Chronicling 40: Day 54 of 365

awkwardI was a little more than frustrated.  In the last couple of months I have read some articles that have centered around women in leadership in the church.  The comments that accompanied the articles were tough.

My first observation was that no matter how broadly the articles painted the scope of leadership, the comments were always focused on one area… women in the pulpit, or as Pastors.  I get that is an area that is full of contention, but I’m amazed at the narrow focus.  As if being a “Pastor” is the only way one can lead in the church.  There is a difference between leading a church and leading within the church.  But, based on the comments, it was as if blinders were keeping out all other possibilities.

In another article, it went a bit further and discussed some bigger issues in the way women have been treated in the church.  Woman after woman sharing stories that made my skin crawl. The woman who was told that it wasn’t rape if it was her husband.  The teen told to marry the guy who raped her an impregnated her.  The woman who was told that she needed to submit more and pray harder so that her husband would stop beating her.  The teen girls who were tired of their virginity being equated to bubble gum and gifts that were utterly destroyed once they were used up, as if Jesus couldn’t redeem this part of their life.

Did the comments address this hurts and pains?  Nope, they just continued to debate women in the pulpit.  Lord, help us.  I can recount my own conversation with a Pastor (not my own) who was talking about his church calendar, and how he can’t be everywhere all the time.  When I suggested that he look to some of the women in the church to help ease the load, he replied:  “The best thing the women in my church can do to help me is to take care of their husbands and children”.

What about about the unmarried women?  What about those who don’t have children?

What about our women who feel called like a Deborah, but accused of being a Jezebel for stating they feel called to lead within the church/ministry?

We read in the Scriptures that we are created in the image of God, that we are valuable, and worthy.   We read that we are given gifts and talents.  Yet somewhere, someone decided that the gifts and talents given to women amounted to volunteering in the nursery and making the coffee.

I know of women who lead in fortune 500 companies who can’t even lead a womens Bible Study in their own church.

How does that make sense?

I know of a woman with 30+ years in an industry who volunteered her services to the church, and they said no thank you and hired a young man right out of college.

How does that make sense?

Recently, someone shared with me that she felt that her gifts and calling were hindered in the church.  And that word “hindered” stuck out at me, because I read that several times in accounts from the book “Church Refugees” from Group Publishing.  The book is about the “Dones” in the church, the ones who after years of loyally serving are leaving the church and is actually the largest percentage making an exodus from the “institutional church”.

While I don’t necessarily agree with each individuals personal account (from a doctrine standpoint) there was a common thread of feeling “hindered” in the church from serving in a meaningful way.  And, these were not people who had been in the church a little while, or just come to faith.  Rather these are the people who had been long time members 10+years, faithfully serving, and hoping/praying that the church would see their calling as valuable and support it.  Eventually, they lost hope that they could ever affect change and took their gifts and talents to a place that would embrace them.

Many of the “dones” ended up plugging into community ministries; fellowshipping and serving with other believers as they serve their community.  This is a little scary to think about, because it means that 1. the church’s largest group leaving is comprised of it’s best and 2. the church is either blissfully unaware or blatantly ignoring the exodus.

What does this mean for the future of the church as we know it?

Advertisements

You Can Not Hold Back the Dawn

dawn

 “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may endure for a night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5 AMP 

From a 1959 sermon by Reverend Leslie D Weatherhead entitled: The Religion of the Dawn…

“There is a dawn answer for every situation we encounter.  We cannot pretend there is no night.  Nothing can be done to hasten the dawn.”  But, “you cannot hold back the dawn”

[Christianity] is a religion of unquenchable faith and hope and patience; unquenchable because it believes the permanent thing is light and the passing thing is darkness; that however long the night, whether it be in world affairs or the poignant private world of the human heart, the night will pass.  You can’t hold back the dawn.  All affairs, private and world-wide are in the hands of a God who is in complete and final control and who has decreed the entire conquest of all evil and the final emergence of indescribable good.

Reverend Leslie D Weatherhead

We may face the coming darkness, because we have the promise of a glorious dawn.

To The Mothers (all of them)

mommyday

Happy Mother’s Day

To every mom…

… the ones waiting to see their children in heaven.

… the ones who gave up their baby for another to raise as her own.

… the ones who opened their doors to children who needed a mom.

… the ones who stand in the gap for the mothers who need help.

… the single mothers who are working this day to provide.

… the ones who are carrying precious cargo, eagerly awaiting the big day.

… the ones in the throws of parenting terrible twos, puberty, and all the hard stages.

… the ones going to high school and college graduations in the next few weeks.

… the ones who are praying for their prodigals to return home.

… the ones who are facing the empty nest for the first time.

… the ones who are wrapping their arms around their grandchildren, or raising their grandchildren.

