Conflicted, Confused? Not really.

genawhat

I selected this picture, because I know many of us feel this way right now.  I wish I could say it was about the election, that would actually be easier.  Instead, it’s another Christian leadership controversy… that involves women.  Ugh.  Lord, help us.

As a woman, a Christian woman, I remember things I once believed but through time, education, and experience I have changed my opinions on.  At one time I was a staunch believer that women couldn’t be Pastors, because the Bible said so.  That women could only teach women, because the Bible said so.   It appeared so black and white.  It was Titus 2:3-5 for all occasions, times, places.  Done deal.

It was when I was actually challenged to defend my argument by using the scriptures, that I realized that wasn’t so crystal clear.  I couldn’t deny that there were times the Lord pulled women up into leadership or gave them incredible responsibilities.  I settled on the fact that the scriptures state that we are all one in Jesus (Gal 3:28), and that it was within reason that according to His will and His needs that God would appoint women in to leadership roles typical reserved for men.  I even used the scriptures to determine when those occasions would be, what expectations would be of these women, etc.  (This is a post for another day).

So, I can understand how over time with research and due diligence one’s understanding of the Word can clarify and our positions on a subject may change.  I do not hold growth against anyone.  We should all have a better understanding of the scriptures today than we did five or more years ago.  What I struggle with is when I see leaders publicly malign the Word of God.  At the end of Titus 2:3-5, the scriptures remind us that our teaching of others and our good character is a reflection on God.  We are literally told that all of this is so that we may never (or never be accused) of maligning the Word of God.

Over a week ago, a popular Christian author for women was caught up in controversy.  She and her husband made statement that they had changed their opinions on a subject, claiming to have done the due diligence and research required.  Their normal stance on loving and coming up alongside took a turn.  Now she was calling something the scriptures called “sin” as something that can be “holy”.   Let me be perfectly clear that I own several of her books, as well as her husband’s.  I think they have done amazing things, great things.  And so, I took a position.  I was going to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I could continue to glean the good from her work, and I would have to disregard the bad.  It wasn’t up to me to judge her.  As a friend said, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Even from a purely secular position, they speak words of love, concern, compassion, empathy, reconciliation, forgiveness, grace, mercy, et’al.  All wonderful things, scripturally supported.  Then came the speed bump.  But I thought, I can handle this.  I’ll treat her like a secular author.  Separate wheat from chaff.  Separate.

Yesterday, I was preparing to leave to speak to a group of women leaders.  I took a last glance at headlines, and I saw it.  A popular Christian speaker and author I follow was trending. That caught my attention.  I was not prepared for what the headlines were saying and what they implied.  I had to read the article twice to wrap my head around all of the facts.  On the drive, I was in full worship mode.  At the event we were sharing scripture, and the words about Titus 2:3-5 were spoken.  As leaders/teachers we are not to malign the Word of God.

That stuck with me on the ride back home.  As I listened to worship music, praying to God through the lyrics.  I blurted out… they are wrong.

I can love them.  I can love the work they do.  I can see the value they add to the world.  I can learn from them about many things.  I can even see the sincerity of their heart.  I believe they truly feel they have come to the right conclusion.  I can’t hold that against them.  We’ve all been there.  However, they have brought this forward in the public view.  They have put us all in a position to make a choice.

Will I side with someone who has a heart that loves God and people, but has a flawed heart, and publicly teaches from that flawed heart…

or

… will I malign the Word of God?

When I put it like that, it’s clear.  I can not malign the Word of God.  By supporting the stances of these 3 people (and the sheer number that are rallying around them, sharing the same opinions)… I am by association standing in agreement with these three leaders.  Because, this is not an “agree to disagree” situation.

What does this mean?

I know that it means those who follow this blog, who have always criticized these people from the start… you need to pray for them.  Not judge them.  Pray for them, regularly.  They have a far reach and we need to pray that they return to the Scriptures and align with God.

