The virtue of Father Christmas

… one of the best I’ve read on the subject. Let me share a blog from Laura Droege.

Laura Droege's blog

tosantaornottosantaThe Christmas conundrum: To allow Santa or to not allow Santa, that is the question.

Of all the things that divide Christians, this has to be one of the most seasonal controversies. Along with Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas,  whether or not to sing Christmas carols in the worship services, etc., this one appears for one month of the year (possibly two, if you begin Christmas festivities before the Thanksgiving turkey is properly digested), disappears for eleven months, and then reappears, just as contentious as before.

Frankly, I’m ambivalent. I’m neither pro-Santa or anti-Santa. My parents believed that it would be too damaging if they lied to me and pretended Santa was real. So I never did the Santa photo or cookie plate on Christmas Eve or had presents under the tree labelled from Santa. Besides, I was terrified of the Santa in the mall. Go sit on a…

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How To Get Along With People Who Voted Differently-5 Suggestions For Saving The World

Good Reading… Let me share

Amy R. Buckley

healthy-conversations“Who’s your candidate?” A Facebook friend asked me last week.

“Only God and the angels know,” I responded.

Truly, only God and celestial beings saw the boxes I colored in, with a black marker, inside a cardboard voting booth. Not even my husband knows. And I’m keeping it that way though anyone who follows me on social media might figure it out.

In our polarized world that rarely practices the discipline of listening—for the sake of mutual understanding—I’m keeping the hard choices of my soul private.

This doesn’t mean I believe politics should be private. It’s just that spilling my thoughts, feelings, and political opinions to everyone has never gone well.

I pause because it’s hard to have healthy discussions. Others react, and I’m tempted to react. These days, it seems the whole world has forgotten that jamming opinions down others’ throats—religious, political and otherwise—does nothing to win friends or…

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Godly Women Teaching Godly Men is Godly (and Biblical)

Here is an excellent point, well written, and rather obvious…

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another


It’s not a matter of whether the Bible says women should teach men. It’s a matter of the Bible showing women actually teaching men, and no one – God included – saying they shouldn’t have. For example:

Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.

She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says … .” (2 Kings 22:14-15.)

According to examples found in the Bible, teaching is not a gender or sex based skill or function.

It’s God based.


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Go Love An Enemy and Call Me in the Morning

An encounter from my early days of pastoral work has recently come to mind, perhaps because I don’t yet understand it. This happened in the early 70’s at a church that had just called me as pastor. Speaking with one of the members, the name of one of the other members came up and I complimented that other member (something I thought was a nice thing to do) for the positive things they had recently said about the future of the church. Little did I know that these two people were enemies of one another. In my novice state as a young pastor, I felt quite flustered by the harsh response to my conversation. From then on, the person I was speaking with seemed not to trust me. They had immediately responded with criticism of their “enemy” and of me for having any good thing to say about him. “I think you need to be looking to God for advice about this church rather than to ______.”
I assured him that I was looking to God, but he didn’t seem settled about the whole thing. I thought about this encounter a great deal, and apparently I still do, after all these years. I had grown up in a peaceful home, and since becoming a Christian at age 16 I had been around other believers who were peaceful. Encouragement was the name of the experience in the small college town church where I was before going to my first pastorate. I had had a few years of evangelistic preaching behind me, and also couple of years of pastoral work behind me, but this was a shocking experience. Saying something nice about someone had gotten me in more trouble than saying something not nice would have done. What about our enemies? Jesus said to love our enemies. How is this all supposed to work? Well, I don’t think it worked out so well for these two people, and unfortunately, the man I had complimented at first, and often after those first days, had also made himself my enemy by the time I left this church and moved to another. I was not his enemy, but he had decided he would be an enemy to me.
I have learned a lot since then about human relationships, but mysteries abound. Fast forward to present time when, a few days ago at my favorite church to attend when I am not preaching somewhere, the pastor (John Lockhart) opened up a beautiful truth. He was talking about Hermeneutics, a big word for the ways we interpret things; in this case, scriptures. He observed that in all his years of reading books about hermeneutics, he had not seen anyone write that “Obedience” was a great way of interpreting scripture. You see, sometimes Jesus says, “Come and learn…”, and at other times he says, “Go and learn this…”. When he says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”, (Luke 6:27) it sure sounds like something experiential is supposed to follow. First, we Hear, really Hear… then Go find an enemy and love them. Wow, that’s a tough calling.
Do I recommend this track to anyone who comes to my office asking what to do about their enemy? This kind of love takes a lot of skill, and it can and should be done with care for ourselves and our boundaries. But, it can be done. So, if it gets back to your enemy that you have said something nice about them, maybe they will realize you have been with Jesus.

