Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: Finding Our Way Home

Finding Our Way Home
I received an electronic copy of this book for free as a part of Multnomah Publishing's Blogging for Books program.

First, this was the very first book I read electronically as that was the only option for me to read it. It didn't work on my computer so I read it on my phone. This is part of the reason it took me a long time to read. I do appreciate the author's attempt to write about a subject (dance) that she knew little about, as she writes in the afterword. Writing is not an easy craft, and is something that one puts one's heart and soul into.

The other reason it took me a long time to read was that I just didn't enjoy the book. I wanted to, but I felt that the characters were somewhat static and flat; it was difficult to relate to them. I also found the mystical element of the snow globe to be out-of-place and a bit weird. While Sasha's change of attitude towards people and life was welcomed, it was also predictable.

There was language in the book that seemed to be very "trendy" in an attempt to be relevant but I found it distracting and forced.

The character of Evelyn did make me smile and laugh at times, and the relationship she forges with Sasha is good for both of them.

The book wasn't bad; it was just simply ok.

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's Getting a Little Hot In Here

On Wednesday of this week, it was predicted to reach 101 degrees where I live in Iowa.  I flipped on the air conditioner as soon as I got up in the morning.  It was actually the first time I'd decided to use it so far this summer.  Because we have ceiling fans, I'd been getting away with using them and having the windows open and having a kind of competition with myself to see how long I could go before resorting to using the A/C.  And, granted, I probably would have used it earlier if we hadn't been gone for a couple of weeks.

As I went about my morning, I realized something fairly quickly:  the house was not cooling down.  Not only was it not cooling down, but it was getting warmer.  Uh oh.  The air conditioner was not working (ironically, I think this is the 3rd summer in a row the a/c has not worked on the hottest day, and we're even in a different house than before).

I really wasn't too worried about myself being uncomfortable; I grew up in humid Connecticut without air conditioning in my house or in the schools I attended.  Most of my friends did not have air conditioning either.  To me, air conditioning is more of a luxury than a necessity (although when I lived in New Mexico I did consider it more of a necessity).  I thought it would probably be worse for my husband and kids, but they seemed to take it in stride (I guess the "no whining" signs I have put up around the house have subconsciously worked on all of us).

I also realized that no air conditioning was probably a minor problem in the big scheme of things.  We have friends and family members who have been or who are close to being evacuated due to the fire in Colorado Springs, and they may lose their homes (maybe they have already; I haven't heard an update).  I think I'd rather have a home without A/C than have my home burn to the ground (I'm kind of attached to a lot of my "stuff").

Looking at it from that perspective made me able to take the heat that day in stride; it's just a minor inconvenience that will be remedied.

It's not always easy to change our perspective on things; we often are very focused on what we want or what inconveniences us or what is best or worst for us.  Changing our perspective, though, can help us to see that we are not the center of the world and that many of the problems we face are minor compared to what other people are going through.

How about you?  Have you had a time when you have had to change your perspective on something?  Was it an easy or difficult process? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Having a Silent Discussion

Photo Credit:  Matthew Knutson
Back in January, when we began the semester at the college where I worked at the time, we had one chapel service that was quite unique.  Our theme for the semester was "Who Is Jesus?," based on the gospel according to Mark, and our service on this particular day was one that was interactive.  Instead of a typical worship service, we had a discussion.

It wasn't just a regular discussion, however; it was a silent discussion.

I'd gotten the idea from a former student who had learned about it from one of the history professors on campus; he'd done it occasionally in his classes.

As people arrived this particular morning, I was pretty nervous; what if it went badly?  I loved the idea, but was it too different?  Would people think it was weird and not participate?  I'd set up the power point with instructions and we had someone playing the piano for background music.

Slowly, a couple of people got up to start the discussion (ok, I'd asked them ahead of time to do that in case everyone else was too shy to be first).  But even as they got up, so did others that I had not asked, and then more, and there was rarely a moment when someone was not writing something.  Often, people were standing in line to write their thoughts and respond to others' thoughts.  Nobody had to feel intimidated or bullied due to another's tone or facial expressions.  Nobody had to feel as though they couldn't speak up.  Nobody had to get nervous about the spotlight being on them, because multiple people could "speak" at one time.

