Thursday, April 21, 2016

Women and Leadership in the Church

I have recently been thinking a lot about women, leadership and the church. Growing up in the church I have known that there are some churches and denominations that do not condone women as preachers, pastors, deacons, elders or ministry leaders (apart from women's and children's). I hadn't really thought much about it, probably because I have not really desired to be in those particular positions. But I know there are women who do desire to preach and teach and believe that God has gifted them in this way. Why should they be prevented from serving and glorifying God in these ways simply because they are women?

I know that one of the arguments is that scriptures in the Bible prohibit women from teaching and preaching. I wonder if the scriptures are being quoted without considering the culture, context or audience for which it was written. I wonder what Jesus would think or say about these things. I wonder about the stories in the Bible where women led, prophesied, taught, ministered, hosted churches and used their gifts and resources for God's kingdom. It doesn't appear that they were kicked out of church or criticized for overstepping their ministry roles.

I have struggled with wanting to be defensive, aggressive or combative on this subject. I have struggled with saying anything about my thoughts because I haven't thoroughly researched it myself. Regardless of my level of knowledge, my spirit feels that disqualifying women from leadership because of their gender is not right. Women are just as resourceful, intelligent, wise, discerning, equipped and loved by God as men. The requirements/standards of leadership should be the same for both.

I realize in Biblical times (and still now in parts of the world) women were considered the property of men. They had no standing, power or influence in the community. Women throughout the ages have fought to obtain rights equal to men. Women are still fighting for them. Yes, there are differences between men and women but I don't think any of them prohibit or hinder leadership ability.

I have been reading Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey as my introduction to this subject. I have learned quite a bit by her walk through her own study of this topic. Her book resonates with what I have been feeling.

I have appreciated that Sarah acknowledges that women in church leadership is a sensitive and hotly debated issue in which not everyone is called to verbally contribute. She reminds us that we can minister and use our gifts in every area of our life even if official ministry titles and positions are not approved by the church. God can use us where we are. Some women will feel led to challenge the church's stance with discussions and questions while others will choose to follow God's leading and serve/lead in the areas he determines, challenging the status quo by their lives. Just because women may not be allowed to preach in some congregations, it does not mean they cannot still be influential in their communities.

I still am not sure what my role is in this subject. Right now I have a lot of questions but not a lot of definitive answers. I will continue to seek the wisdom of those who have more experience, study and insight into women leadership and the church. I do think the church misses out when it excludes women from being influential and using their gifts to serve the church and community.

What are your thoughts on this issue? I welcome respectful and thoughtful comments.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Relationship Struggle

If you've been reading my blog the past year or so, you are familiar with my recurring cycle with relationships.

  1. Pursue relationships - initiate gatherings and events.
  2. Grow weary of being the initiator for the majority of gatherings.
  3. Feel resentful and frustrated and pull back/stop initiating.
  4. Become restless at the lack of time spent with others.
  5. Pursue relationships again.
I am once again feeling like I'm in a funk. I really enjoy spending time with people and that is usually the reason I continue to initiate. Today I feel like I received a little more insight into my feelings behind part of this cycle, particularly numbers 2 and 3. 

I realized that I pull back because I question whether the relationship are as important to the other person as it is to me. I pursue the relationship with regular meetings and some texting/email because I value the relationship and want it to grow. Eventually something inside of me wonders if I am more invested than the other person because there's not a lot of "Hey, how are you doing? When can we do something together?" coming back at me. I wonder if the relationship is important to them. Then I wonder if I am important to the person. 

I think that's the underlying emotion/feeling/question. Am I important? I know I cannot be the only person who wonders this. Has this uncertainty caused you to pull back from relationships? Have you found yourself in this relationship cycle?

I have recently found myself pulling away from one of my closest relationships.Trying to figure out why has led me to this point. I want to continue to meet, encourage and speak truth to one another. But I feel like I'm the one in charge of making it happen and my heart whispers, "Is this relationship more important to me than them?" It seems like an unfair question to ask because I know the person is very busy and overwhelmed and perhaps needs me to be more supportive right now to get back to a place where they can begin to reciprocate again. Perhaps it's the enemy trying to remove some of our supports during a difficult season. I know feelings are unreliable but this knowledge doesn't quell them. I really just want us to be more engaged with one another but at the same time I don't want to feel resentful or bitter. Help! What do I do?

