Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: March 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Questions for Refletion - Submission Part 5

These are some questions Katie has for reflection at the end of the chapter that I thought you might like to think about. If they are useful, great, if they are not, that's okay too. Take them and use them for what you will.
  • The False Self is where we find our identity in anything apart from Christ. Some examples of things we can find our identity in are: beauty, riches, intelligence, success, fame/popularity, sexual prowess, athletic ability, servanthood, sainthood, etc. What are some of the things that have defined you in your False Self? What are some of the positive qualities of these things? Where are the shadow sides of these things?
  • Who has access to your Wounded Self? In other words, who can easily shame you, making you feel small, bad, or somehow unworthy?
  • What does your Wounded Self tell you about yourself? "I am... unworthy, ugly, unacceptable, unloved, alone, stupid, unlovable, bad, worthless, unwanted, unimportant, etc."
  • What are some of the redeemed qualities of the characteristics of your False Self? For example, a person who finds his/her identity in being right, will likely hurt people by speaking the truth without love. What would that characteristic look like from the Imago Dei?
  • When do you feel most at peace with yourself? When are you the most centered in your Imago Dei? What makes you feel alive?

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Relating out of the Imago Dei - Submission Part 4

For the last few days, I have been thinking over a lot of things, many of which, affect greatly this conversation we have been having on what submission means in relationships. When God told us to submit one to another, he wanted us live under his headship. Only there can such submission be healthy and good, when it is aligned with Christ. To do that, we need to live out of our Imago Deis, the images of God within ourselves, when in relationship with one another. This is our topic for today.

This is a diagram I took from Katie's book, Living in the Intersection, which will aid us in understanding the different ways we can relate to another out of our Imago Dei.

The first way of relating is from our Imago Dei to someone's false self, their hard candy coated shell. Of this relationship, Katie tells us, "By speaking the truth in love, Christ can be dangerous to another's False Self. Jesus does not placate or stroke the False Self, but rather challenges it with the truth of who one is called to be. That is a picture of what exhortation means. To exhort someone is to call them to a higher place, to challenge one to excellence. Exhortation is a gift of the Spirit. One cannot truly exhort another apart from the Spirit." This exhortation is spoken in love. After all, grace must come before truth. It is much easier to listen to correction if you know the person correcting you is doing it out of love and care for you as a person. Such speaking is only done out of God's movement, never out of a need to be heard.

If the other person is operating out of their wounded self, we will be a safe person for them. God, and in turn us, never adds to a person's shame, only diminishes it. Katie says, "When we flow from a Christ center, we will have a healing effect on people when they share their sin and shame." We are called to be the light in dark places, accepting and compassionate, bearing the truth that no sin or shame diminishes a person's worth. We are to remember, we all struggle with sin, none of us is more holy than another. There is no judgement in love, only grace and truth. After all, God loves each of us in a special way and he wants us to learn to see each other through his eyes, to be able to see their Imago Dei. Though we all have wounded selves to work through, we are all truly and deeply beautiful. The more closely we are connected with God, the easier it is to live out of his grace for ourselves and to live it out with others.

Even if another has bad boundaries and is operating out of their false or wounded self, we can always live out of our Imago Deis no matter how the other person chooses to behave. That is our gift from Christ, not being bound by the behavior of another, being free to choose for ourselves to put love and truth first in our lives.

When speaking of true intimacy, Imago Dei to Imago Dei, Katie relates to us, "True intimacy is to know and be known in our innermost self. It is when a person flows out of the Imago Dei and touches the Christ center in another.... Out of that place we take joy in one another, we delight in one another." Larry Crabb puts it as touching the "Christ in you out of the Christ in me." It is out of this place we can truly love and support one another, encouraging and lifting each other up as Christ would have us do. God meant for us to be living out of him/her when Paul says for us to submit to one another as to Christ. If we are both living out of our Imago Dei, out of our peanut, then we can be unified in spirit.

Knowing and living out of our Imago Dei in relationship to God, ourselves, others, and the earth is the whole goal of what I am writing about. In the coming days I will be talking about the drama triangle and the lion/lamb metaphor. The reason both of these are a problem (as I will explain) is when we are caught up in it or unbalanced, we are not living out the image of God within us.

