We are Half the Church

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Cartoons are blaring.  My son is home sick with a high fever and sore throat. (Strep likely.  We’ll know later today.)

I sit perched on the edge of my chair here in front of the computer, because my cat Jaz is comfortably lounging on 2/3rd of the seat and today I don’t have the heart to push her off.  She was here first.

I keep trying to gather my thoughts.  I hear myself sigh deeply and knowing that I haven’t gotten up early all week for my usual alone time with the Word, and God, the lack is weighing heavily.

I know that what I really need in this moment is — time — alone —  to — think.  Time for contemplation.

Not time on Facebook or time while I do last night’s dishes, or throw another load in the dryer and washer, or pick up the endless toys, socks, books and dog toys for the millionth time.  Not time driving my son to the doctor.  Not time like that. 

Quiet — undivided — time.

How often do we really find this kind of time? I cannot underscore how important solitary, thinking time is for me.  It helps me be less impulsive.  It centers me.  It makes the anxiety, and anger, and disappointments of life fade away and my priorities sift and sort themselves.  And when I read on FB about all the things that are “on your mind” I am more circumspect, which is good.

Considering all this — I think I should not write this post. But I don’t always listen to myself.

This is something I have thought about all week.  When it all first occurred I definitely tried to ignore it.  I kept thinking how obsessive I was clearly being.  I kept telling myself I was ridiculous.  Absurd.  Unreasonable.  Perhaps even obsessive, fanatic or narrow-minded.  Plum crazy, as my southern grandpa used to say.  I tried to ignore it.

Finally it hit me that this not going away.  So even if I’m deemed crazy, this is what happened.

My observation: I did not see one woman involved in leading worship or on the platform in any capacity on Sunday. I’ve been thinking about the lack of presence of women in my church.  And in the Church.  On Sunday, we were simply spectators.  On lookers.  Witnesses.  Receivers.  Beneficiaries.

  • Furthermore, I cannot remember the last time one of the teaching pastors suggested a book they were reading written by a woman.
  • They never quote women or talk about female scholars, probably because they never read female scholars.
  • To be honest I can’t remember the last time, if ever, a pastor has suggested or referred to even in passing, or quoted a female theologian, religious author, or historian.

On Sunday, because I my senses were heightened, I even noticed that all the artists highlighted were male, who painted illustration of Jesus on the Cross.  If it were only Michelangelo (he’s a genius) mentioned, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  But he (my pastor) put four or five paintings up on the screen all painted by men.  (I know, I know, that’s picky right!?)  Of course I don’t know enough about art history to know whether there were any female artists who have illustrated Christ on the Cross.  I suppose it would take an art historian to find them, because a quick google search by me of Michelangelo’s time was unproductive.  So I’m not suggesting that he (my pastor) should have been able to find them.  And even if women were painting, they would not be well-known or easy to find.    But search for more modern artists perhaps?  I’m just saying, we are half the church.  That one point is less important, but the entire thing just made me very SAD.  And tired.

' The Dead Christ Mourned - the Three Maries'
Artist: Annibale Carracci Date: 1603

I am tired of not seeing or hearing from women. Tired of the male dominated culture on the platforms and in the Church at large.

Considering women are half the church I can’t even buy into the argument that there aren’t any to select from, because I’ve been told that very thing.  “The women haven’t risen up who have “the gift” of teaching.”)  I say, risen up? Not surprising to me in a church with few examples and where there are (still only) male Elders.  And where it is clear that this isn’t changing any — time — soon.   Besides, it is the rare person who is naturally comfortable with upfront or worship leadership.  Many people, male or female but especially female, won’t put themselves forward out of self-doubt, or humility or a combination.   I think it is even more likely that there are gifted, wise articulate women who may not be comfortable yet, but have natural instincts and can to be taught, mentored.  Who knows?. Will we ever know, if they are not given the opportunity?

To rarely see or hear a woman’s voice in authority or otherwise hurts me and my faith and my journey with Christ.  Christ accepts women.  He took risks for women.  He listened to women.  He was the most radical figure of reconciliation and grace in the lives of women!  IF only the church modelled their behavior after Jesus.

