Come to me, all who suffer burnout

I am surrounded by the broken, the bedraggled, the burned out.

Aren't you?

We are all just a step or two away from exhaustion. Some are closer to collapse than others; those who seem to have it all together are often the ones who are disintegrating slowly on the inside.

But enough of all this good news, right? Every day or two someone shares their story of weariness and I look for the presence of Jesus in their pain. Sometimes I just listen. Other times I am the one sharing about my slow recovery from a health crisis, about this or that struggle that threatens to consume my light and my peace, of my longing for spiritual rest.

We are all of us, every last one, looking for a resting place. A place of shalom—the Hebrew concept in the Old Testament that conveys a a meaning of being "complete or whole," of "being sound." We are talking about a wholeness of life or body, as well as a rightness of relationship, a prosperity or flourishing. When used as an adjective, it describes a warm feeling of peace and safety (biblestudytools.com).

I have yet to mean a human being of any age, stage, place, or mindset who isn't ultimately craving shalom, this place of peace. For no matter our disposition and the details of our life, every day is a search for wholeness leading into all manner of trial and error: workaholism, addictive behaviors, isolation, looking for payoff without pain, control and manipulation.

When Jesus said "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," I know he said this because he knew that this was our need. Our soul's cry. A reminder of the cry of a baby longing to be held, to be assured that they are OK and well and whole and complete. This longing answered by a gentle touch, gentle words, a soothing connection of presence and protection.

But if I had to ask Jesus to make one thing concise and clear-as-mud for all of us who are somewhat deaf from the chaos of our worlds, I would ask him to say it this way exactly:

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you PATHWAYS to peace."

Before you accuse me of revising Scripture, hear me out. When Jesus says to take his way of life and learning on us, he is inviting us to actually do something. The Message Bible paraphrases his conclusion this way: Come to me...[and] learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Jesus is inviting us to come to him and to do what he did, to employ the spiritual practices that caused him to abide in, stay connected to, his Abba-Father who loved him. To pray. To practice 24-hour Sabbath rest one day a week or as many hours as we can to start. To go away in silence, stillness and solitude. To study and meditate on the Scripture. To practice love of God and neighbor while he changes our heart to resemble his own more each day.

To reflect on and internalize his love until the voice of love and shalom, and the very realness of it, becomes louder than our shame, our busyness, our self-obsessiveness. Until we realize that all is well in Christ, that we are held.

Here is where shalom rustles in, quietly, almost imperceptibly, yet tangibly. These are the pathways to peace we so desperately need. But they mean making the hardest of choices. Saying no all the time to less than the best. Saying yes to the voice of Christ and inviting conversation and communion with him in stillness.

Come to me, all who suffer burnout, and I will give you rest, he says, with a smile in his eyes. Choose these unforced rhythms of grace. We are invited to actually do something, to be coworkers with God in pursuing a life of wholeness and peace.

For excellent resources on this topic, I recommend two resources that are impacting me these days:
Hearing God through the Year: a 365-day Devotional by Dallas Willard
• The Emotionally Health Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero

Your turn: Are you burned out? Recovering? Pursuing a pathway of peace? Share your story here and encourage someone else.

Does the gospel rescue men from patriarchy? An interview with Carolyn Custis James on #Malestrom

malestromMEME_5Thrilled to host author Carolyn Custis James today for an interview on her important new book Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World. Buckle up and prepare to dive deep as Carolyn discusses God's intentions for men and for women.

***

Once in seminary, I proudly showed a male professor my new copy of the InterVarsity Press Women’s Bible Commentary. Having heard that women have written less than one percent of all the commentaries on the Bible, I was thrilled to have found an admittedly slim volume that offered scholarship from respected evangelicals like Alice Mathews.

Let me just say that my professor was visibly less than impressed. His other comments only reinforced my assumptions. He said that it would be good if I became a chaplain, for there is a real need for chaplains to minister to women. I received the message loud and clear: women are needed in some roles, but not in the academy, not in the pulpit, and not next to a man’s bedside or desk with an intent to minister, counsel and bless. 

