Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Advent: a woman's place

I won’t lie to you: there are days when I struggle with calling myself an Evangelical. 
                      Today, for example. 
Yes, the Church of England’s General Synod recently voted to exclude women from ordination in the role of bishop.  Yes, an acquaintance, who has since been hidden on my social media feed because I seriously can’t take anymore, posted a youtube video from the previous (not Obama v. Rommey, but Obama v. McCain) election in which a male pastor explained why and how, “biblically,” women in governmental leadership positions equal a nation under God’s judgment; and, that women should never, ever, ever be permitted to preach.  Yes, the church I recently committed to attending (the last bastion of hope in my local vicinity) has ousted all female pastors for personal reasons, and hired a plethora of young, married men in their stead.  And yes, recently I had a conversation with a friend who assured me that her marriage would be recognized in God’s eyes because she had been married by a male leader.  For, to be married by a female pastor (oh, that they even have the audacity to call themselves that!)  makes any covenant illegitimate in God’s sight. 


Why is the faith that I love so dearly, so harmful and restraining for women?  How is it that we can read the exact same scriptures, and cite experts in the field, and come to such polarizing answers?  How can it be said that women have no voice; yet Jesus Christ gave the honor of first missionary to a woman, instructed women to proclaim the gospel after he rose, and allowed a woman to study at his feet as the other male future-leaders did?   

How can women be so excluded from God’s plan of redeeming creation that we have been relegated to our husband’s dreams or callings?  Or at best, to the tents of the other women? 
Dear one, you know this topic is my heartbeat: the God of the universe is the same God of women.   I hope I am clear in my pursuit: not a female over male, to counteract the current systems, but female with male.  Serving together, teaching and learning from one another, ministering to each other, living the gospel together for the benefit of each other.  Because God made women, as He made men, in His own image.  And in Christ, all are free to worship Him thus; and teach about Him thus; and show the world who He is.   Because we all have the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit as our male counterparts.  There simply is no scriptural way to duck this truth.       

And where do I land after another gender-equality rant?  Where do I go when I am so weary of only hearing God's Word taught by male voices?  To whom do I turn when, yet again, all I'm told is that based on the sole fact of my gender I am exempt from decision-making, as though "female" is a reasoning-handicap?  When I am counseled to lay aside my calling and dreams thereof, so that I may invest all time and energy into my husband's calling. 

I go, dear one, to the only place one can: to Jesus, the only one who has the words of life.   

And because we are so close to the celebration of Divinity incarnate, I am focusing for the next few weeks on the nativity story.  More specifically, I am purposing to enter into this advent season devoting myself completely to the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55].  Highly liturgical, perhaps.  But in these nine verses, sung by a newly pregnant teenage girl, I find so much hope and honestly and beauty and high theology that anticipate and reflect the coming of Christ Jesus.  These verses allow me to focus on the fact that before anybody else knew…before Joseph or Herod or Pilot or the Pharisees…a young woman was told about the advent of the Messiah.  This Jewess had no clout, no platform, no worth outside of her immediate family (and even that hinged on her virginity).  Yet, it was to her—and ONLY her—that the angel Gabriel imparted the news that changed everyone’s forever. 

                The Messiah is come.  God’s promise would be fulfilled.  
And yet, He did not announce it to a high priest or to judge or king or prophet. 
                Almighty God told one woman. 

It was up to her to tell the rest of her world.  Just as it was up to a Samaritan to tell her village; and as it was up to a woman to break tradition, enter the male part of the house and purpose to learn at the feet of the Master, so that she might teach others.  Just as it was up to a woman to announce the resurrection of Christ from the dead, so it was up to this one woman to announce the impending insertion of Immanuel into human history.
Never, ever, ever doubt, dear one, the impact one woman -- in love with the Lord and completely submitted to the Holy Spirit -- can do:
                change all of eternity. 
For the glory of her Lord, her soul will magnify His name.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday of Thanks

Because this week is a holiday, I’ll be taking it off from blogging.  Instead, I’ll be baking, spending time with my family—all of them—and attending a friends’ wedding [for which I am so excited].  I’ll return on Tuesday, November 27th.  May your Thanksgiving festivities remind you of exactly how much you are loved, by the God from whom all blessings flow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Forgive thine enemies

Read: Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 23:34, 1 Peter 3:18

 “Give me grace to forgive them.  ‘Cause I feel like the one loosing.”
~ Tenth Avenue North.

Love your enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.   As you forgive those who sin against you, so you will be forgiven.  Forgive as you have been forgiven.    
The repetition in scripture illuminates the importance.  And it sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  One word to articulate the praxis of the gospel: a,.fes, forgive.[1]  An imperative, though not always a command, that is stative.  In other words, be in the state of perpetually forgiving; or in the negative, do not live in un-forgiveness. 

