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In which she can come along and see for herself

The other day, my eldest daughter asked if I could print off a picture of Malala Youzafzai for her to take to school. She wanted to do her grade two class presentation about the sixteen-year-old Pakistani educational activist who was shot by the Taliban. We had had a few conversations about Malala last week. I was watching an interview online and she kept asking me questions so finally I pulled up a chair, started the video over again and said, “see for yourself.”

I had no idea she was paying much attention: sometimes, you just talk, you know? We did spelling homework, she rolled her eyes when I told her to clean up her room before bed, same old night. But she was listening and a few days later, she marched into her little classroom and told them all about Malala for her presentation, instead of Justin Bieber, and my heart nearly burst with pride. She got it.

Last night after supper, I was madly running out the door to go to Sweating for Sisterhood when I made the spur of the moment decision to invite her along. It was a school night, she’d have to stay up an hour later than usual, but what the hell? Get your runners, kid, we’re going out.

My friends, Megan and Chervelle, planned the fundraiser circuit workout at a local church, complete with prizes to benefit the amazing program Keep a Girl in School in Gulu, Uganda. Basically, girls in Gulu drop out of school because they don’t have sanitary napkins (seriously. Pads. They need pads to stay in school. Unreal. It kind of makes me angry). So then they fall prey to teenage pregnancy, early marriage, poverty, and worse. Megan and Chervelle joined up with the women in our community to support one school of girls in Uganda.

On our way there, my daughter and I began to talk about the night ahead.

That was the moment when I realised I should have thought this through a bit better: we had to discuss what having your period actually means before I could explain why Keep a Girl in School matters.

So THAT was fun. And not at all awkward or unplanned. (We both survived.)

sweatingforsisterhoodPost work-out. Clearly.

 

We had so much fun. She’s just the best little kid. A lot of the SheLoves and Mercy Canada community showed up so it was nice to see everyone and catch up for a moment. My sweet girl completely dominated the circuits: she lunged, she squatted, she punched the air, skipped, did push-ups, with tremendous enthusiasm (while I heaved and sweated my way through all of it.)  She’s an athlete, man. She ate a cake pop while she was doing her stretches, bites between reps.

Anne loved being with “The Ladies” at church and earnestly paid attention to the info video. She proclaimed herself one of the SheLovelies. She came home with a little key necklace and proudly informed her father that it meant she was “the key to someone’s freedom.” Well, then.

Annie is at that age when she simply longs to be with us: it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as we’re together. Like most kids, her little love language is absolutely “quality time” and she doesn’t care if that means talking about menstruation and social justice with her mum while driving on the Fraser Highway to a little workout night at a Pentecostal church for a schoolroom of African girls that she likely won’t ever meet in her lifetime.

I want to raise tinies who rest in their God-breathed worth, who walk in the fullness and wholeness that comes from living loved. I don’t care much about the Romans Road or star charts or behaviour modification techniques. I want to raise tinies who walk humbly and do justly. I want to raise them to know and understand the importance of family and community. I want them to see, know, and honour the men and women who have walked ahead of us on The Way.

And so that translates into a lot of “come along and see for yourself.”

Come along, sweetheart, come along and see for yourself.

Come along while I pray, while I write, while I read, while I visit friends, while I minister, while I cook, while I do laundry, while I learn, while I worship, while I go to church, while I preach, while I advocate, while I clean this house, while I rest, even while I do an undignified circuit work out in the multi-purpose room at Church for girls in Uganda.

Come along and see for yourself what I think it looks like to be a disciple of our Jesus. I’m figuring it out as I go along, come figure it out with me. It will look different for you, of course, but a little child shall lead them.

I believe that the Gospel is usually caught, not just taught. For every earnest conversation, there are a hundred more unscripted moments: the rides in the van, the talks at the supper table, the nights at church, the invitation to come along and see for yourself. Maybe this isn’t the most important moment but all those small moments have a habit of adding up and creating a small outpost for the kingdom of God.

However imperfect, however incomplete, come along, dear one, and see for yourself.

P.S. You can still donate to the Keep a Girl in School project right here….

photos courtesy of SheLoves.

Continue Reading · Anne, community, faith, parenting, SheLoves · 30

In which I can’t help myself

She climbed a hill and I snapped a photo of her, standing small and resolute against a wide open sky. I thought to myself, she’s a mountain climber, she’s a conqueror, she’s brave, fearless. When she climbed back down to me, I laid my arm across her thin shoulders – God, when did she get so tall? – and gathered her to my side. I said, I think you’re a brave kid.  Then a few days later, she didn’t want me to use the adult nail clippers on her toenails because she was scared of them. She said, I know you think I’m brave, Mumma, but I’m not that brave yet. No big deal, I told her, you’re brave when it counts, these are just the times you get to practice. You are brave, you are.

