Free To Love One Another or Afraid to be Free?

“if you loved me you’d let me die…”

I went with a reluctant, heavy expectation to the Maundy Thursday service. My child’s words ringing in my ears. 

My need was great.

It hit me, sitting there.  I was in the middle of the Community of God, but felt utterly alone.  And it was all my fault. For I have built up these mammoth walls around myself, so high that I sat there,

Alone, Weeping in the middle of the Community of Believers.  Some in the crowd of hundreds I know, though most were strangers, I had no idea where my friends were sitting.  I sat alone.

I fled as they began the Eucharist.  I was still in the pain of just moments ago, dealing again with the rivers of sorrow carved into my soul over the last year, it was all catching up with me.

How difficult it has been, and that raw emotion was sitting close, heavy, the madness of my child’s mental health situation, an invisible dagger in a wound that I walk around with these days.

Then suddenly Old Regrets began replaying, again and again in my head—my sin and guilt, my humiliation. I have made so many mistakes.

Even after almost five years of sobriety I still haven’t forgiven myself for becoming a drunk in the first place. I am

clearly not willing to receive the freedom of grace and forgiveness for being sober today. That would take a level of courage and humility that I don’t have, at least not yet.

I am clearly still unwilling to admit how little control I have over my life’s circumstances. Sitting there, facing the courageous, loving sacrifice of Jesus, I couldn’t bear it. I fled.

I sat down in the darkened hallway entrance in-between the lobby and the sanctuary  hiding from the Holy One, now I was really crying and embarrassed at my lack of composure.  When just as suddenly it occurred to me – Jesus experienced every human pain—even mine, even my child’s.  (And much much worse.)

And I cannot run from Jesus because no matter how far I flee, he’s there beside me in this moment of anguish.

I have learned.

Listening to your places of pain as a believer in Christ is both mystical and sacred—attending to the Soul’s Ache. It cultivates the depth of understanding that can only come when we slow down and feel.  Although last night I was running away, in general  lately, I’ve been listening hard, in good ways  … And what I hear, finally has been a discovery seen through my photographs …

for a long time I’ve been on the inside looking out at life.


This has built up an inner turmoil that requires sorting and reconciling and answering this question: Where does all my fear come from?

I’m not petty but I get insecure,  Still, I feel sincere joy at others’ success, and friendships, and connections.

All my life, I have felt alone.

I just don’t think I deserve that sort of thing: a Community who is Free To Love One Another; it’s too beautiful, too holy, and too wonderful to experience the hospitality and community of people. It’s a blessing I’ve never felt worthy of, and I have my bag full of excuses and reasons: I’m too broken and useless, unwanted, undesirable, and therefore, I deserve to be alone.

Even here.  Even now in this Holy Place on Maundy Thursday with hundreds of people around.

And worst of all, I cannot sort out if I made this happen, this Place of Lonesomeness.  But I think I did.

Henri Nouwen expressed so often in his writing and often lamenting:

Even as we need solitude—I know I crave it, seek it, relish it, because it is where I listen for the Spirit and learn—when I finally poke my head back up into the world (go on Facebook or something) I realize that the world went on and people have enjoyed one another  suddenly I feel rejected.  And Alone. And the heartache and feelings of rejection that come are unbearable at times.

Sitting there last night physically alone but in the presence of hundreds of Christ followers, knowing the Saints of Old are there too, with Jesus, surrounding us.

—I laid the last six months down.  Months of being wrapped up in caring for both a sick child and my aging mother. Months of fear over lack of solutions.  Still knowing we don’t have them.

— I laid down my recurring depression which feels like my personal screw-up, a failure I cannot conquer.

— I laid down the isolation and loneliness that comes from shame and fear of rejection by others.

—I remembered all the good people that have reached out to us, asked how they can help and faced my confusion over not knowing what to say.  How many times I said, “thank you but no, we’re managing.”

—I accepted that I don’t know how to receive from others, whether it is because I don’t feel like I deserve it I wonder?  That just might be true.

Jesus’ mandate of Maundy Thursday is a challenge to us to love as we have been loved BY HIM.  Last night, shattered and broken, flooded with all my regrets, I just sat by him and knew, I don’t have to have the answers.

I don’t know how to let people love me.

In Hebrews it says, along with Faith, one must believe that God rewards those who seek him.  (11:4-6).

I’ve had enough looking out of windows, watching others live joyfully and only dreaming of entering into Community while refusing to risk, fearful of the messiness and imperfections of humans.

Jesus said: Love one another ya’ll!  That is so hard to do when you’re on the inside looking out.  When you’re so afraid of being hurt that you continuously push people away.

I heard him, there, Jesus said to me:  

Stop turning away. Love as you are loved, enter into hospitality, healing, wholeness and love—this sort of devotion is made up of my compassion and hope!  There’s no fear when you are abiding in me.

If we allow it, the power of fear dominate us.  What others think of us, fear of failure, fear of intimacy, fear of God, fear of ourselves and what we might actually do for him, even  fear of success.

As Nouwen said, “All our thoughts and actions proceed from a hidden wellspring of fear … but we were loved, before we were born we were declared BELOVED, and that should make us Unafraid.”  

We can walk through the world Free To Love One Another.

—May it be so, friends, I pray.

{Enough, Continued …}

Part One of processing the book Enough is here.

I read the book “Enough” by Will Davis Jr and wrote my review.  I kinda thought that would be the end of it.  Lesson learned – my More Than Enough, my Plenty, my Abundance can be or IS someone else’s Enough. Such a neat  idea in theory, but what that means in a daily way didn’t fully sink in – not at all.

That book is messing with me!

I read in Enough” that we are to be giving our ten percent to the church, but in reality for us we’re giving about five percent to our church and about one percent to other organizations.

I cannot stop thinking about that principle that is all over scripture.  What will it mean this month to give ten percent off the top, at the beginning before we pay our bills, and sort out how to live afterwards? These are things that we don’t really want to think about or do.

I woke up this morning thinking about this again, that we’re instructed in scripture to give ten percent and we’re to trust God to provide for our daily manna.

That means honestly taking a look at how we spend our money, where does it all go in a month? Many times for us it is frittered away on more video games, and frozen yoghurt, and iced coffees for the kids; on the conveniences of modern life, like dry cleaning and lawn care and mobile phones and eating out a few times.  For me, on buying books and not requesting them from the library.

What does it mean to take a cold hard look at our monthly spending and at the beginning give to God off of the top and then sort out the rest?

The first thing I remember from the book is that Davis suggested we look about our home for all the things we haven’t used or worn in the last year.  That job, to clear our home of these things so that they might possible become someone else’s Enough, is the task for this week. (Even though, I REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO IT! I’m so lazy.)  We’re going to photograph all the things we don’t need and use, things that are just taking up space in our basement and garage, and give them away.  The task just as it stands is a daunting one and today with the sun shining and a long  empty day looming ahead, what I really want to do is hang out by the lake or something, anything but go through our stuff.  But I think this act of obedience is the thing that needs to be accomplished, today.

Davis spoke of slowing down, listening and being open to God speaking

Yesterday, I found out someone I know is sending their kid to a Shakespeare away camp.  (It feels like everyone sends their kids to summer camp away, except us.) And another person is sending their kids to Grandma and Grandpa for the duration of the summer.  When I heard that I felt envy and anger that we haven’t take our kids on a vacation in several years; although it is out of an act of obedience, where we decided we would never again live on credit.  That was a baby step of financially growing up, that we took a few years ago.  This means we don’t travel if we don’t have the cash the bank.  Yes, I wish to be able to take the kids to visit Grandma and Grandpa, that but for now this is not possible.  We have a child in college and we have many other obligations.

As I woke this morning I was angry and to be honest kind of thought I was mad at God.  Then I realized that we’re just being smart.  We save for retirement, we live within our means, we give (like I said not ten percent yet) and we try to respond to needs as they come before us.  Right now there is no margin for vacations.

It’s not God that is to blame for an unsustainable American Dream.

