10 things I enjoy about international travel

Tony and I have had the privilege of visiting many different countries (30+), many of them in a ministry/teaching context. Here’s what I love about international travel:

  1. Hearing incredible stories of how God is at work in different nations. Many of them cannot be publicly spoken of, but they help to raise my faith level and challenge me to believe that yes, God can do it here, too, as well as elsewhere around the world.
  2. Meeting indigenous people and learning about their lifestyles–including spending time in some of their homes.
  3. Having to depend on the Lord for many different things that I take for granted here–like is the water safe or should I brush my teeth with bottled water? (If in doubt, use bottled water!)
  4. Understanding a little more of the culture, politics, economics, etc of different nations.
  5. The sense of adventure–especially when some risk is involved. I guess the Lord created me this way– I don’t mind the insecurity of international travel. And I often find that God teaches me more during those times than when I’m comfortable at home.
  6. Learning how some believers live with persecution–they are among the most joy-filled people I’ve ever met.
  7. Eating what is set before me–sometimes delicious, other times, a little harder to cope with. I remember being taken out to breakfast where my choice was between pig’s intestine, pig’s trotter or chicken feet. (I chose the chicken feet–lots of flavor but kind of chewy!)
  8. Seeing the hunger to learn more that many believers in these nations have. They willingly sit through many hours of teaching per day. And we have to speak in a way that translates across cultures.
  9. Being challenged by the extreme poverty of developing nations.  We have so much wealth in our Western nations. What can we do to help our brothers and sisters in these nations? (The answer may not lie in giving money!)
  10. It’s a huge privilege to see something of the countryside as well as the cities as we travel by car or taxi. Many countries (and their people) are breathtakingly beautiful. Is the country flat or mountainous? How do the people make a living? What can we learn from them? What obvious problems do they face? I love the the opportunity to visit the occasional tourist attraction too, like the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee in Paris, or some of the temples in India.

Tony and me outside a Buddhist temple, Taiwan

Tony and me outside a Buddhist temple in Taiwan

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

Photo Credit: AP Photographie  via Compfight cc

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

Photo Credit: Brady Withers via Compfight cc

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.

 

 

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’…

 

Two articles

I’ve had a couple of articles posted more widely in the past few days.

The first is in Christianity Todays section on building church leaders. It talks about the paradoxical nature of leadership within the simple/organic/house church movement.

The second comes in Charisma’s SpiritLed Women. They periodically (and with my permission) use one of my blog posts. This one they have entitled “The Medieval Attitudes that Prevail for Women in the Church.”

Enjoy!

Jesus Now

Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ is Frank Viola’s latest book. I love Frank Viola’s writing. He is always scriptural, always Jesus-centered and he always makes me think. So I was delighted when he sent me a copy to review.

Over the years, I’ve read many “deeper life” books. The writings of Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, and AW Tozer and many others have impacted me. In many ways, Jesus Now reminds me of their works. It places Jesus front and center; it challenges the reader to make Jesus Lord of everything in life; it reveals how Jesus transforms and strengthens the believer.

We all know what Jesus did when he was here on earth. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead. But what is he doing now? He continues to work in our lives. Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ details the current ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, Chief Shepherd and Heavenly Bridegroom. Just these chapters alone could transform the lives of many believers as they are set free from guilt and condemnation.

But the book doesn’t stop at the level of the individual follower of Jesus. In a way that few books do, Frank takes these concepts further into the ministry of Jesus in the body of Christ at large. Jesus is the Master Builder and the Head of the Church. This has implications for how we meet together and how the church interacts with the world.

Although this book is a fast read, I believe Jesus Now is destined to be a classic! I highly recommend it.

Frank has a great offer for us. If you purchase the book between May 5th and May 8th from Parable.com, you will not only get it at 50 percent off, you will also get a study guide for free. Here’s where you can get it.

Three generations listening to Jesus

Over Easter, Tony and I spent time with our oldest son, Jon, his wife, Amy, and their four incredible and amazingly talented children ages 6 to 14. (And yes, I’m biased–very!)

Jon and Amy live in a small town in the mountains to the west of Colorado Springs. It’s incredibly beautiful. There are views of Pikes Peak from much of the town. The mountains were all snow-capped, the sun was shining, there were deer grazing in the front yard. We spent our evenings gathered around a wood fire roasting marsh mallows and telling stories.

Jon and Amy normally get together with a group of friends for church on Sunday mornings, but this week, people were out of town for Easter, and it was just our family. So we had church together.

Jon and Amy have taught their kids how to listen to God. After a brief recap of the Easter story, we all spent a few minutes listening to the Lord on our own. Then the kids shared what Jesus was saying to them. Jon and Amy shared. Tony and I shared. The whole blended together to become a beautiful narrative of what the Lord was saying to us all. It was simple–nothing earth-shattering. It was easily understood by everyone, including the six year old. It was profound. It was Jesus.