I can’t help myself, I’m my father’s daughter: I want her to hear my voice speaking the truth to her about her own self. Brave. Smart. Funny. Clever. Wise. Gracious. Kind. Disciplined. Gentle. Loving. Generous. You are you are you are you are….

I like her. I like sitting on the couch with her on Saturday nights while we watch HGTV together. She curls up against me, still hanging onto her old Blankie, and offers up opinions on tile back splashes. We’re pals now, or at least we’re sowing the seeds of friendship. I pray sometimes that I’m sowing enough now that when she is writing in her diary (or her Facebook wall? who knows what kids will be doing in a few years) that she hates me and I don’t understand, I hope there’s still a tendril of the truth down there under all the angst: Mum loves me she loves me, no matter what, she’s where I belong. And hopefully she will still be her mother’s daughter: she will come back to me.

I genuinely like her. Oh, she’s great. I would eat her up, I love her so. She’s a lanky kid now, all colt-ish and quirky, she’s missing half the teeth in her mouth and she wears leopard print runners with sequins on the toes, and I adore everything about her. She’s a really-real little kid now with occasional fits of sulkiness and drama.

I can’t help myself, I’m my father’s daughter: the more fiercely she sulks, the more I laugh at her. And she can’t help herself, she’s her mother’s daughter: eventually she starts laughing through her frustration, too, she’s not a grudge-holder.

When she wakes up from a sound sleep and wanders out looking for me in the night, I can hardly breathe for how she is all of the girls at once: she’s still my little blue-eyed baby, still my first little toddler, still the preschooler, still my wee girl with the triangle mouth. Her eyes are sleepy, her hair is a tousle, and she still wants me.

I can’t help myself, I’m my own mother’s daughter: so while I have a chance, I’ll hold her and trace her eyebrows with my thumb, I’ll sing old Keith Green songs like “Oh, Lord, you’re beautiful” into her dark bedroom like a lullaby until she’s asleep again.

You know what, I blinked. I did, I blinked, and now she’s wearing skinny  jeans and bossing her little brother and little sister within an inch of their lives instead of sleeping in the middle of my bed, milk-drunk and mewing.

She is at the stage when she wants to hear the old stories, the family legends, and sometimes we end up telling her, oh, you’re so much like your mum when you do such-and-such, and then she glows with belonging. She can’t help herself, she’s her mother’s daughter: she will grow into her communal identity and make it her own.

Everyone likes to make fun of the charismatics and the Word of Faith people with their emphasis on “confession,” with the silly reverence with which they treat their language, with the way they act like words are poof! – magic. I get that, I do.

But I still catch myself, holding onto my words, and some part of me wonders if I am speaking life or death, if I am speaking identity, if I am forming her life with my words.

In the beginning, before we know better, maybe the voice of God sounds like the voices of our parents. It would be nice if that’s a wide path to follow straight to the truth of Love, instead of a prison to unlock or a fetter to untangle or a dark wood to wander until we find the light. In the beginning, until they know better, I hope the voice of God breathes in my words to them: loved loved loved loved lovedlovedlovedloved thumping out a rhythm of belonging right into the ventricles of the breath.

Perhaps I am still wrestling with some aspects of my Mother Church. Resting in the in-betweens is okay with me now. Yet I find I am reclaiming more and more, fighting my way through the weeds of over-realisation or extreme cases or weirdness, to find the seed of the real that is still there. After the fury, after the rebellion, after the wrestling, after the weighing and the sifting and the casting off and putting on, after the contemplation and the wilderness comes the end of the striving and then comes the rest.

And maybe someday the tinies-who-won’t-be-tiny-anymore will remember how their Old Ma watched the words she spoke over her children, caught the words she assigned to them and made them into faith words, how she filled their ears with their identity of the Beloved and spoke it over them because she finally gave in and admitted what she’d always known to be true: at the end of it all, what is there left to speak but the Truth in Love?

