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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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.

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

 

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

 

 

The Importance of Bible Study

Biblestudy

My blog has gotten off to a rather slow start. I started it about 6 months ago, wrote a few things, and then life happened; our basement flooded and we had some remodeling to do. Everything in our house (as well as what felt like our whole life!) was in chaos for a long time. I haven’t written nearly as much as I would have liked to by this point. I have discovered that reading and studying about different women of the Bible takes a LOT of time, especially if one wants to be faithful to the text and what it is actually saying- but that’s okay. I will keep plugging away and hope and pray that it goes wherever God wants it to go in whatever timing He wants.

The first Bible woman I wrote about when I started my blog was Deborah. I was utterly fascinated by her. I still am. From Deborah, I moved to Jael, which I haven’t finished yet, and then I posted a shorter-than-I’d-like version of Jesus’ mother Mary. Over the last months, I have realized that my fascination with the women of the Bible has blossomed into a much deeper love of the Bible itself, which has lead me to a much deeper love of the Person that the Bible is really all about. I am learning more and more about how to study the Bible as opposed to just reading it every morning like a newspaper.

Reading the Bible a little bit each day or having regular quiet times whenever I can fit them in is a really good thing. It is good to get into the habit and disciplining myself in this way. If this is my only method of approaching the Bible though, I can get myself into a lot of trouble.  When I was in high school years ago (let’s not talk about how many), I vividly remember meeting regularly to do “Bible study” with a group of kids in my high school youth group leadership team. I use the term “Bible study” really loosely here in case my sarcasm doesn’t come through clearly via blog post.

While I’m sure that whomever had the idea for student-led high school Bible studies had the greatest motivations behind it, let’s be honest… Why do 99% of high schoolers get together, ever? To hang out with the opposite-sex of course! It’s not bad, or wrong, it’s just true! So here we were, a group of (albeit fairly responsible) teen-agers, mostly there because of the opportunity to spend time with the opposite-sex, with no Bible knowledge or training, attempting to read through books of the Bible and understand what it was saying, in order to be better Christians. Cute, right?

I don’t remember exactly which book we were going through, but it was one of the books with a passage about wives submitting to husbands. We thought, in our wise 17-year-old brains, we knew what the passage was communicating. Our conversations consisted of, “well, I think it means this!” and “this is what this passage means to me”. There were a few 17 year old boys trying to explain what it means for a wife to submit to her husband to a few 15/16 year old girls. Can you say, recipe for disaster? I don’t remember if I said it out loud or not, but I distinctly remember saying to God, “No! I’m not doing that. I’m not that kind of girl, and that will never be who I am!”

You know what though.. I was right. The idea of submission as presented to me by a couple of 17 year old boys (one of which turned out to be my husband a few years later, funny enough) was not the idea of submission that Paul (or God) had intended to communicate in that passage, and I was right to not succumb to that.

It’s a funny story now. Unfortunately, this still happens. To read a passage of scripture and decide ‘what it means to me’ without knowing who it was written to, why it was written, what it meant to the people in that time and in that culture, and what the theme of the overall book was, is dangerous and irresponsible. At best, it is naive, or maybe lazy; at worst, it is the foundation of some of the tremendous evils of the world. How many wars have been fought over theology? How many millions of people have been mistreated and oppressed because of misinterpreting passages of scripture?

Reading, studying and interpreting the Bible is an immense amount of work. But it is extremely important. We must sit in the scripture for a long time and allow all the different flavors to permeate our heart, soul and mind. Sort of like the spaghetti sauce I made for dinner last night. The flavors of all the ingredients on their own don’t taste very good. And even when I combine them all together, there is no depth of flavor until the ingredients have simmered together for a long time. Only then do the ingredients release their flavors and their aromas and combine together to make a flavorful sauce. The longer they are allowed to seep together, the better the sauce will be.

It is similar to the Bible. Unless we do the work to answer the questions about who, what, where, when and why the books and passages of the Bible were written, and then give all those things time to saturate into each other, and into us, the results will be gross and unpalatable. I have learned some methods and found some great resources for how to do this that I would like to share some with you on my next post. But I’d love to hear from you- what resources do you use to help you study the Bible?

Deborah; Redeemer and Prophet Part 2

If you have not yet caught Part 1 of Deborah’s story, go HERE to read that first. This is a continuation of her story.

The name Deborah means, “bee”. Which could mean that she has sweetness of character to her friends and a sharp sting to her enemies. It’s sort of makes me think of that scene from, “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan’s character is trying to psych herself up for her news interview and boxing in the corner saying, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” It’s a funny scene in the movie because Meg Ryan’s character is anything but a stinging bee.. but that description rings true for Deborah.

