For evangelical women who are discouraged (and the men who care)

"They have largely succeeded in keeping us from leadership," she said.  "And you must run into it on a regular basis. Why do you think it is bothering you now?"

My mentor's question came on the heels of me attending a church leadership event that was geared for white males. This event happened the day after the recent weekend the "Trump tape" hit the news media. I was still physically sick to my stomach over the degradation of women and others made in God's image that Trump espouses.

But I was soon to realize our first speaker at the church conference came from a tradition that does not allow women to be pastors.* I am a part-time female pastor, and our church was the only one with women in attendance. We have our lead pastor to thank for including us. There were five of us women, and about 60 or 70 males.

This, combined with the overt endorsement by many white male evangelical leaders of Donald Trump, even in the face of the radical devaluing of women, people of color, immigrants, and others, made something inside of me die.

In hindsight, something deep inside of me died while something else was set on fire.

As a female pastor and a person who deeply believes that so many of us are entrenched in this political season in a search for power—a thirst for power that Jesus warned us against—I am fighting an internal battle for sanity, hope, and the courage to face another day.

Pastor Abigail Gaines described her struggle and mine so well on The Junia Project blog this week: 

And is this not what a pastor does?
To sit in the tension between the dark moments of the human existence, while holding steadfastly to the wondrous light of resurrection? To wade in the pool of death while keeping hands firmly gripped onto the life-filled hope and joy of Christ? Is it not to say, I will be present there because God is present there? . . . The pastor is willing to die in the places where God comes alive as her cry becomes, “If death is what is necessary for resurrection, take me with you Jesus!”

I am also fighting another battle. Because I believe the message of the Kingdom of Jesus is good news for girls and women as we wrote in our book Reclaiming Eve, I can no longer stand by and participate in a script that is exclusive and privileged, white and male. 

Gaines' blog post went on to quote a woman in seminary who echoes my state of mind these days. When given clarity of what was pleasing to God through her journey and studies, "she was unable to return to former scripts and patterns not in alignment with the heart of God for her."

My mentor's question still haunts me: "Why do you think it is bothering you now?"

That was hard for me to say. Probably because I keep silent far too much. This woman who is mentoring me did me a great service in naming one of my most constant struggles. Where do I belong in this church Jesus came to build? And if I often wrestle with where I might belong, how can I winsomely make the case that other girls and women belong here, too? 

And now you know what Jesus and I wrestle with in our conversations; you have been given a window to my soul's cry. 

"We know this is not the way of Jesus," my mentor said.

And I sighed as I remembered this truth, as I remembered the truth of the Kingdom and how far away from it we wander.

In the past, I have sometimes been dismissed casually when I mention that I believe our treatment of—and subjection of—women in our churches contributes to the devaluation and abuse of women in homes, churches, and society. 

This is a biblical interpretation issue on which well-meaning people disagree, I'm often told. It's a secondary issue to the gospel

But not from where I sit. From where I sit, from the Bible I read, from the Kingdom I witness through the pronouncement of Jesus in which the oppressed are to be set free and the blind made to see, this is the gospel. This is part of the good news!

I was raised in a culture that designated women to a role and rules that would keep them secondary. For this reason, I am the first to believe there is room for growth and discovery, for a  new understanding befitting the ways of Jesus. I believe we are placed in male and female bodies for a reason, and that it can be a delight to discover how we can minister and live together, complementing each other in a mutuality only Jesus could have designed. 

And I know that change is still happening in white male evangelicalism, though it may be rare: my former pastor, one of my father's best friends, just changed his 50-year position on women in the home and in ministry, and you can hear his sermon here.

In a season when many evangelical women have been turned upside-down and inside-out by political candidates who have a stained record when it comes to the value and abuse of women, and when "good Christians" endorse and stand by them, I am not always sure how much longer women currently in the church pews will stay there.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood," Paul wrote, "But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

I have never been more sure that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, and that what is at stake is not only the dignity of women but the effectiveness of the Kingdom when over half of its workers are crushed, sidelined, or dismissed.

One of the things I see happening when a woman's agency is stripped from her, that quality that is to define an image-bearer representative of the living God—is that she will struggle to give voice to the injustice she witnesses in a meaningful way. (Evangelical women are pushing past this barrier, thanks be to God, due to their voices being amplified via the Internet, as Beth Moore recently proved, and this HuffPost article reviews.)

But restore a girl's or a woman's voice, give her a platform to witness to God's power to set the oppressed free, and truth will ring out that will bring revival to our churches and homes, to our schools and our businesses.