And if I feel angry that we don’t have Enough to go on a vacation with our kids this summer, I should focus that emotion toward clearing out of the house our More Than Enough so that others can be blessed.


A part of the Patheos Book Club on the book “ENOUGH: Finding More By Living with Less” by Will Davis Jr.

{Tonight I Sat and Traveled Halfway Around the Globe}

Tonight I sat with friends and together we traveled
half way around the globe.  We watched
with awe, and respect and for me no small amount of envy
to be totally honest images of another world in Kenya.

I tasted the grit
in the air from the coal burning fires.  I felt, and saw the sorrow
and anguish in the hearts and eyes of women who have been thrown out, for having HIV/AIDS.  Saw a deep sadness that I have never known. Never.

I saw it and just for a moment felt
pain.  I heard the goats bleating, the children running barefoot
in the dirt, saw their wondrous angelic smiles.
I was there. Tonight

I sat with friends and travelled halfway around the globe and then I came home
to my air conditioning, my working fridge, a room for each child
and more.  Stuffed with a great meal,
I sit here with awe, respect and no small amount of envy

And wonder what’s next?  How am I to respond?
I am a doer.  Is it just that I like change?  I am used to going places, making things happen and
I want to make a difference.  What’s next?
I can’t help but wonder.

{Above all Love One Another: A confession on being an LGBTQ Ally & a Christian}

unless we’re all free, none of us are free.

Kathy Escobar  a pastor and writer, challenged me with these words on her blog this week:

“i’m a nut case for equality.  you hear me talking a lot about gender equality but that’s just because it’s a critical starting place.  when half of the population of the world is thought of as “less than”, we’re in serious trouble.  in a church that is supposed to be the free-est, most liberating place in town, we’re in even deeper trouble.  christians should be leading the way on equality in absolutely every area, yet we all know that on the whole, we are lagging behind, stuck in white privilege & imbalanced power & segregation and all kinds of things that are not reflective of the kingdom of God Jesus called us to create.

equality isn’t just about gender. it crosses into race, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and any other ways we are divided that strip people’s dignity.

… what will change things is when we begin to vote with our feet (and in ballot boxes) and refuse to be part of churches & systems & groups that oppress.  Period.  they aren’t going to get our money or our time or absolutely-anything-anymore and i don’t care how good their music, teaching, or kids program is.”

I read these words and wanted to cry…

I felt very confused. Kathy says to simply rant and rage on Facebook is not accomplishing anything.  That hit me like a bulls-eye. What she is challenging Christians to do is hard. 

I’m with her in my heart and in theory, in my friendships, my daily practices, my Facebook statuses and as an ally.  But not with my feet, with my church membership.  Do I really need to leave my church? I love my church.

I was driving along listening to our brave President …

That beautiful speech about the fact that people ought to be able to get married, any two people in America, my heart  was gushing and pulsing with pleasure and pride and hope.

Then I remembered and wondered …

  • Do I speak freely about supporting the LGBTQ community because I don’t work for anyone except myself?
  • Two of my children have chosen against Christianity, because the church seems in their estimation to “hate LGBTQ people.”
  • My church, which is a beautiful, amazing, loving Jesus community, came out a few years ago that they believe the LGBTQ lifestyle was a sin.

I don’t know what to do about any of those things. I volunteer and advocate.  I love on my kids and try to dialogue with them.  I still attend my church.  I sat and wriggled in discomfort listening to that sermon (I have the link to it below) in person two years ago, and this morning as I listened to it again.

My heart is so heavy.  And at the same time light with the knowledge of what Jesus’ death on the cross means to me.  I have life, abundant life, because Jesus took my sins upon himself.  

I know this, I’m as sinful as anyone.

My kids say “Christians hate gays.”  My lesbian and gay friends say that most Christians act like they hate them.  My lesbian friend asks me if she would be welcome at my church?

Christians hate gays.

Christians hate gays.

Do Christians hate gays?

I don’t, but are my choices, my actions, my feet, making that clear? I don’t write that three times to be callous or uncaring, but to let it sink in what’s really going on in my daughter’s mind and heart. And my friends.  And your friends and family who may or may not have come out to you.

We attend a fairly middle of the road evangelical church.  

Though they’re not open to women being elders, they are open to women doing everything else, I think.  (Don’t ask me to defend that point, because I don’t want to.  They read Titus, I suppose overlooking “An elder must be blameless” because of course no one is in fact blameless.  And they see “husband of one wife” as a prescription for the job of Elder.)  I say this only to point out the fact that although “middle of the road evangelical” they are not totally conservative theologically.

Tangent! Rabbit trail.

Back to Christians hating “homosexuals.”

The fact is that sexual temptation happens to everyone, but the evangelical Church rejects anyone who admits to same sex temptations.  With the Gay Marriage Amendment and the President talking about the right of anyone to be married the traditional evangelicals are a bit up in arms.

My church did a sermon a few years ago on Romans 1:21-2:4. titled: What about the Gay and Lesbian Community? Chris Dolson, Senior Pastor, Part 4 of the Rotten Tomatoes series. (Watch or listen here.)

We all have opinions on the subject.

In fact, I have more questions than opinions.

Earlier this year, in youth group my daughter listened to a discussion on the topic of relationships and sex, and they never acknowledged that young people may be dealing with the questions of sexual orientation.   This upset her and made her feel angry and she hurt over the friends she knew in the group who are out, who are gay.

From the sermon, here’s what my pastor said, me paraphrasing:

The only sexual expression affirmed in the bible is between and man and a woman in marriage.  All the others are wrong. The choice is marriage or chastity because that is the “way God intended things to happen.  All others are prohibited. This is a traditional view of sexuality.”

And this is the position of my church.

In fact there are only a handful of verses in the Bible – on sexual sin.   Leviticus 18:22; Romans 6:26 and 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which mentions homosexuality along with all kinds of other sins (including drunkenness, which I have been regularly guilty of. More about my alcoholism.)

To my pastor it’s clear but to my kids and many others, this position is a club we beat up on LGBTQ people and condemn them as if Christians think gay and lesbians are sinful and we, “Christians” have no sin.

I am reading the Jesus Creed for Students by Scot McKnight . I know I’m not the intended demographic. I’m reading it because my child is rejecting my church and rejecting my faith traditions, and perhaps will even reject the Christian faith completely.  I want to offer her more.  I heard this book is excellent so I am reading it with that in mind.

And it challenges us all to the main thing of the Story of the Bible.

It’s true, won’t you agree, that sexual expression is not the focus of the Story of Jesus Christ and in fact Jesus never talked about sexual orientation or choices.   When asked what the most important commands (there were more than 600 commands in the Old Testament) Jesus said this:

Here O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, 

With all your soul,

With all your mind,

And with all your strength.

The Second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. 

There is no commandment greater than these.  (From Mark 12:29-31)

And in the Gospel of Luke there is a slightly different version, Jesus lists four types of people who were blessed:  “The poor. The hungry. The weeping. The persecuted.”

I cannot think of a more persecuted community in America than the LGBTQ community.

“If sin was blue we’d all be colored with blue.  Our minds, our actions, we’re all messed up.“ — Chris Dolson, my pastor.

We’re all “covered in blue.”

And I come back to this from 1 Corinthians 13: The Way of Love (from The Message)

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

There is much I do not know.  There is much that I do not understand.

But it could not be clearer that we are to love, love, and love. Above all love.

We should be known for our love.

Today, as I sit here, I am acknowledging that if sin were blue I’d be covered in blue.  And Jesus forgives me, and says to me, to us all — How do you love one another?  In real life.

“unless we’re all free, none of us are free.”

Galatians 5:13-15 says:  “for you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “love your neighbor as yourself.” but if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”

I don’t have all the answers — I am torn between certain things and the uncertain and unknowable.   But I do know this, we were told the greatest commandment of all was:

Love one another.

Love one another.

Love one another.

And if we don’t, shame on us.  Beware of destroying one another indeed.