If there was one thing I knew then and know now, it is that God created two genders to enrich our experience and understanding of him. When the woman’s voice gets slighted, our practice and scholarship and theology become decidedly lopsided, with holes many of us are only now beginning to discover.

Have you ever wondered: What in the world have we missed in our theology because women have been kept from studying, exegeting and writing and teaching on God’s word over the centuries?

Heaven only knows.

Enter women like Carolyn Custis James. A scholar and student of both the Bible and the culture, James has now poured years into exegeting both, and the results have been a game-changer for many like me.

Her careful scholarship and insights from a female perspective have uncovered critical theological truths that have led other women to write books like the one my coauthors and I wrote, Reclaiming Eve, and so many others. While her books Lost Women of the Bible and Half the Church both opened my world to new vistas and hopes for God’s Kingdom and his world, her newest book utilizes the same razor-sharp analysis and deep thoughts on God’s desire to save men from the cycle of violence continuing to churl through our world. Her assertion is straightforward: Patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity. Not for women. And not for men, either.

She answers a few key questions below on what she calls the “Malestrom,” prompted by her book of the same title:

Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn, you write that the malestrom (a play on the word maelstrom) is the particular ways in which the fall and sin impact the male of the human species, specifically pushing men toward being socialized by violence. From your view, what are the top three ways we see this play out globally today?

Traditional definitions of what it means to be a man vary widely from culture to culture. Each culture has ways of reinforcing those definitions and socializing men to conform. At its core, the malestrom is about those forces that cause men to embrace cultural definitions of manhood and lose sight of who God created them to be as men. Sadly, the malestrom does lead to violence against other men as well as women.

In more primitive cultures—especially where survival depends on the willingness and ability of men to defend and provide for the community—socialization takes the form of initiation rites that require young boys to endure brutal treatment without wincing or crying out. Achieving manhood teeters on a boy’s ability to endure, and there are those who don’t make the grade.

In our own culture, locker room violence and other forms of social pressure condition boys to reject any behavior or inclination that is deemed “unmanly” and to conform to the prevailing cultural definition of masculinity. It can turn men into emotional islands, unable to cry, to be vulnerable, or sensitive. It cuts men and boys off from the wholeness of their God-given humanity.

More socially acceptable forms of “violence” against men occur through shaming as men are berated from evangelical pulpits for failing to “man-up” and told, “you are not a man” for failing to measure up to some masculine criteria, such as taking charge at home or being the primary breadwinner and protector at home.

Unfortunately cultural definitions of manhood themselves can lead to violence. Sociologists identify an insidious link between concepts of masculinity the wars and violence that we hear about daily in the news. ISIS is a chilling example of masculinity gone awry and producing appalling levels of violence against other human beings, including fellow Muslims, and the exploitation and trafficking of women. The belief that a man is supposed to “be in charge” at home means his manhood is at stake if he doesn’t get the kind of submission he expects. Manhood definitions can wrongly legitimize abuse and violence on battlefields, city streets and behind closed doors. In the U.S. 1 in 4 women have suffered domestic violence. This statistic includes women in the church.

Besides leading to abusive and violent behavior, cultural concepts of masculinity not only are the antithesis of God’s exalted vision for his sons. He gives them their identity and calling at birth as his image bearers. It is a birthright, a gift. It cannot be earned. He creates his sons to know and reflect his heart for the world and to look after things on his behalf. No man or boy is left behind. It can’t be taken from them or lost or destroyed. Their identity is indestructible and designed for their full flourishing as human beings.

So the evangelical discussion of manhood/masculinity is wholly inadequate if it fails to take into account the wider global issues or to consider the serious repercussions surrounding how masculinity is defined and lived out. We have ISIS to consider.

Tell us why you believe patriarchy—a system in which males rule over women and others—is Malestrom-cover-art-borderdismantled as we observe Jesus’ version of manhood. And if so, why do you believe exclusive male rule (although a gentler version than hard patriarchy) is still considered a norm in many evangelical churches? 

