Tag Archives: Hope

I’m getting a little tired of 1 Timothy…

Women have always been a part of things.  From the very beginning Women have played an important role in the life and times of the people of God.  The moment that Eve plucked that apple {or some might say pomegranate} from the tree, women have definitely impacted the faith in good ways and in bad, much like the men.  As you travel through the Bible one encounters judges who were women, mothers who made choices, prophetesses who spoke the word of God, and countless others who impacted a people and helped shape their faith.

Lately it seems that the focus of much of the Christian blogging community has been placed on keeping women in their place.  On preventing women from taking positions of authority.  I wonder why so much emphasis and energy is placed on preventing ministry from being done?  Is this a good use of our resources?

There are so many blogs and so much passion surrounding this topic.  I’m pleased that people are invested in their faith but I have to say I’m getting a little tired of reading the same argument over and over again stating that 1 Timothy clearly indicates that I should not be an ordained pastor and women have no place in the church.  It’s interesting to me that things are so cut and dry for some people.  Life is rarely black and white.  Things are never that easy, at least not in the world I live in.  Jesus rarely spoke directly about anything.  His parables were told in such a way that not everyone would understand.  I just don’t think it’s as easy as picking one passage from the Bible to determine who’s in and who’s out as far as leadership goes.

When we look at 1 Timothy 2, there’s so much more than just the verse regarding leadership.  Shortly thereafter we see that the author of this letter declares women to be saved by childbearing after he forbids them from teaching. Do we honestly still believe that? What about women who don’t have children? Do we think a woman is only good with God once she bears a child?  I always thought that it was Jesus’ redemptive actions that saved us.

Understanding and interpretation changes over the years thanks to the infinite, complex and mysterious creator who continues to engage and enlighten us.  When we read the Bible we need to understand the context and the culture of the time it was written.  Reading the Bible through our own lens instead of that of a 1st century person risks skewing the meaning and the message behind it.  We must remember that 1 Timothy is first and foremost a letter written from one colleague to another addressing specific concerns relating to the Church in Ephesus.

These letters weren’t written as scripture or as a history for us.  They were written for a community, in this case it was from one colleague to another.  The author wasn’t thinking about the future, he was thinking about Timothy’s ministry in his present.  I think this is why we as a church tend to get in trouble with the Epistles.  The authors weren’t actually writing for us, they were writing for their communities.  They were writing the present, not the future.

I do accept the Epistles as scripture and see merit in reading them but I feel we must learn as much as we can about the context of the time and place we are reading about.  They are a large part of our history, a great part of our story and when we read them we must remember their original purpose.  None of the Bible can be read in isolation.  Everything comes from something. Everything has a story around it and all of that impacts the words we read on the page.

God has blessed us with a faith that is filled with mystery and wonder.  Our story has fear and hope, desire and passion.  We long to connect with God and that’s one thing that never changes.  Our history tells tales of men and women who’ve fought bravely for the faith, who’ve done what God asks and never gave up.  Women do play a part in this story.  We read stories of Rahab, Ruth, Deborah, Esther, Mary, Martha and so many more who’ve made lasting imprints on the fabric of our faith.  Each woman played a role.  Each one was called by God into service.  Each one played a part in bringing us to this point in our journey as a people of God.

We all have a part to play, a story of our own.  My story was challenged and affirmed by the church as I wrestled with discovering what it was God wanted from my life.  I was called by God to minister to his people.  That’s my story.  I am called by God to do his work and I happen to be a woman.  Women have always played a part in the workings of the people of God, I don’t think God wants to change that now.

 

Do I need a label maker?

Everyone has a label nowadays.  You have to be an ’emerging liberal conservative with evangelical tendencies’ to feel like you fit in in the Christian community.   It seems as though people believe that if you haven’t labeled your beliefs and put them in a category you’re not thinking enough about what it is you believe.

I don’t really understand the need for all this labeling.  Labels don’t really move us ahead and usually lead to division.  Then once you’ve divided yourself into categories you often find conflict comes next as each division thinks they’re right. After all the conflict you’ll find a lot of wounded people crying out in pain and I’m fairly certain this is not what Jesus wanted for us.

I cannot find one place in the Bible where Jesus said ‘you must label yourself according to beliefs and theological interpretation’.  Jesus is all about relationship and God’s love.

