My heart has forgotten how to worship.
How did it happen? I don’t pour out praise, my mind is here now, poetry is long forgotten, music whispers in past history, my meditations are trying to sort out my deathly emotions. Where is God? Where is my passion? How can the two meet again?
Where, my heart, is worship hiding?
Hast thou left it by the way?
Now thou sleepest due to sorrow,
When thou shouldst wake, watch and pray.
Dare to plead again with Jesus,
Dare to wear thyself with praise
Dare to lose thy mind in worship
Dare to waste thy precious days
Seeking, groping, searching duly
For the Ancient One of Days.
After breakfast, I strapped on a carpenter's belt and followed Josiah outside for a deck-building day. The poor guy has quite the motley crew--mostly me--but he's pulling off an outstanding deck building project. Sometimes I step back and realize that I'm proud of my baby brother. He's turned into a man I respect--for the ability God has blessed him with, and for his heart of service to God. My mind drifts back on the days when I worried and cried for his soul--before Nathaniel called him to repentance. The work God does is profound.
As we worked, we talked, and I vented.
I’m such a negative person.
I’ve really been encouraged and growing and strengthened so much lately, but the last few days have overwhelmed me with negative thoughts. At night when I sit down to write, suddenly I am so frustrated that if my life were written on a page, I would wad it up and burn it, just to have it all gone. It seems like such a stark failure and so absolutely pointless—like everything I believe and stand for will never be proven to be right and will never bring God glory. And like I will never be perfected. I hate being negative. I want to trust and praise and worship God and to love and serve and forgive others. I know I’ve been raised as a critical thinker, but my heart is critical, too. How can I change it? How can I become someone who focuses on God and His goodness and tries to proclaim His mercy and empowerment to others, instead of just watching and evaluating and thinking hoards of harsh, judgmental and condemning thoughts? This is not what I want to be, yet I feel forever sucked into a garish mud-hole of criticism. I feel the critical influences all around me and I find myself shrinking from them—yet these are also sources from which I have learned so much wisdom. How do I learn wisdom without being negative, cynical and condemning of others?
All afternoon I despised myself for being so negative. Yet, that is negative, as well. Self-condemnation equals defeat. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. It’s in light of God’s mercy that I can renew my mind and offer myself a living sacrifice.
I need to start where I am, with simple obedience and rejoicing today. Tonight. Tomorrow. I need to quit trying to make what I know is right make sense or look right to others, quit worrying about how I make God look and just obey. He can take care of His own image. I’m just supposed to be seeking to be conformed to His image. Abigail, just obey. Just obey.
Sometimes I think I'm just a lump of silly putty, myself.
I’m such an impatient person. Such an idealist. I want everything in black and white and perfect. And I’m so ridiculously emotional. Nobody believes me. They all say I’m steady and predictable and dependable and controlled and confident and all kinds of nonsense. I’m not. My feelings wobble like a floppy top. I hate change when I’m comfortable, but when it seems inevitable then I like it drastic and dramatic and as quickly as possible, please. Especially if it seems like it will accomplish ideal.
I went to bed last night feeling weepy and frustrated because I see ideals in scripture and try to obey them, but they don’t seem to be working.
Like church. Christians divide over everything imaginable. Yet, where there are differences, it is hard to balance love and truth. Everyone has different priorities and different hills on which they are willing to die.
And homeschooling. Half the kids I grew up with seem in grave danger of a fall because they are too naïve to recognize that the world is full of evil. Many of my homeschooled friends are trading in the values of their parents for whatever works.
And this whole “raising homemakers” thing seems to breed an awful lot of discontent young women.
I’m determined to cling to what I know is right, but why doesn’t it seem to work?
On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I’m compromising. Like I accept the best option instead of demanding perfect. Like, why do I help girls at Choices get signed up for Medicaid and WIC when I don’t believe in either? Why do I help them find jobs when I think it’s a curse on women to be in the work force? Why do I encourage them to bring children into the world when I know that children raised without fathers and in no fear of God have little likelihood of growing well? Yet in this case, I know that the overriding truth is that life belongs to God and it’s not for me to know or decide beyond doing my best to save life. Currently I do that legally and I employ legal means. If it becomes illegal, I will still seek to save lives. And I hope that perhaps I will have opportunity to introduce these women to a different way, but for now the priority is to save lives.
