Glitter, Fluff and Pink Pages


Gentle Reader,

Someone recently asked me what I want my “brand” to be.

Yeah, I’m not in marketing. I don’t know. Maybe “lovable curmudgeon”? Or “tough outer shell hides big gooey center”? Perhaps “read the Bible, people, before I flip this table over”? Or “holy moly, she’s intense and I’d better back away slowly”?

Everything and everyone is a commodity, it seems. Figure out your audience, who you want to reach, and mold yourself to that.

And if you don’t fit any mold?

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, so clearly it’s under my skin. I saw something on Twitter the other day – really wish I had taken a screenshot of who said this, but I didn’t, so please direct me to the source if you’ve got it – a few little lines that pointed out that we assume that a man’s perspective is neutral. A man can, and should, write to and for both men and women. If, however, a woman writes, we assume that she’s writing for women only.

That bugged me.

Made me think, too.

How many men have studied the book of Ruth? The book of Esther? Have gone through and carefully picked out the stories of the heroines of the faith, cherishing them as they do the tales of David and the Apostles?

I don’t have answers to those questions. I do wonder, though, how many men subconsciously shrug their shoulders and think, “Nah. Those are chick stories. Nothing there for me.”

Except it’s the word of God.

Of course I’m not claiming that I or any other female writer is on the same level as Holy Scripture. You’d probably find charred ground where my body used to occupy space if I did that. What I am claiming is that this weird divide in the Church runs deep. It’s more than squabbling over whether or not a woman can preach, which solid, orthodox Christians can reasonably disagree on. (For the record, I think complementarians are wrong, but they think I’m wrong, so it’s all good). It’s this bone-deep belief that women don’t have anything of substance to say. That a man can’t possibly learn anything from a woman because “she doesn’t get it.”

But I, a woman, am automatically expected to adjust pronouns and situations in my head when a man preaches or writes. I am expected to “get” what he’s talking about when he relates a theological concept to, I don’t know, a football game or working on a car. (Yes, super broad and stereotypical).

What is that? Why do we do this?

See, my mind is full of more than glitter and fluff. I want to write about, learn about, teach about concepts and stories that are found in other places than the “pink pages” of Scripture. Not that glitter, fluff or pink pages are bad. I’m a fan of glittery shoes and pins, I love me a fluffy blanket and nobody is ever going to convince me that Ruth and Esther are boring or “light.” But I can also discuss theories of the kenosis. I can tell you about the times the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I’m folding laundry. I wrote a book exploring the intersection of suffering and theology. (Shameless plug. Girl’s gotta pay those bills, you know).

In no way do I wish to diminish my brothers. I want to see men functioning in the full freedom and gifting that God has blessed them with. That shouldn’t come at the expense of the sisters, though. I want us to step up and embrace who and what God has made us to be as well (and that really does extend beyond nursery duty).

There’s this chapter in Scripture, Hebrews 11. We call it the “Hall of Faith.” And it is. But it’s also the “Hall of Freaks and Weirdos.” You think Noah let the fact that nobody had ever seen rain keep him from building the boat? You think Joseph was concerned about his branding, how it looked when he told his people to take his bones back to the Promised Land? You think Rahab was worried about losing her clientele when she hid the spies and threw herself into the mercy of God?

We thrill to these stories because they are of people, just like you and me, who dared to follow where God led them. While none of them were perfect (Abraham gets some serious side-eye from me), the overall pattern of their lives was one of focusing on Him. They weren’t worried about an audience, about metrics, about statistics, about who should and shouldn’t be doing what. He said “go,” and they went. As simple as that.

This is what I long for in the Church. How I would love for us to shed the language of “tribe” and “role.” How I ache for us to be still and seek His will. How I wish we would stop trying to put a Jesus veneer on what the world around us is doing and just be what He wants us to be – committed, obedient, loving.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped erecting artificial barriers? If we stopped believing, “He/she can’t speak into my life because I only let this type of person do that?” If we stopped crafting articles and sermons based on what we know people want to hear and instead speak and write as God commands?

