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Women are Scary :: by Melanie Dale

Most of the time when people write or talk about female friendships they either make it sound like rainbows-and-unicorns-and-cupcakes OR they make it sound like the worst experience of their lives. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to Melanie Dale. Not only is she a fellow fan of Doctor Who(!!!), but she wrote a book about female friendship I think almost every woman needs to read. It’s called Women are Scary (isn’t that a fantastic title?!) and it’s one of the most honest, funny, and helpful books for developing friendships in adulthood. I loved it and it made me love women even more. You’ll see what I mean when you read this post from her. Then find her online and buy her book. – S.

Women are Scary :: Sarah Bessey

The Doctor: “There’re a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive … wormhole refractors … You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
From Doctor Who, “The Almost People”

For several years, I’ve been a Sarah Bessey fan, so as you can imagine, I’m geeking out a bit as I type these words and have pretty much given up trying to be cool about it.

So. I’m trying to write a post about how women are scary for the author of Jesus Feminist. The irony is not lost on me. And I’m using words like “wench,” “bossy,” and “burping,” which are like a triumvirate of female no-no words. Other women have always intimidated me, and I’m a weensy bit sweaty admitting this here.

But maybe you can relate to the utter weirdness of trying to fit in, of squeezing yourself into a mold that doesn’t seem to fit your kind of female. What do you do with women’s ministry and women’s retreats? When I was figuring out how to be a girl in the church, I felt like an expatriate living in a foreign land where I was expected to understand floral arrangements and how to make a proper cheese ball.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a roomful of women I barely knew, watching a video in which Bible teacher Beth Moore got down in someone’s face and declared, “I love women!”

Ooh, I thought to myself, I don’t think I love women. Women are scary, complicated creatures.

The very next moment, something inside me bubbled up and I prayed inside my head, “God, help me to love women.”

Nothing happened. I didn’t feel the earth shake or my insides quiver. I finished watching the video, picked up my daughter in the nursery, and moved on with my life.

Never did I suspect that God would answer that little prayer in such a big way. Looking back over the last couple of years, since praying that prayer, I’ve realized that God has completely rewired my heart. I find myself asking questions, listening to the hearts and hurts of the women around me, and offering bear hugs with abandonment. Where I wanted to run, I now leap to encourage. Where I felt defensive, I now celebrate our differences.

I still avoid crafts.

I attended my first women’s retreat in college, hosted by the women at my church. At that point I was still learning how to be a little bit normal, how to navigate female relationships. My life as a theatre major, a fairly untalented one, consisted of daily rehearsals in which I stood in the back and played the silent role of wench or maid and practiced carrying trays and not drawing attention to myself while wearing a corset and petticoat.

On the night of my first women’s retreat, I of course had wench or maid rehearsal in my whalebones and came to the retreat late, tired, and my insides just a little squeezed. My boobs were relieved to be out of the corset and away from my throat, and I guess I was exploring my diaphragmatic freedom, because before I knew what I was doing, I burped loudly in front of everyone.

I liked burping. Burping was awesome. And then an entire room filled with older church ladies turned to stare at me and I could tell they were mustering the good Christian grace for which they’d trained, and I realized that maybe my parents weren’t the only ones who thought burping in public was a bad idea. Having girlfriends and being a lady might require sacrifice on my part. No more burping wench-maid. I wasn’t sure what I thought about this.

Years later, I still love Jesus, and burping, and sometimes in spite of myself and my complete weirdness, I still go to these things called women’s conferences. They’re filled with lovely ladies and prayer and I’m always just a little on edge, like I don’t quite fit and if they only knew what was going on inside of me … you know, besides gas. In a room full of Christian women I always secretly panic that I’m going to somehow lose control and scream the f-bomb over and over until they drag me out by my Bible.

