I think I’ve got March Madness!

I think I’ve got March madness, and it isn’t about basketball.

It’s been such a strange week already.  I feel exhausted and I can’t identify exactly why.  It cannot simply be the time loss or the season changing.  It’s March and so for Wisconsin that means lots of sunshine.  Lots of slush.  There is an anticipation in the air but there is still snow on the ground.   I went for a walk earlier today in shorts and snow boots!

The highs and lows of late are stunning and I do not mean the weather.  It’s international woman’s week and I was going to write about that.  Perhaps I still will.  I’ve stopped and started several posts.  Taken lots of photographs.  Thought, prayed and dreamed about the future.

Here are few things I’ve been thinking about — being an artist & a Christian, politics in Madison, Rob Bell and what that has to do with the future of women in ministry in the evangelical church, my baby turning ten, and getting a job.  And lent.

Artist Showcase @ Blackhawk

Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed participating in a showcase of artists at our church. We, along with more than fifty other artists,  expressed how we love and are loved in the context of the community of Blackhawk Church and beyond into our Madison community.  It was so rich with the many expressions of God at work in people’s lives in song, spoken word and visual art including a dance!  It was a very powerful time for me.  I’m glad artists have a platform in the body of Christ for their gifts to be used.   I think many times artists do not know exactly what our place in the church is or might be.

by Kortney Kaiser

Politics in Madison

The whole political shenanigans in Wisconsin is exhausting.  So many folk are pitted against one another, the national media is saying strange and untruthful things.  The demonstrations have been peaceful while the rhetoric is grinding and vitriolic.  It’s troubling.  Hard to know how to be loving in the midst of what feels like grave injustice and oppression of the poor.  I have a lot of images here.

I want to lead a book group at my church for people interested reading and talking about women’s roles in ministry, but I was turned down.

I understand.  How can you read books about women in ministry without it becoming theological?  And well, as I don’t speak for my church and this isn’t something they want to get into “right now.”  So therefore, I can’t do the group.   I was choosing the wrong format for what I wanted to do anyway which though Tom says is “nurture a small revolution” that is not completely true.  Yes and no.  But yes, kind of.

So Iwill keep praying about how to move the titanic of conservative belief along.

I’ve started to think there’s little hope for women to preach, teach and lead within evangelical church denominations.

This last week it was as I learned about the controversy with Rob Bell. If you don’t know about him, and I didn’t until a few months ago, he’s what the New York Times calls “one of the country’s most influential evangelical pastors” and he comes highly recommended by a few people in my church.  He pastors Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., with 10,000 members.  If he sounds like a Christian celebrity, it’s because he is.  I watched him online.  He is a hipster with groovy dark glasses and a lanky look.  They say hundreds of thousands follow him online.

Anyway. Bell’s new book, Love Wins, looks at the doctrines of salvation, heaven and hell.  He may have said something about Gandhi and hell inferring that a loving God wouldn’t send Gandhi to hell, or something.  Prominent Christians that you would know by name have denounced him with the double criticism of universalist and unbiblical. Here’s the crazy part — no one had read the book.  It came out on Monday.   And yet conservative authorities like John Piper, wrote, “Farewell Rob Bell.” on Twitter.

As one blogger said:

“These knee-jerk reactions, at least to my mind, are unhelpful and reveal just how narrow many people’s understanding of Christianity really is. It is amazing to me that people will hold so tenaciously to their own particular Christian tradition of understanding that when they encounter ideas that fall outside it they are viewed as non-Christian or threatening. The truth is that Christian “tradition” is a much wider river than many people are willing to acknowledge they are swimming in.”  (Emphasis mine.)

There are so many variety of Christians.  I know, the word of God says what it does.  But we all read it within a context, coming from different cultures and well, he goes on.

Are you a mystic?  Try reading John’s gospel, the book of Ephesians, Julian of Norwich,  Meister Eckhart or Bernard of Clairvaux’s commentary on the Song of Solomon.  Are you concerned with social justice?  Try Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Luke’s gospel, John Chrysostom, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Theresa.  Do you have a penchant for ritual and structure? Look at the book of Hebrews, the Didache, the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, and large portions of the Orthodox and Catholic traditions.  Are you philosophically minded?  So were Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas, and Alvin Plantinga (to name a few).  Do you have existentialist leanings?  Try Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky and maybe even Augustine.  Do you struggle with the concept of hell?  So did the early Christian writers Origen and Evagrius (among others up to the present).  Are you a pacifist?  So was Menno Simons…and Jesus.  All of these writers and thinkers considered themselves Christians. All of them were “biblical” insofar as they read the Bible and used it as the foundation for their theology, philosophy and lives. All of them came to different conclusions on many issues.”

Okay Jesus and Paul didn’t read the Bible, but the greater point I’ve thought is, if a Christian celebrity and pastor, clear leader of a new generation of believers, can’t express his thoughts on a controversial topic without being branded unbiblical, what hope is there for women?

For Christian feminist thinkers.  For theologins who are outside the mainstream? Who is speaking, teaching, studying, influencing, changing minds about women in such a way that mainstream evangelicalism responds?  Just wondering.

If you wonder what I’m talking about?  See this from John Piper on women.  It’s stunning in its subtlety about the role of women in the church.

I applied for a job today.

And after ten years out of the workplace that’s revolutionary on many levels no matter if I get it or not.   It is with a Christian organization so I was asked to share my faith journey and this is what I wrote.

“My parents were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and later with InterVarsity.  As Christ followers they raised me with Christian values and as much as I understood it, I committed my life to Christ in high school and was baptized.   In my twenties and thirties I was doing and serving – willingly and happily – but it was not until my forties that I faced that I had not received God’s grace fully nor allowed it to transform me.

This may be because my home life was extremely dysfunctional with a rigid, angry, controlling father.  A series of things converged including hard work in therapy, my father dying, leaving full-time ministry and the recovery work of alcohol addiction.  Over a period of ten years God pried open my heart and began to teach me about his incredible life altering grace.  It was through these experiences, as difficult and mortifying as they were, that I have come to recognize that I had to face my disappointment with my parents — and forgive.  Gratefully, I can say that all of this, including the addiction to alcohol drove me to my knees, to the cross.  At one time, I was puffed up with my own importance but through this learned and gained a real understanding Christ’s broken body.

I believe we must trust while serving, not knowing the future.  Trust that we have a contribution to make.  Today I am grateful and full of hope that I am becoming a person useful to God again.  I am humbled by how my story and my experiences sometimes minister to others, as I am willing to be open.

Today, my faith is grounded in the grace of God.  I do have daily disciplines of study, prayer, and constant seeking, but I rest in the knowledge of Jesus and what he did for me — Yes giving his life so that I may also live.  I am no longer a slave to doing, but rather serve out of joy and passion for telling others what Christ has done for me.

Moving into the Lenten season it is good to remember what’s truly important.  What was it again?  Kidding.  Read the prayer I sent out a few days ago.  That’ll prioritize your heart, and mine.

Other things in March.  My baby turned ten. 

A few misc. images from March.


Be well,

Melody

“Your words were found and I ate them,
And your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”

Jeremiah 15:16

Kathleen Falsani in the Huff Post on Rob Bell.

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