I know that it means those who follow this blog, who are part of the fan club… you will probably stop following me.  My blog numbers may go down, twitter and instagram too.  I may get hate mail.  Some family will be “disappointed” in me.  I understand your loyalty.  They are good people, who have huge hearts, and do amazing things.  They have even challenged me to be a better person.  But I won’t reverse my opinion, they are wrong.  And those who love and support them should be praying for them, as well.

I hope that it means for those who are confused and conflicted, that I have provided some clarity.  I apologize for not having clearer perspective my first go around on this subject.  Let’s talk and work this out together. Pray for clarity and discernment.  Learn the Scriptures so that you can be a good Berean, testing against the Word.  Be responsible with the Word, so that we do not malign it.

And for those who have no clue what I am talking about, it’s probably a great blessing you don’t.  We know the phrase “curiosity killed the cat”, and I’ll admit it won’t take you long to figure out who I am writing about.  I’d prefer you not hunt it down, or engage with gossip and slander.  What you can do is pray for our leaders.

I’d encourage you to take some time, dig into 2 Timothy 3, and ask the Lord to reveal truths of what is happening in our world and through our leaders.

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The Art of Conversation

conversation

There are some people who simply love to talk, about anything and everything.  You either know one, or you are one.  I am one.  I love to talk coupled with a love of learning… I’m always ready to engage.  However, sometimes my love of conversation engagement will get me into hot water.   I definitely have subjects where my opinions are set & it would take a miracle to change my point of view.  On the other hand, I have subjects where I am happy to admit that I lack any real knowledge with an eagerness to learn.  Some days, admittedly I am not in the mood to talk at all (that’s my inner introvert saying ENOUGH with the gabby gabs!).  On most topics I will generally land somewhere in the middle.  I know a little, willing to learn more, and you may even change my opinion.

So, how do I end up getting myself in hot water?  At first, I really wasn’t sure.  I thought I was a good conversationalist.  I listen, ask questions, and share my perspective.  I may get animated but rarely overbearing.  I generally don’t try to force my opinion on someone, but would rather ask questions that will move them to think differently about the subject on their own.  If I can help someone learn or change their perspective, that is great.  But if not, it’s fine… let’s order up another coffee and move on to something else.  My feelings are not hurt if a conversation is going no where and you want to end it, or jump to something more interesting. 

I also consider myself a fairly open book, I think you can ask me just about anything and I’ll answer you.  As a whole, I don’t think I have ever received a question as someone passing judgement.  Nor, do I despise unsolicited advice.  In fact, the only time unsolicited advice gets me riled up is when you interrupt me before I can even share that I found a solution.  These are all attributes that I think make up a good conversationalist, and I expect those that I converse with to have these same attributes.

And that expectation lands me in hot water, over and over again.   What I realized is that the issue was not necessarily with me but instead the decline of true conversation.  We are losing the art of conversation and instead embracing the art of debate.  Listening shifted from being a tool for learning and into a tool for debate.  We don’t listen to learn or gain perspective, instead we listen to respond.  We are building up our argument as the person is talking versus allowing ourselves to really hear what they are trying to convey.  This is what I believe has led us to a place where we are talking in circles far more often than we should.

When we are talking in circles it means that both sides are unwilling to hear the other person and continue to make their points over and over again.  We want to be heard, but we are not willing to hear.

In my experiences this has led people into reading more into my statements or comments than there really is.  You see, I believe a question can be just that a question.  It can be rooted in curiosity, branching out for more clarity, or an attempt to glean some fruit of knowledge I lacked.  Some questions are for the sake of keeping the conversation going, even if we are not interested in it the topic, we are showing respect to the person talking.   I believe questions and conversations can exist free of judgment and intolerance.  Well, I believed that at one time.

I was worried at first it was just something that was happening in social media.  I mean, really, how much clarity can your statement have if you are limited to 140 characters?  As my husband points out, social media lacks the opportunity to read body language and hear vocal tones.  It is easy to misunderstand or misinterpret written conversation, questions, and intentions.  I recall a time where typing in all caps on the internet was considered yelling at a person.  Current generations don’t see it that way at all.  Just like social media, texting and emails present the same issues.