So maybe that’s the point with the other issues—the priority is not perfection. It’s not what works. It’s my obedience to what I know.
It’s very difficult.
This morning when I woke up, all my frustrations had run away with the Sand Man. They didn’t even seem important. Maybe I just get frustrated the more tired I am? And we had an excellent meeting. The S Family and a friend of theirs named John joined us for the meeting, which stretched until one o’clock with lots of encouragement.
It was a beautiful day, so when we got home, Papa and I hopped on his bike and I straddled his new saddle bags as we zipped all over Linker Mountain and Lander’s Loop. The whole ride I wrestled with ideal and simplifying the complicating factors of life as the scenery whizzed by.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been journaling—because I’m feeling a bit confused and frustrated as I just want things to be either wrong or right. To either go away or happen. I just don’t like waiting.
Which is exactly what the Lord allows to teach me to keep my focus on Him.
Which is exactly what waiting requires—perseverance in doing good.
Lord Jesus, I’m always dissatisfied with the status quo, always frustrated with the slow pace of life and with all the things I perceive as wasted time, emotion and motion. But Father, I know that these are things You ordain and permit to cause me to grow into Your image. If You ordained everything to happen in perfect order and in ideal circumstances, where would I learn obedience? Where would I learn proven character? Where would I learn hope? And where would be the encouragement to fix my eyes on a heavenly kingdom which is imperishable and in which You dwell and rule and everything is perfect? Teach me to use my times of frustration to plead that Your kingdom would come and Your will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. Teach me to be forever dissatisfied with what I currently know and possess of You and always to hunger and thirst for You and for Your righteousness, with the promise that I would be filled. Lord, I’m distracted by things that aren’t even happening—just wanting them to happen so they’ll be over and I can get focused again—but You want to use them to teach me to focus. So strengthen me. You reveal Your goodness and Your worthiness to me every day, but be so kind as to reveal it again and again with constant reminders that I can’t ignore. Pursue me. Rope me in. Keep my eyes on You. I love You. Teach me to love You more.
No, I’m not excited about the Health Care bill that just passed.
Sarah and I talked a bit about it this afternoon, as I told her about Aunt Helen and Grandma’s visit. Aunt Helen is the completely good-intentioned and compassionate liberal who wants to see people helped and is, I think mistakenly, trusting in government to offer compassion. But government is a machine and can never offer what is truly needed—it’s not reason, it’s force. And when programmed “mercy” it will soon be short-charging everyone, dealing out merciless “healthcare” and reading out the death sentences of those deemed “unworthy” of the limited resources. Aunt Helen said I might be right, or I might be wrong. “We can’t see what will happen,” she said, “and it doesn’t have to happen that way.” She might be right, but history repeats itself and the history that has repeated itself so far shows exactly what I predict—in Nazi Germany, in Communist China, in Soviet Russia. It’s a strange thing to hear a person that I consider very intelligent and much my elder in experience and knowledge sharing their thoughts and be completely convinced that they are completely deluded. I hate it when the thought whispers through my brain, “That is not the truth because you know the truth...” It seems conceited and disrespectful for me to be so certain of the right when it so opposes those older than I. More and more often these days, I hear what is said, and I judge it and condemn it—in sorrow. It’s one of the most painful things for me to feel certain that someone I love or someone I respect is mistaken. Especially if the issue of mistake is an issue of obedience to God.
My Aunt is what everyone would consider a “good person.” This visit, I tried to think of her as a good, kind person, but when I listened to her speak, it wasn’t “good” things I heard come out. It was the weirdest sensation. She was not talking about evil things or wicked things, but all her words sounded hollow to me. Empty. Lost. Like they were falling from her lips into a black abyss of eternal worthlessness. She stooped a little, seeming weary, yet her eyes and words and heart stirred restless, looking for something new to conquer and to seek for fulfillment. I looked into her bright blue eyes and saw dissatisfaction. No peace.
