#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

offendable

It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

Bridging the Way – Fellowship & Small Groups

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One of the things we can struggle with in ministry service is creating a ministry that is balanced between social activities and discipleship opportunities.  This struggle is not unique to women’s ministry, but it does seem to impact women’s ministry more.

In speaking with women’s ministry leaders across the country, I’ve seen the struggle played out in many different ways.   The women’s ministry team may be divided, some wanting social events, and others wanting more studies and workshops.   The church may want less fellowship, and more small groups.  Even the women in the congregation want more of one thing, and others would prefer something else.

We seemingly keep coming to the same place…. and all or nothing stance.  Either we have a women’s ministry that is all studies, workshops, mentoring and discipleship… or a calendar of events that is centered around relational fellowship events. 

Can’t we have both?

Can’t we have a fellowship event that turns the women’s gaze toward Christ?

Can’t we have a small groups that encourage building relationships?

Do we have to chose one or the other, or could we not have the best of both worlds?

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In church leadership, most of our Pastors and Elders have been raised in the church.  They understand how we do things as a church, and there is an expectation that others will fall right into that line.  However, when you haven’t been raised in a church… it’s not the same.  You won’t automatically thrust yourself into a small group setting.   You will need time to build confidence in yourself, get to know people in the church to build relationships, and to ultimately find the small group that you feel best suits you.

Social Fellowship Events are the bridge to making this happen.  It provides an environment for women to meet each other, and set the foundations for future relationships.  It also serves as a great avenue for sharing information about the women’s ministry and church with the larger body of women.

Historically, women had many opportunities to gather with each other as a community.   They would work along side each other in the fields and in the market place.  As times changed and people became more transient, they moved away from the from their close knit families and communities.  When the Industrial Revolution took men from the home, and brought in modern conveniences, women spent more time IN the home than gathering the public spaces.  They became more detached from community with every passing generation.  Even today, in 2015, despite the endless social media communities… women are complaining more about being alone than ever.

We miss community and fellowship.

While “women’s ministry” was present even in the Old Testament days, it looked very different than what we see today.  Because, in the OT and NT (and early church) women’s ministry was active in the daily lives, as we lived together and worshiped together daily.   In more modern times, we created women’s ministry programs that would fill the community void, but lost purpose.  We allowed women’s ministry to become more of a social club atmosphere.

The good news is that women’s ministries around the country are trying to take it back to it’s roots.  Doing life together, ministering to each other, building relationships and community are all in addition to deeper scriptural study and knowledge.

In order to do this, we need to find the balance between the activities that are warm and inviting, and the ones that are deeper and challenging.

A women’s ministry team should be looking at the vision of the church, and then asking how each and every activity they propose to do supports that mission.

It is being more intentional and purposeful over the planning choices that we make, clear communication with the Pastoral Team, and in submission to God’s will for the ministry over your own.