The terrifying possibility of being raptured before our wedding nights

The Rapture of the Church. Image courtesy Pat Marvenko Smith via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Rapture of the Church. Image courtesy Pat Marvenko Smith via Flickr Creative Commons.

Like other children raised in dispensationalist circles, if I couldn’t locate my parents — our parsonage home was large and sprawling — my paranoid ideation included the possibility that not only had God cosmically arranged for my orphanhood but had also simultaneously damned me to suffer seven years, or possibly an eternity, of torment.

Consequently, I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” many, many times over just to make sure I was really and truly “saved.”

As scary as the doctrine of the rapture was, for me it provided a tremendous source of comfort as well: the possibility that I might actually get to evade death. Instead of facing that most intractable of human inevitabilities, as dispensationalists, we could always hold out hope that the rapture would come before we drew our last breaths and said farewell to our loved ones and our very lives. Jesus might come and sweep us straight to heaven before the messiness of mortality sullied the sheets of our deathbeds.

However, while students at my dispensational college may have taken solace in this hope of evading death, being young adults steeped in evangelical purity culture meant that most of our preoccupations concerning the rapture had nothing to do with death, but with the even more terrifying possibility that we might be raptured before our wedding nights. Since people in heaven were “neither married nor given in marriage,” the prospect of entering into eternity without having even sampled that pleasure so fully celebrated in the Song of Songs was maybe even scarier than death.

Which, I need hardly say, tells us a lot about the priorities of college students.

{Just one fun selection from my latest post at OnFaith. Read it in its entirety here.}

The beauty of the ordinary and what makes an artist: Spark + Tumble Photography

The connections we make in this life, across continents and across oceans, are nothing less than astounding, I think.

A year ago I read a book review by the incomparable Lisa Ann Cockrel; a review that closes by noting that the book in question left Cockrel “craving latkes with spiced applesauce.” As I was in Malawi at the time, and craving ALL the things I couldn’t get there, especially food things, I found myself craving the very same thing. So I wrote to Lisa — whom I’d written to before to discuss things other than food — and told her how much I liked the review.

And that I, too, was craving latkes.

“What if we got together and made some?” she said.

Well, that seemed improbable. But we did get together, a few months later, and at our first meal together (which did not, alas, include latkes), I met another Lisa — Lisa Beth Anderson — who makes remarkable photographs.

Lisa B-A’s photographs are magical without being corny. They elevate wedding photographs and engagement photographs and family photographs from something one seeks out because it’s obligatory or customary (“I guess we should get some family photos taken…”) to something you can’t stop gazing at, even if you don’t know the subjects in the photo, because the composition and the lighting and all of it is nothing less than art.

It so happened that Lisa B-A was shooting a wedding in Philadelphia just as I was moving (near) there. She came by just to visit. I didn’t plan on her taking any pictures…we were just moving in! With moving clothes on! And wallpaper peeling and curtains we hated still hanging!

But Lisa sees the beauty that is there even when no one else can see it — or so it seems to me.

Which is not, on reflection, a bad way to define ‘artist': a person who makes manifest — visible, tangible, edible, audible — the beauty no one else can see.

boys jumping 2 Graeme-mama old chair

"Will it look like I am conjuring the power of the sun?" he asked.

“Will it look like I am conjuring the power of the sun?” he asked.

All photos credit {the remarkable} Lisa Beth Anderson – Spark + Tumble.

For the first time in (almost) forever…

Regular readers may have noticed that I appear to have, well, disappeared.

(Apart, of course, from my new blog at Religion News Service.)

It’s been a very, very long couple of months. The 100-calorie, snack-size version is that we’re back in the States now.

And here is some of the emotional truth of the whole story; the story of our long and winding road to this particular point, a guest post at Cara Strickland’s blog.

Photo credit: Lisa Beth Anderson/Spark + Tumble (www.lbanderson.com)

Photo credit: Lisa Beth Anderson/Spark + Tumble (www.lbanderson.com)

I cried while unpacking plates yesterday.