It bothered her that Nick said that the American people are worshiping their government as a God—looking to the government for “salvation” instead of trusting God. “If that kind of religion demands that people be poor and unhealthy and groveling to worship God, then it’s not right!” she insisted. Ah, God doesn’t demand that we be poor and unhealthy and groveling to worship Him, but He does demand that we worship Him. And often, it is not until we are poor, unhealthy and groveling that we see just how small and helpless we are and fall on our faces and worship Him. For this reason, He is willing to allow us to be poor, unhealthy and groveling.
As I listened, at a loss how to explain to someone who does not love the Lord, how the Lord loves, my heart felt heavy. Someday, my Aunt will worship God, because that is what He has decreed. And all His creation attests to His worthiness of worship. I would to God that she should come to the place of worship before the day when every knee bows and, cruel though it sounds to the ears of flesh, I would even gladly see her poor, unhealthy and groveling if it brought her to that place before the day of judgment.
Do I not love her because I could wish this? I love her, with a small part of the mercy which Christ extends—patiently giving her yet another day, another year, to humble herself and submit to Him. She will one day submit, and oh how much better to do it now, whatever the means which bring that submission may be!
Several times before I have shared the gospel with her, hoping praying that she would turn to the Lord. She is kind and accepts my attempts as love, though I know she disagrees. As I’ve been studying Romans lately, so much of it pressed back on me—the description of how we are all shut up before God because our conscience teaches us from creation to worship Him—yet we seek other fulfillments and other gods. I’m sure my Aunt would say regarding eternity “We can’t really know.” She might feel like I am wasting life opportunities, though I know she is pleased to see people content and enjoying what they do. Yet my heart sinks knowing that she’s wrong, and not only that, but that I believe she does know, yet is resisting the Lord’s grace. I longed to tell her again of His mercy and compassion, waiting for her to turn to Him, yet she seemed more spiritually closed than I have ever before noticed.
Suddenly to me, the things she said that seemed like they were “close to the truth” or even open or tolerant of the truth, became stark lies. “We can’t really know,” is not openness to the possibility of God’s view of eternity. It is rejection of what He has proclaimed as truth—that He will one day judge the earth in righteousness. We could argue that it’s a difference of opinion and each is entitled to her own opinion. God has given us the ability to form opinions. Yet God is absolute and one of us is wrong. And it will separate us for eternity.
So I weep.
We really feel led by God to homeschool so it doesn't really matter what anyone says, but the only remotely valid argument against it that anyone has come up with is that they were led to Christ by another child at public school, what about the kids needing to be at school to witness to others, etc. I don't feel like its worth it to possibly sacrifice my children's relationship with God, morals and education on the hopes that they may overcome the negative influences and be a light in the schools?? I'm just wondering how you feel like being homeschooled has made a difference in your life and helped you to be a better witness to others by not attending public school.
