Sunday, 29 January 2012


I have read more about the Theology of Hair than I might have expected to.

St Paul started it of course.  I have read what he has to say, and read with careful attention a considerable number of dissertations on the subject by faithful sisters looking deeply into the scriptures to shed light on the Way.  I love the Bible, and I find in it the guiding light of God’s truth, but I don’t read it in the way that allows it to be interpreted as straightforward instructions for daily living lifted wholesale into the present day.

That is to say, when I read in Scripture a general statement like “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love is from God,” (1 John:4.7) I perceive that to have a universal application.

But what Paul had to say about hair and clothing I believe to be of specific and particular application.  That there are many who disagree with me passionately I know already and I understand why.  It’s not that I don’t get it; I do, but I disagree.

I walked a while, as some of you know, along a Plain path.  I found it illuminating, spiritually nourishing, but a bit complicating – Plain but not all that plain if you see what I mean.  I found it distracted me from the focus of Gospel simplicity which I think I came here to find and follow.

At the present time my focus is on seeing what I can do to address the amount of packaging I bring home when I purchase food and household goods.  The other thing I’m considering at the moment is how to reduce the amount of water I use.

Today I didn’t do so well in either regard.  It wasn’t such a good day.  I woke up still tired from yesterday, with a lot to do.   I’d figured out during the week that if I wash my clothes when I shower (letting the water accumulate by putting the plug in the bath) then I can use the one lot of water for both purposes.  Our dish-drying cloths had been soaking in a bowl in the bathtub since the day before yesterday.  The sun was shining today, and the day breezy, so I thought I’d better quickly rinse them through and hang them out on the line.  In a hurry, because I had to be somewhere else by 10.30 and needed to shower, I washed the cloths through to get them out of the bathtub.  I forgot a) that I was meant to be washing them in the shower water and b) that the same applied to the clothes I’d taken off last night and left in a heap on the bedroom floor.  So instead of one lot of water, I required three – the dish-drying-cloths, the clothes and the shower.

Then I remembered that as this was the day the Badger planned to rotovate the back-yard for re-sowing, magically transforming all of it to a ploughed field and digging up the socket for the washing line (this sort) in the process, I had nowhere to hang out washing anyway.

Cursing and muttering I headed off to town and did my various errands there.  Hungry, tired, and knowing I would return to find four other hungry souls waiting at home, I decided “Oh, blow it!”  I went into Marks and Spencer and got some packs of ready-made sandwiches, some supper ingredients in sturdy plastic packs, a drink in a plastic bottle (on offer with the sandwiches), and a lemon meringue pie in a foil dish and cardboard box.  Not an outstanding success on the packaging and water fronts, then.

But, why I was going into Hastings was to get my hair cut.  Why I decided to cut it again was to do with packaging.  I want to use Lush shampoo because it’s Earth-friendly, animal-friendly and comes in zero packaging.  The conditioner that goes with it comes in a bottle you take back to the store to be re-filled.  The only snag is, Lush shampoo can make my hair a bit lank when said hair is long.  So I thought I’d cut it off.  Short.

You know what?  I so totally wish I could write to St Paul and say: “Now, here’s the thing.  In our society today hairstyles do not have the cultural connotations they did back in AD 70.  But what we do have today is a problem with mass-production and industrialisation that is threatening to take down the whole planet, via an ugly path of destruction involving water wars, deforestation, and unimaginable suffering in the lives of the world’s poor. I humbly ask permission, this being the case, as part of my path of simplicity, to keep my hair short and use Lush shampoo.”

If he wrote back, I’d show you the letter, I promise.

Honest and humble apologies for disappointing friends who feel God’s truth in the Bible requires ladies to wear their hair long.

365 Day 29 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

2 pairs of shoe-laces.  Something I have learned about clutter is the insidious power of Small Things.  I tuck them away in a drawer or on a shelf waiting for them to Come In Handy – them and all their aunts and cousins and distant relations.  They rarely do, but they gradually accumulate into a drifting shoal comfortably insulated by dust, occupying entire drawers and obscuring actually useful object from view.  They sit on shelves competing for attention, reducing genuinely beautiful and useful object to One More Piece Of Stuff.  Let them go, say I!