… the ones who found motherhood through being a step mom or mother in law.

… the ones who mother, being part of the village it takes to raise a child.

… the ones who are missing their own mothers who are no longer with us.

To all of the mothers, where ever you are walking in this journey… thank you, you are a blessing to this world.

Feet Washing…

feetwashingJesus washed the feet of Judas, a few hours later Judas would betray him.

Foot washing displayed different significant things in Biblical times.

It put a person in a servant posture.  It was an act of humbleness and humility.  It was a necessary act.  A repetitive act, as well.

Something I read recently made a great observation about Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet.  First, it was pointed out that there was no servant there to do the job.  Second, they were already in the midst of the meal when Jesus’ took on the task.

When there was no servant there to handle the foot washing, it never dawned on the disciples to do it for each other.

Third, when Jesus began to wash Peter’s feet there was a protest by Peter.  He didn’t want Jesus to do something he felt was beneath the Messiah.  Jesus responded: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8); to which Peter then asked for a complete cleaning.  Which is exactly what happens when are spiritually cleansed… when the blood of Christ washes away all of our iniquity.

When He was finished, Jesus said “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

Remember the earlier point about it never dawning on the men to wash each other’s feet?  We have been commanded to be Christlike, to posture ourselves a servant for others.  To wash the feet of those who we love, and even those who will betray us.

We may wash feet with bowls of water, expensive oils, and perfumes.  We may dry those feet with soft towels or strips of linen.  Or, we may wash their feet with our tears and dry them with our hair (Luke 7:44).  We wash their feet when we drop off meals while they recover, or mow the lawns of the elderly.  We wash their feet when we grasp their hands, and provide a shoulder to cry on.  We wash their feet when we speak blessings over the friend and the stranger.

We wash their feet when we posture ourselves to serve, not be served.

The Apology I Didn’t Know That I Needed

TheapologyIdidntknowineededIn my previous two pieces, I shared about my experiences with this year’s Gospel Coalition Conference.  First, I shared my personal retreat reflections which helped me recognize that I had some issues where I was harboring some anger towards people that I needed to forgive.

Then, in the second piece, I shared how my mentoring session with Serge.org showed me other areas where anger had been rearing it’s ugly head in my life.  Anger is a sneaky sin, that can mask itself in many ways.  Some seeming obvious, others much more subtle.  I knew that I needed to address these issues.  There were people I needed to forgive, including myself.  I needed to preach the Gospel to myself every day, reminding myself how the Lord sees me vs. the lies I have been told.

The third reflection was the two moments in which someone who had never wronged me apologized for the wrongs others have committed.

This first time happened during my serge.org mentor session.  As you may recall in the session I shared about my ministry work, obstacles I was facing, and how I felt like a failure in certain aspects of the work.  While my mentor, Hunter, did shift the conversation to a more personal direction… the first thing he did before taking that turn was to apologize.  In fact, perhaps it was my response to the apology that confirmed for him that the personal direction was the path he needed to travel down.

He recognized that the obstacles I was facing were very wrong, and hurtful ones… and he apologized to me for it.  I have never expected an apology over any issue in my life.  Maybe I set my expectations too low, or experience has taught me that apologizes come less often than deserved.  Regardless, I have never expected a person who has never wronged me to apologize on behalf of others.  This apology was spoken directly to me, not in generalities and with complete sincerity.  It ushered in validation that I didn’t know I needed to hear, but clearly I did.  I needed to not only hear the words, but I needed to hear a man speak them.

His apology was still sinking in, when I attended a workshop on Pastors and Women in Ministry.  At the beginning of the session we were given instructions to put questions on cards for the panel and pass them forward.  In the latter half of the workshop, the panel members would try to get to as many questions as possible.  There was no way to get to them all and the moderator did a great job of trying to collate similar questions into one general concept.   One of the questions dealt with Women’s Ministry Leaders who didn’t feel supported by their church, another one came up about women who didn’t feel like their church valued their expertise or ministry skills, a third question about how to disagree with your Pastor respectfully when you are a woman with higher education in the field or expert on a subject, and some women just wanted to be trusted to lead well.

These questions were answered, but you could tell one of the panelists was uncomfortable by the similarities of the questions.  It was his turn to address the next question, but he paused with the need to address the questions of the hurt women in the group.  In a microphone, to a room filled with women and Pastors, at a workshop that would be recorded and listed on TGC’s media page for the conference for the world to hear… Pastor Sandy Willson spoke to the hurt women with a very simple, “I am so sorry.”

It was sweet, tender, and genuine.  It was spoken to the group at large, but in many ways I felt like it was directed right at my heart.  Tears filled my eyes.  Twice in one day, I would hear and receive an apology from a man who never wronged me.  And, twice it would impact me more than I expected and bring in a sense of peace.

