What About Martha? (Sheology Part 4)

My sister and I are as different as night and day. She’s adventurous. I’m…well…scared of the carwash among other things.

We approach life much like getting in the swimming pool. She cannon balls. I enter slowly, step by chilly step. 

I’m more of a thinker. She’s a doer. 

Often times when I hear women talking about the sisters Mary, the thinker and Martha, the doer, they will pick one or the other with whom they feel a connection. 

Is that a bad thing? Must we choose between doing and thinking? 

***

The first time we meet Martha, she is hosting a party for Jesus as he passed through the town of Bethany. Dinner wasn’t the only thing steaming. So was she.

Babes ready to be born. New life is coming!

Her sister Mary (as we’ve already seen) was learning at Jesus’ feet instead of helping in the kitchen. Martha,boldly served up some roasted lamb with a side order of attitude. 

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! (Luke 10:40 NIV)

Boy do I get this. If you’ve been involved in church or ministry work at all, then you know the 80/20 rule that says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It’s so easy to serve with some Martha ‘tude. I’ve been her and also been served by her.

Jesus’ response? Martha, Martha, (whenever he says your name twice…oh dear!) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Only one thing is needed.

Jesus wasn’t drawing lines or categorizing women by personality type and interests, He was defining priorities for all of us, and more important, drawing Martha into a deeper relationship with himself.  (When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James pg 223)

Choose the better thing. 

I can get so caught up in the serving part that I forget the sitting part. Without the sitting part, the serving part can become a bitter thing I do, not the better.

***

Babes are here! Needing care, feeding, teaching.

The second time we see Martha’s boldness is when her brother Lazarus is sick and Jesus delays coming so long that he dies. 

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, bu Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been her. My brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:20-22 NIV) 

Martha’s daring drives her to the One who can calm her concerns. I love that Jesus doesn’t rebuke her but is ever the Teacher as he reveals a bit more of himself as the Resurrection and Life. He challenges her by asking, do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Some would call Martha brazen and brash, disrespectful. Mary’s response was perhaps much more appropriate. But we don’t have to put a lid on our wants and wonderings. We can be fearless in our asking of questions and laying out of our concerns. 

We can therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 CSB)

Theology begins with doubts that make us dig. ‘Tude or not, he can handle us just fine. 

***

The last time we see Martha, she’s back at it in the kitchen minus the ‘tude towards her sister. There’s another dinner party being given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just six days before Passover and while Mary takes her pint of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus as an act of worship, John tells us, 

Martha served. (John 12:1-11 NIV)

Two little words with a powerful punch. We find Martha using her gifts as a form of worship and not to wage war with her sister. When we each bring our gifts and talents to the table, the church and ministry of Jesus is so much better. The world needs to hear the good news of the gospel and whether that’s washing dishes or feet, both are important. 

She’s learning and so am I. 

Empty nest means these babes have been nurtured and can fly on their own.

I am just as content teaching a Bible study on even given week or gathering dirty communion cups after Sunday service. Reading a commentary on the book of James or pulling weeds. Planting seeds whether in the garden or over coffee with a distraught woman. 

Theology doesn’t disconnect us from life or weaken our willingness to do the next thing. Knowing God, makes us mobile to do the very thing he calls us to. Those of us who know God find sacred in the simple as well as the sensational. As strange as it may seem, theology belongs in the kitchen just as much as it belongs in the classroom at seminary or behind the pulpit or in elder meetings. 

I don’t believe we have to choose between Mary and Martha, between being a thinker or a doer. I think we are meant to be a blend of both. 

Learning, leaning and loving make for some sound theology. 

kw

Worship is Never Wasteful (Sheology Part 3: Loving)

The babies have grown and flown….just like they’re suppose to. 🙂

I’ve never felt very courageous. I scored 0% in the category marked “Adventuresome” on one of those tests everyone takes. Like Walter Mitty in his secret life, I would daydream an awful lot…can you hear me Major Tom? 

But then again I have five kids, which takes lionhearted courage and I was the first of my big family to go out of the country to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. My pastor sent a text the day before I was to leave, You can do this Mrs. Mitty. He knew.

After that trip, every time something came up that would take courage (car wash anyone??) I would tell myself I could do this thing. After all, I’d been to Africa!

So maybe bold is a better word. I can speak to big groups but get a bit sweaty palmed small talking with folks I don’t know. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, the center of attention, but like to control when said light is turned on. 

