Sunday, October 24, 2010

5 Scientific Facts about the Male Brain I'm Not Buying

Okay, I don't usually go around reading these kind of articles- no really I don't, for obvious reasons- but this one jumped out at me when I signed into Yahoo for email tonight:

5 Ways to Understand Him Better.

I wouldn't have clicked to read the whole article- again, take a wild guess why- except for the subtitle: Brain differences between the sexes help explain a man's faulty memory.

Oh really? I dunno, if I was a man I wouldn't appreciate that. I mean, if it said, Brain differences between the sexes help explain a woman's faulty memory - or any other inferiority - I'd be really...yeah, off.

So I read the whole article. Shockingly, 4 out of the 5 ways were basically explaining why there is some physical reason (i.e. handicap) why men aren't up to women's standards:

Men have a smaller hippocampus, hence their reduced memory capacity.

Men have a smaller limbac cortex, which is why they don't get hints (reduced emotional capacity).

Men have a thinner cortex which is why they aren't as good at conversation.

Men use the right part of their amygdala instead of the left like women do, hence he may not remember details of important events as well as a woman can.

The only edge men have on women, apparently, is that men's brains produce more serotoin than women's do- that's why he won't cry when his golden lab dies (the article's example, not mine).

Okay, people, I don't know about you but in spite of all the so called scientific evidence here, I'm not buying this. And I think it would be an insult to men if I did.

It reminds me of a little debate that was going on the Middle Ages. It was called the Querreles des Femmes. Some men argued that women were not capable of higher thinking because their skulls were smaller than men's, and this was used to argue against education for females. They also said that because women's hips were wider, they were naturally meant to be mothers and not to be involved in scientific affairs. (Weirdly, I just mentioned this debate on a FB wall conversation today. But that was before I had my coffee and therefore might not have actually been pertinent to the original post at all.)

You don't have to be a feminist to recognize this as misogyny, not to mention hogwash. But is the modern version with men in the reduced brain capacity any more ridiculous?

Sorry, I refuse to give all the great men in my life- pastors, home group leaders, director, brother, uncles, cousins, friends and my son- any such excuse for acting stupid, any more than I would give it to all the great women in my life- pastors, home group leaders, bosses, aunts, cousins, friends, grandmother, and my daughters.

Equality means we all expect the best of each other and each others' brains as God's amazing creations.

End of story.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Real Kids, Real People

Sunday night our church congregation sat enthralled as the Children of the World International Children's Choir performed their hearts out. These adorable kids from Nepal, Philippines and Uganda and dressed in native costumes danced, sang and drummed to raise awareness for Cause Life - a World Help program providing water wells in Third World countries.

When they raised their little voices and arms while belting out "A Global Hallelujah" there wasn't a dry eye in the place. It was moving and anointed and amazing. The lights of the stage radiated off their shining faces like the glory of the Lord. After their show was finished they came off the platform and into the audience and hugged people before running out of the sanctuary to the sound of applause.

Monday morning I arrive at the church at 8:00 am to help take care of all 15 choir kids for the day. Greeted by enthusiastic hugs from all of them, we fed them breakfast and started them out on a craft.

And that's when I noticed it. In the light of day, the angelic anointed children of the previous night were acting, well, mortal. Not everyone wanted to share. There was an occasional dispute over a glue stick or a pencil. Some of them got restless and rowdy and starting getting into things.

So we moved outside to run off energy. Some kids drew with chalk on the sidewalk. Other blew bubbles. Having only two bubble wands for 15 kids caused exactly the same kinds issues you would expect it to cause with American kids. I was working that out just before I had to go separate the two boys who had started a chalk war, using the chalk to mark each others' skin and clothing.

Nap time- yes, you guessed it. Some of them fell asleep instantly, others requested repeated drink and bathroom trips, still others slipped off their improvised beds of sanctuary chairs to crawl mischievously down the aisles.

By the end of the day, I was just as exhausted as I would have been if I had babysat 15 American kids all day.

So how did all this affect me? Did I think any less of them because I had seen this "other side" of the famous children's choir? Did I feel let down after spending time with them out of costume when they were not on performance behavior? Was I disillusioned at the difference between the children's Sunday and Monday manners?

Absolutely not.

Because I found out they were pretty much just like my kids, just the kids I've taught in children's church for years, and just like kids I've met all over the world.

My Monday with the choir reinforced something God is constantly showing me. And that is that people are just people. All people. Even when they are saved, anointed, called and in full time ministry. That includes pastors, missionaries, Christian musicians and artists, Sunday school teachers, as well as ordinary Christian folk, and your average man or woman standing in line at Wal-mart.

All people, no matter how "together" they look in public sometimes get stressed, get frustrated, struggle, have messes and laundry at home, run late, and feel insecure.

It applies double for kids. Kids are just people too. Yes, they can be called to great things at a young age. Yes, they can grasp spiritual concepts, and be taught of the Lord and used to minister to others. But that doesn't change the fact that they are still children, with immature emotions and limited experience in dealing with all the stress the world throws at them.