In recent years, however, I have begun to notice the art of conversation is being lost in face to face conversations.  We can blame it on the increasing levels of political correctness, or the fact that is seems like everyone is offended by something.  My nine year old had a friend over to play the other day, and I can assure you there were at least ten instances where I heard her friend state: “I am offended by that…” in one phrasing or another.

Simple questions, or even complex ones, are being perceived as personal attacks and judgement.  Conversation is shut down because instead of taking the time to answer questions, we become quick to accuse the person of some wrong doing, ignorance, or jump right into slander/name calling. 

A few years ago, I remember having a conversation with another mom.  She had some rules for her kids that were pretty strict.  One day, when I was at her home, I asked what I thought was a simple question out of curiosity.  It appeared she had decided to loosen up the reigns on one of her rules and I was curious about how she came to that decision.  Instead, she took my question as judgement on her parenting.  She answered my question, but there was a tension the rest of our visit. 

Only a few months ago I was attempting to engage on a hot button, controversial topic.  I stated a truth, from my perspective, which was that the topic didn’t particularly relate to my life experiences.  I shared however that I had friends who did experience this issue in their lives, and they can’t agree with each other on how it needs to be addressed.  I then followed my statement with the question:  “If those who are directly impacted by this topic can’t agree, how am I supposed to respond in support?”.   And that is when the eruption began of insults hurled at me, accusations, and other terrible things.  I retracted my question and slunk away from the topic.  There was not going to be any conversation in that arena.

Even just this past week, I asked a question about ministry service and leadership… and according to the people in the conversation I should expect Jesus to take my Christian Membership Card back any day now.  To even pose such a question and take an intellectual look at the scripture was some sort of indicator of witchcraft.  Yes, I was accused of witchcraft for asking a question, about biblical leadership, and using bible verses in my question. 

What I have found is that the lost art of conversation isn’t confined to one area.  It is lost in the written and the spoken word.  The art of conversation has been lost on subjects about day to day living, and in large platform forums.  The irony is that when whenever something big is happening, and we look to resolve it, someone always says that we need to “have a conversation” or that a particular incident has “started a conversation”.  But, I can’t help and wonder … has it?

Are we even capable of having real conversations anymore?  Can we discuss subjects with out taking things personally or as attacks on our character?  It is possible to navigate through the tough topics without assuming the person coming from the other side isn’t genuine or is incapable of understanding?  Can we talk without hurling accusations and talking down to others?  Can we disagree on a subject and yet respect each other?  Did we forget that we can understand another person’s position without actually agreeing with them?

Fortunately, I do have a handful of women that I can have conversations with.  I do miss being able to do it on a broader scale, because that is where I am most challenged about my own beliefs and opinions.  It is where I will learn the most, from others who have a different experience or education level than myself.  Maybe if we could restore the art of conversation, there would be a lot more understanding and a lot less being offended in the world.  Because, then we would be listening to understand instead of listening to argue.

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 29 – Very Important Note

biblenotgena

An author and speaker that I follow, Carlos Whittaker, shared a picture similar to the one above on his Facebook page.  I was so taken with the simplicity of the message, I grabbed every Bible I own, and added the same message.

God created the heavens and the earth… Not Gena.

It really couldn’t be any simpler than that.  I didn’t create the world, I didn’t go through six days of ordered creation, nor did I take a day of rest.  I was not there in the beginning.  I didn’t have anything to do with that process.

Yet, humanity continually tries to rewrite history and rewrite His order into a way that makes sense to our own understanding.

His ways are not our ways.  His understanding is not His understanding.

We are a people entirely INCAPABLE of following the will of God (since the day man walked in the Garden of Eden with God), and yet some how we think that gives us the authority to change HIS creation, HIS order, and HIS statutes to fit the world and according to our standards.