I’m a nine on the Ennegram, a Peacemaker, doing almost anything to avoid conflict and choosing the path of least resistance. I like routine. I don’t like to be the center of controversy. Though I can debate and have an opinion different than yours, I need a nap afterwards. 

But sometimes you just have to be bold. 

***

The third time we see Mary of Bethany she’s at another dinner party, this one being given in Jesus’ honor. (John 12:2 NIV) It’s just six days before Passover and time is drawing close for Jesus to be arrested, beaten, put on trial and crucified. He knows it. 

I wonder if Mary senses it too? I wonder if she picked up something different in his teaching lately, an urgency, a preparedness, a warning of what was coming. 

The disciples were jockeying for a pristine position on his right and left in this new kingdom Jesus came to establish. (Mark 10:35-45 NIV) They’ve politicized Jesus’ ministry thinking he would become the new king of the country instead of King of Kings. 

Not Mary. While the others are eating Mary takes a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NIV) 

This was a bold act for several reasons: 1.) Society expected her to be serving food not wasting time at Jesus’ feet. 2.) Touching someone’s feet was considered degrading (imagine the disciples surprise when Jesus washes their feet!) 3.) A woman was never to take her hair down in public…never. 4.) The perfume she poured out was more than a year’s wages and her dowry that she’d been collecting. It gave her value for a favorable marriage in the future. All poured out, wasted as some of them were saying. (Based on the book Insight’s on John by Charles Swindoll) 

The boys in the room didn’t like it. They thought it was a big waste and were vocal in their “concern” but Mary didn’t care. She didn’t just bust open a jar, she broke open the box society had put her in. She lived out the full life Jesus came to give her. 

***

Being a woman of faith can put you in a position to step outside your comfort zone and into the war zone, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do to take a risk and pour it all out there with a boldness you’ve not known before. 

We have to be ready. We can’t walk into battle armed only with what we learn from a person behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We aren’t meant to fight with the men (they are not our enemy) or even in their shadow but beside them armed with sound theology from our own digging daily in scripture. This war zone is no respecter of gender. 

It is on the battlefield that a woman will discover the power and usefulness of her theology. Mary’s third portrait should have a profound impact on how we see ourselves as women, in the home and in the church. When we take this definition of ourselves seriously, the home, the church, and the men will only benefit. Conversely, to walk away from this hurts us all. (From the book When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)

Mary shows us much about what it takes to be a theologian. She sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. She learned what he was all about and who she was because of who He is. But it’s so much more than learning.

She fell at His feet and leaned. We lean in to what we’ve learned; which enables us to endure those storms that could rock our world otherwise. It puts our faith to the test and helps strengthen and mature our theology.

She worshiped at His feet and loved. When we begin to understand who Jesus is and what he has done (and does) for us we want nothing more than to love him, to pour out our best for him. Worship is never wasted. 

Mary is such a great example for us to follow. But…

What if I’m more like Martha? I’m so glad you asked…

kw

If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw

Creeping People and Itching Ears

This reminder in nature that eventually we can’t rely on others to feed us. Instead we must learn to feed ourselves.

You could see the battle going on in the woman’s mind that sat across from me. Her husband had coercively, emotionally abused her for many years. While I could see her making strides toward gaining some confidence, she was struggling to answer the question I asked. 

What do you want to do? 

I really want to leave him….but I can’t. 

Why not? 

Because if I leave him, God will leave me. He hates divorce. 

While it is written, I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel. (Malachi 2:16NIVit also says this of God, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5NIV)

My heart broke for her as she shared with me that she was told by “the church” God would rather she stay in the abusive marriage than get a divorce. She now recognized the affront for what it was but what was she to do? We talked, searched scripture and prayed for direction.

Unfortunately her story is all too common. Being duped, damaged and deceived by half-truths and truth twisting is a play by the enemy that is as old as the Garden of Eden. She knew just enough scripture to believe deception but not enough to refute it with truth. 

Anybody else been there? We may not be in an abusive relationship but there is a half-truth believed to be the whole truth. A twist to scripture you’ve never untwisted.  

Enter the creeping people:

For among them are those who creep into households… (2Timothy 3:6ESV)

Who are these “creeping people”? The Message tells us they look like this: 

People who are self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2Timothy 3:1-5MSG)

That’s quite a list, yes? Instead of women being creeped out and recognizing religious fads that calls itself “truth”(2Timothy 3:7MSG) these people are creeping in and taking every advantage of us and many times we don’t even notice. Does this fire up anybody else?

