Sunday, May 5, 2013

Women

I read, a lot.  Possibly my favorite pastime ever.  And reading while at the beach, even better.  I need to go the beach.  Tangent.  Recently I discovered this blogger, Frank Viola.  By recently, I mean, yesterday.  I have no idea if I agree with everything he says or most of it or only this post, so this is by no means an endorsement.  But he wrote this post on women.  And I was blown away. 

As a woman who majored in Christian Ministry and is now pursuing a seminary degree, I have thought LONG AND HARD about what the Bible has to say about women.  What it says about our giftedness, our ministry, our role, the callings we may or may not receive and well, Frank brought up stuff I had never even considered.  

So I am sharing his post.  Linking because I don't want to steal his work.  You should read it. Don't give it more credence just because it's a man writing it either.  ;-)

Frank Viola, God's View of a Woman

After you read, come back here and see my reflection.   















(Did you actually go read it?  Come on now, clicking a link is not that hard)

























(Besides what good is my reflection going to do you if you don't read what he has to say first?)

























STUBBORN
























Okay for those of you who got this far, I'll start reflecting.  


Frank uses the term 'not ashamed" frequently in his article to describe how God feels toward and about women.  I wonder if this is really the best phrase in this discussion.  I think God feels a lot more for women than just not ashamed of us.  I think he relishes our company, desires relationships with us immensely.  Perhaps his use of this phrase is intentional, he places as a disclaimer that he gave this talk in Chile and their culture is very demeaning of women.  But I think as a woman it is so important for you to know that God is a lot more than not ashamed of your existence, desire for relationship with him, your ultimate dependence on him for your health and well-being.  

If God just felt not ashamed of our existence I wonder if he would have created us to begin with?  I think he was looking for a creation that he delighted in completely, not one that just functioned as a necessity.  I don't think God sees us that way. I believe in my brain and my heart that woman was the final culmination of Creation.  The last brush stroke of an artistic masterpiece without which the work would have been incomplete, lacking that essential finishing touch.  Its not just that he ended his creative process with us, it is that it reached its Zenith with us.  

Am I suggesting that in any way we are better than men?  NO, despite a little tongue in cheek jab about our absolute superiority in the area of relationships.  ;-)  No, God did not save the best for last, but he didn't use leftovers either. We are not day old pot roast.  We are not 'oh, whoops, how are they going to reproduce?'  We are not help meet, whatever the hell that is.  God help the next person who uses that word in a conversation with me.  We are not saved through childbirth, sorry Paul, all the barren women aren't going to hell.  We are not unnecessary, relegated to the sidelines in ministry and life.  

Jesus wasn't intimidated by women of ill-repute that let their hair down in public and poured perfume on his feet.  Just as Frank says, our company was not unwelcome.  We were not one of The Twelve. But as Frank talks about there was another group of disciples, The Women and unlike their male counterparts they followed our Christ everywhere even to Calvary.  This isn't to demean the Twelve. I think the reason the Women were at Calvary was because the men who were their crucifying Christ, they just didn't care who the heck these women were.  

Were the male disciples chicken?  Too scared to step up, probably.  But because of the marginalized status of women in the culture of Jesus' day these women were granted an absolution by their society to come and go as they pleased.  It was as simple as no one caring. No one thought a revolution would be started by a group of women crying at the foot of the cross. Unlike Peter, his sword wielding at one moment followed by cowardice the next, apparently he was more likely to start a revolution.  It is sad that the men were not there, but I believe the women that stayed, they received an honorable gift, the gift of being there until the very end with Jesus.  God clearly blessed that when he revealed himself to them first.

I'm thankful we live in a society where we aren't as unnecessary and unwelcome as The Women were back then.  But there are plenty of women who still live in societies like that today.  There are plenty of challenges for women in our society, especially in the Christian community. Whether you walk down the streets of America or an Arab nation where you need a chaperone is irrelevant God values you equally with your male-counterparts where ever you are.  