I cannot understate the importance of learning to live out of our Imago Dei and learning to see the Imago Dei in others. When someone hurts us or causes us pain, it is so important to remember they too, are the image of God and we need to learn to see and love that, who they truly are, instead of getting caught up in the wounded or false self. Jesus did that. We are called to do the same. We are not to slander them, say hurtful things behind their backs. Christian or not it doesn't matter- we are to treat everyone, no matter who they are, with deep respect and love just as we would treat Jesus for that is exactly who we are seeing. Even if they've hurt us, even if they are still hurting us. We do not have to let them walk over us, (have good boundaries!) but we can still love them. I know for myself if others had not lived out of their Imago Deis and loved me and spoke truth to me when I was living out of my false and wounded selves, I would still have truck loads of shame and "chocolate" in my life. By living out the image of God, we can touch lives in ways we will never comprehend the full depth of. We can be the hands and grace of God to one another. It's a beautiful thing.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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"You Can't Take it With You"

I have been rather remiss in posting my photography. Here is the last dressing room session I did at the theatre. Several people in this play were my friends so I enjoyed having an excuse to take their pictures.

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A Day at the Beach

The Friday before spring break, neither Julie or I got substituing jobs so along with her brother, we all packed a lunch and headed over to the beach. We took a long walk, had our picnic lunch, and took a nap in the sand under the warm sun. It was a beautiful day. As Julie and her brother, Scott, both love taking pictures too, I got some of me! I love having my picture taken, I think it's fun. Julie and I get along really well that way. It was hiking trips with her that originally got me into photography to begin with so she understands my frequent stops along the trail. :) Enjoy! (As always, you can click on the photo to view a larger version.)

"Toby's Day"

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spirit Water Publications Website

For those of you who may not know, I have a website for my books and photography. If you are interested in taking a look at them or at all the newsletters (what I did before the blog), go to www.SpiritWaterPublications.com.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Peanut M&Ms in Relationship - Submission Part 3

You know how you can never eat just one peanut m&m? And do you also know how most peanut shells have two peanuts in them? We, as peanut m&ms, were created to be in relationship with one another. Katie Skurja writes about the Imago Dei peanut, "In this model, I am suggesting that the Imago Dei is the way we were designed to live in a triune relationship, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in relationship to one another. The image of God, or Imago Dei, within us is how we were created for relationship with God, others, and self....There is an inter-connectedness and mutuality among the three and a two-way flow between any two persons of the relationship."

Just as there is a mutuality and sharing among the trinity, so is there to be a mutuality and sharing between us, respect and love. We are to treat each other as we would Christ as Christ is in every person for indeed, he is! And this Imago Dei is in every person no matter who they are or where they have come from. Katie explains, "The Imago Dei is at the core of all people, regardless of how much they seem to be in the light or not, though not all live out of their Imago Dei. All people can be used to reveal aspects of who God is, both believers and non-believers alike. The very people we consider to be our enemies can reflect aspects of God that we do not see with our natural eyes.... Some believe that the Imago Dei was destroyed by the Fall and that it is only in being 'born again' that it is restored. This viewpoint sets one up for judgement of others and promotes the 'I/it' or 'us/them' attitude. Jesus himself told us that what we do unto others we do unto him (Matthew 25:40). If we adhere to the idea that only Christians have an Imago Dei, then we will have a tendency to look at others for what they are not rather than who they are. We will not see how they might have something to offer us. This judgement is often not only toward those outside the Church, but also within."

If we truly do believe scripture when it says all people were created in the image of God, then we need to love every person on this earth, past, present, and future, no matter how much chocolate their peanut is covered up with, including ourselves. Each person is a unique expression of God and we need to look for the good and the light inside them. Even if they have a hard time seeing past their own chocolate and their shame, as we live out of our own Imago Deis, we can help them see theirs. We can hold up a divine mirror and help others see the treasured gem of God they are. I will be the first to admit this can be easier at times more than others but I also know it is always rewarding, even if not easy. But we are called to share God's love and how can we do that if we do not try to see through his eyes?