 

 

Continue Reading · Anne, faith, family, parenting · 27

In which I add “Ish Gibor Chayil!” to our lexicon

Papa and Anne

My dad took my eldest daughter out on a date last night. She is six (and a half, thankyouverymuch) and this was, by far, one of the most exciting nights of her life. He bought tickets to a Princess Ball at a local church. It’s an evening of fun little girls, all dancing in their finest frocks and eating cupcakes because their dads or uncles or grandfathers take them out for the evening. My mother took Anne shopping for her new frock: a retro bright red dress covered in white polka dots. Number one dress criteria was met: it twirled beautifully while Anne spun in circles. So I helped her get dressed, and I curled and braided her hair carefully, it was so much fun. Her Papa arrived in his finest suit, we snapped a few pictures, and away they went. She called me on the way home at 8:30 to report she had experienced her first sundae (“Mum! Have you ever had one of these before? They’re fabulous!”) She came home, exhausted and delighted.. My dad said she pretty much took off her patent leather shoes as soon as they arrived and danced all night long with a gaggle of other little girls. Next year, Brian will also take Evelynn and my brother-in-law will take his two daughters. (I will take Joseph out that night, just us two. He prefers that, the little introvert.) We’re thinking a family tradition was born.

When I was little, my father’s hair was bright orange; it’s nearly white now. But don’t let that fool you, he’s got more energy and life than most twenty-year-olds. One thing hasn’t changed over the years though: my dad is, always has been, my rock.

(I don’t write about my parents too much online. It’s for the same reason why I’ve stopped telling intimate stories of the tinies’ lives for the most part. They are their own people, and I don’t want to appropriate their lives for blog material, if that makes sense. I respect them. Even when I write about Brian, he usually reads it first because I’m not writing in a vacuum, you know? But while I was writing Jesus Feminist, I found  I couldn’t write my story without telling about my parents and their story. We talked it all over, and so now you’ll get to know them a bit better when the book releases this fall as so much of my own story has its roots in their lives and choices.)

After I published that essay a few weeks ago about feeling like damaged goods, he called me to tell me how proud he was of my guts. Nothing I wrote there was a surprise to anyone in my real life, let alone my husband or my parents. All those years ago, my parents were the ones who lead me to Jesus, and I was not won over to The Way by anger and rage or Bible-verses-as-weaponry, no, my dad and my mum loved me and they were Jesus with skin on for me. After it was published, friends of his called and asked him if he was embarrassed and he scorched them with his righteousness: never, he’s proud of his girl, and he stands with me, always.

Jesus saved me, set me free, healed me, made me whole, too: what do we have to be embarrassed about? She is whole in Christ! Loved! he thundered.

(That is part of why I wrote the article: I feel like every woman needs to hear the words of Christ, the way that I have heard them from my father’s lips all these years. Words matter.)

Some people must spend their entire lives wiping the face of the own real-life father off of the face of God. But I know what a good father looks like because of my dad. I have been my dad’s girl for my entire life – not in a weird ownership way but in the sweetness of belonging, and he has loved me unconditionally. My path to God was a bit smoother, a bit wider, because he walked the hard places ahead of me, first, beside my mother, and I can quickly, easily, understand why Jesus always said God the Father is really an Abba, a Daddy. I married a man cut from the same Jesus-shape as my father, even though they are very (oh, Lord, so very) different in personality, temperament, and giftings. Their spirits are the same though: mighty men of God, both of them.

After the pushback against that article turned vitriolic, ugly, personal, and vicious, my father called me early one morning just to tell me again that he was proud of me, and he believed in me again. He got all Isaiah on me: prayed, quoted Scripture (he has memorized vast amounts of Scripture, and they are his mother tongue now) forwards and back. He preached for both of us, man, and every time he said he loved me, every time he said I did the right thing, every time he said he was proud of me, it was like a fracture in my soul after all the abuse heaped on me through that experience were healed up all over again. He talked about the calling on my life, he told me to walk in the anointing and lightness of grace for my work, he made me laugh as he hollered about how :the devil just wants to keep people from experiencing true freedom, peace and wholeness and this is spiritual warfare, Sar!” It felt like he reached through the phone to lay his hand on my head.

I’ve always thought he had a bit of an Old Testament prophet in his bones. My dad challenges me, riles me up, makes me laugh, pushes me with his strength and his courage, his faith and his integrity, and he also takes six-year-old girls in polka dot dresses out dancing with the greatest of ease and joy.

As I was waving good-bye while he pulled away with my own little girl, I wanted to say, somehow, after this past month and that night especially: “Man of valour! Mighty man of valour!”

As Rachel Held Evans wrote and discovered during her “Year of Biblical Womanhood“:

“A woman of valor who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.”
- Proverbs 31:10

Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone.  Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor.

One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor: women who are changing the world through daily acts of faithfulness, both in my life and around the world.

 

Ever since Rachel wrote about the true meaning of “woman of valour” of Proverbs 31, I’ve used that phrase in all corners of my life.