Truthfully I am not much of an ally to the LGBTQ community.  For all my intentions, mostly I’m just a woman with a big lens and a heart.  Taking photographs with love is about all I do.  But it is what I do.   And I love it.


These are just a sampling of some of the kind and generous, big-hearted beautiful folk I’ve been able to meet and phototograph over the years for Our Lives Magazine.

It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness. — Paul Strand, American Photographer

“Photography is truth.”- Jean-Luc Godard

Why Stay in the Church? (Here’s Why I thank God for Mine.) UPDATED

God has many that the church does not have, and the church has many that God does not have.  ~ Augustine


Even though it is totally embarrassing to be labeled an “evangelical” Christian today, mostly because of the politicization of organized religion and because there are so many crazies on the religious right.  (I know.  I’m not helping by saying that.)

But seriously, it’s plain  mortifying to be considered “evangelical” most days especially if you turn on cable television whether it’s MSNBC or Fox “news.”

Still I have been attending mine for more than ten years and have good reasons to stay at my evangelical church.

Sojourners Magazine does a good job of describing the type of evangelical Christian that I consider myself to be.  I care about racial and social justice, the environment, human rights, having a consistent life ethic and trying to be a peacemaker.  I do not always succeed.

The truth is there is no perfect church.

But I think there is an ignorance and arrogance to think that  you do not need a church home.

I’ve already written once at least, that I can remember, about what I love about my church.  It’s here, titled I Like My Church.  They Don’t Tell Me What to Think.  But Rachel Held Evans the author of Evolving in Monkeytown  is discussing why she left the church and why she has returned.  In  a response to this, I replied. I’ve expanded it here.

Why I stay in church?

These are not in any order but how they toppled out of my brain.


  1. A significant reason that I stay at my church (even though it has grown into a mega-church since we’ve been there) is because they don’t take sides on political issues.  They teach what the Bible says and they intentionally stay away from hot “issues.”  This shows great maturity and wisdom, in my opinion.
  2. I also stay at my church because although they are more conservative on women than I would like, they love and accept me as I am. (If you are regular reader of my blog, you know that I can be a sometimes ranting, sometimes angry and frustrated, and sometimes hurt feminist, a misfit in the evangelical church.)  I stay because I believe as I grow into God’s grace, I may be heard since the message isn’t mine, but the truth of Jesus.  I stay because although the “church govt. structures (being a part of a denomination)” haven’t caught up with their beliefs, what they are practicing is an affirmation of women fully using their gifts and abilities and serving out of those God given gifts, almost.
  3. I stay because there are people in my church that are spiritually alive and actively living out their faith, who love Jesus and express that through loving one another, in order to reach our community.  I see it every day.  It is beautiful.  It’s radical.  It is only from God.
  4.  I stay because of the community that I have found within a smaller group which buoys my faith, prays for one another, serves our community together, confesses sin and accepts one another quite unconditionally.
  5.  I stay because they have a solid biblical hermeneutic, one that I can believe in.  They don’t read the Bible literally, thank God!
  6. They encourage questions and regularly say that there are varied perspectives and interpretations.  Amen!
  7. Their position on science, faith and creation which fits under number five, but is important enough to me to be it’s own reason. (I’ve listed some links to talks below.)
  8. I stay because through the study of scripture, through learning in community, through developing a life of devotion I am being transformed.  I am not the same person.


Everything I write about the spiritual life here on my blog, and I do all the time, it is because of what I am learning, how I am being challenged to grow and develop, because of these things.

This is why, I regularly thank God for my church even though there is no perfect church including mine.  Why are you at your church? Or why not?

Why I am Afraid to Read the (entire) Bible

Here’s the honest and mortifying truth.

I have never read the entire Bible, whole.  I have studied various books at length, sometimes on my own but more often with a group of others.  But I have never opened the whole of the great book of God’s WORD, Old and New Testaments, and soaked it in as a grand story.  Of course, any “sheep” knows, don’t they, that the Bible wasn’t written to us but for us.  The Bible is not a handbook of do’s and don’ts, but rather a beautiful story which we can carefully apply to our lives.  And if we fear what it says, if we are unwilling to challenge and question it, we deserve to be ignorant fools (like I have been.)

I have never put my full attention, put my full brain, toward the Bible.  I have been afraid of reading the entire thing and these are my reasons.

I am afraid of my own ignorance.  I don’t know what I don’t know.  If I don’t know then I can continue stumbling in the darkness.  At least it is a familiar place, my ignorance.  Sounds dumb when you actually write it down.  But how many of us do this in the Church?  Far too many.

I am afraid of what the Bible actually says.  For too long I have simply listened to others and accepted what the “experts” say about spiritual things without really challenging any of it.

I am a frequently boiling pot, kept simmering by the cool head of Tom, my husband.1 He often keeps me from boiling over.  It seems that he will be doing this a lot as we began reading the entire Bible in one year – a challenge from our church they are calling: Eat This Book.

So I would add another point to my list of reasons that I have never the read the Bible in its entirety.

I am afraid of how I will respond to the Bible as a woman.  We all have a worldviews and as such, we read the Bible differently. I respond as a woman.  How can I not?  And that is different from my pastors (both male) and my husband, and most of the commentary I am reading.  As a woman I have different questions.  I am afraid of what  to do with those.  How do I sort out how much of my response needs to be talked about, questioned, and challenged?

On the other hand there is a lot that excites me about finally reading the entire Bible.

I look forward to diving in.  Already Genesis has perplexed me, made me extremely angry, and left me with more questions than answers when I look at it story by story.  I want to be able to see the big picture — to soar over the parts that jump out to me as problematic and see God and hear God, asking him what he wants me to focus on.   I look forward to how this Grand Story changes my life. 

Just last week, my pastor was preaching on Gen 1-3.  He was explaining a very important idea about how we look at scripture overall, which I mentioned already, that the Bible is not written to us but for us and that much of it is metaphor and poetry.

But then he highlighted the verses about man and woman becoming one.  Now I’ll acknowledge that it is beautiful, the whole picture of marriage.  But I actually thought it would have been more important (coming from my worldview, as a woman) or at least more valuable to women, if he had taught about how we are both, male and female created in God’s image.  To emphasize and thus explain what the Hebrew word ezer  (helper) actually means. These verses being misunderstood have diminished and hurt women.  He thought the other verses were more important.  We disagreed nicely by email.

I have to admit that how we interacted mattered a great deal to me and I’m learning that this is more important to me than me being right.   I shared my thoughts with him and he heard me.  I felt heard.  And this is a form of giving someone respect.

And so I would add another point to my list of reasons why I haven’t read the Bible it it’s entirely.

I am afraid of the disagreements among Christians.  I hate the way that Christians wrangle with one another over the baggage that goes into “being theological.”  Are you on the Left or are you on the Right?  Are you conservative or liberal?  Are you a feminist?  Egalitarian or a Complementaran?  A new Creationist or …. ?  I don’t even know all the camps of disagreement and I don’t want to.

I just want to read the Bible and get a little help along the way.

If you haven’t  yet, I’d encourage you to read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight, which will help you rethink how you read the Bible.  Other resources I am finding helpful are the NIV Compact Bible Commentary and the Women’s Bible Commentary.  

The important truth is that I cannot allow my fear of my own ignorance, my fear of this faith tradition that I have followed my whole life, or my fear of disagreement keep me from the next step in my faith journey.

Being that I can be hot-headed, I just might say or do something stupid along the way.  And I would hate that but I cannot allow it to keep me silent.

A friend said to me  this week:  “I am praying that Jesus would guide you as you study His word.   May we always be in search for bringing glory to Him!”  Amen!  I suspect that I will be sharing more of this as I go along.

I wonder, have you read the entire Bible and if not, ask yourself what are you afraid of?    If we seek to follow Christ we are to live in the Bible today and every day.   The question is how?  Let us join together in our KNOWLEDGE not our ignorance.  Let us be SEEKERS together.  

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christians were known for their knowledge, agreeableness and love?

“Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant me so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen”  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

Jesus, according to John 16:13



1 Tom and I have an egalitarian or mutually submissive marriage. And I was challenged by Rachel Held Evans (she does this a lot) this week .  She asked the question of whether more people need to talk about the ways of egalitarian marriages, to give others an idea of what it’s like.  I never talk about mine.  It’s precious to me and I’d not want to ugly it by my bumbling attempts to describe it.  But I’ll be thinking about that and try to weave things into my blog as appropriate.

2 Blackhawk’s pastors have given us a challenge.  “By reading the Bible every day, our hope is that we’ll become a people who are shaped by the Scriptures – people who are marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  And they are taking it a step further by providing mini videos and teaching tools.  It’s quite good.   I am grateful to attend a church that doesn’t spoon feed, that helps the “sheep” figure some of these things out for ourselves, but also provide solid ways to learn.

The things to look for in reading Genesis are:

  1. The main plotline in the book: God’s desire to bless humanity consistently meets human stubbornness and sin, keeping a record of the words for “bless, blessing” as you read: God wants to pass on a blessing, but humans constantly thwart that blessing.
  2. Genesis 12, 15, 17 and the covenant with Abraham are the key to understanding the entire Bible: God is going to rescue the world from sin and corruption and restore blessing through his promises to Abraham.  The rest of the biblical story will focus on God’s relationship with Israel, because these are the people who bear the promise for the whole world.  Keep track of how the promises to Abraham keep getting repeated and passed on to the next generation and God works out his plan.
  3. Find your story in the characters: All of the characters in Genesis struggle with God, and we are meant to find our story in theirs: the characters wrestle with their own sin and failure, doubt and faith, selfishness and generosity as they try to follow God.  Use each character’s experience (for example, Adam and Eve’s temptation, Abraham’s struggle with doubt, Jacob’s journey from selfishness to trust in God) to find parallels with your own journey with God.
  4. God’s faithfulness: notice how many times God rescues people, or stays committed to blessing humanity. Allow Genesis to reshape your ideas of what it means for God to be faithful to you.


3 “Helper”- ezer.  Gen 2:18   According to R. David Freedman, the Hebrew word used to describe woman’s help (ezer) arises from two Hebrew roots that mean “to rescue, to save,” and “to be strong” (Archaeology Review (9 [1983]: 56–58). Ezer is found twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Of these references, fourteen are used for God and four for military rescue. Psalm 121:1–2 is an example of ezer used for God’s rescue of Israel: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Blessed, Is She? [Re-imagining Christian Feminism]


Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! Luke 1:45 NIV

Mary learned that she was to be mother of Jesus when she was only a child herself. And all of the social implications had the potential to ruin her life.  I am sure, as she was being told by the angel that this was her destiny — doubt, disbelief, and dismay all ran through her. And yet what did she say in response?  Not, “Yes, but…”  Not, “Oh no!”  Not, “Do you have any idea what this will do to my life, for that matter my reputation?!”

She did not question it or seek clarification.  She said only, “Yes.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.”  She believed.

Two thousand years later the Church is made uneasy by conversations about the role of women.  Today, if they could change it, I wonder who “the Church” would choose to be the first to know of the Savior’s coming?  Who would the Church choose to be caretaker of the babe?  

When Rachel Held Evans said recently on her blog, that she doesn’t really know what a feminist is, I was mildly surprised though I think she was kidding, kind of.  The truth is that in the Church we don’t talk about being a Christian feminist.  The words are laden with ancient history and pain, not blessing.  With the climate surrounding even the idea of feminism in the Church, it begs the question:  What do you mean when you say you are a Christian feminist?

I did not think of myself as a feminist for a very long time. Slowly I have gained confidence in my understanding of what I mean when I call myself a feminist, but my path of discovery has been bumpy. For years I did not really know what to call myself.  But it became clear that I needed some way to make it unequivocal what I believed.  If I was going to stay in my evangelical church, I had to figure out how live with myself and learn to defend my view that God meant women to fully use our gifts and talents in the Church. I needed language that was clear.

For years I asked everyone else to tell me what they believed. I wrote many letters to my pastor asking for his thoughts, ideas, book recommendations, and for suggestions of people to talk to.  My thoughts developed in a fractured way and I had a fearful and insecure tone.  Always being put off, I became concerned that I needed to adjust my attitude.  I “worked on my attitude” because I was being sent the clear message that I was wrong. I continued to study, but I just could not let go of the fact that there were no female teachers at my church and that eldership was restricted to men.  Coming out of a Presbyterian background this was a step backward in my mind.  I had been an elder at my last church.  Every time the elder nomination process started the pain — the wound was scratched open.

When I asked why there were no women teachers I was told that teachers will rise organically.  To me this was short sided and underestimated how important it is for anyone, but especially women, to be celebrated, mentored, cheered, invested and believed in with whatever gifts they have.  Women and girls are less likely to put themselves forward and rarely self-promote. And, when the church doesn’t have models of women teaching and there is thousands of years of church history one is going up “against” it is a rare person who is able to stand up say “I have a gift!”

When I wrote my elders (all men) and received a lengthy letter in reply, they said they really do agree with me.  But I needed to know how difficult it is to change things and it hasn’t been looked at in more than two decades.  I was told that the likely controversy that would arise out of changing this was more than they were prepared to address at this time.  Clearly they are afraid to talk about the issue of women, fearing it is too divisive. Did you catch that, they actually agreed that it was time that women were teachers and elders but it’s “too hard to change.”  What kind of a message is that sending?  That women and girls are not important.   

This apathy and fear will produce a whole new generation of ignorance and is another reason why we must talk and write about it.   It is gravely sad for me, as I raise my children in the church that so many men and women have no idea that there is any theological debate about the role of women in the church.  The these things are up for debate.  That there is more than one biblical perspective.  My own daughter looks at the status quo and listens to me and shrugs saying “Mom, why are you always on about women’s rights?”  Even with her own mother trying to teach her differently she thinks what she sees and experiences is the way it is supposed to be.

Leaving is not the answer.  My friends outside the evangelical church tradition just shake their heads at me asking: “Why are you still there? Come over here where you will be valued and appreciated.”   While it is true that most people at my church just don’t want to think about it and it would be easier to just leave, I don’t for two reasons.  Firstly, yes I am a feminist, but I am a Christ follower first and when my feminism rises above that in my life then I believe it is an idol for me.  Secondly, I continue to be spiritually challenged. This issue does not totally hamper my ability to learn and receive from my church. So I remain, believing that perhaps I am supposed to be there.

But there is no getting around people’s strange ideas about feminists.

Here are some of the generalizations I run in to:

  • Feminists all hate men and are angry!

That is just not true.  Let me give you an example of how hard it is.

We are studying attributes of God at church.  Commenting in a small group made up of ten to fifteen men and women that we meet with weekly, about my perceptions of God as Father, I tried to talk about the fact that my perceptions are skewed and harmed by my relationship to an angry and abusive human father.  As I stumbled over my words, trying to be as clear as possible (I really hate thinking out loud and find it challenging) and trying not offend anyone, the men in the room seemed to physically recoil, as if I was saying that I hate men.  “Do I want the men to all leave?” one of them joked.   I found myself saying “No, of course not. I don’t hate men.  I don’t, obviously, hate my husband for being a man.  I just don’t find it helpful that God is characterized as father/male when my experience with my father was so difficult.” 

I think it is absurd the pretzels we have to twist ourselves into trying to explain ourselves sometimes, because people think of all the negative generalizations about feminists.   But that is because of the lack of women willing to speak out about their experiences. And the current climate surrounding the role of women in the Church makes it hard for women who label themselves as feminists in the Church.

  •  Feminists are offended by any song or creed with male pronouns.  

I have been there. When I was first on this journey everything hurt, male pronouns especially.   Gratefully I have come to a place where male pronouns in ancient hymns no longer offend me but I do notice them, every time.  I find it unfortunate that we have to be distracted by this while worshiping God.  I don’t choose to be offended, I just notice it.

