Because I Am a Woman…

Because I am a woman, you tell me in a million different ways that you have power over me.

Because I am a woman, I am told you have the right.

The right to put your hands on me

The right to talk over me

The right to mansplain me some s**t I don’t even care about

Because I am a woman you assume that your truth is truer than mine

It makes no difference that my truth is hard fought

It makes no difference my character, my gifting, my diplomas, or the work of the Spirit in my life

I am told your truth holds more power than mine as I am reduced to an emotion, a caricature, and a body part.

I am weaker

I am less than

I do not have the right

Because I am a woman I am ingrained to believe that it’s just how it is.

No big deal

Nothing you can do about it

Just let it go

But No…

No.

Because you see

Because I am a woman I am strong and I am fierce

I refuse to believe that misogyny is the heart of Jesus

My unique story has been intermingled with the story of the Divine

And in that story of uncertainty and doubt, yet also a story of courage and faith I am given the voice to say that because I am a woman I am strong

My emotion, often touted as a weakness carries with it the strength of compassion and insight and caring.

My mind, often belittled not by incompetence but rather by the lies of unworth, has done the heavy lifting of study and reflection and then more study

My body has endured the pains of labor and brought life into this world

My heart has simultaneously grieved and rejoiced over the brokenness yet ever-present hope in this world

I am more than an emotion

I am more than the caricature you have made me

I am more than my body parts

Because I am a woman, I am whole.

 

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meeting Sarah Bessey

Sarah

It’s no secret to those who know me that I love Sarah Bessey. In any given sermon that I preach, I will quote her at least once. She’s my favorite.

Well two nights ago I had the extraordinary opportunity to hear Sarah preach and then meet her face to face. She spoke fiercely and unapologetically about the worth of women in the kingdom of God. She named the patriarchy that paints women as lesser citizens for what it is…

Sin….because patriarchy was never a part of God’s plan. 

She brought to light the bad fruit that is the product of this continued notion that women hold a lesser place than men. This bad fruit that has led us to a disproportionate amount of violence and abuse against women. This bad fruit that uses manipulation and control in order to maintain power. She reminded us that feminism at its core is simply about the notion that women are people too.

And then she prayed…..wow could she pray. In that prayer she gave us permission to participate, permission to lead, permission to recognize our gifts and talents and for many, our call to lead.

When the service ended, I joined the line to meet her. And I knew as I inched forward in that line, that I would most likely not be able to hold it together. I could sense the emotion in me pushing its way to the forefront. So of course, when I came face to face with her, my natural inclination was to hug her and cry. I pulled myself together long enough to give a broken, “Thank you,” a “You mean so much to me, your work is so important” a “You have influenced me so deeply,” an “I love you!”

And I meant it. I do love her. I recognize looking back over the last five years of my journey that I need voices like Sarah’s and Rachel Held Evans and Jen Hatmaker and Beth Moore and so many more incredible women of faith who have modeled what it means to lead well; who have encouraged me and shaped me and quite frankly given me courage to acknowledge my call as a woman in leadership.

Because we NEED women in these places of leadership. We need their voices, their perspectives, their passions, their gifts. And this in no way diminishes the role of men in these spaces. If anything, it enhances it.

So thank you, women who have gone before and continue to be voices of hope and freedom and light even when it’s hard, even when you are told you are wrong, even when you are bullied to be something less than you are. And thank you to those who keep on coming. Thank you, women who continually fight to have the strength and courage to keep believing in the worth that Christ himself gives you as participants and leaders in the kingdom. And thank you also, men who encourage and come alongside the women in these spaces.

We need your voices. We need to keep pushing back against fear and control; we need to keep moving forward and celebrating honest voices of women who point us to Jesus; we need to keep…..

until we recognize that women indeed are people too.

