Friday, July 14, 2017

What 43 Years Looks Like

Photo by Nath├ília Bariani on Unsplash
Today Mike and I celebrate forty-three years of marriage. Forty-three years. I’m trying to wrap my brain around that. What does that feel like? What does that look like? I admit, it's not one of the biggies, like the 25th, or the 50th, but it's still significant. I sit here with all of these thoughts about what it looks like.

I think it looks like living. I think it looks like dying. I think it looks like joy and happiness, sorrow and peace. It looks like two young kids standing in a meadow pledging to love each other till death do us part and not having a clue what that means. It looks like moving how many times? It looks like two young kids losing their first baby in a strange hospital with no family around, the pain and sorrow threatening to drown us. It looks like losing three more babies and holding each other through it all. It looks like the joy of having three healthy babies, Mike by my side, coaching me through each contraction because back then you didn’t use drugs during labor, you had to breathe through it all. He was a great coach. Watching him hold our babies and giving them their first kiss are some of my favorite memories.

Forty-three years looks like life and death. We both stood over my Mother’s bed and watched her breathe her last breath. Nine months later we stood over his Mother’s hospital bed and watched her breathe her last breath. We grieved together. Both of our Fathers died too. We learned what it was to not be the children anymore.

We have had the joy of welcoming six grand babies into our family. And we've experienced the sorrow of watching five of them move across the country, out of the reach of our arms and laps. But the happiness in seeing how happy they all are, living somewhere other than this desert and heat, which is all they've known until now.

Forty-three years included a lot of "stuff." When I was facing surgery and not allowed to eat for a month, Mike hooked me up to my feeding machine every night. I was sure I wouldn’t survive the surgery so I filled the garage with toilet paper and paper towels, the closet with shampoo and deodorant because I didn’t want him to have to find it in the store while he was grieving.

Watching each of our children leave home was hard. Watching them go through their own trials was even harder. These last eight years have been some of the hardest for us. Mike has walked through deep waters with me as I struggled with depression and anxiety including ER visits, thinking I was having a heart attack and finding out it was anxiety. The kind of anxiety that makes it difficult to breathe. Difficult to live. He had many sleepless nights wondering what was going to happen to us. But these last few years have been good too because we have found out that this whole time, when we thought we were clinging to Jesus, He was actually holding us through it all. While our love for Him was often fickle, His love for us never wavered. We are still discovering the freedom of His one-way love. We are learning what it means to rest in Him. I recently heard a podcast and he was talking about John referring to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. And Peter, who was always boldly declaring his love for Jesus, only to deny Him three times. We are learning that we are loved by Jesus without condition and it's pretty sweet.

We’ve both changed so much, not just as individuals but as a couple. There is no longer a hierarchy in our home. We are two adults living as equals. Mike has encouraged me to find my voice, to find my "no." Let me tell you, this is a much more harmonious way to live. Mike doesn’t have to live under the weight of making sure he makes all the right decisions or that he has to live up to some unattainable standard as a man. And I get to be me. I get to voice my opinion and walk with him as a companion instead of….well, you get the idea.

Forty-three years has brought other changes as well. We've seen 8-track tapes and cassette tapes come and go. Laserdiscs were all the rage for about a month. Video players/recorders came and went, along with video stores like Blockbuster and Sounds Easy. Telephones moved from the wall to our pockets. Bell bottoms gave way to skinny jeans. Personal computers made their appearance, along with the Internet and good old AOL. Gaming went from board games to Pong, to handheld PAC man to PS4, Xbox One, and Call of Duty. Our lives together began in trailers with wood paneling and wood-burning heat, to living in a house with wood floors and blessed air conditioning. Home video went from 8mm to Super-8 to handheld digital cameras to that phone in our pockets. I could buy a loaf of bread for 28 cents!

When Mike turned 40, a friend asked me, “What's it like to get married to a 19 year old and now he’s 40?????” I told her it didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t go to bed with a 19 year old and wake up to a 40 year old. Time is hard to explain. Life is hard to explain. It unfolds slowly. We’re not really the same people we were on that day 43 years ago. That 17 year old girl is long gone. The changes are too many to list or even know. We don’t have the energy we once had. We have physical pain that we never thought we would have. But it's good.

