Life is not Pass or Fail: A Mother’s Day Remembrance

020-20120504_0185I have always seen “weakness” as a defect and here on this blog I say a lot about what I consider to be my own weaknesses – the narrative playing in my head and here on these pages for years has been a fear that I am too broken and weak to be useful at all.

This story starts with what has been and where I came from.

My mother has suffered most of her life.  I know this intellectually and because as her children we hurt alongside her in my father’s home.

For most of my life I thought she was weak to stay with him.  I resented her sticking in there with him.  Looking back, I hated the way she propped him up, when his fragile ego quaked and he wanted to quit this or that ministry, or when he felt betrayed by someone, or was sure that so and so was out to get him or them. She was the strong woman behind the ministry “leader.”  Only back then, she didn’t look strong to me.

After being angry at her for most of my life (and receiving a lot of therapy) I now see that she was strong all those years, and is, today.  I can see how much she loved my father and was loyal and faithful and good to him.  I see that she thought that she was helping us all by propping up the ego maniacal and abusive man that was my father sometimes.

But you see it wasn’t that simple.  He was a beloved man who did many incredibly good and important things.  He served well and long, and loyally. He loved his family. He sincerely wanted to please God.  He loved his few close friends deeply. I can see this looking back, even though he came home and took out his internal demons on a fragile and devoted woman, his wife and my mom and on his daughters. 

Apparently, he was only physically abusive to Mother once.  So the restraint he showed to never hit my mother again was … commendable?   And yet she lived with that intimidation and threat for forty-five years, knowing what he was capable of doing she was faithful to him.

Today a woman would have packed her bag the night that, in a fit of rage, he put her head through a wall.  Here’s the thing. Once you do something like that your household is always terrified, no matter how you promise, regret, or apologize.

And he did often, after a fit of raging, make promises and express sorrowful regret.  We experienced his rages.  Things “the public” never knew.  Things you wouldn’t quite believe possible from a man who could also be tender and gentle, who so often eloquently expressed his faith and devotion to God.  Perhaps she should have left him.  I used to think so.  And I would have, I frequently thought to myself in my twenties and thirties as I was learning about feminism and independence.   Though I never did choose to leave him and I even went to work for him for nearly a decade.

She stayed and so did we.

It was complex and codependent.  How he longed to be perfected by God but in his lifetime this never happened.  This skewed my view of men, of fathers, and especially of a Father God, for a long time.

But this is about my mother, who was loyal and strong; yes strong even though all my life I looked at her and thought of her as weak.

What kind of strength is required to endure the unyielding shouting and frequent berating over years,

and years,

and years?

Her depression was not obvious to me then but now, of course, palpable and understandable.  Frequently in poor health, she stayed in bed and that became her place of refuge from the strain and stress of our home.  She internalized his anger and used her illnesses to escape.   She had very few if any personal friends.  Abused women are often very isolated. And, she withdrew from her children emotionally. We got very little physical comfort growing up, though I’m sure there was much she wanted to say and do. She just didn’t.

Or couldn’t.

She’s apologetic now, at seventy-five and expresses openly her love, physically and emotionally, and her regrets which are many. Now that he’s dead, she has chosen to make her life incredibly simple.  She likes her condo, and her health remedies, and baseball or basketball on the television. She plays memory games on her hand-held game.

She’s chosen this unassuming, even guileless life.  This makes sense to me considering that my father dragged her all over the world for most of their married life; as it turns out most of the moves we made (two or three dozen) she didn’t even want to make.  Today her life consists of getting a message or her nails done.  She does energy work.  Much of it I don’t understand completely, but I respect the obvious need for self-care and lack of relational complexity in her life, still.

I’m grateful that she is quick check in on me, if she thinks I’m disappointed or angry with her.   I’m glad that she’s finally content with her life, set up just the way she likes it.  And I respect her for these choices, even if I wouldn’t choose them.   She’s seventy-five and is finishing life in a way she seems to like – justifiably simple and safe.

This Mother’s Day I honor my mother for surviving. I honor her for her quiet internal strength.

I honor her for her loyalty and commitment, even when I didn’t understand it.

As children we watch our parents and want them to be our idea of perfect.  Each time they supposedly fail we have a choice, to be disappointed or to accept knowingly that life is made up of hundreds of these choices.

Life isn’t pass or fail. 

Life is to be examined carefully and closely, to be lived openly and yet with great care for the people in it.

You never know why someone chooses a certain path. 

And in the end, you can only live your own life, embracing your apparent weaknesses as well as strengths, knowing that each one makes you who you are today.

Life is fragile. Love is unimaginably complicated. Parenting is by example but no one is perfected in their lifetime. 

I think life’s purpose is found in how we take the journey, in the small and seemingly innocuous choices that become important along the way.