We all have labels that get put on us.  To some I’m a preacher.  To others I’m a teacher.  Some might call me pastor while others call me friend.  I’m also a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and if I’m honest a pretty decent singer.  I can embrace a label for each part of my life and separate out sections of me or embrace the uniqueness that is me.   God created me to be all of these things.  Each part is important to the whole.

God created us all to be a part of the people of God.  Each part is important to the whole and we need to look at our differences as things that enhance the faith rather than detract from it.  We need to co-exist and embrace our diversity as it helps to create a rich, full faith that is constantly revealing truth to us.  When we focus on our differences as a negative thing and bring judgement into the mix we’ve lost perspective and purpose.

I don’t want a label.  I just want to follow Jesus.
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Do you think labels are important or do they hurt us?  I’d love to know what you think.

Shadow Days

There was a time right around when my son was born that I like to call the dark times of my soul.   I was so angry.  So very angry.  I didn’t know why X. was created in a way that required him to have surgery.  I was angry at God, at everything in our situation and I didn’t know what to do.  There were days when I couldn’t pray, I just sat frightened and fearing the worst.

The prayers of others carried me through that time.  The prayers and thoughts and encouragement of so many of my family, my friends and throughout the community of faith carried me through.  As I stand on the other side I can see the hand of God pressed on me, carrying me, my husband and X.  We survived.  Some might say we thrived.

When I first heard the song Shadow Days by John Mayer I loved it {which should come as no surprise as I love everything by him} but I didn’t pay too much attention to the lyrics.  This week however I happened upon the video and I was struck by one particular line.

“Had a tough time, had a rough start but I finally learned to let it go.”

We had a tough time and a rough start as a family but we pulled through.  I’m so grateful for the love and support of everyone.  The prayers pulled us in.  God was there with us.  We were truly blessed. This song reminded me of how far I’ve come.  How my dark days are indeed over and how blessed I feel right now as part of this family and in my ministry.

God doesn’t quit.

I’m wading through Leviticus right now and am awfully thankful I was not a priest back in the day.  I don’t think I could have done it.  I really would have had a hard time killing a cow/sheep/insert animal here.   I’d make friends with it and then when the time came to say good bye I don’t think I’d be able to do it.  It’s really not something I would have to worry about though as I’m a women and therefor unclean a lot of the time and also unworthy of the task.

Have I mentioned how thankful I am not to have been a priest back then?

A few days ago I decided to read the Bible from front to back as I was jumping all over the place.  I started to wonder if I was missing key things because I wasn’t following a plan.  This forces me to hit areas of the Bible that I forget about. Leviticus is one of those areas.

As I’ve been reading through from Genesis to Leviticus 16 and what I’m really appreciating about God this run through is that God lays everything out neatly in great detail {in fact some might argue too much detail} so that the people of God ‘get it’.   God’s people make mistakes and he stays with them.  Explaining things over and over again.  He doesn’t quit.

We worship a God who doesn’t quit.
This is great news!

God doesn’t quit.  God is there.  Persevering through the ages.  Trying to catch our attention and draw us back into right relationship with him.  God loves us so much he even joins us on earth for a bit to see if that helps.  God is pretty great that way.  We’re pretty lucky people.

I think this is something we need to remember.  We think if we’ve made a mistake it’s over.  We think we can’t turn back but the truth is we can.  We can always go back.  Even when we build a golden calf, we can always go back.

We worship a God who doesn’t quit.
Even when we as individuals don’t ‘get it’.
Even when we as a church don’t ‘get it’.

God doesn’t quit.
We shouldn’t quit either…

An Easter Reflection: They had a choice

The sun is beginning it’s stretch into the sky.  Two women gather at the door while waiting for one inside.  They are ready to go.  Eager to begin the most dreaded task.  Eager to finish so they can try to move on.  She leaves her home, gently shutting the door behind her so as not to disturb those who may still be asleep.  It’s time.  They begin their journey.

They walk arms tucked in close to their bodies.  Baskets hanging from their arms bounce against their hips as they try to stay warm, try to stay unnoticed.  They walk together towards a tomb. Stories pass among them of better days.  Laughter slips out uncomfortably and they look to each other for acceptance and peace.  Their grief echoes with each step.  This is a terrible journey.

