I Went Home.

Many of the Christian women writers, teachers, and preachers I follow have posted this week about John MacArthur’s deplorable behavior at a recent men’s conference. He was asked what two words come to mind when he hears the name “Beth Moore.” He replied, “Go home.”

Beth Moore has been a powerful Bible teacher for 40 years, teaching women since her Southern Baptist Church won’t permit women to teach men. Her reach has extended far beyond the Southern Baptist Church, however, through her books and videos and conferences. She is intelligent, well-read and -studied, dynamic, and one of the best preachers I’ve heard in any pulpit anywhere. Arguably, she is the Billy Graham of female preachers.

And John MacArthur et al quite obviously feel threatened by her influence, because they think it’s funny to publicly mock her. I purposely haven’t watched the video, because I have read it thoroughly described by several respected sources. And because I have heard and experienced similar words from men; some meant well, others used their words carelessly and, perhaps, unaware of their own bias.

For most of three decades, I’ve spent my career in the Church. I showed up day after day, year after year, in one, two, three churches, using my gifts, skills, and creativity in every possible way to express God’s truth to God’s people. Until I finally admitted that I was too tired and too hurt from banging my head on the glass ceiling.

I went home.

But I haven’t given up, and I will not be silent. As long as I have breath in my lungs, I will use whatever platforms I have to speak truth:

God loves me.
God loves and gifts all His people (male and female; white and POC; old and young; rich and poor; straight and LGBTQ+; throughout time and the world over) to share His love.
All God’s people are preachers, though only some use words.

I may never again step foot in a pulpit (though I don’t rule that out), but I will never stop sharing God’s love. I am a God-loving and God-gifted woman. Even from home, you can hear me roar!

For more of the story of my ministry experience, please read this post.

Read these posts from two women I respect:
Cara Meredith
Sarah Bessey

Cover photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

To Unite Creativity to Communion with God

Today’s guest post comes from a precious friend of many years with whom I have spent far too little time face-to-face. In fact, had I not opened an email from a stranger, we might not be friends at all. Some years after Guy and I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, Danielle and Matt followed in our footsteps. As married seminary-educated ministry teams are all too rare, friends and mentors told them we needed to meet and passed on our contact info. We exchanged emails until we all moved from SoCal to NorCal and finally met in person. We are so grateful others thought to introduce us! Three Humphreys babies and a couple of churches later, they are in Oregon while we remain in NorCal and we remain grateful for social media that keeps us connected and praying for this sweet family.

Create Challenge #32: Danielle Humphreys

When I was a kid, I loved to doodle, cut-and-paste paper creations, and would go to school sick so I wouldn’t miss that week’s art project. In third or fourth grade, my teacher looked at a paper mask I made and told me I outdid myself. I glowed in the affirmation of what I loved doing. From FIMO creations to beaded necklaces to decorating homecoming floats in tissue paper, being creative just seems to be in my DNA.

In college and beyond, I grew as a visual artist, squeezing in a few art studio classes with whatever free electives I had as a science major. Sculpture and interactive art that invited engagement, like the swings I hung in the university plaza and the “GO” signs I made and installed along bike paths, or even the paintings dealing with my own biracial identity played on themes of whimsy and the potential for deep commentary and conversation. I would have switched my major to art studio, but let’s just say my parents were already disappointed that I got off the pre-med track.

In college and beyond, I grew in my relationship with Jesus and found that the intersection of faith and art just made sense to me. I was invited to use creativity in worship services and retreats through response stations and by designing the environment. My own participation in creative response stations and taking in the visual environment are ways that help me have a heart connection with God while reflecting on how to live out my faith in everyday life. In an increasingly visual world where so much is communicated and felt through design, image and color, I am almost equally if not more impacted by the visual “message” of a worship service (yes, even the fonts matter!) as I am by the sermon itself. I imagine I am not alone in this reality.