The fact that patriarchy appears on virtually every page of the Bible has led Christians to conclude that patriarchy is the way God intends for us to live. At the heart of the problem for the American church is the fact that we have embraced patriarchy (albeit in a modified version) as the Bible’s message. We maintain male authority and female submission but toss out common patriarchal elements such as the prizing of sons over daughters, child marriages, honor killings, polygamy, and slavery.

Although events in the Bible play out within a patriarchal context, patriarchy doesn’t emerge until after the Fall, in words of curse spoken to the woman: “He will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). That is a description of what the Fall will produce and how male/female relationships takes a terrible downturn from what God original envisioned for us.

The rule of any human being over another is an inversion of the cultural mandate which turns the rule of God’s image bearers outward to the creation, not laterally against each other. The “rule” of humans over one another quickly manifests itself in violence when Cain kills his brother Abel for outshining him. Attempts to make kinder gentler versions of patriarchy salvage pieces of a post-fall system that remains destructive both to women and to men. It turns our focus onto each other instead of centering us on our Creator and the monumental task at hand of cultivating and caring for his world and for one another.

What is disturbing and needs to be discussed within evangelical circles is the fact that global definitions of manhood, including soft complementarianism, sit on a cultural continuum. Here’s what I wrote in Malestrom: “Anthropologists describe a continuum of manhood that ranges from machismo (a strong, aggressive, masculine pride and bravado) at one extreme to cultures completely unconcerned about masculinity issues at the other. Modern urban western versions of manhood land somewhere in the middle. Evangelical definitions of manhood—all claiming to be built on what the Bible says—are scattered all over that continuum.”

The whole discussion of gender (both inside and outside the church) takes place on that continuum. I’m convinced that while patriarchy is the cultural backdrop of the Bible, it is not the Bible’s message. The Gospel Jesus proclaimed takes us off that continuum to a radically different, way of living as male and female.

Jesus completely upended the way human culture works by how he lived and what he taught. He even upended how we typically think. He was emphatic when his disciples started asking questions about authority and rank. He said in essence, “That’s how the world works. That's not how we do things,” and pointed them to serving others. We’ve dressed that teaching up and called it servant-leadership. But that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus’ gospel calls us to put the interests of others ahead of ourselves and to promote the flourishing of others. That’s leadership according to the Jesus model. He took it even to the point of laying down his life for us. That ought to transform how we think and talk about gender issues.

A recent gospel coalition review of your book insisted that the blog writer’s complementarianism and your egalitarianism (his words) were not that far apart. From where you sit, can we have mutual submission and the inclusion of both men and women in leadership in the church, home and world, and still recognize that we complement one another by design? If so, how?

One of the pitfalls of the current evangelical gender discussion is that it loses sight of the fact that this is a global issue. In American evangelical churches, we’ve reduced gender discussions to one of two options: complementarian or egalitarian, when the contexts in which people find themselves globally are significantly more complex than our egalitarian western society. Even here we face complexities and circumstances that make it impossible for a complementarian or an egalitarian to be consistent with their own views. How is a single woman, a widow, the wife of a non-Christian or a passive husband supposed to live out her complementarian convictions? How does an egalitarian function when her church or husband or culture prohibit that view?

I’m not saying the western gender discussion is unimportant. Just that we need to bear in mind that not everyone has the luxury of choosing which camp to embrace. In wartime, women do all sorts of things that go beyond a complementarian view of submission or of a woman’s role. When the gospel crawls under a burka, pushing egalitarian notions can get a woman killed.

There are deeper questions we must ask.

All through the Bible there are stunning moments when we witness powerful alliances between men and women and courageous, bold leadership of women that break the pattern, advance God’s purposes, and reflects the kingdom Jesus is bringing. I tell some of those stories in Malestrom. The probability of these kinds of alliances and actions emerging in the ancient patriarchal culture is close to zero. But again and again it happens.