Their conversation shifts and one woman raises the question they were all thinking.  “Who will roll the stone away?”  The stone that is far too heavy for them.  Who will move it? They keep going, determined to succeed.  Regardless of the obstacle that lies ahead they know what they have to do.  They must give their teacher a small portion of what he gave them.  They must show him love in this final task.

As they arrive at the tomb their worries shift.  The stone is no longer an issue.  They are now faced with something much worse.  Their friend’s grave has been tampered with.   The three of them look at one another.  Lines on their forehead begin to collect sweat as they panic.  What will they do?  What if the thieves are still in there?

Bravely, together they burst forth into the tomb.  Almost as if to surprise who is there.  They don’t surprise him, he surprises them.  He sits as if waiting for them.  Dressed all in white, calm and collected.  The women alarmed hold each other for support.

He is waiting for them.  They wonder why?  What’s going to happen now? Where is his body?  What has this man done?

He tells them not to worry.  He tells them of a miracle that’s happened.  That Jesus is up, he’s alive.  He tells them to go tell the others.   He expects them to do it right away.  Backing out of the tomb.  The women turn and flee.  Uncertain of what to do.  They tell no one. Their instructions were to share.  We’re told they said nothing.

They said nothing…yet.

We know the end of the story.  We know they shared with others.
We’re gathered all over the world today celebrating this moment because they told shared the message and it has now been shared with us.

They had a choice.
They could choose belief or disbelief.
They could choose to keep this good news or to share it.

Today because of their choice we gather and celebrate.
Today because of their choice we know Jesus and his love.
Today because of their choice the world is changed.  Hope is reborn.  Life is new.

He is risen.
He is risen indeed!

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This is based on the Easter Story found in the Gospel of Mark.  If you’d like to read more click here.

Easter is hard.

Easter is hard. Jesus starts the week triumphant, riding on a donkey. He ends it on a cross.  In between there is pain. There is agony. There are questions.  Then comes death.  Emotions run high.  Despair and emptiness are almost felt in the air.  That emptiness lingered when he was gone. Amplified by his absence.

Swirling in the disciples minds are thoughts of anguish and despair.
Ashamed at their actions, horrified by their decisions, they hide and mourn. Then something changed. The world was somehow different. The rock is rolled away. The tomb is vacated. Before the women arrive, hope returns but no one knows it yet.  When the women arrive, hope starts to spread.  Life springs forth. Everything is new once more.

Easter is hard. We want to skip over the bad parts, to travel right from the triumphant entry into the empty tomb.  We want to travel from hope into hope.

Given the choice, we would gloss over the real parts, we would ignore the ugliness of humanity.  These parts of the story resonate too deeply in our souls.  But if we allow ourselves to live the story, to go from start to finish we find something incredible.  In despair we see God. In ugliness we find beauty. In darkness we find light.  In shame we find forgiveness.  Through it all, we see Jesus.

We see Jesus.
The one who brings hope. The one who is light. The one who is.

When we enter the story we see Jesus.  That’s what’s truly hard.  Seeing Jesus forces us to confront his place in our lives. Seeing Jesus forces us to let him in. When we let Jesus in our lives change.  Easter changes us and change can be scary.

Don’t be afraid to let Jesus in this week. Easter may be hard, but nothing great ever came easily.  Just ask Jesus…

Landslide

I have a lot of friends who write blogs.  I would say 99% of them are about their personal lives with a hint of Jesus but there are some that are more specific in their direction.

One of my friends recently started a blog called “The Next 500 Years” and his first post {which you should check out} is a bit of an introduction to where he’s going to go with the blog.  He talks about this time of transition in the church as being like the moment when you are at the top of the roller coaster and about to launch down into that giant dip.  It’s the moment when you are absolutely terrified {even if you know what’s coming}.

I like the roller coaster imagery but for me I see it as more of a landslide.  An event that is years in the making, waiting for that one thing which will send everything sliding down the mountain.  No one knows what will happen.  No one knows what it will look like once the event is over.  There is only one guarantee, change is coming and things will never look the same again.

I love the Dixie Chicks rendition of the Fleetwood Mac hit “Landslide”.  It’s something I listen to often and there is one line of lyrics that particularly hits me with regards to life, transition and inevitable change.

