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

What’s Gonna Work?

One of Teen’s favorite preschool TV shows was the Nick Jr show, Wonder Pets. A turtle, a guinea pig, and a duckling, all preschool classroom pets, spent their after hours working together to save animals in trouble. They sang: “What’s gonna work? Teamwork! What’s gonna work? Teamwork!”wonder_pets

That became a silly motivational mantra in our house, especially around activity clean-up time. We would sing, and work together, and get the job done. Though I don’t sing it to my kids anymore (they’re grateful) the jingle runs through my head a little too often.

It’s true, though, right? Teamwork works. Or at least it should. When we work together well, the job gets done better and faster than if we muscle through alone.

My kids play rugby, and one of the things I like about the game is that there is a place on the team for every body. Literally, bodies of all shapes and sizes, so long as they have the desire to play. In middle school, Teen was tall and hefty, a Jolly Green Giant on the pitch; at the other extreme, one of his buddies was Mighty Mouse, small and fast. Teen played the line while Buddy would snatch the ball and run like crazy. The difference in their body types worked to their advantage: they both had a position to play, and play well, benefiting the whole team.rugby

I’ve never played on a sports team, but I’ve been on plenty of teams: volunteer teams, mission teams, school and work project teams. The most successful teams recognize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, positioning each person to the best use of their gifts while someone else shores up their weaknesses. And then those successful teams get out of each other’s way to let each person–and the team as a whole–do their part and shine.

Church ought to be the ultimate team. We’ve all been created and gifted by God. He assembles us in local congregations so that together we can do the work He has planned for us.

Many times it works beautifully–musicians make music, preachers preach, ushers ush, deacons deak, teachers teach, servants serve, etc. All too often, though, instead of dancing together we step on each other’s toes. We think too highly of ourselves and forcefully inform others how to play their positions. Rather than singing along, we insist the musicians are singing the wrong song, or too loudly, or too poorly. Rather than listening well and applying truth, everyone has an opinion on the sermon. Every week.

And then there are those who think they don’t have a gift, or they’re too busy to use it, or they just don’t know what to do so they do nothing. And still others who make themselves (and everyone else) miserable as they force themselves into position A when their gift is truly B or C. The cliche is also true: 20% of the people do 80% of the work while 80% of the people do…what?

The Church may be a broken organization filled with broken people but it is still God’s Church created by God to do God’s work. It’s the best thing we’ve got and it needs us. We need each other. What’s gonna work? Teamwork!

Come & See – Romans 12:1-8

Connect
What’s your favorite team and what do you like about them?

Study
Read Romans 12:1-8.
What does it look like to offer your body as a living sacrifice (v1)?
How can your mind be renewed (v2)?
Explain the connection between body and mind in vv. 1-2. Why are both essential to a life of faith?
Why do you think Paul admonishes believers not to think too highly of ourselves (v3)?
Compare Romans 12:1-8 to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. One emphasizes, “We are one, but different,” while the other emphasizes, “We are different, but one.” Why are both messages important?

Live
Do you know your spiritual gifts? If so, how are you using them?
In what ways is Church like a team? What position do you play?
What good (or bad) examples of teamwork have you participated in or witnessed in the Church?
In our individualistic society, it may be unpopular to say that we “belong” to each other (v5), especially within an organization as complex as church. How would you explain that to someone?
What does this passage communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that God will show you how to use your gifts for His Kingdom.
If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, take this test to help you find your position on the team.

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.

Give

Do you know what gift(s) God has given you to build up His Church? If not, I highly recommend taking this quick test. (There’s also a test for youth if that’s you or someone you love).

Similar to family chores, we all have a role to play in God’s family and through our God-given gifts God directs us to particular works of service.

A few initial thoughts:
*God gives gifts to His children.
*God’s best gift is faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
*God intends us to use the gifts He gives us.
*Using our gifts will give glory to God and build up His Church.

It should be easy, and thankfully sometimes it is.

Prepping for this post, I had a great conversation with Tween. I asked, “What great gifts have you given and received?”

He mentioned a video game we bought him that encouraged creativity and community. And he mentioned two gifts he’d given: his well-loved but in great shape tricycle to a young friend, and “God” to his friends.

Mama’s heart skips a beat: Tween recognizes that he introduced some of his best friends to His Best Friend, Jesus.

I asked what gifts he thought God had given him to serve the church, and at first he didn’t think he had a gift, that God had skipped him or not yet come to his name on the divine list.