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What is it to Live Genuine?

Three more “Minutes” from my book, Marriage Minutes, available from

What Do You Do?…..  Being Real…..  and Thinking

Marriage Minute # 174 What Do You Do?

Recently, at a dinner, several people who didn’t know everyone at the table began introducing themselves, in response to that question, “What do you do?” The responses began to flow, but they mostly sounded like job titles, all very impressive in sound. Now, these people were telling each other what they called themselves, not what they did. I had time to think about my answer in order to give a more novel answer. I’m not always sure what to answer to the question since I am a pastor, a college instructor, and a counselor in private practice. I am also a curious person who likes to read about a lot of things, a researcher of history, in general, church history in particular, and a very avid researcher of my own family tree. I also write and sing, but I would starve to death if I depended on either of these things to survive. So, what would I say when the turn became mine? Some of these job titles were sounding pretty impressive.

Should I say I’m just a simple country parson? I couldn’t say that because my understanding of the call of God upon my life, to preach and to pastor, to make known the meanings and message of the Word of God, and to serve in a local congregation, makes my work not simple in the sense of “casual,” but quite simple in the sense of being committed to the ministry with no plans to leave it. People make a lot of assumptions, mostly wrong, when you say you’re a preacher. I know that John Knox (or was it John Wesley) said, “If God calls you to preach, don’t stoop to be a king.” Not many people hold us in that same regard, however, and not even all preachers value their call that much either. So, what would I say?

Should I say I am a college instructor in psychology? Maybe I should say I am a Counselor in private practice. These might produce some fine, fine job titles, but would this be what I am about? These jobs certainly take up most of my hours during the week, and I love these jobs as well, but just having a title doesn’t explain enough. When I say I am a Counselor some people respond by saying, “Oh, you’re a Shrink.” I usually explain that the person they call a Shrink is usually a medical doctor, a Psychiatrist, and that I actually prefer to call myself a Stretch rather than a Shrink. What would I say? I wanted to answer the question of what I do, not just what I call myself. The discussion was getting closer to my side of the table; the pressure was mounting.

I said, “I encourage people for a living. I help them get unstuck and back into growth toward who they can be. I help them know that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life.” Suddenly, and a bit to my surprise, the people at the table began to ask questions and seemed to become animated with curiosity. No, this is not a claim to fame. It is an observation about human life. The people seemed interested in the idea of encouragement; perhaps they are starved for it themselves. They began to talk about the meanings they wanted in life, the joy behind the job. They caught onto the core of the question, “What do you do?”

Paul called himself the chief of sinners, and the least among the apostles, yet he also said he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. Christ came into the world to save sinners, saving eternally, saving internally, and saving from sin as well as saving from the meaninglessness that so many people find in life. Then he said, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all to the glory of God.”

What do you do?

Marriage Minute # 175 Being Real

Last Sunday night at dinner a friend gave my wife a wonderful compliment. She said that in all the conversations they have ever had, she had always had the sense that she was really engaging her as an individual person, a real person. Many couples speak in “we think”, which is a jargon used to keep up a family image, or sometimes, a facade. This was a compliment of Billie’s personal sense of identity, and her genuine respect for others. As we talked about the issue, we spoke of how easy it is to just be “somebody’s” wife or husband, or “someone’s” parent or child, or “some place’s” employee. Not that any of us meant that we were trying to be an all-important person who had to be the center of attention. But who are you? Back behind your eyes, where you are the only one looking out upon the world, who are you? That’s what is so good about the sense of talking with a person and really having a sense that they are there as themselves. May I share a few secondary thoughts?

