Five Minute Friday: Collect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Oh, my.

What a headache.

An evening stroll a some forbidden ibuprofen later, I feel close to being a human again. Not quite. I probably need to sleep for about fourteen hours for that to happen.

Kate wants to know what we: collect.

Go.

Usually when people ask me what it is that I collect, I respond with, “Nothing.” On the surface, that’s true. I do have six abdominal scars, but it’s not like I chose to have those. Aside from my beloved books, I feel passion for no material objects. Albums filled with stamps make no sense to me. Tchotchkes just gather dust. I tried collecting antique gloves at one point because I think they’re cool; I got as far as three pairs, but I had no idea how to display them, so into the giveaway bag they went. I even joke with my husband on a regular basis that we can probably throw away our marriage licence, since we never look at it.

Maybe it’s the OCD.

Maybe it’s that I can’t think in a cluttered space.

If I stop and really consider this question, though, there is something that I do indeed collect: regret.

The past haunts me. Past sin, past mistakes, past hurts, past left turns instead of right. It doesn’t help that I’m a history nut. Looking back is fun for me. But all too often, I get stuck there. On comes the self-condemnation. I need no one to stone me, for I stone myself.

Of this habit, Jen Wilkin writes:

Regret…causes us to dwell on past mistakes or hurts, robbing us of joy in our present circumstance and often dragging us back into old sin patterns. As a child I learned to sing the words of Charles Wesley: “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free.” How often have I needed those words as a reminder that the power of my past sins (or the past sins of others against me) is broken in Jesus’ name. He replaces my historical liturgy of sin with one of holiness. When I become discouraged about giving in once again to a past sin, the “lifter of my head” remind me that though I am not yet who I will be, I am not who I was. He draws me from the past back to the present with an assurance that sanctification is slowly doing its work today. He keeps me from rehearsing my past hurts by reminding me to forgive as I have been forgiven. We can combat the “bad news” of the past by remembering and trusting the good news of the gospel.

None Like Him, p. 75

There’s always something new to be find in the Good News.

This kind of collection weighs us down in a way that Christ never intended. The “sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1) doesn’t have to be today’s sin. It can be the sin of the past, the stuff that makes us feel bad and heavy and stupid and so very worm-like. Dwelling in regret can keep us from running the race with perseverance – because our eyes are on the starting blocks instead of the finish line.

If we’re going to look back, then let’s see the red. The beautiful, amazing, life-giving, soul-saving blood of Jesus, splashed across every bad deed, every unkind word, every nasty thought, every pain-filled moment. The red that replaces the collection of regret and sorrow with a collection of grace and hope.

From that renewed viewpoint, let’s go forward and collect the joy that is ours by right of redemption.

Stop.

Yeah, this was longer than five minutes. Now enjoy this hymn.

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Photo credit: Ryan Moreno

Also linking up with (for the first time): Suzanne Eller and Holley Gerth.

Wonder Woman and Tidbits

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Gentle Reader,

A picture speaks a thousand words.

I think we ladies need to learn to see ourselves as Wonder Women instead of damsels in distress. No, I’m not saying that women don’t need men. I am saying that this world is a hard place and we’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to grow thick skins. We’ve got to get out there and engage. Can our toughness be expressed in different ways? Yes. One woman will cry over a sad plotline in a movie but be the first one to leap to the defense of a hurting child. Another will be largely reserved and quiet but burst forth with eloquence on a subject she’s passionate about. There are as many ways to be strong as there are women on the planet.

Fight. Not with each other. Not to earn the approval of men. Fight for what matters.

********

The Southern Baptist Convention called on its members to discontinue use of the Confederate flag. Such a move comes extremely late in the game, but credit where credit is due. Job well done.

The California state legislature is in the middle of passing a law that “would allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students to sue religious educational institutions if they were denied married student housing, dorms, or bathrooms consistent with their gender identities, or otherwise subject to rules of conduct that singled out their sexuality or identity.” Why would one deliberately choose to attend a school that ascribes to a worldview and practices at odds with one’s own worldview and practices? Should schools of any religious affiliation really be required to make room for behaviors that run counter to their foundational principles? Does this law make sense?