Chapel only lasts for 20 minutes, and people wrote the entire time.  Some even stayed afterwards in order to continue the discussions.  We almost ran out of room on the paper, as you can see in the picture above.

It was a beautiful day and I will always remember it, because although there were differing thoughts and ideas and questions, it was civil.  There were no raised voices; there was no yelling; there was no arrogance or hostility or belittling.  It was simply an exchange of ideas about who this person of Jesus, that we all believe in, was and is.

It truly was a special day, and I hope to be able to have more silent discussions in the future.  It serves as a reminder that we are too often quick to voice our opinions and quick to dismiss others.  In this discussion, we had no choice but to be patient and wait for others to express their own thoughts ideas.  We had to process those thoughts and then write our own.

We had to acknowledge and respect the people around us and what they had to say.

That doesn't happen often enough in vocal discussions.  Maybe we should have more silent ones.

In what other ways might a silent discussion be beneficial?  Who is Jesus to you?  Do you ever have questions or thoughts about him that you don't feel safe or comfortable expressing?  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Worth Reading Wednesday

I can't believe it's Wednesday already!  I'm apparently still not quite back into my reading and writing groove  (am I the only one who is not crazy about it being summer and looking forward to school starting in the fall?) but here are a few good things I have read this week:

My First Time:  A Tale of Planned Parenthood by Dianna E. Anderson
Dianna goes to Planned Parenthood for an annual exam for the first time to see what it is really like there.

Complementarianism and Hierarchy Outside the Home and Church by Rachel Held Evans
Rachel explores what women can and can't do based on a scale in the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  Apparently, Deborah in the Bible is actually going against God's order.

An Atheist Blogger Converts to Catholicism by Leah Libresco
Leah Libresco was a popular atheist blogger who recently has decided to convert to Catholicism.

Seriously?  Cut Global Poverty in Half? by Sandra Glahn
Sandra writes about a film called Isaiah 58 and organizations that are involved in helping to decrease global poverty.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What If It Was Jesus in Prison?

For the last couple of weeks I was busy cleaning and packing to get ready to go on a family vacation (we drove from Iowa to New Mexico...more on that another day), visiting friends and family while on vacation, and then getting back and trying to figure out how to get into a routine again.  It hasn't been easy.  I have found my brain to be fairly devoid of words any time I have tried to actually write a blog post.  Until today.

Some good friends of mine were having a discussion on Facebook about this article.  It describes the "Tent City" in the Arizona desert in which inmates live in tents in triple digit heat without air conditioning.  The main point of contention in the Facebook conversation was the air conditioning--some people thought that not having air conditioning was inhumane; others thought that air conditioning was unnecessary because these are inmates who are there for a reason:  to be punished.

There was some good discussion, with people bringing up topics such as what type of crime the person was in jail for, whether or not they'd been sentenced yet, and whether or not punishment deters crime.

But what kept coming into my head was this:

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'  37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'  40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'  41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;  42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'  44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?'  45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'   --Matthew 25:34-45   
And I wondered...does Jesus not count these inmates in the Arizona desert among the "least of these"?  And if so, if these inmates are to be Jesus to us, how should we treat them?

It is a difficult question; we all want justice and to see people punished for the crimes they commit.  And so, it is good to have conversations about what constitutes adequate punishment and what amenities are appropriate to have.  

I remember a time when I worked for a civil rights' lawyer, and we had a case in which she represented some inmates who had been severely beaten while in prison.  My first thoughts (that I kept to myself) were something like "Really?  What's the point of this?  Aren't they in prison for a reason?  Don't they deserve whatever they get?"  Slowly, though, as I got to know these men from their letters to the lawyer and their phone calls to the office, I began to have a different perspective.  Yes, they were in prison for a reason.  Yes, they deserved punishment for their crimes.  But no, they did not deserve to feel unsafe and did not deserve to get beaten up.  

These were men who had made bad choices, no doubt about it.  But they were also real people, with names and faces and hearts and souls, who had their own hopes and dreams.  Today, I don't know what has become of them.  I don't know if they made new crime-free lives for themselves once they left prison or ended up returning there due to other crimes.  And even though I never visited them in person, I like to think that the phone conversations were a form of visiting.  

Most of all, though, I like to look back and think and hope that these six men were encouraged by work that was put into their case.  It is my hope that they--or even just one of them--see it not just as a lawsuit but as a way of giving them hope for their future, a belief that they can better themselves, and that there are people who believed in them.  