The text describes Deborah as a prophetess. This is significant because she is one of few women named in the Bible as a prophet and the ONLY judge to be named both judge and prophet. To be a prophet meant that God’s spirit had come upon her and that God spoke through her to his people. This indicates to me that Deborah may have carried a different weight/type of authority than some of the other judges and/or that people around her may have viewed or responded to her differently than some of the other judges.

It is interesting to note as well that Deborah was the only judge of Israel to be in power BEFORE a militant victory. Winning a war was the beginning of the rule for all the other judges. But not so with Deborah. She was already established as a judge and leader over Israel before conflict arose. People around her already valued her wisdom and intelligence and came to her to have their disputes settled before any military action took place. She was influencing Israel long before she fighting wars.

And then God speaks, and we really get into the story. Deborah calls to Barak, the military leader and tells him that God is going to deliver them and it is time to fight their enemies (Judges 4:6-7).

This makes me ask a few questions; At this point, Israel had been being oppressed for 20 years what changed? Was God waiting on Israel to finally cry out to Him? If Deborah was leading Israel at the time, why did it take so long to do something about their enemy? What was Barak’s part in this? What was he doing for that 20 years?

My best guess is that they were just waiting for God to come and deliver them. If Deborah was a prophet, that indicates to me that she was faithful and obedient. I know that I have had situations where I have seen or felt an injustice and cried out to God only to have Him say wait. So I wait, painfully, as I watch the injustices continue to happen and nothing changes. Until one day, God says move, and then things change suddenly. Maybe it was like that.

At any rate, Deborah calls to Barak. He comes, which signifies her power and influence at the time. She tells him that God has said that it is time to go to war and it’s time to rally the troops. He responds by saying, “If you go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”

These words are curious. Especially in the cultural context. The fact that a man is seemingly dependant on a woman is very unusual and it’s a very debated subject. Some people say that it was the response of a weak or passive man who was unable to summon the courage to fight the battle on his own. Some say that it was the response of a faithful man who wanted the assuring presence of the nations prophet to be with him.  We will never know for certain, but I think that it was a combination of both.

Barak knew of course that Deborah held the power. He also would have known of her great wisdom and influence throughout the tribes of Israel. He knew how people responded to her. But most of all, he knew that she spoke for God. I believe that there is an element of faith and wisdom in him asking her to come along. Maybe he knew that with her power and influence she would have a better chance of rallying the troops than himself. He could have also been asking for the continued hand of God to be with them in his response for her to come. Both options seem to me like wisdom and faith.

On the other hand, it’s possible that he could have been scared senseless and needed her confidence to go with them in the fight- that may have also been true.

Deborah agrees swiftly and confidently to go along with Barak to the battlefield. This is a beautiful picture of leadership to me. Not only was she willing to go into battle, but she was willing to go first. It’s also such a beautiful picture of a woman who was so filled with faith in the God whom she loved that she was willing to go to the hard places, do hard things with full assurance that God would be by her side, doing what He said he would do. She didn’t know the plan. She had no idea how they were going to fight and win this battle against this mighty enemy. God didn’t tell her that. But she knew God. She knew his voice. She knew His promises. And she knew His love for His people. So she went.

After she agrees to go along with him, Deborah says to Barak, “… nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

We assume from her statement, since she is the leader of Israel at the time, that she means that she herself will get the glory for the victory. Maybe she did. We find out at the end of the chapter though that it was another woman named Jael who actually is the one to kill Sisera.

I wonder if she knew that Jael would be the one to kill Sisera. Or if she thought that she would be the one to get the glory since she was the one commanding the army. Did God reveal to her what was going to happen specifically, or just that it was time for them to go to war and that they would win?

There’s really no way to know. But if you read in Chapter 5 of Judges where Deborah and Barak write a song of praise to God and a replay of the story, they give a whole section in there of praise to Jael for her actions. Jael was heralded as a hero. Despite what Deborah knew or didn’t know in the beginning, she responds to Jael’s part in the story with praise and celebration. I see no evidence of anger or bitterness in her towards Jael for stealing part of her glory.

Again, what a testament to her faith and relationship with God. She was comfortable resting in the fact that ultimately GOD got the best glory. There were people who rose to the occasion in faith and followed God and they were praised for their faith. But she ultimately knew that it was God’s story and God’s victory and He was the one to which the praise should go. I find that so beautiful, and such a great reminder of the way that it is supposed to be among women. In our society today we have such fierce competition between women and it is exhausting. How much better would it be if we all could just rest in the fact that no matter what I do that is good or bad and no matter what you do that is good or bad, ultimately it’s all God’s story anyway…

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Deborah’s story coming soon!