23 March 2018

A Day in the Life, Episode VI

[Better late than never!]

7:45 -- Wesley's day off... For me, just another work day. The one thing that doesn't change between "work days" and "off days" for me, is that the coffee maker is my first stop every morning!

8:00 -- A little time this morning in the book of Jeremiah... the verse that says, "Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is. Walk in it and find rest for yourselves" (6:16). Here in Beaufort, the "ancient path" (Boundary Street, the main road into and out of town) is the one we try to avoid whenever possible, thanks to all-day-long rush hour volumes of traffic and a not-well-thought-out redevelopment plan. Alas, on an island, your options for travel routes are limited (as is nearly everything else).

10:30 -- I take my first break of the day and make French toast for Wesley.

10:40 -- It's amazing just how delighted soggy bread drenched in even soggier syrup -- with bacon, of course -- can make a person (and I'm happy I can evoke this reaction with so little effort)!

3:00 -- Finished work a little early today. Hardly ever happens, but when it does, it's likely to be on a Friday. Which is fine with me; I never mind getting an early start to the weekend.

3:01 -- Even though I have nothing to look forward to except grocery shopping... sigh.

3:02 -- I think I'll leave it until tomorrow. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.. or something like that, right?

5:00 -- Wesley is in the mood for hummus and suggests hitting up Steve's (the Greek restaurant) to get some. Knowing that the dinner I'd prepped for us yesterday -- but hadn't gotten to serve -- has now been marinating in the fridge for going on 36 hours, I (just barely) convince him to eat dinner at home. Not that I wouldn't much rather eat out -- but, well, you know, meat gets weird when it sits for too long. As much as I hate to eat my own cooking, I hate to waste money even more.

6:00 -- Thankfully, dinner seems okay. It just happens to be souvlaki chicken with tzatziki sauce and pita bread, which makes Wesley want hummus even more. Oh well. How could I know. I also cooked it in the oven under the broiler instead of firing up the grill like I was supposed to, because I'm lazy and I hate grilling. It wasn't fabulous, but it was at least edible.

9:00 -- My brother Jonathan texts me this photo of my niece, Joanna, sitting in a snowdrift as high as the roof of their shed. A typical springtime in Maine!

14 March 2018

Women Teachers, Oh My!


So far on this blog, I've mostly discussed egalitarianism -- the view that God distributes His gifts, callings, and commands to men and women without regard to their gender -- in relation to marriage. However, as you've probably already guessed, egalitarianism doesn't apply only to marriage. It's highly relevant to the corporate function of the church body, as well.

This aspect of it took me a little longer to wrap my brain around. After all -- as far as I'd ever known -- women were "exempt", so to speak, from fulfilling certain roles and tasks in the church that the men performed. It was just the way things were -- as much a part of the environment as the air I breathed. And just like air, I simply took it for granted. Of course, the fact that I personally didn't want to do any of the "men-only" activities certainly helped, I'm sure.

Not to mention, the passages of Scripture that were commonly used to justify restricting women in ministry seemed so, well, clear. It was right there in black and white; how could I argue?

First Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12 are the verses that get most of the blame (or most of the credit, depending on whom you ask) for the restrictions placed on women in ministry. I will not exegete these two passages in detail here, because it's already been done elsewhere, but I will point you in the direction of those works:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 -- Most likely a quote from the Corinthians' letter to Paul; his rebuttal follows in vv. 36-37. Read more about this here.
1 Timothy 2:12 -- A command related to the false teaching of asceticism circulating among the churches in Timothy's day. What does this have to do with women "teaching" or "having authority over men"? The surprising but true answer is: not a thing. Read why not here.

By the way, even if you don't know the historical background of 1 Timothy 2, common sense should tell you something is "off" with the way we apply this passage. Read through the whole thing, and you'll see what I mean. Does it ever strike you as odd that nobody wants to take literally anything else in the surrounding context of verse twelve, except the command for women not to teach? For example, most churches today don't have a rule stating that men must lift their hands in the air when they pray (v. 8), or that women must never braid their hair, or wear gold jewelry (v. 9). But somehow, we've decided that a verse about women's "silence" is timeless and binding -- everywhere, forever. If that's not a dead giveaway that we're simply operating according to our own preconceived notions, I don't know what is. But I digress.

