Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wasteland

How quickly a want
Turns into a need.
The gadget is bought
And gives birth to greed.

To fill our large stomach
We digest longer hours.
Our craving makes us sick,
But we build bigger towers.

A corporation is formed
The members get their slice,
Community is scorned
We all pay the price.

Soon a cheaper way
Is found overseas,
For pennies a day
Greed spreads its disease.

Human hands, human faces
All covered in dust.
Homes built in places
Laid waste by our lusts.

Arriving home late
Our blindfolds untie—
The TV, our bait
Hooks us into its lies.

We shut our door
We turn our locks
We pray for something more
But are amused by a box.

How quickly our wants
Create such great needs
Peace isn’t bought
It lives where strivings cease.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Free Falling

I'm going to fly to Arizona this week. Just a second, I'm hyperventilating...okay, I'm back. I'm excited about my trip, but mostly, I'm freaked out about flying. I don't just freak out, I panic inside. I pray for weeks beforehand that I'll be okay and I ask others to pray as well. The trip will be fun, but I can't help anticipating the day I arrive back home, safe and sound on the ground.

Explaining my fear to people usually brings out some sort of discussion on fear itself. Are we supposed to be fearful? Doesn't God tell us not to be afraid and not to worry? Do you think God gave me this fear for a reason? Only one person I told about my fear has asked me that question. He thought that maybe it wasn't a problem, but something to ask God about. What are your intentions with this, God?

The Bible says we are to fear God. Just by asking that question, I prove that I don't fear him. I know, I know, everyone says that fearing God is really revering him. First of all, I love that word revere. I love what it means. Second of all, I don't totally agree. I think we are to be afraid of God on some level.

Think about these actions God has pulled off over the years:
Genesis 6:13: So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

Exodus 32:9-10: "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."

Deuteronomy 6:14-16: Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.

Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Okay, enough, I'm hyperventilating again. My point is, I know fear and I think it's good to know fear when thinking about God. What's flat out crazier, astounding, and mind-blowing, is that God does not seem to EVER deal with me the way he could. My fear is never really substantiated.

In both Daniel and Revelations, someone is approached by God's spendor. The reaction? They fell to the ground in fear. But, look closely at what happens:

17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelations 1:17-18). The person in fear is TOUCHED by God.

And again in Daniel 8:17-18: As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. "Son of man," he said to me, "understand that the vision concerns the time of the end."
18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

God could destroy me, but he touches me?

Actually this seems true in my life. Sometimes I reflect on the person I am and get depressed! Then I think about all the blessings in my life and how many times God has taken care of me and I wonder at how good God is. Psalm 103:8-10 says The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

I don't think it's meaningful to relate to God as gentle, until we know he's scary. I guess C.S. Lewis knew this when he described Aslan as not tame, but good.

I'm intimidated when I'm in a plane so far above the ground. I feel small, and I feel like I 'm going to drop at any time. I'm going to wallow a little in this fear, though. Because the more I experience it, the more I am amazed, astounded...(can't seem to find words) by God and his love.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Alabaster Jar

I guess what bugs me the most about this whole issue is that I feel I am only accepted if I am wrapped in a cute little package with a pink ribbon. However, it's very difficult for me to not be a real woman. I need to be accepted as a whole package...some really great qualities, some others that might not fit the stereotypes, and some bad ones that God is dealing with. I really want to have other women friends who are wrapped in the same jar of clay.

Now I have an example that may seem somewhat harsh, but I think it's a great illustration. There is a women's ministry display at our church that is currently filled with porcelain figurines of women in the 1800s who are carrying parasols and squeezed to all kinds of disproportions by corsets. Now, I'm sure the woman who created this display did not intend to send negative messages. She is a wonderful person and has great decorating taste. However, the whole thing is pretty funny to me. What message does a display like this send? Does it allow women to break free from past restrictions and become women that God created us to be or does it perpetuate an idea of what we church people want women to be like...soft, sweet, pretty and delicate? Women like Esther, Miriam, Mary Magdalene, or Martha would probably think differently. Now, I'm not saying a woman can't be this way, but can't we open the doors for women who might be politicians, school administrators, kickboxers, drum players, professors, or weight lifters? Can we display these varieties as well?