I call out women of valour on a daily basis, and I feel like it’s powerful. I have a lot of women I love and admire. I keep them in a growing corner of my heart, these women that inspire me to be fearless and strong, alive and holy. My sister, my mother, my mother-in-law, my auntie, my daughters, my friends: all singing freedom and guts to me down through the ages, from the pages of Scripture as apostles and leaders to the church mothers to my humble friends of these days and even online or in books. So I say and I write the phrase “eshet chayil!” almost daily, and words matter.

But I’m also surrounded by men of valour. And I want to celebrate the men also changing the world through daily acts of faithfulness and godliness.

I’ve been told by a couple of Hebrew-knowledable people that the equivalent phrase is “Ish gibor chayil! Mighty man of valour!”

So.

Ish Gibor chayil! Mighty man of valour!

To the men of our world, to our fathers and brothers and husbands: Ish gibor chayil! Men of valour!

Men of valour! for standing up for, and with, us. We see you loving the women in your life well, we see you honouring us–your wives, your sisters, your mothers, your grandmothers, your daughters, your friends–we see you serving with abandon, we see you hungering for justice, we see your dedication to true purity, to wisdom, to knowledge, to honour, to respect, to beauty, to mercy.

We see you working and loving and fighting and dreaming. We see your heart, your mind, your strength.

Ish gibor chayil! for studying and researching, for writing books, for blogging and speaking, for teaching and pastoring and leading your brothers by example, in word and deed, for releasing fearful and shaming rhetoric and embracing conversation.

Man of valour! for sticking around, for being a real dad, day in and day out, thank you for all the ways that you love us, seen and unseen.

Ish gibor chayil! for choosing to grow up, to leave behind the childish and destructive appetites for pure goodness, for living true manhood, true fatherhood, in a spirit of faithfulness and humility.

Men of valour! for your tenderness, your gentleness, your peace-making heart.

Ish gibor chayil! for engaging joyfully in mutually submissive marriages, for loving your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, for raising your daughters alongside your sons to ask themselves “What has God called you to do with your one wild and precious life, my darling?

Men of valour! for honouring work as holy and shared co-creation, for pausing in your talking to listen to us, too, for making space for our voice, for inviting us. Thank you for living a better truth.

Ish gibor chayil! for building this beautiful picture of life in the Kingdom, all of us working alongside each other, as a seeking, a vision, a motley collection of prophets, a foretaste, a sign, all of us with different stories, different reasons, different voices, crying out and praying and working and welcoming, for freedom and wholeness, for restoration and redemption.

To my dad, and my husband, and my son, to the men in my own life, Ish gibor chayil! Man of valour!

 

 

The original version of this post incorrectly used the phrase “gibor chayil.” (Cue me: red-faced and embarrassed.)  Several kind Hebrew scholars pointed out that the “ish” needs to be added to the phrase so I have corrected the post. And as far as pronounciation, this is what  Rosanna kindly sent our way:  “Gibor means mighty or strong, and ish means man. …As for pronunciation, the trickiest part is the ch, which is a guttural sound with no english equivalent. It is closer to h than to an english ch. You put the back of your tongue up to the roof of your mouth while making a h sound. The vowels are a little mixed up. The i’s are pronounced ee, and the a is a like a long i. The o is long, and the e’s are short. Here is my best pronunciation guide: eesh gee-bore hi-yeel (hi like the greeting). And esh-ett (both short e’s) hi-yeel.”

Continue Reading · Anne, Dad, faith, Jesus Feminist, love, men, women · 56

In which the Kingdom of God is also a small family leading worship

 

Every Sunday, during Advent, one family gets up at the beginning of the church service to read the devotional, text, and prayer. This Sunday’s candle was Love, and it was our turn. So I carefully dressed Evelynn in her older sister’s hand-me-down Christmas dress, but the older two couldn’t be bothered: fashionista Anne wanted to wear harem pants and a lotus dress, pragmatic Joseph preferred his red hockey t-shirt.

Initially, I handed Brian the full reading and text we were given without thought. Probably I would stand, beatifically, madonna-like, no doubt, surrounded by my children, behind him, supportive.

This up-front-stuff is the part of worship that The Daddy does, I defaulted, without thinking, slipping into my old pastor-wife groove. It was my husband who said, “No, this is Advent, and it’s church, and we’re a family: we’re all in this. Together.” (Usually, he’s the one reminding me that those old ways don’t fit a Jesus-shaped life, not anymore.)

.Of course, Anne was thrilled. There is no timidity or fear in her, she dances through church. One day, a friend of mine came over to me, with tears in her eyes, and said, “I know it might be odd but I need to tell that I think I heard a word from God about Anne. I was watching her dance, and somehow, in my heart, I heard Jesus say, “I love to watch her dance for me. It makes me so happy.”

Isn’t Jesus happy when children are happy in his Presence?