Some say that this is in the same vein as the legislation that stopped racial segregation in schools. I disagree, for there is nothing in Scripture that allows for people of any skin color or racial background to be hostile to each other. There is no excuse for racism. (Or sexism, for that matter). There is, however, a distinct code of sexual ethics. (Of course the living out of that code does not entail avoiding or harassing or harming or feeling superior to those who operate outside of it). Non-Christian people live by whatever standards they hold to. Should Christians not be allowed to do the same?

I’m not whining. If my civil liberties fade away someday, that’s okay. Christ is worth the loss. I’m also not saying that everyone (on either side of these issues) has their panties in a bunch all the livelong day. I have many non-believing friends who are happy to operate in real tolerance with believing people. It’s beautiful when we allow each other the freedom to disagree. It just makes me sad to see the general decline in critical thinking skills.

Speaking of freedom, it is good to remember that the Christian’s freedom is never tied to a nation’s laws or interests. It is found in the Lord.

Finally, this beautiful passage from the Hiding Place, written by Corrie ten Boom:

I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sex-sin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her. In those days just after the turn of the century sex was never discussed, even at home.

So the line had stuck in my head. “Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and “sin” made Tante (Aunt) Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex-sin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It’s too heavy,” I said.

“Yes,’” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied–wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions–for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.

– p. 28-29

She wasn’t saying that children should never learn about sex, but rather communicating that parents should be sensitive to what their children are able to understand at any given point. I firmly believe in good, thorough education in all areas including sexuality, but parents, let your kids be kids. Let them be innocent and carefree for as long as possible. The burdens of knowledge come quickly enough.

My journey to faith. (15)

For His Glory, Just Write

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

This article was called to my attention awhile back. I’ve read through it a few times, trying to decide whether or not to respond. Since the complementarian vs. egalitarian battle shows no signs of ending, might as well take the plunge. This isn’t some personal thing, but rather a discussion of concepts. I don’t want anyone to go over there and be nasty. She’s my sister in Christ even though we disagree, and I’ll defend her if I hear of any of that going on.

Here we go.

For those who don’t know, I’m a member of the Church of the Nazarene, which has been ordaining women since its inception a little over 100 years ago. I was an egalitarian long before that, though it took returning to school in the pursuit of a theology degree in 2009 to solidify my position. In my class on the Pauline Epistles, we discussed and even formally debated the role of women in the church, learning about the differing interpretations of the “trouble” passages (1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-15) and their various strengths and weaknesses. Despite protests to the contrary, complementarians are just as inconsistent in their interpretation and application as they accuse egalitarians of being. (For example, the vast majority slough off the headcovering command as “cultural”). Anyway, long story short, I’m all for women preachers and teachers and missionaries. (For some good introductory reading on the subject, go here).

In the eyes of many, that one thing makes me a flaming heretic, or at the very least someone who winks at flagrant sin, even if that many would (probably begrudgingly) admit that my doctrine is solid (unless that many believes that Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness types are also heretics, then all bets are off).

Really, that’s okay. I know that I’m saved by the death and resurrection of Christ. He gave me the grace I needed to come to repentance. In a moment He justified me and the Holy Spirit came to dwell within. He continues to justify and sanctify each and every day, holding me close until that blessed, sacred, longed-for moment when I fall before His throne, laying all at the feet of the King. I’m really not worried about anyone who thinks that my egalitarianism disqualifies me from life and salvation in the kingdom of God.

This security has come only after years of fearing the opinions of others, so I know that there are other women out there in cyberspace who are brought up short by the whole “can a Christian lady blog even if she might wind up teaching men?” question.

Short answer: Of course she can.

