What I Don’t Know

Life has a way of moving at breakneck speed. Last week I worked every day filling in some shifts at my previous job, and had no time to write. Life is different when I am working, but I enjoy having opportunities to vary my schedule on occasion.

I’ve also been working on some home improvement projects, which I LOVE. I love perusing Pinterest, cataloging ideas and then coming up with ways to do it on my own for as cheaply as possible. I love a good challenge and an opportunity to be creative. Last week I remodeled my bathroom. My bathroom has been looking dingy and depressing for so long, and now it is all fresh, white, clean and organized. It’s lovely and it makes me happy every time I walk by it. Organizing, decorating and making things more beautiful and functional is definitely high on my list of favorite things to do. I even like painting!

During my time of working and DIY projects, I thought about my blog and what I should write about next. Each week I ask God to give me an idea, and His answer was a bit different this week. He told me to write about some things that I know nothing about, and/or are still in process with.

In some ways this is nice.. It gives me space to process things “out loud” without having to do a bunch of research and have conclusions or definite opinions. In other ways, it is scary to not have the answers that, in many cases, I would really like to have. It’s writing from a place of vulnerability, and that is scary. I’ve been in many circumstances where I was told that I should be open about places where I was in process or struggling through things. I was told I should always share these things. I’m a rather introverted person and an internal processor, so sharing mid-process is difficult and even sometimes impossible. It’s difficult to verbalize words to thoughts and feelings you don’t even know you have yet, but that was the expectation.

Sometimes these conversations went well, but other times, I felt crushed by the responses I got. Verbally smashed down for the things I was thinking or the feelings I was having. I was told I was wrong a lot. I learned there is very little grace or freedom for being in process when my thoughts/feelings were in disagreement with, or challenged other people. This is particularly painful when you thought you were in a safe place to be able to share openly.

Being unsure and without answers is a scary place to be- especially when talking to others about it. However, God told me to do it, and I’m certain that I can’t be the only one struggling with some of these things, so without further adieu, here are some things I DON’T know.

Politics

You would have to be hiding under a rock these days to have missed the political climate in America right now. I bet there’s a lot of us that would prefer to be under said rock at this point, though. I have to say.. I care VERY little for politics. Very little. Very, very little. In fact, it would be quite difficult to get me to care any less about it. I don’t find it interesting. And to be honest, I don’t believe it even matters that much. It all feels to me like what Solomon would describe as, ‘chasing after the wind’ in Ecclesiastes.

This election however, has started to get under my skin, and I am starting to have feelings about it. I won’t share them because that’s not the point, but call it intuition or whatever, but warning bells are going off in my head and my heart about what is going on in America and it’s concerning.

The problem is, there is absolutely no one trustworthy whose opinion I can believe. I don’t know where/how to research to even begin to come to a semi-knowledgeable opinion. Everything written is skewed to one side or another and usually has an agenda. To fully understand what is going on would take years of study and none of us have that kind of time. I guess when it comes down to it, we all just have to be responsible to do the best we can with our vote and leave the results up to God.. which is the answer in every election I suppose.

I guess what I’m saying is that it kind of matters to me right now, and there’s nothing I can do about it and I’m frustrated about that.

Friendship

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Starbucks trying to think of something to write. I was chatting with a friend and asked her if she had ideas. She suggested I write about friendship. I just about spit out my Frappuccino. The thought of me writing anything knowledgeable or helpful about friendship is laughable.

The longest friendship relationship I’ve ever been able to successfully maintain is the one I have with my husband. Obviously, relationships take two people to maintain, and I’m certain he has much more work in maintaining me than I do at maintaining him. We’ve made it 18 years this December, and we’re going strong. I have no earthly idea what has made my marriage so much longer and healthier than any other relationship I’ve had. Perhaps my husband has a unique God-given ability to put up with me and give me grace that no one else has.

Over the years, I’ve had lots of friendships. Some long, some short, some surface-y, some deep. I know that love, grace, freedom and forgiveness makes up the most important elements of a healthy relationship. I know that the opposite of those things cause disfunction in a relationship. I’ve come to a few conclusions over the years about friendships, but I feel sadly lacking in the practical outworkings of a healthy friendship. All I know is;

  • Relationships are hard.
  • Both parties have to be willing and capable of giving sacrificial love (which includes grace, freedom and forgiveness) in order for it to work.
  • Boundaries in relationships are absolutely necessary, and knowing what your personal boundaries are is helpful.
  • Friendships last for a season. Sometimes long, sometimes short, but God is working and in control of all of it.
  • Sometimes God removes people from your life in order to protect you/them.
  • Watching my daughters (who are 9 years old) and my son (in high school) deal with some of the same things I deal with as an adult brings me to the comfortable/uncomfortable conclusion that it may not ever get any easier.
  • It’s worth it. (I think)

Who I Am

As a kid, I never considered that by the time I hit mid-30’s, I would continue to struggle with knowing who I am and who God created me to be. Why don’t I just know already? I feel as though I am still learning about who I am. I’m still learning what my gifts and skills are, what my likes and dislikes are, what my boundaries need to be. I struggle with even knowing what my needs are, much less voicing them. Worst of all, it seems everyone around me knows who they are, and are living out of that knowledge. So, why can’t I get it together?