 

Basic Becky

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#nofilter;)

So the phrase “basic Becky” has made it into the mainstream these days. I’m not sure how I feel about this considering MY name is Becky and I’m not sure I want to be basic. Because I’m fairly certain it is NOT a compliment. I’ve never really had a problem with my name. It was a good name growing up. The only point of interest up until now is that Becky seems to notice big butts (circa 1992 Sir Mix A Lot, Baby Got Back), and there is a shrinking amount of girls actually named Becky. You don’t meet many little girls named Becky these days. The majority are around my age (must have been a popular name back in the early 70’s). So the only real concern here is that as I continue to age, the name Becky will as well, until it is only associated with old ladies. (Unless it makes a miraculous comeback). And truth be told, I’m not so sure that’s a real concern. If it is, then maybe I AM a basic Becky.

If you’re unfamiliar, the urban dictionary defines basic Becky as “a girl who tries so hard to be different, but in reality brings nothing to the table.” 

Hmmmm.

So I ponder; I dig deep. And I ask the probing question:

am I a basic Becky?

I don’t think that I am, in the traditional sense of the idea, but maybe sometimes…

I’ve never thought I was particularly unique. I don’t say this to foster some sense of false humility. I mean I’m cool, for sure I’m cool. 🙂 And there are things that I can do. I know that I have gifts and talents that I bring to the table, but is it enough to not be basic? I mean am I really unique? You look around the world, you look around your neighborhood and you see people who have done and are doing amazing things; people who have overcome incredible odds to accomplish real stuff. There are people out there changing the world man. And it seems that so many of them have a “story.” There’s something unique; there’s something unlike anyone around them; there’s an experience that has given them “color.”

When I became a pastor, someone told me that I needed to be grittier; I needed to experience more hardship if I was going to be successful. It’s the idea that my life had not given me enough “color.” If I was to be truly empathetic, I needed more experience at the hard things. I found this odd because grit and hardship is not necessarily something you can just manufacture. I can’t just decide to experience hard things. It’s true I grew up pretty basic. No major traumas; no real heartbreak; no real loss. When I initially went off to college, it was to a small Christian school in the middle of a cornfield and my sheltered, happy existence continued. Life was good; no worries man. Twenty-eight years later and I have definitely experienced some hard things; I have witnessed hard things; but overall I feel I’ve survived this journey called life so far, with only minor cuts and bruises. Now part of this could be due in part to the fact that I am at times extremely oblivious. This can actually be a lifesaver at times because it saves you from being offended. It’s hard to be offended when you don’t realize you’re supposed to be offended. And please don’t misunderstand, I am no saint. I have held onto my share of grudges.

My  point in this is that major things that can make you gritty just didn’t happen to me. This isn’t to say that things like alcohol, divorce, depression and illness have not touched those I love, but gritty is just not who I am. I am a middle-aged, heterosexual white woman….pretty basic.

And there was a time (and sometimes still) when I felt guilty about this. I either a) wait for the other shoe to drop; because the odds are against me so something really bad is bound to happen; or b) feel inadequate because I have not survived a great tragedy or experienced some phenomenon that will give me depth. And honestly, neither of these are good choices.

So this is what I’ve decided. I am pretty basic; not a terribly exciting life; no memoirs being written about me. But just because I cannot manufacture hardships to give me grit, doesn’t mean that I cannot experience hardships; because this world is full of hard things if I’m paying attention. And so my “basic-ness” doesn’t mean I can’t bring something to the table.

It’s so easy to live within the comfort of what we know; it’s easy to go through life with tunnel vision and believe all is well. It’s harder to open your eyes to the broken world around you and actually see. When your life is pretty basic, it is actually a more difficult hurdle to actually see; to pay attention. In the call to love our neighbor, we must train our eyes to see what is broken, what is in need of healing, what is in need of love. Because that is the way of Jesus.

I do not suffer from mental illness……but I must see my sister that does and love her well not as less than.  

I do not suffer from addiction or physical illness (if you don’t count getting old!)…..but I must see my brother that does and empathize with his pain and chaos.

I am not divorced……but I must embrace and understand rather than shame my sister or brother that is.

I am not a person of color……but I must see my fellow human who is and recognize and fight against inequality that creates obstacles and pain simply because of skin color.