I honor my mother this Mother’s Day for being both strong and weak – for being human.


Other Posts about my parents:

Remembering Daddy, Ten Thousand Tears, A Message From my Dead Father, Forgiving is a Miracle, My Father is Dead, When Did you First Believe God is Male, A Good Day Is, Watching My Father Die, Lessons From a Monastery, On Parenting Deeply & Well, On Putting the Dark & the Light Together, Strongest in the Broken Places, Who Needs a Heart When a Heart Can Be Broken?, Parenting by Free Fall, What Kind of  A Mother, A New Way to Be Human, Forgiveness: Expect Miracles, A World Of Possibilities, My Mother.

The Writing Life, the Power of Voice


Life is pathways that become our Story; where we meet the Holy One and God renews us.  These realities run parallel to one another, making life unbelievably complex.

I am a woman, a mother, daughter, and sister while being a life-partner and friend.  And I’m a writer, a creative photographer, a poet, bringing logic and imagination together here, all which engender Me–this follower of Christ. I am also a sometimes runner, forever an alcoholic who is sober with gratitude and Grace, I am so many things.

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s hand all these roles and trajectories, this my first year of being an intentional writer, finding my voice, my story, my purpose.

For me, one pathway has been as a stay-at-home parent and homemaker, a role I haven’t liked, more like suffered through, but that’s a part of my story of resistance to what is.

Another part of my story is working solidly on perfecting writing as a craft, including relentless reading and writing; finding and accepting my style, my voice, which is different from others, but these are the ways and words that God puts in me. Again, I resist this discipline. 

I’m also a person drawn to studying scripture and this year I’ve been rethinking How I read the Bible, learning the big Story of the Bible, reluctantly accepting both the patriarchy of organized religion, and the most incredible fall-down-on-your-knees awe for a good and loving God.  Time and again the stretches I spend, the more of a contemplative I become, brings a craving for the quiet whispering voice of the Holy One. I have sought the life of the Spirit in new and ancient ways. This is discipline.

Another path I have been on is learning what it means to be a woman in the evangelical church and being healed; coming utterly unstuck from years of bitterness over women’s roles.

I was feeling ignored, unheard, and even unimportant – lacking a voice, while being gently chastised for being so outspoken and for clinging to Feminism.  I was simply keen to talk with others about their experiences as women.  I felt alone, except for some community I found online.  Writing “Why I Stay” (as essay in Finding Church by Civitas Press) brought a healing that I couldn’t  have experienced any other way.

Being at home, being a contemplative, being hungry for the Bible, being a women, being a writer, I have had years of feeling very alone in all respects of my spirituality—Joining Redbud, I experienced the affirmation and community of women. It is a place of healing, growth and affirmation for me if I allow myself to enter in.

More than a year ago, at a time when I was crying out for my life’s purpose (or even just a job) what I wanted was to believe that my life could make a significant impact. I was challenged by my husband and a pastor friend to write, ahem, TO BE A WRITER as my vocation.

I remembered all the others over the last year or two, and over the course of my life, who affirmed this in me. I was full of arguments “I don’t know how.  And you cannot just do it. You need a plan, a proposal or idea for a book or two, and connections eventually to an agent or a publisher.”  This was more of my resistance.

But I also knew, before all those lofty goals, if you want to be a writing you must simply write—write often, write everything, write it all down learning to collect words and ideas, putting them together in your individual way, finding your voice.

I have learned this year too, that you must occupy your own Story and portion out your life experiences with care and discretion.  You will be exposed and vulnerable, and yet you’ll learn to trust yourself and your story to others, as you engrave your story on the “page,” sharing it with a community of readers, it deepens your character.

There is an excavating of the soul as you stay vulnerable and open to the Holy Spirit, to evolving in your faith journey, to sighting places where God’s work in you—and God does and it is the most miraculous, deeply challenging thing. 

There will be times of feeling abysmal, but always the promptings and the difficulties that seem to come are a part of life and if you allow them they will be your writing life. 

Writers must grow!  Lean in to your troubles, to your pain, to the heartache and write it all.   This year of intentional writing has been one of the more difficult of my life and yet, I thank God for the panics, the gaffes, the worry, the heartache and the pain.

Even as I often feel alone in a desert of fear and solitude, and worry that perhaps my writing will be forever done in obscurity, I know that God doesn’t ever turn away from me and my story.  The story still matters with or without the accolades. If you believe that you are on the right pathway.

This writing life has become about remembering and living My Story, no one else’s, and acknowledging the power of God in Me.  Believing deeply and knowing with certainty in the midst of heartache, that God is good, and God is Present and God is okay with the fact that I’m quite imperfect.