What I Want To Do With My Life

Because I don’t know who I am or what makes me tick, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I am content right now not knowing, but eventually I’m going to need some direction. I’m considering going back to school. I’m considering becoming an ordained pastor, or a seminary professor, or an author/speaker. I just don’t know. I’m hoping that God will make it clear what path He wants me to go down at some point, and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.

Well, how about it? Am I the only one who is struggling with any of these things? How about you? What are you struggling with?

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What is Love?

.. Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more..

Just kidding. You were all thinking it though, weren’t you? When Haddaway wrote that song, he asked a valid question. What IS love? What does it look like? What does it mean? What does it require?

Our world has attempted to answer that question over the last few thousand years with many, many different ideas. In this moment in history when school shootings, police brutality, racism, protesting, and wars permeate our daily news, it is a good time for a reminder of what love is.

Ultimately, the answer to the question of “what is love?” is God. God is love. It is who He is, and we cannot understand Him apart from it. He is the author and creator of love. We see what love looks like in the walking around, everyday world when we look at Jesus. His sacrifice of leaving heaven to come to earth and suffer and die at the hands of the people he was coming to serve is the ultimate example of love.

A few years later, Paul has a nice succinct list of what love looks like. We’ve all heard it, but right now especially, it’s worth repeating and really thinking about again. We’ve seen this love lived out in the life of Jesus, and because of that, we are free to love others in the same way.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Are you patient? Are you willing to lay down your desires and needs in order to give people the space they need to grow, or change or mature? Are you patient with people you disagree with? How are you at waiting for the things you want? Are you kind? Do you treat people with kindness and graciousness? Is grace your first response to people? How would people describe you?

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

How do you feel when something good happens for someone else? Are you quick to celebrate with them? Or is there a part of you that feels gypped that you didn’t get that good thing? Do you feel entitled? When it’s your turn to get something good, how do you treat others in light of it? Do you lord it over them? Do you brag? Do you think that suddenly you’ve arrived or are now superior them in some way?

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

How do you speak about people behind their back? Can people trust you to stick up for a friend if someone else is dishonoring them? What about after a conflict when your emotions are strong and you feel hurt? Do you tell stories or use life examples when you speak that highlight you and the good things that you do? Are you always the victim in your story? Is it of ultimate importance that others think highly of you? When someone disagrees with you or does something you don’t like, are you quick to jump to anger and attack them? How short is your fuse? Do you hold the sins of others over their heads? Do you bring up people’s sin repeatedly in conversations? Do you think of people’s sins first when you think of them?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

How do you react when someone brings up something you have done to hurt them? How do you react when someone shares an experience with you that is hard for you to hear? Do you rush to justify or defend your actions or the actions of others? Do you turn it around and blame the other person for feeling hurt? Are you grateful for hearing the truth, or would you prefer to stay in the dark?

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How are you at protecting the people in your life? Physically, emotionally, spiritually? Are you doing your best at keeping them from harm, from yourself or others? Do you live your life in such a way where you are free to trust that God is sovereign and in control of your life, others’ lives, and in situations? Do you trust that He is good and He will work it out? Or are you seeking control? Do you look at the lives and situations of yourself and others and see hope? Are you willing to see the best in them? To hope for the best in them? Or are you quick to discredit when you don’t get what you want? Are you willing to continue to love people even when you don’t like them much?

Love never fails.

People fail. All the time. People hurt us. We hurt people. But God doesn’t fail. Love doesn’t fail. God’s love doesn’t fail. God’s love does all of the things on this list perfectly. God is working His perfect plan of love all the time. We can trust Him. We can trust His love, His goodness, His plan.

 

Christian, it’s time for us all to live as if we believed that.

 

Laying Down My Rights

When I started this blog, I made the decision that it wasn’t going to be overly personal. I wanted the blog to be about faith, about the Bible, about Jesus and about women primarily. The problem with my original decision I have found, is that all of the things I feel called to talk about ARE personal. At least to me. They are the essence of who I am, and the filter and experiences that I have had in life shapes and colors all of my perspectives. It is nothing but personal.

Allow me to delve into the personal realm today and tell you a bit about my family. I have been married to an amazing man for going on 18 years. He is my best friend. My safe place. He challenges me. He protects me. He is on my team. Together, we have 6 children. Two sleeps from the moment of this writing, our oldest son will be 16 years old. Our second son is a surly 13. Then come the triplets. All three are girls, and at the end of summer they will be 10 years old.  Our youngest daughter is 4. She is fiery, she is spunky, she is charming, she is bubbly, she never stops talking, she is the light of our lives and the perfect addition to our family.

She is also black.

When my husband and I were working on her adoption, part of the process was to read and learn about the challenges of inter-racial adoption. How does a white family, with white experiences raise and prepare a black child who will experience different things? At the time, I thought it a bit silly and unnecessary. How can the world really be that different for black people than white people? As long as I figure out the hair and skin care differences, we’ll be just fine.