In the ’burbs where I do life, we live in an independent, isolated culture. We drive our cars into garages and close the doors behind us, and we can go days and weeks without interacting with the neighbors unless we’re intentional about making friends. If we can learn how to develop real, soul-soothing relationships, there’s no stopping what we can do together for our kids, our families, and the world. But first we have to stop being scary and scared of each other.

I witnessed the perfect illustration of female relationships as I waited for my kids in the pickup line at preschool. I watched as two three-year-old girls held hands and tried to walk in opposite directions. They yanked and yanked each other back and forth. They were very angry. They were bossy. They tried and tried to get the other one to go their way. Because their way was better. They knew. No matter how hard they yanked and yanked, they each had their own idea about the right way to do things. But in all the yanking and bossing, they never let go. They held hands tighter and tighter.

That’s a relationship with a girl. We hold hands. We don’t let go. Because we need each other. We yank and yank, but we don’t let go.

So find your girls, grab hands, and don’t let go. We are better together. Put on your best sweatpants and get started.

headshotMelanie Dale is a geek on a God-ride, a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Living in the Atlanta area, she blogs at Unexpected.org about motherhood, orphan care, adoption, and sometimes poo.

Continue Reading · community, friends, Guest Post, women · 21

Embracing the Body :: a guest post by Tara M. Owens

Tara and I spent a wonderful lunch together in Denver over a year ago and, yes, we totally talked about Doctor Who. But she also poured out her dream and her process for this very book. It was a long road to see it come to light and I believe it’s a powerful book for our time.

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Tara is a marvellous woman: trust worthy, strong. If I had a spiritual director, I’d want her to be someone like Tara. Considering the damaging theology that some espouse, claiming that our souls or minds are more important or more spiritual than our bodies, this book seeks to reclaim the body in Christian theology, language, and practice. Wise, erudite, loving and tender, Embracing the Body will bring true healing and wholeness to our theology of our physical bodies as a church. Tara Owens is the perfect guide for this holy journey. I’m excited to introduce you to this book and also give away two copies!

Bristled. Burnished and brown. Baby-soft. With each cheek, I pressed my lips in deeper. With each person I became a little bolder. I looked into eyes shining with hope, heads bowed with heaviness. I wrapped my arms around those who were weary. I stood in tip-toed excitement to receive each one.

Earlier that morning, I was conscripted, deputized as a makeshift monk. In this community of artists and wanderers that I had called home for the week, I was asked to be a stand in for the holy. I listened carefully as our chaplain explained what I was to do. In a blessing of these who bring beauty into the world, each would approach with a request. In the manner of the pilgrims to the Greek Mount Athos, also known as the Holy Mountain, on approaching a monk, the traveler would call out, “Bless me.” In return, I would acknowledge what already is—that they are chosen and called by God—by responding, “The LORD blesses you.”

“Then,” my chaplain said, “we will kiss them.”

I struggle to find words for the joy that sang through me on hearing those words. The surge of delight I felt was disproportionate, sudden and thrilling. While I recognize that most people, when faced with the prospect of kissing the cheeks of more than fifty near-strangers, would not be filled with excitement, I’ve been thinking, teaching, wrestling with and writing about the wonder of embodiment for more than six years.

In today’s context, we’re rarely given the opportunity to touch others in blessing, let alone get close enough to kiss them. But the act of embodying love, of reaching out of our imperfect, sweaty, awkward humanity to touch the trembling, holy, grace-infused stuff of another is a place of sacrament. As I touch you with my lips, I give form to love. As I lean close to bless, we insist together on the holiness of creation—even as we feel and know its limitations and vulnerabilities.

I’ve blessed people with oil before, marking them gently with the sign of the cross. I’ve rested hands on bowed heads, pressed my palm over a heart. I’ve supported cupped hands as they asked for God to fill them with His love. Until this particular day, I’d never kissed others in blessing, only in greeting, and then only with the anxious fumble of one who grew up in a culture devoid of these ritual greetings. Do I kiss once? Twice? Three times? I never know.