These people prey on the weakness of women, the guilt of women and the passions of women. (2Timothy 3:6) Listen, it is not God’s desire that women be weak in discernment…theological, Biblical, and moral discernment…so that they are sitting ducks for creeps. 

What makes these women (and us) gullible and easy to deceive? Let’s look at the reasons in reverse order: 

The Passions of Women. The emphasis here could be sexual in nature but we women can be passionate about a lot of things. We can lust after…the perfect house, job, family, body etc…we are so intense with our passionate pursuits that we leave no space or place for sound Biblical study. 

We find our value in the stuff we have or the things we do instead of the One that’s already done it for us. We passionately pursue after our purpose instead of purposely placing our passions in the hands of our Pursuer. 

There’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, pursuits and passions as long as they don’t have you. 

The Guilt of Women. These are women who are loaded down with sin. This isn’t fun to talk about but here we go. We cannot surround ourselves with people who never speak truth to us, who let us do whatever we want. I have a handful of girlfriends who are my biggest cheerleaders, yes, but who also keep me in check if I’m out of line. 

This alignment keeps me out of the line of enemy fire and able to recognize his schemes. 

Paul warns Timothy about this a bit later when he says, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4NIV) 

Don’t circle yourself in with best friends who scratch an itch with a feather. Surround yourself with grace full truth tellers. You’ll grow stronger and keep the creeps out.  

The Weakness of Women. The creeping people who are mentioned in Timothy are smooth talkerswho prey on women with every new religious fad that calls itself truth. Oh, it’s subtle and slick most of the time. There’s just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make it sound good and Godly but the underlying message is more like did God really say…as said by the serpent of old.  

What do we do so we aren’t misled? 

In a word: Theology. 

I know, I know. It sounds boring or maybe intimidating or too churchy. But theology isn’t just for the men. We will be judged based on what we ourselves know to be truth not what somebody else did or didn’t tell us to be true. We have a responsibility, as women, to become sheologians. 

It really isn’t as tedious or terrifying as it sounds…as I hope to show you over the next few blog posts. Theology isn’t just about reading textbooks like Lectures in Systemic Theology, trying to get a grasp on the knowledge of God. James tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God…and shudder. (James 2:19)

We are in a battle that is fierce. Carolyn Custis James says, Soft theology won’t sustain us on the battlefield. Marching into battle with superficial, false, and flimsy ideas of God is like going to war with a popgun tucked under your arm. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 95)

Theology is more than just knowledge. 

Sound theology brings a bazooka to the battlefield enabling us to keep the creeping people out and our itching ears scratched with the Truth. Sound theology grounds us when life picks us up and spins us around. Sound theology prevents us from believing half-truths. Sound theology helps us recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sound theology engages the intellect, leans in after a loss and warrants us to worship.

Are you ready? 

kw

Into the Wilderness

Photo cred: Mackenzie Crumpacker

Sometimes you go. Sometimes you’re sent. 

Does anybody see you? 

Does anybody care? 

Is the Lord even there?

You didn’t choose this desert space, this wilderness place. 

Or maybe you did. 

However you land there doesn’t really matter, it can be horrible yet the most hallowed place you’ll ever be. 

In the last blog post, Forcing the Pieces, we met Sarah who desired to have the children God promised her and her husband. But God’s timetable wasn’t hers so she suggested they get the party started with a romp in the hay between her man and her maidservant. Alas, it worked and Hagar (AKA Fertile Myrtle the maidservant) does indeed get pregnant. 

Sarah gets angry about the whole thing, blames Abraham. Abraham throws his hands in the air and says you deal with it. So she did. 

Then Sarah mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6 NIV

Hagar ends up in the wilderness of the desert.

Sometimes you have no choice but to flee for your own well-being. You choose to take a stand and with such courage and bravado say, Enough! Sometimes you have to leave behind the familiarity of community, a job, a home, drugs, comfort, provision, abuse, friends, tradition, others opinions. Walking away from what you know, all you’re familiar with and what makes you fit in can be one of the toughest and best things you do.