As you have probably surmised by now, I don't believe that calling or what we do in any church setting should be limited by what gender we are born.  I don't believe this because I don't believe that the Bible supports this thought.  Please don't flood me with verses I know the ones to which you are referring.  But I've read the Bible, the whole way through, more than once.  My conclusion from reading the whole of scripture is that women being inferior is an unbiblical attitude.  I can verse reference you as much as you'd like, but I'd rather you just read the Bible yourself.  Frank illustrated well how in Jesus' ministry and his relationships with women he was lifting them up.  Allowing them to be front and center, encouraging them to do so.  He was not ashamed.  Any shame based attitude that we still hold in our belief systems regarding the position of women within the Church is simply an unbiblical attitude.  I am really not saying that to be harsh.  But I'm also not going to be all mamby pamby on this issue.  That is not God's view of us.  I don't hold this opinion because I sort of believe it.  I really believe it and although I am unlikely to enter into this discussion just to argue with you about it.  If you believe differently, I believe that you are wrong.  I still love you.  And I still believe you can do great things for God.

 I know that some people maintain these positions out of a supposed deference to women.  We are supposed to protect them and keep them safe at home.  This is not NCIS people, we don't have to follow Gibb's rule #1 hide the women and children.  No one is storming the door with an AR.  This is the body of Christ and women have a voice, a unique voice that brings something different to the body.  

I have listened to a fair amount of women preach in the last decade and I have to say it's in no way better than a man preaching but it is different.  We bring a different perspective.  Our lives have taken us different places.  We relate more from our hearts.  Folks, this is good. It's good because God says so.  But it's also just good.  We need to hear more of this in our churches.  We need BOTH men and women speaking to our Churches, ministering in our churches, caring for our babies and loving our youth.  We need BOTH.  Some of the best sermons I have ever heard were preached by men I respect.  Please don't silence their voices either, but let us share the pulpit.  Let us share the Word of God together.  

"Sisters, take your high place. This is God's view of a woman."  Frank Viola

Friday, May 3, 2013

What's new



God has placed a calling on my heart, one that I have carefully guarded as I have been discovering what it means for my family and me.   I have sheltered it like a tender growing plant, and continually gone back to the creator, asking for the right tools to help it grow and confirming with Him that this is my plant to nurture for now.  I don’t have all the answers (so please don’t ask) for how God plans to work out this calling in my life.  But I have the peace to follow it for now. 

I am called to return to ministry, vocationally.  My ministry will be to the church firstly and secondly to victims of Domestic Violence.  The primary purpose of my calling is to educate the church about the problem of Domestic Violence and its presence in our body.  I am to educate and equip pastors, church leaders and lay people about this horrific evil that is in our body and also to help them to recognize it in their members and then to give them the tools to confront this evil effectively.  Both ministering to the victims and hopefully to perpetrators.  God is calling me to preach, teach, speak and write passionately about this, my experience with it and how the church failed me miserably for the ten years I was with Jonathan. 

I will not be condemning anyone for their failure of me during my abusive marriage.  But I will be pointing out how our ignorance of what Domestic Violence is and what it looks like in relationships has completely handicapped our ability to combat it effectively.  The church’s treatment of me is water under the bridge.  But there are others; many, many more people are experiencing this.  They live in Christian homes and they pray before they eat and go to church on the weekends and bring covered dishes to potlucks and picnics.   Sometimes they’re spouses of lay leaders or pastors and sometimes they’re children of our congregants.  And folks this has to stop.  We are the body of Christ.  In Timothy the word says: “If someone aspires to be an elder he desires an honorable position.  So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach.

People who aren't Christians would consider abusing your family to be reproachable.  The church should uphold an even higher standard than our society does. The verse above doesn't exempt our lay people from the standard of being above reproach, abuse is unacceptable everywhere within the body and in our world.