How wrong I was. How naive.

I believe what that is called is white privilege.

Being a white woman myself, and being raised in a predominantly white culture has made me naive to the pain and suffering of racism in the world around me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care.. It’s that I didn’t know.

Over the last couple of years, as God has taken me on a path of studying the Bible; particularly the women in it and their stories, I have found a glaring truth.. The truth is that God values women, and includes women, and believes that women are important to the ruling and subduing of the earth and everything in it; including the church. And yet, as a woman, who has grown up in the church, that has not been my practical experience. In the church as a woman, I have been treated as less important, less valuable and as though my gifts are not as useful to the church.

I have repeatedly been told that I’m interpreting my experiences wrong. That the subtle messages that I’ve picked up over the years are not the true representation of the way the church thinks or behaves. That I feel these things because there is something wrong with me. That if I simply change xy or z about myself, my experiences would all be different.

As I have walked and processed through this, I have started to understand on a deeper level what racism in America looks like. The “Black Lives Matter” movement began to make more sense to me.

Please do not hear me say that my experience as a woman in the church is the same as a black person in America. IT ISN’T. Not even close. My experience is merely a hint, a glimmer of the culture of racism we have here. But that glimmer of understanding is all that it took for the door of understanding to be blown open.

When women all over the country, from all different backgrounds and cultures and races and denominations are finding one another online and sharing similar stories of abuse and marginalization experiences in the church, it means that there is something deeply wrong in our church culture in America.

When women all over the world, from different backgrounds and cultures and races are sharing stories of abuse and marginalization and victim shaming experiences from men and our society, it means that there is something deeply wrong with the value we place on women in our world.

And when black people all over America, from different backgrounds and cultures are sharing similar stories of abuse, violence, marginalization and victim shaming experiences from our police and our culture as a whole, it means there is something deeply wrong with racism in America.

This is not okay. This is deeply, and disturbingly not okay. All of these things are wicked. All of these things are evil. All of these things are an affront to the God who made us ALL in the image of Himself and has given us equal dignity, value and worth.

You may be one of those people, as I was, that doesn’t really understand what the big deal is. After all, slavery has been over for a long time! And didn’t that second wave of feminism change all the laws to give women equal rights? As a white person, it is easy to be comfortable with that conclusion because we have never experienced life as a black person. As a man, it is easy to be comfortable with that conclusion because you have never experienced life as woman.

If you are in that place, I would challenge you, implore you really, to not stop there. In my experience, to even be able to have those thoughts means that you (and I) are part of the privilege. Privilege is comfortable. It is easy. It is easier and more comfortable to disregard and dismiss any person who has a different experience than us. It is easier and more comfortable to conclude we are right.

James chapter 2 warns us all against showing favoritism. It is specifically speaking of showing favoritism to the rich at the expense of the poor, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to universally apply it to all people. The world shows favoritism all the time; to the rich, to the white, to the men, to the famous, to the powerful. Favoring rich and powerful people might gain us something in our jobs, in our churches, in our personal lives, but it does not gain us anything in the Kingdom of God. In fact, it hinders the Kingdom of God.

Thankfully, and solely because of God’s grace to us, the gospel FREES us to lay down our desire for personal gain. It frees us to being able to give equal value, dignity, and worth to ALL people; rich or poor, male or female, black or white. As Reverend Jennifer Bailey said in a RECENT ARTICLE; “The gospel message of Jesus was, at its core, about embodying God’s love through affirming the inherent dignity of all peoples in general, and of marginalized peoples in particular.”

Laying down our desire for personal gain in order to live out the gospel is going to look different for you than it does for me. It begins by laying down our need to be right. When we lay down our need to be right, it frees us to listen to the experiences of others. Without trying to formulate a response. Without trying to counteract what they’re saying. Without trying to prove yourself right.

We need to listen with the heart of God. For the pain. For the suffering. For the knowledge and understanding.

As a white woman, I will never fully understand the experience of a black woman or a black man in America. I can only listen to their experiences with the heart of God. A man in the church will never fully understand the experience of a woman in the church. He can only listen to our experiences with the heart of God.

I don’t know where any of this ends, but it begins by laying down our perceived “rights” and being willing to listen.

It begins with you.

It begins with me.

For the sake of my glorious savior, and for the sake of my daughter, I am listening.

An Excerpt From My Book

I haven’t talked much about it here on my blog, but I am [very, very slowly] writing a book. It is a book that God has placed on my heart to write. It will help pastors understand the importance of including women in church leadership and practical help in how to do it. This is a little excerpt from the first chapter. Hope you enjoy it! -Kristi

…..

I was raised in the church my whole life under what I would call complementarian theology, but truthfully that wasn’t even a term I’d heard used until I was into my thirties. I have been active in the church for most of my life. The relationship between men and women and what that looks like in a marriage and in context of the church was not something I ever remember talking about. My family life growing up was better than most I would say, and both my parents did the best they could, but wasn’t a prime example of a healthy marriage. (Is anyone’s really?)