There might be a temptation to use “we-think” to avoid the real work of developing our individual identity. It is hard work, sometimes, to think about our singularity in the world, and to know that there is not a ready made identity to slip into comfortably. Even the title “single adult” carries with it the connotation that this person is not a complete individual until they get married and have children. The single adult may be viewed as not having taken on the responsibilities of adult life. Far from the truth, there are as many immature people within marriages as there are outside of them. As Frank Pittman says, marriage will only make you married; it won’t make you grown up and happy. Developing one’s own identity will always be our job, in or out of marriage.

Some families discourage individuality. Out of a belief that the family members must all be the same, there is an official “family-speak.” A wise parent gives children choices, good ones, and helps the child learn how to make good selections. They encourage wise consideration and selection of personal values. Individuality is a good thing for each person in the family.

Maybe someone thinks they are being loyal by not having their own identity. A young couple may follow the idea that marriage makes them alike, and that individuality is a threat to the relationship. In truth, it is no threat at all. A healthy self is the best thing you can give to a relationship.

It could be that there is one of the people in a marriage who wants to be the only person with an identity. Remember the television series, “Thirtysomething”? A character (the bad guy) on the show was heard to say a very telling line. As I remember it went something like, “People marry the picture of perfection, but when the picture starts to move on its own, they get nervous.”

The friend said, “When I talk with you, I get the real sense that I’m talking with you.” No masks, no fraud, no role-playing; that’s an exciting way to live.

Marriage Minute # 176 Thinking

Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in 1941 that, “The popular mind has grown so confused that it is no longer able to receive any statement of fact except as an expression of personal feeling.” She ought to see how things have gotten by the current day. While she wasn’t speaking about marriages, I think we can see the effect of the “thinking” problem within modern marriages.

Sayers herself was a good theologian who wrote murder mysteries on the side in order to make living expenses. A brilliant person, she remained single for a long time, partly because she did not believe she would find a man who would appreciate her mind. The first step had been hers. She appreciated her own mind. Then, she expected others to do the same.

The problem she addressed is one that is with us today. The lines between fact and opinion get blurred. In the name of political correctness we are told that one opinion is as good as another, and we are told that everything is opinion. The truth is that fact and fiction do exist. Right and wrong both exist. Some things are just opinion, and some things work as well as others do, but some don’t. The bottom line in marriages is that so many of us have forfeited the ability to talk about these issues with each other in a reasonable way.

The thinking problem shows up in marriage when one or both people follow popular myths, such as the myth that we mustn’t disagree. There is an old saying that if we agree on everything, one of us is unnecessary. Variation in opinion can add flavor to communication, as well as adding new ideas to the mix. Spouses aren’t replacements for us, and we do well to maintain our own identity.

Another myth is that all disagreement is the same. Disagreement for disagreement’s sake is not the same as good thinking. Neither does all disagreement lead to better communication. Disagreement that can be respectful and careful can solve problems, open new discoveries, and increase interest between these two people.

Others take the other extreme and believe that they must always disagree, and fight about the issues. They feel sad and express it with anger. They feel confused and express it with anger. They feel confident and express it with anger. They feel amorous and express it with anger. Eventually they may even feel angry and express it with anger, but by then most people won’t take them seriously, because they are angry all the time.

Another myth is the belief that there are no facts. Now, I agree that not everything is as obvious as some people think, but I also believe that it is high time we humans returned to our quest for truth.

One of the worst myths is the one that starts with the words, “If you love me, you will know. . . .” This myth can be devastating. It is often a tool of manipulation and coercion, and at other times it is only a cover for not being able to articulate one’s own thoughts.

Looking for truth, honoring opinions, valuing each other’s identity, and respecting each others preferences, can enrich a marriage.




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More parenting thoughts

I have been away from the blog for a while, and I want to let you know why, and thank you for your interest and kind words. I always hope the articles I post can be useful, and hope you can share them with others. For the past few months I have been dealing with some health issues that have altered my days. I have begun chemotherapy for cancer treatment, and have found a true “holy ground” as I have met fellow patients and a wonderful group of medical professionals, who amazingly always have encouragement and optimism available to share. Optimism is like oxygen, you know…

But, I am now ready to do more writing. For a while now, I have been sharing chapters from my book…. Marriage Minutes… available from (a tip by the way, if you go there to look for it, put,,, marriage minutes ford ,,, in the search engine. Obviously, if you use my name only, you will get the books by the more famous Gerald Ford.) I have only a few more chapters I wish to share from the book, and then I want to explore some other areas. So, I hope you will join me, pray with me, and share your comments with me, and the articles with others.

