To be, or not to be, a feminist

I love Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women. In it, she says, “Jesus loves us on our own terms. He treats us as equals to the men around him; he listens, he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes us–calls us beloved….  Scripture affirms and celebrates women.” She writes a compelling argument for being a Christian feminist.

I agree with Sarah Bessey! And in a secular sense, I agree with equal pay, equal rights, freedom from sexual harassment and abuse, freedom from gender discrimination, the abolition of sex trafficking etc. I especially believe women are equal in the Kingdom and that they are not limited in the role they can play in the body of Christ.

But there’s something about the word “feminist” that has always bothered me. The term “feminism,” especially in a secular sense, can represent things I don’t particularly want to be associated with–like abortion and the whole gender/marriage debate. Feminists are often portrayed as putting down men, or at the very least, not needing them.

So it was with great interest that I learned during a lengthy car journey, that the highly talented musician/singer, Laurie Thornton, who was driving the car, had studied Arab feminist (an oxymoron?) literature in college. We had a fascinating conversation, and she expounded on an idea that made great sense of what makes me cautious about feminism.

Here’s what she said: the problem is that most people believe there’s a finite amount of authority available. (I’m not sure about the word authority here, but I don’t know what other word to use. Bear with me–it will make sense.) The only way that one gender can have more authority is if the other gender has less. So if men are the ones to have authority, then women, by definition, have to have less. In feminism, often the reverse is seen to be true. If women have authority, it comes at the expense of men. There’s only one pie–the question is how is it shared?

But our God isn’t like that. There isn’t a finite supply of authority. He can create more.  The pie is infinite. If women are to have authority, it doesn’t need to be at the expense of men. God will give them an authority of their own without diminishing that of men.

It’s the difference between having a bucket of water and a hose. We treat authority as though there’s only a bucket of water available. In reality, God has a hose and there’s plenty for everyone.

Feminism

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My apologies that the link to the printable version of A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women didn’t work in the last post. That is now fixed.

An update and an invitation


I’m back!!

First, an update. It’s been nearly two months since I last posted–an eventful two months. During that time, Tony and I settled his mom into a rehab facility following a serious fall where she shattered her wrist, and then we closed out her apartment. We’ve  traveled to Kathmandu (Nepal), Yangon (Myanmar) and Bangkok (Thailand). I can’t disclose what we were doing there, but it was an amazing time. I’ve spoken at workshops at the Luke 10 conference and attended  an awesome Captivating conference (my oldest son, Jon, works for Ransomed Heart) in Colorado. I’ve spent time with my grandkids…

Knowing that my time for writing was going to be limited and that in some places access to the Internet would be either limited or nonexistent, I decided to take a break from blogging–the first in about four years. My apologies that I didn’t even respond to your comments during that time. I will slowly get round to replying to them.

Now I’m ready to blog again! But first some practical details.

A while ago I wrote a short e-book called “A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women.” Over the years I have read dozens of books about the role of women, some of them complex theology books.  In the e-book, I examine some of the Scriptures that apparently limit the role of women, and look at some alternative ways those verses can, with great integrity, be interpreted in a different way. That e-book is now available, either via the “challenging scriptures for women” tab at the top of this blog, or a printable version can be found here.

It’s been several months since The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church was released. It’s been wonderful to be able give away all the proceeds to helping female church planters in developing nations, and to victims of sex trafficking.

One of the outcomes of the book has been a series of round tables for both men and women to equip them for the conversation about men and women working together as co-equals in the Kingdom. For some, these have been life-changing as we’ve listened to God and engaged in discussion around the topic.

We have two more of these round tables scheduled for the remainder of this year. The first, here at our home in Austin, Texas, will be on Friday, October 31st and Saturday November 1st. The second will be in Dallas, Texas, the following weekend, November 7th and 8th. If you are interested in attending, leave a comment and I’ll get information to you. We’d love to see you there.

Kathmandu

Sometimes life throws you a curveball

Our curveball?

curveball

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About two weeks ago, at 3am, we were woken by a phone call we’ve been dreading.

Tony’s mom had fallen in the middle of the night. Would Tony go at once to the ER.