And as each of  these paths run parallel, of being a writer and living this imperfect yet Spirit filled life, the challenge is to not allow the writing to overtake the emerging  of your Life Story.

I cannot let my writing out shout the Holy Spirit’s whispering and the narrative of scripture’s truths and all that God is doing inside me.

This is the tension filled place of living the writing life, which is less a place of perfection and more a place of being perfected into the image of God.

The writing life does this in me.

Why So Silent? (And My New Superpower)

I have a super power — Invisibility.

I’m having a difficult time sorting things  knowing that I want to be writing, but accepting life, which includes very little time for creativity. My camera has fallen silent and well as this blog.

I have done a little writing, including a piece for my church on the Eat This Book challenge this year, which I will share a link to soon. It’s a beautiful little magazine, entitled Illuminate and I’ve written and offered my photography for it often.

These days our lives are all topsy-turvy; more than you could know.  I cannot write everything.  I can barely process it myself, before the next day begins and we do it all over again, sometimes worse, sometimes with a little reprieve. It seems it has been this way for months and I do not know when things will end. Some days I feel as if I might break in a thousand pieces of sorrow.

And then a dear friend gets cancer and I’m thrown into a whole new perspective — at least we have our health, at least we have one another.

There are some stories that are not mine to tell. Somehow telling my story (or the impact of my dead father on me, which I have done a lot of) is okay. But writing about my kids is complicated and I wonder whether I even have the right?  I want to protect them – to make life safe and to not talk about them.  But their needs are necessitating that I write less, work a part-time job, schedule and attend a million appointments for their academic and emotional and physical travails.

I feel invisible sometimes. I live now for my children and I don’t know if that’s right?  It doesn’t feel entirely right, but I know no other way to do all this, for now.  I just don’t want to become invisible. (This setting aside of my dreams feels decidedly unfeminist, to say the least.)

All the while, my mother is aging and I am helping her, more and more.  A widow, she lives independently and happily on her own but she doesn’t want to go to doctor by herself.  It falls to me, the daughter who is close by and doesn’t have a “career.”  I don’t mind.  My relationship with my mother has never been all that strong so I am grateful that I know her better than I ever have.  Her stories, her endless remembering which once annoyed me, are treasures to be stored away.  It’s a gift to be here for her.

In the meantime, I’m having a hard time being disciplined.  I haven’t gone for a run in two weeks, or is it three and it’s not just because the cold of early winter has set in. It’s because I’m exhausted and confused.  I’m crying a lot which is so ironic because for years I longed for the ability to cry.  It was shut off by emotional pain, medication, and God knows what else.  Now I just hope I don’t embarrass myself with the level of emotions that are bombarding me, flowing free for the first time in my life.

I’m sleeping very little which makes me certifiably crazy!

And in the midst of this I hunger for and lean into God; depending on and knowing the unknowable God better than at any time in my life.  I pray for deep belief, evidenced through my actions, through my life.  Belief in the Holy One’s faithfulness, love and peace.

But I’m so tired. And honestly I’m just surviving.

I’ve alluded to some of the challenges in recent weeks, but I cannot say specifically what we are dealing with. Not just to protect others, but I don’t want this to be a place of emotional vomiting.  I want it to offer the hope that I depend on, and to express my dependence on the Holy One.

One day I will find the moments, enough hours in the day (or night) to tell my stories and put them in a manuscript, one day. One day I will become a solid form for others to know and read.  But not today.

These days are about invisibility — mostly silent, these days are serving and giving.  And in many ways about receiving (learning to do so) from the amazing community of people we have in our lives.

In the meantime, thank you for being faithful readers and friends, for your occasional comments and for staying with me through a busy and mostly silent summer and fall. As I learn I become more visible, prodded by the Spirit and growing.  And I hope to have the energy to share it all with you.

{When Did you First Believe that God is Male?} #mutuality2012

Where do we form our ideas about God?  And more importantly when?  How young does it begin to register in your head and heart, your idea of God as a masculine figure and that your daddy is also male? How did they become so mixed together, mingled and intertwined?

And I asked myself today.  How do you pull them apart, which you must for a variety of reasons but most of all because you don’t know how to pray to that God. You don’t know that God.

What if you grew up feeling that you will never measure up, never have a day in your small, inconsequential life of being good enough, no matter what you do.  What if you grew up believing that your life, whatever you become, whatever you might

Hope for, dream or wish, whatever you might be today isn’t enough? 

What if you have believed since you were a very young girl, that all your striving will make Daddy love you more and yet it doesn’t work? Did not work.  What then?

What if you learned that God isn’t male What if God isn’t just a daddy or a father but a mother, a healer, even a lover?  God is something beyond our comprehension, wild and incredible, beyond imagination.