Do I only have two options here...to pretend or to not fit in? Or do you think Jesus had something else in mind when, after having perfume poured on his feet by a woman with an alabaster jar, he said, "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her"? (Mark 14)

We've all got an albaster jar. We can disguise it with bows, corsets and garters, but I'd rather break it and pour it over Christ's feet as an offering...a sacrifice of something real, something passionate.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Women in Leadership Part 2

Hats off to these guys at a church in Wisconsin:


Women in Leadership
In the summer of 1999 the Elders at GBCC gathered and studied information from a number of sources regarding the role of women in church leadership. This discussion was initiated out of the recognition of the powerful past, present and anticipated future leadership of women in the GBCC church body, and out of the need to clarify the boundaries of that leadership in the light of scripture. The results and conclusions of their discussion are summarized in this document.

PREMISES
As a first step in the discussion, the Elders established a number of premises upon which there was already unanimous agreement:The Bible is the basis of all decision-making and we will submit to its authority in our corporate life, even if it puts us at odds with our culture.The evangelical community is divided on the issue of the role of women in church leadership, due both to cultural pressures and differences in Biblical interpretation.All Elder discussions are entered into by individual leaders who love God and hold as foremost the charge of maintaining unity in the church.We agree that due to the controversial nature of this topic and the genuine disagreement between faithful, committed Christians, we will not hold others hostage to their belief on this issue. Thus, if the issue is decided in a manner different from our belief, we will agree to work harmoniously with the existing leadership or graciously step down from leadership. We will not allow our disagreements to become a tool for division in the leadership or the church body.Women and men are of equal worth and redemption before God.Both men and women are called to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbors as they love themselves.Women and men are equally gifted by the Holy Spirit.Men are charged with spiritual leadership in their marriage and family. Women are charged with submission to that leadership if the husband is in proper and consistent submission to God and to them.

DISCUSSION SUMMARY
The issue of cultural vs. eternal/Biblical/inspired perspectives in regard to scriptural interpretation was discussed. There was an involved discussion about which passages were influenced by culture (and thus were culture specific), and which were directed to all cultures.There was discussion around which of Paul's writings were personal viewpoints (e.g., thoughts on celibacy) and which ones were cultural directives (e.g., head coverings for women).Members agreed that in Biblical times women were almost universally in subordinate positions to men.Other cultural issues of that era, such as the lack of education for women, their inability to own property, and the lack of opportunity to occupy official positions of leadership (with some exceptions), was noted.In particular, the context of the writings of Paul to Ephesus were important (Ephesians and 1 & 2 Timothy) because women had leadership in the pagan Temple of Artemis at Ephesus-usurping authority over men through sexual interaction was the focus of the religious experience.The concept of authority-what it is and how it works was discussed. It was agreed that no person has authority over another within the dynamic structure of the GBCC Elder Board, except in the case of personal immorality. Accountability is the root of authority and is exercised by the group-not by any single person directing or forcing others to respond in a specific manner. In that context the issue regarding women having authority over a man was discussed.There was an involved discussion around team operations and teamwork. It was acknowledged that women bring a unique dynamic to team interaction and decision-making. The lack of their unique contribution in leadership has a negative impact on the character and growth of the church.The issue of spiritual gifts and their operation and disposition in the church was discussed. There appears to be no known Biblical mandate against women receiving any of the spiritual gifts as outlined in the New Testament.The leadership roles of men and women in marriage were discussed. It was agreed that men are charged with spiritual leadership in the marital relationship and the family. It was also noted that since the Garden of Eden men have generally chosen to avoid this responsibility. Men have used this mandate to subjugate women rather than provide an environment of sacrificial (agape) love and mutual submission in Christ consistent with Paul's writings in Ephesians 5:22-33.It was acknowledged that Ephesians 5:22-33 indicates that man is the spiritual leader in marriage, but Jesus is the head of the church. Consequently, both men and women are in an equal and subordinate position, under Christ, in the church. The analogy of spiritual leadership in marriage applies only to marriage and cannot transfer to the church. The spiritual leadership of both is clearly detailed in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that men are the exclusive spiritual leaders of the church.