My implicit theology would always have been that as a woman, God loves me equally to any man, but my explicit theology, what I actually experienced and felt as a result, would have been that men are more valuable to God than women. I don’t believe that this was a result of any particular thing that was said or done to me over the years, I think it was more about what I observed (or didn’t!) and what wasn’t said. I don’t remember anyone ever really talking much about how God feels about women specifically and the result was, I filled in a lot of the blanks myself.

Because of this belief I subsequently did not have a proper or healthy understanding of submission, or what to do with the fact that, while much smaller in stature, I am much louder than my husband and my skill set and gifting is much different than his- I tend towards truth speaking and teaching and his tend towards empathy and loyalty. For years, I lived with the belief that the way I was made was WRONG and I must work hard to TONE IT DOWN in order to be submissive to my husband, or my church. I also believed that it was wrong on some level to disagree with my husband (because he was “superior” which would automatically put me in the “wrong” category) or God forbid EVER disagree with a pastor.

For years I wrestled with this tension of desiring to be a Godly woman and thinking that the only way I could do that was to squelch who I was, but also hating that I had to work so hard to be someone that I was not created to be.

As I began to learn more and more about what submission actually is, I began to realize that there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to what a marriage and family structure should look like or how they should work functionally. The ultimate judge of health in a marriage I believe is if the wife feels loved and is flourishing and allowed to grow to become the woman God created her to be, and when the husband feels respected, honored, encouraged and supported by his wife to become the man God intended for him to be. Learning what this looks like in the practical everyday-ness of our marriage has helped tremendously in the context of marriage, but theologically, I still felt lesser-than as a woman.

When I first heard the word ‘complementarianism’ it was defined as, ‘The belief that God created both male and female with equal value and worth, but with different complementary roles.’ This made a ton of sense to me. I rejoiced in the fact that God created women equal to men, but with a different role to fill. I remember diving into the study of what it means to be a wife and mother- with fervor as is generally my style (because that’s pretty much the extent of what I was doing at the time) and learned just how much God honors the role of motherhood! It’s all over the Bible. It is a high calling! This, I thought, is what it means to be a woman.. the most important thing we can do for God is to raise our children and make disciples. Which of course means being a stay-at-home mom.. Who else can you trust to teach your children about Jesus? It is definitely the BEST, most Godly way…

Except, it isn’t. One of the great lessons I’ve learned over the years is that if your theology doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t work. And my theology at that time was more along the lines of, women are of equal value and worth and have a different role to fill [motherhood]. And the best way to fill the role of motherhood is to; stay at home with your kids, homeschool your kids, cook dinner every night, keep up with the laundry, keep a tidy home, etc into infinity of whatever your personal values were. You could certainly build an out-of-context scriptural basis for all of those things, but then what do you tell the single woman with no kids? What do you tell the single mom who has to go to work to provide for her family? What do you tell the mom whose husband is un/under employed who has to go to work in order to put food on the table?  Do you tell them that they are not fulfilling their God-given role? Do you tell them that they have inherently less value in the sight of God because they’re not doing it right? Do we really want to tell women that their value in the kingdom of God comes primarily marrying and having a functioning uterus?

That’s not good news. My theology did not work.

A few years later, I was called to a leadership position within my church. Over the course of the two years of my position there was good, bad, beautiful, ugly, painful and redemptive. I have wished many times that I had not served in the capacity that I had. But with hindsight now, I am glad for it. It was immensely painful in ways that I am still healing from.. but it also caused me to seek answers in scripture, and learn and grow and fall more in love with Jesus in ways that I would not have without this experience. And for that, I am grateful.

During my time serving at my church what I personally experienced was an IMPLICIT (inside, theoretical) theology of women are equal to men, and can do anything short of being a pastor within the church. Unfortunately, there was an EXPLICIT (exterior, practical, what actually was practiced) theology that communicated that women were of less value than men, were less capable than men, were not able to lead in the church, and in fact were, in some ways, quite dangerous to the men in leadership and should be held at arms length most of the time. AND- if you came across a woman who was capable and gifted, one just didn’t know quite how to handle that.

This explicit theology was hurtful to me, and other women in the church and I needed to understand the truth. I needed to understand God’s heart.. I wrestled with the scripture. I studied scripture and asked Jesus to show me his heart for women. Why were we made, what was our role, how do we best reflect Him, and most importantly, how does He feel about us.

To my great delight, He answered me… Sort of. In a way that I didn’t expect, as is usually the case. There are some theological ideas that I will never know the “right” answer to. For example, Paul’s admonition about not allowing women to teach or have authority over a man. If you read it literally, it seems like it’s straightforward, but it isn’t. I have read and studied both sides of this issue and both sides present a clear, convincing, historical and Biblical argument to support their side. The more I study about it, the less I’m confident in the answer, which, if I’m honest is super irritating.