In honesty, I suppose there are some people I wish would say they were sorry for treating me a particular way.  But, I believe pride has prevented that.  Which has allowed me to more forward knowing that until they deal with their pride, and apology will never happen.  I didn’t expect that I would need to hear from just anyone that they were sorry for the events that occurred.  I had no way of knowing how their apology could lighten my load and make my steps toward forgiveness come with such peace.

I find myself able to let go of it not only toward the specific people involved in those situations, but also realized that I had been projecting their behaviors on others.  I was lumping all the apples in to the bad pile, allowing one bad apple to spoil my feelings toward an entire group.  Instead of tossing the bad apples aside, and being thankful for the good ones.

And so, I want to pass this gift on to you.  Whomever you are.  I know that at some point someone treated you unfairly, spoke unkind words to you, broke your heart and your trust, and I know that sometimes these wounds are deep.

I am so, so, sorry.  I pray the Lord comforts you, that there will be people He will put in your path that will lift you up, and that you can forgive even those who don’t ask for it.

Personal Retreat, Part 3

personalretreat.pngA bit ago, I wrote two pieces about Letitia Suk’s book Getaways with God.  In simple terms, the book is about planning a personal retreat with God.  Letitia Suk has done this for many years, and uses the book to identify the reason why we should make an intentional effort to breakaway for private time with God.  Additionally, she blesses the readers with suggested retreat schedules and purposes that can be tailored to our individual needs.

The timing of reading Getaways with God was perfect, as I had already planned a trip where I would be arriving extra early.  I decided it was the perfect time to try out a personal retreat.  I have to admit the first couple of hours was awkward.   Being in a home that is bustling with energy from barking dogs, squealing kids, meals that need to be made, emails to send, calls to field, etc.; I rarely find myself in a space that is simply empty.  Void of distractions.  I was tempted to touch my phone, and reach out to someone.  I knew that in this room states away from home… no one would be dropping by for coffee.

I got settled in my space, wandered around for a bit almost lost in the silence and stillness.  I decided to grab a bite to eat before it got dark, bringing it back to my flat as to not lose a second.  I set the tone by playing worship songs, and I was very intentional.  Today was not the time to learn a new song, but to lean into my favorites.  I wanted songs where the words flowed freely from my lips and I wasn’t tripping up over lyrics.  What seemed so difficult at first became so much easier, to the point that by the time my personal retreat was officially over… I longed for it to continue.

For the retreat, I selected Psalm 5:3 as the foundation for my time.

“Every day I lay out my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend.” 

This scripture meant a few things to me, in this space:

  •  Every day, I want my life to be an offering to God, for His glory and His purposes.
  •  Every day, I want to be willing to sacrifice my fleshy desires for He that sacrificed His son for me.
  • Every day, I want His burning fire to consume my sin, burning away the impurities and leaving only what is pure, noble, and good.
  • Every day, I want to watch for the pillar of fire that walks before me, guiding me and protecting me.

The scriptures tell us that before we can lay our offerings on the altar, we must be reconciled to those who have issues with us (Matt 5:23,24).  I needed to know if there was any offense that I had not apologized for.  But, I also knew there were some people that I needed to forgive with the same grace and mercy that the Lord has forgiven me. (Col. 3:13).  It was clear to me that before I could lay out my life on His altar, I had some things I needed to attend to.  The purpose of this retreat would revolve around forgiveness.

Forgiveness, what a beautiful place to begin.

After listening to the songs, my heart softened, I prayed that the Lord would show me an iniquity in my heart and give me His eyes towards those who are apart of my life.  I was shocked by what I learned about my life and my self.   I grabbed my journal and begin writing the names of people I needed to forgive, and what I needed to forgive them for.  I was surprised by the names on the list when I was done.

I learned that there were people I verbally forgave, but my heart was still hard.

I learned that there was someone I didn’t even realize I was angry with.

I learned from the issues I needed to forgive, that there were some patterns repeating in our family.   I’ve heard them referred to as “Generational Curses”, but I didn’t think they applied to my family.  But here they were, repeated patterns going back several generations.  I realized in this moment how much history shapes present, and how much I needed God to break these strongholds.

It all came to the head of love.  The moment when you realize how much you need God’s love, to fill the voids of absent love.  How much you desire God’s approval to fill the void of absent approval.  How much you want God’s validation to fill the void of absent validation.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to be reminded FOR MYSELF… that I am…

an image bearer.   (Gen 1:27)

cherished.  (Isa 49:15)

seen as wonderful, and have a purpose.  (Jer 29:11)

loved, with a love that is everlasting.  (Jer 31:3)

loved, sacrificially.   (Rom 5:8)

redeemed by a high price.  (1 Pet, 1:18,19)

a new creation, in Him.  (2 Cor 5:17)

a child of God, himself.  Adopted, chosen.  (1 John 3:1)

and called to do His will on Earth, a high calling, a commissioned call.  (2 Cor 5:20)

I needed to love myself, as much as the Lord loves me.  In loving me, He has forgiven great sins in my life.  How can I not do the same for others, to love as I have been loved?  To forgive as I have been forgiven?