“Well I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I built my life around you”

Sometimes I wonder if we {as Christians} have focused and built around the church buildings instead of Jesus.  Maybe that’s why we’re so scared of changing because we’ve been focused on the wrong thing.

Whether we’re at the top of a roller coaster or sitting on the side of a cliff that’s just about to let go, change is coming.  We might not like it.  We might not want it.  But it’s coming.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the change will bring.

It’s time to do a little wandering…

I’ve been reading the book “Jesus wants to save Christians” by Rob Bell and Don Golden. They point out that the story of Cain and Abel is really a story of struggle between the shepherd and the farmer.  It’s about struggle between an agricultural or nomadic existence.  Basically a fight between those who stay put and those who wander.

Flash forward into the story of the people of Abraham and you are met by a man named Moses.  He becomes a shepherd and then moves his people out of Egypt.  He leads them into covenant with God and helps them grow in knowledge and understanding.

Jump again some more and you’ll run into Jesus, the son of God but for these purposes think of him as a good shepherd.  This is a man who led his people out of their confusion.  After living with them and loving them he died for them so that they might know God.  He led them into a new way of thinking and into new relationship with God.

Throughout the history of God’s people there have been people who’ve led the people of God out of their structured, settled states and into something new.  It seems like this is something we should pay attention to.

Jesus last words to the disciples are to“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20.

These words are words of action.  They require engagement.  There is nothing settled or structured about this command.  Jesus wants us to take on the role of teaching and leadership. We are called to help guide and move people in the right direction.

Thousands of years later we sit with this same command claiming confusion.  We are baffled as to what went wrong.  We look longingly back at a time when life was easy and people ran to us with little or no effort.  The important thing to remember is that we exist as part of this story.  We have hope as did the people who went before us.  We are involved in that age old struggle of those who stay put and those who wander.  We have been empowered to become like the shepherd.  We are called to wander, to “go and make disciples of all nations…”.  We are encouraged to wander.

We need to let go of what happened and move in to what is happening.  It’s time to do a little wandering…

My dinner with Paul

I had an interesting conversation with my brother last night at dinner.  Many people {okay my husband} shake their head when I sit beside my brother because it inevitably turns to Jesus/God/Church/Religion and last night it took about 5 seconds.   We talked about his dissatisfaction with organized religion.  He said a lot {I really should invite him to guest post} and it was important stuff.

My brother doesn’t believe that ‘church’ works anymore. He lamented his lack of voice and regards the money spent on hierarchy and structures to be a waste that could be redirected to something useful in the community.  He said the rules and rigidity are so defined that he cannot find a place for his piece in the puzzle.

He might not believe it but these are issues I think about all the time.  I try to think up ways to give everyone in the Church a voice and ownership over their worship experience.  I get frustrated when our rules prevent us from doing ministry and don’t allow for flexibility.  I wonder if we can ever move towards a faith that finds it’s energy spent on people and experiencing God in the world {as opposed to buildings, budgets and tradition}.

No matter how disgruntled I get and how many times I question the point of what I am doing I cannot find it in me to give up.  When asked why I continue I can honestly say I have too much passion for the message.  I still have my sense of calling.  I have seen too many circumstances where the Church or some part of it has truly made a difference in the lives of it’s members.  There is a need for community, for shared history and craving to truly know God in this world.

With all of that said I have a feeling that this conversation will happen again and I really hope that there will be some kind of progress forward that I can report back on.  Is it too much to hope for?

A New Nativity.

Did you know that Yellow {Mr. Peanut M&M} and a Weeble were in fact at the birth of Jesus?  I didn’t either!  X. did though.  As I was tidying the living room this week I found these two camped out in front of the our little people nativity scene.  It was quite cute and rather touching.  X. wants everyone to be there, regardless of whether they ‘belong’ in the story or not.

That really is the Christmas story when you think about it. A group of people who don’t really ‘belong’ are invited to witness the birth of Jesus.  God claimed them and invited them to celebrate the birth of his son.  God claims us as well.   As we celebrate the one who brings us light, love and grace let’s remember that we all have a place at the manger, expected or not.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””
– John 8:12 {NIV}