How are we to pull those ideas apart, with their

Deep Roots that have grown up all over us, entangled

with one another, clinching our chest tighter year after year – strangling,


killing you.

I know that I cannot separate these things.  In my human effort it’s impossible to make my shouting, critical, mean-spirited, controlling, effortlessly (it seemed) horrible and cruel daddy to stop.

I have to throw that idea away.  I have to toss that idea of human daddy being God or or God being like my daddy, toss it far into the ocean with all the other idols I have collected in my life.  I’ve got a few, but this one is a huge Monster of an idol and in my power I cannot even lift it, to toss it away into the vast murky universal ocean.

I cannot.

So I sit here, on the beach.  My feet sandy, my toes getting wet just a little, I pick up a pebble and fling it as far as I can.  I do not see how far flies, but I know that it is gone.

My hand is empty.

I imagine that I hear it fall, then swirl down into the waves, the tide pulling it out, further and further away

from me.

That’s how far I toss the idol of my human daddy being my God.

Out of my mind.

out of my heart,

out of my life,

daddy’s gone.  Human-daddy-formed-god, to be replaced with …

Something New, that I do not know yet.

“God is not limited by gender because God is Spirit.” – Mimi Haddad

I want to know that God.

So I am going to stay here on the beach a little while longer waiting, hoping, dreaming, believing that this God, who I cannot even comprehend yet, wants to know me.


“The point of the incarnation was that Christ represents your flesh and mine. Perhaps for this reason, Christ’s self-appointed name was most frequently Son of Man (anthropos—humankind) not Son of Male (aner). Gendered deities were part of the Greek dualistic system, which Jesus, as your flesh and mine, stands against.”  – Mimi Haddad, CBE

{A Miscarriage of a Life – a post Mother’s Day Lament}

Yesterday I told myself over and over — I have had a miscarriage of a life.

The day before, I spent all day celebrating my older sister as she received a doctorate of ministry in preaching from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Yes, I was happy for her but I could not enjoy the day fully because I was so disappointed with my own life.

After the very long ceremony (those Lutherans know how to “party”) I asked her what was next on her list for world domination? It was a backhanded compliment, which had a risk of offending her, but luckily she was gracious. (I get snarky and sarcastic when I’m feeling bad about myself.)

These sisters of mine are capable of doing anything.

Harrison’s seem to have the brains and talent, ability to work extremely hard, a yearning for justice to prevail and the certainty that injustice is, in part, our life’s call, challenge and responsibility.  We are strong, capable, and powerful women. Some days I actually believe that about myself.

I have come to believe that much of the spiritual journey is one of being stripped of all that we would put our trust in, other than God.

Life is found in losing it for Christ’s sake.  The life that God has for each of us, if received–changes us.  There is not one sacred path for all.

My journey over the last twenty years has been a stripping, for I never knew Jesus, before.

I never knew I was beloved. I didn’t believe there was a purpose for my life outside of what I could accomplish, a life purpose that is all about Jesus.

Until my father died nine years ago, I was in many ways “asleep.”  Because of the severe damage to my psyche from his anger, I did not know myself.  I did not know the Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in any real way.

I did not know it, but I was bankrupt in spirit.

But even in that absence of belief, God planted questions, passions and strong desires inside me, a prompting that has never left me to know the Word of God and interpret it. I know that I am to receive that– and submit to the unique journey God has laid out, even when I cannot see clearly the road ahead.

Trusting is painful — the stripping away of sin, of selfishness and in many ways of aspects of my humanity, my character, that I thought were who I was.  But there is grace, protection, comfort, provision and shalom in submitting to the Holy One’s purposes.

It is the only safe place. And yet it hurts so much when I feel I do not understand clearly.

In my 20s and 30s I lived for my job, it was my identity and all that I knew.  Strangely, I believed it was all I was good at and I thought that I was choosing to walk away from that work, because the environment was unhealthy, but I see now that God led me away, took everything that made me feel good and strong and powerful.  I thought I knew.

I could have lost my marriage and family because of my addiction to alcohol.  I thought I knew, thought I was strong enough to beat it with will power, but the addiction beat me and I found that I was nothing without the Holy One.  Even if I gave up the drink, without the Holy One filling me, healing, and strengthening me I was nothing. I thought I knew.

I sat Sunday scrutinizing people who had given many years of their lives to learning, thinking, writing, believing, enough to sacrifice time with their own children and partners, to achieve this incredible goal of a masters or doctorate. Some were restrained, some were giddy, and many were just slightly stunned to survive it, it seemed to me as a bystander.