So this is just a little of what 43 years look like. We didn’t get here without pain and sorrow, but we also didn’t get here without a lot of joy and happiness. Mike is my best friend and I’m glad to have him by my side.

Happy Anniversary, babe.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Church Tradition and the Marginalization of Women

Jesus didn't do it. Paul didn't do it. None of the Apostles did it. The church did it. In the 2,000 years since the Apostolic era, the institutional church has been on a power grab. The thing about a power grab is that those without the power get marginalized and/or abused. That's been the case with women in the church. Jon Zens notes,

The retrogression that occurred with reference to women in the post-apostolic age can be compared to what happened in other doctrinal and practical areas. For example, the Lord's Supper was transformed from a time of the brethren remembering the Lord in a meal together to an elaborate "Holy Sacrament" officiated over by a clergyman. The monumental difference, however, between such things as the Lord's Supper and what happened to women was that half of the church was rendered inferior and marginalized for nearly two millennia. Jon Zens, What's with Paul and Women: Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 Ekklesia Press, 2010, p. 53. Kindle Edition. 

Jacques Ellul adds this to the conversation,

All that represented weakness or inferiority [physical, social, etc.] was put in second place. Women are the most spectacular instance of this. After a period of independence that came with the spread of Christianity, they were relegated to a lower order...[ T] he more feminine liberty was suppressed, the more women were accused (of being the temptress of Genesis, etc.), [and] the more they were reduced to silence. Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, Eerdmans, 1986, pp. 33-34.

Zens adds,

The Council of Toledo in A.D. 400 "decreed that [clergy] had the right to beat their wives more severely than ordinary fellows: 'A husband is bound to chastise his wife moderately, unless he be a [clergy], in which case he may chastise her harder.' A later passage states that 'if wives of clergy transgress their [husbands'] commands, they may beat them, keep them bound in their house and force them to fast but not unto death.'" Zens, op. cit. p. 56. Kindle Edition. 

In the time of the Reformation, John Calvin continued the tradition..

We have a special sympathy for women who are evilly and roughly treated by their husbands... We do not find ourselves permitted by the Word of God, however, to advise a woman to leave her husband, except by force of necessity; and we do not find this force to be operative when a husband behaves roughly and uses threats to his wife, not even when he beats her, but only when there is imminent peril to her life... We exhort her to bear with patience the cross which God has seen fit to place upon her; and meanwhile not to deviate from the duty which she has before God to please her husband, but to be faithful whatever happens. Zens, op.cit. p. 57. Kindle Edition. 

With 2,000 years of church tradition behind it, is it any wonder that such abuse is assumed to be normal in marriage?

At a meeting in the Wesleyan Chapel in July, 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, a Declaration of Sentiments on behalf of women noted that "in the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master —the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty and to administer chastisement." Again, we see that the physical "chastisement" of a wife was built into assumptions about marriage and protected by the law. Zens, op. cit. pp. 58-59. Kindle Edition. 

Some food for thought,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Podcasting 101

A couple of people have had questions about starting a podcast and were wondering how to get started. We're not podcast gurus in any sense of the word. We're still learning but we can offer some suggestions and a few of the things we've encountered along the way.

First, doing a podcast is extremely simple and fun. Don't over think it. All you need to begin is:
  1. Something to record your voice into and, 
  2. Someplace to put the finished recording so the world can listen.
When we started our podcast, we recorded at the kitchen table using an old beat up Sony laptop running a freeware recording program called Audacity using the built-in laptop mic. That's it. That's how we recorded our first 3 or 4 episodes. With a couple of mouse clicks, Audacity will export your recording into an MP3 format, which is the format needed for podcasts.

If that sounds like more than you want to do, there are easier options. Any smart phone will have the ability to record your voice and save it. My iPhone has a built-in app called Voice Memos. So does yours. You can push record, set the phone next to you, and start talking. When you're done, you can send the file to your cloud service or export it any way you like. The voice intros we've used on our podcast were all done this way. It's very simple.

If you don't have a phone that will do this, you can use an iPad, tablet, or an MP3 recorder. We have a Roland R-05 that we've used a couple of times. It's great when you're away and your regular podcast equipment isn't with you. We take this with us on road trips, day trips, or any time we're away from our regular recording hardware. You never know when the podcast bug might bite. Ours has a 32 GB SD card that all the recordings are on. After recording, you can remove the card and stick it in your computer or cable directly to it to transfer your recordings into your editing software. We recorded episodes 12 and 15 using the Roland R-05.