My enthusiastic, though not very well-organized reply:
I get excited any time I hear of someone planning to homeschool. I've heard all the objections, including the issue of being a light in a dark place, and I think you're hitting right on in your concerns. Christ called for believers--mature disciples--to be salt and light, not children! And he said a pretty big woe to anyone who causes one of His little ones to stumble. Psalm 127 says the children of your youth are like arrows in the hands of a warrior--but no warrior sends his arrows into battle until he's carefully shaped and sharpened them and given them fletching so they can fly straight! It's a detailed job! The influence in a public school can go the other way--I have a friend who grew so depressed by the pressure of an atheist friend in eighth grade that she became addicted to cutting and nearly destroyed her relationship with the Lord. The other day she declared that she intends to homeschool. :)Some of the best info to reinforce your decision and share it with others are simple statistics--Have you heard of HSLDA? I'll give you some links to check out. There have been several surveys/studies done that are pretty outstanding. My dad keeps a neatly organized file of studies which he pulls out to show any objectors--he's a fact man. My experience agrees with the statistics showing that 75-85% of Christian kids in public schools forsake their faith, compared to 94% of kids in homeschoool who are still in church and respond that they believe basically the same as their parents. Many of the young people I know who are serving the Lord today were either homeschooled or met the Lord in their college/young adult years (with some very encouraging and godly exceptions.) As for socialization...we've got adult homeschoolers at 88% community involvement while general population is at 50% and voting a shocking 76% involvement for homeschoolers with only 29% involvement from the general populace. But, you didn't ask for stats, you asked for my personal experience.My dad once told someone that Jesus said His followers were like vines--which are pruned to bear more fruit. He felt that child-raising should be similar. With the homeschooling model he was able to prune away activities that were distractions from the Lord and channel our energies into activities that were of greater value. Sports were not a high priority, although we all spent much time outside and did play some recreational sports. We all love tennis. :) And he was able to give us opportunities to be trained in real life, instead of just text books. We had a fairly classical education, with some added dynamics--nearly all of us were encouraged to be entrepreneurs. Nathaniel raised chickens on the side, and later contracted inspecting fire extinguishers. I've catered tea-parties, done graphic design and advertising work, freelanced writing, cleaned houses, sewn/altered clothing and am now a photographer. My parents also set aside special time for me to learn domestic skills--budgeting, sewing, cooking, making menus. Josiah...he can pretty much do anything with no resources. And we had the flexibility to decide what was important at each time for each child. Another thing my parents encouraged was service--learning to serve others as an expression of love to the Lord. My mom is an amazing servant and hostess. Interestingly, serving is not often encouraged these days, but it's value is immeasurable! A servant will be welcomed wherever he goes! We also learned to bear with others--siblings are likely some of the hardest people to live with! LOL My dad sought to disciple us, instead of simply educate us. Proverbs says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." My parents sought to bring God's word into our lives, and also to teach us holy living. You know, Paul spent 14 years in Arabia being discipled by the Lord (see Galatians 1) before the Lord turned him loose as a missionary, and I think discipleship and foundation is important before anyone is sent out to share the gospel. Did you know I taught abstinence in the public schools after moving to AR? I was scared. :) Public schools are evil. J/K But what I saw reminded me of the value of Romans 12--"Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Public schools are simply set up as places of conformity--in order to get anything accomplished, they have to require a certain amount of conformity, which leads to conformity pressures. And where is the chance to have minds renewed? No where! Why would we send our children into a place of conformity with the world? At home we were taught to renew our minds with the word...and then we were sent out. For those who want to outreach to children--open their homes! Children need to see godly homes to understand godly order and submission to God. It has seemed to my family that the most powerful time of outreach, though, is to college age and young adults--those who are trying to figure out their identity and how they will live their lives. But either way, I believe God created individuals and placed them in families and that He intends families to be epic centers of outreach. Scripture says godly religion is to look after widows and the fatherless--there are many spiritually fatherless, but it isn't so much another child that they need as a family! A father!You know, honestly, much of what people see as "anti-social" is non-conformity. It's true that homeschoolers don't always dress like everyone else, or talk like everyone else, or read the same books, watch the same movies or enjoy the same things. We laugh at dumb jokes. We really do. And sometimes we don't enjoy people our own age as much because we don't have a lot in common with them. But the social skills that are valuable in real life are these: love, service, humility, ingenuity and listening skills. Oh yes, and ability to work through conflict. Those are the foundations for interacting with people who are created in God's image and for His glory, whether they know it or not. Where is love taught in a public school that teaches survival of the fittest? Where is service taught in a public school that teaches that the weak are servant of the strong? Where is humility in a public school that encourages competitions in beauty, talent, strength? Where is ingenuity in a public school where "no child is left behind" (which really just means we push them all through at the same rate regardless of their needs)? Where are listening skills taught when no one tells the truth and truth is silenced? The public school environment is simply not conducive to true "socialization"--only to conformity--socialism. Why? Because it ignores the Creator of society and the foundations on which He built society.There's an old saying "Children learn what they live." The idea is that children will learn what is in their home. The fact is that most children spend more time in school and around peers than with their families--they will be like those with whom they spend the most time. I'm grateful for my parent's careful guidance in choosing friends and activities. Even as an adult, I have to be careful to balance relationships. It's never healthy for a believer to be immersed in the world--we're to be in it, but not of it. It's never healthy for a believer to be fed all kinds of worldly information and advice. Instead of being conformed, we're to be transformed--it's something that happens in our minds. To be a good witness of Christ, I must live like Christ, and to live like Christ, I must know Christ. I know Christ through time spent in His word. I am so thankful to my parents for immersing me in the word! And it's knowing Christ that spills out--that's what people see and hear that draws them to Him. So often we are told that we draw people to the Lord by blending in with them...it's not true. People are drawn to the Lord when they see that His ways are different...but better.Well...I didn't mean to preach you a sermon. :) Can you tell I feel strongly about the advantages of homeschooling?