I was so incredibly jealous and sad for myself, even mad at myself.  Though the day wasn’t about me, inside my head everything was about me and my feelings of not exactly failure, but a strange bedfellow to it, a miscarriage of a life.   In that moment, how dearly I regretted leaving my career in my early thirties and staying at home with my kids. Deep down a part of me still believed that I would not have succumbed to alcoholism or depression in the end if I had continue to work fulltime.  I’d still have a great career, I’d be able to leverage it toward other work, and I would be respected by others.   Pretty much bullshit and lies, but I almost believed it again as I sat there fuming internally.

I said all that and more to my mother as we drove back home.  I don’t know if I really believed it.  I do know that who I am, the real me, the person I never knew until I had no job, suffered from major depression and became a drunk – that woman needs Jesus! She believes in the Creator in a way that she never did before she lost it all.

I remembered that my boss, while I was trying to decide about leaving InterVarsity told me to go have babies and come back in five years to continue my part of world domination.  Only, I never went back I was too busy having a breakdown and drinking myself stupid.  That’s what I mean by a miscarriage of a life.

I was debriefing the day with Tom, who is extremely smart and has an almost PhD from the University of Chicago.  As his head hit the pillow he exhaled, he said something like:

Higher degrees have their purpose, and there is a sense of personal achievement if it is important to you, but being a parent is three times harder than getting that PhD.

“Yeah,” I said, “but the world doesn’t esteem parents.  Parenting won’t get you a job.  Parenting won’t bring you any real regard or admiration from others.  Parenting is something everyone does.  (Not to mention you don’t get paid and the hours are terrible.)  It’s not enough.” 

My eyes filled with tears so many times on Sunday, I felt like I was choking most of the day.  I was happy for my sister, genuinely — for I know only in part the many sacrifices she and her loved ones have made for her to accomplish this incredible goal.  I know my father was doing a happy dance, wherever he is.  My mother was beaming.

I spent my mother’s day celebrating my sister in part because I believe in doing things even when they are hard.  I want my children to grow up knowing that doing the right thing isn’t always what’s easy, nor is it usually about you. That there will be many opportunities in life to choose yourself over others, but when given the chance to celebrate someone you love, you should take it.

All day I had moments of deep self-pity and self-loathing for my choices and beating myself up about the last fifteen years.  Hindsight is 20/20 and all, still this is what I have come to know.

I know I would be different and horrible person if I had continued on the path of a workaholic and constant striving for external approval. My character has been changed through these experiences.

Through the mistakes I have made I have found a true understanding of God’s mercy and grace in my life. I know that I am loved by Jesus – I didn’t know or believe it two decades ago.

Through the mistakes I have made I have found a daily dependence on God for my health – my mood, my purpose and meaning.

For even as humbling and hard as each day is and how much it feels like a sacrifice to not have a viable lauded career at this time, I’m on my knees ever more.

Most of what I am learning is yet to be understood or written I suppose.  Clearly, I am still broken, still too easily overcome by the wrong motives. I continue to be frustrated and discontented and I am frustrated with myself because of this.

In studying the book of Proverbs (because that is where we are in Eat This Book reading the entire Bible in a year at church) I am being drawn to Proverbs 31.  I look forward to learning what a 21st century feminist wife and mother, a homemaker, budding writer has to learn about being a Proverbs 31 woman.

I am open, and fearful. I am angry and aching inside, deep where no one understands me except God.

I know I should be grateful but everything about me is wired to work hard, to please other people, to get the acclaim of others, to be esteemed and admired; it is the entire human condition without God.

I pray for spiritual understanding and an ability to lay all that down — to trust and obey.

Deep down I know that as long as I keep longing for all the wrong things, I can’t grasp what is good, whether that is understanding of what I already have or whether it is receiving what God has for me next.  I cannot grasp it because I am still so filled with discontent.

I thought I knew.  There is very little that I do know.  But my story isn’t fully written.

When our Traditions and Tired Beliefs are Calcified into Orthodoxy (Brief Thoughts On Women)


Yesterday as I was sitting across from one of the people I respect most in the world when my life changed forever. 

You see I have had many long years of being in pain about being a woman in the church, though I am on a path of healing. Yes, this story does have a happy-ish ending.

Okay happy isn’t quite right but I feel hopeful in the knowledge that we have not seen the end of Our Story.

Being a woman in the evangelical Church can be painful.  Being a natural questioner is too.  

More than a decade ago, I began to question the roles of women in the evangelical church and this has brought me a lot of personal pain.  The process of learning what was True – scriptural, cultural, and relevant for us today, was slow and difficult because no one really wanted to talk to me about it or help all that much, as I questioned my pastor, and the elders, and pursued it with others.

Little did I know that in some cases it was because others didn’t really know what they thought.

This is a part of what makes this issue so slippery.  I pushed, sought clarification, and ask for perspectives and read a lot of books! The process of the last ten years has been uncomfortable, isolating and even at times agonizing.