And scripture readings still give me a twinge – though I know (because I also read the inclusive translations) which of the verses are strictly and only written to men and which (most) are referring to people.

I do that extra work because it is meaningful, and crucial to me. 

  • Feminists are just out for power.

Questioning the Church’s ancient rules isn’t about power.  These are things that need to be questioned.

Based on a recent e-book written by Scot McKnight, I have concluded even more strongly that my desire to know scripture for myself is important.   “Sometimes it takes extra energy to get a silenced voice back.” Scot McKnight wrote in is riveting essay Junia is Not Alone.  “There is no evidence … in ancient manuscripts or translations” that Junia was a man.  “The church got into a rut and rode it out.”  A rut is kind way put it — more like a stinky hell-hole in my opinion, if a woman was completely cut out of the story in scripture and most people in the church don’t know. 

What else are they interpreting or changing?  We have an obligation to study if for ourselves.  The reality is that the Church needs women’s  voices.   It is wrong that our children growing up in the church not learning of the many incredible women in the Bible.  They are growing up to watch, and listen, and see all that isn’t there.  And yet it is there and no one told us.

Together we can re-imagine Christian Feminism.

  • Men and women, use your platform and speak!

Things are changing.  There are many and varied platforms for people to educate themselves if they choose to.  The internet has opened up the world for us.  Gratefully, one can jump on FB or twitter and instantly feel connected to others.  Blogs are another incredible resource for connecting with intelligent and inspiring women and men willing to engage in these important topics.

As society has changed and women’s opportunities have expanded, as women have gained responsibility and influence (and dare I say power) in the marketplace, sadly the Church remains static and seems to have a narrow view of women’s potential.  For a thousand years, the belief was held that women were not included with men as image bearers of God.  Though the church has mostly abandoned that idea, they have not abandoned the authority structures that perpetuate the subjugation of women.

An important part of my development as a feminist, and my spiritual maturation, was forgiving the ancient church fathers and the current ones (though this is harder for me) for this divisive and ugly interpretations of scripture that damage and harm women.  I had to take my pain to God for “allowing” these practices to exist, ones that limit, stifle and repress women in the church.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! – Luke 1:45

Rachel Held Evans, who I mentioned above, is a firecracker commentator on the current climate for women in the church.  She recently posted 13 Things that Make Me a Lousy Feminist.  What I like about Rachel is that she is courageous and willing to use her platform.  She stirs the pot, but her blog has respectful conversations.  Her tone is winsome and she laces her thoughts with humor, forcing us to think about our own inconsistencies.  And she receives some crap from people, but she is learning to put her opinions out there humbly and then listen to others.  That is a quality of a Godly leader.  I read with her list and reflected on what it means to me to be a Christian feminist.

These are (some of) the things I wish others understood about being a Christian Feminist.

Being a feminist is complex and is as different for every person just as is being male or female.  It cannot be summed up easily.

For me at least it means that women should have equal opportunities at home, at church, and in their professional lives.

Christian feminism is to me is the crazy belief that women and men are both created in God’s image and that each deserves a life of freedom and opportunity inside or outside the Church.  When the church’s systems keep that from happening we should speak up and challenge them with grace and aplomb knowing this may take years, even decades, to bring change.  It will certainly take patience, prayer, and perseverance.  It will take a loving yet persistent voice.  It will require us to build relationships with and trust and respect from the leadership structures. That too takes time.  I have not achieved this yet in my church and I have been there for ten years.  But I remain hopeful.

  • We all have a role to play.  We are all necessary.  We all have a voice. We must take every opportunity that we can to share a positive, healthy perspective of feminism.  Women and men have a job ahead of us to change the opinions of others who do not understand what it means to be feminists, who are Christians.
  • Being a feminist is a mindset and worldview.  Anyone can be a feminist – men and women.
  • There are feminists who are decidedly feminine and those people actually might have more access and a voice in the Church than the stereotypical hard-core militant feminists.  (While I am no princess, I sometimes wear makeup and I shave my legs, these things are not the antitheses to being a feminist.)
  • While one can be a feminist and personally opposed to abortion, taking away a woman’s right to choose is an inherently anti-feminist position.  I know that is controversial, but I would push back and say that human rights and dignity should be heralded at the beginning and end of life, each are a life and the position of many in the Church on death row executions is equally murder in my estimation.
  • Making sexist comments against men, in favor of women, is un-feminist and only enforces gender stereotypes.
  • We must respect others choices. There is nothing wrong with the choice of being a stay-at-home mom and the male in a relationship be the breadwinner.  That is what we have chosen right now and it came with a high price for me.  But those that choose this admittedly very traditional lifestyle must also respect those with both spouses working outside the home or those that choose to have the man staying at-home and a woman being the breadwinner.  These are all options that are good and different for each family.
  • Work in any area of life should be based on talent, skill and passions as well as spiritual gifting.  This goes for everything from cleaning the house and mowing the lawn at home, to leading and managing teams, to teaching or ministering to others.    That said; don’t give any woman a job or a role, because you need a token woman. Do it because she is good at it.  Always work hard to find the best person for the job but know that in order to reconcile the injustice of institutional sexism and racism, work even harder to be sure that women and minorities are represented.   Like someone said “we’re all trying to be successful within a hierarchy of privilege.”
  • I took my husband’s name, but only because I was tired of having my father’s name.  Women should be able to choose their name without feeling slammed from both ends by their choice.  I want my own name but there isn’t a way to achieve that currently and I don’t have a solution for it other than make up or choose a new name.

These are just a few of the ways that I have felt misunderstood as a Christian feminist.  What have you run into?

It’s hard to talk about injustice anywhere, but especially in the Church, without others developing a posture of fear and defensiveness and even condemnation.  I would simply ask that the next time a woman raises an issue or talks about their experiences as a woman in the church, try to remember a few things.

  1. They may be in pain.
  2. They may not have worked out exactly where they stand.
  3. They may not have a full biblical worldview developed.
  4. They may not be able to defend their position.
  5. They may just want to be heard, understood, and loved.

Let’s respect one another’s differences, ask questions, and be open to change.

Our Lord came into the world in the womb of a young girl.  This teenage child was entrusted with the care and development of God himself, in the form of a babe.  She was told “You are blessed” and she believed she was!  Her faith was huge.  Her role was incredibly important.  The church today seems so caught up in what women and girls can’t do.  Let’s enlarge our faith and ask what can we do?  What are we being called to?

Another blogger that I love to read recently said this:

“It’s always befuddled me that people could think of women’s standing in the church as some sort of unimportant secondary issue, something to be held loosely and regarded coolly. Do we not realize that this has a significant personal impact on more than half the church?  Do we not acknowledge that the limits we do or do not place on women impact ministry efforts, evangelism and world missions? Do we not consider the implications this has for women’s understanding of their standing before God?   (Not to mention men’s understanding of a woman’s standing before God–and before them.  Ideas have consequences, and the consequences of subjugation tend to be ugly, like the thistles growing up in the field, hindering the work God has for us to do in the world.)”  — Jenny Rae Armstrong

I believe it is imperative that all believers in Christ (individually and corporately with whatever power and influence each has been given) learn to speak about the injustices that plague humanity — war, poverty and hunger, and sexism and other forms of prejudice, bigotry and racism.  And the next time someone wants to talk about women in the Church how refreshing it would be if we were open, embracing and full of love.  

Ask yourself, “Blessed, is she?”

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  Luke 1:45 NIV

Who Needs a Heart when a Heart can be Broken?

For one human being to love another;

that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks,

the ultimate, the last test and proof,

the work for which all other work is but preparation.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

[I have avoided writing this; dreaded the moment when I force myself to write about the sermon on Sunday about Turning your Family or Friends into an Idol. A part of my Be Real series.]