Yes, give us a platform and we will prophesy: 

Girls and women are not objects for men's lust, but created to do good, representing God and his interests. We are created as "strong powers" or "ezers" as mentioned in Genesis 2:18. We are coworkers with our brothers in the Kingdom of righteousness and justice Jesus announced, sustains, and will bring to completion. We will stand against the sexual harassment, assault, and diminishment of all females in the name of Jesus. And in his name, we can pursue mutual leadership and relationship with our brothers that leads to healing, hope, and life not only for the U.S., but for the nations. 

May it be so!

* Clarification: I checked on the conference presenter and confirmed that on the pastoral staff of his megachurch there are no female pastors. They do not, however, have a formal statement about female pastors on their site, and so I apologize for not simply stating that they have no female pastors. My discouragement was with their practice and not any formal statement. Although not identified, I believe this church is doing some great work. I am hopeful for the day when both men and women will be working side-by-side on pastoral teams at this church and others. And I am blessed to be at a church where men and women faithfully partner together in leadership for the Kingdom's sake.

For further reflection:
Post and Podcast: "Locker Room Talk, the Power of Words, and the Hope of Revival, Theology on Mission
Word by Word: Creating and Destroying the World by Leslie Leyland Fields
"Reclaiming Eve" talk by Suzanne Burden at Taylor University

Your turn: Are you discouraged and why? How might the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus restore your hope?
Divisive political comments will be deleted. Kind engagement encouraged.

 

Revisiting #ReclaimingEve: Cara Strickland's story

cara

Personal Note and update: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Cara's story was posted over a year ago, but for some reason my new squarespace blog removed it. Her story touched me, because gender reconciliation has been and is such a huge area of first pain and now healing in my own story. Read an update to her ongoing story here.

The whole series of can be found here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece.

Order here

.

My most life-giving interview on #ReclaimingEve

It's not every morning a girl gets to talk about the beauty of God's design for his daughters laid out in the Creation narrative.

A full hour of deep, provocative discussion on how God has designed women to work alongside men, how we are tempted to live up to the fall instead of the reconciliation Jesus ushers in, and why it matters. Don't miss this! (With Lynne Ford of The WBCL Radio Network.)

Interview here.

Audio Sermon: "From Hope Lost to Hope Found" at Cornerstone University

  sessions

[audio mp3="http://suzanneburden.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Suzanne-Burden-CU-4-10-15.mp3"][/audio]

 

Recently, I preached a sermon on The Unclean Woman at Cornerstone University chapel, my alma mater. I could not have known that just a few weeks later my husband and I are facing loss and grief of our own, and I desperately needed to hear this message of hope myself. May you be blessed by Jesus' pursuit of the least and the least likely—and his willingness to break all of the rules to identify with those on the "outside." 

Hope starts here. Listen and be encouraged.

Your turn: Do you identify with the Unclean Woman's story of exclusion? How is Jesus restoring hope where all hope was lost?

I enjoy speaking at universities, retreats and churches on a variety of topics that relate to brokenness and the redemption found through Christ. Contact me here to inquire. Find the book Reclaiming Eve and the Small Group Study.

We are the women of the Holy Week

The LilypadMary Magdalene, the one released from seven demons, lingers in the garden weeping, her tears watering the soil.  She is known as the "apostle to the apostles" in Church history, and for most of us, she appears to be the female headliner in the story of Holy Week. We witness her tears of deep sorrow, her unawareness that she kneels moments away from her commissioning as the first evangelist to spread the news that He is Risen, just as he said.

Our hearts will jump as her heart leaps for joy!

From Reclaiming Eve:

"It wasn't the empty tomb that gave Mary Magdalene hope again; it was the voice of the very much alive Jesus that made her physically jump for joy. And the fact that he appeared first to her signaled a dramatic departure from relationships as usual. For as a women in her culture, Mary Magdalene held few rights. She would never hold up as an official eyewitness to anything in court. She was likely aware that the pious male Jews thanked God regularly that they were not born as women. She knew her place, and her place would always be second.

Apparently Jesus did not get the memo. After what historians point to as the pivotal events in all of human history—Christ's death and Resurrection—Jesus chose to appear not to his circle of male disciples, but to a female disciple who loved and served him faithfully. And he told her to immediately tell the 12 male disciples. What is so terribly ironic in all of this is that none of them believed her (Mark 16:11). Yet Mary would go down in history as the "apostle to the apostles"—the one chosen by Jesus to spread the good news" (p. 112).

But why, Lord, we ask? Why appear to a woman whose word would not immediately be trusted?

All of the women of Holy Week, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, the ones last at the cross and first to the tomb, remind me of something about all of the daughters of Eve.

They brought the very thing we women are afraid to show—our neediness—to the feet of the humble rabbi. Demons were released. Insecurities erased. Religious foundations shaken and reset by the inbreaking Kingdom of Jesus.