Lynda said...

They say silence speaks I won't say anything :o)

Ganeida said...

lol However you wear your hair I still love you ~ though I respectfully disagree on your biblical interpretation ~ as I guess you knew I would anyway. Difference is the spice of life & I shall be absolutely fascinated to hear what the Lord has to say on this [& various other subjects] when I get to heaven & find out what twits we've been with The Word!

Daisyanon said...

LOL Ember :) I do love your honesty, telling it like it is.

Love the new hairstyle as well. It really suits you, takes years off. (I liked the previous one as well, but this one is even better).

Commenting on people's hairstyle is a social minefield I hope Sr Mercedes will help with.

It always sounds as if in approving the new version, the implication is that the old version wasn't a good look.

maria said...

My dear Ember, again you have touched upon a subject that is very dear to me, and so misunderstood by others.

Our Lord meant for us to live full lives and by this I mean that be it long or short, fat or thin, plain or not, our lives are different than others and different from the century when Paul wrote his letters.

We should not have to explain ourselves to others in our decisions, yet, we do, because we have been trained to do so by others - not by God - our Creator and Lord.

I believe that trying to live a godly life in this culture is hard. I believe that our choices have to do with the whole not just to nit-pick what is good or not.

I believe in your cause since it is the way I live. I have long hair by choice, it is a promise I made to my husband. But if long hair causes me to spend a great deal of money on styling it, washing it, keeping it, then the choice would be to cut it off and make my life simpler and calmer.

I bet you feel lighter and freer. Good for you! Enjoy your new hairdo and blessings to you today!


Julie said...

I love your new cut!

Ember said...

Hello friends! Another Julie! Julie 1 will have to become Julie Faraway, so as not to get confused with this Julie. This Julie will have to be Julie Damaris Sojourner (Julie DS)because of her blog. Nice to meet you Julie.

Maria, I'm very interested in the thing you said: "I believe that trying to live a godly life in this culture is hard. I believe that our choices have to do with the whole not just to nit-pick what is good or not."

I find thinking holistically is quiet hard to do - I tend to over-focus and obsess about whatever my mind is currently dwelling on. I like the idea of remembering to allow choices to emerge from the wholeness of the vision.

Ganeida I love the idea of being Twits With The Word - almost makes me want to start a Bible study group . . .

Lynda, thank you for your eloquent silence!

Daisy, I know just what you mean!


Anonymous said...

Pen, if you don't like the way Lush's shampoo makes your hair feel then why not try other shampoo bars from places like Folksy? They may be cheaper and you'd be supporting the UK handmade craft industry.

Deborah x ...who wishes she was a Plain Troll with pink hair :-D

rapunzel said...

I love the new hair!
The whole hair/religion thing is indeed a sticky wicket. I took up plain dress in 2007, and within a few months met my Manimal who loves (and has) long hair. In his religion cutting hair is frowned upon. Beards too. I agreed to grow mine out for him. My hair grew and grew. I spent a fortune on shampoo and conditioner, a lot of time combing, brushing, detangline,and a lot of time cleaning loooong hair globs out of the shower drain. Yuck. I hated having long hair, hated the hassle of taking care of it. It was beautiful, but personal beauty has never been my top priority, haha.

One day last spring I went in to run shower and to shampoo my thick waist length hair for the zillionth time. I thought of Saint Paul saying (paraphrased) "If a woman's gonna pray without a veil covering her hair she may as well just go right on and shave her head!"
and I thought, "Darn right!" and I picked up the scissors and chopped my hair off about an inch long. It felt really good to do that.
The manimal was not pleased, but he lived through it. God shows no sign of being unable to hear my prayers. My shower drain does not clog up anymore.
It is assumed for some reason that if you dress plain you will also have long uncut hair, will put it all in a bun, and will wear a little cap to cover it.
I dress in plain simple dresses, and have a plain simple hairstyle. It washes in 15 seconds, needs no conditioner, dries in 5 minutes. It doesn't even really need a comb. A sort of "Nun without a wimple" look.
Hair is such a big deal in fashion and culture. Not having any makes me feel free and happy.

Buzzfloyd said...