I don't know if they looked at it that way or not.  But the words of Jesus do not call us to change how other people think or look at things.  They call us to do certain things ourselves, having no knowledge of the outcome.

When I think of these stories about prisoners, I wonder, "what if that prisoner who was almost beaten to death was Jesus?"  "What if that prisoner who is sweating in triple-degree heat is Jesus?"  "What if that prisoner who desperately wants to leave a life of crime but doesn't know how is Jesus?"

If Jesus can see himself in the least of these, and if they matter to him, shouldn't we take a close look at that?

What are your thoughts?  Have you ever had any contact with someone who was in prison?  What do you think about what amenities prisons should or should not have?  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Are You Aware?

A friend of mine has a condition called "myasthenia gravis", and, to be honest, I really didn't know that much about it.  She recently posted a video a friend of hers, who also has the condition, made to educate people about it.  I know that I learned a lot and it really touched me, so I want to share it all with you as well.

Too often, we are so caught up in our own lives and issues that we just do not think about what other people go through.  We see someone "different" and instead of looking deeper into a person, we get annoyed if they slow us down in a store or are in our way or just annoy us for any reason.

Please watch this video.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are You Beyond Evangelical?

Frank Viola’s new book “Beyond Evangelical” has just released. Here’s the book description:
Recent studies indicate that evangelical Christians are known by the world as people who are narrow-minded, judgmental, self-righteous, legalistic, callous, hard-hearted, politically partisan, and quick to attack their own. Why is this, and is there a viable cure?
The evangelical Christian world has fractured into four main streams. One of these streams has grown weary of the Christian Right vs. Christian Left squabbles and vitriolic disputes. If this describes you, then you are not alone. And you will be encouraged to know that God is raising up a new breed of orthodox Christians who are breaking free from the Christian Right vs. Left quagmire.
Beyond Evangelical explores the changing face of evangelicalism and introduces readers to a growing segment of the Christian population who do not fit into the Right or Left categories, but who are marked by an uncommon devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ as this world's true Lord.
To read the Introduction, Table of Contents, and ordering information, go to

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Land of Enchantment

Just an update on what I'm doing this week.  We drove from Iowa to New Mexico to visit family.  In our small car.  With our two small children.  It went surprisingly well.  I thought I'd be blogging regularly (I brought my laptop) but the wireless hasn't been working right.  If it gets fixed, I may be able to blog.  If not, I'll be back sometime around the 20th or so.  We originally thought we'd be traveling later in the month but due to some scheduling changes, our trip got moved up and I didn't have time to write and schedule blog posts ahead of time either.

Here's an old but great song about Albuquerque for you to enjoy.

Have you ever been to New Mexico?  Did you like it?  And, if so, do you prefer red or green chile?  (I like red the best). 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Church Shopping Saga Continues: Does the Church Affirm Women in Leadership?

This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week:  One in Christ:  A Week of Mutuality.  This particular post is also one in a series about the adventure of finding a new church to attend after moving to a new town.  You can find the others with the label "Church Shopping". 

One of the qualifications we've been looking at in the churches we've visited is whether or not they approve of women in leadership positions.  Now, I have been in churches that view this in opposite ways and while I believe women should be able to be leaders, I can be in a church in which it is not permitted; I spent the last two-ish years in one such church (ironically, I actually was able to lead there:  I organized being part of a simulcast and I taught an adult Sunday school class; yes it had both men and women in it).  I have also been in a church in which women have been allowed to be leaders for many years, but for other reasons, it was not a healthy church.  And so I am trying to be careful to understand my motives for picking this qualification and to consider whether or not it makes me a "one-issue-voter".

There was a time in the early 2000s that I was simultaneously attending two churches:  one Presbyterian, one Baptist.  One Sunday at the Baptist church, the pastor's sermon was about all of the qualifications to be an elder, since the church had decided it needed two more elders.    By this time, even though at one point I'd struggled with and been confused by the idea that women should not be leaders, I was firm in my belief that women could and should lead.  I listened to the sermon, stayed relatively calm, took notes, and then waited two weeks to e-mail the pastor with my concerns (the back-and-forth e-mails ended up comprising about 5 pages of text altogether--mostly my thoughts).  To read the full discussion, go here.  Identities have been edited to protect privacy.  