I have spent the last twenty-three years trying to understand my family and a lifetime of living within relationships that I cannot understand.  It has been long and hard.  Even in my most optimistic moments, yes I do have them, I don’t have much good to say about growing up in my family of origin. I do not idolize family, if anything I have turned recovery from my family’s co-dependence into an idol by spending so much emotional energy on it.  These days, I just want to do and think about something else.  I’m tired of the subject.  It is a stove that guarantees to burn.

My family of origin was dysfunctional.  My family was hard to grow up in.  I got an acid stomach ache every time I walked through the doors of my parent’s home as a young adult, when I was living nearby and coming over for Sunday meals.  My family was (Oh!  You see, there goes my blood pressure rising as I write this.  My heart is beating more quickly.  Anxiety floods into my chest. Cold white panic sits in my belly.)  Just to talk about it still causes me physical pain.

I’ve told this story elsewhere on my blog, so I don’t want to belabor it.  My father was verbally and emotionally abusive.  Home was a place of fear, secrets, and shame.  My family was not all bad – there was love, my mother reminded me recently.  You could call it that.  My father could be tender and loving.  One never knew if he was going to think you were good or bad, pleasing or not, funny and clever or rude and cheeky, insightful and brave or insulting and mean.  It had no logic or rhythm, my father’s anger.  It only had the same result over and over – to me family came to mean fear, anxiety and pulse pounding stress.

My family was nothing you’d want to be a part of and that hurts.  If my father had lived I don’t know what I would have done about his impact on my children.  I am (mostly) grateful that I never had to figure that out, because he was verbally mean and dangerous, and his anger was frightening.  (My stomach lurches again.)  It still frightens me because I am his child — I got his brain and his verbal skills and red hot temper.

I did two decades of psychotherapy to heal.  I spent years in a fog of alcohol and before that as a workaholic.  I was always eager to make my dad happy and he rarely was satisfied with me. This is his legacy.  This is what I have now — and all I can do is stumble to the foot of the cross.  Without Jesus in my life I would be – without Jesus I am a shattered and broken person.  If there is anything good in me, it is Jesus.

So when I hear sermons about how people idolize their family to the point of putting them ahead of Yahweh (which is what any idol is) I feel kind of sick to my stomach.  And my heart feels heavy with sadness that can’t be ignored.  I’m not ignoring it but I’m also trying not to place it too high in importance.

I don’t even feel envy anymore, okay perhaps a little, when I hear my pastor talk about how important his family is to him.  But I’ve lived long enough and had enough hurtful experiences to not even believe in that mysterious thing — familial love — as something special or attainable, at least not for me.

We are not family in any way that our culture says is good.  I don’t believe I can change that.  I’m not sure that I should try.  All I can do is work on my stuff – be responsible for how I treat others – not shutting anyone out when they reach for me.  We are separate, autonomous, and seemingly lost to each other.  I deeply love each member of my family but I know that they have found “family” elsewhere.

Most days it is all I can do to love my husband and kids without smothering, boxing in, shaming, chiding and berating, criticizing, or condemning someone.  You do what you know. I want to know something different, something better.  And Tom has taught me something else, he is beautiful, pure and good.  After almost twenty years of marriage, I can say he will not intentionally hurt me and I believe it.

It is all I can do to try to live in the midst of the reality that I have no faith in the idea family. To me it represents broken hopes and pain.  When people talk about their “precious family” life, I will smile in response and inside I am wondering what the hell they are talking about.

Lest you completely despair for me, I wrotethe following poem last year.  It too is true.

I Never Knew Love

I never knew
that love would be so good.

Our beautiful chaotic life
of music, creativity and ideas. Of
trust, values, and goodness.
Of dreams.

I’ve learned
what it means to give up yourself, yes die
to self. That’s love
to me.

Often the world says
otherwise. But they don’t have
this beautiful chaotic life
we share.

I thought we had to fight,

and disagree
more than not. I imagined
we would be in constant friction.
Because the house that raised me
burned to the ground.

But I learned
the way to live is to give. Then
you get it all back without even realizing you are loved.

My dear, you are, everything.
And from you I have learned
to live.

So how can that be true and all the above as well?  All I can say is that it is and that is the tension of life.  I am learning how be in and make a family.  I am learning about loving, giving, and hoping and perhaps one day I will be able write more about what it means to create your own “precious family.”  Until then, all I can say is, no, I don’t idolize my family.

(Parenting by Free Fall is something I wrote about my fear of parenting based on my experiences.)

I Am More (a poem response to Blackhawk’s Sermon “Who Is Your God?”)

I Am More

By Melody Harrison Hanson

The future disturbs,
chases at my sanity and sensibilities.
I am scared of each intake of breath, every thought
and this moment. I am stuck.

The only thing that makes sense is Jesus.
I lean in to Him.  I cry, ready for anything.
If only I could cry actual tears. 
That too soon reminds me I am only partly healed.
I feel barely human.
What kind of person cannot cry?
The weight on my chest is unimaginably heavy. 
Hope is cloying and oppressive.

I am scared of the future, looming dark and cold.
I am afraid of these days I am living now.
I want to believe that eventually this life of mine will have a purpose beyond this day.

I am more than the money I don’t earn.
I am more than the things I do.
I am more than what I give.
I am more than what I take.
I am more than the words I write, slipping them into the cosmos with trepidation.
I am more than merely a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a friend.

Why doesn’t being beloved feel better than this?
In the end I am stuck with myself, I am barely human.

I want it all to mean so much more.  I want
the children I meet to change me.
I want the people I love to make me feel alive.
I want each action I take to mean something.
And yet it is all utterly meaningless unless
Yahweh is everything.


This poem is about the greatest of idols self-identity — allowing our meaning and purpose to come from anything but Yahweh.  The sermon at Blackhawk this week kicked off a series titled American Idols.  The premise is that anything in your life, even a good thing, that becomes more important than God is an idol.  In an age of psychology and self-healing, through medicines and talk therapy, self-worth can all too quickly become an idol.

For me, the journey of finding my way back to faith and belief was so huge in my development of a healthy identity.  Still, many days, as I search, as I long for, need, wander, hope and fear — the process becomes an idol.  The process becomes this thing that distracts me from who God is, what it means to be his beloved child, and the few things that he calls me to each day.

Here is what I wrote last week in response to the sermon Stop.  It is a part of a series I am writing called: Be Real.  

One of the ways I’m going to do that– be real — is by writing a response to the sermons I hear at my church, Blackhawk. These responses are not from the church, just my reflections.  I am always challenged by teachers at Blackhawk, sometimes profoundly, but I don’t — to be honest — always take the time needed to apply them to my life. But, if life is too busy to apply what you’re learning about your faith and if you don’t change and grow, what’s the point? So here goes.  Many people are busier than I, including my husband, and I just hope that this helps reinforce in some small way what God was already saying to you.

Do You Trust God? (A response to Blackhawk’s sermon “Stop”)


One of the ways I’m going to do that – be real — is to write a response to the sermons I hear at my church, Blackhawk. These responses are not from the church, just my reflections.  I am always challenged by teachers at Blackhawk, sometimes profoundly, but I don’t — to be honest — always take the time needed to apply them to my life. But, if life is too busy to apply what you’re learning about your faith and if you don’t change and grow, what’s the point? So here goes.  Many people are busier than I, including my husband, and I just hope that this helps reinforce in some small way what God was already saying to you.


I’m privileged I know.  I don’t have to work.  And through that I have learned I am more than my job.  I am more than what I do.

I’m “unemployed” and have been for ten years, since I left a busy career with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  I quit my job the year of the tragedies of 9/11. But I had worked through three pregnancies.  I had been “successful.”  Why did I quit?  Why did I stop?  I can tell you that today I would have considered that decision more carefully — found a way to scale back responsibilities rather that cut all ties.  But one cannot live in “what might have been.”

In 1991, I had a few months old baby, a two-year old and a three-year old, and a pre-teen and worked in full-time ministry.  I don’t think I would have admitted it then, but I was utterly overwhelmed by my life.   I was tired, burned out, bored with my job, and looking for change.