Paul concerned himself with small things to help people with the bigger things; but he was absolutely clear that, if the small things get in the way of the bigger things, it's time to prioritise what really matters. The point of thinking about the small things is to align them with the big things, not against.

If long hair serves the gospel focus of your life, then have long hair. If short hair serves it better, have short hair. I'm pretty sure that living for Christ is the important bit!

Also, my verification word is 'unroar', which I think is very funny.

Ember said...

Deborah - pink hair can be arranged! I'm off to Folksy to check those home-made shampoo bars out.

Rapunzel, I love that story!

Buzz - yes indeed!

Anonymous said...

Let me know if you find something nice :-)

Penny said...

Interesting post! (Always interesting here, by the way.)
My thought was the same as Deborah's - surely there is another globe healthy shampoo that doesn't lank your hair?
I find long hair simpler than short as I don't need to cut it as often! (but maybe that is just me being lazy) :)

Ember said...

I found just one shampoo bar on Folksy, and it's unavailable at present (maker on hols)! Lush is very good. The only shampoo I know that leaves my hair just how I like it is a very standard (quite expensive), highly packaged, animal-tested chemical concoction!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, that's not good. I have a couple of Lush ones but they aren't as good as others that I've used. My hair is really fine and flyaway and at 45 I've started going grey...or as I like to say I now have sparkly fairy hair :-D I grow mine to put it up and when I can't bear it any more it gets lopped off to mid neck length and then I grow it again. I have a friend who makes shampoo bars, I'll ask if she's selling them online and let you know if she is.

Going back to what you said in your blog post I remember hearing at church years ago that Paul was brought up as a Roman citizen which could have been why he didn't like long hair on men...if that's correct then that was a cultural thing so maybe the women's hair issues he had was cultural as well.

Ember said...

Yes, that's similar to my own conclusions, but I bear in mind that some sisters don;t read the Bible like that, but regard each separate part as inspired and of equally timeless weight.

Gerry Snape said...

you are a scream!.....but a great one! what more can I say? just a great post!!!

Ember said...


Greetings from the Great Scream!


AbiSomeone said...

lol ... what a path your hair has taken these many months! Reminds me of my mother, who just uses the bar soap on her short hair (not quite as short as yours) and doesn't bother with shampoo at all....

I recently cut about 12 inches off my hair and it is so much nicer -- no more headaches from hair pulling on clips and pins from wearing it up. I have a very sensitive scalp...and it's getting quite thin on top, as well....

It had been 25 years since I cut it ... and I kept it long at my husband's request as an act of love. But I asked him it he would mind if I cut it -- and he was happy to accommodate me. He even said I could cut it shorter, if I wanted to (which I don't).

...I hope you enjoy it. What does your mother think? :-)

Ember said...

My mother? Yes, there's the question . . . I haven''t seen her yet!

Anonymous said...

Pen, here's the link to my friend Bonnita's FB page. She doesn't have her shop set up yet but she can be contacted through her page for buying things. Unlike Lush her stuff doesn't contain SLS or parabans so is better for you and the enviroment :-)I think her shampoo bars are £5.80 including postage.

Deborah :-)

Ember said...

Thank you! x

paula said...

This is an amazing post! Pen, by strange coincidence, I have been contemplating hair--men's hair, that is--since Meeting for Worship yesterday. It's because I happened to have two young men in front of me with bare necks, I think. Anyway, I remember back in the late 1960s-early 1970s, people got so hung up on long hair on men, that there was an argument going on like this:

"I grow my hair long because Jesus had long hair."

"No, I say that all those paintings of Jesus with flowing hair are wrong, and that Jesus actually had short hair. Here's my documentation, you long-haired weirdo..."

Buzzfloyd got it right: The small things get in the way of the big things. This is small stuff. (Imagine, arguing over Jesus' hair, for crying out loud!) Living for God is the important stuff.

And, yeah, small stuff gets in the way of the big stuff--shoelaces. Friend speaks my mind.

Jules said...