If you want to see a victory of our enemy, ask him how beaten I was for 10 years?  Ask him if I had the passion to follow God as I should’ve been or if I could even hear God’s voice.  He nearly had that victory in the bag.  If only I had stopped praying.  Satan’s voice in my marital home was a lot louder than the voice of God.  And I will shamefully admit I bought almost every one of the lies Jonathan tried to sell me on an errand from our enemy.  Lies about me, my worth, my vows, my God and my life.  I was well trapped but God; I just couldn’t give up on him.  I knew he was there.  I knew God didn’t hate me, even if some days I believed he didn’t love me. (Because how could anyone love someone as wretched as me, even God, couldn't put up with me.)  So, I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.  

And God rescued me.  He rescued my kids.  

But folks, it shouldn’t have gotten that far.  There are people who should’ve stepped in.  People who I told how Jonathan was treating me.  They knew from my mouth what was happening!  But they didn’t believe me, or they thought it wasn’t abusive enough or they just had no idea what to say or do.  These people know Jesus, many of them love Jesus.  The people of God should know better.  We should do better.  And I’m here; I’m walking on this earth to make sure that we know how.  We will not claim ignorance any longer.

I will be starting seminary soon.  I’m going put my feet on the ground and learn how to minister effectively before I go telling other people how to do it.  This is all risky for me.  Financially, spiritually, emotionally.  It’s a mountain of work, a heap of expense and I have an ocean of baggage about the church.  To minister well to our body, I’ve got layers of work to do in my own heart first but I now know where I’m going.  I have cried tears and tears of relief at the clarity of my calling. It’s scary to tell anyone (let alone all of blogland) that I’m going to do this.  That I will have the ‘right degree’ to one day be a pastor.  That’s a risk for me to take.  I'm bracing for the objections and attacks.  God is worth the risk and the women in these marriages, they need help.  I will take the risk for them.  Because I know what it’s like to be beaten in life; I am blessed by this calling.  I am blessed by the opportunity to serve.  Because of my heart, I can’t not do it. 

So to all the haters with their judgmental attitudes and headship objections, to Jonathan who still would deny that he abused me, and to Satan who would like nothing better than to silence me, y’all can shove your objections where the sun don’t shine because:

You will notice me. 
I’ll be leaving my mark, like initials carved in an old oak tree.
You wait and see.
Maybe I’ll write like Twain wrote,
Maybe I’ll paint like Van Gogh,
Cure the common cold, I don’t know.
But I’m ready to start ‘cause I know in my heart
I want to do something that matters
Say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear.
I want to do something better with the time I’ve been given. 
And I want to try
To touch a few hearts in this life
And leave nothing less than something that says I was here.
I will prove you wrong,
If you think I’m all talk 
You’re in for a shock because this dream's too strong and before too long
Maybe I’ll compose symphonies,
Maybe I’ll fight for world peace,
‘cause I know it’s my destiny to leave more than a trace of myself in this place. 
I want to do something that matters
Say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear.
I want to do something better with the time I’ve been given. 
And I want to try
To touch a few hearts in this life
And leave nothing less than something that says I was here.
And I know that I
I will do more than just pass through this life
I’ll leave nothing less than something that says
I was here. (repeats)
I want to do something that matters; something that says I was here.  (repeats)

Lady Antebellum - I was here

I will leave my mark because God is calling me to do so.  Not for my glory, because airing my dirty laundry and talking in depth about my issues is far from glorious.  Not so that I can one day feel like I ‘rescued’ a bunch of women, because God will be the one doing that.  But because I know I am not supposed to just pass through this life, neither are you, FYI.  I know what I am here to do, who I am here to be, a voice, for those who are silenced and ignored.

You should find out why you’re here.  I will pray that you do.  Because doing what God has called you to is the most rewarding thing that you could ever do.   You will never feel more alive.  Not that it won’t be hard.  I’m certainly hunkering down for the attacks of those mentioned above (and others I haven't even considered), but I trust.  I trust God is in and through this.  The outcome is not based on me.  The outcome is God's job.  My job is to obey.  This obedience has had ginormous rewards.  My brain is thanking me on a daily basis.  It might hate me in a few months and need a break.  For now, it’s all happy clappy, ‘Hey, you’re using me again and I looooove this.’  

I feel the need for a toast, to Jesus, to embracing life and to knowing why you're here.  Drink one for me, will ya?