His final response to my thoughts was this:  "Thanks for the perspective. It gives me a lot to think about. Have a super night!"

In other words, "I'm not going to continue this conversation with you; it's over and done with."  (I suppose I was naive; I enjoyed Biblical discussions and getting deep into the Bible and I assumed that pastors did as well).

I do not want to experience this again.

Granted, in the most recent Baptist church I went to, I didn't experience this, but I am apprehensive as I explore the different churches in my new town.  There is one particular denomination that we are looking at (for reasons I won't go into here) and from what I understand so far, only one of the five or six of them in my town allows women in leadership positions.  While I most likely need to do some more investigating about this, I am definitely drawn to this particular church for this particular reason.  

But, as I said above, I don't know if I should lean towards this church for that reason alone.  I do know that I want to be in a place in which my gifts will be appreciated and used, and I do not want to be in a place where they will not.  This was made a bit more clear to me in the book that I have mentioned extensively this week, How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, in the story of Bonnie Wurzbacher, a senior vice president of Coca Cola.  She wrote about her journey to becoming a leader in the business world, but ass she advanced in the business world and used her gifts to become a leader there, she started thinking about leaders in the church.   She writes "I wanted to worship in a church that encouraged me to be all that God planned for me and that valued my gifts of teaching, speaking, and leadership.  I wanted to be part of a church that recognized, developed, and embraced everyone's gifts."  (page 261).

And I think that for me, that summarizes how I feel.  Whether or not I become involved in church leadership, I want the overall position to be that everyone is welcome to use their gifts.  I do not want to be relegated to children's ministry or kitchen clean-up duty.  Frankly, I can't stand doing those things.  I do them enough at home as a stay-at-home-mom.  Well, ok, I'm not so great at the kitchen clean-up duty at home either.

It is somewhat of a struggle though.  Am I acting like a selfish and spoiled child when I say "I don't want to do that; I want to do what I want to do!"?  If there are other great things about the church, should I be content to use my gifts elsewhere, as I have done in the past?  If I use them elsewhere but they are not appreciated or acknowledged in the church I go to, is the church really a family as it should be? There are many questions to ask and think about, but I do have to say that I am fairly amazed that it's even an issue; it seems as though the equality of men and women should be obvious and accepted.  

What would you do?  Would you pick a church on one issue, even if there were other reasons not to go there?  Would you attend a church with the opposite belief as you if there were other things about it that you liked?

An E-mail Conversation with Pastor Complementarian

This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week:  One in Christ:  A Week of Mutuality.  This is an email exchange I had on the issue of women in leadership with a Baptist pastor in 2003--before I'd ever even heard the terms "complementarian" or "egalitarian".  I can't believe it has been that long!  Certain names have been edited to protect privacy.

Written by Kelly Youngblood to [Pastor Complementarian] on September 14, 2003

I have some questions/comments/concerns about your sermon on 9/7 though. Topics such as eldership can be touchy when it is the position of the church that elders should only be men.  Although I completely disagree with that position, I do think you effectively communicated what  your understanding is of the qualifications for elder.

You had us score ourselves in each category you covered. I am concerned because theoretically, if you had to pick an elder between [my husband] and myself, you would pick ]him] because he is a male.
However, I scored much lower than he did. If those qualifications are what is important, then shouldn’t the most qualified people become elders and not just because of one’s sex?

My belief is that by taking the position that women cannot be pastors limits God. How can wesay that it is not allowed when there are many women who have answered God’s call to positions of elder or pastor? We are told that people have different spiritual gifts. They are not separated into men’s gifts and women’s gifts. There are many women who are endowed with the correct gifts to be an elder or a pastor, yet some denominations still forbid it. That isn’t right, in my opinion.

When reading the Bible, we must take into account what was happening at the tie it was written, and what was meant when it was written. By doing that, it can help enhance our understanding of what it means now. We can’t just ignore what it meant then and only apply it now, because we can lose very important meanings and concepts that way.