               But how? 
We are often told to simply let it go, put it behind you, move on.  Isn’t there a colloquialism (or a pin at the very least) stating that “the first to apologize is the strongest; the first to forgive is the bravest; and the first to forget is the happiest…”?  The implication is that if I can just forget the wrongs inflicted upon me, I’ll be free from the poisonous root of bitterness.  From the suffocating soul-death of un-forgiveness.  Common wisdom goads us to pair forgiving with forgetting. 

An amnesiatic grace.
But is that really what forgiveness is?  Ignoring pain?  Making trivial what wounds us?  Pretending the hurt never occurred in the first place?  I have to offer that is it, in fact, not what grace is at all.  Jesus didn’t pretend that a woman caught in the very act of adultery hadn’t done what her accusers said she’d done. After her accusers left, Christ didn’t say, “I have forgotten your sins.”  No, He told her to “go now and leave your life of sin.”[2]  That very statement acknowledges that she was in the wrong, that she had committed a transgression against her husband and against God.   He didn’t say to Simon, while eating at his table, that the sins of the woman washing His feet with her tears were forgotten; Jesus said that her many sins were forgiven.  The inclusion of quantity indicates that the individual sins were not forgotten; but that instead, each and every one of them were forgiven.[3]  Nor, as the Messiah hung upon the cross did He cry out, “Father, forget that they’re doing this to Me.”  No.  Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”[4] 

Forgiveness, dear one, requires us to acknowledge that we have been hurt.  It is actually an identification of a wrongdoing.  Followed by releasing our right to retribution.  Laying down the privilege of retaliation at the foot of the cross, as God’s right to punish our sins is set beneath that very same cross.  I believe, where John Wayne a theologian, he might say it thus: Forgiveness isn’t forgetting; it’s being hurt but loving that person anyway.

I have to be honest, dearest reader, there is someone I am daily (and oh how I mean daily: as in moment to moment, breath to breath, every single day) struggling to forgive right now.  Because this is a public forum, I will not divulge details.  However, this individual has wreaked havoc on my family’s life for upwards of seven months now.  And this person does so without any recourse for their actions.[5]  So that every time I feel I have gotten a handle on this person’s antics, another wave comes rolling in.  And I find myself crouched low in the tall grass, hiding; waiting for the next blow.  Hesitant and fearful.  And finally, in truth, understanding why David could write in the Psalms as he did: calling out for the destruction of his enemies; but always ending with the sovereignty of God.    

My heart has cried out, in both anger and anguish, to the Lord: How does one forgive someone so bent on destruction?  And through my shaking, my body’s reaction to the violent swells of animosity within me, and my tears, an outpouring of helplessness, the Holy Spirit whispered to my spirit.  As delicately as a butterfly landing on velvet petals, I was suddenly awash with peace.    
     I am to forgive this person as Christ forgave me. 

It requires the recognition that the perpetrator is a sinner; bent on darkness, yes, but so was (and sadly am) I.  It requires that I acknowledge my hurt on the razor-edge of their tongue, as I have wounded others with mine.  It also requires that I realize that Christ shed the same blood, out of the same love, for this person as He did for me.  He died the same death, in the same hope that they would accept His sacrifice for their sins, as He did for me.  He loves this person with the same fierce and eternal love as He does me.

And in the context of this humility, this recognition of who I am and who Jesus is, I can truthfully acknowledge my wounds and lay my hurts at the foot of His cross.  And say,

                I forgive them, Lord.  As You have forgiven me.    


[1] Luke 23:34: “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’”
[2] John 8:11, full story John 8:1-11
[5] Forgive my grammatical incorrectness, but to protect the identity of this person, I am using an androgynous plural instead of any identifying singular.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shifter's Compass Recovery Program

I will say it again: I’ve been unsettled in my heart of late.  My compass (not my True North) has faltered and is spinning erratically.  I am dizzy with indecision, weary of the incessant pummeling of a particular external entity, and deeply saddened by my increasingly predictable response.  There are days when I simply want to stay at home and hide.  Yet, because I know who I follow, the God who Sees Me, I know that this, too, shall pass.  I merely need to recover my orientation, regain my footing, and restart my journey.  And though it will require discipline on my part, it is not something that I alone can do – I will need the Holy Spirit working in me for this to be accomplished.  But I am ready to recover my compass. 