Marriage Minute # 148 Mirror, Hero, and Twin

We depended on our parents and other caregivers for several things, and hopefully they finished much of their job. But, some patterns of unfinished business rightly continue throughout our life, and we begin to look for similar things in other relationships. Let’s take a look at these things. For a background I am thankful to Ikar Kalogjera and his colleagues at the Milwaukee Group for the advancement of Self-Psychology. (Writing in, The Disordered Couple, edited by Jon Carlson and Len Sperry)
Many theorists about childhood assert that we need, among other things, some early psychological experience with three “things”, a mirror, a hero, and a twin. First, we need to “see” ourselves in our parents. They need to reflect pride (not just theirs, but our own pride) in our accomplishments, and the ability to accommodate with growth (not shame) when we find that we need to change. This is where we first learn to enjoy physical and mental activities, and pursue goals. Later, we can continue to “mirror” with our own experience, and with selected individuals in friendships and/or mentoring relationships. Without “mirroring”, we may find ourselves feeling empty, inadequate, and in constant need of reassurance.
Secondly, we need a hero. The hero of our childhood is often one, or hopefully both, parents. Idealizing gives us a sense of consistency, security, and a sort of optimism about values and purpose. We learn to regulate ourselves, soothe and calm ourselves, and pursue ideals with commitment. (This is not the same as being driven by guilt or fear of a “giant”. It is the drawing power of a hero.) Later, we find heroes in our adult life. Healthy relationships with God, and with other people, provide more idealizing influence. A marriage needs the mutual admiration, the wonder, the curiosity, and the security of this experience.
Third, the child needs a twin. This isn’t about whether or not we ought to be our child’s friend. This is about whether we encourage our children, and help them see that they can also become the “hero” they have seen demonstrated. Will we be heirs of the good giants who raised us? Can we be heirs of God? Will we be able to be a “hero” to others and live as a contributing person in the world? Can we successfully become a person with “empathy, creativeness, humor, wisdom, and acceptance of one’s transience”? (p. 218) After all, a hero that I cannot become “like” is a useless hero in the long run. Marriage, similarly, should be a relationship where we support each other’s growth, and thereby our own. Sadly, many marriages are places where people try to make themselves superior by making the other inferior. Personhood, realized, needs twinship.
In fact, personhood needs all three of these things, the mirror, the hero, and the twin. To be able to say, “I am loved and worth love, I can value and understand love, and I can love and be lovable.” These three needs may also be understood as the needs to be seen, valued, and joined with in building the relationship.
A warning is in order. The Narcissistic person will horribly abuse this whole issue. They will demand a mirror, but they won’t be one for others. They will claim to be a giant, but will do all they can to deny any peerage, nor will they have any heroes but themselves. They will refuse twinship, because that would mean their personhood might depend upon relationship, and upon growth, cure, change, and mutuality.
The one who chooses to love, finds personhood, and makes it available.

Marriage Minute # 149 Elephants

Let’s talk about elephants. Years ago there was an overpopulation of elephants at an African game preserve. The solution offered by those who managed the preserve was to move the baby elephants to another preserve. Some people objected, saying that the babies would not survive, but this was not the outcome. The young ones survived and thrived. In a manner, they thrived, but another problem soon arose. The rhinoceros population began to die off. Something was killing them. Property was being destroyed. People who lived around the preserve reported being charged by the elephants. It turned out that the young elephants were behind all these problems, even though this was not the characteristic behavior usually seen in elephants.
It was feared that the herd would have to be sacrificed, but a rather bold thing was tried first. Several adult elephants were transported to the area, including some quite old elephants. Soon the problems ceased. Almost immediately, the young elephants took notice of their new role models, and these “parents and grandparents” started showing the young ones how to live in their world. The news show, “60 Minutes”, called the elephants’ social system complex, interconnected, and elegant.
Years later, in a place far away, humans were discovered discussing whether parents were necessary or not. Some of them had become obsessed with getting away from their own parents. Some had become obsessed with finding ways to get away from their own children more often. When parents and grandparents became marginalized in children’s lives, behavioral problems began to occur. One “noted” specialist even recommended that children be taken away from parents at a certain age and raised by government owned and operated training schools, later to be returned to parents as finished products. He said that child-raising was too important to be trusted to unprofessional and untrained parents. He spoke of reinforcing this behavior or that one, and showed how humans could be conformed from the outside. But, problems continued, and even worsened.
The truth re-discovered in both places is that children need parents, and they need grandparents. Children need to see behavior modeled, not just reinforced. Even more than that, they need to be helped in the discovery that they can choose, and are responsible for choosing responsible behavior, from the inside of themselves, not the outside alone. Parents need to show their children how they have been able to renegotiate a relationship with their parents, now that they are grown. They can demonstrate that parents and adult children don’t have to relate in terms of rebellion and power struggles. Children can learn to contribute to the family, and to the human community, from their childhood up, and then how to let their contribution change with age, but not go away.
I didn’t know my grandparents well before they were gone, but I did have several older family members who contributed a lot to my life. Chief among them was a great uncle and his son, who were sort of the family story tellers, and guess what I do now.