Sometimes it’s simply the season of life you’re in. You run your kids around like you’re an Uber driver at Kentucky speed way and you miss adult conversation. GNO? What’s that? Or you’re an empty nester who gave all your time and energy raising a family and now what do you do? You’re a student who lives, eats and sleeps studying, classes and tests…social life? What social life? Your child has special needs and demands time and energy, doctor appointments and round the clock care. You love them to pieces but could sure use a break. 

Dry desert air makes for a thirsty soul. Thirsty souls wander and wonder.

Flip over a few chapters and we’ll see Hagar had gone back (in obedience to an angel), had the child and once again, because of Sarah’s jealousy, got banned, this time….for good. 

Sarah said to Abraham, “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)

So Hagarwent on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:14 NIV)

Sometimes the choice is made for you. A husband walks out. Kids rebel. People distance themselves. A diagnosis is made. A death happens. And don’t think for a minute this century doesn’t have “Sarah’s” in it…using you for a means to an end manipulating and mean, then tosses your butt out like a rag doll. 

Either way, here you are. According to Brene’ Brown, The wildernessis an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. (Braving the Wilderness)

The wilderness is full of uncertainty and certainly feels like you are the first and last one to blaze this trail. Surely nobody gets it. Or you. Check out my journal entry for January 18th

Twice Hagar found herself in the wilderness, the unknown, the scary place. The first time she was seen by God; the second He heard her cries. Both times He brought comfort and provision. Wilderness has wild in the word because it’s a crazy time of walking with the One. 

Hagar’s time in the wilderness, that time of searching and solitude, allowed her to experience things she never would have otherwise. She is the only woman, a slave woman at that, who names God. You are the God who sees me, for she said I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi, it is still there. (Genesis 16:13-14NIV)

He continues to be the One who sees. Now and forevermore.

Don’t be afraid. Keep moving through. 

You’re among good Wilderness walkers. It’s where the prophets and poets live for inspiration. It’s where the risk-takers and trailblazers thrive. It’s where Jesus beat the devil at his own schemes. 

He sees you. He hears you. Lean in and listen. Walk in the wild and be free.

kw

Forcing the Pieces

God promises Abraham kids and Abraham believed God would give him kids. So simple…God answers prayers. (Journal entry/January 16th/Genesis 12-15 )

I wish I could say I was like Abraham who trusted God to do what He said He would do, what He promised him He would do. No matter how long it took. Abraham set out on an adventure not knowing what the whole picture looked like, not knowing the when’s, why’s and where’s but knowing the One who was sending him. His journey of faith was simple: Abraham believed the Lord. (Genesis 15:6NIV). Period.

I fear I’m more like Abraham’s wife Sarah who got ahead of God. You see God had promised this couple children so they waited. And waited. And waited. It sure seemed like God forgot or was asleep or just didn’t care. Maybe, just maybe, she was supposed to do something, take action, to get this as-many-stars-in-the-sky-so-shall-your-offspring-be party started. After all, “God helps those who help themselves” right? (Anybody else use this line of thinking while telling yourself it sure sounds like a Proverb so it must be so? It’s not.)

The very next day, January 17thmy journal entry looked like this: Nothing good comes from getting ahead of God’s plan. Trust Him…even when it doesn’t look promising. 

Sarah ended up “helping the Lord” by having Abraham sleep with her maidservant. While we may look at this and think to ourselves wow! I would never ho my man out to another woman, which is probably true for the majority of us but what would you do/have you done when you’ve taken matters into your own hands? 

I liken all of this to putting a puzzle together. It’s a process to go from 2000 pieces dumped on the table to finding and assembling the edges, giving you a frame from which to work, to the buildings coming together to people’s faces and animals becoming whole to the field of grass and wildflowers making sense. 

Watching, waiting and walking away. 

My man stands in awe and wonder 🙂 of my puzzle putting together ability, as he does not have the patience for it. Every now and again he will try and then get frustrated. How can you sit there and look and look then pick up a piece and it fits? 

There are clues in the pieces but you have to be patient. A little piece of a foot here, a bit of flower there and the shape all matter but you have to look carefully. God gives us hints of hope in our situations too but we must be always aware, ever mindful and looking for Him. 

Sometimes when I can’t see it coming together I need to walk away for a little while. When I come back, it’s fascinating what I now see that I couldn’t before. Giving your mind a rest can be just what you need in order to see that God is working. 