Sounds wonderful to me.



Review: A Place to Land


Gentle Reader,

Pass go, collect two hundred dollars and get this book.

Seriously. This is not one you want to miss.

I had the joy of “meeting” Kate Motaung several years ago when she took over as the Fearless Leader of the Five Minute Friday community. (She did not give herself this title. I did. I don’t remember why, but it’s stuck in my brain). We have chatted via Twitter, Voxer and blog comments. As I’m sure others can attest, Kate has the unique gift of making one feel at home; I don’t doubt that, were I to show up in her driveway today, that I would be welcomed inside for tea and good conversation.

This is part of what made this book so fascinating for me. Kate writes of being torn between houses following her parents’ divorce and between continents after moving to South Africa in her early twenties. Her story is one of longing for home, of never quite knowing where or what that place is. Out of that longing, I believe she strives to give others a sense of comfort and security. Even those of us who have only connected with her through electronic means pick up on this and celebrate her gift of welcoming embrace.

Ultimately, and encouragingly, Kate reminds both herself and the reader that our true Home, the place our souls ache for, is not to be found in this life. We get teases, little glimpses, that give us hope and keep us going when things get hard, but we never get the full picture. We have to wait. So we sit in the discomfort, knowing that all is not as it should be, asking Jesus to daily give us the grit and the grace to navigate yet another bump in the road.

The pages of A Place to Land are full of honesty and humor. Kate looks unflinchingly at herself and allows us to do so as well. In that, we are given permission to be that honest. To acknowledge that we don’t always know the answers or do the right things. Her choice to tell her story in such a raw way is deeply refreshing. There are no neat and tidy bows, no pristine images of perfect kids and conflict-free living. There is, instead, a woman who consistently, constantly, preaches Jesus. His presence, His love, His guidance, His help. Over and over again, Kate finds Him in the middle of the mess. She shows the reader how to reach out for His hand.

God took the tug-of-war that waged in my soul, the thick rope that spanned across the ocean, and yanked from both sides. He cut it clean through the middle, somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic. And He made me look up. To see that the greatest and strongest pull is neither east nor west, neither here nor there. It’s the heavenward pull.

It’s the pull toward home.

I now know how to respond the next time someone asks me the simple question, ‘Are you heading home?'” Regardless of my earthly destination, and purely because of the grace of Christ’s sacrifice, I’ll be able to answer with confidence, ‘Yes. Yes I am.'”

– p. 266-267

To that I can only say, “Amen.”

Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story with us. Thank you for the hours you spend leading the ragtag FMF troop. Thank you for being who you are. Usikelelke.



Just Like an Israelite


Gentle Reader,

He is a boil on the butt of humanity.

– Ouiser Boudreaux, Steel Magnolias

Do you ever wonder why other people exist?

I do.

Because I am a ray of sunshine. I never do anything annoying. I am never ungrateful or ungracious. I am the epitome of all that is good and lovely. Polish my halo, nominate me for sainthood.

Eyeing the sky now, waiting for that lightning bolt.

Of course I’m just as irritating to others as they are to me. That’s who we are, what we do. All knocking against each other. Bouncing and pushing and poking. God, in His infinite wisdom, works in the midst of that jostling, patiently shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Easy to forget when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Hard to see when our eyes are clouded by the anger that always follows being mildly inconvenienced.

One day the Israelites started complaining about their troubles.

– Numbers 11:1b (CEV)

It’s funny, how we read the Old Testament and wonder how those people could be so stupid. They saw the sea split, the food fall from the heavens, the cloud and the fire. They experienced the Lord in great, mighty and amazing ways. The evidence of His existence and role as ruler was before their eyes each day. How could they complain? How could they doubt Him?

I wonder if we ever have the clarity to see ourselves as we really are.