So, what is this subversive, counter-culture thought of mine? ... Why not raise her as a godly young woman in training? Why push scholastics above real-life training? Can't she get the academics she truly needs from her reading and her real-life training?
I've been mulling over the whole concept of the "classical" education anyway. It seems to me that, while what we usually think of as education is important, we often glorify it above basic capabilities--like diligence, work ethic, creativity, relationships, homemaking and real life issues. I say "go for it!" Especially since she is so young. A child DOES need discipline and structure--responsibilities and requirements, but being able to regurgitate correct answers doesn't make them prepared for life at all! I think you and Ty are creative and could do an excellent job of teaching her life skills--most of life is problem solving, and any child that can read and problem solve will be able to learn ANYTHING else that they need to know. I'd encourage you to keep training her that way, provide her with good books/information, require some basic math and keep her busy. When she's older she may want to do something that will require more education and she'll have the motivation, character and basic skills to learn it. Nathaniel and I both had a very classic education--and did fine because we both are visual learners. Josiah had a much harder time and struggled and struggled. More recently my dad has allowed him some more freedom and encouraged him in many of his creative paths. He's working on electronics now and he tells me he understands it because he can think of it in terms of water--so the flow makes sense to him. He still has to learn in terms of what he can get his hands on. I'm seeing more and more how unique each person is and how the Lord has given each unique abilities. I think if we cultivate character: diligence, creativity and a desire to serve and be useful, we'll find that our children are more quickly able to find a useful "occupation" and enjoy what they do! I also see that practical skills and disciplines are much better acquired young--and will always make room for a person.
Her thoughts turned into a very excellent article series that you can read here:
Raising Daughters Pt 1
Raising Daughters Pt 2
Raising Daughters Pt 3
I'll try to explain my own thoughts and convictions as concisely as possible....I'm going to back up to a point that may seem obvious, but which, I think, is the root of the headcovering teaching. And I'll try to summarize the main points that have led to my personal headcovering practice. And I think it's important to realize that the passage applies to men and women--each having different, but active, roles. Often this fact gets glossed over as we tend to focus only on the woman's role/practice.
Why a headcovering?