CONCLUSION
Bound by their convictions in Christ, the Elders of GBCC find that female members are not scripturally prohibited from the leadership roles of Elder and Pastor of the church, but rather, their unique contribution and leadership in these roles should be welcomed and celebrated. Women will be included for consideration in these roles based upon: their new life in Christ and demonstrated spiritual maturity (scriptural qualifications), commitment to the philosophy of ministry at GBCC, ministry experience, proven willingness to submit to leadership, and spiritual giftings that support such a responsibility.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Women in Leadership: The Purest Form of Submission

I'm not an insubmissive feminist. I don't feel inferior and I'm not selfishly trying to get more rights for myself by setting out on this little crusade. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ who believe there are no prohibitions against women in leadership in the Bible. I'm one of them.

You see, when I was 17 years old I was somewhat ostracized from my youth group of seven years because I disagreed with the youth pastor. I was very close to my youth pastor and his wife...having attended Cornerstone with them, been to their house many times, and been in a Bible study with them for four years. I loved them. They shaped my faith in so many ways. However, my youth pastor decided that because we didn't have much of a relationship due to our disagreement that he wouldn't give me a letter of recommendation for a college scholarship. I was crushed in spirit. I've forgiven them and myself for what happened, but have always carried this feeling with me that I was defiant to a church leader. In most Christian circles, defiance isn't a virtue. It's something to be squelched and brought under submission.

When I turned 18 I went to vote for the president in the primaries. In Illinois where I lived you had to announce whether you were a democrat or a republican. That was hard for me as I felt I was neither, but I had strong convictions about politics. When I had to announce what I was, I realized that one of my church's founders was handing out ballots. Her very daughter had prayed that more people would be republican at See-You-At-The-Pole events at our high school. I chose a democratic ballot and watched this women's jaw drop. A few days later at school, I was confronted by this women's daughter. She smugly asked me what ballot I had chosen and turned her back in disgust when I confirmed her suspicions. You see, I'm a person of strong faith who doesn't seem to mesh well with other people of strong faith. This makes a girl wonder and ask a lot of questions.

Well, it's happened again. I've taken up women in leadership and have gotten some nasty reponses. People in my small group of three years caution against casting the Bible aside because I'm questioning it's interpretations. They think I should submit to the leadership of our church and stop questioning. I asked a friend of mine who has done extensive research on the issue and concluded that there is no prohibition of women in leadership in the scriptures to come talk to my small group. I was hoping they would understand that I love God with all my heart, and I still believe women should be in leadership. Others feel the same way. My group saw this meeting as a threat and found me quite insubmissive. Is there anything wrong with dialogue on this issue?

Is there anyone out there who is strong enough in their faith to have a deep, raw discussion on this matter?

Because no one seems to listen, I'm going to list a few of my points. These are welcome to be commented on and discussed with those who are fellow rebels/questioners in the faith.

1. Priscilla, a women, taught Apollos, a man. Acts 18:24-26 clearly says "they" taught him.
2. Jesus talked (women at the well) and taught women (like Mary), a radical move in his day. He also used women as examples of faith.
3. Deborah was a prophetess who led Israel. Judges 4:4. Isn't prophecy a gift that is listed as being especially desired? 1 Corinthians 14:1
4. 1 Corinthians 11:5 clearly accepts that women prophecy. Also, a good study on the word for authority in that chapter leads to some interesting interpretation issues.
5. I've heard some very awesome women preachers (Jill Briscoe for one) who preach to men as well as some very effective, gifted women worship leaders (Karen Jordan).
6. Why do I always have to listen to a man preach? Why can't I listen to a women and go home and discuss the sermon with my husband like we do every week for a male preacher? I feel like a women might be able to more specifically reach a women and her issues. Are we not being responsible to our women by not giving them these opportunities? We should allow both men and women to preach so we can reach more of the church audience.