It has never once occurred to me that I need to define my audience or worry about who reads this blog. I left that in God’s hands a long time ago. You can fuss and fret and set up all the parameters you want, but you still have no control over who’s going to come across your site. Even if you explicitly state, in bold italicized underlined font, that only women are supposed to read your posts and you’re only reaching out to and teaching women and that this is a women’s blog only, chances are really high that you’re going to wind up with some male readers. Why lose sleep over it? Why freak out and delete or deny when Joe from Sheboygan interacts with what you’ve written? Maybe he’s got something really good to say. May he was encouraged by you. That doesn’t mean that you’re subconsciously plotting to send all men underground and bring them up only for the continuation of the species. (Egalitarians aren’t plotting that either, just so you know).

Some say that lady bloggers are okay as long as we don’t exposit Scripture. Well, goodness, after 8 years and nearly 600 published posts, I’ve exposited some Scripture. I’ve also shared about my life and discussed political issues. It doesn’t seem right to me to hold back just because a man might read and comment. Why would you shrink from your gift and calling? (This, of course, doesn’t at all mean that you throw wisdom and discretion out the window. Some stuff really doesn’t need to be aired in the public square).

Others say that if you happen to accidentally teach a man via the written word despite all of the boundaries you erect, it’s fine as long as you have some sort of prominently displayed statement declaring that you post your articles under the authority/guidance of a man (usually your husband or pastor). Huh? To my eyes that’s neither the letter nor the spirit of any of the “trouble” passages when seen through the complementarian lens. That’s something somebody sometime made up for “propriety’s sake.” (Really one of two things: a) the assumption that women are rather dumb and must be guided by men in all things and b) a loophole because you’re going against your stated position but don’t want to admit it or change).

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a stereotypical “woman’s voice” or “woman’s blog” (nothing wrong with either), but I welcome interaction with men. They’ve got great perspective and insight. I learn from them just as they do from me. It’s a mutual exchange. I’m not lording it over them and they’re not lording it over me.

What about the whole “you can’t address men’s issues or call them to the carpet?” The example cited in this piece was written at the height of the Ashley Madison scandal, and the woman who wrote to prod men to kneel and do some repenting deserves applause. That’s a sister caring for her brothers and calling them to righteousness. If a man can’t handle that, then he’s got a whole host of problems. Because here’s the thing: If any of the men in my life, be they “real” or online, can speak a hard word to me if needed (and they have), then I can speak a hard word to them (and I have). That’s how family works.

I can hear it now: You’re not in submission to your husband! Chris is my greatest supporter. (I know. He’s a heretic, too). You’re not in submission to your pastoral authority! They’re super-cool with my writing. (Burn them all, right?)

I joke, but I realize that incorrect doctrine and practice are things we must be vigilant about. My faith is my life. I take it extremely seriously. I know that we egalitarians are supposed to be all liberal and ignore Scripture and stuff, but that’s simply not true in every case. Like I said, my denomination has been ordaining women for the whole of its history, yet we remain doctrinally and socially conservative. There’s some real live false teaching going on out there that few seem to be able or willing to see and confront. Further, people are dying due to extreme violence, poverty and lack of access to clean water. Dying without ever hearing of Christ. Perhaps I am naive, but I think that the tent is big enough to house disagreement on this and we’d all do well to turn our attention to these issues. Last I checked, Jesus did not speak the Great Commission only over the twelve Apostles.

Basically, you’re not a heretic if you’re a writing woman and you teach some dudes. Nor have you committed an egregious, unpardonable sin.

Lady bloggers, please don’t stress. If your heart is to write specifically for women and your posts are worded that way, great. May God bless you and whoever reads your words. If you’ve never even thought about the whole gender issue, great. May God bless you and whoever reads your words.

For His glory, just write.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos

31 Days with the Savior: Truth

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Gentle Reader,

“…you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32 (NKJV)

The only way to know the truth is to look at it. To study it. To soak in it.

The lies we tell ourselves, the fences we build to keep from facing the truth, are self-made prisons. Allowing Chris to shatter those prisons brick by brick is hard. Deeply painful, even. But when the destroying is done…no more fences. No more walls. No more darkness.

Just freedom.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the Jesus: 31 Days with the Savior series, go here.