We are no better than the Israelites who lived so long ago. They had the chance to step out in faith. The choice to live each day in the midst of mystery, trusting that He would always protect and provide. And sometimes they did so. Sometimes they got it right. Yet an entire generation died in the desert because the sometimes became rarer and rarer. That doesn’t mean that none of that group experienced the forgiveness of God. Scripture tells us that He always responds to sincere, heartfelt repentance with grace. That does mean that they didn’t get to experience all that He had for them.

Me today.

I’ve been cranky for awhile. Could be the weather. Could be the not sleeping well. Could be because I can. Really don’t know. All I could do today was complain. And complain. Ugh, I have to take care of this? I have to go do that? I’m so annoyed. I don’t want to. Stupid person on the road in front of me get out of the way. Mumble, grumble, definitely not feeling humble.

I wonder what I missed today. Since I kept my eyes down, on my problems (that aren’t really problems), it was impossible to see anything good. Impossible to notice the little drops of grace and peace that I know are scattered throughout the hours.

The Lord heard them and became so angry that He destroyed the outer edges of their camp with fire.

– Numbers 11:1b (CEV)

That’s something, isn’t it?

We don’t talk too much about God’s anger. It’s uncomfortable. If God can be angry, then that means we have some responsibility in this situation we call living. We make choices and they have consequences. While I truly believe in the love of God and will preach it until my dying day, part of that love is His anger. Not the reckless, fickle kind of anger we feel because we have to run an errand and we’d really rather take a nap. His anger flows from love. His affection for us is so fierce, deep and unending that He roars when we reject Him. He convicts us when we stray not because He delights in it but because He wants us to be safe, happy, fulfilled.

He’s destroying the outer edges of my camp with fire. My soul is squirming under His gaze because I know. I know I’ve been selfish today. I know I’ve focused on the wrong things. I know I’ve been whining about the provision and opportunities He has placed in my lap not because I’m amazing but because He is. I have dared to think that there could, perhaps, be something better.

When the people begged Moses to help, he prayed, and the fire went out.

– Numbers 11:2 (CEV)


At any time, we can turn around. We can talk to God. We can say, “Lord, I know I’ve been an idiot today. Please forgive me. Please help me.” And He will. As quickly as the fire begins, it dies out. The hand of conviction becomes the hand of mercy. Really, it always was, for conviction is a mercy in and of itself.

I am just as they were. I really can’t say that I wouldn’t have complained about manna or longed to go back to Egypt and slavery. I’d like to think that I’d be just like Caleb and Joshua, confident and brave in their faith, but I know myself. As I sit here, eyes heavy because I am writing this later than I usually do, I am hit once again by the enormity of God’s grace. He could have wiped me clean off the planet today and been more than justified (not that He has to justify any action, because He’s God). But I’m still breathing. I get another chance.

May I learn to never take that lightly.


Photo Credit: Andre Hunter

Me Too, You Too, All Too


Note Before You Indignantly Comment: Yes, I know that not all men do these things. I am not operating from the assumption that they do.

Yes, I know that men can be and are harassed and assaulted. I simply write from the perspective of womanhood.

No, I do not believe or claim that women are perfect and all men are monsters.

Gentle Reader,

I was 11 the first time a boy tried to grab my breasts. Several of us were playing on a trampoline. He lunged at me. I shoved him away. No, I was not mistaken as to his intent. He laughed when I shoved him. Made a rude comment.

Before that, long before that, boys made fun of me for being “too smart” and “ugly.” (To be fair, some of the girls made fun of me for these things, too). Freshman year of high school I even made it onto the official “ugly list.” Yes, the boys in my class made a list detailing which girls they liked and why (suffice it say that “intelligence” and “personality” were not factors). I remember some hand flapping from teachers, but nothing more than that. We girls were basically told to ignore them.

I attended a small, private Christian school for six years, so we got a “purity talk” every year around Valentine’s Day. Boys and girls split into separate classrooms. The boys’ talk lasted about 15 minutes. They went to the gym to play basketball. My junior year, the girls were lectured for close to two hours. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your purity will be compromised. Don’t wear a skirt shorter than this. V-neck shirts are not a good choice. Boys are boys; they can’t help themselves, so you need to have good boundaries.