Here are the most common arguments you'll hear against women being allowed to preach, teach, and exercise leadership (and why they don't hold water):

1. Women can only teach children and other women.
The thought process goes like this: Women shouldn't teach men because 1 Timothy 2:16 says that Eve was deceived. Eve was a woman; therefore, all women are easily deceived.

Notice two conclusions we immediately take for granted here, that the Bible does not support: (1) Eve's femaleness was the cause of her having been deceived, and (2) the fact that Eve was deceived means all women, henceforth and forever, are more susceptible to deception than all men. Two major leaps of logic with nothing to justify them. (Here's what I don't get: Adam sinned willfully, with full knowledge of what he was doing. But do you ever hear anyone argue that this means men are more likely to deliberately disobey God than women are? Nope, me neither. Strange, isn't it?)

Oh, and I wonder: If it's women who are more easily deceived, then why are all the most infamous cult leaders male?

Anyway, let's think about this for a minute. If a woman's teaching is deceptive, why would you want her teaching anyone -- even other women or children? Especially children? Children are highly impressionable. They're much more gullible than adults, so it follows that they'd be more easily led astray. As the protectors and guardians of our children, why -- in theory -- would we be okay with that?

Essentially, what we're saying when we claim that women are easily deceived and therefore shouldn't teach men, is that there's more at stake if a man is deceived than if a woman is. It's more important for men to know the truth -- the misleading of women and children is of less consequence. How arrogant is that! Especially considering that Jesus said He is Truth, and the truth will set us free. Jesus did not prioritize the freedom of some people over others, and He still doesn't. That's an assumption entirely of our own making.

2. Women can only speak in a church meeting if it's not "a meeting of the whole church."
For example, most complementarian churches won't permit women to participate audibly in the main service, but will allow it during adult Sunday School or midweek small groups. Why? Well, the common reasoning is that women speaking "in church" (i.e., the Sunday morning service) are what Scripture forbids. Those smaller meetings aren't "a meeting of the whole church", so under those circumstances, it's acceptable.

In the first place, this view somewhat leaves behind the organic, Biblical understanding of the church as members of the Body of Christ, in favor of a more institutional view of church as "names on the membership roster of a 501(c)(3) organization." Because if you're going to go with the Biblical understanding of "church", then it's "church" whether there are two believers gathered, or twenty, or two hundred. And it's not limited to Sunday mornings, either. Now, I'm not saying the institutional definition should have no place at all in our thinking; what I'm saying is that it ought not to be the definition we use when we're defining and defending doctrine. If we do, we're imposing our modern definitions and ways on the text, rather than allowing it to speak for itself.

In the second place, this begs the obvious question: What is (or is not) "a meeting of the whole church"? The answer will almost always (1) be completely arbitrary, and (2) vary from church to church -- both major clues that this "Biblical absolute" maybe isn't (or shouldn't be) so absolute after all.

Imagine your average small-ish church with around 100 members or so. It's entirely possible that, on some weeks, a Wednesday night prayer meeting may have more people present than the Sunday morning service when attendance is low because of illness, inclement weather, people on vacation, etc. So, exactly what percentage of the membership must be absent before we can deem it "not a meeting of the whole church", and allow women to participate? (And if women are deceptive because they are women, what difference does this really make anyway?)

Why is the practical outworking of our theology based on the number of attendees at a meeting? Does anyone else think this is strange? ....Just me? Okay. Let's move on.

3. Women can teach boys until they become men.
No one has any problem with a lady Sunday School teacher presiding over a mixed class of girls and boys. But as time passes, church leaders start to get a little twitchy about it -- a little uncomfortable -- those boys are getting older, maybe now we have a situation where women are teaching men, and that's no bueno.

The trouble is, no one is sure exactly when the boys become men, and the No Women Teaching rule kicks in. We know that our society says a person is no longer a child once they turn eighteen, but is that a reliable indicator of how we're supposed to do things at church? Maybe our standard should be age thirteen, when Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah? That would count as a "Biblical" way of doing things, right? Even though it seems like we're really stretching things there. I mean, one has only to look at the way those 13-year old boys are behaving to see that they're still children! And besides, they're still under the authority of a mother at home, and perhaps a female school teacher during the week. Oh, the conundrum!