These women sat at his feet. They felt his touch, simple and pure. Scandalous though it may have been, they dined with him—some of them supplying his food out of their funds—receiving back immeasurably more than they gave. Freedom from sin, release from shame—the teaching he offered them, filled with life, when they became his disciples.

At the cross their hearts broke in two, but the Life-giver, the Grave-robber, was already knitting them back together again. They came broken, needy, desperate. They left amazed, restored, and capable of doing exactly what Jesus asked of them. Released to lead in loving God and neighbor. Lifted up to resist injustice and free the oppressed. Taught so winsomely to teach others to become his disciples.

And don't you see, we are the women of the Holy Week. We need demons rebuked. We suffer from insecurity and inferiority and shame. What we need is a Savior, a lifter of our heads. The abused ones, and the disregarded and marginalized ones, and the seemingly healthy ones, too, the young and the aging, the vibrant and the dying. Like the women of the Holy Week, we come needy and walk away whole, no matter our circumstance. And we women know, this is too much freedom to keep to ourselves. It is Holy Week, and Sunday's coming, and we must go and tell.

Mary Magdalene, the one released from seven demons, lingers in the garden weeping, her tears watering the soil. 

Our hearts will jump as her heart leaps for joy.

Watch a video short of Mary Magdalene's story here. How do the women of Holy Week point you to freedom and wholeness in Christ?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!” — Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

A spoken word tribute to women in ministry

Here's a pick-me-up, brought to my attention by my friends at  The Junia Project, in thankfulness to women serving Jesus everywhere:

Jeanelle Austin Spoken Word: Thank You: A Tribute to Women in Ministry from Gail Wallace on Vimeo.

"This is for the women who walk in their call—no matter their gender, their heart is to give their all."

Amen, sister.

Your turn: What emotions did Jeanette's tribute stir up in you? If you have a video clip of another spoken word performance on women in ministry, please paste it in the comments. Thank you.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Idelette McVicker's story

designI'm tickled to welcome Idelette McVicker, the editor in chief of SheLovesMagazine.com to share her Reclaiming Eve moment today. idelette profileHi, I'm Idelette and I wish I could go to every spot, village and city on the earth to meet our world’s women. I was born and raised in South Africa, which created a deep hunger for justice and equality in my heart. I have three children (11, 9 and 7) and SheLovesmagazine.com is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I also feel a little bit Chinese, because my heart still resides there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. I live in Surrey, Canada because I pledged my heart to Scott, a cheeky Canadian, 15 years ago. Give me some sweet chai, vanilla rooibos or pearl milk tea and I’m in heaven. And if you don’t know this about me quite yet: Jesus is my hero.

***

What a difference a pronoun makes.

One of my girls had a memory verse to learn for church. We lay side by side on her tiny French provincial single bed that her dad had painted a matte black. I loved those little beds: slightly rickety, painted in the garage over many days, with several coats and deep love. The girls moved into those beds when I became pregnant with their brother. 

And there we lay on that ordinary night, an exhausted Mama and her young daughter, taking just a moment to do the right thing and practice a memory verse, printed in black and white on a square card.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. -2 Corinthians 5:17

We practiced Bible verse and address. We stood before centuries’ worth of wisdom and truth. We honored the holy words and did our part to pass it on to another generation.

But I’d been learning about how much God loves women, even wrote 40 days’ worth of prayers and statistics and stories, so more women could know it.

I gently asked: "Do you know we can put ourselves in these verses? We can put our own name inside the verse and know that God intends these very words for us.”

She nodded.

I repeated the text in my head. We practiced the words together.

Then I said it out loud, one more time, but this time I made it personal for us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

She.

She is a new creation.

We, from Eve right through to the two of us that night on that little black bed with the pink duvet. We get to become new creations.

And suddenly it felt like an earthquake was rumbling through my very being.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

I’d placed my name inside of a verse, but I’d never before replaced the pronoun. Substituting a “he” for a “she,” for the first time ever in my life, I felt like I was meant to be included in those words, not stand outside of it. Always reverent, hopefully obedient, but always excluded.

Quiet tears were streaming down my face. My body shivered with the recognition.

I had said those words so many times in my life: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

But until that moment, it had always felt like I was standing on the outside of those words. I honored them as good, holy, lifegiving, even Spirit-breathed words.

Following Jesus on the cross, these words were for me, but I also felt outside of them. I guess I imagined this was simply part of my cross to bear. The way things had always been. These were the things we didn’t question.

Until that moment of simple yet radical inclusion, it had always felt like I was Eve, still banished from the garden.

Us, women, we’d been shown the gates and it felt like my bible translations made it very clear—we didn’t deserve to be on the inside.

Those words were for all the he’s in the world.

But us “she’s,” it wasn’t for us. It wasn’t intended for us to be newly shaped, newly created, beautifully invited in.