We experimented for well over a year as we continued to podcast. You can tell. From episode to episode of our early podcasts, the audio quality changes. Some of it's just bad. Sorry. It's been a learning process for us, so thank you for putting up with us and being part of the journey.

Once you have your podcast audio, you're going to need a hosting service for it. That's a place to put it on-line so others can listen. After using SoundCloud (When it was in beta), we moved to Podbean for a time before settling on Libsyn. Wherever you host your podcast, they'll be able to help you get listed in iTunes. Once your podcast is published you might find it magically appearing on other sites like Google and Stitcher.

In case you're interested, here's a list of the hardware and software we've been using for the last 8-10 months. All of this has grown slowly and is now set up in a dedicated sound room in our house with acoustic foam panels on the walls to eliminate echo and provide quiet acoustics.

  • Susan and I use Shure SM7B microphones on tabletop boom stands. These are some sweet mics with great quality. They require a preamp and the preamp in our little mixer (see below) needed some help, so we purchased a Cloudlifter CL-2. This device takes the 48-volt phantom power supplied by the mixer and converts it into a separate amplifier providing an additional +25db of amplification for each mic. Problem solved.
  • For in-house guests, we have two AKG D5 vocal mics on floor-standing boom mics. We had two friends join us for episode 55 (the Brocast) and they used these mics.
  • We record most of our podcasts through an Alesis MultiMix 8 mixer. This is a small 8 channel desktop mixer that meets all of our recording needs. This mixer is USB connected to our iMac. We import podcasts we recorded on our Roland R-05 directly into our recording software, bypassing this mixer and doing all of the mixing in software.
  • For software, we used Audacity through episode 53. Beginning with episode 54, we started using GarageBand instead. Audacity is a powerful tool, but GarageBand has more pro audio tools in it and post-production editing is faster. Plus, I believe the overall quality is better. Years ago, I used a pro audio software called Cakewalk to produce a music CD so while moving to GarageBand was a bit of a re-learning curve, it wasn't too bad. GarageBand has many more built-in tools than you'll ever need for a podcast, but it's now my software of choice. Plus, it was included with our iMac and integrates into iTunes nicely.

This is what we do, but it's not what you need to do. We're in a season of life that allows us to invest more time in podcasting. Starting a podcast is easy and never has to move beyond easy. I have some experience in audio production so I wanted to get back into it a little. You only need the two things we talked about earlier:

  1. Something to record into, and...
  2. Someplace to put the finished recording so the world can listen.

That's all you need for a great podcast. Keep it simple and have fun!! We are!!

- Mike

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Forgiveness, Trust, and Social Closeness

NOTE: This is a blog post Susan wrote in 2010 on another site we had at the time. After a little bit of updating, we decided to share it with you here. It seems like this topic is always applicable. Enjoy!

A Pastor friend of mine recommended a book to me recently because of the chapter on forgiveness. Most of this blog will be quotes from that book because I don't think I could say it better. The book is 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.