What a privilege. Jesus speaking to three generations of Dales who are listening to him together. Family doesn’t get better than this….

An interview with Steve Holt: “Intentional: In Jesus’ name we play”

I love stories. It’s often said that the longest journey is the one from mind to heart. But the journey in the opposite direction can be very short. Stories touch the heart and from there it’s a quick journey to the head.

I recently read Intentional: In Jesus’ Name We Play by Steve Holt. It puts many of the principles about simple/organic church into story format. Here’s an interview with Steve:

What is the book about?

Trey Glass is a professional basketball superstar who considers his fame on the court secondary to his life as a light among the people in his depressed neighborhood.  His parents raised him to live intentionally for God, and he takes that role seriously.  For starters, despite his multi-million dollar contract, he chooses to live in a neighborhood most wealthy people would never consider.  He treats street beggars with respect.  He has compassion on the young alcoholic who kills his dad while driving drunk.  He bails out a dozen street gamblers and provides opportunities for them to find meaningful employment.  He falls in love with a Latina medical intern and fights sexual temptations that have plagued him all his life.  Most interesting to friends of House2House, perhaps, is how he deals with obstacles to attending a traditional church and how his little house church becomes a beacon of hope in his racially divided hometown of Memphis, Tenn.

But, of course, living like Jesus brings the reality that many people find his lifestyle objectionable.  He encounters critics from every side—church leaders, team management, friends, sports reporters and more.  And then there are the physical assaults from street gangs who don’t like what he’s doing for the neighborhood….

What inspired you to write the book? 

I remember wondering what it would be like if a famous person, one who was known by many, was ever bold enough to really live like Jesus.  So, that was a large motivation for the book…to create a fictional character who really tried to live like his Lord. I spent nearly thirty years in a variety of positions in the institutional church, so I saw the inner workings of “religion” close up and first hand.  And frankly, early in my career I began to not like what I saw…what God’s church had become. I also came to realize that my own sons were wrestling with the traditions their parents had followed.  When they went off to college, their faith expressions changed, and I was delighted to see what was happening in their lives.  They focused on the right things and gave up the lesser important matters.  They actually had a lot to do with teaching me about the blessings of smaller and simpler faith communities.  I truly believe it was God’s intention all along to gather his family in small, intimate groups.  History shows that when church was taken out of homes and confined to cathedrals, many unfortunate things began to happen. I wanted to capture the benefits of these smaller communities in a form that people would actually read.   

Who did you intend to read this book?  And why fiction?

It’s odd…they say you should have a target audience in mind before you start a book.  I didn’t.  I just started writing, and when it was finished I sent the manuscript to friends of every age.  They all liked it.  In the back of my mind was the idea that if I wanted millennials to read the book, it would have to be fiction since they probably wouldn’t read a non-fiction, “how-to” book about house church.

This is the kind of book that can change people. What kind if transformation took place in your own life as you created the story of Trey Glass?

The thought I had throughout the entire project was “someone is going to ask if I live my life like Trey Glass lived his.”  I found myself confessing time and again that I am not fully living as if Jesus was the number one priority in my life.  That caused me to ask “why not?”  Many of the examples of a true Jesus follower in the book came from points of decision I’ve had in my life, many of which I didn’t make the right decision. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is really no excuse. And that is haunting.  The whole project has made me a better person.

What do you hope the book accomplishes in the lives of its readers?

I truly hope that readers will see that living like Jesus really is possible in twenty-first century America…and can be done by every race, every socioeconomic level, every sexual orientation, every person.  We are here to care for one another, and Trey Glass does this as well as anyone I know.  Readers will also face the realities of what such a lifestyle will cost them.  Jesus promised persecution, and Trey found that and more.  We can expect the same if we choose to walk as Jesus walked.

 

(Intentional is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats) 

 

A helper for my husband

For many years I was taught that my purpose as a wife/woman, was to be a helper for my husband. A sort of divinely appointed personal assistant to him. He was the one to take the initiative; I was there to serve him, to help him fulfill God’s vision and call on his life. If I was to have any kind of strategic role, it was to be through my husband.

This teaching mainly came from Genesis 2:18, which in the King James Version of the Bible says this:

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 

More modern versions also describe the woman as a helper for man.

It is an enlightening exercise, however, to look at the other occasions on which this word “helper” is used.  Of the 21 times, the Hebrew word “ezer” is used, in 16, it refers to God.  Typical examples include, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help.  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2) or “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).  On three occasions, it is used in a decidedly militaristic context (eg Hosea 13:9).

The Hebrew word translated “meet” or “fit” means literally in front of with the understanding of “comparable to.” Someone alongside.

The impression is not that of a “Girl Friday.” It is more of a coach or rescuer, a valued consultant brought in to assist where man is lacking.

Photo Credit: Gerry Balding (Creative Commons)