My experience this Sunday diminished my ability to receive fully from the worship experience.   That said it was still was an incredible time.  And God continues to speak to me.  Perhaps God was saying to me exactly what I heard.  I have to confess that I do not want my (feminist*) radar to always go off at church.  It is distracting and painful.  And I have considered asking God to take it away, shut it up, or get me out of there …  But I don’t think he would and I do think that I am in the exact right place for now.  As long as I can openly “think” here and have a few people in my life that I can express the pain and rancor to, I’ll survive.

For now,

Mel

Feminism to me is the crazy belief that men and woman are both human

and deserve the same life, freedom and opportunities

inside and outside the Church.

Why “For Women” is not “For Me”

Matthew 25 (1) of The Holy Bible, King James v...
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Why I don’t like “women’s” ministry, seminars & conferences specifically for women, or special Bibles and studies written only for women.

It  is not that I’m against women (or men) gathering together as a tribe, but I have other, deeper concerns.

  • First of all, fundamentally it comes out of this notion that men and women are so different that you must make categories of resources just for each group.   We certainly have our differences, but that sort of thinking divides us.  It’s unproductive. It hurts us more than helps as we try to work out our faith with one another.
  • Secondly, I don’t like them because I don’t think ideas in scripture are necessarily “for women” or “for men.”
  • Thirdly, and possibly most important to me, because scripture was translated by men, and it was done a long time ago, by committees, and there were no women involved, therefore I think that the language just might possibly be patriarchal and misleading.

Before you burn me at the stake, look at Proverbs 31:10 to see what I mean.  It is the classic verses of a virtuous feminine woman.  Yes, it is a description of a woman though I never saw until I looked at the original meaning, that it is a description of a spiritually powerful and strong woman!

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (a group I’ll say up front I don’t totally agree with) describes a “worthy woman” fairly well as “virtuous, trustworthy, energetic, physically fit, economical, unselfish, honorable, lovable, prepared, prudent, and God-fearing.”  That’s all good.

Look at the word virtuous in 31:10 “Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies?” (KJV)

The Hebrew word chayil is translated as virtuous or excellent, strength and influence.; a force, an army, able activity in might and power, valiant, full of valor and virtue, and worthy in war.

I’m not making that up.  It’s there for anyone to know – to learn.  But don’t you think it’s interesting that no one talks about a virtuous woman like that?

I know I have never heard a woman at church described as a warrior — not in all my life and that ‘s a long time of church attending among several denominations.  And I had to find it for myself.

Original Word: חָ֫יִל
Transliteration: chayil Phonetic Spelling: (khah’-yil)
Short Definition: army
Definition: strength, efficiency, wealth, army
NASB Word Usage: able (5), armies (3), army (82), army* (1), capability (1), capable (3), elite army (1), excellence (1), excellent (2), forces (12), full (1), goods (1), great (1), might (1), mighty (1), nobly (1), power (2), retinue (2), riches (9), strength (10), strong (2), substance (1), troops (2), valiant (41), valiant* (4), valiantly (6), valor (18), very powerful (1), warriors (1), wealth (25), wealthy (1), worthy (1).

A Proverbs 31 Woman:

  • She is a mighty woman of God.
  • She is a woman of strength and influence.
  • She is a woman of force who is able and effective in spiritual warfare, she is full of valor (acts of bravery) and virtue.

Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies.” (KJV)

The Hebrew word for find transliterated matsa, not only means find or acquire‚  but also has the meaning of  to come forth, to appear or exist.

Imagine that.

Perhaps these verses are saying:

God is calling mighty and courageous women to come forth, spiritual warriors and champions, who at His command will be a great spiritual force in Jesus name.

Would people be so uncomfortable with this if you inserted “God is calling mighty and courageous MEN, spiritual warriors, champions, forceful and mighty, be a great spiritual force?

So, if as I believe God communicates to us all — straight up, irregardless of our gender — why are we always separating ourselves as women? It just makes me uncomfortable.  I think we each benefit as we mix the generations, genders, hipsters and bikers and soccer moms and dads, with boomers, silent gen, under 18 kids, teens or whatever.  Single and married, higher education or not, race or ethnicity.  The church is the worst at coming across those cultural barriers to worship together.  But we are strengthened as people and as a community when we do.  Why do we do that?  Especially in the church?  We lose out.  There is so much that we don’t learn.  I love that my life is incredibly diverse and I’ll do everything I can to keep it that way.

