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Opinion Poll: help me choose a quote for a print from “Jesus Feminist”

Since this Facebook page conversation, we have been quietly working on creating a little collection of Jesus Feminist swag.

If you’ve read the book, you know my heart for small grassroots efforts towards justice and shalom. We saw this as a way to not only support people we love and know, but also a way to begin to create a bit of employment.

So the profits from this little venture will go to support our friends at Help One Now and Heartline Ministries’ Maternity Centre in Haiti.

But, while it was important to us to find a way to support the ministries that we know and love, we also wanted to find a partner with ethical, just, and sustainable production practices to support employment for vulnerable and marginalized people.

IGlogoEnter the incredible team at Imagine Goods.  Check them out:

We are Imagine Goods, and we partner with vulnerable and marginalized people around the world to make products that, in many cases, give them the first fair wages they’ve ever received. 

You might call us “accidental entrepreneurs”. . . we never really intended to start a business. We had been working as a non-profit in Cambodia since 2006, and slowly came to the realization that this was the most empowering project we saw; by giving people the opportunity to work, we give them hope. 

So we sort of do things a bit differently around here. People matter to us way more than the bottom line, and we try to take a close look at the entire chain of people who are involved in making our products. Are they earning a living wage (enough to meet their basic needs)? Are they being empowered? That’s why we call ourselves a “Sustainable Supply Co.”—because we believe that when we buy a product, the cost of the item should be able to sustain every person connected to it with a living wage.

In order to really get to know the people who make our products, we travel to Cambodia together three times a year. While there, we shop in the markets for fabrics (the stall owners know us and love to see us walking up!) and travel to visit the organizations that make our products. These are all workshops run by non-profits that have the express purpose of finding marginalized or vulnerable people—many of whom are survivors of trafficking—training them in a skill, and empowering them with work.

We are creating products that care for the human race—giving opportunity for individuals to care for their children, families, and health. . . so that a new generation has a fighting chance to break the cycle of poverty.

We are so excited about supporting the artisans at Imagine Goods as well as Help One Now and Heartline through the message of Jesus Feminist.

The shop will have a couple of sustainably-produced shirts and a handful of prints with quotes from the book, as well as a necklace, and even a decal for your laptop or locker.

The whole thing will hopefully be ready in time for Christmas shopping – or at least that’s the plan. Fingers crossed and all that. (If our little experiment goes well, we might add to our little collection as we go along but to begin, we’ll start rather small and just see what happens. A free devotional app is also in the works but we’ll see, eh?)

We will have two prints available with quotes from the book. BUT we’re having a hard time picking which ones.

This is where you come in – would you vote to help me pick the two quotes that we will turn into prints?

We’ve narrowed down to these Top 10 quotes based on what we saw as the main highlights at Kindle and Goodreads as well as tweets, mentions, posts, etc. Hopefully this means that these 10 quotes are the ones that resonated the most with readers but it’s a pretty unscientific guess so who knows?

(There is an embedded poll here in the post that can take a minute to show up. But if you can’t see the poll here to participate, please click here to vote.) And yes, you can choose more than just one and see results as you vote.

I’ll give it a week or so and we’ll see where we end up, eh?


survey software

Thanks for your help! We appreciate it so much.

Continue Reading · Jesus Feminist · 10

We underestimate the foolish and the kind ones: On building the Kingdom of God, peace-making, and bridge-building

Nearly a year ago, I had one of my first in-person conversations with Christine Caine. If you don’t already know Chris, well, get ready – she’s an over-caffeinated, fast-talking, Pentecostal Aussie who is filled with the Spirit and leaves most of us slack-jawed while she preaches her face off around the world and sets the curtains on fire. And I love her. But in this story, we were just chatting quietly in the back of a room, getting to know each other. She was kind enough to encourage me in my work, particularly as Jesus Feminist was just weeks away from releasing. Off hand, she mentioned that she feels like we need to create pipelines for people to move towards God’s idea of equality and justice.

In a way, we all start at a different point in our journeys. If I imagine this journey towards God’s full realization of justice as an alphabet, some of us start at Point A and others start at Point S.

At the end of our lives, some of us might finish far away from Point Z perhaps but it took a tremendous amount of courage and faith to end up at Point P. And so we can celebrate any movement towards justice and wholeness in each other, however far from perfect.

We all need a way to move forward. We need an invitation or a way to onboard to the journey. We need the bridges to be able to cross over.

