Gender bending in Proverbs 5: A warning for daughters

Gender bending in Proverbs 5: A warning for daughters

Proverbs 5 was written to warn a son about the dangers of an adulterous woman. Daughters needed no warnings about topics like this in the ancient world because their autonomy was determined by the men in their family. I suppose they might be warned away from becoming an adulterous woman, but I bet this chapter worked double-duty on that account.

As I read through the chapter this morning, I wondered if our  modern daughters, who are now self-determining, could benefit from a contrasted warning? How many women have been trapped in abusive relationships because they were never given warning signs? Let us consider how to prepare our children to resist the allure of evil men (and women) by educating them that such evil, like abusive relationships, exist. Teach them how to spot one and how to resist.

I changed a few words in bold, but the passage is from NIV. Proverbs 5:

My daughter, pay attention to my wisdom,
    turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
    and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the abusive man drip honey,
    and his speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end he is bitter as gall,
    sharp as a double-edged sword.
His feet go down to death;
    his steps lead straight to the grave.
He gives no thought to the way of life;
    his paths wander aimlessly, but he does not know it.

Now then, my daughters, listen to me;
    do not turn aside from what I say.
Keep to a path far from him,
    do not go near the door of his house,
lest you lose your honor to others
    and your dignity to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
    and your toil enrich the house of another.
11 At the end of your life you will groan,
    when your flesh and body are spent.

2017 Goals Week 1

2017 Goals Week 1

Follow my progress this year toward meeting 10 goals!

Week 1 of 52

10)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

I’m reading a chapter of 2 Kings, Proverbs, and 1/2 chapter of Hebrews each day. This is a recommendation by Don Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Reading a chapter from each section of the Bible brings variety that “makes it easier to keep up the momentum.” (p. 30)

9)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

Classes start next week.

8)   Connect with one person a week.

I stuck around church on Sunday to talk with a few people instead of rushing out the door. I also spent time with each of my Awana leaders on Wednesday. If you are a natural extrovert, you don’t realize that this is a discipline for those of us who are task-oriented introverts. We also had the in-laws for weekly dinner and conversation, and my very-friendly-neighbor had a bonfire where I got to chat with a new family down the street.

7)   Complete writing a 12-week Bible study.

I tweaked my content outline, set a schedule to get the chapters written by the end of June, and wrote 500 words this week.

6)    Submit 6 articles for publication.

I spent some time researching various publications, and wrote 800 words on an article detailing why God did not include a sign in the Abrahamic covenant for women.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 


I’ve completed my first “sculpture.” Woof. I’ve got a lot to learn! This one was from the kit I received for Christmas. The kit was to make a cat. Yes, I know. It doesn’t look like a cat. That’s because it was feeling like it needed to become a dog. I’m currently working on a mouse that thinks its an otter. I’m claiming the old sculpture’s trick that says the rock knows what it wants to be… well the wool knows what it wants to be too! 24 more to go.

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

Does it count that we went to a Remodeling and Garden Show?

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.


It was below freezing all week outside, so I stayed inside and practiced yoga. Friday, the kids and I went swimming for $1 Public swim at the local (indoor) pool.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

Going in on Friday for the initial scans and measuring.

1)  Hike to 12 new places.


I’ve been hiking from hot coffee, to hot tea, to hot showers, to hot soup and back to hot coffee all week! Not going outside unless I have to. Too cold! Brr!

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Shame

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Shame

Mother Sarah had many sons. And I am one of them. And so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord! 

Sarah birthed a baby at the age of 90 after being barren her entire life. It was no accident, but the miraculous plan of God, who brings honor to the shamed.

If you have ever struggled with infertility or walked alongside of someone who has, I’m sure you understand the enormity of Sarah’s decades of struggle as a barren woman. In an ancient setting, she not only dealt with her personal desire for children, but also with the community’s judgement on her as a barren wife. The ancient world blamed the woman for marriages with no children. Also, the woman herself carried the guilt of impotence.  I wonder if Sarah felt the reproach and shame intensify with each new promise of God to her husband? We know her story in entirety, but she made her decisions with limited information, and as each of God’s promises were revealed, she must have felt the stress of her shame increase.

Father Abraham

Imagine her humiliation as Abraham told her about God’s initial promise to him to make him a great nation (Genesis 12:2). A great nation requires a child. She was unable to bear a child. I wonder if she felt she had no part in God’s plan? Did she feel in the way? Useless?