Tribes. On the other hand, we are all in a tribe, or two or three.  We feel connection and solidarity, even strength when we connect from time to time to our tribe.  So, I suppose one must find a balance. One of my husband Tom’s Tribes is Musical Geeks and they cross believers and not, women or men, young or old, it matters not at all.  They just get together to “geek out” about all sorts of really boring musical minutia.  Not my tribe.  Not my need.  But man does he need and love to be with those folk!

So finding the balance is key.

But, I detest groups “for women.”  Bible studies and events just for women.  I guess they always will represent to me that women are not yet equal with men in the body of Christ. It’s not an obvious equation, but still that math goes there in my mind and heart.

Sure I’m not your typical evangelical Christian woman.   I regularly question every idea in theology.  I don’t believe “male headship.”  I don’t believe the idea that God’s divine order of things is for me to follow a man.  I do believe in order.  I do believe in submitting to one another mutually.  But right now it feels like there are a million obstacles to women experiencing  true equity within the Christian evangelical church.

There’s no way that your typical male is ready for the woman spiritual warrior who is mighty in strength and influence.  Uh uh.  They’re squirming now in discomfort and ready to thump me over the head with their  B I B L E.  Oh well.

I can read it for myself.  I translated it.  I know it is different from some things being taught.

I believe that men and women when utilizing their skills and abilities and spiritual gifts — all given to us by a real and loving God by the way, who chose those skills, abilities and spiritual gifts for usthat creator God is the one that called us. If He made me this way, I should be serving, using my gifts that He gave me.

Because sitting back, watching many capable men do many things in the church is wrong.  And only leading in the midst of women is also wrong.

It gets complicated when you don’t know, when you haven’t had your abilities affirmed in the church.  But some day, women will come to know themselves capable of being that woman described in Proverbs 31.

God is calling mighty and courageous women to come forth, spiritual warriors and champions, who at His command will be a great spiritual force in Jesus name.

Amen.


——————————

Some things I am reading my way through:

Women’s Bible Commentary by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, Editors.  “… the writers focus on “portions . . . that deal explicitly with female characters and symbols . . . and sections that bear upon the condition of women generally.” Although the contributors share this goal, they take different paths. In addition to the commentary itself, there are helpful essays on feminist hermeneutics and daily life in biblical times. This commentary will raise eyebrows, and it will raise consciousness as well. It will not be well received in all quarters, but it is essential for those who are seriously interested in biblical and feminist studies. Recommended for seminary, university, and public libraries.”  – Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.

“No one will go away from the volume with her or his old assumptions about biblical texts intact…The challenge and pleasure of this work is its tendency to upset expectations about familiar books”. Theology Today

Christians for Biblical Equality

Equality Central

Gifted to Lead: The ARt of Leading as a Woman in the Church by Nancy Beach, Willow Creek Church.

“No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you the gift of leadership or teaching. Every gift you have came from the hand of a loving Father who crafted you.”— Nancy Beach

Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian. A first-rate biblical and theological study that affirms full equality of the sexes in church and family.

How I Changed my Mind about Women in Leadership. Compelling stories from Prominent Evangelicals including Stuart and Jill Briscoe, Tony Campolo, Bill and Lynn Hybels, I. Howard Marshall, John and Nancy Ortberg, Cornelius Pantinga.

[I find this website Biblos to be a great resource in my Bible study.  It has many commentaries, original translation, many versions of text, and concordance.  SO many things that I’ve never used including  dictionary, atlas, even bible studies.]

re|think everything

(re|think)

noun

Pronunciation:/ˈriːθɪŋk/

[in singular] a reassessment, especially one that results in changes being made.

I am thinking about many things including the future of this blog.  I was particularly challenged by a conversation this weekend.  My sister questioned why I “live so much in the past?”  She was wishing for me that I would be able to “get on with my life.”

Long before that conversation, I have asked for a clear insight about what is next for me.  I have been seeking — praying — listening.

Rethinking What I Know about Myself.

  • I need to know  that my life contributes to a grander and larger story than simply my own.
  • I have certain passions — God-given, I believe.  Most notable photography.  biblical studies.  women.  any injustice.
  • One spiritual gift I have seems to be Mercy. My heart breaks over the corruption and greed in some that leads to poverty and pain for others.  Over persecuted people groups.  Over homophobia, racism, sexism.  Over anyone being homeless.
  • My voice, in writing, is loud and clear and sometimes even challenging.  Out loud I am meek and unclear, which I experienced this weekend to my dismay.