Between the candy coated shell, our chocolate, and our peanuts, there are many ways to relate to each other. The "safe relationship" is when we interact with our candy coated shells firmly in place, our "false selves" wearing the masks of who we want to present to the world. The false self wants to maintain the status quo, protect itself, and not have anyone ever see their chocolate. However, by living out of the false self, God's image is rarely ever seen. We all have such relationships in our lives, some churches are full of them. We aren't real with each other, either with our shame or who God created us to be. Of the false self, Katie says, "The mantra of shallow False-Self relationships is "don't rock the boat." We may even pride ourselves on how tolerant we can be in accepting other people's differences, yet we are blind to who the person really is at the core. Looking we do not see, listening we do not hear." She goes on to tell us, "Our False-Self is not capable of Agape love, or Christ-like love. It can do loving things, but not love in the way that God loves. The harsh truth is that whenever we look at someone with contempt or hatred, we are not operating out of the Imago Dei.... We can only know ourselves or others to the degree that we function out of the Imago Dei within us."

When explaining how the false self operates in closer relationships, Katie tells us, "The more intimate our relationships, the more our False Self begins to break down in that relationship. Unfortunately, that does not necessarily mean that we operate our of the Imago Dei. On the contrary, it is where we can often be the most dangerous because we no longer show the pretenses of the False Self. This "honor" we usually reserve for those we presume to love the most. Those closest to us will have opportunity to see the places where the chocolate is leaking out from underneath our False Self."

When two people operate out of their chocolate, our "wounded selves", it's like two people with sunburns bumping up against each other. No matter where they touch, it's going to hurt. This can be a very dangerous and explosive type of relationship. Their issues are at the forefront, everything said touches on a much deeper issue. For example one spouse might say to another over some dishes left in the sink, "You never help clean up around here!" That is the wounded self. Another example is when a child spills a glass of milk at dinner and the parent beats them in a back room as punishment. That is the wounded self too. This is not the true self God created us to be but it is the self many of us operate out of.

Another dangerous relationship is when one person is living out of their false self and the other out of the wounded self. This often happens when there is a power differential in a relationship, when it is a one-up and one-down way of relating. Katie explains, "The greater the power differential, the greater the likelihood that the relationship will be dangerous. Power itself is not good or bad. It is neutral, but can be used for good or evil. In linear relationships, power will invariably be used for self-serving purposes. In this type of False-Self-to-Wounded-Self relationship one may be a burn victim, but the other is a porcupine, forever shooting it's dangerous quills. Abusive relationships operate in this manner, whether the quills come from the tongue, the fist, attitudes, or behaviours. The person in the one-up position projects his/her shame onto the person in the one-down position as a means of self-preservation."

Here is a diagram illustrating the different types of relationships we've just discussed. (Click on picture for larger image.)

Tomorrow I will talk about living out of our Imago Deis in relationship with one another. For now, think about movies you've seen or people you know and come up with examples of people living out of their false-self, wounded-self, and their Imago Dei. What does it look like when these people interact? When have you seen yourself living out of each of these areas? What were those experiences like? Share your answers with God or write a comment below. (God reads this blog too.)

*Quotes and diagram taken from Living in the Intersection by Catherine Skurja. Used with permission.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Peanut M&M - Submission Part 2

Today we're going to start with dessert. Namely, peanut m&ms. Amazingly enough, they will explain why I believe everyone, no matter what their beliefs, has God's presence within them. (Let's pause here as I thank God for letting me live in a time when I would not be burned at the stake for saying this, though Deanna says I would be persecuted no matter when I lived for one reason or another because I "keep running my mouth".)

For those who don't know what peanut m&ms are, picture a peanut covered in chocolate with a hard candy colored shell.

The peanut inside the m&m is the unique image of God we have inside each of us, the reflection of him, his spirit inside us. He made us each in his image and no matter who we are, we all have that core of divinity, of eternity, glowing inside us. It is a light of priceless worth. It is who we truly are.

The chocolate covering the peanut is all the crap and shame in our lives, it's those nasty places we don't like showing to others, the hard things to admit, to talk about, to be open with. It's the things about us and about our past we are ashamed of and want to hide away. It's the sludge we swim in, our unhealthy places full of the things we haven't worked through.