Perhaps she and Abraham speculated together the role Eliezer, Abraham’s right hand man, would play as heir to Abraham’s legacy. Abraham could adopt him! He could be a surrogate son! No. God clarified the first promise. Abraham’s own son would inherit (Genesis 15:4). Sarah must have felt confused again as she contemplated her exclusion from the plan. What was in this for her? Was God mocking her humiliation by exaggerating the hope of her husband? Count the stars, indeed. She had counted. Cycle after monthly cycle until her flows stopped. Her dishonor increased with every fertile promise God made to Abraham.

A Surrogate

The scenario of using a surrogate mother must have been in Sarah’s mind for years, but it wasn’t until God promised a son (Genesis 15:4) to Abraham that she felt the pressure to act. Many Bible expositors like to speculate she suggested Hagar, her personal servant, because she was impatient or because she doubted God, but I firmly believe she did it out of shame. I think Sarah thought that she was the problem. Her old and dried up body was a handicap to God’s great promises. Sarah’s suggestion of Hagar was not a second-rate plan. It was not a work-around to help God out. It was a heart-breaking act of desperation by a woman who was mortified. It was Sarah’s attempt to regain some honor by getting her broken body out of the way.

It was also legal.

In today’s world of liberation and social justice, we call what Sarah did to Hagar-sex trafficking. But in ancient terms, it was an acceptable legal transaction. The Code of Hammurabi gives us some insight into the everyday ethics that determined family life in the era of the Patriarchs. An infertile woman in that ancient time was vulnerable to divorce and a  refund (Law # 138). The husband could also choose to take a second wife, with the first wife claiming rank (Law #145). But, if the infertile wife did not wish to live with a harem of wives, she could offer her handmaid to her husband. If a child was born as a result, it was against the law (or custom) for the husband to remarry. Read for yourself:

144. If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.

Acting in accordance with the customs of her time, Sarah to Abraham: “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. (Genesis 16:2) ” Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham, not as wife or concubine but as a womb. If Hagar conceived and bore a child, Sarah’s position as the sole wife of Abraham was secure, and she would have a child to raise as her own. Sarah’s disgrace would be lifted.

But it didn’t work out that way, did it?

More dishonor

Hagar, belly growing with Abraham’s child, violates the social customs of the day by flouting a status that did not belong to her. She condemned Sarah, her master. Genesis 16:4 says, “her mistress was dishonorable in her eyes.” It is hard to understand the vulgarity of Hagar’s behavior in today’s society of social equality and respect earned through merit. Hagar was assaulting the positional honor of Sarah, “a grave cultural faux pas on Hagar’s part” writes Marvin Newell, author of   Crossing Cultures in Scriptures: Biblical Principles For Mission Practice. “Sarah was rightfully offended, even dishonored, by her servant Hagar. Hagar’s attacks were a direct assault on her worth, value and personhood in the eyes of the community. Her position and her reputation were at stake. If she permitted Hagar to persist in her actions, her own worth of belonging would be compromised—even to the extent of a possible disconnect with her husband, Abraham. Hagar put Sarah in quite a vulnerable position.” (

Not only did Hagar transgress the cultural values of honor and shame, her actions required a legal response. Consider Hammurabi once more:

146. If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.

Sarah had a case not only against Hagar, but against Abraham who was allowing Hagar to dishonor his wife. “May the wrong done to me be on you!” Sarah declares (Genesis 16:5). She calls on the Lord as witness that she had been wronged. Abraham agrees. “She is your servant. Do whatever you wish with her,” he says. 

Sarah punishes Hagar harshly to regain the honor she lost through Hagar’s abuse. In this ancient setting, Sarah’s reprisal was just punishment intended to re-establish the household hierarchy. Sarah was “chief.” Hagar, though carrying an heir, was still a slave.

Abraham had his son. But what about Sarah?

Sarah is honored-finally.

Thirteen years later, God reveals that the promise of family, home and royal lineage was not just for Abraham, but for Sarah as well. What a wait?! Sarah was not in the way of God’s plan. She was not incidental. The shame she bore in the eyes of the community for almost a century was about to become her greatest honor. She was chosen -old, infertile and cynical- to birth the promised son.