Now, all on her own, Anne often goes into a quiet room, turns on praise music, and spins and dances, just her and (I imagine, I wouldn’t be surprised) an Audience of One, dancing with her even. (I cried when my friend told me that Jesus was happy about Anne’s dancing. I tucked another moment into my own heart, Mary-like, we know what it is to ponder and remember for the rest of a life.)

Joseph is my singer, my worshipper. He memorizes the words to songs, and is always singing under his breath. I didn’t realize how easily songs came to him until I heard him singing to himself all the time, just working on puzzles, singing all the songs I sing. He loves to sit in the very front of church, but I’m a back-row soul so we usually clash about where to sit in church. Every once in a while, we end up in the very front, and he watches and learns, and he wants me to hold him close during worship, so I sing the words right into his ears (and Brian chases Evelynn back and forth across the gym because, have mercy, that child never sits still). He told me, in his Cookie-Monster boy-voice, that he wants to sing songs always, and someday, that will be him making up songs and playing the guitar. His favourite song, his top-of-the-lungs-gracious-that-is-loud-bellowing-song,  is Matt Redman’s Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul. And he means every word of it.

So Anne ran on stage, and I followed in her confident wake, sedate, the matriarch of this little tribe. Brian handed the microphone to Anne, and my girl, she read it strong: “This morning we light the second candle and we remember Love.”

The sound of her girlish voice through the speakers, rang out, in bell-ringing-clear proclaiming.

Brian sat down on the stage beside her and Joe, and he read, in his midwest man voice, “In a manger on that incredible night Love was born. Mary held Love in her arms. The shepherds from the fields came to worship Love. Years later, Wisemen would come to bring gifts to the King Love. Here was Love born to us. Love grew and touched those who could not be touched. Love forgave those who would not be forgiven. Love listened to those who had no one to listen to them. Love prayed for those who did not love him. Love gave life to those who were caught in the grasp of death. Love willingly died so that our sins were removed, forgiven, and so we could be face to face with God.”

Anne took the microphone again, and prayed, “May we be teachable to love like Jesus himself.”

Then I took the microphone and began to read the Scriptures. I had Evelynn balanced on my cocked hip, and I wasn’t nervous. For once in my life, holding a microphone, I wasn’t nervous. My daughters, my husband, my son, were all here with me, there was no need to fear because this, this was communal worship: not a performance.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love,” I read from 1 John.

Then Evelynn grabbed the mic out of my hand and hollered “LOVE!” into it, bursting out laughing at the sound of her own loud voice. I laughed, too, relieved, and joked that we were raising a preacher in this one. (Seriously, this girl.)

“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

I handed the microphone to Brian, thinking we were done, but Joseph took his Dad’s arm, pulled it down to his wide mouth, and solemnly said, “A-men” in benediction. I lit the candles with a fireplace clicker thing, we walked back to our seats to sit amongst our friends.

I think the Kingdom of God looks like children, men, and women in worship together. We wait in the darkness together, so we worship together. Aren’t we all a picture of the restored life in the full light of day, how this new life means all are welcome?

So that the Kingdom of God is yeast and seed, and also a slender little girl, dancing for Jesus alone, and one little boy, singing songs, and one little family leading worship for the community, and one more candle burning, on a lampstand, lighting the whole room. It’s Angels on a hillside with common shepherds, and Kings in stables, and virgins having babies. It’s the uneducated Galileans as ambassadors for God, and murderous Pharisees as great apostles, it’s Mary Magdalene charged with announcing the resurrection, and little children as our examples.

So my children lead worship right alongside of the grown-ups, and their mama reads Scripture right alongside of the men, and their dad is the one who willingly gave up his own time in the lead, for the joy of giving his most-loved-ones a chance to worship out loud, too.

Isn’t it beautiful, all together? Isn’t it beautiful when young and old, male and female, rich and poor, broken and beautiful, all gather for Emmanuel, God with us?

Come, Lord Jesus, among us, and until you do, I have a little girl who wants to dance, and a boy who wants to sing, and a baby who wants to preach, a husband with a leader’s mind and a servant’s posture and a heart after God, and me, I am learning to be not afraid but to speak truth in love.

It’s just a small incarnational moment, hardly worth noticing for most of the world, but for me, this was a metaphor moment of life in the Kingdom, life in the glorious truth of worship in spirit and truth, Jesus-shaped leadership as servanthood, and so our family’s lighting of another candle within community, with their affirmation and prayers and participation, pushed back just a bit more of the darkness, and then we scattered back out again.

 

 

Continue Reading · advent, Anne, brian, christmas, church, community, Evelynn, faith, family, Joseph, women · 34