We have what I call a “waiting well” issue in our culture today. Our attention spans demand instant gratification, quick points to an article, faster internet speeds, quicker service, microwave meals, instant replies on text messages, articles instead of books, okay Google information, short conversations and drive-through answers to prayer. We do not like to wait so we…

Force the pieces together. 

My four-year-old grandson was helping me put a puzzle together one Sunday but soon got discouraged at such a big endeavor so he tried this: 

Obviously this would make quite a different picture than the one on the front of the box.

Forcing the pieces together skews the bigger picture of God’s plan. I am in a current season of waiting on an answer to prayer and I want so badly to make something (anything!) happen. Desperate decisions don’t make for a pretty picture so I remind myself that God’s ways are not mine and He is working this thing out. I have to constantly…

Look at the bigger picture. 

I keep the lid to the puzzle box right next to me so I can look at it as I try to decipher where the different pieces go. I need that to be my guide especially in the beginning when I’m looking at a mound of pieces with no direction. 

We’ve got to be in His word, studying, learning and getting to know the character of the One who puts the pieces together. Praying to Him, yes but also listening for Him to speak to us. We can rest in Him, trust Him and put our faith in the process He sees fit for our situation. Being still and watching or moving forward with pieces as He sees fit. 

So how did Sarah’s story end? Was God angry with her for forcing the lineage He had promised to Abraham? There were consequences and it was a bit messier because of the move made too early but…

…the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. (Genesis 21:1NIV)

He is faithful. He sees you. He hears you. He will put the pieces together. 

kw

Women of Means

Platforms, performance and purpose. Competition, comparison and cattiness. We wonder. We work. We worry. 

Bigger is better. Faster is more fun. We fight our way to the top, scratching and clawing anything or anyone that gets in the way. That ladder of success is no longer just in the work world either.

We compare ministries, Mom styles and our mayhem. We compete with Pinterest perfect parties. Our purpose becomes all about virtual friends, follows, likes and heart emoji’s. Busy is a badge of honor.

Buying into today’s culture that screams “MORE” makes us manic with panic and may I go as far as to say..mean? There is nothing worse than a worn out woman whose worth is wrapped up in what she does rather than what’s already been done. 

It’s rather exhausting isn’t it? 

There is a different way. 

The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. (Luke 8:1-3a)s

I love this group of women who follow after Jesus!

There’s Mary Magdalene who has a past spent with seven demons. Seven is a complete number in the Bible and some scholars suggest she was wholly possessed. While you and I may not be possessed or never have had demons come out of us, there are a few of us with a bit of a, shall we say sordid, former life. She was no longer that person because of Jesus and neither are we. 

Joanna was the wife of a highly placed official in the court of Herod Anitpas. She knew people and inside scoops. I image there were dinner parties, dances and functions that kept her in societies eye. Once she knew Jesus, the rest faded away. The power and prestige paled in her pursuit for her Savior. There are those of you who relate to Joanna, knowing people in high places (maybe even being those in high places) but recognizing where real worth comes from…being a Jesus follower. 

Susanna is a bit of a mystery. Mentioned here and no other place in all of Scripture the one thing we know about her is she is a part of Jesus’ ministry and had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Maybe you are Susanna. Ever grateful of what Jesus did for you and in quiet adoration you follow and serve him. 

And many others…I wonder who among you reading this feel as though you don’t have a “big story” to tell so you don’t tell your story at all? You aren’t Mary M. with seven demons or high in the social scene or even mysterious but you adore Jesus and follow him with everything you’ve got. You count too you know. Your story with the Savior is a beautiful one. 

Why do I love this group of women? They are all so different and yet the same because they all recognize their need of Someone bigger than themselves. Each one brought something unique to the table. 

These women were helping to support them out of their own means. 

(Luke 8:3bNIV)

What if this was a group of mean girls instead of women with means? Mary wouldn’t have been allowed in for fear of what others would say about her shameful past. After all, Jesus doesn’t need that sort of reputation! Joanna would never “lower herself” to serve others nor wish to be seen with such people. Susanna would have nothing much to offer so nope, no average folks allowed. 

What a difference that would have made! How much would they have missed out on? 

Thankfully they were women of means and not mean women. They each brought their “something” to support the Savior so he could further his message of hope. 

What if we weren’t meant to be mean women but women of means? Women coming together with all manner of gifts and talents, backgrounds and family histories, stories of healing and adoration for the Healer. We would follow the One we love instead of loving the number of followers we have. We would cheer each other on and be the loudest clapper in the crowd. We would celebrate what has been done so we could stop chasing after do. All for the glory of God.