But now I am the moment’s monk. As each artist, each pilgrim comes with their brave petition—Bless me—and I unconsciously move toward them, grasping their shoulders, holding them in the surety of grace—The LORD blesses you—I am the one kissed by love.

Assured of our common humanity, the tenderness of skin and lips and hope and blessing, I have embodied Christ, watched Him spill out of others and into me. I have fallen in love again and again with each face, and the kissing has become a needful thing, something that is right and good and true. It is a reversal of Judas’s betrayal, and embodiment of not my will but thine be done, and a release into all that they are and all that I am and all that God is in and between and through us.

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This is how we begin to create community with our bodies. Not with kissing (although there is great wisdom to be gained in reflecting on Paul’s suggestion to greet one another with a holy kiss—Rom. 16:15, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:21, 1 Thess 5:25, 1 Peter 5:14), but with an attentive awareness of the tenderness of our very selves, the softness of flesh, the hope of movements toward redemption, the aching flaws of bodies that age and ail.

What would it mean to attend to one another’s bodies as if they were our own to receive and bless? Not objects to control, but members of ourselves, whose gifts and griefs are as real as our own. To make safe spaces for the grace of touch—a kiss, a clasp, a hand on a shoulder or arms that encircle—is to create a culture of body that embraces mystery and material together. These spaces, held open at once by our God and our bodies, speak safety—I see you, I feel you, you can relax now, you are safe—and incarnate the presence of God, whose love can move through us to bring healing and wholeness.

This is the kneeling of the body of Christ, together as a community. In kneeling, in blessing, we put ourselves in the most vulnerable position possible. We expose ourselves to hurt, we risk betrayal. We open the softest parts of our flesh to others and the world, and we do it with radical trust not that we will be saved from hurt, but that God will move through our vulnerability to bring the power of Christ into the world. This is the kneeling of Christ in Gesthemane, a kneeling not for himself but for the redemption of all, an opening of a way of return to the One who loves us all the way to death.

This is the risk we must take with our bodies, our selves. We must offer a hand to the one we fear to touch, a shoulder to the one whose load seems impossible to bear. These aren’t metaphors, we have to get up and move, to let sweat and smell make us uncomfortable, let words become meals shared and savored, let the promised prayers become bedside vigils beside the cots of the dying.

This isn’t a list of things to do, another heavy requirement of a life of holiness. It’s isn’t anything further from you than the next deep breath, the way the air fills your lungs and oxygen rushes through your arteries to sustain life. We are meant to live this incarnate life together, and, however dysfunctionally we do so, it is the togetherness that lets the blood of Christ flow freely, doing what our own blood does so well: it brings sustaining energy, washes us of what is wasteful; it gives us rhythm and movement, maintains warmth and holds us open to what is needed; it defends against what will infect, closing wounds so that the life within can heal and make new.

These are things to recognize in our life with Christ and with one another, not manufacture. The wonder of kneeling, of blessing, is that it is something that we receive instead of produce, it is not what we earn but what we make known.

 

owens-0496 copyTara M. Owens, CSD is the author of Embracing the Body: Finding God In Our Flesh & Bone, published by InterVarsity Press. She’s a spiritual director with Anam Cara Ministries, and the senior editor of Conversations Journal. She lives with her husband, Bryan, their daughter, Seren, and their rescue dog, Hullabaloo, in Colorado. She loves Doctor Who, red velvet cupcakes, and Jesus, not necessarily in that order.

Giveaway!

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of two copies of Tara’s book. And a pot of homemade Meyer Lemon curd because Tara is awesome like that.

virtualbooktour

Continue Reading · book review, books, Guest Post · 54

Transformation by Interruption

Transformation by Interruption :: Sarah Bessey

By nature, by nurture, and by training, I’m a planner. I’ve always been able to make a plan, work a plan, stick to a plan. It’s one of my greatest strengths, a dedication that has served me well in everything from my former work in strategic development and marketing to my life now as a writer and a mother.