So I quit.  I thought it would be simple to stay at home with the kids.  What I found was that I was uncomfortable in my skin.  And not emotionally or spiritually healthy.  Produce and get things done was how I operated.  I was competitive by nature.  I was busy by choice.  I was productive, one of the 20% that does 80% of the work in a church or non-profit.

Here’s something I wrote about myself, looking back at that time:

It struck me, how sad it is when one spends their whole life striving, working, driven by the next “important” thing.  Having worked in a not-for-profit ministry for thirteen years and having grown up in Dan Harrison – the missionary leader’s home — I know about striving!!!    I used to work like that.  I used to get such a rush from doing — it defined me.  It drove me.   I would wake in the morning frantic that I was somehow already behind and go to bed at night anxious over what I had forgotten or worse NOT gotten done.  

That sad picture was me!  The world was about getting it done for me. I was my job. It is no exaggeration when I say I got my identity from what I was able to acocmplish.I was always thinking, working, doing.  It was my legacy from my father which he held on to even as he was dying — that he hadn’t finished all he could do!  He wasn’t even able to stop when he got brain tumors.

Stop and Be Filled

But this sermon was not about work being bad, but being able to stop and be filled. It was about trusting God. It was about being mature enough to sit with God, quiet in his presence with an open heart, for periods of your day.

My pastor confessed that he’s constantly on the go and like I once did, he sounds like he also measures his self-worth by his productivity. My pastor is a workaholic, I think, though he manages it.  He seems to have boundaries, he exercises, and he maintains ongoing relationships, and the staff at church seem healthy too and so though I don’t know him personally but I respect his public life anyway.

He is learning after all these years that God says stop in Psalms 46 and the context isn’t one of peace and tranquility, it is chaos.  More like how I used to live my life, than my life now.   The psalmist describes the world gone crazy and things upside-down, where you can’t count on anything — In that moment just — stop.

God is an ever present help in trouble.  I will not fear… This is poetry that shows God offers us refuge —  a “basement in a tornado warning” kind of security.

The Hebrew:  Refuge — Machceh {makh-seh’}; from chacah; a shelter (literally or figuratively) — hope, (place of) refuge, shelter, trust.

“I am your refuge.”   In this poetry, you can understand God is our Safe Place.

Relax! Cease. Stop! Be still!

When the world says go, when things are falling apart, when something reflexive and internal says fix it, do it — God says, when it is most chaotic, raphah!  Be Still!   

“Anyone can stop and not do something but guilt overcomes!” said Chris and went on to talk about how guilty he feels for not “doing.”   How difficult his sabbatical was because he was unlearning a lifelong habit of being a doer.

“Stopping is the same as trusting, which is easy when life is peaceful.  It is more difficult and a sign of our maturity when life is falling apart.”

How is this done practically speaking?  How does one find time to stop and trust who God is for a few minutes in our day.

  1. Put yourself in a different location like doing for a walk.
  2. Be quiet. Turn off the noise. i.e. i-everything.  Find the off button.
  3. Get up early or stay up late.
The world says go.  God says stop.  Relax. Get alone.  Become helpless.  Cease.  Let it go. Loosen your hold.  Wait.  
And this means you have to trust Him.

Men have been talking about men for so long, they don’t even realize it.

I recently wrote about my frustration and confusion with the Church and particularly my church.  It seems to me the Church is ignoring the stories of women in the Bible, and historically as artists and theologians, and in the Church worldwide.

Now I don’t have history or theological degrees, but it doesn’t take those to know instinctively that women have been actively participating in the work of the church since its inception.  I was so frustrated I created a survey (you can still vote) asking my contacts who are the female spiritual leaders, thinkers, and theologians that inspire you most?  The results are here.  The results were interesting.

So I was inspired, encouraged and compelled by the recent post of Scot McKnight on his website Jesus Creed asking:

  • What are you doing to make sure women are part of the story of your church? of the Bible? of church history?

  • Do you talk about the women in the Bible?

  • Do your folks know the women of the church?

  • Which women have you mentioned in your teaching or your preaching?

These are fantastic questions and exactly what I was getting at by my rant.  The church could be teaching about men and women.  I have never heard of Katherine Bushnell or Alice Paul or Macrina.  I could not even place them on a historical time line.  Could you?  And then there are the many women in the Bible that are never mentioned in church.  Paul’s coworker’s Timothy and Barnabas we know, and yet his coworker Thecla is never mentioned.

Jenny Dunham, recently in Arise Magazine, compellingly stated something so obvious it is shocking:  “To learn of men without their woman counterparts is an incomplete view of human history.”  She goes on to ask:

“What would happen to the gender divide if we were taught history in a holistic manner—that is in a way that includes both women and men?  Can you imagine how difficult it would be to devalue females if we more frequently celebrated their brave, unstoppable, and tireless leadership throughout history?  Without knowing the history of these remarkable women we would see only men taking action and moving the tides of our world.”  

It is too easy to presume that women have no place in the church, have no history, have no stories when we do not hear them told!!!  We perhaps think that women are incapable of “making history” because they are not celebrated (or rarely even mentioned) in the history of the Church.

I’ve recently been reading How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals.  It is just okay.  To be honest I didn’t finish it, perhaps some day.  There are so many other books on my bedside stand that I want to read more.  But it was fascinating to read some observations, again by Scot McNight from his blog:

“Themes about what precipitated change…:

  1. The influence of a strong, gifted woman in one’s life.
  2. The impression of the stories of those who changed their minds on this very issue.
  3. A more careful reexamining of the whole of Scripture in light of its historical, cultural and broader theological context.
  4. The experience of working side-by-side with gifted, dedicated, and called women leaders, teachers, and preachers.
  5. The realization that there is a view where head, heart, and Scripture can come together and honestly confront the difficulties of applying a restrictive position consistently.”

Women tell their stories and their stories show some common themes too:

  1. They were shadows of males.
  2. They were “submissive” in order to attract a husband.
  3. They functioned as a supplement to make males complete.
  4. They became depressed and struggled over rejection of their callings and gifts of the Spirit.
  5. They received encouragement from respected evangelical males who wanted their gifts and callings to find full expression and for them to be completely themselves.”

The stories about women are important.  The questions are important.  The history is important.  But change won’t come quickly. 

Men have been talking about men for so long, they don’t even realize it.  They read and study fellow men.  They listen to fellow men.  They quote  men.  No, change won’t come quickly.  I was recently asked how can we make baby steps toward change, in response to my writing  We are Half the Church.  Well, obviously I don’t want to only make baby steps because it’s too frustrating!!  But most days I can admit that we will likely not see change in the evangelical church in the next decade.  So, here’s to baby steps  … Cheers.

Small Choices.  Big Impact.

Be thinking constantly about utilizing women and minorities.  I think pastors and staff need to be aware of how their seemingly small choices are making big noise. Their lack of determined action is effectively stating more than their words.

In the case of my church, they don’t say much about women and you won’t find anything on the website under beliefs or core values, but women can’t become elders and there are no women on the teaching team. But I know there are many folk there (I have met them) who do believe in Biblical equality (Of course there is a good portion that don’t.)  But the leadership’s actions tell me they aren’t willing to make institutional change any time soon.  The change they are bringing is more covert.  And some of it highly admirable if very slow.  One thing they do is hire by merit giving women some jobs in leadership.  Yes, this is good.  Fair.  Legal.  Slow.

When I worked at IV we worked hard to find capable, talented, exceptional leaders who were women and minorities.  We worked tirelessly, seeking input from those communities that do not traditionally have a voice in a culture dominated by whites and males, but who clearly knew of talent that didn’t have the mainline white or male exposure.  Our conferences and events fairly representing women and minorities in leadership and teaching.  That’s because the organization decided it was important and Biblical.  I don’t know what they do today in their programming.  With leadership change comes changes in priorities.

I observe culture.  And what I see is discouraging.  Look at Christian conference speaker lineups and Christian book authors and Christian songs played on the radio for example.  Optimistically, nine out of ten are white or males.  This has to change.