I don't usually get a lot of engagement here on the blog, but I could really use some wisdom and encouragement. Please, if you have some, share it. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Being Not Enough

The other day I was made aware that Jennie Allen (author, If:Gathering founder) was starting an online FB community. That was the only information I had to go one. I really don't know much about her. I haven't read any of her books. Something urged me to request to join the group. I figured I could always exit the group if it didn't work out.

Thus far there are over 3500 people in the group (I don't know whether it's been closed or people can still join). A bit overwhelming for this introvert, let me tell you, but experience reminds me that I don't have to try to keep up with everything that happens in the group.

Anyway, Jennie posted a video in the group (I guess it was FB Live) that I decided to watch yesterday morning while on an elliptical machine at the gym (the video was 30 minutes long and that's the best place for me to take 30 uninterrupted minutes). She talked about how she is working on her current book (and three weeks from deadline she realized the book she had been writing was not the one she was supposed to be writing) and was seeking some community to help her through this rushed process perhaps offering encouragement and support and letting her know the book matter resonated with others.

When she talked about the topic, it confirmed why I was in the group. I often (including presently) struggle with feeling like I'm not enough (or sometimes too much, but that's a different discussion for a different day). As she spoke, I was reminded that the true equation is: Me + Jesus = Enough. On my own I am sorely lacking. That is why I need a savior, someone to accept me as I am and cover my deficiencies with his sufficiency. When I am able to remember and rest in Jesus' sufficiency for me I feel free and loved and light. I am unburdened.

However, sometimes I forget this is the equation and act like it is actually: Me + Jesus + Works. This mindset only deepens the feelings of inadequacy. I have struggled throughout my faith life with trying to do things to please God or earn my salvation. Thankfully God reminds me that I am accepted and loved through my faith in Jesus and there's nothing I can or need to do to earn righteousness. Paul reminds me that it's in my weakness that God shows up. May I, too, boast in my weakness so that God may be seen in and through me.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 
2 Corinthians 12:9 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Longing in Me

I recently read Sheila Walsh's new book The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God. It is a really good read! Christian or not, we all have longings in our hearts that we are desperate to have met. Generally, at their most basic, they are the desire to be loved, known and/or accepted. As people, we tend to seek fulfillment in a variety of sources - relationships, careers, success, families, vices (gambling, alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, sex), etc. Most of us have found that these worldly things we seek do not satisfy. They may depress the acuteness of the longing but they do not remove it. That is because our longing can only be fully met by God.

In Sheila's book, she shares some of her own experiences of trying to find fulfillment in other places. She walks through a variety of longings, talking about a specific one in each chapter, while sharing her story. Sheila also shares the story of David from the Bible and shows us how he, too, had these longings and revealing how he handled them as "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).

Here is the list of longings covered in the book: to be chosen, to be protected, for what used to be, for control, for your rights, for that one thing you think you need to be happy, to make everything right, for what would glorify God, to share the grace and mercy we've received from God, for God alone.

I think all of us can relate to at least one of these longings. I know I struggle with several of these - definitely for my rights, for what would glorify God, to be chosen, to share the grace and mercy I've received from God and for God alone. I love how she reminds us that we are not the only ones with these longings and offers wisdom in giving each longing to the only one who can fulfill them, God.

Each chapter had some wisdom and encouragement for me and I believe it will for each person who reads it. If you are feeling lonely, unloved, rejected, unknown, misunderstood or hopeless, I highly suggest you pick up this book and be reminded of how much you are loved, accepted and known by the one who created you. He will never leave you. He is ever for you and always with you. Trust in his goodness, love and grace. Let him fight on your behalf and redeem your circumstances for his glory. He is ever faithful!

The book is officially out today! If it sounds like there's something in there you can relate to, I highly recommend you get a copy. If nothing else, it will remind you of God's love, mercy and faithfulness.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

March Book Review

We're now three full months in! I realized that I needed to read a little more than four books each month to achieve my goal of fifty books this year. January gave me a big advantage with the completion of ten!!! In February I finished three, which is below my desired average but I'm chalking it up to the month missing at least one day compared to the rest of the months (like my excuse?). March is over and I finished seven books! Below are a synopsis/review in case you might be interested in reading any of them.