Sometimes, my creativity feels like it has shifted to satisfy more utilitarian needs like cooking, making Halloween costumes for my kids, throwing themed birthday parties, and designing print communications for our church. And while I can lose track of time pouring myself into these things (I once spent an hour carving a watermelon to look like the Death Star), it doesn’t satisfy the desire to go deep; to unite creativity to communion with God, truth, wonder, and wrestling. Where the process itself is like entering another dimension where time slows down, I can hear the whisper of God and sometimes see life more clearly. The most recent experience I had where the process of creating art drew me closer to God was a couple of weeks ago when I helped paint and redesign the high school room at church.dhumphries-1dhumphries-2

 

As a long-time youth pastor/leader, I strongly value involving students in the creative process and invite their ideas and input. Would it be easier to just design and execute the ideas I have in my head by myself? Absolutely. But I have found that the benefit of working on a collaborative art piece far outweighs the messiness of involving others and the balance and simmering down of many ideas. Students especially need the affirmation that their creativity and faith are valuable and beautiful. And so I may gently guide and nudge ideas I’ve been collecting for months on my Pinterest board, but I try to be an adult that says, “YES! That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” because I want to help students not only have a hospitable place that inspires their faith, but I want their creativity to feel at home in the church and see how this might be a way God wired them to connect with their Creator. Working with students on art projects is not only a way to create a mosaic or stage design or mural, but an opportunity for discipleship, encouraging reflection on one’s spiritual journey.dhumphries-3

I love our mural of the Sisters Mountains with its taped off edges and facets, the night sky and sunset. The concept for this wall went through much evolution from my initial offering of building trees out of reclaimed fence boards or using something more temporary like canvas banners. But it’s awesome. And it’s not perfect. Parts could be touched up, and the door still needs to be painted, but many hands and minds came together to create this majestic offering. And while I thoroughly enjoyed working on this mural with others, I didn’t mind when the school year started and our students weren’t able to help as much. I happily added the finishing touches from writing the verse to individually gluing tiny Swarovski crystals into constellations on the night sky, smiling at the idea of someone with eyes to see noticing the unexpected twinkling reflection of light. In my alone times, I cranked up my favorite worship songs and blended colors into a sunset while God blended love through music and paint into me. I thought about the real Sisters Mountains I’d seen earlier this summer; the expanse of the night sky with its starry host declaring the grandeur of God, the same God who created all of it, and who created me, too. I hope that those who use this space, created with a heart of worship, will encounter God’s loving Spirit and hospitality.

dhumphries

 

Danielle is a native Bay Area gal, adjusting to life in Oregon, married to Matt and mom to 3 pint-sized humans. She has a B.A. in Aquatic Biology, an M.A. in Theology (Fuller), and enjoys conversations about church, community, Jesus, and gardening. She is also a lover of good food, music, creativity, and outer space. Her neglected blog is daniellehumphreys.wordpress.com.

Jesus & Women

jesus-womenThis morning Guy and I taught one of our church’s adult classes on the topic of “Jesus & Women.” We talked about 1st century Greek, Roman and Jewish culture in which women were powerless possessions of their male head-of-households. We looked at biblical examples of Jesus’ interaction with women and saw how He respectfully engaged with them and how, in more than one case, He used them to preach and teach and effectively spread the good news. And I told my story, or at least some of it in view of the topic. This is what I shared:

When Guy first mentioned that I had been asked to speak on Jesus & Women, I hesitated. I took a deep breath. I thought, “Ah, here we go again, the woman issue…” Why are we talking about Jesus & Women? I don’t see Jesus & Men on the list… But women.