4. Women can teach "under a man's authority."
No matter whether you're in favor of women teaching or opposed to it, either way, it doesn't make sense to believe this. If it's wrong for a woman to teach -- and we have to assume that it is, if we're going to say that women's teaching comes from a place of deception -- then "a man's authority" doesn't make it acceptable. You wouldn't permit any other kind of sin under a man's authority; why should this be an exception?

5. A woman can teach as long as she's standing behind a small lectern or a music stand, not the pulpit.
Because we all know that the authority to preach and teach in Jesus' name is actually conferred upon us by our large, cumbersome sacred furniture. Next, please...

6. Women can teach, as long as we call it something else.
A man teaches, but a woman "shares" or "gives a testimony." This is about as disingenuous as the currently popular trend of calling male overseers "pastors" but calling women who do the same work "ministry directors" or some such. It's the same thing, people! If a woman's leadership is wrong and bad as you suppose, than calling it by a different term doesn't justify it. And if, on the other hand, a woman's leadership is good and right, you shouldn't be afraid to call it what it is. Labels don't have the power to change reality. A rose by any other name...

What about music? The same churches that wouldn't be caught dead handing a woman a microphone and letting her "teach" the congregation, have no qualms at all about handing her that microphone and letting her sing a hymn or a praise song. And all hymns and praise songs contain doctrine, or truth, or exhortation, or some other material that would be considered "teaching" if it were spoken instead of sung. But I guess as long as the teaching is set to music, and worded in rhyming couplets, it doesn't count -- right? Makes perfect sense to me...

7. God will allow a woman to teach if there's no man around.
This one is perhaps the most insidious and the most insulting. It's message to women is, "God prefers men, but in a pinch, you'll just have to do." Not to mention, it assumes a pretty low view of God: He created the world out of nothing, but He can't find a man to do what needs to be done.

Let me ask you this: Were there men around on the first Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the grave? Yep. There were. And yet who were the first ones to be tasked with spreading the news of His resurrection?

Women.

The very first preachers of the Good News, if you will, were women.

How do you think that would go over in churches today?

8. Women can't baptize, serve communion, handle the offering...
How, pray tell, did these activities get lumped in to the "no girls allowed" category? Some will say it's because we have no Biblical record of women engaging in these activities. This is, at best, an argument from silence.

Some will say it's because men are commanded to be leaders. If so, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate the Scriptural connection between leadership and the particular activities they won't allow women to participate in. For instance, I'll bet you've never heard anyone try to argue that helping out in the nursery or the kitchen is "leadership", the same way passing the offering (apparently) is!

I think we need to be honest with ourselves: The answer for a great many of us is that we simply don't like the idea of women doing the same things men do. We're not used to it. We think God must be against it, because we've been told that over and over and over... and over...

For others of us, it's an "emperor has no clothes" type of situation, where we know something isn't quite right with what everyone else is taking for granted. Deep down, we know the reasoning we use to defend our assumptions is arbitrary. But it's extremely taboo to argue with or question these points, so most of us simply don't. As a result, everyone stays in the dark. In the meantime, who knows how many opportunities for blessing have passed us by.

And then there are those pesky few who won't be silenced, who don't mind poking and prodding a bit for answers. When I do this, I nearly always get some reiteration or rehashing of the points above, punctuated with the flustered exclamation: "Well, we don't know why this is, but you just have to take it by faith and obey!"

I agree that some things are beyond us and need to be taken by faith. But faith, properly placed, is always in what God has said. Faith must be placed in God's promises. God will never ask you to go along with some man-made assumption and call it "faith." You can rest assured on that.

I will end this by directing you to something absolutely brilliant, something that falls hard into the I Wish I Had Written That category. It's short and simple, but I guarantee it will make you think, and maybe, just maybe, start to ask some of these questions for yourself: Jesus and a Women's "Place"

13 March 2018

The Comprehensive Guide to Christian Life & Living


I hardly ever read Christian books anymore.

They confuse me too much. One writer says one thing; another says the complete opposite. Both claim to be speaking unequivocally for God Himself. After being pushed to the brink of despair one too many times by trying to follow diametrically opposed instructions, I finally gave up. I mean, it was a losing battle anyway. I couldn't even remember everything they said I was supposed to do, much less actually do it!