The hard candy shell is the mask we put over ourselves to hide our shame. It's the smile that doesn't light up or eyes, the scowl, the anger, the pretend face. It's who we present to the world so they don't know what is going on under the surface. Different people choose different masks, different shells, even religiosity can be a shell.

Everyone has all three things in our lives: the peanut, the chocolate, and the shell. We are each a peanut m&m.
So why is this important? Picture someone with a hard candy shell, someone you know who has such a thick exterior, it's hard to get to know them. Or picture someone you know who has a reaction to something disproportional to the question or issue brought up. Perhaps it's a topic they get particularly angry about, or you ask a simple question and they get really mad or go hide away. Now picture someone who you can clearly see God's image in. The first person, the one with the thick exterior is hard to get to know, hard to really talk to. The one with the disproportional response is also hard to be in relationship with as you never know what will set them off. The third though, the one in whom you can see God's image, is someone you can trust, someone who brings delight to life.

Here are illustrations for each person on how their peanut m&m might look.
Hard to get to know:

Disproportional reactions:

In this case, you touch a crack in their shell and get their "chocolate".
In this one, the person is all nerves, they don't have much protective shell at all and are thus, very sensitive.
Easy to see God within them:

In my own life, my candy hard shell was my silence. As the shame and crap in my life grew, I became quiet and retreated. I stopped putting myself out there and taking risks. As I've worked through my chocolate and shell, my voice got louder, stronger, and I accepted the power I have inherent within me. I learned and am definitely still learning to live out of my peanut. One of my chocolate pieces, a reaction I did not expect to be as angry as it was, was when this issue of submission came up. Knowing how powerful working through some of my other chocolate has been, I want to face this dark matter and find the peanut, the image of God underneath.

This is the challenge for each of us: to work through our shell and chocolate so we can live out of our peanuts. Be patient with yourself and others as they do this. Everyone has their own pace, everyone has their own path they must take. For example, the shell should be dismantled piece by piece, it has been a protection up to this point. If too much comes off at once, it leaves raw nerves and exposed vulnerability way too soon before the person can handle working through their shame. The chocolate needs gentle yet firm hands to help sort through things with the acknowledgement that none of the chocolate is God's truth. However, God takes the chocolate and makes it into something beautiful and pure but we have to turn over the chocolate into his loving hands first. We have to be willing to face it head on, to take a steady look, acknowledge our chocolate before we can work through it. You have to let the chocolate go. The chocolate is not your Imago Dei (Latin for Image of God). The shell and chocolate is not who you are. Your peanut is who you are. Your peanut is the person God made you to be. Live out of your peanut. After all, God loves nuts.

This is a song I love that speaks to so many of these truths:

(Thanks to Deanna who sacrificed several of her peanut m&ms to be pictured for this post.)

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Submission and the Imago Dei - Part 1

I have always found it ironic I am the go-to person for dating advice. Yes, ask the one who is not in a relationship advice on how to make one better. Over a year ago, when writing our church's Faith and Practice, Peggy and Mike assigned to me the section on "Care of Marriages". I protested, reminding them I was not married and they both were. They both replied, "Exactly. That is why you are the person to write it, you have an objective perspective." So, keeping in mind the section on marriage already written and what our committee discussed, I voiced in words the heart of our church on caring for marriages.

This is the marriage section I looked at and really like:
"Freedom Friends Church recognizes and supports marriage. We do not believe that there is more merit in a married life than in unmarried life, but we recognize the stability and blessing that marriage may bring into our lives. We are inclusive in our marriage practices, believing that any two adults can make a spirit-led, long-term commitment based on love before God and the community. We believe that the two people give themselves to each other, and that the community, including the pastor, is witness to, not makers of, this sacred event.

We believe in equality in marriage, and that married life is based on mutual respect, love, friendship, and devotion. We believe that marriage is an equal partnership, and we promote marriages that are free from violence and abuse of any kind. As with all things, we seek the will of the Spirit in our marital relations. We wish to support all marriages in our midst: those that are made in our presence, as well as those that arrive already made."

This is what I wrote:
"We believe marriage needs to be cared for and supported by both the individuals who make and sustain the commitment, and by the faith community surrounding them. We hold the marriages among us in love and respect, believing the couples themselves knows what they need. We will not step in to intervene in a marriage unless asked by the couple or under dire circumstances such as abuse or addiction. When care has been requested, Ministry and Oversight will provide prayer, referrals for counseling, and guidance in a confidential and honoring manner."