We talk about Jesus & Women because women have been culturally disrespected, in and out of the Church. We talk about women because the Bible was written in a patriarchal culture. We talk about women because the Bible has been used to endorse disrespect for women and their God-given gifts. We talk about women because Paul wrote some things that the Church has long chosen to read literally, and I believe erroneously, rather than understanding that the patriarchal culture was firmly in Paul’s view. Given that Paul himself recognized and honored gifted female leaders as partners in ministry – Lydia, Priscilla, Junia – I wonder if Paul isn’t shaking his head in heaven at how his comments continue to be misunderstood… And so, if we’re talking about women because women are still a misunderstood segment of God’s beloved, then I wonder if perhaps a man could best present that argument.

We talk about Jesus & Women because, thankfully, Jesus had a radically different, inclusive approach to women, uncommon to His culture. We talk about Jesus & Women because our Creator God made all of us, male and female, in His image; our Savior Jesus died to redeem and restore all of us, male and female; and the Spirit of God indwells and gifts all of us, male and female, equipping us to do every good work He has planned for us since the beginning of time.

And we talk about Jesus & Women because, thankfully, we, at this local church, in this Presbyterian denomination, want to learn from, be shaped by, and emulate the grace and love of Jesus in our dealings with all people. I am grateful. And that gives me the courage to get personal with you. To be vulnerable. To be myself.

I am not a politician. I am a woman, and I believe God has gifted and called me into ministry. Not ministry to children, nor music ministry, nor even women’s ministries – all good, but not my immediate calling. But being a woman who believes God has called her to ministry, and professional ministry, in a non-traditional woman’s role does not make me a politician. I don’t like feeling like I have to defend myself, my gifts, my place in ministry, even my God-given desire to pursue Him and honor Him in the way He has made me to love and serve Him. I’ve never felt excited about being a “token” or a “representative,” even though I have occasionally recognized it as an honor to model for other women that they, too, can serve God in whatever ways He has called them. I have seldom felt any enthusiasm about continuing to break through the jagged edges of glass ceiling women in ministry before me have shattered. I don’t want to be defensive, and I don’t want to be angry. And yet I recognize the injustice that I and other women have endured as we seek to be true to God and His calling on our lives. Hence my hesitation.

But let me talk about Jesus and me, Jesus and this particular woman standing in front of you. I have known that Jesus loves me as long as I have had the ability to think. My mom told me that, before she knew she was pregnant with me, she felt like God asked her if she would like a baby. She said, “Whatever you want, Lord.” He replied, “You will have a daughter.” So when two doctors told her she would have a boy based on how she carried her pregnancy (pre-ultrasound, of course), she said no, she had it on Ultimate Authority that she would have a baby girl.

That’s my birth story: God chose me first. God knew me. God planned me. That absolutely shaped my self-identity. [Honestly, I wish my story for every baby, that every baby would know from their very own beginning that God loves them, chose them, knows them inside and out, planned them and has plans for them…]

As a kid, I was at church every time the doors opened. Once I even showed up at an Elders’ meeting because it was on the church calendar (they sent me home). I did stuff that boggles my brain now – door-to-door evangelism, passing out gospel tracts on San Diego beaches – all because a church leader asked me to. I was on every leadership team through high school. I went to Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts school, where I had fabulous male and female teachers and mentors and my faith continued to stretch and grow. Throughout my life, I have loved Jesus and I have loved His Church.

It’s interesting to me that so many churches allow young women to serve in youth leadership positions but once they hit adulthood that door slams. At the first church we served our female students could be greeters and ushers, but I couldn’t. I had to promise the elders, all men, that if I taught male students, Guy would be in the room. I loved and led to Christ and discipled a group of young girls; Guy had the privilege of baptizing them, whereas I couldn’t because of my gender. Later, we finally left that church because a new senior pastor wouldn’t talk to me directly – he’d call Guy in to his office to answer my questions. At youth ministry conferences, I have crossed paths with at least two of my own youth pastors – and neither would talk to me because they couldn’t respect a woman holding a ministry position. Guy and I eventually aligned ourselves with the Presbyterian Church because here more than elsewhere I am free to exercise my gifts and be who Jesus created me to be.