I can attest to the writer of Proverbs that it is wise to “do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house” (Prov. 24:27, NLT). I love an organized spreadsheet and a strong vision-mission-purpose statement. I will probably always be a planner because I find God there: it’s the gospel of joining with God to bring order out of chaos, perhaps.

Yet, I’ve experienced God most deeply when my plans are disrupted.

That’s how these things usually work. There’s a shadow side to our strengths, often discovered through some inciting incident outside of our control. We find God in the space between what we know to do and the unknown territory where our usual methods are useless. I call these moments holy disruptions. They’re the places where I run out, when I have to decrease, and then, wouldn’t you know it? I see Christ increase.

For me, motherhood has been the holiest disruption of all.

Read the rest of this post at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics….

Continue Reading · Guest Post, parenting · 5

Everything has to grow :: a guest post by Blaine Hogan

I’m excited to welcome my friend, Blaine Hogan here today. We met in Tulsa last June and found ourselves crammed into a booth, talking about the Enneagram until far too late at night. He’s a brilliant man and now he’s created a fantastic course called Make Better. It might be a great fit for many of you in this season of your life. Plus Blaine knows I love a deal – he’s brought along with a discount for us. – S. 

Everything has to grow :: Blaine Hogan

Our oldest, Ruby, turned four this week. It’s insane how fast time really moves these days. We also have an 18 month-old, Eloise, so we’re confident that time stands still as well. We’re in that constant flux between running to catch time by it’s tail, savor each and every moment, while at the same time desperate for 7PM to roll around so we can put these people who are ruining our lives to bed.

The keyword for us these days presence – standing still even when we can’t run fast enough, and standing still when all we want to do is kick that clock into gear.

As someone who has always struggled with anxiety, presence is pretty hard to come by. But these beautiful little ladies are helping me. Let me tell you what I mean.

The other day I was rushing to get Ruby and I ready to head to pre-school. It was a nice day and we’re close enough to my work and our daycare to walk. And so, Ruby needed her “fast” shoes. Normally she puts them on herself, but today she wanted my help. When I was a kid, my dad went on a bike ride with my brother and brought back a puppy. Long story! Anyway, we kept the thing. Even longer story! I remember my dad remarking how big that puppy was going to get?

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Look at those paws,” he shot back.

Well, Ruby has giant paws and that morning I was desperately trying to jam her feet into her size 11 Nikes.

“Ruby, your shoes are getting so small, because your feet are getting so big. You’re growing so fast!”

She looked at me dead in the eyes.

“Dad, everything has to grow.”

She was talking about her feet, but she was also talking about everything else in the whole wide world. Her wisdom shot through my heart and I nearly started balling right there.

“You’re right goose, everything has to grow.”

I’ve got quite a sordid past – major trauma as a kid, addictions galore, a real mess. I never thought for once in my 20’s that my 30’s would have me living in the suburbs in a tiny house, a growing family, and a church job. And I certainly never imagined a 4 year-old, my OWN 4 year-old speaking such truth straight into my heart.

10 years ago, after a series of E.R. worthy panic attacks helped me uncover a lot of broken stuff, I started to make some changes. I quit acting, went to a lot of therapy, spent 2 years in seminary, and decided to commit to the real me instead of the false one. And for the last 2 years I’ve been developing an online course meant to distill all that learning into an 8-week course that would help artists and humans alike, grow.

It’s called Make Better and our mutual friend, Sarah has generously allowed me to share it with you today.

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Everything has to grow and I hope you’ll let me be your guide.

MAKE BETTER is an 8-week online course designed to help people become better humans so they can make better art. It’s essentially a walk through my creative process via the refining fire of trauma, therapy, theatre school, and a masters in theology. In the end people are saying they leave the course with a better understanding of who we they are, what they are made to do, why they are made to do it, and how they should begin.

Registration closes on the 30th at midnight CST and right now you can take $100 off with the promo code BEMOREHUMAN.

