sacrificing, not dominating and abusive. Clergy need to step up and address this when they see it, insttead of ducking the issue and looking the other way. Husbands should be instructed to be understanding and responsible, standing in the place of Christ in their families, and respectful of their wives, and wives need to be led to be humble and loving, honouring their husbands as head of the family. Children, as Christ did, are to be taken into our arms for nurturing and protection, to be brought up in the way in which they should go. Abuse and control have no place in the Christian family.

The New Prayer Caps – A View

new-prayer-caps-003This is the prayer cap I made using bridal tulle. It works well. I like it that this cap covers my ears completely, and it is amazingly light. It needs to be tied in place, though, or it shifts a lot on my head. Clippies at the back edge just pull it down, and straight pins slide out, so I have to rely on a good firm tie-down! I used narrow white satin ribbon for the ties, which isn’t really the best material, since it loosens gradually. I expect I’ll starch this to bring the pleats farther back and give it a little more form. I like to keep it pressed, but that’s not easy with a modern steam iron. I’d really like to get one of those miniature flat irons to set the pleats properly.

new-prayer-caps-011This is the plain white cotton cap. I have made a number of these, and I keep altering the design a bit. Some are barely on my head, and that’s okay in the summer, but in the winter I like to have a fuller cap. This shows a bit of hair at the front, and my hair is quite fine, so I always have bits of fluff sticking up somewhere. My hair is getting quite grey these days, which I don’t really mind. I rather like my grandmotherly look now. I hope it means people will take me more seriously, but maybe not. I made the blue jumper last week. It’s a heathered light wool, and it pressed so nicely when I turned the seams. It is pleated in a high waist. It is almost ankle length. The blouse is a really old heavy white Indian cotton, buttoned placket in the front, with a bit of picoting for trim. The picoting is wearing out, so I’m ging to remove it.  This is my usual day dress, with a full apron over the top, a black underskirt below, black knee-high socks, and dark brown boots.