I am not gay….but I must accept and love my friend who is as valuable and whole and made in the image of God.

I am not in poverty……but I must care about those who are and desire to not only feed and clothe them, but recognize their worth and dignity.

Often times the journey of basic can place blinders on what we see. When we ourselves have not experienced the reality of who we deem an other, it’s easy to forgive ourselves for our lack of mercy, our lack of kindness, our lack compassion, our lack of seeing. So we have to push back. We have to see the inherent worth of someone simply because they are human. They are made in the image of God. And so we view them as such. Whether they are basic, whether they are gritty, whether they are full of life’s color; we view them as image-bearers. And we love well.

 

Real Jesus

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Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of preaching as part of our Psalms series at State Street. I hit the jackpot because I got to speak on Psalm 115 which at its heart is about worship, particularly how a right perspective of God helps form a right way of worship.

“Not to us O Lord, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and your faithfulness.”

It should come as no surprise that smack dab in the middle of that right perspective we find Jesus. Because Jesus is not only smack dab in the middle of our understanding of the Christian life; he is smack dab in the middle of what it means to be human. In Christ, we understand humanity. We lift up Christ and he in turn lifts us up, making us more like him.

And I love this idea, because it’s more than an idea, it’s truth. If we lift Christ up, if he is the one that we worship, then we become more like him. Because it’s true that we become like what we worship.

We become like what we worship……

This seems like a totally solid plan. And it is….as long as our perspective of Jesus is right. And so this is the thing that keeps knocking around my brain this week, a right view of Jesus.

Who is Jesus?  The real Jesus?

Because I think far too often we tend to make Jesus into our own image; we make him into the thing that is most convenient for us. We form Jesus into something that can be controlled and manipulated to match our own agenda. We make Jesus our scapegoat in our right to be offended…because we love to be offended in the name of Jesus. We make it so hard and frankly, so unappealing to love Jesus. Because if this skewed view of Jesus is the one being pedaled, then no thank you….hard pass. I can find pride and judgment and entitlement around any corner; I don’t need to lift it up on a pedestal and proclaim it to be the way of Jesus. Because it’s not.

And so we miss it….in all the clamor of who is righter and who is holier and who is smarter we miss the simplicity of who Jesus actually is.

So who is Jesus? The real Jesus?

Simply put, we see the real Jesus in the red letters of the Bible (of course not just there, but we see it pretty clearly there!). We see Jesus in the way he touched the unclean and loved the unlovable and began with the outliers. He showed us time and again that there is room. There is even room for the unlikely, maybe especially for the unlikely. He didn’t seem to care so much about the “proper way;” he was more concerned with the loving way, and sometimes there’s no script for that. He cared about justice; he cared about the least of these; and to belittle this into some sort of “liberal agenda” is just turning a blind eye to the things that mattered to Jesus. The things that matter to God. Jesus wasn’t afraid of messy, in fact when we look closely into his life, we usually find him in the middle of the mess. And his response is always love, always grace, always bringing life to dead situations and healing to the brokenness of humankind. It’s really not that complicated. We look at Jesus, real Jesus and we see humanity.

And when we see this humanity, in the face, in the life, in the death of Jesus….when we are suddenly hit over the head with the trueness of it……it can’t help but form us. Because we think, “Oh there you are Jesus! I’ve been looking for you. I’ve been wanting to know you oh so badly. There you are Jesus.”

We become like what we worship. And when we worship Jesus, the real Jesus, we begin to see more clearly the better way of mercy, of love, of grace. We find what it means to be human, because we’ve glimpsed it so clearly in the real life of Jesus.

 

Why I Love Joel Crain

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So my husband of 20 years turns 50 tomorrow. Crazy. I’m married to an old man…. 🙂

Last weekend we were talking about birthdays and marriage and love and all the deep things and Joel said he could tell me all the reasons why he loved me…and he did. Then he asked why I loved him.