Blaine-Circle-AvatarWith a BA in theater performance and an MA in Culture and Theology, Blaine Hogan has written books, directed films, created live events for over 1 million people, developed content for numerous Fortune 500 companies, and now works at one of the highest impact churches in the country. He wants to take all that experience and help you make better…everything.

Continue Reading · art, Guest Post · 0

Messy Women Lead Me Back to Jesus :: a guest post by Mary DeMuth

I love Mary DeMuth. And I don’t mean that in the lame say-it-but-don’t-mean-it way. She was my roommate when we were in Haiti together in 2012, and she is genuine, whole, brave, loving, funny, and smart. I’m honoured to host her words here today.

Her new book is a collaboration with bestselling author Frank Viola called The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels. I read it ahead of time and endorsed it: “Here is very simply the truth about Jesus and His relationship with women: He loved us. What a powerful truth for women in the world today! Jesus is always the hero of the story. Through this book, we see and know that He is the hero of our stories too.” – S. 
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When I write fiction, my characters change me. In fact, when I finish a novel, I go through a period of mourning, missing my characters, their voices, their quirks. Call me crazy (it’s okay!). I’m not sure why I didn’t take into account that the five women whose stories I expanded from the New Testament would have the same effect. Or even more so.

 

But oh how they did.

 

Atticus Finch said it well in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” When Frank Viola approached me about collaborating on The Day I Met Jesus, I was grateful. Most every writer struggles to get work, and I am no different. So we decided to work together, and he shopped the proposal around. Baker publishing said yes, and I was on my way.

 

Except I had Atticus’s pesky point of view homework, meaning I had to crawl into the skin of five amazing women. The nearly unclothed woman circled by an angry mob, stones in hand. The woman of the night who audaciously spilled her earnings on sacred feet. The racially-hated woman of Samaria who had her own painful divorce stories. The woman who bled and bled and bled. And then the woman who shares my name, Mary of Bethany, who unashamedly loved Jesus.

 

I realized, first, that these were not characters in a dime-store novel. These were living, aching, longing, beautiful women who walked the dusty streets Jesus walked. They were real. As in like you. Like me. These are not fancy stories we memorize or words on a page that become boring and rote.

 

Each story represents a human being.

 

Each woman taught me to see Jesus in a completely new way. I fell in love afresh with the God-Man who off-kiltered the self righteous, who crossed racial and gender barriers to have his longest conversation with someone. I wish I had seen His impossible eyes dance when He healed over a decade-long illness and ushered an outcast into community. And oh how I wanted to hear His words of affirmation over this Mary, that perhaps I had chosen the part that won’t be taken away.

 

Jesus is beyond my expectations. He was always confounding the disciples in like manner, refusing to fit into their Messiah mold. He went out of his way to find the unnoticed, the unimportant, the non-religious, the fray of society.

 

I follow this Jesus. As do you. The Savior of the second chance. The Messiah who made friends and didn’t care what wagging heads said in response. The One who laughs better and weeps deeper than we can imagine.

 

Walking around in the sandals and bare feet of these five women ignited a revival in me toward Jesus, the irresistible friend I’ve longed for my entire life. Revelation 2:4 cuts through me as I type this. Jesus said, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”

 

These women and their starkly beautiful encounters with Jesus help me remember why I fell in love with Jesus when He rescued me so many years ago. How He gently led me down a pathway of healing from my own story of sexual abuse, parental death, and suicidal thoughts. How He went out of his way to find outcast me. Oh to re-love Him lavishly!

 

So if you feel in the margins today, take heart. Jesus beckons. He knows. He sees. He offers grace. You don’t have to have your religious ducks in a row. In fact He specializes in messy folks. Why? Because we actually need Him.

 

That’s what I learned from those five women. They flat-out needed Jesus. And He honored them with relationship. May we need Him in the same way.

 

Continue Reading · book review, Guest Post · 3