We’d messed up. The she’s still had to pay the price.

But what about that Grace, paid for so dearly on a cross?

Including my feminine self into the core language felt subversive. It even seemed dangerous.

A good kind of dangerous.

A right kind of dangerous.

It felt like a single word—one pronoun—in that instant had ripped through eons of established thought. That single word managed to tear down a veil.

I felt beloved. Included. Invited not only into the ways of Jesus, but welcomed into the vast promises and a revolutionary way forward.

I am no longer content to stand on the outside, looking in, because on that holy ordinary night on that little black bed, I was invited into the center of the story. I was no longer relegated to the margins. Neither are we, the daughters and sisters of Eve.

Ancient gates creaked loudly and swung wide open: Welcome, Daughters.

Your turn: Have you read Scripture with feminine pronouns? How does including women in the reading of Scripture in this way affect you?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Cara Strickland's story

 cara

cara

Personal Note: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Read the whole series of #ReclaimingEve stories here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here.

 Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies!

Order here

.

Embracing the New: Practicing Presence in 2015

2

This morning, I read Sarah Bessey's new year post about holding fast in 2015, and it reminded me of how faithful God is to speak particular words into particular lives at particular times. What a mercy!

Yesterday I shared on Facebook what my 2014 intentions were:

  • Live loved.
  • Be open to new beginnings.
  • What would I do if I was not afraid?

I have moved past the place where I make resolutions per se, because resolutions make me tired, and I have figured out by now that often what I want and go after is not what I get. I want a more graceful way of being, a more faith-filled way of moving through my days, less demands on my life and more trusting and rootedness. 

I did so very many things afraid in 2015; I kept doing them over and over again. The Reclaiming Eve book was such a challenge to navigate gracefully; saying the hard thing when you know some will disagree often is. Yet it brought life in every place the message was spoken or shared—even in the radio interview that I fell into that was more like a debate, even on the public radio forum where the interviewer may have believed that Christians are crazy, even when those close to me didn't agree with the book. I believe through each interaction, no matter how difficult, something beautiful was being born.

Underneath every conversation or interaction was the reminder: You are the Beloved of God, the one that he loves, the one that he delights in. Everyone else you meet is also Beloved. I returned to his love over and over again. I asked him to open my heart, and wide. I closed my eyes, threw my head back and said, "Jesus has set his daughters free!" I said it so many different ways, with homeless women and successful businesswomen, with female leaders and mature women, with young women trying to find their way, with groups of men and women whose responses I cherish still.

Often I felt like I wasn't doing enough, but of this I'm becoming convinced: showing up to faithfully do what is in front of you is always enough. How many people really show up, fully present, to faithfully do the thing they are engaged in?

So this year, I'm choosing "Presence" as my word.

How can I fully inhabit the moments I am given? (For each moment is a gift.) How can I show up, adding grace, love, and joy to my world? How can I bear witness to the Kingdom of God, the beautiful, messy reality that his Kingdom is advancing, no matter what evidence to the contrary?

Here are my three intentions for 2015:

  • Live loved. (Continuously return to my heavenly Father's view of me as The Beloved.)
  • Practice presence. (How am I present in the right now moment I've been given? Less Facebook, more face time.)
  • Choose to embrace hope and joy. (This must be decided on daily.)

Admittedly, I will also still be "doing things afraid" in 2015. In just nine days, I'll enter occupational laser therapy at the University of Michigan for three weeks. This is an amazing answer to a 15-year prayer to receive further healing for the lymphedema I was born with in my legs. I hope you'll come back for weekly updates on my healing journey. And don't miss this: in January, I'll also be featuring a three-part video interview series with Natalie Wilson Eastman, the author of Women, Leadership and the Bible.

Your turn: What are your intentions in 2015? How will you practice presence in the one life you've been given?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

An audio interview for the Church on Reclaiming Eve

slider2This week, I had the pleasure of talking about the value of girls and women on the GirlfriendIt radio show and podcast with cohost Patty Lynn Wyatt.

We talked about the two choices women face in the Church of Jesus when claiming their identity:

  • Eve and woman as defined by her sin: easily deceived, dangerous and inferior
  • Eve and woman as defined by God's intentions in Genesis 1 & 2: an ezer/strong power and image-bearer representative of the living God

Other topics included addressing gender-based violence and pornography, answering the question "Should women be elders?" and even my lunch of bacon-wrapped dates. It was nothing if not interesting—and freeing to talk about the value of every girl and woman being unleashed in the Kingdom of God. (28 minutes)

You can take a listen here:

Reclaiming Eve on the GirlfriendIt! Podcast

Your Turn: What's your take on where the Church is at in empowering girls and women in the Kingdom of God? What do you think it will take for us to move forward?