Sure enough, Penelope, a strong Christian who has served the Lord faithfully all her life in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, had fractured her wrist in several places. So, of course, after they had set her arm, we brought her back home with us.

After a few days of looking after her 24 hours a day, it became apparent that we are not able to give her the care she needs. Her doctors also advised us that she should no longer live independently–it was her second fall in two weeks.

What to do? It’s the problem many people face with their elderly parents. It’s a tough decision. Would she do best at our home if we brought in extra nursing care? Would she do better in a facility that could care for her where there were people around all day.  (She loves talking with people and sharing the Lord with them).

In the end, Penelope made the decision for us. She and Tony had passed a skilled nursing facility about 5 minutes from our home while returning from a doctor visit. They both felt they should investigate it. Not only can the facility handle all the rehab Penelope needs for her arm, they had a bed available. She was quite sure this was the Lord’s provision for her. So a couple of days ago she moved in.

Why do I tell you all this?

I’ve been blogging two to three times a week for several years. You may (or may not) have noticed I’ve not blogged in a couple of weeks. It was precipitated by the lack of time because of the situation with Tony’s mom, but I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for a month or so. We not only have to clear Penelope’s apartment in the next few days, we are shortly going to some developing nations in Asia to speak about simple/organic church. Other members of the family will stay here to look after her.

But before I “sign off” for a few weeks, I’d like to share something else with you. My last post was a brilliant poem (Mary Go Round) about the sex trade by Anita Scott. Anita wrote telling me how she came to create the poem. The post garnered a lot of views, so I thought you might be interested in this email from her.

Felicity, My friend asked me a specific question. She asked what did I want people’s response to be when they watch or read the poem. 
I told her: When I wrote the poem, it was a few hours after studying sex trafficking online for hours. Right after that, I put on some music and let myself imagine what it would be like to be in a dark room hour after hour.  That’s probably a really crazy imagination, but I did.
 
I couldn’t write the poem until I was actually in the poem.  I had been trying for months to think of ways to write this poem.  I was trying to become inspired.  I don’t think the Holy Spirit wanted me to become inspired.  It was more like He wanted me to become Mary so I could write for her.  
 
That being said, I want people’s response to be whatever God asks of them.  If He asks them to raise awareness, then so be it. If He asks them to speak out against from a pulpit, so be it. If He asks them to sponsor a woman to find safety, then so be it.  I want the words from the poem to convict and let people see the reality of what happens to women who are treated like sex slaves.  I want areas of their hearts to become awakened with passion to help set “Mary’s” all around the world free.

 

 

Mary Go Round

Anita stunned the room!

We’ve  held a couple of round tables in our home on the topic of men and women working together as co-equals in the Kingdom. One of the subjects we tackle is justice for women around the world. At the end of a discussion on justice  a couple of weeks ago, Anita Scott, a school teacher who is having a profound impact in an inner city school in  Dallas asked:

“Can I read you a poem I wrote?”

Of course! We were delighted to have her contribution.

She then delivered this amazing poem about girls and sex trafficking and social justice. You could have heard a pin drop. We were stunned. Then a buzz of conversation broke out.

We all encouraged her she had to do more with this poem. Thankfully she has a very talented brother who has created a video.

Here it is: Mary Go Round by Anita Scott. Thanks, Anita! I pray this poem touches hearts and challenges many!

Both male and female

Floyd McClung has reached out to the women God brought across his path and championed them in their callings. For more than 20 years, he and his wife, Sally, have discipled women who are now making a difference in the nations. Floyd contributed a chapter to The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church. Here’s a quote from the chapter.

To be clear, I believe leaders can be both male and female. Obviously the church body is comprised of both genders. And certainly, martyrs have been both male and female. Missionaries are both male and female.

But it is important to be more specific, lest we overlook the obvious: both women and men have impacted nations for God because both genders are called by God and both are given leadership gifts.

