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.

 

meeting Sarah Bessey

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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.

Words for my kids

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July 2015

I have been struck lately at how quickly time is moving, especially with regards to my kids growing up. We sent our oldest off to college this year, the second is not far behind, and then there’s Jesse, who is already trying to wrap his brain around what it will be like to be the last kid standing when it’s only him and no siblings in the house. All this pondering leaves me with about every feeling there is to feel. How do I navigate being a mom to my oldest, who knows everything now that she’s in college (I remember vaguely the time when I knew everything; it was nice); my middle child who knows almost everything (and likes to point out helpful tips to guide me in my parenting mistakes); and my youngest who can’t decide whether to ninja chop me or hug me (depending on the mood and the day)?

 

It’s hard; it’s emotional; and I’d like to think I’m doing it right….but the truth is, I’m fairly certain that a lot of times I’m not. I remember like a foggy, distant dream those days when my littles thought I could do no wrong. We laughed together, cried together, snuggled together and I could see it in their eyes when they looked at me: simple love, freely given and received. I was their world; and hopefully I remembered to soak it in.

 

Because then the day comes, and I can’t even really pinpoint the exact day that it happened. All I know is that it happened. They realized that I am flawed, that I make mistakes. Their world expands so far beyond me and as much as I want to grab onto them and make them stay right where they are, I realize that I cannot. They are so much bigger than me, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. (I guess)

 

So in light of this revelation I want my kids, Chloe, Grace, and Jesse to know some things. As they move beyond me, but hopefully never too far out of grasp I want them to know:

 

  1. I love you. Plain and simple. No matter what. This is not conditional. It’s just the way it is. It’s sewn into the fabric of who I am. I cannot not love you.

 

  1. I’m sorry. I have and will make mistakes when it comes to how I interact with you and make decisions on your behalf. Sometimes those decisions are fueled by my own selfish desires and I am wrong. Some of those wrongs I will figure out and try to make right; some of those wrongs I will be totally oblivious to. Please handle my mistakes with grace and refer back to number 1.

 

  1. If I could wish one character trait for you, it would be kindness. Be kind to each other, be kind to those around you. Be kind to those that are like you. Be kind to those who are not like you. Notice those who need a little more kindness in their lives and share it. There is a shortage of kindness in this world. I want you to be kind.

 

  1. If you understand one thing about me, I want you to know that I love Jesus. I want this to define my life. I hope that it does.

 

  1. I am proud of you. Chloe, I love how easily you are entertained, your heart for justice, and your passion for creating. You create beauty and it’s immensely cool. Grace, I love your fierceness. You’re not afraid of anything. You will always push the envelope and this will be incredibly tough but sometimes, incredibly wonderful. You seriously can do anything you put your mind to. Jesse, I love your creative mind and tender heartedness that sneaks out in the most unlikely places. You are all kinds of mushy wrapped in all kinds of tough. I am proud of you.

 

Time moves quickly. Soon (too soon) all of my kids will be out of the house and I will be old. In the meantime I want to embrace the good and the bad; the messy and the ease; the successes and the failures and be thankful. God blessed me as a mama. I know that to be true.  And I am incredibly thankful. I hope I always remain thankful, even when it’s hard. I hope that when my kids look at me they will see: simple love, freely given and received. And I hope they soak it in.

 

 

 

 

I Want To Be An Upstander

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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

– Pastor Martin Niemoller

 

 

Earlier this week I had the honor of visiting the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois on a field trip with my daughter’s class. I walked away incredibly sad, incredibly disturbed, and incredibly inspired. As we moved through the museum, we entered into stories of heartbreak and devastation as well as stories of strength and courage and hope.

At the close of the tour we were able to meet a man by the name of Ernst, a Holocaust survivor. He shared his story of being one of the lucky ones who escaped Nazi Germany. He vividly remembers the day he was put on a train at the age of 10 with one small suitcase in his hand. As the train pulled away, he glimpsed his parents through the window… this was the last time he ever saw them. As I listened to his story, I couldn’t help but correlate that 10-year-old boy with my 11-year-old boy, and tears streamed down my face.

 

He was the lucky one…..