Marriage Minute # 150 Free the Cell Phone!

How many uses are there for a cell phone? They take pictures and can send e-mails and texts, and connect to the Internet, they provide books in new forms, and do many other things. Despite the wonderful things they can do for us, parents have begun to use them for a purpose for which they were not designed. They are using them to extort chores and other bits of behavior from their teenagers. If the room doesn’t get clean, the cell phone gets taken away for a few days. If the kid doesn’t get home on time, the cell phone gets taken away for a few days. If grades suffer, the cell phone gets taken away for a few days. No, I’m not trying to give out ideas for how to get your kid to do things, I am trying to say these ideas don’t work, for a number of reasons.
First, losing a cell phone won’t teach the value of a clean house, of punctuality, or of a good education. Discipline needs to be a natural or logical response to the actual nature of the problem. If you lost your cell phone, would you go sit down with an academic book and study hard for that next test? If someone stole your cell phone, would you suddenly feel a compulsion to go home and clean your room? I guess you could hide their cell phone in their room and tell them to clean the room to find it (only joking). Value is taught by example, by experience, and by connection to what is truly good in life and relationships. Discipline that is not natural or logical will produce more behavior that is not what you want to see.
Second, holding a cell phone (or other object) hostage, when the cell phone is not really the problem (i.e. misuse of the phone, going over minutes, etc.), will teach a dangerous lesson. You might see the kid threatening to disturb the peace in the family unless they get their way. Sadly, bribery hurts both ways. When a person threatens a tantrum unless their demands are met, it’s bribery, no matter how old or young they are.
I know that some kids will cooperate, but that doesn’t mean that the hostage taking really worked. The person who cooperates with this type of discipline would probably have cooperated with a better form of discipline, anyway, and everyone involved would have had a better experience from it all. In fact, the child that is cooperative, who wants to be in a good relationship with the family, will be discouraged by any discipline that doesn’t give them the credit they deserve.
By the way, I watched with interest, a few years ago, as Prince Charles dealt with Prince Harry’s insensitivity in wearing the Nazi uniform to a party. He sent him to tour Auschwitz, and hear the story of the horrors committed there. Now, that is discipline that is directly (naturally/ logically) related to the nature of the problem. I don’t know about the rest of Charles’ parenting, but he got this one right.
The best way to raise adults is to present kids with two good adult examples. Do parents cooperate with each other, respect others, and do they accept influence from each other in solving problems? Or, do parents bribe each other? Free the captive cell phone.

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The Parental Cloak

Do your children ever see you without your parenting cloak on? If not, they may not really know you.

Marriage Minute # 147 The Parental Cloak
(from my book Marriage Minutes, available on