In Genesis, God created man first and gave him work to do. Soon it became obvious to Adam that everyone else had a partner, but he was all alone in his mission. At that point God stepped in with the plan He'd had from the beginning: a helper for Adam--a woman.. So in creation, God set up an authority structure--of men who are to serve God by obedience to Him, and women who are to serve God as the helpers of their men. Some have insisted that women's submission was a part of the curse of Genesis chapter two, and some even go further to insist that under grace we are freed from the curse and therefore women do not submit. Quite frankly, this is a misunderstanding of submission. It seems in our society that we assume that submission denies equality, but Paul begins His argument with the words, "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." Women, under man's headship, are no less "mankind" than Christ, under God's headship, is God. Proverbs says that the poor man and the oppressor have this in common: the Lord gives light to the eyes of both. An old proverb notes that death comes the same to a king and a pauper, and the Lord makes it clear that all humans are equal before Him. In Christ there is no male or female--meaning all are accepted by God on equal terms--faith in Christ. But this doesn't negate authority structures. Authority is, quite simply, order, but it has no bearing on value or worth. In this case, Paul appeals to the order of creation for the authority structure: "Man does not originate from woman, but woman from man, for indeed, man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake." The curse laid upon Adam and Eve's relationship was this "Your desire shall be for your husband, and He shall rule over you." The foundation for loving leadership and respectful submission was laid down at creation, but the curse set forth exactly what we see today: the resistance against God-ordained authority. Why? Adam and Eve had rejected God's authority--that's the root of every sin. In a like way, Eve would be tempted to control and manipulate her husband--feeling that he exists for her sake. On the other hand, a husband's fallen tendency is to domineer, conquer and harshly control his wife. And isn't this what we see? Redeemed from the curse, the godly woman is commanded to submit respectfully to her husband and the husband is to love his wife. The picture is to mirror Christ's relationship with the church. The wife's responsibility is to please her husband--not to invent things to do, but to simply do what he has expressed pleases him--just as believers are to obey Christ. The authority structure expresses that we are ambassadors: the wife is an ambassador of her husband, representing him, the husband is an ambassador of Christ, representing Him and Christ is an ambassador of God, representing Him ("I come not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" Jesus said.) Our society also glorifies the concept of independence, but the only truly independent entity is God Himself, and there is complete harmony and unity in the three persons of the Godhead. God's authority structure requires cooperation: there is perfect cooperation between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There should be perfect cooperation between Christ and the Church--Christ leading in love, the church responding in submission. And there should be perfect cooperation between a man and his woman (the Greek doesn't have specific words for husband and wife--instead it simply uses possessives of man and woman.) Paul recognizes this cooperation when he says, "In the Lord neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman, and all things originate from God." Man and woman were both created by God and for His glory. Woman was created from man, but through the woman, God creates men. In his letter to Timothy, Paul points out that the pinacle of woman's acheivement is bearing children--men can't do it. And yet...it takes man and woman to make a child, and who actually creates the child? God.
I used the think the headcovering was a part of modesty--and I reasoned that if modesty is not drawing attention to myself, then wearing a headcovering in our culture is immodest. However, Paul never appeals to modesty. He devotes his instruction instead to the topic of authority structure. The headcovering is a picture of authority structure. Which is why the setting is in worship, not (necessarily) at all times. If the headcovering represented modesty, it would be necessary in public at all times. Instead, the headcovering is worn in "worship" (I'll explain this more later). Why? Who is to be the focus in worship? God. Whose authority do we recognize in worship? God's. God is the head of Christ, who is the one to be glorified in the church. Christ is the head of man, who is the image and glory of God. When man is uncovered, I think it represents that man recognizes God's authority over him. On the other hand, woman is the glory of man. In worship, man is not to be glorified, so the woman is covered. A woman covers her head to represent that she recognizes God's authority over her, through her man.
So it seems to me that Paul is teaching that a man uncovers his head to express submission to Christ, and a woman covers her head to express submission to her man, both in submission to God, who is the head of Christ.
When to headcover?
I used the word "worship"--really, our entire lives are to be worship--glorifying to God. The passage speaks of "praying and prophesying" which I believe are public demonstrations of worship. We understand prayer pretty readily--speaking to God on behalf of man (ourselves or others). Prophesy is certainly a bit more ambiguous, at least in our culture. We tend to think of it as foretelling of the future, in an Old-Testament sense. I believe there's a broader application of prophesy in scripture as including both foretelling and forthtelling--speaking to man on behalf of God. David arranged the Levites in a choir to prophesy--singing songs of praise which he, himself, had composed to God. In the second chapter of Acts, the believers in the upper room were speaking forth the mighty works of God--and the effect was convicting to their hearers. It seems to me that a loose definition of prophesy would be to speak to man on behalf of God--reading/quoting scripture would be the most obvious application. Perhaps sharing the gospel and speaking about God in general would also fall under the heading of prophesy? Singing seems to often bridge the gap between prayer and prophesy--sometimes we are singing prayers to the Lord, sometimes we are singing to others about the things the Lord has done. For the most part, these are all things for which I try to cover.