In comparison to God, our standards are very low.

In comparison to God, our knowledge is very limited.

In comparison to God, our perspective is very subjective.

Our view of the world, and how we are apart of it, should never be based on how want God to fit into our own reasoning.  Instead, we must put aside our own reasoning, and look to the word of God.

There is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we deal with today, every sin and controversy, has been written about in the scriptures.  Time and culture haven’t changed all that much.  It is man who changes.  The further we get from that direct relationship with God that early Christians knew… the more we want God to fit into our ways & beliefs.  

God is unchanging.  His response to sin and controversy in the scriptures hasn’t changed, because His word is true.  If it was a sin then, it is a sin now.  Period.

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 25 – Carefully Quiet

fence

There are some subjects, that I am carefully quiet about.  It isn’t that I have an opinion, or that I am disregarding biblical truths about the subject.  I’m just careful about when I speak, what I say, and how I say it.  I brushed on this topic a few days ago on my abortion post.  While I am prolife, and stand for the life of the baby… I am carefully quiet when it comes to slinging names at the women who have had an abortion.  There are too many women grieving, receiving post abortive counseling … to recklessly throw my words across a screen or in a public gathering. 

Many women who are aggrieved by their choice already feel guilt or shame.  Their hearts are burdened, and many of them are secretly so.  Not every woman who has had an abortion is ready to share her story.  I have no idea who among my social media friends, or those reading this blog, may have had an abortion.  Instead of casting judgement upon the women, I would rather focus on the lives I am fighting for and love on those who are broken over their decision.    So, when it comes to social media posts on this subject, I am carefully quiet.  I think through which news articles I will share, or memes make my point.  I focus on saving life versus condemning women who already suffer.

I have seen too many people on social media, that are representing our faith, become reckless with their words.  They do not thing beyond themselves and their opinions to the women who are sitting on the other side of the screen, the ones receiving the arrows that are being shot.

“They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.  They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear.”

Psalm 64:3-4

These types of posts are often written (or shared) without any careful thought or concern.  A quick click of a button, and the damage is done.  There was one instance , where a woman I know shared an article on social media that was really cruel.  When someone called her out on it, she ducked the rebuke by saying that she had only shared it in order to read it later.  This was either a lie to save face, or total irresponsibility on her part.  It didn’t matter the damage was done.

“Words once spoken, like an arrow from a bow, cannot be recalled.”

It may seem obvious at this point that we should be more careful what we say in public settings about big controversial topics.  Maybe we are being a bit careless, letting the tongue fly in the face of unsuspecting victims.  We could use a little more caution, think through what we are going to say, or take a quick pause before hitting the share button.   This is great, but we need to also think through the less controversial things we say recklessly.

I know of several women who take a very strong stance that not only is motherhood is the greatest calling that God gives a woman, some go to the extreme and claim it to be the only calling on a woman.  Be a wife, be a mother.  End of story.  They share internet articles, blog opinions, and scriptures to validate their claims.

I can’t help but think of all the infertile women reading those posts.  

I know of women who are keyboard activists in regards to the idea “breast is best”, who use careless words to support their cause.  They shame mothers away from bottle feeding using statistics, quotes, and shame.

I can’t help but think of the young moms I have encountered who feel like failures because they can’t do the basic thing their body was designed for.  They cry because they have been shamed into thinking they have now compromised their child’s future.

Why do we feel that we are so right (or righteous) that we can just sling words without any concern for what we are saying, how we are saying it, and whom we are saying it to.

There is a reason the scripture refers to our tongues as a sword, or that our mouths will reveal our hearts.  Judgmental, divisive, and angry words reveal a bitter, proud heart.

When we take the time to stop, and carefully consider our words… we discern what to say, how to say it, and when to speak.  We also learn when to be carefully quiet.  Not because we don’t have truth to say, but rather because we love those who are hurting.  We are willing to take a pause and look for a better way.