I have been questioning what it feels like and what it means to forgive someone when there has been tremendous hurt. If there is still hurt and distrust, is it really forgiveness? How do I get past it all? What am I doing wrong? These were just some of the questions I asked my friend. Osborne addresses the false beliefs we tend to have about forgiveness. Here is one:
Some of us have been taught that forgiveness is pretending nothing happened - a head in the sand posture that ignores the obvious. Some of us think of it as a never ending series of second chances. Others view it as a fresh start with all the consequences and old baggage removed. Still others imagine it as the immediate and full restoration of a broken relationship, complete with the same level of trust and privileges that preceded the wrongdoing. But the goofiest idea of all is the widely held belief that genuine forgiveness means literally forgetting what happened - wiping the slate so clean that every memory of the transgression disappears.
He then spends time talking about how we think that God actually "forgets" our former transgressions and so we should forget it when people sin against us. But God doesn't forget in the sense that he can't remember things!
So, what does the Bible mean when it speaks of God remembering our sins no more? It means that he no longer responds to us in light of those sins. They no longer derail our relationship with him. They no longer garner his wrath. They are gone - completely - from our account. But it doesn't mean he can't remember all the things we've done. An omniscient God doesn't forget stuff.
He then talks about why this is such a big deal:
When forgiving becomes synonymous with forgetting, it tends to produce spiritual confusion and other rather unfortunate spiritual responses for those of us who have been forgiven and those of us who need to forgive.
Simply forgetting that someone has deeply hurt you or abused you, allows the door to remain open for even more hurt and abuse. While a Christian’s vertical relationship with God remains untouched in the midst of sinful actions, there are horizontal consequences in the form of broken or lost relationships that often accompany deep hurt and wounds. Osborne continues:
There's another problem that occurs when forgiving gets confused with forgetting. We tend to assume that if someone has forgiven us, whatever happened in the past should be a dead issue. The other person should just get over it and move on. But that's unreasonable. It unfairly turns the tables on the one who has been wronged. It assumes his or her pain should magically disappear. And if it doesn't, we get to write off the injured party as an unforgiving slob. Our sin is now their problem. Not a bad deal! Yet, in reality, healing takes time. Forgiveness is a decision lived out as a lengthy process. The expectation that those we've wronged should simply forget about it is not only unreasonable; it's emotionally unhealthy. People who can't remember what happened to them or who bury their pain are not spiritually mature; they're mentally or emotionally handicapped.
That really spoke to me. I think for a long time I've dismissed emotions. After all, God is Sovereign and He does everything perfectly and for my good. Yes, He is and He does, but that doesn't take away my humanity. I was created with emotions. Jesus displayed
many emotions while walking on this earth with mankind. He had compassion, He cried, and He was angry at times!

The Psalms are full of emotion. The Psalmists cry out to God. They praise God. Tears of anger and joy abound in the Psalms! So why do we think that our hurt and pain should just go away? I heard someone once say that the Holy Spirit is pleased to sometimes work in decades. But we live in a culture of quick fixes. TV shows abound with huge problems that are solved in 30 - 60 minutes. We can cook a meal in minutes with our microwave ovens, so why are you still hurting? Come on, get over it! I've been guilty of expecting not only myself, but others to "get over it" sooner than later because I have left out the work of the Spirit. Not only does God work perfectly in my life, He works in His timing and on His own schedule! Osborne adds:
Perhaps the most significant downside of equating forgiving with forgetting is that it makes forgiveness seem impossibly out of reach. Anyone who has been deeply hurt knows that painful memories stick. They can't be willed away. Pray as we might, they aren't erased. The pain may lessen. The memories may fade. The nightmares may disappear. But gone for good? Not often. And sadly, having decided that it's not possible to forget, many of us also mistakenly decide it's not possible to forgive - at least when it comes to the big stuff.
So, how do we live out this kind of forgiveness in the real world? What consequences are appropriate? Which ones are punitive? How far do we go with second chances? Does forgiving mean trusting someone again even when we know they're untrustworthy? Does it give those who have hurt us the right to barge back into our life at deep and time - consuming levels? Do we have to invite them over for dinner?
It's important to wrap our minds around the fact that forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean that trust and social closeness are automatically restored. Trust and social ties are earned privileges that may never reoccur in this life. Forgiving someone who has hurt you deeply and broken your trust doesn't necessarily mean that you must also grant them the right to climb back into your life. Those are two different things. Osborne puts it this way:
There is one other area of confusion that needs to be addressed. Does forgiveness mean restoring a broken relationship to its original state? Does it mean we have to trust the other person again? Does it mean we have to invite her to our next party? Some people seem to think so. Once they've been forgiven, they expect to be immediately restored to full trust and relationship. But that's not the case. Trust, close relationships, and forgiveness are not necessarily related. While forgiveness puts aside all bitterness and all plans for revenge, it doesn't make someone trustworthy or turn the person back into our best friend. Trust has to be earned. Close social ties are a privilege. We don't owe anyone either.
While counseling a woman whose husband had cheated on her a second time, after she forgave him the first time, she asked Osborne if God would forgive her for not trusting her husband again. This is what he said:
I assured her that she wasn't the one in need of God's forgiveness. God wasn't asking her to trust her husband again. He was asking her to forgive him. That might or might not mean staying in the marriage. But it certainly didn't mean believing him when he called to say he was working late at the office again, or claimed that a flirtatious female coworker was ‘just a friend’.
This is not to say that God doesn't heal and restore relationships. I have seen marriages healed and become a beautiful example of forgiveness and humility. But it’s not always like that and to expect it to be can be very harmful to both parties. Sometimes there are new beginnings, but not always, and knowing what forgiveness is and what it looks like will help us to heal.