Perhaps you've experienced something similar. Well, I have good news. To put an end to all the confusion, I've compiled here a handy reference list for you to check off to make sure you're getting this whole "following God" thing right.

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1. Listen to your heart; it's where you'll hear God's "still, small voice."
2. Ignore your heart; it's deceitful and desperately wicked.
3. God is upset and disappointed when you sin.
4. God is never upset or disappointed with you, even when you sin, because you are in Christ and He is perfect.
5. Wait and trust God and He will give you the desires of your heart.
6. God won't necessarily give you the desires of your heart because He wants you to trust Him no matter what.
7. Emotions are unreliable and should never be counted on.
8. Emotions are nudges from the Holy Spirit and should never be ignored.
9. You can't mess up God's plan because He is in control.
10. You can mess up God's plan if you make the wrong choices -- just look at Adam and Eve!
11. Forgiving others means you're opening yourself up to the possibility of being hurt again.
12. Forgiving others doesn't mean allowing them to keep hurting you.
13. God has given you your particular set of gifts, strengths, and abilities for your unique calling.
14. It doesn't matter if you have no strengths or abilities relevant to your calling; God wants to use you in your weakness.
15. God only uses "broken" Christians.
16. God wants you to be whole.
17. God will give you whatever you ask if you ask in faith.
18. God won't necessarily give you what you're asking for; He's not a magic genie.
19. If you're obeying God, you won't keep struggling with the same sin over and over.
20. Struggling with the same sin over and over is practically inevitable because of our fallen nature.
21. Being "in Christ" means we should always be happy. Turn that frown upside down!
22. Being "in Christ" doesn't mean we will always be happy -- we still live in a fallen, sinful world.
23. Jesus is all you need. If you have Him, you shouldn't need or want anything else.
24. God has created you to need certain things such as human companionship, meaningful work, etc.
25. Before you forge ahead into anything in life, you should "count the cost", i.e., plan ahead.
26. Jump in with both feet! Planning ahead indicates a lack of faith and total reliance on God.
27. Serving God means serving others.
28. You should never let serving others get in the way of serving God.
29. Taking care of your own personal needs is wise stewardship of your health and well-being.
30. Taking care of your own personal needs is selfish and means that you have not "died to self."
31. God has a plan for your life that you need to work to discover.
32. God gives you the freedom to decide what you want to do with your life.
33. If you desire to be married, that's a good desire from God Himself, and a sign that it's His will for you to marry.
34. If you desire to be married, that's a sign that you haven't surrendered your love life to God; He very well might want you to remain single.
35. Don't complain when you pray -- you have so much to be thankful for, and besides the Bible says to "rejoice evermore" and "give thanks in all things."
36. Tell God anything, even your complaints -- He knows it all anyway.
37. When you pray, address God with respect, as if you were talking to the President.
38. When you pray, address God intimately, as if you were talking to your best friend.
39. Before you move forward with any major decision in life, you should pray until you feel absolutely, positively, 100% certain of God's will.
40. You should be very cautious if you feel 100% certain of God's will in major life decisions because that means you're not "leaving room for faith", or the possibility that you might be wrong, or that God might be trying to lead you elsewhere.
41. Be yourself, even if other people don't like it, in order to be "authentic" and "genuine."
42. Hold back those aspects of yourself that other people may not like, in order to avoid "being a bad testimony."
43. Marriage is a refining fire! Besides, God doesn't want you to happy; He wants you to be holy!
44. Marriage is supposed to be a taste of heaven on earth! God wants you to be happy; if you're not, something is wrong.
45. You should feel a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction when you serve where God wants you to, because He created you with certain gifts that are well suited to your individual make-up.
46. You won't necessarily feel a sense of personal fulfillment or satisfaction when you serve where God wants you to, because He knows unpleasant and difficult experiences will "stretch" you and make you grow spiritually.

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While I can't necessarily agree with anyone who says the Bible is full of contradictions, I have to give a hearty "amen" to anyone who says that Christians are full of contradictions! And these are only the ones I could think of just now, off the top of my head! Any of them sound familiar to you?