1. A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz
I had downloaded this book to my kindle a looong time ago but had forgotten what it was about so it took awhile for me to open it up and check it out. As soon as I began reading it I knew instantly what had attracted me to it. The book is about a man who walked from France to Santiago de Compostela, a city in Spain. It's the Camino de Peregrino (Pilgrim's Walk) that has been occuring for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. There are different trails from all over Europe that end at a church in Santiago de Compostela that is believed to have the remains of St. James (as in the apostle of Jesus, James). The Camino is generally a spiritual as well as physical and mental journey.

I studied abroad in Spain in 2002 and one of our stops was to Santiago de Compostela to view the end of the Camino. We stayed in an old convent and walked through the cathedral and saw where pilgrims end their journey. There's a statue of St. James in the cathedral where people touch his head. The stone is very smooth and has indentions of fingers from all of the people who have touched the same spot. The idea of walking 500 miles across Spain sounds very intriguing. There are shorter and longer mileage options depending upon your desire and ability. We saw a number of people with the telltale scallop shell on backpacks marking them as peregrinos.

I enjoyed Kurt's record of his adventure. It definitely has piqued my interest in perhaps attempting at least part of the trail someday. I know I want to return to Spain with my family someday, and this could be part of that adventure. Another interesting thing (to me) is that the author lives in Boise, which is where my parents live. We could have unknowingly crossed paths somewhere on the Green Belt during one of our many trips to visit.

2. Lovable Livable Home: How to Add Beauty, Get Organized, and Make Your House Work for You by Sherry and John Petersik

I was perusing the nonfiction section of the library and this book popped out at me. We are a little ways into the second year of living in our current home and there are projects I want to do but have not yet done (mainly painting). I thought it would be a fun book to perhaps give me some ideas or at least jump start my motivation to paint and spring clean.

The book was well-organized, with chapters divided into parts of the house. There were lots of pictures to accompany the many suggestions, ideas, and DIY projects listed in the book. I bookmarked a lot of ideas (as you can see) and will have to make a picture file of them, I suppose, as it's a library book I'll have to return in a few weeks. Their website has a lot of great ideas as well and could probably substitute for the actual book.

3. The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity by Sally Clarkson

A friend loaned me this book several years ago. Part of my reading goal for the year is to read and return all of my borrowed books. Parenting is one of the three main categories of nonfiction I read for obvious reasons. This book was very informational and full of useful content for me as a mother, and especially as one who is at home. Sally shared a lot of what she has learned is important in raising children who love Jesus and have a heart for service, two things that are important to me. 

I was a little overwhelmed at all of the material covered in the book and was on the verge of feeling like a failure in the parenting department (in the same way that I feel like a failure as a woman when I read Proverbs 31:10-31) but was reminded that habits take time to develop and parenting is a marathon that requires consistency and determination. There were several things that I feel like I have been making an effort and some progress toward. 

One topic was introducing children to culture - art, music, literature, performance - that is of interest to me because I like all of those things and have been exposed to a lot of cultural experiences throughout my life (and is one thing I like and appreciate about my own childhood). Per Sally's suggestion I checked out some non-fiction children's books on art, women in history and photography. My daughter found several of the books very interesting. After I read her a book about Georgia O'Keeffe, she felt inspired to create her own art. It felt good to see her interest sparked through a new genre of books. As a family I do think we do a good job of exposing the children to a variety of activities and experiences but I appreciated the reminder that books are another form of exploration.

If you are looking for a book to encourage you in your parenting pursuits and perhaps give you new ideas to engage, interact and instruct your children, I would recommend reading this one.

4. The Rosie Effect: A Novel by Graeme Simsion

This is the follow up book to The Rosie Project, a book I read and thoroughly enjoyed. I was curious to see how married life would be for Don Tillman, geneticist. He and Rosie are now living in New York (from Australia) and working/attending Columbia University. He finds out that Rosie is pregnant and sets about to try to prepare for fatherhood in an orderly and rational way. His attempts to do this cause some issues and lead to tension in his marriage. I was very fond of Don and Rosie by this time and was anxious to find out what happened. It was a very interesting and engaging read and I would recommend it, especially if you liked the first one.

5. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Last year I read The Husband's Secret per my mother-in-law's recommendation. I enjoyed it and decided to read some of Liane's other books. This one I thoroughly enjoyed. In the book a woman named Alice wakes up after hitting her head in a spin class thinking that she is 29 and pregnant with her first child. In reality she is 39, has three children and is separated from her husband. She finds all of this information very difficult to process. She discovers that so much has changed in the past ten years and sets about to figure out where things went wrong in many of her relationships while bringing the innocence of her younger self into the equation. I was thoroughly engaged and wondering whether things could return as she remembered them or if they were irreparably damaged.

6. The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God by Sheila Walsh

I applied to be on the launch team for this book and was accepted (it officially comes out April 5th). I read the title and felt like it was a book I needed to read, so I was happy when I received the acceptance email. I haven't read any of her other books for adults (I have read some of the Gigi ones with my daughter) but I was in the middle of reading Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God (courtesy of Jen Hatmaker) and was enjoying it and the rest is history. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (a longer review will come later). In it she walks us through the story of David in the Old Testament and his story as "a man after God's own heart" as she helps us understand that our longings are for God. We feel our longings for something and tend to believe that there's something in this world that can satisfy them - people, relationships, success, possessions, etc. Each time we try one, we learn that they are not truly what we are longing, not what will give us rest and satisfaction. The reality is that only God will fully satisfy us and we need to place our trust and hope in him and allow our relationship with him to fulfill our longings. It was such an encouraging read! If you are weary of pursuing things and continuing find that they do not satisfy, I recommend picking up this book and being reminded of God's heart for you filled with love, grace and acceptance.

7. Kissing Frogs by Rich Amooi

I think I got this book off of BookBub suggestions. It's a quick read about a woman who moves into a new house after a failed relationship and quickly meets and develops chemistry with her new next door neighbor. She is determined not to get involved with him but he is not helping as he is interested in dating her. It was a fairly predictable love story but I usually enjoy those as light reads. If you are looking for something fun and light for vacation, this could fit the bill.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Third Month Goal Review

March has come to a close and I am back here checking up on my goals for the year. The first month I was pretty strong. February was also fairly solid. Could I keep steady three months in a row? Let's dive right in!

1. One arts and crafts time per month with the kiddos

With St. Patrick's Day, Easter and the beginning of spring all occurring in March, it seemed pretty easy to find something crafty to do with the kids. I gathered materials to make Easter wreaths and fingerpaint crosses. I really want to make sure the kids understand the spiritual aspects of major holidays, that it's not just candy and gifts but has a deeper, richer meaning for our lives.

And then the kids had no interest in doing either craft. My daughter received art supplies for her birthday and wanted to make a St. Patrick's Day picture to give to her teacher.
Here's the finished product.
My son wanted to draw with crayons and cut. So he did.
I worked on an Easter banner while supervising.
We have talked throughout the month about Jesus, his death and resurrection so the craft was not to be the only Easter-associated thing we did. Funnily enough, my son did the cross project in his preschool classroom at church on Easter.

And I ended up making the wreath craft one day while my son played with (homemade) playdough.

And, of course, egg dying!
2. Blog at least twice per month

This month was much more challenging than previous months. I managed to get my two written for the month but I was sweating the second one, writing it four days before the month ended. It was the accountability of reporting my success or failure on here that helped me push through my writer's block. If I hadn't publicized my goal I probably would have let it slide.

3. Grow in gratitude, contentment and generosity

There is a young woman in our church who has babysat for us off and on the past three years. She spent a year in Laos that ended last spring. She has decided to return again this fall for a two year commitment to teach English and share Jesus with her students. When she left the first time we gave her a one-time donation. We decided this time that we want to sponsor her monthly and began that process this month. We will miss her but we know she will do wonderful things abroad!

I also purchased items to help with various ministries' needs this month. I have been reminded of Jesus' words about not publicizing your giving and feel like this section kind of contradicts that. I do want to grow in generosity but I also don't want to brag about it. So I am not sure how to balance that. Perhaps being more vague in my give, such as noting that I did use resources for others' sake.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."  Matthew 6:2-4
What do you think, dear reader? Is sharing progress on this site the same as announcing it with trumpets?

Here are my two verses memorized for this month:

Deuteronomy 6:5-9: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

1 Peter 5:8-10: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, stand firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 

How are you progressing on your own goals (yearly, monthly, just decided on, whatever)? Can I encourage you in any way? Please let me know!