Yes, it takes work to find, empower, train up, mentor and listen to people that are different than you, but the kingdom of God is reflected and I believe God is honored and pleased by the effort.  And it is a delicate balance between finding the right person and mentoring people into places of teaching, authority and leadership.  It’s an art not a science.

On one level it is simple.  In the planning and implementation of worship and teaching on a given Sunday in the local church, always ask how you can better utilize women and minorities on the platform in whatever way you can.  That alone would be a huge step forward.

An example: This Sunday,  at my church there were four short monologues or sketches done by the two main teaching pastors, Chris and Tim.  Two of them could have been performed by women.  This would have taken more work and time planning ahead. And you have less control when you “give up” some of that power. Or, in the same service scriptures were read through out. Others can reach scripture it just requires setting it up ahead of time.  Again, the delicate balance of capability vs ongoing mentoring is significant.

Another “simple” idea. 

If you are truly hiring by merit and have the value of actively seeking women and minorities to apply, the next step is to put in the job description for all NEW HIRES of senior staff that they must be able to teacheither have teaching experience or are capable of/willing to learning.  Then give them opportunities and/or train them in teaching. Yes, this rules out capable people.  But it also begins to change the expectation over time that this is a part of leadership.  And it will diversify the teaching team which can only be good.

Even as I write this I am overcome by my sense of apathy and discouragement and lack of faith that the evangelical Church will ever change.  When this happens I know I it is time to stop thinking, and reading, and writing, and to go sit with my heavenly Father.  To be reminded of who he is and what is important to him.  Our God is a lover of justice and mercy.  He said, more than anything, what is important to him is:

  • That we love one another as he loved us.
  • That we build one another up.
  • That we bring order to this crazy messed up world.

This isn’t about feminism or diversity, which are hot and misunderstood words in the Christian sub-culture today.  This is about justice which is God’s priority.  This is about restoring what God intended in the beginning when he created us all to be so different.  God’s order doesn’t look like ours. 

“I cannot begin to imagine how much good a holistic teaching would be in bringing reconciliation and healing to God’s kingdom. This is not only the case for women; people of all ethnicities and social classes should enjoy equal recognition in history with white males.” —  Jenny Dunham

Scripture says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3.28,  NASB (©1995)

Baby step no. 1.  Remember the other half of the church on a given Sunday.  Empower them.  Tell their stories.  Celebrate the whole church, not just the less than half that are male.

Men, stop talking about yourselves.


I should say that my article We are Half the Church was in some way inspired by the book Half the Church, by Carolyn Custis James.  Although I am reading it, thus far I don’t have a big take away but I was struck hard by the title.  We are more than half the church.  Yes, we are.  And it is about time we were more vocal.

Half the Church
Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women

Women comprise at least half the world and usually more than half the church. But so often Christian teaching for women either fails to move beyond a discussion of roles. This shuts a lot of women out from contributing to God’s kingdom as they were designed to do. Furthermore, the plight of women in the Majority World demands a Christian response, a holistic embrace of all that God calls women and men to be in his world.

In Half the Church, James presents an inspiring vision of God’s plan for women that avoids assuming for them a particular social location or family situation. She unpacks three transformative themes the Bible presents that invest the lives of every woman and girl with cosmic significance that nothing can destroy. These new images of what can be in Christ come with a blazing call for them to join their brothers in advancing God’s gracious kingdom on earth.

Carolyn Custis James

Not everyone is a white male, with all access!

A friend sent me this article in Christianity Today, because of what I wrote yesterday, mentioning Rob Bell.  Upfront, it asked:

“Do you think it is wrong for Rob Bell to question traditional views of heaven and hell? Answer: I don’t care. Do you think it is wrong for traditionalist writers to label Rob Bell a universalist? Answer: I don’t care.
Do you think it is wrong for every Christian with an iPhone to tweet their answers to the above questions from restaurant bathrooms and then go home and blog about it? Answer: Now there’s an interesting question.

Of course, we care about the doctrines of heaven and hell.  As Bell reminds when I heard him interviewed on Good Morning America what we think about heaven and hell informs what we believe about God and how we understand what it means to respond to the suffering around us, here and now.  Informs how we live out heaven and hell right now.  And it informs what to think about injustice here and now.  And that I agree with.

Oh, a controversy was stirred and it will sell a bunch of books and Rob Bell will survive to preach another Sunday.  But I don’t really care.  In How social media changed theological debate, the author John Dyer goes on to say something MORE IMPORTANT.   In fact the more I think about it, it is critical to this conversation.

But my response is different than Dyer’s.

Dyer says:

“Throughout the history of public theological debate, there was one constant—those debates only took place between a few select people—Moses, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and so on—who gained respect through a lifetime of scholarship….In pre-2004 Christianity (that is, Christianity before Facebook was invented), only a small group of Christian leaders and teachers had access to the printing press—but today everyone has WordPress. In pre-2004 Christianity it was difficult to become a published author, but today everyone is surrounded by dozens of “Publish” buttons.”

He is gravely concerned with the quality of the debate.  The quality of the conversation, teaching and writing on-line because with the advent of WordPress any ol’ person can express themselves.  And I would never argue against a need for quality conversation or scholarship! But that doesn’t answer a more important question of who is writing and teaching?

The culture is changing rapidly.  Books are becoming less relevant, though I for one will always buy and read books printed on paper.  Even so, yesterday I found myself longing for a Kindle because there was a book I wanted to read immediately!  The church needs to catch up to the immediacy of our culture and how it communicates.

Many pastors still do not Tweet or have a Facebook account.  Mine does not and I am sure it is not just because it is too hot — unpredictable — with much opportunity for people to misinterpret.  It’s also time consuming.  And mentally degrading to clarity of thought. If you are working all week to compose your thoughts on a particular topic for a sermon, it can’t be helpful to constantly be distracted by multiple media.  And yet, hipster pastors are online frequently and do these things.  As do many of the younger pastors in my church.  I am sure they spend much more time and energy than they would like thinking about what’s wise to say or not say.

The fact is one thing hasn’t changed, even as the culture does, our need to use restraint, to respond with maturity and self-control .  These are things that one would wish Piper and others had, even when tweeting.  Our words still matter!  Our heart, mind and soul — even more so than in the pre-Facebook age — is out there for the world to scour over!

Here’s what is most important to me about this conversation.

This new social media gives power to people of color and women — to those that have traditionally had less access to theological education, opportunities for preaching, teaching, and writing and getting published. (Even the homeless.)

So while I applaud Dyer’s thoughts about who should speak, teach and write in the specific situation, one must remember that not everyone is a white, male with all access to publishers, to power and to influence.  Yes, everyone needs to exercise restraint when it comes to social media.  But the new social frontier gives a voice to those of us who have traditionally been kept out of the conversation, the board room, seminaries, and these voices and viewpoints need to be heard in these critical times.

Why is it that each book suggested at church for extra reading in the last year was written by a white man?  Or that almost every song sung on Christian radio, and thus in churches, has a man singing or writing it?  Or that all the elders at my church are men?  And the teaching team is all men? Why are conferences full of Godly Christian men, with perhaps one female or person of color, MAYBE?  Why?

So, my response to John Dyer is “You may knock blogs because the level of thinking isn’t on the level of Moses and Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and so on … well, have patience!

  • Until the brick and mortar institutions change for women and people of color, we need places like the internet in order to be heard.
  • Until you or I can name a Latino or Latina or African-American or female theologian or two, as quickly as you can think of NT Wright or J.I. Packer or John Piper we need the internet in order to be heard.
  • Until my pastor can name an up and coming female pastor or theologian, as readily as whatever man is on the tip of his lips, we still need this medium to bring change
  • I believe until it is just as commonplace to hear the perspective of a woman or a person of color in your life we need the internet in order to bring change. It is messy, and imperfect, but it gives access. 
I would not have my story published if it were not for connections made on-line. 



Here’s what I said yesterday.


In Defense of Women.  This was interesting and not just because he mentioned me.  It relates to not having women’s voices as a part of “the conversation.