Some suggest practicing head-covering in public "worship" only--as in church. Interestingly, Paul sets the headcovering passage before his teachings on church meetings (which do follow immediately after). And he never speaks of "in the assembly"--a phrase he uses regularly throughout the next several chapters. Some suggest covering at all times, since we should "pray without ceasing." To be consistent, then, our men would never be allowed to wear a hat. This isn't supported by Paul's commands--if he'd intended us to cover at all times, why didn't he say so? It seems out of style with Paul to not command what he intends. It seems that our thoughts are to be continually with God (who alone can hear thoughts), but are not considered "prayer or prophesy" and that speaking aloud is what bears testimony to others (including angels) and requires headcovering practices to testify that we are under authority. Of course, I don't see any reason why a woman can't or shouldn't cover at all times for expediency, should she prefer it, it simply doesn't bear up as a scriptural command.
I do always cover during church meetings and Bible studies and family "worship", and I am trying to be more careful to cover at other times when praying or "prophesying." I keep a headcovering with me any time I am in public and use it when praying or speaking aloud about God. Sometimes it seems a bit odd to me, but interestingly, unbelievers don't actually seem to be put off or made uncomfortable by it. Of course, I sing in the shower with my head uncovered...and I hope it is not displeasing to God. :) And if I don't have a headcovering, I assume that the Lord would rather have me worship than not...sometimes I put my hand over my head or improvise... Sometimes the act of covering my head actually illicits questions--more than if I were always wearing the headcovering--and provides opportunities to share about God's authority over all creation and our responsibility to submit to Him that He may exalt us at the proper time. I've even had waitresses notice and comment when I covered to pray with a friend at a restaurant, and it provided me with the opportunity to share the gospel--giving opportunity to give an answer for the hope within me.
It seems to me that the headcovering practice expresses submission to God when we are speaking aloud about Him or to Him--for men this is uncovering, for women it is covering.
What is a headcovering?
Paul doesn't really give guidelines, but reason suggests it covers the head. Literally, Paul says, "A man who has [anything] on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head." History documents women with long shawl-type coverings wrapped around their heads--which is what tends to be most practical for me. For church, I usually wrap a long scarf around my head--Middle Eastern style. :) Other times, I might do any number of things--I have some (cuter) knit caps I wear sometimes when I'm running errands so that I'm "prepared" if I have a gospel opportunity, etc. I usually carry a scarf in my purse (which friends jokingly insist is more of a book-bag anyway), as well or sometimes even wear one around my neck (like an accessory) that I can just pull up when I need it.
Some suggest that Paul's teaching of headcovering regards the hair. A woman is to have long hair and a man, short. Quite frankly, the logic of this argument is ludicrous to me. If we read the passage, replacing the words "something on his/her head" with "hair" we wind up reading simple nonsense. "If a woman will not wear long hair, let her have her hair cut off or her head shaved." So if she has short hair, well then, cut her hair off! And why the qualifications as to when we may have long or short hair? A man may have long hair as a habit, but before he prays or prophecies, he'd better visit a barber! This argument also requires cultural glasses--after all, what is short hair and what is long hair? History indicates that many Jewish men may have worn hair to their shoulders. On the other hand, Greek men (of whom the Corinthians were part) wore their hair very short. Slaves might even have had shaved heads. Hair length also differes from ethnicity to ethnicity--my hair grows super fast, but for my African-American sisters--well, long hair might be only a couple of inches! If Paul meant hair length, why didn't he say it? On the other hand, he does intimate that long hair is a glory to the woman--which I think ruins the point of God getting the glory when she prays or prophesies.
It seems to me that the covering is something which comes down over the head (the basic meaning of the Greek word) which can be worn or removed at will. I think Paul left room for culture and convenience.
What do we see in history?