What if the world saw us women of faith rise up and become women of means? Just imagine it. What if…

kw

Two F Words and a Book Review (Part 2)

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When sleeping women wake, mountains move. (Chinese Proverb)

There was a special section in the Cincinnati Enquirer Sunday paper last week titled 1968 The Year That Transformed the Nation which intrigued me so I read through it. One part in particular caught my eye: “Radical Women” find their voice, which is about a young woman tired of the patriarchy and feeling silenced so she decided once and for all to put the “act” in “activist.”

My first thought was, why should it be considered “radical” for a woman to want to be heard? Doesn’t everyone? My second was, have we made much progress in the past 50 years?

My friend Barb, who has lived a lot of life, made this comment with regard to part one of this two part series, So many of us have walked this path much of our lives. At less movement than a snail’s pace, this culture is beginning to change but you have to really search to see any of those minuscule changes. 

Because three of our five kids are strong, independent thinking women, I was a teensy bit taken aback at my man’s (their father’s) reaction of Oh, Lord, when I was talking about the book by Sarah Bessey called Jesus Feminist.

I get it. The word feminist conjures up all manner of images with the most recent being a handful (in the scope of the whole) of women marching for equal rights wearing vee-jay-jay costumes and hoo-ha hats on top of their heads.

Or maybe you envision a group of women sitting around a bon fire, smoking cigars, drinking bourbon, bashing the boys and burning their bras like a bunch of angry hussies.

To each their own but I don’t care for bourbon and I certainly don’t want to burn my bra. What I would like is to trade the ill-fitting, uncomfortable underwire that pierces in places it shouldn’t for a sports variety that will help me run my race well.

Feminism at its core simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance—not greater than, but certainly not less than—to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. (Jesus Feminist page 13 Kindle edition)

Don’t give this word away my church going gals. It’s meant for us too. Jesus leveled the playing field by treating us with dignity and respect. He listened to, loved on, taught, honored, walked beside, challenged, wept for, worked with, defended, talked directly to, met and included us. Women, just like you and me, in a culture that did not value females

If you look at the essence of the meaning, Jesus was and is a feminist. He is for women. Talk about radical.

What about this snail pace culture and in particular within the church? I don’t think there’s one pat answer. As people of faith, we sift our theology through Scripture, Church history and tradition, our reason and our own experience. (Jesus Feminist page 57 Kindle edition) We need to keep having conversations where we can. That snail will eventually get to where she needs to go.

In the meantime, we live out our calling by using the gifts and talents God gave us. I ended part one with this: Something I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) through the years, I kept waiting for an invitation to sit at the table when really the Table has been waiting for me to take my seat. I didn’t need a man to help me fulfill my calling because I answer to the call of one Man….Jesus.

I lost several years sitting in a pew being angry, hurt and confused thinking I couldn’t do kingdom work because I had tunnel vision that it was synonymous with church work. There’s a whole lot of kingdom outside the walls. The same God who gave you those gifts and talents will open the doors for you to use them, if you look for opportunities.

I got this text from a good friend of mine who works as a court advocate for abused women: The table (outside of the church) is so long & wide. I would not have found my seat here if my main focus was “church ministry.”

We don’t have to be a pastor to be a minister. We can choose to minister each and every day. To our families. To our neighbors. To the sick. To the shut-ins. To the Mom who is struggling. To the wife whose husband left. To the one whose diagnosis is scary. Maybe you’re the CEO of a major corporation or you may be in a season of ministry where those you are ministering to has jelly on their face and sticky fingers. Do it with all the gusto!

We don’t have to be behind a pulpit to preach the good news. We can choose to “preach” by clothing the naked, offering a drink, visiting the one imprisoned (oh these can mean so many things!), working in a homeless shelter, giving out of our abundance to those who have nothing, tutoring kids, and being kind (for goodness sake!). The world is dying for some Good News!

We have to stop waiting to get the nod when God has given the green light to go. You matter! You have worth and value and a voice and a place where you are called beloved by God.

I am surrounded by strong women. Women who are entrepreneurs, pilots, stay-at-home Moms, working Moms, foster Moms, nurses, doctors, advocates, law-enforcement, business owners, students, communicators, administrators, clerks, clergy, teachers and more! Do it Soli Deo gloria! For the Glory of God alone!