I learned recently that I have even scored a “reputation.”

Not as I would hope of being a thinking, theological person – because I have asked the biblical basis for these things and sought truth. That I would take as a backhanded compliment.

And not as I might wish for being a questioner –because I do have many questions and never saw that as liability as a person of faith.

Rather, I have been called the f-word, yeah that f-word – Feminist. And even more malevolent, an “Angry Feminist.”

Actually, the angry part is true. Once I am able to step back from my defensive, hurt posture, I’ll confess that I have been angry.  I have carried around inside me, close to my heart, an oozing, pussy, and infected spiritual sore and this has been  very bad for my soul.  I even picked incessantly at it.  I have been wounded, offended, bitter and angry and worst of all to me is this.

I have felt unheard.

Sitting there across from my beautiful, big-hearted and loving, Bible cherishing, Jesus following, Holy Spirit filled, Bible Church attending friend, she uttered the most unbelievable words.  And she repeated them when I seemed to just look at her bug-eyed, in shock.

“You are not alone.  You are not the only one wondering what’s true,” she whispered to me.

She asked me this simple question:

 “What did Jesus say about women?”

Well, nothing that I am aware of and I will double-check because she asked. But I am not aware of anything prescriptive that Jesus said about women.

Jesus saw women,

Jesus spoke to women,

Jesus healed women,

Jesus taught women,

Jesus was financially supported by women,

Jesus loved women,

Jesus listened to women?

Jesus was persuaded to change his mind by a woman.

All in a culture and time when women were unseen and unheard, unworthy, unquestioningly invisible.

So I ask you friends.  What did Jesus say about women? And what parts of Scripture bring you hope as you consider the place of women in the church today?

I’ve had a healing of that sore that I allowed to fester for more than a decade.  That incredible story is here.

And I have a renewed challenge by my friend, someone who I never thought would ask about the injustices toward women in the Church.  Because of her, I now dream of somehow bringing a riptide of change into the middle of this vast ocean of tradition and tired beliefs which have been calcified into orthodoxy.

These days, most days, I feel hope about the place of women in the Church. Other days it feels foolish and the lack of certainty is soul crushing.

On the days that I maintain my weak hold on Jesus, I do believe change will come.  And hearing the questions coming from this dear friend meant everything.

I am resolved to begin again to study and write on this topic — I gave it up for a good long while.  The angry feminist in me has become resolved and certain of Jesus and his love for me and all women.  Something shifted in my mind and heart , in my soul as I sat listening to my friend.

I am not alone.  I am not the only one asking.  I am not the only woman looking for answers.  We will find the Truth together.  We have not seen the end of Our Story.


Other things I have written on these subjects.

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?

Call Me Crazy, But I Talk to Jesus too (Thoughts on being a Christian Woman in the 21st Century)

Call me crazy, but I talk to Jesus too.
And so, I can say that I don’t need you to liberate me.
Jesus already did that.
No, I don’t need a church to say what I can and cannot do,
I’m already free.

Call me crazy but I don’t believe in a Jesus that oppresses you or me.
You see, I’ll repeat it in case you didn’t understand, we are already free.

Yes, I’m going there.
Call me crazy but I don’t worship a male God.  Sexuality just cannot matter
to Yahweh — who is the creator of the universe – who formed the stars and galaxies, and all kinds of life.
I believe in a God who isn’t male or female, he is everything.
God is spirit.
God is breath.
God is here.
God is everywhere.
God is everything good.
God came before us and will be here after us.

That I am a woman is nothing to him.
And here’s something else I believe.

God doesn’t love you because you’re a man.
He sure doesn’t love you more than me.
For a long time I thought he might.
But then, crazy me I talked to Jesus too, and then. I read the Bible for myself.  I learned
yes, God loves me
for I am made in his image and by that he doesn’t mean male.

Because Yahweh, our creator God, isn’t male or female.
Don’t you get it?
We are already liberated and free.
I even think, if Jesus returned today he might not come as a male, no not today. I’m just saying,
he might not.  Why does that scare you?

But as the Son of God it’s true.  Jesus came in human form, two thousand years ago




even though Jesus came to liberate us all,
even though God allowed a woman the great honor of being the first witness to the Resurrection,
still, way back then …

Women had nothing.
Women were chattel.
Women were owned.
Women were property.

Call me crazy, but I am not that two-thousand-year-old-oppressed-and-dependent-kind-of-woman,
I’m free.
I just need to learn live like it.

If you look.  If you really care to open the eyes of your soul and read the Bible, then you will see.

No, I don’t believe in a God who oppresses anyone, least of all me.
I talk to Jesus and he told me

I’m already free.