Jesus’ gospel restores the vision God had for us in the beginning. We strive to understand and live out that vision within the context of a fallen world that impacts our cultures and our own hearts. God’s vision is global. No human being is excluded. It’s a far greater vision than our gender debates envision. It frees us to do what needs to be done and calls us to put the interests of others ahead of ourselves. It is the “Love your neighbor as yourself” kingdom ethos of Jesus. This means as women we are called to champion each other and also our brothers. Jesus’ gospel can be lived out anywhere, under any circumstance. God’s image bearers can reflect his character and love for the world, no matter where their culture lands on that continuum. The task God entrusts to us dwarfs our human resources. We need all hands on deck.

That’s why I prefer to talk about the Blessed Alliance between men and women. That language matches God’s blessing on his male/female image bearers in Genesis one where the first team he deploys is male/female. The Blessed Alliance is descriptive of the Body of Christ—where we join forces, recognize we need one another, and call every believer to give their all for the kingdom of Jesus. The male/female Blessed Alliance is a kingdom strategy that the Enemy has dismantled. Even egalitarians will say that simply affirming women’s ordination or adding space for women leaders doesn’t take us far enough. The whole creation narrative makes the point—not that men need to include women or that we need to get along better and share power—but that men and women need each other to do the job God has entrusted to us. How that works out in terms of who leads and who follows within any particular context or culture will no doubt be different.

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.

If you are hurting and you follow Jesus

if you arehurting &you love jesus-2Have you ever had one of those seasons when you are overwhelmed at the hurt and loss around you? More pointedly—at the daggers of pain that seem aimed at your own heart—the kind of pain that slices a person in two and leaves you gasping for air?

In the last three weeks my husband and I have felt this pain so intensely, so cutting, that we have taken turns with the tears and uttering words of anguish and anger. They are not directed at each other, but at the sheer horror we feel. I have wanted to pinch myself. Is this for real?

We haven't wished to pull everyone into our pain, for we know others have pain of their own. But we have experienced another adoption loss. An adoption we didn't seek, didn't initiate and in fact very carefully stepped back from, allowing it to unfold purely on the birth mother's initiative. This was the only way we would even consider it, I had said last year, if someone we knew asked us to adopt their child

We were stunned and hesitant when that very thing happened. And over a period of five months of joining in this pregnancy, the ultrasounds and so many other moments that happen pre-birth in an open adoption,  we began to feel it: joy, hope, anticipation, some promises we began to believe, a feeling that God was restoring the years that the locust had eaten, and any number of things people who believe in resurrection and redemption hope to feel once again. We have cared deeply not only for the baby but for her beautiful and determined birth mother.

Oh, and let me be honest, it doesn't matter who you are: I believe those who don't actively believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ still long for wrongs and pain to be made right, to be healed. For rebirth and renewal.

Oh, we are suckers for a story where hope springs forth where there was searing pain and disappointment.

Now, one might think that in our case our anger would be directed at the situation and the people involved. And we have had some of these feelings, surely. We are human and we have been hurt. (Though in the same breath we acknowledge everyone involved bears their own pain and loss in life.)

But there is a deeper and much more complex reality for us: we have been angry at God.

We have been shake-our-fist angry, cry-out-to-the-heavens hopeless, pounding-on-the-bed and asking, Lord, what in the world?? We understood that you loved us. And we asked that you never take us anywhere near a situation like this again. We have already sustained adoption loss and infertility and numerous other obstacles and losses, piled atop one another like unfortunate bricks bearing down on us, and we just couldn't do this. You knew that, didn't you??

Oh, we have been angry, and in our anger, I do not believe that we have sinned.

We are tempted to turn away from our heavenly Father, but we are like the apostle Peter in John 6, when Jesus says: "You do not want to go away also, do you?" And Peter blurts: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

We may feel harassed and helpless, but we still have a Great Shepherd, and with a a bit of a shake to my voice, with guests around our table yesterday, I prayed: "Father, You are our Shepherd, and because of this, we know that somehow we lack nothing..."

To whom else would we go?

If I may be honest for a moment, our anger could easily become sin if we dwelled on these responses to our pain and loss:

  • "God has a reason for everything. You just have to trust him!"
  • "You can try again. I was just talking to someone who adopted."

Sometimes we are lying on the ground, suddenly and in some ways irreversibly wounded in some way, and the rest of the world continues to go on around us. And here is what we need in those moments. We don't need platitudes or verses. In case you were wondering, we don't believe that God caused this to happen. No.

I'm not sure how we'd survive if that was all the hope we had. 

We believe that our world is broken, and that in that brokenness, bad things, inexplicable things, happen all around us and to us and that we ourselves inflict pain upon others. A friend reminded us last night that God will bring purpose to our lives BUT THIS WAS NOT HIS PLAN.

Do you know how much healing was contained in that one sentence?

Especially because it came from the computer of a man with cerebral palsy, as he typed into his assistive technology device with his feet. His wife, using what I believe to be her spiritual gift of sarcasm, said: Yes, I see where you are at. You know, we've been told God planned for my husband to be disabled his entire life....riiiiiight. She started rattling off all the horrible things people say, You will grow through this... And I couldn't help it. I just started laughing.

It was the absurdity, the "lack" in these comments, that grounded me in reality. Grief and anger are appropriate responses to searing loss. God made us spirit and body and mind all wrapped up into one, not into two or three parts, and so we experience emotion all the way down to the marrow. Paradoxically, I'm actually thankful for this. I am so glad we are not mere robots.

So please, if you are hurting and you follow Jesus, follow the trail of your grief. I believe that Jesus wants nothing more than to be gentle with you and me, his children, during heart-wrenching times.

Follow this hard trail with us while we search together for cracks of light, will you? Keep your eyes peeled for spirit-openings that illuminate hope in the life of another, for remembrances of all of the good, good things our heavenly Father has provided for us in the past. There is comfort in knowing that even when I have little appetite for the food in front of me it has still been provided for my good and for my nourishment—and that someday it will taste good again. I mean this both physically and spiritually.

You and I, we will again taste and see that the Lord is good. He will restore our souls. And it just might start by acknowledging that the Lord will bring purpose to our lives but that this pain is not his plan

(If you have been blessing us with cards or your presence, we want you to know we feel your love. Thank you for showing up.)

Your turn: What hurt or loss has cut you to the quick? How are you processing the pain, both physically and spiritually?

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

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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.

In the immortal words of the Jedi-master: "Don't try. Do."

starwars.wikia.com Reams of paper line my office floor, information that needs to be transformed into a book.

A hopeful life change that looked promising is not happening.

I'm still hoping to find a regular spot to serve in ministry.

We are still in the same house we've been in since we married six years ago, though we've always said we would move.

And instead of filling the house with children, we've filled it with books. (Which kind of are my children, but that's for another post.) 

I can no longer say that we're in transition and believe myself because—you guys—we are still in this same space. Physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, it feels like we're staring at the same four walls. And so these emotions just spilled out the other day as my husband and I were talking. "I get so tired of trying sometimes," I said, in a moment of brutal honesty. To which he quipped: "In the words of Yoda: Don't try. Do!" 

Seriously?!? It was at this point that I wished I had watched Star Wars with my nephew.

I am so glad that God didn't create us to be successful, however you might define the word. He created me to be a reflection of him, to represent his interests of love and justice, to spread the news that Jesus is King and that he has love enough for all of us, every one. And his definition of success doesn't involve large-scale numbers and a bigger house; it doesn't require me to have children (even if I do desire them); it doesn't at all depend on whether I am leading or teaching publicly, using my gifts in a way that is noticed by others.