There's so much more to discuss. I have the opinion that a clergy couple is best for a church and that women can be elders, deaconesses, Sunday school teachers and ushers. I think we are seriously missing out if we don't allow this because women bring so much to the table. We should be subject to one another and God in the process, reliable and available for servant leadership. What an awesome, wholistic view of the body of Christ! I'd love the opportunity to serve in a church like that.

So, maybe I'm being defiant for having these thoughts. I believe Jesus showed defiance against the church leaders in his day, too. We're all just trying to figure this out together. There's so much we don't know. I could spend an eternity getting to know God and that's what I plan to do. If I'm being insubmissive for searching out the mystery of God's kingdom, well, I guess I'm being insubmissive.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hot chocolate anyone?

After two weeks, I finally figured out how to post a blog. I forgot how even though I somehow managed to post two of them. :)

I've been thinking about simplicity lately because I've been reading the National Bestseller 100 ways to Simplify your Life, or something like that. I've gotten some very good, practical suggestions. Each tiny page of the book helps me breath a little more. With every suggestion, I feel a weight lifting.

Why?

I think we're meant to to not have everything we want. We're meant to feel discontent. We're made to feel like there's something more. It's what draws us, continually, to God and will until we have fellowship with our Father in heaven. Nothing on this earth will every satisfy us the way he does.

So, I get angry when God's kingdom builders begin to build themselves a kingdom instead. I'm guilty of this as much as the next person. We want safety and security. Before long, we're watching 8,000 advertisements a day, stopping regularly at malls, buying excessively packaged and processed foods and speeding through life with a cell phone at our ear.

Because of these things we loose our sense of community and forget about God. I don't think we are meant to be that productive. I think it's okay to sit at home and read, talk to a friend for 3 hours, drink hot chocolate with extra marshmellows and take a snowy hike. Mary chose what is best, says Jesus, and I want to too. I'm done feeling guilty about it.

When I wallow in simplicity a little, life seems to clear up a bit. I realize Jesus has been standing right next to me and I've forgotten to say hi.

Sometimes I try to be busy just so I don't have to say hi because I'm afraid of what he'll say about my absence. But, when I do, he usually invites me for hot chocolate and a walk in the woods.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Misunderstood Part 1: Insomnia

It would be great to get a few things cleared up, wouldn't it? I've decided to start a series of conversations about various topics that are completely misunderstood or that seem paradoxical but really aren't (such as why I think a woman can be completely feminine, not so much feminist, and still help lead a church with the grace of God).

My first subject happens to be insomnia. Insomnia has been my friend for the past few months, but I think I'm about to say goodbye. I say this even though we had a meeting last night at 1:30am and seem to be completely in-touch. However, for some reason, she hasn't been showing up much in the last week and I've hardly missed her.

We first began talking in September and I didn't think much of it. One thing led to another and we were spending several evenings together. She feels very much misunderstood because every time she shows up for sleepytime tea at 3am, people wonder why she's there...and come up with all sorts of wrong reasons and ways to get rid of her.

They think she's there to listen to the random things that must be pouring out of my mind that evening.

They think she might be there because I opt to manage and control instead of let go.

They think that maybe I was too busy for her during the day and the only time she could get my attention was when the stars were bright against a jet black sky.

They think she might be an angel telling me to pray or a devil telling me to shut up.

Honestly, she's never told me why she comes and she thinks it's better that way. I've tried to ignore her with some light reading, tv watching, or tylenol pm ingesting, but none of this works.

What do we do when we don't know the reasons behind things? How will we respond when we can't explain something or we can't stop something no matter what we try? When all the answers seem to fall short and nothing seems to work the way it's supposed to?

I for one try my hardest to endure and know that the One I've put my trust it has everything all worked out anyway. This might mean that I'll see my friend again, but it also means it doesn't matter.