Even if, in our lifetime, we only move from Point A to Point M, at least we are moving towards God’s heart for justice, at least we are being moved. And I think so often in our work for justice, we lack patience for those who are on different points of the journey, we want to leap them from Point A to Point Z. Sometimes I want to make that leap myself or leapfrog someone else to where I am already – forgetting that it took a lot of pipelines, bridges, prayers and conversations for me to end up where I am.

I find the true and long-lasting work happens when we take the time to walk with each other in that journey. I have needed men and women to walk with me as I move on this made-up idea of the justice alphabet, they are the ones who have created bridges for me to cross, space for me to grow in real and meaningful ways. I have been discipled.

We are all moving from different places and experiences, backgrounds and teachings, contexts and privilege. But I have hope still that God is moving us forward – if we are open to the Spirit and to each other.

I think this is also the holy work of justice and peace-making.

I’ve thought of that metaphor so much since our conversation. Because the truth is that we do all start from different places on different issues of justice. And I felt like Chris articulated much of how I feel about that little yellow book, and even my own ongoing work: I want to create the pipeline, to build the bridge, to hold out my hand and say walk a while with me and see for yourself. (I’m always so thankful for those disciples who are ahead of me in the journey.)

Wherever people find themselves in their journey, am I creating pipelines or building bridges? am I inviting my brothers and sisters further out into the holy and wild work of redemption?

***

I believe that our God is at work in the world, setting things right. I also believe that God accomplishes this in our world through, well, us. God’s redemptive movement, the slow and steady arc towards justice. We are learning that there is no fear in love – as of 1 John 4 says, we are letting “love have the run of the house.”

***

My friendships in Haiti have changed a lot of my theological opinions just like my friendships here at home or the ones built throughout a lifetime. (This is the way of community, I think. If our theology doesn’t evolve and change during our lives, then I have to wonder if we are paying attention.) I have written often about the man who moved a mountain so that a school could be built. The metaphor of moving a mountain as it relates to doing the work of peace-making and justice-seeking since my first visit to Haiti crops up often in my life and work – in fact, I ended up dedicating an entire chapter of my book to this beautiful idea).

And with every day that passes, it takes on new meaning and nuance to me. Because sometimes, yes, we speak to a mountain and it will lift up and be cast into the sea. What a glorious image! But I’ve also learned over my lifetime that it is just as holy and just as ridiculous and just miraculous for the people of God to pick up their own small shovels and shoulder into that mountain with faith.

Sometimes the mountain is cast out and other times, I believe, we see that mountain move by blood, sweat, tears, and patience, by joint effort, a million small stones at a time.

I have decided that, rather than be someone who denies the existence of the mountain entirely – whatever that represents in the moment – or simply gives up in despair, that I will be a woman who picks up small stones and moves them. Small acts of faith are still acts of faith. I will be a woman who slowly and over time and alongside of many others will make that mountain move.

But it will also be an act of love.

***

I’ve been thinking about the women of Exodus a lot lately. I lay the blame – okay, fine the credit – for that squarely on the shoulders of one of my best friends, Kelley Nikondeha. She has always been enthralled with the Old Testament. In fact, her work and her whole life centres around the themes of Isaiah through Communities of Hope in Burundi. Jubilee, justice, swords into ploughshares, all for the restoration of both lives and the land.

Kelley taught me about the women of Exodus, how they quietly turned over the empire in their own ways, paving the way for Moses and the exodus of Israel from Egypt. She writes here about the midwives, Pueh and Shiphra, who subverted Pharaoh in their own way. They were meant to murder any boy babies that were born to the Hebrew women but instead they quietly delayed their arrivals or “forgot” to look if the baby was a boy. All this to ensure that mothers delivered their healthy babies. When Pharaoh challenged them, they blamed the strength of the Hebrew mothers. And they kept right on delivering life to the people of Israel. This is why Moses survived. The mountain of slavery for the Hebrew people was moved in the big ways – the parting of the Red Sea, for instance – but that mountain also moved in the small and secret ways, like the midwives.

It was behind the scenes work. Small stones work. By the very nature of midwifery, it is holy work that is done in secret and in intimacy. But the result is life and hope, stretching for generations, changing the trajectory of the story.

***

I think that the work of the Spirit is often silent work. Perhaps that’s why it’s so rare – silence is so rare.

We don’t see what is going on in each other’s lives and hearts, as the Spirit moves among and within each of us. I think the greatest work of the Spirit happens in the secret places of our lives. We’re moving and changing, slowly being scrubbed clean on the inside. Who cares if we give all of our attention to the outside of the cup if the inside is filthy? (Matthew 23:25-26)

Not all of the redemptive movement of God is visible to our judgment. 