Having an objective perspective, it is easy to see things and tell it like it is. That is one of the best qualities about a spiritual director: having someone who is objective yet cares about you to talk with and to voice your questions in front of when struggling with God. Whether it is dating or in faith, and in actuality, you can't really separate the two, I have loved being this objective party who gets to stand with someone in matters close to the heart and journey alongside them.

But lately, God has been poking at my objectivity and I have come to realize there is an area of relationships I really struggle with. Through conversations with friends, family, and what we are studying in Ecclesia, the idea of submission has kept coming up. It is like the old adage, "When a student is ready to learn, God provides the teacher." (My paraphrase.) Being well aware this struggle of mine could get in the way of my ministry and distort how I can listen with my directees to God, not to mention my own relationships with God and others, I want to do a series on this topic here on my blog. I know it will help me work through this issue and from past experience, I know it's the honest and personal posts that have spoken to you the most as well. So we are going to open up this dark closet I haven't liked to look at and explore it together. Together, we'll clear the air.

Much of what I have already learned about this topic I have learned from Katie Skurja of Imago Dei Ministries in Portland, Oregon. I have taken her workshops on these topics and talked with her a lot about them and will be quoting her as well as using some of her diagrams in upcoming posts. If you are interested in learning more about what I talk about, she and her ministry team are holding a workshop during the day on Friday and Saturday, April 30th-May 1st which I would HIGHLY recommend. I am excited to go myself, it's been several years since I've gone and I'm looking forward to hearing the truths she teaches. This summary is taken from their brochure on the workshop:

"We will explore the Trinity Model to gain deeper understanding of what it means to have freedom in Christ. The Trinity Model principles are a means for facilitating revelation and healing for the whole person - Spirit, Soul and Body—that we might follow the path of Christ and live “as though God were making his appeal through us” (II Cor. 5:20)

The workshop is first of all for personal application. We believe that experience is the best teacher, therefore we will be actively applying aspects of the model during the workshop. The principles you will learn have broad applications for your own life and relationships, as well as discipleship, prayer ministry, education and any other facet of ministry you may be involved in. We highly recommend that you attend both days of the workshop to gain the most benefit from the teaching and experiential sections.

The Imago Dei Ministries team has a passion to see the Body of Christ living the abundant life God gives us as we learn to abide in right relationship with God, self, and others. You are welcome to join us!"

You can find more information on their website.

Before we get into submission, though, there are some building blocks I would like to put in place to help us get there, some groundwork we need to cover to help us understand what submission means, not to mention they are important things to look at in themselves. These teachings are one of the cores of what has helped me heal in my life the most so I am looking forward to sharing them with all of you. They are the truths I live out of. I would love to hear your questions and comments as we have this conversation and will include my responses in what I post. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Mystical Stream

Mystics: They are those who look at the blue sky and see the stars, those who reach for the heavens and grasp a hand, who talk to God and expect to hear His voice.

I wrote these words when trying to describe what mysticism is like. Many people hear that word and think of images filled with new age crystals, incense, and repeated mantras called out in a ritual. It is hard for them to imagine that mysticism could have anything to do with Christianity. But there is a rich and long tradition of Christian mysticism and it is a tradition I am proud to call my own. Wikipedia puts it this way, "Christian mysticism is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight." If there is one Christian label I would be happy to carry it is being a mystic. The first time someone called me that, I had to go look up what it meant in a dictionary and I liked what it said but there was much I missed. I had no idea of all the mystics who had gone before me or the ones who are around me today. But they are there, talking to God, seeing him, relating to Him. I heard about them at seminary, read their works, studied them, learned from them, found mentors across time. People like John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Brother Lawrence, among many others have taught me to listen better to the mystic music I hear and to delight in God's notes.

If you've read The Shack, and I believe many of you have as it's still #3 on the New York Times Trade Paperback best seller list, then you have read a good example of mysticism. It's looking at the world and seeing what is not seen, the light, God's presence, hearing his voice. It's looking at the shack and seeing a cabin in the woods where we spend time with God. It's knowing he's there and reaching for his hand. There are many types of mystics and many ways to relate to God. My strongest experiences have been when God comes to me in my dreams or a vision he gives me. I sometimes close my eyes and go to our special places when I need a good talk and I hear God respond, and God comes to me in many forms.