But perhaps that is what God intended. Perhaps He has intentionally put things in the Bible with no clear answer, so that we are forced to lean into Him, build our relationship with him, get to know Him and His heart better. Maybe there is no right answer because there is no one right answer, and He has given us freedom to make the decisions we feel are best for our specific churches. And maybe there is no right answer because if we study and study and study and have less answers than we did when we started, maybe then it’s easier to have grace for someone who comes to a different conclusion than us. Maybe it’s more about trusting the Holy Spirit and building unity and learning from one another, than it is about being right.

…..

 

Jesus and the Sinful Woman

“…So I tell you this. Her many sins have been forgiven. She has shown that she understands this by her great acts of love. But whoever has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Luke 7:47

Her story inspires imagination. The woman described in Luke 7. Who was she? What is her story? What was her childhood like? Did she have parents who treated her with kindness and respect? Had she been hurt or abused somehow in her young life that resulted in poor life choices, either her own, or others choices for her? Did she feel used? Did she feel trapped?

If I was writing a fiction story about her, those would be the questions I would answer. We must ask ourselves these questions, I think, when we come to scripture like this. It is so easy to judge. So easy to think ourselves above her, or find ourselves immersed in “chronological snobbery” as C.S. Lewis would say. When we put ourselves in her place, imagine walking in her shoes, if only for a moment, that is when grace begins to infiltrate our dreary souls. We are all desperate for that infiltration. We are desperate for that Grace.

The Bible leaves out the details about who she is. We don’t even know her name! We know only that there was a woman, well known for being ‘sinful’. Most of us have assumed or been taught that she was a prostitute. The Bible does not label her that way, but the rest of us have. Whatever her sins were, she has clearly been defined by them. Everyone knew she was a sinner. Herself included. Seeking grace and forgiveness from the people around her had clearly not panned out. She carries the labels people have placed on her wherever she goes.

This woman’s very foundation is shaken when she meets Jesus. She finds out where Jesus will be dining, and she decides to go to Him. It does not matter to her that He will be at the home of a highly educated and religious man. A man who could have been the one who gave her the labels in the first place. It doesn’t matter that she was uninvited and would be breaking every social rule. She is drawn towards Jesus. She is drawn towards His goodness. The grace and truth that He is. She longs for it.

Walking into that home, uninvited and unwelcome must have taken a great deal of strength and courage for her. She knows that she must walk through that crowd of people with their opinions and judgements, in order to get to her savior. Bravery begins to build in her soul as she gets closer to Him. The weight of her own sin, the weight of the judgements against her begin to lift. She feels the love, the acceptance, the grace from Jesus as she gets closer. By the time she reaches Him, she can no longer hold it together. She is overcome. She throws herself down at His feet and weeps.  She anoints His feet with her tears; sorrow and joy overflowing. The tears mingle with the expensive perfume she pours, and together they slowly wash away the dust and grime from his sandaled feet, and create an offering that she, and she alone can give. She lets down her hair in gratitude and freedom and wipes away her tears of sorrow.

Interestingly, the more freedom she feels in this moment, the more shocked the people around her were. A woman’s hair in that day was considered to be her crowning glory, sensual. No one was meant to see a woman’s hair except for her husband. For this woman to have such a public display of emotion towards a man who was not her husband, is scandalous. Even worse, taking down her hair in front of the group of religious men, goes against everything that would have been considered proper.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him. He would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner!”

How many times have I myself seen someone feel free in Jesus to do a particular thing and judged them in my own heart, for thinking that they dared have the “perceived” freedom to do that thing! And how many times have I myself felt judged by others, when I was feeling free in Jesus to do a thing. I am both the sinful woman and the pharisee, Jesus help me!

We must wonder to ourselves at this point in the story, why Jesus’ feet were still dirty. We take for granted here our paved roads and close-toed shoes, but at this time, there were only dirt roads and open-toed shoes. Culturally speaking, when guests entered into someone’s home, a good host would have a servant ready to wash the dust off of the guests feet. If they didn’t have a servant, the host would offer to do it, or have it available for them to do it themselves. To invite someone to your home and not offer this, was poor hospitality and a slap in the face to your guest.

When our friend enters the room and begins to cry at Jesus’ feet, she sees that His feet have not been cleaned. This host has not treated Jesus with the respect that He deserves. He invited Him in, but did not care for Him. This emotional woman weeping at His feet, gives Jesus the honor that He did not receive from His well educated, religious host, who certainly knew better. This is what we should be shocked about. The other men sitting with Jesus are shocked by this woman. They are shocked at her actions, her freedom. They are shocked that Jesus does not send her away.

How many of us are shocked at the wrong things? The things that offend our own sense of “rightness”, rather than be shocked at the things that offend Jesus.

Jesus’ response to the woman at His feet is beautiful and breathtaking. He is not shocked. He does not treat her as “just a woman”. He does not rub her sin in her face. He does not tell her to leave, or indicate that her presence is unwelcome. He does not tell her that her emotional response to Him is wrong or inappropriate. Jesus takes a moment to look at her. He sees her for who she is. He sees her sin and her emotion and her repentant heart and He honors her. In front of the arrogant, religious men, He esteems this woman for doing what they did not do, and being what they were not.