Do not think that I have lost my faith; on the contrary, what I am loosing are my false theologies, idols that I didn't realize wheren't representative of the One True God.  Thus, while my faith is being sifted, I can see it is being strengthened even  as I type.  But I will not deny that this is a season of shifting in my soul.  A separating of chaff from wheat; a refining of what is true and a melting away of what is insignificant.  It is because I can recognize this season that I can equip and arm myself accordingly.  Thus, I have purposed to engage in a more liturgical discipline over the next month, so that I might taste and see what the Lord has for me, even amongst these ashes. 
A beautiful former mentor wrote a prayer, one that I have been praying [at least in part] daily.  She calls it the “Shifter’s Prayer.”  It is, as is so much of her work, art.  And insight.  And deeply personal, because in it she allows for soul shifts that recognize that God is still God, even while I’m being redefined in and through Him.  I have included it below, just in case anyone else out there is being sifted.

I also recently purchased the Common Book of Prayer and beginning yesterday, I purposed to follow the offices therein.  That I might recognize that I am a part of something far greater than myself; something even greater than myself and my relationship with Jesus.  I am a member of a world-wide body of believers (both temporal and heavenly) who recite these prayers, who keep these offices, who need the same grace and the same mercy from the same God as I.  So that I might lift my eyes from my personal shifting to see, quite frankly, that the world does not revolve around me. 
It should only ever revolve around Christ Jesus.  For the glory of God.  Forever and ever.  Amen.     

a shifter's prayer template  by Kathy Escobar
God, i used to think you were... (any qualities of God that you used to really believe)

i used to be able to say to others, to myself... (one or two phrases that you were sure

of in your faith)

when i read the Bible i used to feel... (several feeling words)

now i sometimes feel... (several feeling words)

oh, how i miss... (several things you miss about your faith before)

but God, i'm trying to lean into the present, to experiencing you in new ways.

i see you in... (several areas of your life where you are seeing God somehow, some way)

i feel you in... (several areas of your life where you are feeling God somehow, some way)

i hear you in... (several areas of your life where you are hearing God somehow, some

i smell you in... (several areas of your life where you might smell God somehow, some

i touch you when i touch... (several areas of your life where you are touching God
somehow, some way)

thank you for these gifts.

despite all the things i don't know, i can still cling to this.... (one truth that is
sustaining you right now)

and for that i, too, am thankful.

God, please keep sustaining me in these shifts.

i do want more of you in my life.


// september 2012        

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There is No Excuse:

Today, I will simply say that those of us who live in the United States have a privilege even the Nation of Israel was not afforded by God.  We are permitted to choose the person who leads us.  It is not something, therefore, we should shirk or take lightly.  Read up on each candidate.  Pray fervently.  Then vote.  And please, don’t waste your vote by writing in “Jesus Christ;” as He is not now, nor ever will He be interested in political office.  He is the King of Kings (and presidents).  He doesn’t need your vote to be sovereign.  He is sovereign and will reign supreme forever and ever.  Amen. 

And choosing to waste the opportunity He has blessed you with, by writing His name on your ballot, is a sin.  His name should be written on your heart, and you should cast your vote from there.          
And if you question why this process is even necessary, the following is list of what people won the right to vote when:

1792        New Hampshire gives right to vote to white, male non landholders

1848       The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ends Mexican-American war, giving Mexicans in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas citizenship

1866       The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gives citizenship, but not right to vote, to all native-born Americans

1869       15th Amendment gives the equal right to vote to African American males.  Ratified in 1870 to include freed male slaves

1882        Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress denies citizenship and voting rights to Chinese Americans

1884       Supreme Court rules (Elk v. Wilkins) that John Elk, Native American from Nebraska cannot vote

1887        Dawes General Allotment Act passed by Congress, giving right to vote to Native Americans who give up their tribal affiliations

1888       Certain states use tactics such as “grandfather clauses” to disenfranchise African American male voters, subsequently plummeting registration among African American males.

1915        Supreme Court rules (Guinn v. United States) Oklahoma’s “grandfather clause” used to disenfranchise African American men is unconstitutional.

1919        19th Amendment is adopted by Congress, gives women the right to vote.  It is ratified in 1920 and becomes law.

1923        Supreme Court rules (Bhagat Singh Thind v. United States) that “high castes Hindus” from India are not eligible for citizenship  

1924        Supreme Court rules (Ozawa v. United States) that Japanese Americans are barred from becoming naturalized citizens

1924        The Indian Citizenship Act declares all non-citizen Indians born within the United States to be citizens, giving them the right to vote.