I swiped the last page of this book being proud to be a woman, an image bearer of the One who sees me! This book made me shout a few hallelujahs and hell-yeahs. I don’t want to burn my bra. I want to blaze a trail!

I am a Jesus Feminist.

kw

Two F Words and a Book Review (Part 1)

 

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It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are. (E.E. Cummings)

I don’t even know where to begin. I’m having all the feels this month after reading two books with differing points of view. So I guess I’ll just dive right in. They both have to do with women; how God sees them and the roles they play.

The first one I read was Women of God by Kathleen Nielson. Her view is a (whole) lot more conservative and one in which I cut my spiritual teeth on. While there are some parts and pieces I agree with, there is just something about the overall theme that doesn’t sit well. I didn’t turn the last page basking in the joy of being a woman or feel encouraged to exercise my gifts. In fact, her words brought back memories…

I don’t remember the exact year but it’s been at least 15 years ago. I was sitting in the evening service (because we went Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night so as not “to miss a blessing”) and felt the need to go forward and let my church know that I felt a call into full time ministry, something I had been feeling for several weeks.

When the men in the church would go forward to announce this, the pastor would have the deacons come up and lay hands on the man, pray over him, ask for God’s anointing and for the church to pray for and congratulate him on his decision to do kingdom work. I was expecting the same. So I went forward and it went something like this…

What is it you’re coming forward for this evening?

 I feel called into full-time ministry.

 You what?

 I feel called into full-time ministry. I don’t know exactly what it looks like. I just know I can’t ignore it anymore.

 He grabbed my hands and we bowed our heads but instead of praying he said…

Call the office and set up a meeting with me this week. We need to talk this through because I’m not exactly sure what God would be calling you to do.

I turned around and walked back to my seat looking like I simply needed an answer to prayer instead of answering a call. On the way back down the aisle, I passed people peeking at me with pity instead of proud that I was fulfilling a purpose.

No acknowledgment. No laying on of hands. No celebration of someone wanting to do God’s work.

I did meet with him the following week and he was ready to offer up several ideas of what fulfilling this call may look like. He listened as I shared that I wanted to write and teach Bible studies, to do some speaking and encourage people, especially women, to be all that God had gifted them to be. I wanted every woman to understand her value and worth comes from a heavenly Father who is crazy about them. To his credit, he did let me share my desire to use my gifts of teaching and shepherding before letting me know the preschool department could use some volunteers. I could also help out in the office a couple days a week. Would I be willing to start there and see where God leads?

After all, if I’m truly called, I will do whatever needs done.

I’m not above doing any job. In fact I had been volunteering in several areas. But I felt called to do something more, something different…to teach and dare I say preach the good news. The problem was, I’m not quite sure he knew what to do with me because I was female and women didn’t have leadership/teaching roles outside of the children’s area.

So I signed up for more slots in the preschool department. I was faithful to come whenever the doors were open helping where I could. I sat in the seat Sunday after Sunday but instead of fulfilling my call, I felt forgotten. I knew in my heart God was calling me to something more but it didn’t fit inside the box of what was allowed….at least not there. My round peg didn’t fit that square hole. Was I wrong? Would God call me to do something outside of the parameters of scripture? I didn’t think so. So why did I feel like I was the one who had done something bad?

While we still love the people who attend this church, we found it just wasn’t a good fit for us any more. It’s been at least 15+ years but those feelings bubbled to the surface the more I read Women & God. I closed the book feeling like a heavy cloak had been thrown over me.

I want to be like the once blind man when the Jews were questioning him and arguing about whether or not Jesus was a fake. He replied, I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind…I now see. (John 9:25 MSG) 

There are arguments on both sides of this coin. The thing of it is, I don’t want to argue. I just want to have the freedom to work side by side, doing great stuff for God, with everyone (male and female) walking in his or her giftedness….

…not feeling forgotten because forgotten is no way to feel.

Something I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) through the years, I kept waiting for an invitation to sit at the table when really the Table has been waiting for me to take my seat. I didn’t need a man to help me fulfill my calling because I answer to the call of one Man….Jesus. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

kw

 

 

Faith > Fear

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Fears. We’ve all experienced them. We’ve all wrestled with them. Some have conquered many of them. Others still struggle. Sometimes fear pops up quicker than an Eggo waffle out of the toaster. You thought you had worked through that thing but nope, there it is joining you for breakfast…pass the butter and syrup, please. Is there any coffee left? What kind of creamer did you buy at the store? You know I like French Vanilla.