07 March 2018

East Coast vs. West Coast


Growing up, I never loved going to the beach. I didn't hate it, but I could take it or leave it. It was a nice place to watch the sunset. It was also a terribly long drive to go and spend all day with burning sun and biting wind in your face. To wade around in brackish water that, after about five minutes, ceased to be exciting. To sit in the sand and eat soggy sandwiches that, no matter what, always managed to have as much sand and grit in them as ham or peanut butter. In fact, the sand was everywhere. Sand in my teeth, sand up my nose, in my eyes, in my hair; in places that never see the light of day. My parents were always really keen on beach outings, and I never fully understood why. I just chalked it up to me not being a "beach person."

Then I moved to California, and I had a realization: I am a beach person. I'm just not an East Coast beach person.

Pacific coast beaches are beautiful, from the rocky shores of Washington and Oregon to the sun-drenched sands of San Diego. I'm personally quite biased in favor of the California beaches. And yes, they have just as much sand, but I learned a marvelous little secret that makes the whole experience ten times better -- DBYOS (Don't Bring Your Own Sandwiches)!

What's more, California ocean water is blue, not brown, and it actually sparkles. Thanks to the cold currents that flow down the Pacific coast from Alaska (as opposed to the warmer Atlantic currents that cycle upward from the Gulf of Mexico), it's also cool and refreshing, even during the hottest days of summer. If you go to the right beach at the right time of day, the waves are big enough for some amazing surfing. You can even watch the dolphins playing. On the Atlantic side -- at least, until you get to south Florida -- the ocean looks like my dishwater does at the end of a massive kitchen clean-up. It's also chock full of all kinds of nasty stuff: sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, giant crabs, piles and piles of seaweed and kelp and unidentified slime... the occasional plastic Kool-Aid bottle...

"But California beaches are so crowded," someone invariably objects.

To which I say, yes, that is true. There are quite a lot of people on California beaches. However, there's also nothing lurking in the water that wants to eat you for dinner. If you ask me, this really counts for something.

It's not just the beaches that are different in California, either. The culture is different, too.

It's not what I would call nice, exactly, but it's not hard to deal with, either. You don't have the aggressive, in your face, cut-you-off-in-traffic-then-flip-you-the-bird antagonism that you have in the Northeast. You also don't have the more subtle, condescending snobbery of the South, where everybody secretly (or not so secretly) thinks they're better than you. No, in California, people are simply... indifferent. Laid back. They won't go out of their way to help you, but they won't go out of their way to give you a hard time, either. You're also less likely to be cut off in traffic, because on a gridlocked sixteen-lane freeway at rush hour, everyone just kind of understands that doing so wouldn't help them get where they're going any faster.

Dressing on the casual side, even in business settings, is more acceptable out west. I never, ever saw anyone in SoCal wearing a wool suit or a turtleneck sweater. Since it's so blisteringly hot most of the year, this suited me just fine (pun intended).

I was never on the receiving end of any negativity or judgment (even from, ahem, older people) if I wore short skirts or tank tops. (In all reality, most of the Christian kvetching about modesty seems to originate, conveniently, from colder climates. Except for parts of the South, like Texas, which are not only unbearably hot, but muggy as well. I'm still trying to figure that one out.) No, when the highs are in the 120's in mid-September, no one bothers you about whatever you have to wear -- or not wear -- to stay cool. Although I did get a horrified look or two and an "Oh, dear, aren't you freezing?" for wearing flip flops on an unseasonably cold, 65 degree day in January.

The lack of predatory insects is an undeniable bonus, as well. In two and a half years of living there, I only ever saw one mosquito, and it came off a bunch of celery I bought at the grocery store. I also never encountered any spiders.

Speaking of the grocery store, one thing I did not like was walking into a store and seeing cancer warning tags stuck to absolutely everything: "This product is known to the state of California to cause cancer..." It was unsettling, of course, but I always figured I was okay, because the tag says that it causes California cancer (I'm from Connecticut).

But I loved having so many ethnic markets around me (and they didn't have any cancer warnings). I loved being able to spend only $25 a week on groceries and have almost anything my heart desired. Including fresh jackfruit, which I have a feeling I've had for the last time -- a shame, because it's my favorite. I loved driving downtown and feeling like I was in China, then in another few blocks in India, then in another few blocks in Vietnam, then Korea, Africa, Mexico... It was incredible. You could travel the world without leaving downtown. It was like Epcot, only... not staged.

I also loved having loquats, guavas, lemons, and a fig tree in my yard that produced figs as big as my hand.