As a young adult I thought my professional path would be in the arts – during and after college I worked in PR and Events at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. But Guy was working with students at a church and I fell more and more in love. I wanted to do what he was doing. Our church did a series on spiritual gifts and my top gift came up “Prophecy.” I didn’t want it. I did not want to be a man with a big stick telling people what they were doing wrong, things they knew better and didn’t want to hear…

[See, even then, my own biblical view of women was misshapen – I hadn’t been taught, hadn’t noticed, that Miriam and Deborah were Old Testament prophets; that on the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes the prophet Joel:

God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days… (Acts 2:17-18)]

I thought prophets were mean old crazy men. And people generally don’t like prophets. But others confirmed that gift in me – they saw my deep connection to God’s Spirit and willingness to speak His Word. And while some would say prophecy is a dead gift, others affirm that preaching and teaching was the prophets’ true role. And I do love to write about and teach God’s truth. It wasn’t long after that first spiritual gifts test that God miraculously moved people and hearts and landed me a position on a church staff.

I have never doubted that Jesus loves me. And I believe that Jesus has given me gifts that are only satisfied as I use them to tell His story, His truth, to share His Word. Like the woman at the well sharing the good news of the Messiah with her village, like Mary exclaiming the Best News Ever: “I have seen the Lord!”

The music director at the first church we served was a woman. She laid out the reality of a hard path before me as a woman in ministry. She warned that if I thought I could do anything else, I should run hard and fast in that direction. From time to time I recall her advice, but God still hasn’t given me any freedom to run anywhere but to Him.

Generous and Free

warning

Warning: Reading the Bible can lead to unexpected changes in behavior.

“Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Psalm 112:5 NIV

I read this verse in the morning, as I often do, and asked God what He wanted to say. I reflected on our recent generosity; we’re cleaning out the garage and donating wildly to two of our favorite local mission partners, one that ministers primarily to poor children while the other ministers to homeless men. We’ve given sports equipment, games, school supplies, clothes, and home goods. In addition, just last week a home in our small town burned to the ground and the family lost everything. We came up with a stack of clothes from our closets that might fit this family of four, at least one item brand new with tags.

Yet I suspected that wasn’t God’s point in giving me Psalm 112:5. So I waited.

picnic

On our way to one of our favorite Date Night activities, a picnic and a play, we stopped by the market to pick up dinner. Around the corner from the front door was a man with a sign: “Lost my job. Help me feed my family.” His family sat on a nearby ledge. We kept walking.

As we entered the market, I might as well have bumped into a brick wall labeled “generous.” Though I couldn’t remember the rest of the verse, that one word resounded in my ears, bounced around my brain like a physical pain. So as we bought our picnic we bought this family their own picnic.

I’m not writing this to toot our own horn. Honestly, friends, I felt like I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I got to carry out God’s direction.

I’m sure they expected we’d avoid eye contact again, but this time we handed the family a box of fresh Caesar salad and a loaf of artisanal bread along with plastic flatware and napkins. You’d have thought we’d presented them with the king’s own feast. Their faces lit up, betraying their true hunger. I looked into the eyes of this beautiful teenage girl close in age to my own kids, this mama and papa humbled by hard times.

Psalm 112:5 promises “Good will come…” That wasn’t my motivation, but I will tell you this: the good came as the young girl looked at me and said, “God bless you.” I need nothing more.

Grow

God has rarely been subtle with me. In my life, He definitely tends toward the dramatic.

Before she knew she was pregnant, God woke my mom up in a London hotel room to tell her she would have a baby girl. When three doctors told her I would be a boy (before ultrasounds, of course), she told them she had it on Good Authority that I would be a girl.

Having heard that story from an early age, I knew that God created me and had plans for me. I live God’s promise in Psalm 139:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13-15).

When He called me into relationship with Himself, it was again with no small drama. My sister and I fought almost from the day she came home from the hospital. One day in the course of a scuffle during a mall trip with Mom, my sister managed to pull my eyeglasses off my face. They fell to the floor and broke. I was almost seven years old so my sister was just two. Flooded with shame I owned the blame; as the Big Sister I should not have been fighting with the Baby.