Now I could give some flippant, mushy, gushy answers right off the cuff, but I am not the romantic type, never really have been and so I began to think about the question. I had not thought about that question in a long time; because truth be told, loving Joel is just a given for me. It’s ingrained in who I am and I had not really thought about the why. So I’ve been thinking about the why, reminding myself about the why because sometimes it’s important to do that. So….

Joel Crain, this is why I love you….

I love our story.

I love that when we met, you were an arrogant so and so, but you were always kind to me.

I love that before we started dating (but obviously had all the feels for each other) you would sing Billy Joel’s “You may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for” to me.

I love that it took us three and a half years to actually start dating (not counting that one night by the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville) and when we finally did get together we were already in love.

I love our first kiss (you remember that one night by the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville?!!)

I loved our sweet, sweet time together when Chloe was born and it was just the three of us in a little apartment, no money, but a whole lot of love….and fun. We were so young….and so thin.

I love that you cry at movies like Cheaper By the Dozen but pretend there’s something in your eye.

I love how passionate you are. You feel big and I need that.

I love that you’re my favorite shopping partner.

I love that we debate and disagree and sometimes you’re right and most times I’m right and often times we’re both wrong, but it just doesn’t matter because the fun is in the discussion.

I love that you think outside the box. You’re wickedly smart and unconventionally funny. You don’t always make the obvious or easy choice and you’re not afraid to think about hard things.

I love how much you believe in me. You moved to Indiana so that I could go to grad school (that I didn’t finish). You supported and encouraged me when I went back to grad school 15 years and a career change later. You’ve told me repeatedly that I have an important voice and you are not intimidated by my feminist, strong-minded ways. In fact, I think it’s one of the things you love about me. When you look at me, I see in your eyes that you believe in me and that you think I’m something special. I love that.

I love that you’re my best friend. You have seen and experienced every ugly about me and you choose to love me and even like me anyway.

Our life is a lot of long days and short years as they say. Some days are hard, really hard. Some days are easy and I’m thankful for both, because it makes us who we are.

I love you Joel Crain. Happy Birthday old man.

 

Inviting the Hagars into the Gospel

desert-279862_960_720Tomorrow marks the next installment of our current sermon series at State Street entitled #squadgoals. We are diving deep into the stories of fierce women of the Old Testament and coming away better for it. Can I just say, I love that we are giving these women the attention they so rarely receive.  I am excited that we are presenting women of the Scriptures not as manipulators, deceivers and whores, but as fierce women whose stories are integral to the gospel message. This is good stuff!! I was honored to preach a couple weeks ago on the story of Hagar, and her story continues to stick with me. One of the things I love most about preaching is that I always walk away having learned so much. It seems I am constantly surprised at what can be discovered when we shine the lens of gospel on the Scriptures we are encountering. So often what I think I know, is challenged and expanded when I study the Scriptures through the light of Christ. And Hagar was no exception.

Hagar, the slave girl of Abraham and Sarah: used to produce an offspring for Abraham, treated cruelly, and literally cast aside. Now obviously, there are nuances to this story: Hagar was not angelic; she had her share of sass, but she is the forgotten one when we gaze back on the stories of Genesis. She is pushed to the fringes as Abraham and Sarah are lauded heroes (albeit imperfect ones) and she is left as a cautionary tale.

Hagar, which literally means “stranger” is such a beautiful and complex story. So often when I have heard Hagar taught in the past, she has been reduced to a periphery character that is merely a metaphor for impatience and disobedience. She was the wrong choice, the choice outside of the promise. We shake our heads and tsk tsk at our own lack of trust and impatience and then promptly forget her.

The reality of the story, when read through the lens of gospel is quite another tale. When Hagar had reached the point of desperation, she fled to the desert. Probably not the most well-thought-out plan. How long could she feasibly survive in the desert pregnant and alone? But desperation drives us into the wilderness sometimes. What happens next is the crux of the whole story: she meets God in the desert.

She meets God in the desert, and in this meeting, she learns a thing or two about God.

She learns that He knows her name. She is called by name, and when you are alone and diminished and reduced to a body, a name is a powerful thing. She is called by her name.