I loved the huge, snow-capped mountains; I didn't love altitude sickness so much.

I loved the dry weather; I didn't love the state-enforced water rations.

I paid one visit each to Disneyland and Catalina Island, and had a great time at both. Perhaps I'll return one day when my oil well comes in. It's the only way I could afford the price of a Disney pass, or fare for the Catalina ferry on a day that isn't my birthday (they let you go for free then).

However, Hollywood falls notably short of all the hype, in my opinion.

California is expensive, oftentimes prohibitively so, and their state income tax forms are a nightmare. They will take all the money you have, and then some. Yet if the growing population is any indicator, many people consider this a small price to pay for living in one of the healthiest, happiest, most fun, most diverse, most amazing places in the country.

In short, the West Coast is a like a lover you never forget; someone you can't stop thinking about in spite of their quirks and flaws and annoying habits. I deeply regret moving away (though I would for sure be living on a park bench if I hadn't), and I'd give my right arm to be able to go back. Well, maybe my left arm. And I'd have to have a really, really lucrative job, maybe two of them.

I mean, seriously. How else could I pay five dollars a gallon for gas?

01 March 2018

10 More Things That Make No Sense


1. Strawberry-banana anything. Strawberry flavor = great. Banana flavor = great. Strawberry banana flavor = yuck. According to conventional wisdom from the likes of Gordon Ramsay, "If it grows together, it goes together." Well, seeing as strawberries grow best in cooler weather and bananas grow in the tropics, I have to wonder: Who decided they were a match?

2. Sports fanaticism at summer camp. More specifically, why it's okay to dislike any camp activities, except sports and games. At least, this is the case at every camp I've ever been a part of. Don't like hiking? No problem, it's optional. Arts and crafts? Optional. Swimming? Optional. Campfire time? Optional. Oh, but if you don't get out there and play kickball or volleyball or "cover your cabin mates in chocolate syrup and marshmallows" (if that's what the counselors decide to do that day), shame on you. You're not a good sport. You're not participating.

3. Regular cans. Pop top can lids are a thing, and have been for quite some time. Why do I still need a can opener? A can opener I use multiple times every day, 'cause canned food is so cheap. (If I need carpal tunnel surgery, I'm sending you the bill, can companies.)

4. Why someone says "Good question!" when what they really mean is, "I don't know." Why is it a good question if you don't know the answer? If you do know, does that mean the question was bad?

I really want to know why this is, but I can't seem to find the courage to ask anyone. I'm too afraid they'll say, "Good question..."

5. Breakfast in bed. I know for some people this is a really nice favor that makes them feel pampered. Me personally, it just reminds me of being sick. In our house growing up, you only ate in bed if you were too ill to sit at the table. (In which case, you probably weren't interested in eating much anyway.) Not to mention, toast crumbs or maple syrup in the sheets...

6. When people say they want their kids to stop growing up. I see it all the time in posts on social media: a photo of somebody's kid with the caption, "Stop growing up already!" And I'm thinking: You do know the only way that's possible is if your child dies... right?

7. Short sleeved shirts made of wool. There's literally no situation, no type of weather, in which these are just the right thing to have. If it's cold enough to be comfortable wearing wool, then I definitely want sleeves. If, on the other hand, it's hot enough to need short sleeves, then why the heck would I want to wear wool?

On that note...

8. Clothing tags. I don't know why we need these. The washing instructions can be printed right on the inside part of the fabric (a lot of companies already do this). Especially, underwear tags -- Seriously, what purpose do these actually serve, except to stick out of your pants when you least suspect it and cause an embarrassing moment? Maybe they could just give you an instruction manual when you buy clothes. If you really need it, that is -- most articles of clothing you wear on a day to day basis don't require special care anyway.

9. Houses that don't have dishwashers. Not many people these days would think of going without a washer and dryer, or a stove, or a fridge, or even a microwave. But for some reason, a lot of houses still don't have dishwashers in the kitchen. Why not? It's 2018, people. There's no reason I should still need to be wasting my time washing dishes by hand.

10. Zippered Bible covers. Everybody loves these for church, because you can keep bulletins and sermon notes and whatever else in them. But you never realize how much noise the zipper makes, until you need to open your Bible in a dead-silent church service.