I hear ya. I to have recently cut my hair due mostly to the thyroid medicine i am on, but I feel that cutting your hair doesn't make you any less of a Christian than someone with long hair. I still cover for church. The Bible doesn't say a woman cannot cut her hair at all because they were allowed to Take the Nazarite vow and after that man or woman had to shave their heads. this article explains what the word shorn actually means. but in either case I still love and respect and understand where our plain sisters are coming from because I to have been there and felt like I was in bondage and I don't want to be caught up in legalism. now I am at a different point in my life where I feel so much more free and my walk with God has deepened even more now. blessings! julia

Elin said...

When I was lead to cover my hair was rather short, my hair style was inspired by the hair cut Joan Baez had at woodstock. I never felt that there was anything wrong with that length of hair even with the covering on. I have always understood Paul to say that women should not shave their head or cut it very short and that the hairstyle should be feminine but not that the hair cannot be cut at all.

I soon discovered that it was hard to get the covering on so I let the hair grow out to about shoulder-length to be able to have a small bun or should I say 'roll' to anchor the covering to. That worked out well until I decided to stop using styling products and my super soft and silky Scandinavian hair slipped all over the place when it was that length so I had to grow it out some more. Now I finally have a length which allows me to have a bun without too much slipping hair and no styling products and that feels fine at the moment but would I feel like cutting my hair, I would with no regrets. I cannot see however that I will stop covering but I do not know the full plan of my life.

About Lush, I cannot use their products, they 'smell' too much. I grew up in a home with a brother with severe allergies so I never really got used to perfume in shampoos, soap or body lotions and to me it is just smelly. My first meeting with a communal laundry room was terrible, I could not for my life understand how people could use washing powder that smelled that much , I always use the non-perfumed hypoallergenic stuff that I am used to and which does not cause my skin to itch.

Ember said...

Paula. One day we will meet, I feel sure of it. Make certain to let me know if ever you come to England. Did you want that pinny btw? (The one like in the kitchen pics but flowery (can be over-dyed if flowery hated)

Ember said...

Hey, Jules - good to hear from you. What does the thyroid thing do? Does it make your hair go thinner?

Ember said...

Hey, Elin - I know what you mean about the perfume! I always know if there's a Lush shop in any town where I'm visiting. I just stand on the street and sniff!

paula said...

Wow! Pen, are you offering me a pinny!? I would love to have one.

I would love to visit England. I've never traveled out of the country, and England is my lifelong dream. Virtually all my ancestors are from somewhere in the British Isles, and mostly England. I'll let you know if it ever happens.

paula said...

Oh, and incidentally, if you ever decide to come to America, in particular to visit Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), let me know. I live two hours from Barnesville. <3

Ember said...

Goodo - well, save up your airmiles and you can come and stay with us :0)

Yes, I posted after your pinny comment the other day - send me your house address in a comment; they don't publish automatically, they come to my email inbox. I have a spare pinny the same style as the ones in the kitchen pix. It's a small floral print - pink rose sprays on cream background. I'll send it on to you. x

Ember said...

Ohio Yearly Meeting? Is that the one at Stillwater, that Kevin Roberts posts all the pics of? I would so love to come to that - I feel like I know all the people already!

Jules said...

hi pen. actually my hair is as thick as it ever was, and you couldn't tell that my hair was falling out. i could just run my hand through my hair and i would have a clump of hair in my hand or when i brushed my hair i would get a lot of hair or when i washed my hair i would have a lot of clumps. since I've cut it last week, I've noticed a huge difference! my hair dresser said that I have nothing to worry about because I have so much hair. but having it long and with all that hair falling out it made me nervous and they say shorter hair helps with not having your hair fall out so bad and easier to take care. blessings!

Ember said...

Gasp! That must be so unnerving! What a blessing you have thick hair! Peace and power to your tresses!!!

Jules said...

thanks pen! HAVE A GREAT WEEK!!!

Fourwheeler said...

Hi Ember, I have nothing against women with short hair, so long as it looks feminine (and don't ask me what achieves that!) You seem to have achieved it, though. Well done!

Ember said...

:0) Thank you. Well - I am a woman; I always think that gets one off to a good start with looking feminine ;0)

Linda said...

I didn't know what to say a couple of days ago, but coming back today and looking at your sidebar I saw your profile pic, and it looks good!!

Ember said...

Thank you, friend :0)