Inspired by and written as a part of the Synchroblog March theme, All About Eve.  As a part of Women’s History month,

Women’s rights have been all over the news recently, from bills in Congress and state representative bodies to crass “jokes” by national broadcasters. The idea that women are or should be equal to men has become a polarizing topic of discussion on the national stage. So we thought Synchroblog might jump right in. Anything concerning women in general, women and the church, balancing women’s rights with religious freedoms, the differences between men and women … these are all good topics for blog posts. There is one caveat, we are asking that the Synchroblog be a voice of moderation and temperance. You may have strong beliefs on this subject and that is good. Giving voice those beliefs in a spirit of cooperation and bridge-building is also good. We would like these posts to step in that direction.  Here are a couple of great examples of moderate writing on women’s issues to prime your writing … An Apology From Limbaugh, But The Damage Is Done by Denny Burke.  And now…on the other side (critique of extreme complementarianism) by Roger E. Olsen

I invite you to read these other synchroblog posts.

(I haven’t read them all yet.  Passing them along in the spirit of the project):

Marta Layton The War on Terror and the War on Women

Kathy Escobar replacing the “f” word with the “d” word (no, not one of those ones!)

Tammy Carter Pat Summitt: Changing the Game & Changing the World

Wendy McCaig Letting Junia Fly: Releasing the Called

Words Half Heard Lenten Submission: Rethinking Hupotassō

Jeremy Myers Women Must Lead the Church

KW Leslie Churches and Women

 Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman

Jeanette Altes – On Being Female

Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too

Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar

Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi

Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve

Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…

Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day

Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women

Christine Sine – It All Begins With Love

K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women

Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal

Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor 

When It Hurts to be called out by God’s Spirit

This now has a part two.  It is found here.

I’ve been uneasy and perturbed.  I am a Slow Learner.  I know that an edgy, even grumpy unsettled spirit inside me usually means that there’s business to attend to and something to be learned.  I am  drawn down into a Place of Reckoning.  I am learning in the place of Love where God begins to change and shape me into Someone Other Than Me.

It usually requires time. And when finally my ego shrinks down to a normal size, I am ready to start.  This time I shakily verbalized it to Tom.

Bless him, my Tom has my rhythms down.  He knows when I need an ear, when I want (need or don’t need) advice, and the instances that I must simply talk (out loud.)  Introverts will know what I mean.  We introverts talk all the time, right?  It is just in our heads, which is sometimes unproductive, unhelpful or unclear.

Gideon was the most unlikely of people to lead the people of Israel and perhaps ironically, his name means “Destroyer,” “Mighty warrior,” or “Feller (of trees).”  His story read in chapters 6 to 8 of the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible was not one of a giant faith, in my opinion. Really his faith was immature; he was often testing and always questioning God’s power, before he would act.  He had a “do this for me and I will do x for you” attitude.

That’s me.  I suppose what most convicted me by thinking about Gideon’s story is the obvious ways that I’ve flailed about, unsure and doubting myself every step of the way over the last few years. I have made some messes and done some stupid shit.  Recently (the last two years especially) I’ve been angry and unsatisfied, especially wanting “clarity about my career.”  I have asked for it, even demanding it. [As if God cares, really what I do.  Okay, he cares some but ultimately, this is only measured against who I am and how I treat others. How do I love?  Do I serve the needs of those who are powerless among us? ]

How very ungrateful I have been.

My heart lurches.  I know ingratitude when it sneers at me.

Fact is the Strong Independent Me believes deeply that women should have a job. (Everyone should have a “job” men and women, young people, old people …  I fundamentally believe in the idea that everyone should contribute to the community, everyone is obligated to this.)

It is especially important to me that women have careers and “represent.”   Do you know what I mean?  I live with a lot of guilt, even shame that I don’t have a career right now. Or even simply a job.  Just a job. Any job.

And this is how it goes in my head. Beyond the value to the community, a job earns “Respect.”  Respect would make me feel validated and valuable and valued.  A job where I go to a different place (than my home) and do “things.”  If I am most honest, things that will build me up and help others recognize my value.  Then bring home a paycheck for all the same reasons.

I’m a writer.

I know with certainty that I would write even if I never got paid or published because I have been a writer for as long as I can remember and it is who I am. The same goes for my photography — I live and breathe the pulse of life through a lens.  I put word by word, ideas together as an offering.

But as I toil in relative obscurity, Ego Me leaps out saying that this won’t do.  Who cares if you are an essayist or poet, who cares if you are writing here on this blog if no one knows and applauds? Bingo! That’s the crux.  Validate me world!  Say what you think of me please.

A friend got mad at something I said.  Mad because I said that art is useless.  I know that is not true.  And I don’t even believe it, but the voices in my head tell me otherwise.