I realized that I have been living wounded.  The day I gave my life to the Lord, my wounds tried to heal.  However, I realized I had allowed myself to essentially pick at the healing scabs… keeping the wounds open and fresh.  Living in hurt, instead of living in the freedom of the Cross.

I had allowed myself to live in the lies others had told me, that I had even told myself.  Believing the world and fickle people over the promises of God.  These are the bonds I need to break.

liesthewebelieve.jpg

Remember how I said a few paragraphs back that I didn’t want my retreat to end.  Well, in many ways it didn’t.  Through various means the Lord continued to reveal things to me during the several day long conference.  I’ll write more about those things later.

When Your Heart Hurts

whenyourhearthurtsLast week, I attended The Gospel Coalition Conference in Indiana.  Just before leaving, our elderly family dog wasn’t acting quite right.  I had come to the conclusion she needed to go to the vet, woke up the next morning and she was fine.  Totally fine.

Called the vet, we established that since this was kind of a pattern for her not to worry about it yet.  However, if it happened again then she would need to be seen.

When I arrived back from Indiana, within a few days she was having another episode.  Made the appointment for the vet, at sixteen years old we needed to understand quality of life for her.  Would things get worse over time?  Was there something we were missing?  What type of prognosis were we looking at.  Our sweet old lady didn’t come home from that vets appointment.

I told my husband and mother that making such a decision would be easier if I knew that there was something more going on than just “getting old”.  The Lord was merciful to me in that after discussing her recent symptoms with the vet, and his observations at the office, that our old gal most likely had a brain tumor.  An educated guess, but what made the most sense.  When there was swelling, and the tumor pressed on the brain, this is when we would see the sudden rapid onset of symptoms.  When the swelling went down, that was the sudden relief of symptoms and return to normal.

In fact, over the last year she probably didn’t overcome two strokes as we all originally thought… but rather we were dealing with a pesky brain tumor and didn’t know it.  (And before the emails and comments start, the only way to know for sure was a MRI and she was too old to be safely sedated for that).    In all honesty, collectively we all knew the right decision to make in that unexpected moment.  Not one person in the family disagreed with making the decision to let her go peacefully.   The process went so incredibly quickly and peacefully, that we knew with all confidence that her old body had just run out of steam.  In her passing, she looked the most peaceful I had seen her in quite some time.  Mercy.

That moment was excruciating for us, our hearts broke into pieces over this amazing dog.  The entire vets office wept as she was loved by all of the staff.  They were tender and kind to us.  We are grateful.  Coming home was hard.  The next day was the hardest.   It’s crazy to me how much she was apart of our every day routine.  Every morning our younger dog would get out of bed, find her, check on her, and then head outside to use the restroom.  Every time we let our dogs out in the yard, we did it as a pair.  I remember holding back the little dog chiding him with “Ladies first, Cooper.”

When the mail man came to the door, and the barking started… instinctively I called out “back dogs” only to remember there was only one dog now.  Last night as my daughter went to bed, out of habit she called her dog down the hallway.  I cried with her at the realization.  When the kids were not in the house, it was incredibly quiet as we were missing the sound of nails on the tile floor.  I missed the sound of her howl that would end in a whistle.  She loved us, and we loved her.

But, all of this brought up some other emotions in our family that we didn’t expect.  My husband was amazed at the peace our dog was given, and struggled with memories of watching a parent waste away to cancer.  We all felt like this death was too soon, and my husband declared that he now has had enough with saying goodbye.  My kids had to face losses that they hadn’t quite dealt with when they were younger.

There were other hurts it brought up as well… and while I am trying not to dwell on them… I almost can’t help it.  Psalm 30:5 tells us that while we experience pain and sorrow at night, that joy comes in the morning.  We hope that when we wake up the next day, we have peace.  But that doesn’t always happen.  What I’ve begun to understand is that some nights are just really, really long.

Think about Barrow, Alaska. They live on the same twenty four hour day as the rest of the planet.  Yet, in winter sixty seven days will pass before they see sunlight.  That is a long period of darkness, a lot of anticipation to see the sun rise.  Once it does, Barrow will have eighty days of uninterrupted sunlight.

There are times where our sorrows will be gone in the morning, when the sun rises.  And some nights are just really, really, really long.  Longer when we want them to be, but the sun will rise.  Light will push back the darkness.  Joy will press upon sorrow.  We just need to trust in the Son.