Mysticism is one way of relating to God among many, it's a tradition, a stream, beautiful among many other streams. Some people have these experiences and don't know what they are, or they think they have stepped into something heretical. But I want these people to know mysticism is a delight between God and the soul and that God enjoys giving such gifts. You are not alone. Read books on Christian mysticism, there are many. Many mystics have written about their experiences. Talking with a spiritual director familiar and supportive of the tradition is also very helpful. Most importantly, open your inward eyes, your heart, and talk to God. He'll answer.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Letting Go - Hope with Open Hands

So, I now have someone else checking this blog on a very regular basis who has started pointing out to me whenever I don't have a recent post. I'm pretty sure this is good for me but you never know what will show up on here. They will soon learn this. :o) Still, thank you for giving me a good gentle kick when I need it and I have needed it. I'm sure there are many who read this blog who would like to thank you for giving me that constant push as well.

For the last few days as I have flipped through my closet, I have seen many things I could be parting with pretty easily. For someone who doesn't like clutter, there are some material things in my life I have a hard time getting rid of. Though this has become much easier for me in recent years, I have still held onto some things to remember where I've been; it's like focusing on the stars in the night. A mentor once told me years ago that as I work through the past, I will have hope for the future. These were such true and wise words and I have applied them to so many aspects of my life. Today I applied them to clothes.

You see, it can be really hard for me to let things go when they remind me of positive moments and treasured times. But I have come to think that if we keep accumulating these trinkets, they will cause us to look back at the good times we've had so often, we will forget there are good times ahead. We will start focusing on the past and forget to live in the present. One of the things I have been learning is to let the past live in the past, that I can simply say goodbye and turn the corner, let it go and leave it behind. Now, you cannot say goodbye to something you do not know but once you have fully faced what you fear and dealt with it, you walk through the fear and leave it behind. This is not to say there aren't things that will come up again from your past that you need to deal with, but that it no longer has any hold over you. All your past can put in your way is fear and that is a choice up to you. In the midst of the fear, we hold onto things we think will anchor us but in the end, they are just things we never look at and never use. They need to go. If they go, if we stop holding onto them, we will realize there is nothing to be afraid of, that there was no reason to hold onto them in the first place. What is more, what we were holding onto was keeping us from receiving what God is always holding out for us: a joyful present and a hopeful future.

I've always wanted a closet of clothes that has a fraction of what has been hanging there because after all, a fraction is what I actually wear, and gradually, I've been getting rid of things. I tend to keep clothes and wear them until I shouldn't and then hold onto them for a "little" longer for the memories. But today, I decided to really do it. While deciding what to wear, I started taking things out and being harder on myself about this than I've ever been. I feel like I've peeled off a major onion layer on letting things go. I now have a huge pile of clothes to bag up and deliver to a charity. (Any suggestions?) I am sure there is quite a bit more I could get rid of so I will be going through it all again but I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself for doing it. And, just like that classic wisdom says that can be so hard to put into practice, I feel so much lighter for having done it. Now I'm looking around and thinking of what else I could get rid of that made it through my last round of cleaning out. So much of our lives in the American culture is taken up with managing our material goods. What if we had less? What could we devote that time to instead? For my part, I would much rather be out with people I care about, having fun, talking, hanging out, just being together. I would rather devote my time to people instead of things, they are by far, longer lasting.

My younger sister is fantastic at this. She doesn't keep things for emotional reasons. It's not her "mode of operation" and I admire her for this. Her apartment is home yet simple and I like that. I want to have that quality marking my own life. After getting back from visiting her in Milwaukee last year, I went on a cleaning binge but I am far more ready to let the past go and look toward the future than I have ever been before. I think she may be proud of me. (After she shakes her head in wonderment of why it has taken me so long to get this.)