But as we talked, he began to realize that he has Faith, that he “knows things about God” that might not come as easily to other people (Teen took the “youth” version of the spiritual gifts test and has the gift of faith, too). And he cares deeply that his friends know Jesus. So faith and evangelism, maybe. He’s still young.

Tween decided that a great way to develop the gift of faith, to be sure he knows the Truth of God and not just his own ideas about Him, will be to keep the Bible and a headlamp next to his bed so he can read the Bible when he can’t sleep. This kid has never slept well and I can’t think of a better thing for him to do when he’s not sleeping.

Other times, evidence of the fallen world we live in, using our gifts isn’t as easy.

I’ve seen the movie “Frozen” three times, once in the theater when it first came out and twice since. It ranks up there with “The Lion King” as one of my favorite Disney movies.

New Year's Eve "Frozen Fractiles" on our windshield

New Year’s Eve “Frozen Fractals” on our windshield

The main story line centers on the relationship between sisters. But I see a story of giftedness and love, one with definite implications for God’s people.

Elsa has a gift. Fear and criticism have caused her to hide not only her gift but herself, have cut her off even from those who should be and long to be closest to her [hide the girl, the gift, and the love]. When an accidental use of her gift outs her she walks away, again, this time determined to let her gift flow free [hide the girl and the love, let the gift out]. But the gift sans love has drastic far-reaching consequences. Elsa’s gift can only be used rightly, and Elsa herself will only be free, when the girl, gift, and love intertwine.

The impossibly catchy, played-to-death song “Let It Go” says what we might like to say to our critics:

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!

I don’t care
What they’re going to say…
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

In other words, I no longer care what you think! I will be myself, use my gifts, see what I can do, rules-free, to hell with your fear and criticism.

But Elsa’s plan backfires, as do our attempts to hide ourselves and our gifts because of fear and criticism.

Fear and criticism can rock us straight out of comfort and onto the ground, beat up and bruised. The temptation to dust ourselves off and walk away, to hide, to stop using our gifts, can be enormous. Likewise with the temptation to stop caring, to think we’re free sans community.

But it’s not true, folks. God designed us to use our gifts, the very gifts He grace-fully bestows upon us, to build up His church and bless the world. Only when we use our gifts with love, in community, to His glory will we truly be free.

So what do we do with fear and criticism? Honestly, I’m not sure I have a good answer, just some thoughts:

*We need to listen, ego aside, to the reasons behind the fear and criticism. Maybe we have used our gifts inappropriately, or untimely, or without love.

*We need to develop our gifts to God’s glory. Maybe we have used them prematurely.

*We need to pray and pray some more. Did we use our gifts prayerfully, under the Spirit’s guidance? Can we together prayerfully resolve the conflict caused by fear and criticism?

*We need to seek refuge in God alone. God will direct us to the proper use of our gifts in His time and place. Maybe God is using fear and criticism to redirect us to another ministry.

*We need to seek the Spirit of peace and unity and resist our own fears and criticisms. Why should we fear someone using their God-given gift? Why would we criticize their giftedness? Sometimes we need to bite our tongues, to step on our egos and let God do His work without our meddling.

*Finally, we need to ask the Lord for courage to be the best US He has created us to be, and to use our gifts despite fear (our own and others) and criticism, because from time to time we will face both.

Justin McRoberts sang at our church yesterday and shared with us an original song, Courage to Believe. The chorus says:

Lord, give me eyes to see
Lord, give me strength to believe
You give me all I need
So give me courage to believe.

Lord, give us courage to believe that you have given us all we need to believe and to serve You!

Alright, already, on to Ephesians 4 which has some great stuff to say about gifts. I pray that God will release you to serve Him in love and grace.

Connect
Describe a significant gift you have given or received. What made that gift special?

Study
Read Ephesians 4:7-13.
Read Ephesians 1:20-23. What light can this earlier passage from the same letter shed on Eph. 4:7-8?
How would you explain to someone the significance of Christ’s ascension into heaven (vv. 8-10)?
For what purpose did Christ give the gifts mentioned in this passage (vv. 11-13)? In other words, what is Christ’s desire for His people and His Church?

Live
God gives gifts to people and He gives people as gifts to the Church. Describe some people you appreciate as gifts from God.
Paul lists other spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30. How do these gifts add to the list in Ephesians 4? Where do you see your gift(s) listed?
What “works of service” do you particularly enjoy? Which works of service would you like to try?
How have you been equipped for service? How have you equipped others?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that your worshiping community will experience the unity of the Spirit as we each exercise works of service.

Frost made even ordinary leaves something spectacular

Frost made even ordinary leaves something spectacular