In the cardinal chapter of Judaism (Genesis 17), God ultimately completes the Great Promise and seals it with an ancient male ritual signifying fertility: circumcision. It is easy to stop at this significant detail cut into the male flesh of Abraham’s family and overlook the distinction given to Sarah – and to the women of her house. (Paul, God bless him, saw it! Galatians 4)

  • God adds a vowel to both names, changing husband and wife into the people of God. (Read more.)
  • God promises to bless her.
  • She will bear a son.
  • She will birth a royal nation.
  • Her offspring is the miracle son of promise.

Who mothers is equally as important as who fathers.

The ancient stories of the Hebrew Scriptures are male-dominated. I believe this androcentrism is a result of the way the world works, not the way God works. Woman has always been a pivotal part of God’s plan. Sarah’s faith in submissive action continued the war against the age-old enemy that her mother Eve began in the garden. Eve’s, and now Sarah’s descendants will defeat the serpent with whom she is at war. The promised one is the seed of Woman.



10 Goals for 2017

10 Goals for 2017

For the past decade or so, I’ve enjoyed casting a New Year’s Resolution. The resolution is not anything I tell others about or anything really big, but one or two things that shape my everyday life to be a little more like I want it to be in the long run. This blog and many of the early articles are the result of a resolution about 10 years ago! I really enjoyed Mavis Butterfield’s 12 Goals for 2016 this past year. She weekly updated her progress, and I can imagine she must feel amazing looking back over her year. So, I’m flat-out copying her. Perhaps you’ll enjoy my journey as much as I enjoyed hers?

10 Goals

1)  Hike to 12 new places.


My resolution last year was to move for at least 15 minutes each day (see #3). I really enjoyed my short walks which became longer walks, and got a taste for being all alone in the forests surrounding my beautiful city. I want to explore some of the famous destination hikes around me.

2)   Fix my teeth. 


This was on my list last year, but it got bumped to fix my daughter’s teeth. Invisalign, here I come!

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

I sit and read or work at the computer a lot. My heart (the muscle, not the emotion) begs me to move more! This was on my list last year.

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. (nod to Mavis)


This week, I asked Stephen to complete the under-layment for our master shower and complete the trim for the window and doors. We were wanting to prepare for the tiled walls, but have decided to subcontract the tile work in the shower first. He has to waterproof it first. Stephen was supposed to leave the painting of the trim for me, but he finished that too. I’m counting Stephen’s work toward this goal as well, since the goal is to get some never-ending projects completed.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

I asked for a simple needle felting kit for Christmas. Thanks MIL!

6)    Submit 6 articles for publication.

This should be easy. Not.

7)   Complete writing a 12-week Bible study.


This one was on my resolution list last year and it didn’t get much traction. I’m overwhelmed on how to start.

8)   Connect with one person a week.

I am home alone with my nose in a book or a computer screen. I tend toward crankiness and am usually easily annoyed. I often contemplate that I am just not a nice person. Hah! So, to combat my tendency to be a cantankerous hermit, I hope to begin starting conversations with strangers or intentionally talking with friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Its not a stretch to say this is my least favorite goal and the one most likely to be unmet.

9)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

I am completing my Master’s degree at a sloth’s pace. So far, it has taken me 3 years to complete 1 year. Two reasons for this: time and money. This past year, time hasn’t really been a problem, so I could crank up my course load to two classes per semester, but I refuse to go into debt. So, this goal is contingent on my budgeting skills in finding the tuition money to fund 12 credits this year. I am enrolled for 6 credits this spring, tuition paid in full. Halfway there!

10)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

This is a Bible blog, after all.


I will be re-reading Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, and practicing a different discipline (chapter) each month of the year. January is Bible Intake. I’ll be simply reading a chapter from 2 Kings, Proverbs and Hebrews this week. I say simply reading, because I tend to rabbit trail off into a study and then an hour is gone. I want to just read and meditate.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Donald Whitney about the reason to practice the Spiritual Disciplines.

The greatest danger of neglecting the Spiritual Disciplines is the danger of missing God – forever; not because personal piety earns anyone a place in heaven, but because it characterizes those who are on their way there. (p. 16)

So those are my twelve goals this year! Follow along to see how I do.