There are moments in our lives when we are silent because the Spirit is at work. Midwifery happens in the hidden places.

***

The paradox is that the  Spirit is also a movement, a mighty wind, a rushing river, a burning tongue of fire setting our mouths and our minds and our hearts on fire. There is usually movement – change perhaps? – after an encounter with the Spirit of the living God. The Spirit never calls us to apathy.

***

We think of a revolutionary as a holy warrior and it is exciting to be angry and to turn over tables. I bless the ones who are called to that work.

Peace making is not passive aggressive.

Some of us are called to the combative and visible work, but here’s my quiet word of caution: don’t look down on your brothers and sisters whose work in the Kingdom may well be done in secret, in quiet, in kind ways.

There are a lot of ways to challenge the empire. My way is not the only way. Your way is not the only way.

***

Revolution doesn’t look like changing diapers or making meals, right? Kind people don’t change the world. We can’t imagine overturning the empire through these small stones that we lift up, one after another, through the small lives we spare, through our words and our prayers.

But some of the most Christ-like people I have known in my life, the ones who have changed the world, are doing it in ways that we often think are beneath us. I know we’re dazzled by social media platforms and conferences stages, bullhorns and accolades. We take liberties with them, perhaps.

Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom of God in small ways: a seed that grows to a mighty oak, a mustard seed of faith, a bit of yeast that causes the whole loaf to rise.

I have a bit of a preference for the grassroots folks, I admit. I see the ones far from the usual power and leadership narratives as the heroes.

The Kingdom is often taking root in small ways – in our kitchens and in our parish halls, in our streets and our subsidized daycares, in youth group mentoring relationships and after-school care, in prayer circles and by-law meetings at city council.

We walk right past each other, never knowing we’re in the presence of a peace maker, never knowing the full ways that we are each engaged in the radical work of reconciliation, rescue, and redemption. 

And I think we underestimate the bridge builders, the ones caught in the middle with their arms outstretched.

I think we underestimate the kind and the foolish ones.

***

I am aware of power differentials and privilege, of systemic injustice and evil, of my own anger and my gross tendency towards an evangelical hero complex.

So of course I want to name the empire for what it is: crippling and soul-sucking, dehumanizing and evil. Whether it’s racism, patriarchy, war mongering, dehumanizing, it’s counter to God’s Kingdom. But the people caught in those systems are rarely the enemies – often they are just as caught, just as longing for a rescue as the rest of us. We don’t battle against flesh and blood, not really, but against the powers and principalities that hold us all captive.

And so I believe that we – as the people of God – are called to prophetically live out the Kingdom of God in our right-now lives. So that means setting up our lives as an outpost for the Kingdom way of life, the life of a disciple, the life and life-more-abundant of our God’s dream for humanity.

There’s room for the ones who dismantle and the ones who plant gardens in exile. There’s room for the midwives and the Moses.

 

***

I’m also suspicious of empire tactics being baptized and employed to “build the Kingdom of God.” 

My soul recoils from the use of the very tactics of the empire – silencing, bullying, judging, other-ing, dehumanzing, mocking, name-calling, ganging up and piling on, violence – used against the oppressed and marginalized now somehow being used for “good purpose.”

I see this tendency in my own soul and it grieves me. The Spirit often calls us to repentance before we are called to our ideas of revolution. 

My friend Kelley that I mentioned above here tells me that sometimes we think we’re called to fighting but really we’re called to farming.

This is the very nonsensical part of discipleship that our need for power bumps up against. It’s all very well to talk about “the upside down kingdom of God” until that discipleship asks us to actually live it out. 

To the world, it’s foolish to choose peace instead of war. It’s foolish to forgive. It’s foolish to be kind. It’s foolish to hope. It’s foolish to offer grace and conversation.

It’s foolish to care for your weaker brothers or sisters, let alone change our own behaviour to accommodate their growth and discipleship, their freedom and their journey.

It’s foolish to live without legalism and “clear boundaries” that apply to everyone. It’s foolish to make it our business to pursue a quiet life. It’s foolish to lay down our power. It’s foolish to be silent and listen to others instead of rush to make our own point (after all we have things to say! important things!). It’s foolish to recognize your own privilege and walk softly. It’s foolish to believe that your life matters. It’s foolish to honour one another.

Foolish things will confound the “wise” of our world. 

Those things all do seem foolish to me. So much of what Jesus and then the early church calls me to in Scripture seems foolish to the world. They confound me. They often go against my very real instincts to burn down bridges and shut down dissent and pick fights and turn over tables. But I think we are being foolish in the ways of a disciple. We are living prophetically into the Kingdom of God.