It hinges only on faithfulness. Showing up. Not trying, but actually doing something.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. -Matthew 25:34-36

As I look back over disappointments even in the last few weeks, the times that shine brightest are these:

  • Moving a friend experiencing homelessness into an apartment and witnessing her gratitude for shelter, bologna in the fridge, and a pillow and a blanket so she might sleep on the floor. Hearing that she slept soundly because she finally felt safe. And even more joy: I get to bring an old television with DVD player to her tonight and let her borrow some movies.
  • My husband and I visiting someone in the hospital, sharing, caring, and praying over him, for God's help and blessing in his life.
  • Sharing an in-depth conversation with a Brazilian student with whom we are trying to teach English. Answering his questions from a place of honesty and generosity, talking with him about the reality of racism and that I long to experience and model reconciliation.

In each and every situation, it felt like we were just showing up. Offering grace. Listening. Being present. Bearing witness to the love of Jesus in us and for us. It is likely the days will come when I will be ministering, writing, speaking and teaching in different ways. But just for today, I'm called to show up where I can and start doing something, anything I can, to inhabit this space. I want to swap trying for trusting and start doing.

Do you feel the same? What would it look like if you stopped trying and started doing something for the Kingdom today? (And...what is your favorite Yoda quote?)

For the childless this Mother's Day (and those who love them)

photoYou will forgive me if I did not turn to greet you this morning as the pastor instructed.

Part of me wanted to, but the other part heard the church leader greet you and your baby right before service.

"Your baby should be in the church dedication on Mother's Day!" he said.

You replied: "Actually, she has already been dedicated!"

And I gripped my belly, the pain of last week's surgery that closed my womb still smarting,

the emotional sear from the finality of my childlessness closing in.

And I tried to remember why I had come to church this morning, but it was hard to come up with anything. 

***

Funny enough, or perhaps not so funny, the entire sermon turned out to be on raising up the Next Generation.

It was an important sermon; I appreciated the way in which it was preached; I actually marveled a bit that the pastor addressed the childless in the congregation twice.

But the sermon did little to address the pain churling inside of me, a pain that cannot be tamped down by the drugs the doctor dutifully prescribed post-surgery.

I needed someone to identify with the suffering that came when the nurse said, happily: "Well, the most important thing to know is that she's not pregnant. That's good!" before the general anesthetic knocked me out for an hour or two.

It is finished. It is finished. This long journey is finished.

The End.

And, finally, I awoke again.

***

So when it came to church this morning, the only thing I could relate to at all was Communion.

This was his body broken for me, and his blood spilled out for me, and his death, looming, opened a gateway.

By his wounds we are healed, I am healed, somehow I will be healed.

Here was Jesus, 33 years of age, unmarried, childless, too; having finished the work the Father gave him to do;

and he said, "It is finished!" after bloody tears, and nakedness and scorn and tearing flesh and, worst of all: abandonment.

Yet in the middle of our under-way Redemption, he also cried out: "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

***

"My God, why have you forsaken us?"

Wanting to create and give birth to life, wanting to follow in the Creator's footsteps, longing that leads to longing.

Monday morning dawned. Today, for the first time, I imagined the children that might have been ours.

It is quiet in this room and their faces match ours, and this dream passes before my eyes, swirling. And in the quiet Abba is here, too. What a saving grace, since I admit it can be hard to let another in. I have found he is one of the few who can bear with the childless in their unique grief—a grief for something that never was. The only way I know how to explain it is he is not uncomfortable or agitated or helpless in the face of my deep loss; somehow, he is just sitting here, with me, in the worst of it.

And the wounds of Jesus, still present in his body, feel present in this room.

He is the one who said, My God, why??? And yet he showed us there is hope in our wounds:

...as people of the resurrection, our promise is that our wounds will not and forever bleed us of our lives and our vitality. The promise of the resurrection is not the assurance of an easy, simple life without wounds, but a life in which our wounds, even if they define us, do not bleed us. The promise of the resurrection is that, eventually, after the bleeding stops, our wounds, while they won’t ever heal, might just begin to heal others. -"The Hope in Our Wounds: A Homily for Easter"

Dear childless one, I cannot, will not, try to minimize your wound. I cannot tell you that better things will fill it, or that all things work together for good, or carelessly, "Just think of how much freedom you have!"  So often well-intentioned words mock, and sometimes what is needed are not words but quiet understanding. Shared burden. "This hurts!" Shared tears.