There are things I will always treasure and want to keep: my Samantha doll and her things, my baby trunk, rocking chair, and doll cradle, my mother's wedding dress, and the dress I wore in her second wedding at age four, these are treasures of mine. I also kept a shirt and fleece that belonged to my grandfather in the care home. When he died, my mother and grandmother gave these to me so I could have something physical to wrap up in and remember him with. But aside from things like these, I find each time I am willing to get rid of a layer, another layer is far easier to let go of. And each part of me that is made new, I can leave behind the old. It feels really good!

Here's cheers to the new day and a lighter closet.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Women in Ministry

Sitting in front of me were thirteen women, most of them African, expectantly looking at me to tell them about women in ministry. They were strong women with gifts and talents, a desire to serve, and living in a culture that generally speaking, does not give them many rights of their own. One of the things going for them is we were all part of the Quaker church, one of the few streams of faith that has had women in ministry since the very beginning, straight back to George Fox and Margaret Fell. It is one of the many qualities of Quakerism that attracted me the most- that women are acknowledged to be as highly functioning as men and they have the ability to fulfill any role they are called and equipped for, a decision based on God and not man. Being a part of the Quaker church, I sometimes forget how women in ministry is still a topic not widely accepted, not only in Africa, but here in America too. Many people still think women should not minister to men and other women, that we are not equal to their gifts and abilities. There are many, including women, who believe our place is the silent role. Well, for those who know me, you know I am not the silent type so today I am going to tell you what I told those African women (and then some) because I realize it needs to be heard in this quarter of the world as well as theirs.

I would first like to address what Paul says in the Bible. In researching for this post, I found an article on Bible.com, that you can read here, which puts really well my thoughts on Paul.

"With all this in mind, what then do we make of the troubling verses that command women to be silent in the churches? First of all, we must interpret those verses in light of what we have just established--that there were women in leadership positions of the church. Obviously, Paul is not writing to them. He is must be addressing another issue entirely--the women who were loud and unruly during the service, causing disorder and confusion.

When he wrote the Corinthians, he was dealing with a church that was very disorderly in their services. Much of the letter was spent correcting excesses and abuses. Some of these pertained to women in particular and some were to the entire church. Paul is not being prejudiced against women when he instructs the Corinthian women to keep silence. In the early church the seating arrangement was quite different from our modern day churches. Men were seated on one side of the church while the women and children were seated on the opposite side. This is still practiced in many cultures today.

The women of Christ's day were generally uneducated and usually only the men were privileged with an education. Due to this situation, when the church met the women were tempted to shout across the room and ask their husbands the meaning of whatever was being taught. This disturbed the service. Paul was simply saying during the service, "Women, keep your children quiet and you be quiet, and if you have anything to ask your husbands, wait until you get home." Because of the new equality that Christianity brought to women, it could be that some of them were taking their freedom too far, to the point of being obnoxious.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he gave him a similar directive. Again, it is important to understand the context in which the letter was written. In I Timothy, a careful reader becomes aware that many severe heresies and false teachings that were being dealt with. We can draw a conclusion here that many of the proponents and victims of the false teachings were women. Timothy pastored in Ephesus, and it has been suggested that goddess worship might have played a large part in Paul dealing so severely with the women. Ephesus was a primary center of the worship of Diana or Artemis. The heresies being taught might have suggested that women were authoritative over men and had higher access to spiritual knowledge than men did.
Regardless of the particulars, in both cases we can see that Paul is dealing with specific incidents in specific churches for very particular reasons.

We must understand that many of Paul's epistles dealt with local problems and his commandments are not meant to be taken as "commandments" across the board for all situations. Rather, we are to seek the Lord for the basic principal that needs to be incorporated in our churches. Because of Old Testament precedents that had already been set, apparently it never occurred to Paul to re-establish the case for women in ministry. Why would he need to? The early church took it as a matter of course that Jesus would call and ordain anyone He chose--and that settled it! As a matter of fact, the Bible mentions a prophetess who was in the Temple when Jesus was brought there as a baby. Her name was Anna (Luke 2:25-35), and she was one of two people who recognized Jesus as the Messiah because of her sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Paul's writings are sometimes misunderstood today because we do not know all the details that led him to write as he did. We must rely on the Holy Spirit, and the rest of the testimony of Scripture to interpret how we are to apply these things to our everyday lives. Scripture should always be compared with other Scripture and the context taken into consideration. Even in Paul's day, there were those who tried to twist the meaning his words."