Surely frazzled, Mom headed for a coffee break. Seated next to her at the coffee counter, sipping my ice water, I quietly prayed. I wanted to ask God’s forgiveness, but I remembered something some Sunday school teacher must have told me: “God doesn’t have to forgive me because I don’t have a relationship with God. I need to ask Jesus into my heart.” And so I did.

Shame lifted, I leaned over and told my mom what I had prayed. Surprised, she recognized the peace of God washing over me. Many years later she told me she hadn’t experienced God’s peace quite like that ever before. Miracle of miracles, I stopped fighting with my sister, too. At least for that day.

God called me into professional church ministry through a prophetic dream. No kidding. Had you asked me before that time if I believed God still spoke through dreams, I’m not sure how I would’ve answered. But that particular morning I awoke from a vivid dream. Married just about a year, I rolled over and told my still-sleepy Guy, “Our high school director is going to announce his resignation during staff meeting this morning. He’s taking a job in Washington. You’re going to take his job and I’m going to take your job as junior high director.”

Guy scoffed, “Yah, right.”

As I left for my morning commute I laughed, “Call me after staff meeting!” He didn’t call.

But when I returned home, he had dressed to take me out to dinner. The high school director had announced his resignation during staff meeting, just like I’d seen. He was, in fact, taking a job in Washington. Guy’s job would be restructured and I was invited to interview for a staff position, one I joyfully filled for several years.

So, yes, I tend to be dramatic. But then, I am created in the image of a God with a strong dramatic flair.

Without a doubt I know God has been calling me to Himself since before I was born. He calls all of us, though admittedly He often whispers. He doesn’t always use 2×4’s and loud exclamations. Still, He loves us and wants us to know Him, to love Him more fully today than yesterday, tomorrow more than today.

Which means God also calls us to Grow in our relationship with Him.

Growth should be simple. With basic healthy ingredients – water, nutrients, sunlight, love – kids grow, plants grow, animals grow. Relational growth requires time, commitment, love. Spiritual growth requires the same – time with, commitment to, and love for God and His people. This looks like worship, study, prayer, service, relationship, and outreach. It should be simple, but don’t kid yourself that that makes it easy.

I love God and I love His Church. But I don’t always like what God asks and sometimes I don’t like the Church. Truth be told.

But Ephesians 4:1 tells us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And what does that worthy life look like? It looks like humble, gentle, patient, loving relationships with God’s people. It looks like unity, like making every effort to maintain the Spirit’s unity as there is only One Body despite our myriad denominations, churches, theologies and worship styles. It looks like peace, like bearing with one another, like love.

To grow in relationship with God, we must grow in relationship with God’s people. We don’t get to choose One or the other – it’s a package deal. Like it or not, Love is the answer.

And hopefully, when the rubber meets the road, when we come to life’s dark twists and turns, our investment in God’s family will hold us and keep us safe in God’s hands.

Connect
When did you first discover your professional vocation/calling?

Study
Read Ephesians 4:1-6, 12b-16.
What is the “calling you have received” (vv. 1, 4)? What does a life “worthy” of this calling look like (vv. 2-3)?
What does the end goal of our growth as Christians look like (vv. 12b-16)?
What do you think it means to attain to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13)?
The phrase “in love” appears three times in this passage (vv. 2, 15, 16). Why is love so important in Christ’s body?
What does this passage say about unity? How is unity an indication of growth as disciples?

Live
During which time in your life have you seen the most growth in your relationship with Christ? To what do you attribute that growth period?
Where do you see examples of disunity among God’s people? In your own life?
What practical difference does it make in your life that God intends for His people to be “joined and held together,” to “grow and build itself up in love,” as each person does their work of service (v. 16)?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that your worshiping community will reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.