Then he turned toward the woman. He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?

Do you see this woman? Do you see her? Do I see her?

Look. Look at her. Look in her eyes. Don’t look at her sin, look at her soul.

Her sin after all, is not the point.

Jesus knew who she was. He knew what she had done. He acknowledged that this woman was a sinner, EVERYONE knew, especially her! But Jesus affirmed this woman, accepted her, SAW her in the midst of her sin and forgave her. Jesus loved her.

This is the Kingdom of God breaking through to earth. This is the Kingdom of God come to walk among us. This is the God who sees. This is the God who knows. This is the God who looks deep into your eyes and says, “I see you. Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

This unnamed woman gives us such a beautiful picture of faith, courage and love. She walks through the labels and oppression in order to throw herself at the feet of her savior, and in doing so is received with grace, love and acceptance. She faces her fear in order to learn that He is safe.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.. Hebrews 12:1

 

Just Breathe

Breathe in. Breathe out.

It’s all going to be okay.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Nothing is impossible with God.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You are under the shadow of His wing.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

He is hiding you in the cleft of the rock.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You are safe.

 

Sometimes we need to be reminded that it’s okay to stop and breathe for a while.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not the saviors of the story and do not need to carry the weight of that responsibility.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God does not condemn us, and anything that feels like condemnation is not from God.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that the Gospel is beautiful. The Gospel encourages the fruit of; Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. When we are not growing in these things, it is not the Spirit that we are listening to.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that the victory has already been won through Christ and we do not carry the weight of responsibility for how things turn out.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God’s grace is big enough for our situation, for our relationships, for our sin.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

 

God’s grace is easy. Comfortable.

God’s grace engulfs us, surrounds us, swallows us up. We can wrap ourselves in it like a warm blanket on a cold day. Best of all, it is already ours and it is free.

There is no such thing as too much grace. Grace begets relationship. Grace begets love. Grace begets safety. Grace begets truth. It all begins with grace.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

God’s grace is enough.

 

That Time Kanye West Taught Me About Jesus

The other day in my car, Kanye West taught me a little bit about Jesus. I’m not even kidding. Now, I am not one of those people for whom celebrity news holds much appeal. In fact, celebrity news holds about as much appeal for me as politics, which equals approximately less than zero. So when the song started playing through my car stereo, I had no idea who was singing it. Initially I liked it, because I like pretty much any music that makes me feel like I want to dance. As I started paying attention to the words, however, my mind changed very quickly. Let’s just allow the lyrics to speak for themselves. Please excuse the language:

“Stronger”

Na-na-na that that don’t kill me

Can only make me stronger

I need you to hurry up now

‘Cause I can’t wait much longer

I know I got to be right now

‘Cause I can’t get much wronger

Man I’ve been waitin’ all night now

That’s how long I’ve been on you

 

I need you right now

I need you right now

 

Let’s get lost tonight

You could be my black Kate Moss tonight

Play secretary, I’m the boss tonight

And you don’t give a f*#k what they all say right?

Awesome, the Christian and Christian Dior

Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore

I ask ’cause I’m not sure

Do anybody make real s@$t anymore?

Bow in the presence of greatness

’cause right now thou hast forsaken us

You should be honored by my lateness

That I would even show up to this fake s#&t

So go ahead go nuts go ape s*&t

Especially in my pastel on my bape s#*t

Act like you can’t tell who made this

New gospel homie, take six, and take this, haters

 

[Chorus]

 

I need you right now

I need you right now

 

Me likey

 

I don’t know if you got a man or not,

If you made plans or not

If God put me in your plans or not

I’m trippin’ this drink got me sayin’ a lot

But I know that God put you in front of me

 

So how the hell could you front on me?

There’s a thousand you’s, there’s only one of me

I’m trippin’, I’m caught up in the moment right?

Cause it’s Louis Vuitton Don night

So we gon’ do everything that Kan like

Heard they’d do anything for a Klondike

Well, I’d do anything for a blonde-dike

And she’ll do anything for the limelight

And we’ll do anything when the time’s right

Ugh, baby, you’re makin’ it (harder, better, faster, stronger)

Charming, isn’t it?

One does not have to dig too far to understand the ‘deep’ meaning of Kanye’s song. It is clear. Kanye is the king. And as the king, Kanye gets have anything he wants, whenever he wants it and has the ‘right’ to treat women (or whomever) any way he damn well pleases. Because he is the king.

Let me just be clear. Kanye- God has nothing to do with any of this. Kindly leave Him out of your lyrics.

There’s something about this that is deeply disturbing to me. It’s not that Kanye has this attitude, because let’s be honest.. We ALL have this attitude about some things, sometimes. And I bet most of us would act on it more often if given the opportunity. Kanye’s language is not disturbing to me either. They’re just words after all. What is disturbing to me is this; Kanye (I presume) is a pretty popular, well-known guy. His songs are (I presume) pretty popular and well-known as well. It disturbs me greatly that this is the message that our young men are getting about how they should behave as “men”. And equally, or perhaps even MORE disturbing, is the fact that women are submitting to this nonsense.