In my words, "Paul is not God". We shouldn't take what he says, ignore the cultural context, and apply it across the board in our own interpretation of what he meant. Paul praised many women for speaking and ministering in the church. One of the first classes I took at seminary was "Women in Church History" and believe me, there are many. Why would God create all of humankind and then only let half of that group tell each other about him? Men have no special ordination above women. We are ALL created equal in the sight of God and God ordains whoever he will. Who is man and women to question what God has decided? Standing in that room in Kenya, I told passionately told them that God has given them gifts and that we are responsible to use those gifts. No matter what those gifts are, we are to wield them in power, justice, and love. God has spoken and we, no matter what gender, are to listen to God and not humans. God is to come first and even if the people around us say not to, if God says to do it, then we are under Divine orders to express and use our gifts and talents. God does not discriminate along lines of gender, neither should we. Those women in Africa have strong voices. I told them one can be silenced, and two can be silenced, but by standing beside one another and speaking out, they cannot be silenced.

During our question and answer period, one of the women asked a very relevant question. "What do you do about marriage?" I told them, along with Eden Grace's and Pastor Jane's added voices, that when you think about marriage, make sure the man you marry is in full support and encouragement of you in ministry, that he will partner with you and honor you as a minister of God. It is better to stay single and obeying God than married with someone non supportive of your call. But we assured them, with examples they knew of, that there were men out there who would support and help them, stand by them, and honor what God gave them.

I go to a Quaker church led by women, our pastor is a women as well as all our main officers. We did not plan it this way, it is simply who was called to fulfill those places, we make no distinction between men and women when discerning God's call on a life. I also belong to Multwood, a group of strong Quaker women leaders who encourage each other and help each other in our ministries. God gave me the gifts of leadership, speaking, teaching, writing, and spiritual direction. I have led both men and women, taught them, spoken to them, and I know there are a wide variety of people who read what I write. I know there is power in those gifts to change lives and I have been blessed with wide support. How much power have we lost in the lives of other women who were told such gifts amidst others could not from God? How many lives could be touched if we encouraged the women (and men) in our churches that we, like the Quakers teach, are all ministers, all tools God uses to touch and love his creation?

Betty Miller, who wrote the article on Bible.com, goes on to say, "We pray that this teaching will encourage many women, who might otherwise relegate themselves to the "back burner" to instead step forward into the full calling of God upon their lives. Likewise, we pray that men who have been taught against letting women minister will see the truth of the fullness of God's plan. No matter who we are in the Lord, we will be held responsible for how we treated others and how we either hindered or helped the cause of Christ on Earth. Those in leadership especially need to heed this warning with reverent fear. Just because we have believed something our whole life, or because our denomination or culture teaches us so, doesn't mean it is correct. If you have a problem with seeing women in the pulpit, or in any position of leadership, we pray that you will prayerfully seek the Lord with an open heart on this issue."

God made both men and women equal, one is not above the other either in church or in the home, they are different sides to the same equation. God has both male and female attributes, the are enriching and valuable feminine images of God as well as masculine. Both need to be honored, both need to be upheld! We lose so much of who God is and who God could be in our lives when we only uphold masculinity and put femininity in second place. THEY ARE EQUAL!!!

Women and men alike are meant to live out of their truest selves, to the image of God they are in their souls. Everyone has that responsibility and that right. We should welcome that in our midst, encourage one another, listen, and learn from both women and men. God does. She/he upholds us, gifts us, an loves us. We ought to do the same and honor that of God in everyone, male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free. For if we do, we will hear more fully what God is saying and by honoring each other, we honor the one who made us.

I am blessed to be a part of the Quakers, people who honor, mostly, what women have to give. I know not everyone has such an easy battle. I pray the women in Africa took courage in what I said to live out what God has called them to. I pray the women reading this now will do the same just as I pray the men reading this will encourage the women around them in their ministries, help speak out for women's equal place in ministry, and even more so, I pray we all listen and obey God's call, encouraging one another, and that we honor God's image inside each soul, no matter who we are for God loves us and equips us all.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hamentashen Cookie Making

I mentioned the hamentashen cookie making a while back and I've gotten the pictures now so here is what I was talking about.