The message was clear.

We were the responsible ones.

Our bodies, instead of being good, instead of being beautiful because God made them, were inherently dangerous. Seductive. Boys could hardly be expected to exercise self-control. They could hardly been expected to respect us.

Three girls (that I know of) were expelled from school because they were pregnant. One of those girls, her boyfriend attended the school. There was quite an uproar among the students because he wasn’t expelled. (To his credit, he chose to leave, although neither should have had to do so).

I have been groped, pinched, grabbed, slapped, screamed at, cussed out, manipulated, stalked. My “no” has been ignored. When I was a teen, grown men followed me around as I did my job at the library. Teenage boys used to pull my hair, snap my bra straps and even, on a few occasions, when they sat behind me, unhook my bra in the middle of class. I have received pornographic images from strangers on all of my social media accounts, despite having them locked down as tightly as possible.

I am far from the only one who has experienced these violations.

This is why the #MeToo Movement exists.

A movement that should prompt national mourning and reflection has, instead, pushed some to ask the same tired, old questions. Well, why did she/they wait so long to say anything? You know, she benefited from that, so what gives her the right to come forward? What was she wearing? Why did she put herself in that position? Why didn’t she just say “no?”

  1. Everyone knows why women don’t come forward: We aren’t believed. Even if/when we are believed, we aren’t a priority. In this country, there are tens of thousands of untested rape kits just sitting on shelves. Perhaps worse, the majority of perpetrators do not go to prison.
  2. Define “benefit.” And even if a woman did benefit, at one point, from someone doing something wrong, does that mean she can never raise her voice and say, “Yes, that was wrong”?
  3. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing. Women who wear burqas are harassed and assaulted.
  4. What position? Being alone with a man? Are we supposed to view all men as brutes who will hurt us? Are we supposed to be able to see the future, to know how this person will behave if we go on the date, take the meeting or have the drink?
  5. “No” is ignored. All the time.

Again, the message is clear.

The responsibility is on us.

This is all rage-inducing enough, but then throw in the fact that the Church – the worldwide people of God – is just as bad at dealing with sexual harassment and assault as everyone else and I genuinely want to tear my clothes and coat myself in ashes. Pastors – perpetrators – who should be permanently disqualified from the office are instead allowed to preach freely. Popular books encourage “lust management” instead of the soul-purity that Christ commands. Instead of the freedom to interact with each other as siblings, as fellow heirs and stewards, men and women are taught to view each other in terms of suspicion and danger – because, once more, men can’t control themselves and women are always and forever temptresses.

I like men. I married one. I have a dad and a brother. Grew up around several uncles and lots of boy cousins. Have always had male friends.

But some of you are wringing your hands. Some of you are saying that you don’t know how you’re supposed to act around women now. Come on. You aren’t that stupid. I know you aren’t.

Treat us with kindness and respect. Listen to us. View us as something more than breasts and a vagina. Something more than an object that exists to satisfy your desires.

Human beings.

Stop trying to roll your sin onto our shoulders. Your lust and bad attitudes – that’s you. Go before God and deal.

#MeToo is also #YouToo and #AllToo. Your sisters are screaming, exposing long-festering wounds to the light. Resist the urge to defend your fellow men. Hear the screams. See the tears. Absorb the full horror. Our torment is part of your experience, because we are family – adopted by Christ.

And family, when it functions the way God intended, sticks together.

Sexual sin – for that is what harassment and assault is – negatively impacts the whole Church. When one suffers, all suffer. There is no room for justifying, minimizing or rationalizing. Perpetrators are not to be coddled, excused, given a platform or hidden. Boys are not to be taught that they “will be boys,” but rather that they will be held accountable for their actions (just as girls are). The Church must become a community that emphasizes justice as equally as it does mercy.

Please, Church. Believe us.


Photo Credit: Rachael Crowe