As parents - especially those of us with any kind of position or something else to prove- we need to be careful not to put a burden too heavy for our kids (or any kids) to bear by expecting them to be, well, better somehow. They aren't. Because we aren't. We all have the same struggles, and the same issues. Some people just hide them better than others.

Because we, as adults and parents, are just people too. We have bad days, and bad attitudes and melt-downs too. (I know you do, whether you admit it or not.)

It doesn't matter if you are growing kids God's way, or training up your child in the way they should go, or shepherding your child's heart, or sending your kids to Christian school or homeschooling. Your children are still just people. They need training, but they also need love and unconditional acceptance while you are showing them how to behave. And they desperately need to know that our love for them is not based on performance, but is unconditional.

Just like we as adults want and need.

It's called grace.

I am thankful I had one more chance yesterday to see a real life example of this truth. Many thanks to the beautiful, anointed REAL kids of the Children of the World choir for the opportunity.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Wind and I

I'm sitting here tonight in my third story apartment with my sliding glass balcony door open to the darkness, feeling the fresh night breeze. With the cooler fall weather finally staying consistent, I've been doing this for the past few evenings. When the air blows in, it gives me deep sense of well-being.

When I was a kid, my mom rarely allowed windows to be opened. In the summer they were shut because of the air conditioning and in the winter because of the central heat. As well, every day of the year as soon as the faintest hint of dusk fell, huge heavy drapes were drawn closed with a snap because someone might see in the house at night.

My dad was a chain smoker. Like most people growing up around cigarette smoke, at the time I wasn't conscious of the smell in my daily environment. Now I realize that living years shut up in the house with all that smoke, I must have smelled like an ash tray. I also have a pretty good idea where some of my later respiratory problems started.

But at the time, I only knew I loved to open my windows (when mom wasn't looking, or just for a few minutes in the daytime before she came and closed them) and feel the fresh breeze blow into my room. I loved it, but it wasn't enough. As soon as the wind started blowing the trees against the glass of my small town window, I would run out into the backyard and climb a tree- some kind of skinny tree with a bunch of low branches making it easy to climb up quickly. I would get as high as I could, just to feel the wild whipping motion and clean air on my face.

Without being conscious of it, I think I was trying to escape the pollution that was in my home. Of all kinds.

It reminds me of how the Holy Spirit blew into my choked-up ash tray of a life with His fresh wind, and blew off the debris that other people's second hand smoke had left on it.

So now, even though I live in a city apartment, I open things up as much as I can, all year round, round the clock. When I feel the living breeze coming through the door and windows, it makes me feel alive too.

Is it any wonder in the early Vineyard days that I loved the song, Sweet Wind by David Ruis:

There’s a wind a-blowin’, all across the land
A fragrant breeze of Heaven
Blowin’ once again
Don’t know where it comes from
Don’t know where it goes
But let it blow over me
Oh, sweet wind, come and blow over me

I still do. I still love His sweet Spirit wind. And real wind symbolizes that for me. So if you see me standing out in a windstorm, just leave me alone. I may need some debris blown off my soul.

But tonight, the bit wafting through the door is enough.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Taj, ugliness and beauty

Fifteen years ago, I stood next to my Indian fiance, and gazed at one of the great wonders of the world- the Taj Mahal. We took our engagement photo on the famous bench that sits in front of the rectangular reflecting pool on the south side. It was so picture perfect that people would later ask if it had been taken in a studio in front of a poster.

Today my thirteen year old half Indian daughter sat on the same bench and had her photo taken with her father, my ex-husband. She is traveling with her dad in India for a month, and I am here in America, with our other two children.

It is not the picture I imagined on that, my first trip to India. It doesn't match the romantic Taj Mahal image of us on our wedding announcement.

I'll never forget my shock when I entered that glorious edifice. I had forgotten until that moment that the Taj, was actually, a tomb. A mausoleum. Other shocks would come later.

Ugh. And who was the Taj a tomb for? Shah Jahan built it in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after the birth of her fourteenth child. Now there's some real romance for you. Third wife. Fourteenth child. Worn out by child bearing for a husband with two other wives. The stuff fairy tales are made of. Right.

I'm happy for my daughter. And afraid for her too. I want her to experience all that is good in India, and all that is good in her father, with none of the pain that went with my experiences with both.

I am reminded of the words of the British-author-married-to-an-Indian Ruth Prawer Jhavbvala, "My husband is Indian and so are my children. I am not, and less so every year... India reacts very strongly on people. Some love it, some loathe it, most do both."

How will India react on my daughter? I pray she will see it truly. The beauty and the ugliness and the truth that is in both. Which is the way I want her to come to see life.

There is pain in life, and loss, and grief, but God can take all that and use it for good and eventually bring about something beautiful.

There is no more perfect example than my daughter herself.