Fear lives with you like an old friend, like you are some sort of bed and breakfast just waiting to serve her every need. You’ve become so familiar with her presence you don’t know what it’s like to not have her company.

But is it sin as was stated on a social media thread when I asked what kept my girlfriends up at night with worry? Nothing shuts down a conversation quicker than the blanket statement Fear is sin. (Emphasis on the period.)

The Bible talks about it a lot (Some say there are 365 “fear not’s” written. One for every day.) Maybe God knew we would have much to fear in this wacky world we live in. Maybe “fear not” is meant as an encouragement and not a command. The only thing he tells us to fear is him. Maybe that’s so our focus shifts from the thing we fear to the One who can help us fight our fear. Maybe fear gives us an opportunity to actually grow our faith.

Here’s what I know about my own dealings with the things I fear or have feared.

Trauma

Some fears seem unwarranted or silly. For example, I do not like being in the middle of a crowd if I don’t think I can get out. So I sit as close to the end of a row as I can get and know where the nearest exit is. We won’t even mention car washes…

We can have all kinds of experiences that plant a seed of fear within us. Death. Divorce. Disease. Abuse. Abandonment. Anxiety. Worry. War. Family. Loss. Sickness. Natural disasters….and not even realize a root of fear started to grow because it.

It wasn’t until I sought help that I realized where this fear of being trapped came from. It was something that happened to me as a young girl. The counselor gave me tools to deal with the fear, to talk myself through it, and breathing exercises so I can go to crowded places and enjoy myself without (too much) fear. (I even went through the car wash by myself…once…)

If “fear is sin” then I will sit in the middle of a crowd thinking I’m a bad person for feeling paralyzed by fear and never ask for help.

It’s ok to talk to someone about your fears. It’s ok to reach out for help.

Truth

Some of my fears are bathed in lies. Fear of not being good enough, thin enough, perfect enough, smart enough, talented enough, tough enough, pretty enough, loud enough, soft enough, adventurous enough, smooth enough, delightful enough, lovable enough…you get the picture. Did I hit any of your “not enough’s”?

Some of my fears have been or are my identity. I’m just a worrier. You are no longer you, the person. You suddenly become your fear. Anybody else ever said those words?

How about fear of failure, success or loneliness?

Then there’s the fear that we’re gonna mess our kids up beyond repair?

I hate to break it to you (and remind myself): we can’t mess up so bad that God can’t fix it. We aren’t that powerful. He is the best Repairer, Redeemer, and Restorer of all times.

To combat the lies, seek Truth. Find scripture verses that are opposite of the lies you believe. Read who you truly are based on what God says and not what your fears say. Satan is the ultimate accuser and wants you to sit in those fears, afraid. Get ticked and do otherwise.

Maybe fear isn’t sin but a subterfuge from Satan to keep us from living the full life God has for us. Just a thought.

Trust

I love/hate when God gives me current examples. I really want to share those things that have healed over nicely so I can show you there’s barely even a scar from battling with fear. But…

I have had an opportunity to fear the past couple of weeks. I have to admit, I sat in it for a bit, stewed on it for a couple of days and invited it to breakfast. And just like that she was back like a comfortable old friend, asking for French Vanilla creamer and a muffin.

We had conversations around this thing and the more we talked, the worse the fear became. Doesn’t matter about what. It could be anything really. The point is I let her stay way too long before I remembered she wasn’t a welcome guest in my home.

My reminder? God. I remembered I hadn’t talked to him about it. I had spent so much time playing every what if…scenario in my head, running them by my familiar friend (foe?) and allowing thoughts to run amok that it completely slipped my mind to simply pray about it.

I was trying to control it all and played into the lie that I had to. Did I trust Him with it? Would I give it to Him?

So in the middle of pulling weeds in the garden, I confessed my fears, my dreadful what if’s and doomsday scenarios. I conceded control and felt way better.

I don’t think fear is a sin. I think it lets us know we are human in need of something bigger than the thing we fear. It helps us to recognize the frailty of our fears when put next to the enormity of our God. Maybe the bravest thing we do is let God know when we are afraid. Then let HIM deal with your guest who is no longer welcome.

Oh and pour out that creamer…she is not the boss of you!

kw