Osborne wraps up the chapter by talking about Jesus and His forgiveness for us. In light of what Jesus did for me on the cross, how do I respond? Someone once said “You need to go backward to what Christ has done in order to go forward in what you are to do." This is especially important when we find we are unable to forgive someone. Perhaps the wounds are too fresh or too deep and you’re just not in a place right now where forgiveness would be genuine. Forgiving someone is not mechanical and it can’t be forced or manipulated. It’s a process and sometimes it’s a long process. Especially when someone hasn't asked for forgiveness, or when they deny that they have sinned against you, or they put a spin on it to explain it away and justify it. But forgiveness doesn't mean we will always experience full restoration of the relationship, or that we are even obligated to pursue it. Sometimes, all we can do is look to Jesus to do the forgiving.

In his book, The Heart of a Servant Leader, Jack Miller wrote:
Therefore I urge you not to be discouraged, but to walk wisely and in love. Forgive, bless, and show love whenever it is consistent with holy wisdom that God will give you.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Welcome to our New Home

Welcome! We're Mike and Susan Adams and you've found the new home of the Chief Sinner Blog! Welcome to Known and Loved. We've been busy moving all of our Chief Sinner content over here. All of our future blog posts will be posted here from now on.

We're glad you're here!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Leave it to Beaver and Other Impossible Myths

It's been a really rough month for me. I'm sure most of you will be able to relate. It’s been a month filled with introspection and regrets. Motherhood regrets mainly.

I come from a broken home. I never wanted to have children. I never wanted to get married. I didn't want to put anyone through what I lived through as a child. Then... Jesus. He saved me and set me on a whole new trajectory. I met Mike and suddenly I wanted marriage. I wanted that relationship. But I told him from the beginning I didn't want kids. But.... Jesus showed me how beautiful babies were. And I had hope. Hope that I could somehow be a mom and do it differently. So after 2 painful miscarriages we had our first baby. I was a mom. I was going to do it all differently. My kids were never going to experience divorce. They were never going to experience the abuse of an alcoholic step-dad or the abandonment of a father. They were going to have a Leave it to Beaver family. My dream family.

And I thought that's what I was doing. I thought I could protect my children from the world. I thought I could be the one to get it right. If we just followed the "rules". If we just kept evil out then our kids would be problem free. Pain free. But all of those Christian parenting books and programs we followed? They didn't factor in the sinfulness of the parents. They didn't tell me that I was so messed up that I needed Jesus everyday so that I could love my kids. Parenting is so much more than having rules and first-time obedience. It's about being aware of my need for forgiveness every day. It's showing my children I'm broken and that my only hope, their only hope is Jesus. That he did it all for us. That he loves us just the way we are. We don't have to be what we hear from so many pulpits and books - people who think they have it together. People who claim to be getting better and who look so good on the outside. That's as false as Leave it to Beaver was. It isn't real. It can't be real because we all live in a fallen world in need of a Savior.

So when I'm alone in the dark feeling all the pain and regret of everything I did wrong as a mom, my only hope is Jesus. Because I couldn't do it. I can’t do it. I've come to the end of myself and found Jesus there. He's my only hope and he's the only hope my children have.

Sermons and blog posts on how to be better and try harder aren't what I need to hear. I need to hear those who know they’re broken talk about Jesus. I need to hear that I'm not the only one who’s screwed up. I need to hear that he isn't surprised or disappointed. He knows I can’t pull it off and live a perfect life, obeying the law, striving to be good enough. That’s why he came! I can't be all that. I'm not all that and I never will be. But he's not surprised. He knows me fully and loves me perfectly. And I believe he loves my kids more than I ever could. And that’s where my hope is. In him. Not in my parenting or in my failed attempts at the perfect family.

Leave it to Beaver is a myth just like the idea of the perfect Christian.