That’s crazy, and besides, in God’s framing of things it shouldn’t matter.  I have to know my value is legit no matter what I do. 

And I have (to learn) to believe that creating art is not useless.

And so for now at least, I will write.

And what I felt most convicted about from the sermon this week was my infantile attitude and my lack of gratitude for this life that I have.  Shame on me.   My anxiety comes out of this place.  My fear comes directly from that spigot, gushing, flowing, spilling all over me in ugly incomprehensible ways.

Gideon tested God on more than one occasion.  He never complained, but he didn’t believe.

Do you flail about in an infantile way demanding that God meet all your needs as if you deserve to be happy, fulfilled and useful? 

Have you learned the slow path to contentment and spiritual maturity that involves a way of relaxing into Him, both by trusting and by stepping out into an unknown future looming ahead?

May it be so.

P.S.  As I mentioned, this has a part two.  It is found here.

Can I “forget” that I’m a Woman while at Church? Forgetting and Forgiving



For a long time, I’ve been angry; allowing myself to root about, sullied by my feelings–ashamed. And oh, so hurt.  Hurt by my church not taking a brave, outward stand on women in leadership.

Then, over the last few months God has taken me on a journey, though it began many years ago.  The Holy One has helped me to “forget” that I’m a woman at church.  Turning off my “feminist radar” so that I can fully receive from scriptures and teaching.  And not be caught up all the time in the women’s issue.  This has been good.  I am being healed in many respects. For me personally, I have to let it go.  Forget about it. Forgive.

I read with a feminist lens and this especially true when reading the Bible.  Because of my precarious journey of self-understanding, as I have grown in my knowledge of being a feminist Christian woman, I needed to know and learn the stories of the women in the Bible.  When reading the OT with Eat This Book, I found myself overly conscious – hyper aware of every time a woman is mentioned or our story ignored.  As you can imagine, this was causing me no end of frustration and anger (being a bad tourist in a culture foreign to me, I suppose) when the Old Testament is so definitely a patriarchal, androcentric collection.

I ask how women pull out the truth for ourselves, when we are reading the OT, when many verses in scripture have an interpretation and very likely the translators came to it with bias and agendas.   I had to let go of that. Let it go free for now.

I am learning to read the  Bible  for the big story, the meta-narrative at least for now. Fly high over these books, look for major themes.  Not sweat the details, for now.

Our church is strongly recommending the ESV study Bible.  I have resisted purchasing the ESV.  I learned  recently that there were no women on the team of contributors, the oversight committee and the review scholars.  This strikes me as a significant backward choice.   I must admit to feeling dismayed. Both the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) which I love reading, down-play the ministries and roles of New Testament women in their translations and show a bias about women and leadership.  This doesn’t discount all the rich, important amazing scholarship.  But it sullied it, for me, that no women biblical scholars were included.

I bring the NRSV to church when I want to know quickly, which verses apply to me as a human being. (Of course I know they all do, but it’s still irksome to have to think about it, when a verse says Man and Men and it means human or people.  It so limits the joy of opening scripture to have to think about it and I find that extra step of thinking takes away from my ability to hear the sermon for all its full meaning.  I do wish that teachers if they are aware of when a version is particularly biased in the translation of particular verses, could/would point it out.  But that’s a pipe dream for now, perhaps, at least for this church.  Forget about it. Forgive.

I was gently reminded by a new friend on Facebook that our dialogue about women can become ghettoized (which I’ll confess I don’t totally understand what she means) but I do understand that we need to be laden with grace in all we say. And in particular where there is pain involved,  it seems all the more significant, even profoundly so to to find within ourselves the strength to be gracious and even pray for those that we disagree with.

As I grow, I am often convicted by the truth that my tone and heart are so often not like that. And I am reminded to “Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your benefits in stone.”

It is a unique dance too, when you (may) feel called to be a bridge person, (may) be called to challenge injustice of all kinds.  This doesn’t mean that we can do it with a tone of bitterness and condemnation, rather we should be at peace and speak with genuine grace and love.

Let it fly free.  Yes, oddly and quite gratefully, I am learning to “forget” that I’m a woman while at Church. For now.  


I highly recommend the blog of Margaret Mowczko, a NT scholar.  Her writings have greatly influenced me, even for this blog post.  Her blog New Life has a rich set of articles, but I particularly point to her articles on Gender Equality Issues.  This is the one on Bible Translations, that I referenced above.

I have not read it, but a friend recently recommended Mark Strauss’ book, “Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy” (InterVarsity, 1998).  His book argues for gender neutral translations.

I know that this idea of “forgetting” I’m a woman will really bother strict feminists.  Sorry about that.  It’s just something that is working for me, for right now.  I will never truly forget.  It’s more like a word picture of an idea that I’m embracing for right now.

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