But I can say, that in Jesus, we are Resurrection people. It may be that the new life we long to bear physically eludes us. There is no neat and tidy reason for this; it is part of the effects of sin and brokenness; it just is. Yet the new life of the Resurrection covers us, encircles us, winds us in its power and inclusiveness, its enoughness. And if Scripture is true, and I believe it is, he also gathers us under his wings like a mother hen, he quietly sings over us, he would never dream of leaving our side. Jesus tenderly whispers, "You are enough. I have made sure of this."

After all the "I'm-not-measuring-up feelings" that childlessness can bring, no matter how much we know differently, this Resurrection enoughness may be what is needed most. For the childless this Mother's Day—and for those who love them, too.

A few notes: Mother's Day in church opens a can of worms this post is not designed to explore. But know this: the Body is for your healing, and if you cannot experience that healing in your church body on Mother's Day, please worship elsewhere, maybe a walk through the woods or a bike ride. Do not add to your pain by placing burdens on yourself that are impossible to bear. Be as gentle as Jesus with yourself. You are God's Beloved, the one Jesus loves, and he delights in you just as you are. No pretending needed.

Motherhood does not make a woman more godly. See this recent post. We can be fully grounded in a theology that tells us we are complete, single or married, mothers or not. This is the Jesus way, most certainly. But some, if not many of us, will still grieve the loss of the life-giving function our Creator gave to his daughters. This is well and good, honest and necessary, and I live in this tension with gratefulness for a Savior who sees me as whole and longs to provide a place of healing in his community. I pray that the Church would be, would become, this place—especially as one in five women now find themselves childless.

A few more resources for churches: Loving the child-free people in your church and Dear Church: "What is a woman if she is not a mother?"

Reclaiming Eve, Out and About

4ffbcc84288edb2d21fa286abee22687A few weeks ago in church, I started chatting with a man named Mike.

"I'm reading your book," he said. (Anytime a brother says this, I want to stand up and shout.)

Smiling, I asked him what he thought.

"At first I wasn't sure what to think," he said. "But then I started reading it. And I thought, this really is what Jesus makes possible. But mostly, I just love the stories. I keep reading to find the stories." 

***

Today someone asked me what it feels like to be a published author, and I said "Mostly the same. Except that there is opposition and there is also support, and you just have to do what God is calling you to do." Would I do it all over again, if I knew how hard it would be to get published and to speak into this big conversation the Church desperately needs to have on reclaiming women for the Kingdom?

I would. I would, because one by one, I hear stories of women from Africa to Indiana being set free. Of brothers reading and discussing and supporting their sisters. Of the freedom Jesus came to bring ringing out, a little bit here, a little bit there.

May the freedom song continue, echoing, so that the whole world hears. 

***

Reclaiming Eve, Out and About

Linked:

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Video:

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  • Coming soon: I'm doing a Fullfill webinar with Elisa Morgan on May 21 at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT. Sign up here. Especially helpful for those who want to lead a Reclaiming Eve discussion or study.
  • Preorder now: Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD (Available in July) at beaconhillbooks.com and other online outlets.

Join the #ReclaimingEve conversation on facebook or twitter.

In Reclaiming Eve, you’ll find solid biblical thinking to help you shake off false mythology about womanhood and grab hold of much-needed freedom to embrace your destiny as God’s woman. Pick up this book, throw off the ‘old’ and live out your influence! -Elisa Morgan, Speaker, Author, She Did What She Could and The Beauty of BrokenPublisher, FullFillwww.fullfill.org 

A Good Friday meditation: give me the human Jesus

IMG_1813I am so tired of sanitized Jesus.

The divinity that often eclipses his humanity

The one with no dirt under his fingernails

no callouses on his worn-out, sandaled feet 

with no pain in his voice;

as we skip from the betrayal to forgiveness (of course he'll forgive!)

a mite too quickly

without glimpsing the sorrow on his face,

without dwelling on the shame of his nakedness

the mocking jeers, the lots cast, the tear of flesh

as the Cross hung him out to dry.

Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me!

Nevertheless, not mine, but your will be done.

Take away your movie-star Jesus,

the one with perfect teeth and gorgeous hair,

and give me the man from Galilee

who built tables with his hands

and liked the least, the lost and the left-out most of all;

whose robe touched the unclean woman

but instead of uncleanness flowing out from her

his wholeness flowed into her.

Give me the Jesus who weeps when his friend dies

and eats fish for breakfast on the shore, as it sticks between his teeth;

the one who has physical needs his friends meet.

This Jesus.

This 33-year-old man with longings and sorrow and joy.

And for heaven's sake, when you give me Jesus,

help me never, never to forget his bloody Cross.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:6-11

The video to watch on women in God's Kingdom

Join Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne as they interview Mimi Haddad, the president of Christians for Biblical Equality. (Please note that my posting this video does not mean I endorse all the views of those represented here or that I am asking you to do so. I am, however, inviting you to be challenged through this important conversation.)

This 30-min. interview will lead you back to Scripture to think carefully about God's intentions for men and women. Highlights:  • "To love God's Word is to believe that I am gifted and that I can lead, that my voice is equal with a man's voice." -Charity • An open discussion of the problem passage 1 Timothy 2:11-12 • Favorite Tony Campolo quotes: "If women are sent as foreign missionaries, then..." & "I'm foaming at the mouth..." (The humor is thrown in for free. Don't forget to join the conversation below.)

Do you agree or disagree with the conclusions presented in the interview? What will it take for  the Church to move forward in mobilizing women to lead as they are gifted, freely sharing the gospel in word and deed?

Check out the book #ReclaimingEve: “This is a watershed book that should have been written many years ago. But it is here today!  It is God’s call today to His Church for men and women in bringing the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven. This book is an ‘Unleashing Moment’ for the Church of the 21stCentury.” -Jo Anne Lyon, 
General Superintendent, 
The Wesleyan Church

Friday meditation + Reclaiming Eve, Out and About

imageWhat is Jesus primarily saying to his daughters? Or put another way, the question repeats: What would you tell the woman who is discouraged by her present circumstances? 

The one facing a dead end. The many wondering how to fully contribute the gifts the Holy Spirit placed in them. Those who may be silenced.

I am not sure that my answer ever completely satisfies; I fear some are looking for the perfect solution.

I have no immediate solution that works for all, though I pray for one. But I do have a Savior.

###

I tell them they are the Beloved, the One Jesus loves, and that he delights in them.

I say, remember Jesus, dunked down in the waters of the Jordan, coming up again, only to be covered over with Belovedness, the Spirit alighting, the voice saying:

"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

Did you know that God loves you this much? That he seeks out the desperate, downtrodden and discouraged and offers them his delight and pleasure? How can I convince you that you are defined by God's intentions—his great, glorious intentions for each of his daughters, and not by your current circumstances?

How can I convince myself?

###

Jesus' words ring true for all of us, all of us who are stretching, reaching out to touch his hem, hoping that just a touch will heal.

Who touched me? he says.

We fall at his feet, trembling in fear, and confess the truth.

And he says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

But there is more than simple healing here. The unclean woman (Mark 5:25-34) went from exclusion (do you feel this, too?) to complete inclusion (a daughter given a place).

Keep reaching for his hem. Keep meeting with him as his Beloved. Watch him heal you and know that no matter what anyone else says, Jesus has already set his daughters free.

Watch the two-minute video on how Jesus frees The Unclean Woman here.

***

Reclaiming Eve, Out and About

Linked:

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Broadcast:

  • TheWritingShow.com, hosted by Ann Byle and Dawn Jones, on the challenges and writing of Reclaiming Eve. Listen here.
  • WKTO Florida - Enjoyed a conversation with Carol Henry and prayer for God's daughters to be set free.

Video:

Join the #ReclaimingEve conversation on facebook or twitter.