 

His boyhood memories in Germany as one who was not allowed to play in public parks because he would “contaminate” the purer race; one who according to the loudest voice was “inferior;” one who watched as his place of worship was burned to the ground while firefighters stood nearby doing nothing; one who had to accept the reality that his parents were either victims of mass shootings or death camps.

 

He was the lucky one.

 

As we filed out of the auditorium where Ernst spoke, I went up to shake his hand and in that moment I was so overcome with emotion, I had to hug him. I don’t know if that was allowed, but I hugged him, and in that hug I hope he felt the truth that it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, and he was loved.

It’s hard to spend time in a space like this and not walk away feeling heavy. It’s a physical reaction to the atrocities before you. And I think it is appropriate to feel heavy. We should feel the devastation. We should feel the loss. We should feel the pain of what was allowed to happen in our history.

The thing that really stuck with me however, was the bigger story and purpose behind the museum. Throughout the displays we would hear again and again about the work of volunteers, about the man who worked to ferry victims out of Germany, about the woman who hid a Jew, about the helping hands along the way who stood up, who showed kindness, who made a difference. In the sea of evil, there was good. In the midst of devastation there were the voices of those who refused to be silent.

They had a name for people like this. It was “upstanders.” This term coined in direct contrast to the term “bystander,” denotes the one who refuses to stand by and do nothing while injustice reigns; they will stand up to injustice. An upstander will not be silent. One of the videos we watched showed the progression of a new term, born out of the Holocaust, which was genocide. Never before had we needed this word, but as time moved away from the Holocaust, where we promised we would never forget, we began to see the need for this word arise again, in Serbia, in Rwanda, in Syria.

One young woman, a survivor of the Rwandan genocides, poignantly stated that the worst was not the violence or the killing; the worst offense was the silence. The worst atrocity is the silence. If it does not affect our personal selves, we conveniently push it aside, make excuses, turn away. We stand by and allow it to happen.

I walked away from that museum with a clarifying thought: I WANT TO BE AN UPSTANDER!!!

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Kim and I taking our chaperone duties very seriously.

I want to be an upstander…

 

I do not want to remain silent as certain people are marginalized, victimized, and presented as less-than. I do not want to remain silent under the guise of morality or passive acceptance. I do not want to remain silent as we systematically decide who has value and who does not. How long before I am on the wrong side of that equation?

 

I want to be an upstander…

 

And I believe that if I am a follower of Christ, I should be rushing to the front of the line to be an upstander. So why does it often seem as if we are not?

As I read through my Facebook feeds, I am often overcome by sadness. Sometimes I just have to walk away, because I just don’t think we get it. The things we decide are worthy of our indignation; the vicious attacks we volley toward our fellow humanity; the high moral ground we take at the expense of a flesh and blood, hurting, broken life, and in the name of Christ. It just makes me sad. When the Christian community fosters fear and hatred, we are not displaying the freedom and wholeness of the gospel. When the Christian community witnesses inequality, discrimination, and violence and then either turns its head in nonchalance or expresses some notion that the victim deserves it….we are not understanding the heart of Jesus.

Jesus was an upstander. He did not simply stand by and watch the suffering of those around him in order to advance his own comfort and feel good about himself. He spoke up, He entered in, He embodied the love of God and sacrificed himself to bring healing and hope.

If we are truly concerned for the broken, and truly believe in the power of the resurrection, then why are we more upset about the words of Jen Hatmaker (that demonstrate love and kindness and entering into the messiness) than we are about the victims of human slavery rampant in our world and yes even in our own country? I don’t understand how we can be so clear about the rules of salvation (with nary a single doubt) but suddenly fuzzy on the idea of who to show love and kindness and respect to?

I get that it’s not easy. I get that it’s scary to enter into difficult conversations that foster inclusion and community with the other. But if we continue to allow injustices, when we give small allowances for what is deemed acceptable treatment for someone we don’t understand or have much use for, how long before we strip away the humanity of another? Or ourselves?

I want to look at those around me full in the face. I want to recognize the black, white, male, female, rich, poor, gay, straight, Muslim, Jew, Syrian (and the list goes on) and see their humanity and their worth. I want to see their value as one made and loved by God and I want to treat them as such. I want to stand up and take notice when humanity is being stripped away. And I want to say loudly that it is not right.

