Monday, November 19, 2007

Holy Family Faberge-Style Egg

This advertisement is funnier if you can imagine it being spoken by a deep male voice, very stiff, very paced.

"And for your gift of 25 dollars a month or 250 dollars one time, [Paul and Jan would] like to send this beautiful Holy Family Faberge-Style Egg, decorated with sparkling jewel-like emblems. This fabergĂ©-style egg is a special work of art you’ll want to display year round. Inside is the Holy Family gathered around the greatest miracle of all: the Christ child, who would become the savior of the world. Send your love gift to TBN at post office box...."

Covert Christian TV Fundraising

I won't comment yet. But here's what I watched during an illness-induced moment of weakness today, as I lay on the couch recovering from a head cold.

I flip on TBN to the Paula White show. I've never seen her before. She looks about thirty, thin, blonde, made up. The shows almost over and she's wrapping up a few main points from, presumably, her show's topic today....

"...And then the third key is this: Give thanks to him and bless his name. To be thankful means 'to hold out the hand and to throw, especially to revere or worship with extended hands.' Someone once said, 'Paula, why do you lift your hands when you worship?'

If someone came and held you up at gunpoint, and the first thing you would do is you lift your hands. What are you saying? I surrender. So worship--which I’m going to teach you in a program real soon--worship is this: 'God, this isn’t about me.' It’s a surrendered life. 'I surrender. You are lord. You’re lord over my life. I extend my hands to you to say I live a surrendered life. This isn’t about Paula. This is about you.' And so it says to be thankful and bless [here the text from Psalm 100:4 appears overlaying a field of wheat]. 'Bless' means 'to kneel as an act of adoration.' So not only do we extend up, but we also get down, we kneel, saying, 'God I understand that you are Lord over my life. And I kneel as an act of adoration, reverence and respect for who you are.'

God wants to show up in your life. I challenge you right now. Don’t miss out on the spiritual possibilities that God wants to give to you. There is a passage that you have right now, a portal to enter into his gates, into his portal and to receive the presence of God in a very profound way. But you have to do it this way: You have to bring him a thanks offering. It’s the first thing.
What do you mean Paula? [one might ask] Just like what I taught: What is the value of God in your life? Your sacrifice, YOUR sacrifice validates his value. Call that toll free number right now. Get up and go to the phone and say, 'God I want to honor you, I want to worship you. I want to denote the worthiness of your value in my life by extending my hand with a sacrifice.' And maybe it’s simply to say, 'Thank you God for the unexpected blessing.' Maybe it’s a vow for something you’re believing God for. Or maybe it’s simply to honor and recognize who God is in your life. Whatever the reason, whatever the motive, it’s the act of worship that says 'God, because of who you are, I can’t help but to sacrifice, to exchange what I call valuable for something else: your presence in my life.'

During this thanksgiving season, have an attitude of gratitude...

[At this the visual of Paula is lost. Her voice blares out over a still frame of a cornucopia filled with pumpkins, squash, apples and corn. “Honor God with a Special Thanksgiving Offering!” reads the headline at the top of the screen. Below that viewers are instructed to “include your praise report and a list of 5 things you are thankful for.”]

...and not only bring an offering to the Lord, but why don’t you write down 2 or 3, maybe 4 or 5 things you are grateful for. I promise you your perception’s going to change. As you call that number, as you go to the website, or write the p.o. box, and you extend your hand with a valuable sacrifice, a seed that magnifies who God is in your life, also write down those things, or tell that person [on the phone] what you’re grateful for. It is imperative. I believe the best is yet to come in your life. And as you do it God’s way, expect God-results."

In case Paula's message hasn't hit home yet, a deep male-announcer voice speaks as the camera pans over a thanksgiving table, feast laid out, glassware and dishes awaiting food:

"The thanksgiving season is more than turkey and dressing, family and friends. In psalm 100, we are commanded to enter his gates, ...

[the image now: double doors opening in a stone archway. Beyond the doors is a great light]

...or divine presence, with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise, to be thankful unto him and bless and honor his name.

[Image: a written list of the ‘commandments’ overlay the darkness on the viewers' side of the double doors: “1. Enter His gates with thanksgiving; 2: Into his courts with praise; 3: Be thankful unto him and bless his name."]

. . .There are two simple steps you can take. . .

[Image: a bleach-blonde viewer with perm-curly hair in her twenties, with frosted blue eyeshadow, sits on her living room sofa and smiles at the camera. Underneath her are the words “A Spirit of Thanksgiving”. Quickly the image changes to an African-American (?) couple who are nestling into one another, looking VERY thankful. The man is kissing the woman's cheek and wraps his arms around her shoulders as they both look up and smile at the camera]

. . .to come before God with a spirit of thanksgiving. [1] Give the Lord a special thanksgiving offering today as an act of gratitude for the things he has done and will do in your life by calling toll-free, writing, or visiting on-line and sowing into God’s kingdom through the worldwide outreach of Paula White ministries. 2) write down five things you are thankful for and include them when you write. In appreciation for your best thanksgiving offering unto God, Paula will send you her newest teaching series, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” featuring five messages on your choice of CD or DVD. Enter through his gates of thanksgiving this year through a life of greater blessing through an ‘Attitude of Gratitude.’

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mom's Group

This morning I went to a woman's/mom's group at a church in town. They have a nice set up: child care for a suggested donation of $2; the moms go to their own room, where they help themselves to coffee, pastries and fresh fruit. Each week, guest speakers pontificate on the theme for that week. Today it was "Transitions in Motherhood." Someone with a microphone in hand elaborated on the specifics of the topic: entering the workforce after having children. After the speakers talked, each table of women discussed the topical questions for the morning.

I left depressed. "That was hard," I told Kate afterwards. Kate attends twice per month. "I don't know how you do that." The odd thing was I couldn't articulate fully what teh problem was. It's not like anyone said one specific thing that knocked the wind out of me. It was more the sum of little things expressed that helped to construct the big picture for me--a picture of the mindset of many of these women in regard to motherhood, marriage and friendship with God.

I've learned, for instance, that the new hip thing to be these days is "Real." "Being Real" is the end game, from the way the first speaker talked about it. "I wish I could get up here and say I'm perfect and I've got all my issues straightened out, but I don't," she confessed. "I'm far from perfect!" She laughed and smiled and ended her talk soon after that, leaving us with the impression that simply saying you're having a hard time in life is tantamount to dealing with it and getting somewhere. Later, when a question from an audience member was directed at her [How do you overcome what others will think of you? How do you start beign real?], the speaker crossed her arms over her chest defensively and shrugged. I don't know, she said. I guess I just realized that my friends still liked me even when I went through hard times.

Some of the women at our discussion table expressed appreciation for people who could "be real and say 'I struggle with that, too.'" But I wonder if politely saying, "I struggle with that" is the same thing as Being Real. Saying "I struggle with that" is easy for me and doesn't involve a lot of emotional risk. What's hard (and humbling) is calling Kate up when I'm about to start sobbing from whiny children, and tell her I can't handle it. When I think of Being Real, I think of prayer times I've allowed myself to speak, uncensored, and cry if I needed to. Scream if I needed to. But that brings up the issue of prayer requests at this mom's group, which are written down at the end of our table's discussion and then emailed to, presumably, all forty women at the meeting. A women at my table was having trouble with her stepchildren questioning her authority. Another has a child with a severe developmental problem. Another "needs wisdom" on how to confront her parents. We don't, of course, talk about any of those things other than to get the story straight in order to write it down. The mother with the child with the developmental problem only alludes to her concern over the cost of diagnostic testing and the fact that she is worried over her son.

What's also in the water at this church is the idea that wives are called to aid/abet/assist their husbands in whatever they so desire. If husband wants to start a restaurant, she should not argue. If husband wants to move to Kenya, she should say "Okay, honey. What should I pack first." The oft-quoted-from text this morning was the book "Created to Be His Helpmeet," which gives wives handy profiles of the three main types of husbands and how one should tailor her responses based on the kind of husband she has. As one discussion group member put it, "If I say that it'll make him mad. So I better not say it."

What some of my discussion group also found inspiring was the idea of a "Priorities Umbrella System." It looks like this. "My relationship with God comes first. THen my marriage. My relationship with God is like an umbrella that covers my marriage and my marriage is the umbrella that covers my children." "How do we put our marriage (i.e. our husbands) first?" one of the questions asked. Our discussion facilitator described how it's hard for her to be constantly thinking about showing more love to her husband than the children. "He comes home and I'm cutting the kids' food and getting the drinks at dinner time and [she enacts looking over her shoulder] i'm like, 'how was your day?' So then my husband feels left out and asks when he gets to have time with me...." In this scene she paints, her husband appears entirely inactive. He is not helping cut chicken or green beans for the children. It's almost as if it's completley her job to figure out how to balance everything, make the kids disapear for a little while so she can be with the hubby. In the picture she paints he comes off in a bad light, a little spoiled, with little agency other than to whine, yet getting dinner and his wife handed to him on a silver platter.