Navel Gazing: Papua New Guinea

Navel Gazing: Papua New Guinea

In 1995, when I was twenty,  I spent a few months in Papua New Guinea (PNG) delaying my college graduation from film school by six months. Can I say that huge life experiences happened because of this excursion? Nah. But I do have some fun stories, and hopefully I created a useful video for the missionaries I visited to recruit and publicize the work they were doing. Many thanks to my friend Bill Murray, who put days/weeks? into editing all my footage into a cohesive video while I was mending a broken heart.

Rating my  memories from 1-10:

10: Learning to cook fried rice with scrambled egg. This is really quite huge. #1) I was introduced to soy sauce. #2) Chinese restaurants were no longer needed. Marcia Ernst, a veteran missionary of PNG, taught me how to cook fried rice on the other side of the planet. There are hundreds of books written about men who live in alien cultures crossing the divide to reach others with good news (who can do all sorts of miraculous things with duct tape and gasoline) , but I experienced lessons from one of those WOMEN in cooking (with a spatula and frying pan, no less!). You just need oil, cooked rice, soy sauce, vegetables and eggs. Easy peasy. Until an earthquake strikes…

9: Life lessons in an earthquake. Now, we probably weren’t cooking in  the middle of this earthquake,  but that’s how I remember things. Books fell off  shelves. Furniture jolted. Rice was ruined. Reality shifted. The Earth was NOT. TO. BE. TRUSTED. A new acceptance of life was acknowledged as gravity evaporated and I was suddenly terribly alone. Even though surrounded by those who cared. I Could Die. Nothing Is Certain. What Do I Really Hope Will Happen To Me? A split second, and its over. THUNK!. I’m solid again. No longer weightless and floating. Back to rice, eggs and rooted existence. I was told “THAT” was no big deal. Normal. People live with different normals, don’t they?taping

8: Tom Clancy predicts the future. I was sick. Fever, chills and sore throat. Later, I’d learn I was plagued with chronic tonsillitis. But now it was just the flu. I was loaned Debt of Honor to while away the hours of sickness. I remember not only reading the scene of the airplane-devastated Capitol building, but I remembered its horrifying likeness on the ACTUAL 9/11. I laid in bed for a week? And read, and listened to drums…

7. Drums can really sound satanic.  Especially when they mean it. I heard the beat calling to demons while I read the future. Literally, I heard the drums of distant tribes beating into the night. I was feverish and filled with fancy, and was told the tribal drums I heard that night were pagan and didn’t they sound satanic? They sounded hopeless and redundant. That is the same thing, I suppose.

6. I can squat like a native. As I looked into this, I learned its a “thing.” It even has a name: The Third World Squat. Its healthy. Cool. I can do it for long stretches of time, even in a skirt. It was in PNG that I learned that squatting is much more comfortable than standing for long stretches of waiting. I just wish I could do it more often in the States without the stares.

(They aren’t squatting.)

5. British ice cream is superior.  So are french fries and Knorr chicken soup.  Every so often my dad would drive me to the local missionary boarding school for something-or-other he had to do that was airplane related, and there I discovered Magnum bars. Magnum bars rocked my world in a land that I just could not enjoy eating the local cuisine. First of all, every breath smelled of smoke. Cooking fire smoke, as the locals had to cook this way. Hence, every bite tasted like smoke. I wish I could say I loved the food and could eat anything set before me. I can eat anything, once. But spending three months there, I just couldn’t do it anymore. As a result, my mother proved her love for me by making many bowls full of chicken soup and frying potatoes. for. every. meal. My dad treated me to many a drive to that little in-school grocer to visit the freezer full of Magnums. I learned a valuable lesson that trip for future travels… always look for Magnum bars when visiting foreign lands.

4. Cornrows are painful in more than 3 ways. I couldn’t pass up cheap braids and notoriety. What white girl has a head full of braids? Me!  Look close and you’ll see my crazy self. Three hours and the story of a lifetime for two Papua New Guinea ladies who braided and laughed and laughed at the novelty I was paying them to perpetrate: white girl cornrows… and blonde, no less! Stupid idea of mine. Those braid KILLED me all 14 hours home. I couldn’t sleep. My brain was being twisted. I couldn’t scratch. There was no space in my head full of gnarled torment. I survived a head full of braid for two days. The time it took to travel half the globe. Then, a movie later (Forest Gump for those interested)… upbraiding and releasing my sanity… I experienced another phenomena unknown to white hair… Afro. I had re-programmed my hair to kink. If only I understood how awesome that was! The lessons I learned in Papua New Guinea…kinky hair is beautiful.