We live in a strange society. On one hand, we and the women coming before us have fought hard to have equal rights to vote, to own property, for equal pay and treatment in the workplace, etc. In a lot of ways, women are more “liberated” than we have ever been in the past.

On the other hand, songs like this are wildly popular. And not only are the songs and lyrics popular, but the performers of these songs are worshipped like gods. This song belittles, objectifies and devalues women, and yet, HOW MANY WOMEN WISH THEY WERE THIS GIRL? How many women would give their right arm to sleep with the man who wrote this song?

There is something DREADFULLY wrong with this.

My own heart both rages against this and understands it. A strange dichotomy. I truly understand that desire. To be beautiful. To be important. To be valued, and honored, and cherished. Those are good desires. And I understand how easy it is to long for someone to show me and tell me that they think these things about me. I get it. I’ve been there. I will probably be there again. I understand. But listen..

THIS IS SLAVERY

Beauty, importance, value and honor are already yours through Jesus. We no longer have to be a slave to the opinions, the words or the attitudes of others; men or women. We no longer have to fight for it. We no longer have to feel self-righteous when we ‘earn’ it. We no longer have to feel crushed when we do not. We are no longer slaves.

We have been set free.

Galations 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Christ has set us free. Stand firm. Do not submit to slavery.

Let us be FREE.

Thank you for the reminder, Kanye.

 

Confessions of a ‘Dirty’ Feminist

Why am I here? What am I doing on this blog? I want you guys to know my heart, so I’d like to share some things with you. The name of my blog is Redeeming Freedom. The tagline under the name is, “A fresh look at faith, food and biblical feminism.” The decision to use the word “feminism” was one I wrestled with. I decided to go for it, even though it is a ‘dirty’ word in Christian circles. I like to live on the edge. I’d like to explain why.

The church has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I attended AWANA. Through the years I participated in church on Sundays, church events and youth group. My husband and I continue to participate in church, through small groups, serving and leadership in various ways. We’ve brought our children to church and encouraged them to serve as well as they’ve gotten older. I have labeled myself as a ‘good, Christian girl”.

When you hit your thirties, God starts doing crazy things. Life altering, pendulum swinging, foundation crumbling, paradigm shifting sort of things. I’ve watched it happen to others, and I am no exception. A pattern of freedom and redemption has emerged in my life due to God’s work in the last few years. (Redeeming Freedom. Get it?). He needed to set me free from sin- others’ sin against me and my own. Much of this sin has come in the form of religion.

That may sound funny to you, the idea of needing to be set free from religion. It would have to me a few years ago. Religion in this context can be defined by the legalistic rules that we add to the Bible that HINDER us from having a genuine relationship with Jesus. As Jesus works, I am finding myself more free to be in relationship with Him. I am less hindered by all the things I think I have to do. Or even worse, the way I have to BE. A particular area where God is continuing to free me is in the area of men and women.

A year or so ago, God told me to start studying the women of the Bible. Who were they? Why are their stories in the Bible? What did they do? What are we to learn from them and their stories? How does God feel about them? As I have studied these women, God has opened my eyes. He has shown me the incongruency between His view of women and my own.

Years ago, a friend said to me, “Kristi, if you weren’t such a Godly woman, you would be a raging feminist.” I’ve thought about that comment over the years and I’ve thought a lot about the idea of feminism. You may not believe this, but as my heart aligns more with scripture and with Jesus, I’ve actually become MORE of what you might call a feminist.

Secular feminism, or feminism without Jesus leads to dark and ungodly places. Man shaming/hating, abortions under the guise of sexual equality, and damaging generations by pushing an agenda of “equality means sameness” by not affirming that God created men and women to be DIFFERENT, to name a few. It is no wonder that feminism is a dirty word in the Christian culture. These things are NOT the heart of God, but without Jesus, this is probably where I would be.

The thing is, I LONG for value and worth. Not in spite of being a woman, but BECAUSE I am a woman. I LONG to know and believe that there is not anything lesser about who I am because I am a woman and not a man. Without Jesus, I certainly would be fighting for that on my own and stomping on anyone who stood in my quest for it.

What I’ve come to learn is that my longing for worth is good and it is right, and it a God-given desire. Jesus longs to fill that desire for me. All I needed to do was ask, but for so long I didn’t know! I believed my desires for value and worth were contrary to God’s word. My fear was that if asked Jesus about it, He would tell me my desires were sinful, or worse, that He really did think women were less valuable than men!