I know this doesn’t answer all the hard questions. That doesn’t happen all at once, if ever. But we at least need to be allowed to ask the questions. We need to enter into conversations motivated by love and restoration rather than fear and silence. We need to look beyond our own comforts to the brokenness and needs of others. We need to wade into the messiness of injustice and refuse to be silent.

I want to be an upstander. And I hope you do to.

Women in Leadership

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We are in the midst of a series at church entitled “We Are Family” which highlights the core values of our church. Things like justice and inclusivity and a Christocentric hermeneutic are fundamental to the way we do church. This last week, Pastor Nate spoke about our beliefs regarding women in leadership and ministry. For obvious reasons, this has become an issue that is increasingly important to me. As a female, in a male-dominated field, it is incredibly hopeful to me to be a part of a congregation that supports and encourages my leadership role; because in the world of religiosity and even culture at large, this is not the norm.

I was particularly struck by the empathy displayed by Nate in his message. You see as the grapevine flows, it came to my attention that some have left our church as a result of my role as “pastor.” Nate made the comment that if it were him, he would be incredibly hurt by this. Now it’s not as if I’m not hurt. Every time I get negative responses to my roles in ministry, I take pause. But the reality is, I was not surprised. Not for a moment. Because this is the reality that we have so easily perpetuated and encouraged: women don’t have the right; they don’t have the ability; who does she think she is?

I’ve experienced the caustic side of this conversation as I’ve had fingers wagged in my face; been called a radical feminist; told I don’t have the right; that my problem is pride; that I’m sinning; that I’m the cause of some perceived downfall of the church. I’ve walked away from these encounters hurt and angry and sucking back tears. And I’ve walked away truly perplexed, because I honestly don’t get it.

Here’s the thing. Obviously, if you want to make a biblical case for the submission of women you can do it. It’s been done. Several times. These texts of terror that seemingly put women in their rightful place for many years I simply avoided…..until I didn’t, because I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. Because you see, it’s also true that if you want to make a biblical case for the equality and leadership of women, you can do that as well. Hmmm. How. About. That?

A strong biblical case for both sides? What do we do with that? I think this is where our understanding of the gospel comes into our viewpoint. This is where we begin to look at texts that are confusing and not as clear as we’d like to think they are, through the lens of Christ and the resurrection. And it’s through this lens that we begin to ask different questions:

-If Scripture seemingly supports different viewpoints, why wouldn’t we sway to the side of justice? The side of equality?

-How does Jesus view and even include women in the narrative of the gospel?

-Was Paul kidding when he wrote “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

-If our world is broken and hurting (and we can clearly see that it is), why would we bench half our population to bring the good news of healing and restoration?

-Are we holding onto a biblical principle, or merely holding onto power and privilege?

-Is it really worth so much animosity? I mean, If I am wrong (and I really don’t believe that I am) the gospel is still being taught. Is it worth all the anger?

 

Is it really worth so much animosity? I come back to this often. Our patriarchal view of women has led us to an acceptance of a lesser view of women. And even when some don’t really, whole-heartedly agree with it, (women can be CEO’s, run successful businesses, can even be President, but they can’t lead in a church??????)  we kind of just gloss over it as just the way things are. It’s because of this accepted norm that I find myself very understanding of another’s viewpoint. I may not agree, but I will respect your stance and believe that you are still a follower of Christ doing your best to figure out what that looks like in your life. The problem is, if you fall on the other side, the egalitarian side that views women as equal, you don’t often receive the same respect, the same benefit of the doubt. Instead you’re demonized and belittled. I think this hurts me the most. I fully expect to disagree with others theologically. Religious disagreements are as old as religion itself. But I would hope that even in our disagreements, you would still treat me as a follower of Christ, doing my best to figure out what that looks like in my life.

I will say this, because I have an incessant need to end on a positive note. I do believe the church is turning a corner on this issue. I think more people are affirming and encouraging on the issue of women than are not. For every 2 people that call me heretic, there are 20 people who come alongside me with love and grace. (I totally made that statistic up!) Unfortunately, the negative voices are often the louder voices. But as is often the case, the loudest voice is not always the right voice.