I believe leadership in the church is not meant to be gender-specific because, at its core, leadership is about service. It is not about an office or position. Leaders don’t serve in order to be leaders; they serve because that’s what leaders do. Leaders serve. Period. When we abandon a hierarchical, worldly view of leadership and consider it from this perspective, we can see that both woman and men can, and already do, use their gifts to serve–that is, lead.

The church worldwide has been shaped, led , and taught by both men and women– starting in the home, and moving into every sphere of church and public life.

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How tame is our God?

How tame is our God? Consider this quote from AW Tozer:

The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much within the constitution. Never breaks our bylaws. He’s a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much one of us, and we ask Him to help us when we’re in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we’re asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn’t a God I could have much respect for. But when the Holy Ghost show us God as He is, we admire Him to the point of wonder and delight. (Gems from Tozer)

  • How domesticated is the God we worship?
  • Do we confine  him within our evangelical boxes?
  • Do we ask him to color within the lines we create for him?
  • Are our expectations of him limited by a narrow theology?

Or is he allowed to surprise and astonish us?

“Aslan is not a tame lion.”

Aslan lion

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God’s love language

I sometimes wake in the night, and if I can’t get back to sleep, I get up to pray. It’s become a habit I’ve learned to appreciate. We have a long hallway in our house, and I love to walk up and down that hallway seeking the Lord.

Yesterday morning, in the early hours, I began my time with God, as I usually do, in worship and praise. I found myself pondering the question, how do I show God how much I love him? What is his love language?

Which took me to in my thinking to the book,The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D Chapman. The five love languages Gary describes are different ways that people best experience love, especially from their spouses. The five he focuses on are

  • words of affirmation
  • quality time
  • gifts
  • acts of service
  • physical touch.

As I began pondering and praying, I found myself thinking that, with the obvious exception of physical touch, all these are ways we can express our love to God.

Words of affirmation: God loves to receive our praise and worship. It even says that he inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3).

Quality time: our lives are so busy that it’s easy to neglect spending time in God’s presence. Or perhaps more relevant, how do we, (like Brother Lawrence) learn to experience his presence even in the mundane busyness of life.

Gifts: Although it includes finances, I don’t think this is the primary way we give to God. We give him our lives, becoming a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). He’s delighted when our lives bear fruit–and this includes the fruit of others becoming followers of Jesus.

Acts of service: It sometimes gets overlooked because we cannot earn our salvation, but God delights in our service for him–as we lay down our lives to help others. Just yesterday, thinking about acts of service being a way to express my love for him helped me to perform an act of service that I usually prefer to avoid.

I know that this doesn’t begin to touch on other ways we can love God like obedience and the quality of our character, but I found it a helpful concept.

What do you think?

heart

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Procter and Gamble gets it right

This awesome ad from Procter and Gamble is very thought provoking, especially for those of us who believe God doesn’t place limits on women. Check it out. It will only take three minutes.

What can we learn from this?

What are the implications of its message for men and women in the church?

Five basic tenets

Pro-slavery advocates of the 18th and 19th centuries used five basic tenets based on the Bible to express the heart of their argument:

slavery

  1. God established slavery and there are numerous examples through the Old Testament
  2. Righteous people practiced it
  3. The moral law allowed for it
  4. Jesus accepted it
  5. The apostles upheld it.

For those of us who believe that women should not be limited by their gender, these arguments sound eerily familiar. In fact, there is more to defend the practice of slavery in the Bible than there is to limit the role of women.

The abolitionists also used the Bible to express their convictions. They said that although the Bible described slavery, abolition best expressed the overall emphasis of the Scriptures, and especially the teachings of Jesus.

When we examine the tenor and trend of the Bible concerning women, there is equally compelling evidence that the traditional approach that subordinates women does not line up with the heart of God.

Because of your gender…

Would you want to become a Christian if you were told that your role in church would be limited, solely because of your gender?

That because of your gender, you would never be allowed to teach or to lead in any strategic way.

That because of your gender, you would be expected to wait for others to initiate?

I think that many people view the church as archaic/medieval because of its traditional views of a woman’s role. Paul said he became all things to all people that by all means he might save some. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) I think he would be appalled that something he wrote might be a barrier to people becoming followers of Jesus.

Just sayin’…