Rethinking Biblical Translation & Interpretation.

I have a hunger to understand scripture for myself.  Dare I say this?  It frightens me that so much of (most or all) biblical interpretation throughout history was done by men.  It gnaws at me from inside out.

I am not a raging neofeminist or even a strong proponent of a feminist or liberation theology.  (I guess I don’t know enough about them to say one way or another.)  Simply put, things have been stacked against us:women

  • A patriarchal society& culture brought us the message of the scriptures that we live our lives by. 
  • Another group of men translated it into the language for “everyone.”
  • And, then in most churches today men stand up and interpret scripture every Sunday and all week long.

“The Bible has shaped the life of the church in a way that nothing else has done and Christians today are the product of the history of its interpretation.” 1

Why should I trust their translations and interpretations categorically without question?  This is simply foolish, in my opinion.  And still I pray for a spirit of humility — that I would be a fertile ground.  I ask why do I think these things and if my motives are wrong or I am simply being foolish in my thinking, that this thinking would change.  And, I have thought of many responses to this conundrum, from applying to be an unpaid intern at my church in biblical hermeneutics, I would hope, to bring a feminine voice to the teaching being done, to going to seminary.

Rethinking My Role.

As I seriously consider the perception of being a “woman of leisure” which I wrote about recently, I get mired in my own frustrations and can’t pull together clear thoughts.  Because it is emotional for me!  I don’t care about the money (perhaps I should) but I want respect.  And I know if I don’t respect women who stay home, then how can I expect others to respect me?

And before you email me about the value of being at home with kids, know that I’ve had more than ten years to ponder this subject.  I don’t need “encouragement” in that regard.  It is an incredibly complicated personal decision for every women and I do respect the difficult place women (so much more than men) are in.  So if you are a man, butt out. No one can make this choice for a woman or explain away her doubt, fear, aspirations, goals, or desire for “accomplishment” or get why she cries to be away from her babies.

Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama was named Most Powerful Woman of the Year, beating out heads of state, chief executives and celebrities in Forbes magazine’s annual listing.  Some women came out saying Ms. Obama talks about herself as a wife and mother and were questioning how that makes her influential?   Gr…..

But I digressed into an issue that is only a side story in my search for a place to make an impact and contribution.

And I am still left thinking at this point, is this blog much ado about nothing?  Is it time to stop?”

Rethink Everything.

It is difficult for me, at times, to look back over the last decade of my life.  In human terms — quitting  a meaningful, challenging job, succumbing to clinical depression, becoming addicted to alcohol, and straying far away from the LORD — it was all failure on my part. And yet, it was through those experiences, as mortifying as they are and were to me, that I have come to recognize many things.

I am actually grateful to have been brought so low.  I can only hope that I am still learning and am becoming a person useful to the LORD.  I had to trudge through the violence of my childhood and my feeling of betrayal and disappointment towards my parents — and forgive them.  This has opened me up to a new life.

Christ’s broken body for me was real and meaningful in a new way never understood until my humiliation.  And gratefully I can say, this drove me to my knees.  I went from someone who felt she was competent, powerful, knowledgeable and puffed up with my importance to a broken reed, hardly knowing up from down.  Alcohol devastated me — became the thing that I lived for.  The passion, the dreaming, the hoping, the living stopped.

I am so grateful to not have lost everything. It is humbling to sit here in the comfort of my home knowing that I am loved by my husband and adored by my children.  Undeserved, as I know how close I came to losing  all that I now hold dear and even my life.

As I consider what the future holds for me I want to be fertile ground.  Looking back, mostly glad to have fallen.  To have learned.  As I look ahead there is no perfect plan.  I must trust while serving, not knowing the future.  Trust that I have a contribution to make, but if that “thing” the “plan” never happens, hope that I will continue to be grateful and if I am never made whole, still I will ask for it.  And hope.  And stay open.

===================================

I have more than fifty poems I have written here.  This one, is called addict.


Being an addict catches me by surprise.  Today,

seemingly innocent things — a drink, a smoke, a purchase, food, even exercise can become

urgent

need.

In the time that it takes to feel a flash of happiness, sadness or regret;

less than 60 seconds of my life

and I remember,

I am an addict.  How could I have forgotten?

Today I must ask what brought this on?

For tomorrow I must fill the need

with OTHER.

As for yesterday, I can only look back and remember

I am an addict, but I am stronger than my need.