Oh, how I was wrong! In Genesis, Eve was given instructions to rule with her husband. Women were named as rulers and queens and prophets in the Old Testament. In the New Testament women traveled with Jesus and learned from Him just like any man. Jesus dignified them, and freed them to work alongside of Him and His ministry. And this was counter cultural! Jewish leaders at the time believed women to be little more than property and not worthy to teach. Paul also worked side by side with women to spread the gospel. He honored their work and sacrifice, and named them as leaders. (Romans 16)

If we define the word ‘feminist’ as the dictionary does, (Adj: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. N: an advocate of such rights.)  then it’s pretty clear that Jesus Himself was a counter cultural feminist! Let that sink in for a moment! Jesus affirmed the worth, value and dignity of women in the face of religious men.(Luke 7:36-50) Jesus did NOT have to stomp on the value of men to show the value of women, and nor should we. Jesus stood firm in the truth of the original creation story. Equal value for both men and women. Partnership. Ruling and subduing the earth, side by side.

This is why I chose the word ‘feminist’ for my blog. Jesus was a feminist, and He shocked people with it. I want to be like Jesus. Jesus came to set captives free. Male and female both. He called both men and women to ‘pick up their cross and follow him’. He called both men and women to be leaders. And He called both men and women to be warriors.

I now know that I am free to be fierce. I am free to be a warrior. I am free to fight. I am free to be a feminist. I am free. Jesus has set me free.

 

How to Study the Bible

Last week, my post about the importance of studying the Bible was a surprise to me. When I first sat down, I had something different in mind for what my post was going to be about. But as the words poured from my fingertips, I could see the direction of the words changing. So I went with it. Little did my conscious know, a few short days later I would be attending another conference on Bible exposition where I would be reminded of some things I had heard before, and introduced to some new ideas and resources. Today’s post will be much more comprehensive as a result, I’m sure!

Conferences and workshops on Bible exposition are helpful in learning how to study God’s word. I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few over the years. While I haven’t yet had opportunities to use what I’ve learned in a teaching sense, the knowledge has been helpful to me in my own study of scripture. If you’ve ever thought about teaching the Bible, this post will help you get started. If that’s not on your radar, knowing what the Bible says is still imperative! Not only will it help you in your personal relationship with Jesus, but it will help you handle God’s word correctly, and that’s good for everyone!  Amen to that, yeah?

I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve learned in some of these conferences. Enough to get you started, or at least started with the thinking process. The more I learn about the Bible, the more beautiful it becomes to me and I want that for you, too! I want that for all of us. God is so pleased when we delight in Him, and we are able to delight in Him more as we get to know Him through His word!

The first thing we need to recognize is that the whole Bible connects, and it tells the greatest love story of all time. The Hero of the love story is Jesus. Every story, every passage we read in the Bible points to Him, who He is, and the work He did on the cross to reconcile us to Himself. Jesus is easy to see in Paul’s letters where he explains the gospel. But where is Jesus in the story of the concubine getting raped, abused, cut up into pieces and sent to the 12 tribes of Israel in Judges? As amazing as it is, he is there too!  Both stories teach us more about Jesus and His character, and we must do the hard work of figuring out how.

The Bible is a book.. have you ever thought of that? It is a work of literary genius and includes many different genre’s. Go to the library, and what do you see? Genre’s of books in every kind; children’s books, reference books, text books, fiction, non-fiction, romance, sci-fi, etc. You would not sit down and read a text book in the same way that you read a fiction sci-fi book. It wouldn’t make any sense. A textbook was not meant to be read like a sci-fi. The Bible is the same. The Bible consists of ten different genre’s:

Epistles (Letters)

Acts

The Gospels

Parables

Old Testament Narratives

Old Testament Law

Prophets

Psalms

Wisdom Literature

Apocalyptic Literature

Each genre should be read differently and each shows us a unique and beautiful facet of God and how He relates to us. In order to grasp scripture we must understand what genre we are reading. This will help us know how to read it.

Now it’s time for the challenging part- interpretation! The fancy Bible word for this is Hermeneutics, and it consists of 4 parts.

Context- deals with the Who, What, Where, When and Why the book or passage was written as well as what the culture was like at the time.

Observation- the Who, What, Where, When and Why questions about what the words are saying. Who are the people involved in this passage? what do they say? what is happening? where is it happening? what day/time is it? what comes before and after? why is this included?

Meaning- Meaning in this context does not mean figuring out what the passage means to us. It is understanding what the meaning of the words meant to the original readers. If we don’t figure this out, we won’t know what the words initially intended to communicate, or why they were written.

Application- How does this story, this passage apply to me today? This is where the Bible can come alive to you and/or your audience and minister to specific needs.

As you can see, we’ve only scratched the surface of Bible study. There is SO much more to talk about, but I hope this gives you a jumping off point. Attached below are some links to some helpful resources including links to the conferences I’ve attended, some online resources and books to get you started. My post today was a culmination of many of these resources, and I’m so grateful to have access to so many great things. I have also added a RESOURCES page to my site, where I will (future tense.. it’s blank as of this writing) list a bunch of different materials I have found helpful.

Conferences

Verity Fellowship

Simeon Trust

Online Resources

Dallas Theological Seminary- FREE courses you can take!

Jen Wilkin- FREE Bible study audio teachings and materials

Books

How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth (recommended by Verity Fellowship)

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin