Last Sunday, I realized the preacher was going to be talking about Deborah in the book of Judges. I was a little worried. I’d been down this road before and I wasn’t sure I could keep quiet this time.
The last preacher I listened to announced that God chose Deborah because no man was available for the task. I laughed out loud in a very quiet church. A friend leaned over and whispered, “He’s serious!”
She shrugged her shoulders and I lost track of what the preacher said after that. I couldn’t imagine that this pastor felt that God was incapable of finding a man for a job. For heaven’s sake….he could CREATE a man. He’s all POWERFUL. With perfect WISDOM. He absolutely did not pick Deborah because he was forced into a corner and no man was available.
Let me tell you the story in case you’ve not heard it…
Deborah was a Jewish prophetess (which meant that she knew God’s thoughts) and a judge. The people of Israel were being oppressed and she had a message that God wanted them to take action.
She told them…“The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.”
Barak was nervous about the whole deal and refused to go unless Deborah accompanied him. So she did. And as promised, all the enemy perished by the sword…except Sisera himself. He escaped, took a nap in a tent…and had a tent spike drilled into his temple. By a another woman. (who was also there because God planned it)
I thought my experience was unique but apparently it is not. This is an article about similar situation, written by someone more familiar with the Bible.
I really thought this was all behind us. I grew up learning about Susan B Anthony-- who successfully won the right to vote for women in 1920. That was a long time ago! (It shouldn’t surprise you that she fought against slavery too.)
I grew up watching commercials and reading ads (These are pretty funny, you should take a peek) that compared modern women to older times and claimed, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
And we have. But we still have work to do…#MeToo.
But here’s the good news. Last weekend…that preacher understood that God knows exactly what’s he’s doing. And he always picks the best person for the job.
When I was little, I remember shopping with my mother and grandmother. Grandmother would pick up a garment, roll up the hem and point toward the stitching with a frown on her face. Mom would nod in agreement and then grandmother would put the item back on the rack. Grandma’s lips would thin at dresses with no linings and button holes with inadequate stitching.
Grandma lived through the Depression. Most of us don't understand the how frugal the average family had to be just to exist. Food was a priority, meat was a luxury. My grandmother could carefully remove the thread from a skirt's hemline so that she could use it again to shorten the length. Let that sink in...reusing a thread so you didn't have to buy a new spool.
Clothing, in her opinion, should be well-made. A woman should be able to wear her purchase for quite some time without fears that a seam would rip or a button would be lost. Or that the whole thing would fall apart in the washing machine.
Fashion came secondary.
I can’t say I disagree with her priorities. But let's talk about fashion-because it’s a matter of some confusion to me.
The original designers fashioned clothing to be flattering to your body type. Fashion, in this form, is an art. But somehow it evolved into something different. A status symbol. Fashion became wearing someone’s label...becoming a human billboard to advertise their goods. And if you were going to use your body to advance someone’s profession, shouldn’t you get reimbursed instead of paying for this opportunity? I don’t get it.
Remember the fairy tale about the Emperor’s new clothes? No?
Let me tell you about it... it’s one of my favorites.
In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a tale about two weavers who talked the Emperor into buying a new suit. This suit promised something special. It would be invisible to anyone who was "hopelessly stupid”.
The weavers displayed the imaginary fabric with a flourish. With theatrical gestures, they expertly wove the non-existent material into the glorious new apparel. But there was a problem.
The Emperor couldn't see his own new suit. And he was ashamed and unwilling to admit it.
So, he paraded around with nothing on.
(I posted this picture of a throne instead of naked Emperor. You didn't need to see that.)
Everyone was afraid of saying anything to the Emperor and being exposed as being stupid. Except for one innocent young boy who declared...
“But he isn’t wearing anything at all”
Even in 1837, it wasn't a new theme. A similar story circulated in Spain in 1335 and in India in 1283.
What does it come down to? "Fashion is an emotional decision, not a rational one.." according to Susanna Koelblin. Let's chose to use our heads when we're buying clothing. She says that while 60% of us are interested in sustainable clothing, only 30% purchased it. She had an interesting article that you can read here.
Let's follow Patagonia's example. In 2011 they ran an amazing campaign starting with an ad in the New York Times. In huge letters, above a picture of one of their coats, the page declared, "Don't Buy This Jacket". When asked why they did this, this was their response:
It’s time for us as a company to address the issue of consumerism and do it head on.
The most challenging, and important, element of the Common Threads Initiative is this: to lighten our environmental footprint, everyone needs to consume less. Businesses need to make fewer things but of higher quality. Customers need to think twice before they buy.
Why? Everything we make takes something from the planet we can’t give back. Each piece of Patagonia clothing, whether or not it’s organic or uses recycled materials, emits several times its weight in greenhouse gases, generates at least another half garment’s worth of scrap, and draws down copious amounts of freshwater now growing scarce everywhere on the planet.
Let's start looking at hems. Let's buy quality and expect it to last more than a single season. Let's consider what a person says and does...instead of what logo they carry on their garments.
Full disclosure: I've purchased and worn items from Costco, Walmart, Target, consignment stores...and I'll do it again. But I'll also start shopping Patagonia because I love what they stand for.
I want to introduce you to someone.
This is Caroline.
She’s sweet and funny. She’s good at ignoring me when she’s trying to finish texting someone.
She has Pfeiffer syndrome. It’s pretty rare and only happens 1:100,000 kids.
Pfeiffer syndrome is a disorder where the bones of the head fuse too early and it causes the head and face to look different.
When Caroline was born, her eyes looked like they were bulging and her jaw looked too small for her little face. But after a lot of surgeries, she looks more like you and me. Children with Pfeiffer syndrome can have wider than normal thumbs and big toes and sometimes they have hearing loss.
In most cases, their intelligence is normal. Caroline's is better than normal...she’s on the A honor roll.
Caroline is a miracle.
She has her own team of doctors to help her including every doctor you’ve probably ever heard of: ENT, Ophthalmology, GI, orthopedics, pulmonologists, neurosurgeons, craniofacial surgeons... and me. I’ve had the privilege of taking care of Caroline since she was one week old.
She’s had 32 surgeries so far. That’s amazing, right?
She’s the strongest, most resilient kid that I’ve ever known.
So we should respect her...admire her.
And not tease her.
That’s what happened this week. Right in our pediatric office. And it makes me feel really sad…but that kid didn't know Caroline. Because he would never do that if he’d met her.
So, I want to introduce everyone I know to Caroline.
If you’re a mom, take this as an opportunity to talk to your children about kids that have to be stronger than the rest of us.
Years ago, I was really worried about the kids I was seeing in my office. Instead of grubby sneakers and tee-shirts, I was seeing designer labels...expensive purses....manicures and pedicures. I was astonished when one mom confessed that she'd had highlights put into her six-year old's hair. What's left?
As the years passed, the parents had to come up with new glittery, shiny things to satisfy their children. One parent flew (by helicopter) his child and high school date to Austin for a special dinner before their prom. Holy cow.
It was a tsunami wave of materialism and I was really worried that the children would drown in it. But it turns out, I didn't have to stress so much. The tide has turned.
This generation is more interested in experiences instead of accumulation of wealth. They value time with their friends and family. As one guy explained it...previous generations gave up a lot for the sake of big houses and expensive cars...we want to savor our lives instead. Don't you love that?
I'm seeing more dads participate in raising the children. Stay-at-home fathers. More guys who can discuss how their child is doing in algebra. Dads who are expert diaper-changers.
And I'm seeing families pare down their life styles and really pay attention to what matters. Instead of big houses, they've come up with a whole new concept of little homes that allow families to focus on something beside making the mortgage payment.
And I've been reading about a capsule wardrobe. It's a systematic approach to buying exactly what you need, making sure that the components all work together and then avoiding impulse buys of items that will hang in the closet and never get worn.
Even the advertisements for this generation are changing. One company for corporate clothing promised 'practicality'. A tagline said something like, "my clothing is the last thing I want you to notice about me." What? Look deeper than the surface? I love that.
I read a quote once from someone's grandmother. She said, "You can never get enough of what you don't need." So true. The things I tend to crave aren't the things I can't live without. And I've got plenty of what I really need- family, friends, food, shelter and clean water.
I've been considering what's important in life and what it means to have real joy. Those kids that grew up and discarded that lavish lifestyle --they're on to something. We should pay attention.