The Church was in its infancy stages at the time that the gospels and letters were written. There was strife between the Jews of the day that did not accept Jesus, the Jews that did, and the Gentiles. It was breaking away from worshipping in the synagogues and was in need of structure. While Paul’s ideas of how to structure the church may have been fine at that time, it does not necessarily mean that it needs to be exactly the same today. Just because women weren’t allowed to do certain things then does not mean they cannot do them now. Women lived in a patriarchal society at that time, and much has changed in the last 2000 years. Women are much more educated now than they were then. If they were not as educated then, they obviously could not have a leadership role in the Church. But that doesn’t mean that once they became educated, they still could not have that role.

You used many verses from the first part of Titus. But if we continue reading, we come to 2:9, which says, “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior” (NRSV). Does this mean that since this is how slaves are to act that we should still have slaves? Of course not. We know better than that now. Yet some theology persists that women are basically still second class citizens.

Regarding Titus 1:6 where one qualification is: “Husband of but one wife”–taking this literally would exclude widowers who remarry. Is that right? Perhaps, rather than saying a person only gets married one time, it is an admonition against a person who practices polygamy.  There are other verses that we do not practice, yet what differentiates them from the ones regarding male eldership? In addition to the example above regarding slavery, in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 we are told that women should pray and prophecy with their heads covered. That is not in practice today. In fact, in our culture, most people see it as a sign of disrespect when anybody
covers their head, not as a sign of respect as it was meant then.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to your response!


Response from [Pastor Complementarian] to Kelly Youngblood on September 29, 2003

Sorry it has taken so long to reply to your e-mail. I have been laid up these past few days and
today I feel good enough to write back to you. In your -mail you said...
"You had us score ourselves in each category you covered. I am concerned because theoretically, if you had to pick an elder between [my husband] and myself, you would pick [him] because he is a male. However, I scored much lower than he did. If those qualifications are what is important, then shouldn’t the most
qualified people become elders and not just because of one’s sex?"

Honestly the elders wouldn’t pick a person regardless of their sex if they were not doing exceptionally well in their walk with Christ. [husband] would not be picked on the basis of being a male but where he is at spiritually.

You also wrote...
"My belief is that by taking the position that women cannot be pastors limits God.  How can we say that it is not allowed when there are many women who have  answered God’s call to positions of elder or pastor? We are told that people have different spiritual gifts. They are not separated into men’s gifts and women’s
gifts. There are many women who are endowed with the correct gifts to be an elder or a pastor, yet some denominations still forbid it. That isn’t right, in my opinion."

I think the main place where the two of us differ is on the roles of women in church Vs men. God did not make men and women the same. He places upon them different roles. For example, the man is to be the head of his family. He is to be the spiritual leader of his family. I find it odd that God would set men to be the spiritual leader of the home but not his church.  That doesn’t make any sense to me.  Also I would like to note that all roles (Men or women’s) are of vital importance to Christ and to the church. Just because one person has this role and another has that doesn’t lesson the contribution that is being made.

As far as the cultural limitations of scripture about the church being in its infancy stages I have to disagree. Jesus wasn’t afraid of what was acceptable in culture during his time on earth. He spoke to those and loved those whom society said were unworthy. If God wanted to set up the leadership of his church with women and men I think God would have done that. The bottom line is that he did not.

This is not to negate the calling of women by God for service in God’s kingdom. I believe though that scripture is clear on the role of men and women in the church. Now I realize that what I have written my sound a bit chauvinistic but I do not intend it that way.  Women have been the backbones of so many churches because men do not step up to the responsibilities that God has placed upon them.

If you would like to talk about this further I will be in the office sometime late next week. Have a super day.

--[Pastor Complementarian]

From Kelly Youngblood in response to  [Pastor Complementarian], October 4, 2003

[Pastor Complementarian],

I hope your surgery went well and you are feeling back to normal and that your knee is healing well. It’s hard to have our routines interrupted with illness or surgery.  Thank you for responding to my e-mail, but I was actually pretty disappointed with what you wrote. I put a lot of thought into my e-mail, and I felt like I didn’t get a very complete answer back. I do have some counter points to what you did say.

Regarding the elders picking somebody based on where one is spiritually–you said they wouldn’t just pick a male. But the truth is that they would. If every woman at [name of church] was ahead of every male spiritually, they still would pick the males. That seems to be the deciding factor. The qualifications would not be looked at if a woman wanted to be an elder. You said: “ find it odd that God would set men to be the spiritual leader of the home but not his church. That doesn’t make any sense to me.” And “If God wanted to set up the leadership of his church with women and men I think God would have done that. The bottom
line is that he did not.”