She learns that God has heard her cry. The angel of the Lord assures her that she will have a son and his name shall be Ishmael, which means God hears, or more specifically, the Lord has heard you in your distress. I hear you Hagar; I see you.

She learns that God is personal. In that moment, Hagar names God. Coincidentally, the only person in Scripture to give God a name and it’s (ahem) a woman.  She names him El Roi, the God who sees. In that moment, Hagar recognizes that God sees her. She is not nameless; she is not faceless; she is not the foreigner who didn’t belong in his promise; God sees her.

When Hagar encountered God, something changed for her. She returned into a difficult situation armed with the knowledge that she was included in the promise of God. Not through Abraham, but on her own, she was valued; she was invited.

As the story goes, Hagar finds herself in the desert once again, and encountering God once again. And God makes good on his promise to her that from her will arise a great nation. He makes good on his invitation that she has not been forgotten.

Hagar, the stranger, who from an outsider’s perspective is nothing more than a messy interruption to the real story of God; but from the gospel perspective reveals the epitome of grace and love and freedom. Hagar, the stranger, is named, she is recognized. Hagar, the stranger is heard in her despair and seen by God for exactly who she is. Hagar, the stranger, is invited into the promise.

This story refreshingly reminds us who is included into the promise of God. It’s the Abrahams and Sarahs for sure; we have no problem identifying the ones who we think so obviously belong. But it’s also the Hagars: the slave, the stranger, the outsider, the one who has been trampled and left desperate, sometimes by the very ones trying (sometimes misguidedly) to do the work of God. Because God hears and He sees. And God invites.

 

(I was very much influenced by Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James when studying Hagar)

 

Wonder

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It should come as no surprise to those who know me, that music plays a very important role in my life. As a worship leader, the importance and depth of music naturally makes its way into the way I think and the way I worship. Sometimes I can discover the words I have not been able to articulate, written so poetically in song. Sometimes the music itself allows me to connect to certain currents of life. I am always incredibly moved and even surprised by the sacred moments of discovering through music; and this sacredness goes beyond the mere emotion of a song.

Recently I have discovered a new song, and this song has inspired me and encouraged me. It has made me excited as I affirm once again the message of the gospel. It has made me happy. And so I’d like to share it with you.

The name of the song is “Wonder” by Hillsong United, and you can listen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haQ1earucJ0

The first time I listened to this song, some two weeks ago, I found myself nodding my head, and at one point I think I may have even said out loud, “YES!” This song was able to capture the words I wanted to say. Maybe I didn’t even realize I needed to say them, but now I find myself singing and repeating phrases from this song as I move throughout my day. They serve as an audible reminder to me, just what the wonder of the good news is.

There are so many good words….so many good words….but when I first listened, there was one phrase that kept sticking out to me: “I see the world in gospel.” I find this to be incredibly beautiful and incredibly eye-opening. I see the world in gospel.

So what does that actually mean? To me, it means seeing the world through the lens of Jesus; seeing the world through the excitement of the good news; seeing the world through the freedom of grace and love. And it’s a wonder.

I think we see the world around us in many different ways, some healthy, some unhealthy.  Most likely we don’t even realize the lens through which we examine the world around us. I think often times, our lens can be skewed by cynicism, arrogance, entitlement and fear. When these things begin to skew our lens, we lose a bit of the wonder. There is something inherently eye-opening about seeing the world through the lens of the gospel. There’s a bit of wonder. It doesn’t quite make sense, it’s a little too good to be true. This wonder we discover when Jesus is the lens and noticing that he is making all things new. It’s an awakening; it’s seeing color for the first time. It’s seeing grace instead of fear, freedom instead of captivity, love instead of hate.

Do we see the world in gospel? I don’t think we can do this without an understanding of who Christ is and the way that he loves and brings life. I don’t think we can do this without an understanding of grace that truly is unending. I don’t think we can do this without an understanding of just how deeply loved we are.

But when this understanding of Jesus becomes clear, it changes everything. It has too. The blind now see. The light comes into the darkness. The wilderness turns to wonder. I see the world in gospel….and it changes everything.