My son, who is eight and a half, watched me put them away in the freshly cleaned cabinets of our new home; the first home we’ve owned — the first home that was not consciously and intentionally a stopping-off place between where we’d come from and where we’re going.

“Wait — the stuff in the boxes is ours?” he asked. “I thought it was just some junk left in the basement.”

These are the plates we got when we married, eleven years ago this month. Between then and now we’ve lived in eight different dwellings in four countries and four states. We have eaten off of plates in fully furnished apartments we’ve rented; off plates I grudgingly purchased for the short time we lived here or there, while our plates, the plates from Macy’s, graceful but sturdy, practical plain white porcelain, waited, packed carefully in their original boxes.

Padding those original boxes were clean cloth diapers. When I packed them away, my son still wore diapers. Now he reads Harry Potter and plays Mozart on the violin.

I cried while unpacking plates yesterday because I am a reluctant adventurer; hobbitlike in height and hair texture and love of eating; of peace and quiet, of flowers and of the comforts of home. More than almost anything, I have longed to watch the years go by from one beloved spot, not so as to avoid the inevitable changes that time brings, but rather to know that at the end of the day my family and I will eat off the same plates at the same table.

How I learned to stop worrying and just eat the darn cupcake

Food wasn’t a good gift from God to be received and eaten with pleasure and gratitude. It was something to fear, and fear it I did. The original sin, I believed, was a kind of gluttony: a deadly sin. It was better, according to Proverbs, to put a knife to my throat than to indulge in that sin. And in a distorted attempt to please God, I came to regard almost every meal as potentially gluttonous. One day when I was 16, my mother came home from work to find me sobbing on the front stoop, unable to focus on the AP history textbook open on my lap.

“What on Earth is the matter, Rachel?” she asked with alarm.

“I was so hungry, and so I found a chocolate cupcake and ate it.”

I was obsessed with food and with my body, and the obsession, which had started almost innocently with a desire to please God and not to be a glutton, threatened to swallow almost everything else in my life.

Later that year, my mom sent me a postcard at church camp proudly announcing my AP test scores—to my embarrassment, the camp director read it aloud before congratulating me and calling for applause. When everyone in the dining hall looked at me, smiling and whooping as only rowdy camp kids do, I nervously adjusted my clothes and looked down at my plate, thinking not of my test scores but only of whether or not I looked like an undisciplined glutton, and whether everyone was judging me for how much food I’d piled on my plate.

I was obsessed with food and with my body, and the obsession, which had started almost innocently with a desire to please God and not to be a glutton, threatened to swallow almost everything else in my life. I was starving, and not just physically.

{I’m at Today’s Christian Woman this week with an essay on discovering how to Eat With Joy. Click here to read it.}

Unfortunately, I’m told, it’s for subscribers only. If you don’t want to subscribe, but want to read further on the topic, you could always just buy my book!

Why I hope there will be more cartoon characters like Hiccup

My sons are small and skinny. They are nothing like the heavily muscled superheroes they admire.

That’s just one reason we love How to Train Your Dragon: because while we’re used to hearing about girls’ toys being relentlessly slimmed-down, sexed-up, and princess-ified, we tend to talk less about the vision of ‘masculinity’ presented for our boys’ consumption.

Hiccup & Toothless in flight. Photo courtesy Brett Jordan via Flickr Creative Commons. - See more at: http://rachelmariestone.religionnews.com/2014/02/28/boys-need-better-cartoon-role-models/#sthash.lqYv4kgP.dpuf

Hiccup & Toothless in flight. Photo courtesy Brett Jordan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Hiccup is skinny and small and brilliant. He breaks the rules and breaks new ground. He is an inventor and a creator. He is a peacemaker.

And the meta-message of Hiccup that my boys take away is something like:
It’s okay to be different. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s great. And it’s best of all to be who you are.
And I love that.