1943        The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed, giving Chinese Americans citizenship and the right to vote

1946       Filipinos are given right to become citizens and the right to vote

1952        The McCarran-Walter Act gives first-generation Japanese Americans the right to become citizens and the right to vote

1960       The Civil Rights Act is passed, allowing African Americans who had previously had their voter registration rejected were permitted to apply to federal court or voting referee

1964       The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, and gender in voting, public places, the workplaces, and schools

1971        The 26th Amendment gives 18 year olds the right to vote

1974        Supreme Court rules (Richardson v. Ramirez) that states may deny convicted felons the right to vote

1975        Voting Rights Act reauthorized by President Ford permanently bars literacy tests and gives assistance to language minority voters




Friday, November 2, 2012

Lessons from a Church Gypsy

Our family is a band of church gypsies.  The theological education of our children, the spiritual development (so much as it can be up to any mortal) of our individual members, and the devotion to and worship of our Lord God is always first and foremost in our thoughts and deeds.[1]  However, we do not have decades-long ties to any particular church in our area.  We have been vagabonds, moving through and among congregations as deftly as, well…gypsies through the countryside. 
I share this with you today because what troubles me, greatly, are the lines of division that have been carved among believers; lines that are meant to separate ourselves from each other.  Particularly as we speed toward an election that has been extremely divisive for our nation, I am troubled at the “us versus them” mentality within the body of Christ.  Denomination against denomination.  Conservative against liberal.  Sister against brother.  We have allowed our ideologies to taint the gospel, to mar the message of one body in Christ, to defame the unity for which Jesus expected us to strive.  When we are a house divided, we are easy to dismiss.  To ignore.  To refute.  When we cannot treat one another charitably, how can we be expected to be light in an increasingly uncharitable world?

I know that there is no perfect church, for each community is comprised of imperfect sinners.  And we each are (hopefully) doing our best to live out the gospel.  Thus, if a community other than yours, or an individual believer, is acting within the bounds of scripture, yet doing something you wouldn’t do or in a way that you wouldn’t do it, might I suggest you look upon them with “Pollyanna” eyes?  Find the good they are striving toward, before lambasting them and tearing down what their character or denomination or expression of faith.  Remember that you and your church are just as imperfect and therefore in as much need of Christ’s grace as they.           
Our family has been a part of numerous communities of believers in our eight plus years in rural Colorado; each like a particular bloom in my heart, that when I look back upon them all I see a garden.  A tapestry from which we have learned and in which we have grown   There have been none we left on poor terms; and we pray that each continues their ministry and grows in vibrancy.  We have simply been called to move on at different times; some are obvious in hind-sight, others less so.  But our fluidity through these communities has left a beautiful mark in me, each one something I would regret deeply to have missed.        

I’ve loved the liturgy of the mainline churches we’ve attended; and yearn for it on the holy days when reverence is what the heart desires.  I’ve delighted in the dancing of non-denominational settings, where being yourself before the Lord is greatly expected; and where the community knows you and accepts you and you don’t have to rehash your journey every 2 months.  I’ve relished delving deep into the Word, going verse-by-verse in other non-denominational (-but-we’re-big-enough-that-we-really-are-our-own-denomination) congregations.  And I’ve cherished breaking bread weekly with another community who sought to truly live out missional lives.  I’ve learned from the vitality of a small group gathered primarily to make a difference in their community.  And oh how I miss that one group of lifers who just got each other, cared for and supported one another through whatever life slung at them. 
To have missed what each community taught me, what they drew out of me, would be a great tragedy to my spirit.  I love that as a member of the body of Christ, I can move within these people and glean from them the beauty therein.  Each place literally lightens my heart when I think of it, of the people who welcomed us and loved us and taught us and worshiped with us.  I can’t wait for the coming, epic reunion in Heaven when we’ll all be together as one family…worshiping our Lord together.  What a party that will be!  Laughter I can’t even imagine now and warmth and love I can’t fathom here.  The smile on my face at the very thought is so wide my cheeks are starting to hurt.  That is joy. 

Thus, I want to encourage you, visit some churches in your area.  Go outside of your brand of worship.  Recognize that just as you are individually created to enjoy a particular flavor of service, so are others; and that we have so much to gain when we respectfully share our way of drawing nearer to our Lord.  Stretch yourself and meet your extended family in Christ.  See how they worship, and do not judge, but enjoy their expression of love for our Heavenly Father.  Listen to their teachings, and so long as they keep with scripture, learn from them.  Shake their hands, let them welcome you, as family you may yet not know.  Return their smiles.  Open your heart.  Be blessed by them, and in turn bless them.  For one day, those of us who believe, will all be set at the King’s table for a feast in honor of His Son, celebrating His Love and Grace for each and every one of us.  Thus, if it is to be so in the age to come, should it not also be now? 
Lord, may Your kingdom come here on earth,

as it is and shall be in Heaven.


[1] On that note, we’re rolling out our family motto and life plan; which I’ll be outlining in the new year.