An update from the Women’s Ministry front:

I’ve been at pastel tables featuring tea cups and doilies, making small talk with church ladies. I’ve gone to women’s “retreats” that were nothing more than glorified teachfests with a side of craft projects, teary testimonies and awkward ice-breaker activities. I’ve been a part of women’s Bible study groups that have been a reader response echo chamber: “What do you think this verse says?”/”I don’t know. What do you think it says?”/”The notes in my study Bible say that the verse means…”

I didn’t really imagine I would ever learn anything much from most of these women’s ministry efforts other than how to buff up the surface of my Christian life. They certainly didn’t factor into my actual discipleship journey. But in search of church friends, I swallowed hard, held my nose, and gave women’s ministry events the ol’ college try. I’ve accepted the reality that I’m an odd duck who likes reading theology, involvement in serving the community, and tends to gather friends who’d rather go deep than have a shiny, doily-covered surface. It was validating for me to discover a few years ago that other women struggled with women’s ministry “norms”, thanks in large part to Amy Simpson’s words, Halee Gray Scott’s spot-on letter,  and Sarah Bessey’s seminal post on the subject.

When we moved to this community three years ago, I hoped to get to know some other believers. I contacted…[Read more]

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Jun

11

2015

Taken By A Trip

As we returned to Chicago after two and a half strange and grueling days that began with a knock on our 6th floor hotel door in Haifa and ended with us staggering out of the airport in a stupor when we finally landed in Chicago, I realized that the trip that perhaps God most wanted me to take occurred during the final four hours.

The journey began with those door-knockers: two young women who were dressed in what I’ll call here a festive manner who told my husband that they were looking for ten shekels (about $2.50-2.75). The pair was very aggressive, trying to push past Bill to get into our room. My husband and I shoved the door closed in their faces and bolted it shut before calling security. The guard eventually located them on another floor of the hotel, going door to door in search of either business, someone to rob or both. After an uneasy and too-brief sleep, we headed to the airport, giving ourselves a couple of hours to drive there and drop the rental car, and allowing the three hours Israel requires for travelers to go through security.

When we arrived, weather delays stalled the flight an additional four hours. We discovered that we’d miss our connecting flight from Newark to Chicago. After the 12-hour flight (keep reading – this is not an SAT math test question in process), we did the zombie wander through the airport in search of some idea of where we could stay for the night. [Read more]

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Jun

11

2015

Bring It To Light

My husband and I left the US for Israel on May 21. In the span of the 10 days we’ve been here, I’ve been following a string of excruciating stories from the Evangelical world that have included the exposure of incest/abuse/coverup happening within America’s favorite Bill Gothard poster family, the Duggars; the tale of legalistic spiritual abuse of a woman who divorced her pedophile husband by the leadership of Village Church, pastored by Acts 29 head Matt Chandler (who did offer an apology this weekend for the clumsy way cases like these have been handled by the church in the past); husband and father of five, pastor Matt Mikela losing his job at his Michigan congregation after someone discovered he’d been caught trolling for sex on a gay hook-up site; and former congressman, Wheaton College grad Dennis Hastert being accused of siphoning funds to pay hush money for years to a former student with whom he had a sexual relationship.

These stories weren’t an aberration. Last week wasn’t a hiccup. Whether it is via recent Pew Research stats or the flow of blogs, books, and conferences describing the general decline in both numbers and influence of the church in society, it all adds up to a whole lot of subtraction, in part at least because the beauty of the love of Jesus has been obscured by sins of sex, power and money by too many of those at the top of org charts in local churches or denominations. [Read more]

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“Without maps and signposts, people search for their inner home in the wrong places: in professional success, material status, institutions, person, pleasure, and on and on. But none of these can be home. We end up spiritual refugees.” – Sue Monk Kidd

I’m blogging through Sue Monk Kidd’s 1990 book on midlife transition, When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction For Life’s Sacred Questions. (Click here for earlier posts in the series.) Chapter 4 is called “Crisis As Opportunity”, which sounds like a business school pep talk. Instead, Kidd situates her observations about midlife in the natural world. Think of the process of transformation by which a larva becomes a cocoon and a cocoon becomes a butterfly. She writes, “…there’s first a movement of separation, then a holding environment where transformation happens, and finally an emergence into a new existence.”

She describes the nature of this transformation via a series of crises in the prophet Jonah’s life. She references Erik Eriksen’s eight stages of life development and notes that it takes crisis, then resolution in order to progress/mature from one stage to the next. Another pressure point that draws us into crisis include an intrusive event like illness, divorce, unemployment or death of a relative or close friend.

In addition, she notes that our own internal world can force us into crisis. “An internal uprising could be as a vague sense of restlessness, some floating disenchantment, a whispering but relentless voice that says, There has to be more than this. Why are you doing what you’re doing?” Internal uprising might also include exhaustion, burnout, addiction or a crisis of faith. [Read more]

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May

16

2015

Blessed Are The Angsters

Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful post called “Missional Angst and Western Church Norms” about the shift in the church away from consumer-driven models of ministry. He noted that some are being called out of existing churches to live their faith in more organic ways (the Radicals), others are choosing to stay put and tweak from within the organization (the Conservatives), and a third group are the Critics.
He describes the latter group this way: “…church consultants, authors, professors, etc.—can be professional church ‘angsters.’ Their blanket criticism against Western cultural norms in established churches can prohibit pastors from loving the people to whom Jesus has called them in the style consistent with their social context. Furthermore, many critics want to still operate within the Western culture norm, but constantly complain about it. They are vocal in criticism, but light on action. They condemn the norm, but won’t actually quit their jobs to live out their proclaimed principles.”

Stetzer is right in calling out these folks. I read blogs written by some of these armchair analysts. I have friends who’ve carried their wounded souls out of the church after getting caught in the crossfire of bad politics, abuse, or lousy teaching. Heck, I’ve been told on occasion that I complain too much about the church. Sometimes I have. But…[Read more]

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