It doesn’t make sense to me how one can ignore all the women leaders throughout the Bible.
  • Look at Miriam. Exodus 15:20 calls her a prophet.
  • Look at Deborah: she was JUDGE of Israel. The highest position at that timewent to her, not her husband. She was also a prophet (Judges 4-5).
  • Look at Huldah. She was also a prophet (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:14-28) who spoke to King Josiah from the Lord. She is the one to pass on God’swords to him.
  • Joel 2:28 tells us that women will prophecy.
  • Luke 2:36-37 tells us about Anna, a prophet, who never left the temple and praised God and spoke to everybody about Jesus.
  • Philip’s daughters were prophets (Acts 21:9).
  • 1 Corinthians 11:5 tells us women can be prophets. Prophets are messengers of God. How is that not a leadership position?
  • Philippians 4:2-3 tells mentions Euodia and Syntyche who “have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the book of life.” Paul calls these women his coworkers. He is not distinguishing their work from his in the least; he is not setting up a hierarchy.
  • Romans 16 mentions many women, of which the following three I find notable:
  • Phoebe, a deacon, who is apparently in charge as Paul tells the Romans to help her in whatever she may require (v. 2)
  • Prisca a/k/a Priscilla. Her name is almost always mentioned before her husband Aquila’s, connoting that Paul saw her as more of a leader/teacher than Aquila. Paul states that she “worked with [him] in Christ Jesus” (v.3). Again, worked with him, not for him, and he is not in any way making it seem as if she was less of a leader than himself.
  • Junia, who Paul says one “prominent among the apostles” (v. 7).
1 Corinthians 14:34 states that women should be silent in the churches. Well, they certainly aren’t silent. I have seen women at [name of church removed] sing, make announcements, etc.  That’s not being silent. But of course we don’t take that literally. Yet some do apparently interpret it as women shouldn’t be in a leadership position. But it doesn’t say that.

One of your reasons was that God didn’t set it up that way. Well, the above examples do show women’s leadership. Not only that, but one cannot run things in a certain way because God didn’t do something. God didn’t get rid of slavery; slaves are mentioned in many places in the Bible. God didn’t set up the Sabbath on a Sunday, yet that’s when we worship. In fact, He set it up on Saturday. God didn’t set up big screens to view music on, yet we do that. God didn’t set up non-Jews as the first leaders of the church. Yet the church today is composed mainly of non-Jews. That means most pastors would be out of a job if they went by what God didn’t do.

It is very important to be aware of the culture and climate of the times when Paul wrote his letters. We have to understand what it meant then before w can understand what it means now. If not, we can get very confused. I recently read a cute story about a schoolteacher from England was going on a trip to Germany (prior to indoor plumbing). She wrote a letter inquiring if there was a WC, which means water closet, or bathroom, as we would say. The response she got told all about the WC, which was located nine miles away in a grove of pine trees. She was told many people went there in the summer months and there were even weddings there. It goes on and on describing the WC. The gentleman who wrote the letter back to her didn’t know English well, and he had deduced that WC stood for Wayside Chapel.

Furthermore, Jesus didn’t treat women as people would have expected. He treated them better. Look at Martha’s sister Mary. He didn’t make her go do “women’s work” in kitchen, but rather let her stay and learn. Or his many healings of women. Or his acceptance of women such as the one who was about to be stoned. He didn’t treat the men and women differently. He showed love to all. Jesus didn’t lay the guidelines for how the church would be run. Paul did. It doesn’t make Paul’s letters any less valuable, but we must take them in context. We need to know who he was writing to and why. What problems were they facing? What questions did they have? How Paul answered their questions isn’t necessarily how the questions should be answered today. Things change. People change. If everything was all set and answered, why do we need the Holy Spirit for guidance?

I am not trying to be difficult, but I am challenging you to look at this with a different perspective.


Response from  [Pastor Complementarian] to Kelly Youngblood October 4, 2003

Thanks for the perspective. It gives me a lot to think about. Have a super night!

[Pastor Complementarian]

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Worth Reading Wednesday

This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week:  One in Christ:  A Week of Mutuality.