3. Fantasy Land is real: a world of waterfalls and hidden valleys. Much of my childhood was spent looking out an airplane window at the land below. If it wasn’t international travel, it was traveling the US in a Cessna. I’ve seen many landscapes – US farmland to the “broccoli” land of the Amazon jungle- but Papua New Guinea’s landscape was never repetitious. It was fantastical, unexpected and -as Anne would say – it gave “full scope to the imagination.” Behind every mountain was a waterfall, with birds catching the wind off the water, and every nook and cranny of the valleys filled with curious unknowns. I looked down from above in constant wonder.filming-plane-people


2. Beware of panicked bugs. Have an excruciating pain in your ear accompanied by scratching noises? It might be a BUG! Cockroaches fleeing insecticide that was dropped from airplanes over swaths of PNG countryside, run to any nook or cranny to escape the overhead death. I understand the country was periodically sprayed to control disease-spreading mosquitoes. Tunneling into an ear, the cockroach in this particular story only lived long enough to be squished by a pair of tweezers. The poor man whose ear housed the insect sought medical aid from the missionary medics, being unaware of what was causing him such pain. It was a sweet relief for him to have it pulled out and destroyed.  (I’m afraid my memory is faulty and I might confuse  PNG stories with Togolese stories. I remember that it was Lori Smith who told me this story as she works in the medical field, but it might have been a different nurse in Togo, West Africa. So apologies if I remembered this in the wrong location!)

1. Never wear your fanny pack backward. I learned how naive I was at age 20 in this story. Videotaping at the Goroka airport, my lens caught a distraught Australian woman – who happened to have cornrows, which is how I got the idea – turn and shout while she was standing at the ticket counter. Then she took off running, chasing a local out of the airport, down the street, around the bend and down a hill. We learned from folks around us anxious to tell the tale, that someone had grabbed the clasp of her fanny pack, which she had positioned so the clasp was in the back, zipper in front;  and in one motion unlocked it and vamoosed it out of there. I followed, camera rolling. I remember Rich, the twenty-something son of the Ernst’s who was sent to escort me around Goroka videotaping, saying something to me to the effect of, “wait…not a good idea.” But, I was intent on getting a crowd of PNG people filled with emotion. And the sight of this lady’s white head above the now-hundred black heads that came to her shoulder  was visually compelling. It just looked so good through the lens, I wanted more. Danger was not even on my radar.


I didn’t listen to Rich and started to follow. He only let me go so far before he suggested we go to the edge of the hill because that would give me a great view of the action unfolding in the neighborhood below. Wasn’t that a tactful way to keep me away from the streets of a nasty section of town? I didn’t notice until we were leaving that he held a large rock ready in his hand. He grimaced as he dropped it, slapping his hands clean. Unlike me, this missionary son understood the dangers of PNG. What I enjoyed as a great event unfolding for my camera, he appreciated as a “blonde” opportunity for any unscrupulous PNGer with crooked ideas. So this memory could be titled: Never wear your fanny pack backward and always carry a big rock. Thanks for the protection Rich.

If any of the wonderful missionaries I stayed with are reading this memoir of their home, thank you for welcoming me and giving me the opportunity to craft a story of your work on video. I especially am thankful for the picture book of PNG and the thank you letter you sent as it helps my faulty memory retain integrity. Those who jump out in my memory: ErnstTobiasSmiths, Aholts, Teachouts, and Edwards 

VIDEO Theology Bits: Circumcision

VIDEO Theology Bits: Circumcision

What’s been mulling around in my head lately? Circumcision. Why did God put foreskins on if they were meant to come off? What about women? Are women excluded from something because they aren’t included in the cutting of parts? How does this effect Christians? I have some answers, but I’m not really satisfied with them. Do you have anything to add?

(Posting a video was a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve been wanting to start posting short videos for a while, but am fighting vanity and fear of getting information wrong. That’s why I love writing. I can edit, and edit to my heart’s content. I probably sound and look ridiculous, but oh well. I need more humility.)


Rochel Holzkenner: Why Women Don’t Need Circumcision

Pini Dunner: Why Circumcision Is an Essential Part of Jewish identity

Note after the fact: Found a book written on this topic. Ordered it. Will let you know how my thoughts progress!