Virginia Satir asked this interesting question of parents. Can you take off your “parental cloak” when you’re not using it? Do we depend on the power we get from parenting to make us who we are? Or, can we be other things, like ourselves, or a spouse, or a person at the job, or another person discovering new things about life, and living our own life?
Satir suggested that many parents wear their cloak (parental role) as a cover for their own insecurities, and their wish for power. She illustrates this by describing three “linings” for this cloak; a Boss lining, a Leader and Guide lining, and a Pal lining. These sound like the labels of Authoritarian (giving orders), Authoritative (giving guidance), and Permissive (giving in) parenting styles. The person wearing the Boss lining may be the one who has the hardest time putting the cloak aside, to let their family know who they really are.
One day Satir was so tired of hearing parents say to children that there was only one way, their way, of doing things (these adults often tell each other the same thing), that she took up an interesting project to illustrate a point. She heard about the “right way” so many times that she investigated and found that there were approximately 247 ways to wash the dishes. These ways included such things as whether you sort them first, or whether you rinse them first, or which item you wash first, and so on. Her point is that raising children who understand reasons and purpose, and children who have common sense and good judgment is good parenting. And, this parental cloak can be put aside when it is time to do so.
“People who are around a tyrant, suffer insult, constantly”, says Satir. Not only this, but they are often looking for more and more effective ways of working around the tyrant, or escaping them. Not much real parenting gets done.
Parents who are “more than parents” do better parenting. The cloak for them is not the main thing. I noticed this a few years ago when talking with a younger friend of mine who commented on how much I apparently Love my career life. (I am in my third career, and I still have the other two, as well.) This friend said he grew up in a home where his father and mother hardly ever had a kind word to say about their jobs. He said he envisioned adult life being this place where they dragged you off to the salt mines every morning and dropped you off at the curb every night. Caring for yourself is not selfish, enjoying life together with your children is not impossible, and it just may teach your children an important lesson, just by letting them see you live a satisfying life.

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Scholarship Alert… a look at what Paul really said

Marriage Minute # 144 From my book, Marriage Minutes, available from

An Egalitarian looks at I Timothy 2:12

This will be about marriage by the time I am through with it. It is already about marriage since it is about the nature of women and men in the eyes of God. And, it is a needed discussion in this book since it is one of the most misinterpreted verses in the entire Bible. It is used to keep women out of church leadership, and as an intentional by-product, to keep women out of equality in homes and marriages. This scripture is misused in bolstering what is called Masculine Protest, a belief that men have certain unearned privileges, simply by virtue of being born male, privileges generally denied to women. Here is the verse, in the New American Standard Version…
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

I will give what I consider a better translation at the end of the article. I prefer the New American Standard in most cases, but like most other translations the NASB has missed the mark. Here is why I say this…
The troublesome word in this verse is the one usually translated “to exercise authority”. It is the Greek word, αὐθεντεῖν, authentein, an infinitive form of a quite rare Greek word. In fact, in all of scripture, it only appears here in this verse. When Paul and all the other writers refer to authority in any other verse, they use some other word, and all the other words for authority are well known, well used, and well defined. So, if we want to know the meaning of the word we must go to other Greek documents of the time period. Even in doing this, the search is difficult.
I am very grateful for the scholarship of several people, especially in this verse. A few years ago several scholars compiled a computerized databank of Greek words, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, found at the University of California-Irvine. Words were catalogued from practically all the extant sources that could be found. Books, letters, poetry, signs, legal documents, and other sorts of Greek writings were sorted in this databank in order to give us a look at how the words were used in each context. This lexicon records such usages from the 8th century B.C. all the way through A.D. 1453, around 2200 years of the history of the Greek language.
I am also indebted to Leland Wilshire and his excellent book, Insight Into Two Biblical Passages.
A thorough look at this history reveals that the word “authentein” was a word that originally meant “one who with his own hand kills either others or himself”. Fragment 645 by the Greek writer Euripides uses the word to mean “murderous ruling desires”. Another reference points to “Saturn as the Ruler of the soul…”. Still another reference is found in the worship of an Archangel, proclaimed as “the Ruling Sun”. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-95) employs the word in only two places in Jewish Wars to describe the perpetrator of a crime. It is not until the end of the second century, A.D., that the word appears as a signifier of “authority”, in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, and Clement uses the word in most occasions to signify criminal behavior and abuse of power. His majority usage is “to take it upon one’s self to commit murder with impunity”. His additional usage of the word to simply mean “authority” does not, in my opinion of the context, suggest any particular legitimacy to the authority. The full bifurcation of the word into tracts of legitimate as well as illegitimate authority does not appear until the fourth century. Furthermore, it is not translated into an English form, Author, any sooner that the 13th century.
So, why does Paul deviate from his usual collection of words for authority and, in this one verse, use this obscure word for “murderous rule”? I suggest that the answer is found in Paul’s original premise for writing this letter to Timothy. See I Timothy 1: 3 “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,…” (NASB). Paul and Timothy were contending with teachers of false doctrine, chiefly the forms of Legalism, and Gnosticism found in Ephesus. While written chronicles of Gnostic doctrine do not proliferate until many years later, Paul’s frequent use of certain phrases found in Gnosticism, which he employs in his effort to disapprove of them, suggests that Gnosticism, at least in oral tradition, was flowering in the first century. I will refer to some of these terms below, and I suggest that this word, authentein= murderous rule, is one of those terms.
A particular strain of Gnostics, now known as Ophitic Gnostics, taught a number of heretical beliefs, among them that,
• The god who created the mind was superior to the god who created the body,
• The god who created Woman acted prior to the creation of Adam, and some Ophitic Gnostics taught that different gods created the two people, Adam and Eve,
• That, according to a group within Gnosticism, the god who created the material Earth including the human and animal body, was a female deity thereby giving the power to “rule” to females of each species,
• That a superior god was the savior of the mind and soul, while a lesser god was the savior of the body,
• That Adam was deceived into thinking that he was created first, and further deceived into thinking that he was superior to Eve,
• That the sin of Adam was different from the lesser sin of Eve, and
• That Eve was actually the one who was to have power over the human race by virtue of being female, and that she could enforce this power by any means necessary,
• But that she was to refuse childbearing, except in highly controlled situations , because childbearing would mean that she was taking part in creating evil and fallen flesh and losing her control (and her salvation),