#Mutuality2012 participants' posts

Hold Your Fire:  How to Raise Up Women Leaders by Jennie Allen on
"We are passionately dreaming behind closed doors. But we are all terrified to stand up and lead. We are afraid of being hated and equally afraid of being liked and followed, and we are trying to stay in love with Jesus enough to do it anyway."

The entire "Women in Ministry Series" on Ed Cyzewski's blog, In a Mirror Dimly.

Google results for "Women in Leadership"

Women's Service in the Church:  The Biblical Basis by N.T. Wright

Good News for Women by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership edited by Alan F. Johnson

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A Wife, a Mom, and So Much More

This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week:  One in Christ:  A Week of Mutuality.

In yesterday's post, I wrote about the book I am currently reading, How I Changed my Mind About Women in Leadership, edited by Alan F. Johnson.  I quoted from a few of the authors, but today I want to concentrate on the story of one couple, Bill and Lynne Hybels.  While I have enjoyed reading about these journeys, none of them touched me the way that Lynne Hybels' story did.

Lynne's story is that of reluctant leadership, as she said that she "had never wanted to lead or teach" and was "happy to give up a career in social work to become a pastor's wife" (page 110).

While I have always believed women can be leaders, I never really thought of myself as one.  I am an oldest child so of course I am bossy, but in certain situations, I tend to sit back and not say what I thought so as not to cause dissent or controversy.  The first time I taught a high school Sunday school class, I was terrified.  But more and more opportunities came my way over the years, whether it was teaching Sunday school, leading Bible studies, or speaking in chapel, and I grew to love doing them--but I still never really considered myself a leader.  Leadership was something my husband was interested in; he read books about it, he listened to and thought about what great sports leaders had to say, he put these things into practice in his career.

I thought it was boring.  And when my pastor/boss had me attend a leadership conference via simulcast, I still thought it was boring--and not for me.  Even though I was taking seminary classes, I still did not see myself as a leader.  And when he gave me a book on leadership, I still thought it was boring...but not as much this time.

Then we moved, and I took a part-time secretarial type job at the same college where my husband was working.  The woman I worked for was energetic and outgoing; she was the type of woman I could see as a leader.  As an introvert, I didn't see myself being able to be the type of leader that she was.  It was also during this time that I had my first opportunity to speak in a chapel service.  I was terrified, but when I was done, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed it.

But then I had my first son and became a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  This was what my husband and I had always decided that we would do (and, frankly, I was really tired of secretarial work!).  We have moved multiple times for his career and I do not regret any of that, and some fantastic opportunities have come my way through this method of living life.  I have always wanted to be a supportive wife, and even though I grumble at times, I love being home with my kids.  I am not interested in paying anyone else to raise them (and please, let's not get any mommy wars going; I support women who choose to work full time as well; it is not up to me to tell anyone else how to run her life!) because I want to be the one who is there for them the majority of the time.

After a while, though, the mommy gig got to be kind of boring.  As much as I loved being with my son, I felt a little stifled.  Plus, I stink at housework and being home all the time just reminded me about that.  I joined a local MOPS group to get to know other moms and the refrain I heard over and over again was that MOPS was the best time of the month for these women because they got have conversations with grown-ups (even if we were talking about our children!).  I agreed that it was great to get out of the house and have my son in the nursery for a couple of hours.   It still wasn't enough for me, though, and I then joined the Steering Team as Publicity Coordinator.  I was able to use my writing skills and interest in publication design to create our monthly newsletters, and I loved it.  I was doing something that I was good at outside of being a wife and a mother.

In Lynne Hybels' story, she wrote that her life "became focused on household chores, secretarial tasks, administrative details, and entertaining.  For some women, that would have been a dream life.  But I increasingly found myself hating life.  And I really didn't know why.  I concluded that I was just a selfish, demanding person who was not willing to do what God had asked me to do."  (page 110).

I think Lynne read my mind.

She also wrote, "I gradually slid into believing that my life couldn't possibly matter as much as [Bill's] did.  What was important was to keep Bill going, to make his life manageable, and to facilitate his ministry.  Bill didn't ask for that, but it's what I perceived as right."  (page 111)

Read my mind again, didn't you, Lynne?