And as for this moment — I know I am an addict;

I am. I was. I always will be, always will be

an addict.

ADDICT written april 9, 2009 by melody harrison hanson

Those that have no background in addiction look at the word ADDICT and the word alcoholic as kind of wicked and weak.  Face it, our culture doesn’t understand.  But if you’ve been there, if you live there, if you love someone who does or has you know exactly what I mean.  And I thank you for understanding.

1 Bray, Gerald.  Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present, 1996, IVP

religion scares me :: a reflection

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Religion.scares.me.

So quickly turning into actions. Deeds. Just notions. Before you know it you are doing religion. Lost is the element of the supernatural. The unknowable, powerful God.

A loosed grip on what I think I know is an opening for the Spirit. It is something I cannot control, something.Other.than.me.

Religion.scares.me.

With my notions. Deeds. So much acting like a believer. Our hearts are easily deceived. Something is missing there.  I am left with me, believing some days meanwhile disbelief is cloying at me around the edges of my mind.  Wanting proof I do not have. Yes, faith scares me and so I pray, out of my longing & need. I kneel. Partly knowing and equally hoping.beyond.hope.

You.don’t.scare.me.

Desire and awe hammering in my chest.  God of the universe. Far bigger than the galaxies.  Before time.  Outside of time. Why does my frail, faltering faith matter to you?

How.can.that.be? That you care about me? What about all that I misunderstand? Dogmas.Opinions.Deeds Actions. Words, the most hateful of all, words. Judgment. Just frenzy. Not peace beyond understanding. Fear not trust.  Is it belief or unbelief?

People.scare.me.

Adulterous. Pastors. Loving. Lesbians. Faithful. Wives. Controlling. Husbands. Generous. Partners. Fatherless. Children. Molesters.

“In the closet.”  Theologians. Out.  Writers. Wealthy. Community organizers. Greedy. Homeless. PhD. Arrogant. Janitors. Murderous.

Politicians. Drunks. Mothers. Indulgent. Parents. Spoiled. Children. Angry. Fathers. Cutters. Over eaters. Over drinkers. Liars. Sad.

Rebellious. Happy. Up. Musicians. Down. Mechanics. Lecherous. Students. Ignorant. Teachers. Store-clerks. Farmers. Academics.

Doctors. Drug Dealers. Nurses. Young. Old. Middle-aged. Scared. All.

Lost.Without.You.Who am I to choose what separates me.them.us from you?

I am equally confused & scared many days. Until I find that place of belief and then I settle down into my fear. My faith. I hear you saying:  settle down, little one. settle down.

Believe. Experience my Peace. Share my Love.  Hear me.

I do.

Hear you.

And today I believe.  Help me love.

Glutted with Good Things

I know it’s been a while.

I’ve been glutted with books and blogs and music and helping the kids prepare for a new school year and moving Molly back in (My 22 year old step daughter.)

I have been blessed with renewed friendships, times of striking & revealing Bible study, answers to prayer, working in my garden and yard, preparing delicious food, having providential experiences and conversations.  Oh, and daily exercise!  Good things — all.  I am reveling in gratitude for all of it — for being loved by Abba and the wonder of being a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a neighbor, a writer, and a photographer.  I think this strange feeling is … joy?!

Tom asked me to type this up for him after reading it to him this morning.

I thought I’d pass it on to you as well:

And you, too, youthful reader, will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love.  Into your hands will be placed the exact results of your own thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less.  Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal.  You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration . . . .

In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result.  Chance is not.  “Gifts,” powers, material, intellectual, and spiritual possessions are the fruits of effort; they are thoughts completed, objects accomplished, visions realized.

The Vision that you glorify in your mind, the Ideal that you enthrone in your heart— this you will build your life by, this you will become.

—From As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

Lastly, I want to encourage you to listen to this message that I heard yesterday at Blackhawk.  I am still gathering my thoughts about it, but I have to say that I am psyched!  Overjoyed and blessed by this sermon about Men & Women and the Church.  The title says it is about Marriage but listen to it, it’s not about marriage.  It’s about the redemption of the place of women in a patriarchal society and challenges the cultural belief that it’s okay to take this into the church and into a marriage relationship.

You will find it here. Titled: The Marriage Dance.

I have a number of posts I am ruminating over — when there is time.

Until then,

be well friends.

MHH