Let’s revisit the text now. I Timothy 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority….. [murderous rule]….. over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. …..[this is Paul refuting the idea that Eve was created first, and that she was created separately by a different god] …..14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, …..[refuting the idea that Adam was deceived]…..fell into transgression. …..[the same transgression] 15 But (women) will be preserved through the bearing of children …..[refuting the idea that childbearing meant the loss of salvation]…..if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

It should be becoming clear by now that Paul was fighting Gnostics, and not fighting women. May I suggest the following expanded translation based upon the information I have presented.
I Timothy 2:12
“But I do not allow a woman to teach murderous rule, or to exercise murderous rule over a man, but to remain in a teachable spirit . Because it was Adam who was created first and then Eve right along with him, and by the same (and only) God. Furthermore, Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived fell into the same transgression even as did Adam. But, she is preserved through the bearing of children (the call to have families did not become the enemy with Eve), if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

Here, we come to that great theological question, “What does this have to do with anything?”
If Paul is arguing against Ophitic Gnosticism, and not against women, does the verse have any usage in the life of the 21st century believer. It does have a use, but it is not the usage that many people make of it. It is commonly used 1) to keep women out of ministry, and 2) to keep women in other inferior positions in life. Both of these usages have no justification if we look at this passage in the light of the full evidence about authentein and the evidence about the culture of Gnosticism. Paul had no intention to say what many people think he said, and I believe that he would be shocked and utterly dismayed to find out how so many people have misinterpreted him.
Legitimate usage of this verse is found in at least four admonitions:
• That God did not intend any battle between the sexes, especially one that involves “murderous rule”
• That men and women were created by the same God, created in His Image, to live in healthy relationships,
• That both men and women are to conduct themselves in love, without wrath, dissension, or a clamorous spirit,
• That we are not to fear the normal life of the healthy family, marrying and having children, and that this family should not be seen as an arena for power struggles about salvation, or about personal power (especially abusive power)

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To my dear marriage counseling client…

To my dear marriage counseling client…

You seem to be intent on telling me several indicting things about your spouse (the person sitting next to you on my couch), and perhaps you are trying to convince me of these things. You may also be trying to hurt them in some way. You are succeeding at the latter, but not at the former. Do you believe, if you convince me of how awful they are, that they will be declared guilty, and as though by magic, they will be returned to you, thoroughly scolded, and transformed back into the dutiful and compliant spouse you thought you were getting so long ago? That’s not how this whole thing works.

As you vent, I think you may have some valid points about your spouse, but I wonder at the same time. How much of what you are saying are you hearing for the first time, and how much is your spouse hearing for the first time? More so, I wonder how much of it is true. What truth are you not telling me? Do you tell each other the truth?