Actually, history bears out the idea of an external covering. Paintings on the walls of catecombs show Christian women with their heads covered and men with theirs uncovered. In fact, the last vestiges of headcovering have disappeared only in the latest 100 years. During the days of the reformation, women covered their heads. Many of them did appear to view it as a modesty issue. John Calvin said that if women stopped covering their heads, eventually they would be exposing private areas. What do you think? Has this happened? Women used to regularly wear hats to church, and it became a fad--such that the church became a fashion show for the elaborate hats of the day. Paul told the Corinthians that he praised them for practicing headcovering, but he wanted them to understand why he had given this "tradition." I think headcovering has vanished in Western culture largely due to misunderstanding of its purpose. It became a showy thing and then, quite likely, those women who really loved the Lord and wanted to bring the glory to Him, rejected it and began leaving the showy hats at home. But the vestiges still remain: even today men take off their hats to pray. Why do you suppose that is? And in Asian and Middle-Eastern countries, Christian women still cover their heads to worship God aloud.
It seems to me that history bears out a lost practice of men uncovering and women covering their heads when worshipping aloud.
Is the headcovering cultural?
Some argue that the headcovering is a headcovering--but the command is cultural. But take a look at Paul's reasons for headcovering: authority structures based on creation. Does that sound cultural? Recognition of God's authority? Cultural? Well, a distinctly Christian culture. Some suggest Paul was advocating the headcovering so that the Corinthian Christians would fit into their culture. This is laughable, considering Paul's distinctly counter-cultural approach to living and his commands not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by renewing our minds. In addition, Corinth was a seaport--a melting pot of cultures. To just which culture should the Christians conform? Some suggest the headcovering was commanded so that Christians would conform to Jewish culture. This makes a mockery of Paul's life and ministry--he was hated by the Jews for insisting that Christians need not conform to the Law--which was only a shadow of the good things in Christ--for both Jews and Gentiles! In fact, it was Orthodox Jews who felt that Paul was rather libertarian in his views who arrested him in Jerusalem, who tried to ambush him along the road, and who he insisted were false brethren! If I'm not mistaken, Jewish men and women both regularly covered in public and the idea of men wearing skull-caps for worship was perhaps introduced later as a reaction to the Christian practice of uncovering. Paul's arguments do not lend themselves to culture: God's authority structure, creation, because of the angels, propriety, nature are all timeless, boundless arguments for godly order.
I believe that God (through Paul) was creating a distinctly new Christian counter-culture and was handing down one of a very few traditions for worship.
Really, it seems to me that Christ only gave us a few traditions: the Lord's supper, baptism, headcovering...can you think of any more?
Sometimes I think we tend to be like the wife whose husband asked her to have dinner on when he got home from work. All day she cleaned, decorated, made jelly, orgnaized his books, wrote him little love notes, exercised and then cleaned up and dressed beautifully for his arrival. When he walked in the door, he glanced around and asked, "Where is dinner?" Flustered, she began pointing out all that she had done for him, hurt that he hadn't noticed. "But," her husband responded, "All I asked you to do was fix dinner."
In our enthusiasm, sometimes I think we get caught up in a lot of things that seem like good things to do, and neglect the few things Christ commanded. Quite frankly, I think that's why we don't see headcovering practiced--we don't remember what Christ asked us to do because we're busy coming up with "good" things to do. I know I am often guilty of inventing ways to please the Lord. The prophet Micah dealt with this issue, asking "With what shall I come to Yahweh? Shall I offer sacrifices of animals? Shall I give oil? My first-born?" Then he answers, "He has told you what is good and what Yahweh requires: do justice, love kindness, walk with God." (Micah 6:6-8) Sometimes we are entirely sincere, but we are sincerely mistaken. Sometimes I think we are even guilty of offering to God things that actually offend Him--like Micah's suggestion of his first-born son. At the very least, often we neglect the things He has actually commanded--the simple things--in pursuit of the things we deem important or pleasing.
It seems to me that God has told us what He requires of us--in His word--and I am forever discovering new and exciting things about the simplicity of devotion to Christ. I have so much to learn! But I'm also blessed, as I seek to obey, in seeing others notice and ask questions--which allows me to share Christ. When Christians look and act like the world, unbelievers don't recognize a difference. When we create laws instead of seeking Christ's, often they recognize it as "works salvation" and turn away. But when we are sincerely obedient, God's order works itself out in our lives in a way that is evident--like a light shining before all men, that they may see our obedience and glorify the Father in heaven.