She goes on to say "I want to clarify something here.  It wasn't that I wanted a full-time career or ministry outside the home.  I celebrate women who are able to do that, but with Bill's work and travel schedule, even in a best-case scenario, that wouldn't have been realistic for us--and that was truly okay with me.  However, I couldn't shake the longing I had to discover and use my true gifts in some way."  (page 111).

I think Lynne and I must be some sort of psychic twins.

When my son was around 2 years old, I was able to go back to work a few hours per week in a volunteer capacity at the same college where I'd previously worked, only this time, in the campus ministry department. Around this time, I also became pregnant with my second son and planned to stop volunteering shortly before he was due to be born.  For reasons that would take too long to explain, when my second son was about 7 months old, I ended up back in my volunteer job, only this time it was a paid position.  I was paid to work 10 hours per week, so I went in to the office 2-3 mornings per week to plan and lead chapel services (among other things) while my older son was at preschool and I had a babysitter for my younger son.

I loved this.  I was discovering and using my gifts and I felt alive.  

Even though I now have experience being in a leadership position, I still hesitate to call myself a leader (don't ask me why; maybe I need to see a psychiatrist or something) even though I obviously have been one!  It is not because of my gender; I don't think being a woman means one cannot be a leader.  Even moms who are content and happy staying at home are leaders in their homes.

But if you are not content with what you are doing--whatever it may be--understand what Lynne Hybels came to understand.  There may be so much more out there for you to accomplish.  Seek God and his calling upon your life to use the gifts that He has given you.  Lynne writes that she "didn't value what [she] had to offer enough to actually offer it" (page 113).  Don't let that be you.  You are valuable.  You are worthy.  You are LOVED by your Creator.  Be all that He has created you to be.

You can do all things through him who strengthens you.  --Philippians 4:13 (slightly paraphrased)

Monday, June 04, 2012

How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership

This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week:  One in Christ:  A Week of Mutuality.

I'm currently reading How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, edited by Alan F. Johnson.  Instead of my usual speed-reading through books, I'm taking in the words slowly, savoring the stories that these evangelical women and men tell about the experiences that helped to change their minds from believing that women should not be leaders to believing that women should be leaders.  Although I have always believed it was fine for women to be leaders, there was a time when I had some doubt because I attended a church for a while in which it was not fine.  I wrote a little bit about it here, and there will be more to come about it this week.

While at the time of writing this post I have only read about one-third of the stories in the book, they offer hope to my heart that people will continue to change their minds and recognize and affirm that the gifts God bestows on people are not based on gender.  For many of these authors, it was a long journey fraught with soul-searching, prayer, and a deep desire to be faithful to both scripture and to God.

In the foreword of the book, Dallas Willard writes "those gifted by God for any ministry should serve in the capacities enabled by their gift, and human arrangements should facilitate their service and provide them the opportunities to serve.  There is no suggestion whatsoever in Scripture or the history of Christ's people that the gifts of the Spirit are distributed along gender lines...You have to put the fact that, in discussing the distribution and ministry of gifts by the Spirit, nothing is said about gender, alongside the fact that many men who manifestly are not supernaturally gifted are allowed to serve in official roles.  Then you realize that official leadership roles, as widely understood now, are as much human artifacts as they are a divine arrangement."  (pages 10-11).

The stories in this book express the struggles people had with scripture.  How could women not be leaders, and yet belong to a priesthood of all believers?  How could it be acknowledged that the verses about slavery were cultural, yet the verses about women leaders were not?  How could Christ be a liberator, but not when it comes to women?  What is headship and submission all about?  What is the big picture?

In Stanley N. Gundry's story, he writes that many hierarchicalists cannot actually decide on what women can and cannot do and under what circumstances.  He says "the only thing that hierarchicalists agree on is that it is the men who get to tell women what they can do"  (page 100).  He also writes that before the fall, Adam and Eve were full partners, and it is only after the fall that "it morphed from one of equality and complementarity to one of male dominination and patriarchy."  (page 102).  Imagine that.  The way that many would have us structure our lives is a way that is affected by sin.

I appreciate that the men and women who tell their stories in this book do so with honesty about their struggles with the issue.  Often, when we take a position, it is easy to just say what we think without explaining how we got there or to take a position on an issue before we have truly struggled with it.  But it is in the progression of our journeys that our lives are transformed.

And isn't transformation of our lives what Christianity is about?