It also matters what you are trying to do with the truth. The truth can sometimes hurt, but wanting to hurt someone, and using the truth to do it is another. Thelonious Monk said, “There are no wrong notes on the piano, but it matters when and how you use them.”

The truth is… your spouse wants to feel significant, and so do you. But, how people get to significance is often thwarted by mistaken and misapplied theology. Men are offered the idea that they can and must be leaders in the home. Leading is one way of finding significance, and after all, there are a lot of decisions to be made in a home, and a lot of problems to be solved. Yet, that is not the real issue. The real issue is whether the husband will be in that leadership position alone. Does he really need to feel threatened by a strong woman wanting to share leadership? Is he really in danger from her? Does he believe the world’s message of shame? If he is threatened by the prospect of an open and intimate life with an equal, then he is probably not seeking significance, but is instead seeking superiority… an appeal to human pride and avarice. Do you tell the truth about what you are wanting from your spouse? Are all your wants O.K.?

The truth is… your spouse wants to feel significant, and so do you. Women hear the “inferiority” message and in many ways feel a great sense of shame. People who feel shame often inflict shame. She was often taught to use Spite Talk, as her husband was taught to use Fight Talk. Sadly, significance is still elusive. No one wins. She becomes angry over this “one-down” position, many of us understand the anger, but none of this brings significance. The truth is, neither superiority nor inferiority really fit anyone. Neither of them were really God’s original plan. Only the Significance Plan works, and true intimacy doesn’t need someone in charge.

The truth is… your spouse wants to feel significant, and so do you. God wants us to repent, with all the mind change and emotional shift that goes with it. But, many in theological circles preach scorn and shame. Scorn and shame are not the same as repentance. We don’t get the ability to repent from other people, we can only get it from God. Check sometime the words of Paul in II Corinthians 7, in which he compares the sorrow of the world (scorn and shame) with the sorrow he calls Godly Sorrow.

So,… there you are on my couch, recognizing pain (and I understand that) but not the whole truth. You can’t make somebody do better by making them feel worse. (Jane Nelsen) It is not “worse” that your spouse needs to feel… it is responsible that they need to feel, and repentant if there has been some wrong done. They need to feel zealousness for change. If you only see your spouse as someone to be controlled, or punished, or avoided, or used… then you don’t know all the truth about them. Humiliation is about shame, and humility is about the truth… and they are not the same thing. The truth is that your spouse is someone for whom Christ died, and so are you. If they can’t see you and themselves in that perspective, then you aren’t dealing with all the truth, and hope will be slim, but if they can… they are more likely to be changed. If we turn in the names we call ourselves, and the names we call each other, and we receive from Christ the names, and the characters he has for us, then in Him, we have significance, and we can validate it in others.

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Dreams Can Come True

By the way… my next Couple Communication Workshop is September 18-19. Give us a call at 281-277-8811 to find out more.

This is from Emily Dickinson. I share this with concurrent thoughts about the shared dreams and other life-goals of individuals in a marriage. Will it matter what we were? …can I be a part of my spouse’s quest to fulfill dreams?

“Each life converges to some centre
Expressed or still:
Exists in every human nature
A goal

Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be,
Too fair
For credibility’s temerity
To dare.

Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
To reach
Were hopeless as the rainbow’s raiment
To touch

Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
How high
Unto the saints’ slow diligence
The sky!

Ungained, it may be, by a life’s low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring

All of a person’s behavior is aimed at the same set of personal goals, what Dickinson refers to as “some centre expressed or still.” Our marriages and all of our relationships will fare better if we attend to the purposes we have behind them, energizing them. They also work best when both people have the same motives. “Surer for the distance”, the highest motives for marriage will produce the best marriages.
But, it is this same set of goals that says so much about us in all of our life. A person with poor goals in one area of life will have this same quality of goals in other areas.
The writer, Pat Gundry, said it well. “It is not the perfection of the original match that will make or break your marriage. Rather, it is the kind of person you decide to be, every morning, for the rest of your life.”
It is likely that if your goal in one part of life is to just get by with the least possible effort, your marriage will be drawn by that same goal. If your goal is to only do what you “feel like”, your marriage will have the same disastrous results as you will see in your other areas of life. The good news is that excellent goals for responsible living will contribute to a good marriage, provided both partners have these goals within themselves.

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