We can prophecy a better world with our very words and actions, even in the ways that we overturn the empire.

The Spirit transforms our hearts and minds and then our lives: regardless of our past, regardless of our context, regardless of our privilege or lack thereof. If we are disciples, we are participating in the life of Jesus now. And the way in which we engage in our lives matters. The way in which we engage our enemies matters even more perhaps.

This is how we will be known: by our love.

I want my work and witness to be marked by who I build up, not who I tear down. I want to be known as one who speaks life, not death; who empowers and affirm and speaks even the hard truth in love and invitation. I want us to be the ones who boldly deconstruct and then, with grace and intention and inclusion, reconstruct upon the Cornerstone.

I want to embody the character and nature of the kingdom of God, of our holy God, even when it seems so foolish.

I guess I’m foolish enough to believe it, they will know us by our love.

 

image credit: Kenny Louie

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist, social justice · 22

You are Not Powerless: One Way to be a Beloved Warrior This Week

beloved warriors

Sometimes I feel quite powerless and small. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. The heart of the world is breaking wide open, particularly during this summer of sorrow, and we feel powerless to help. We pray and we weep, we listen and we pay attention but it never feels like quite enough.

But let me settle one thing: We are never powerless. 

I believe with my whole heart is that the daughters of God were called to be Beloved Warriors. That calling might look different for each of us – some are called to the front lines, others of us are called to beautiful obscurity. But as a Jesus Feminist – someone whose feminism was birthed in and is now shaped by Jesus Christ – I want to engage with the fullness of that calling and the wonder-working power.

I want to pray with my voice and heart, absolutely,  but you better believe I’m also going to pray with my wallet and with my mind and with my feet and my hands. 

We’ve not been called to the people-pleasing life, to the approval seeking life, to the bow-down-and-give-up life or the sit-down-and-shut-up life. We’ve been called to the peace-making life, the truth-telling life, the she-who-the-Son-sets-free-is-free-indeed life.

We’ve been called to the spirit-filled and God-breathed life, living out the ways of the Kingdom and the life in Christ to every corner of our humanity. We are, what N.T. Wright calls, parables of hope.

We’ve been called to the life of the beloved. We’ve been called to the life of the disciple. We are not powerless.

So, I’ve decided to start highlighting simple ways for us to engage as beloved warriors on behalf of the daughters of the world. I hope to feature one way to engage with God in peace-making every week – a simple and from-home way to help write a better story for God’s girls in many locations and contexts around the world.

These are simple things, maybe you’d say they aren’t that big of a deal, really.

But we serve a God who takes the smallest seed of peace and justice that we can plant and then….watch….watch….watch….the mighty oak that will appear. These seeds are seeds of faith.

As I wrote last week about how to have hope that God is transforming the world, sometimes, absolutely, mountains move in a great sweep, picked up and cast out into the sea.

But these days I find that God often asks us to move a mountain one small stone a time.

Faithfulness is picking up my small stones, instead of screwing my eyes shut and denying the existence of the mountain.

***

This week, we’re going to send new and gently used books to the women of Joe’s Addiction Community in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.

I received a beautiful message from Jamie Z. on my Facebook page a few days ago. As soon as I read it, I cried. I emailed her and asked for permission to share this idea with our community here. I knew you would love this. Jamie and her team have been leading the ladies in their community in a study of Jesus Feminist.

But one night, their book discussion didn’t go so well….check out what Jamie had to say:

We encountered a sad and sobering reality, as we read a chapter called Patron Saints, Spiritual Midwives and Biblical Womanhood. In this chapter, Sarah talks about the many women who have been heroes in her life. Bible characters, such as Deborah, Esther, Mary Magdalene, historical figures, like Corrie ten Boom and Florence Nightingale, Harriet Tubman, Amy Carmichael, Dorothy Day, Gladys Aylward.

As I read out loud to our precious ladies, the tension in the room built. It was tangible. I wasn’t sure what was happening. After reading the chapter, I simply asked one of the Discussion Questions that the author has for the chapter: Who are some of the women heroes in your life, in your history?

There was silence. Total silence. Everyone looked around the room at one another. Finally one of the ladies (an incredibly strong woman who has survived a lifetime of unspeakable abuse), spoke through closed throat and tear-filled eyes. She said, “I’m so far behind. I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up. I don’t even know who any of these women are that you read about.” Another woman said, “I have no one. No women in my history that I could look up to.” The others in the room nodded.

No mothers, no grandmothers, no female community leaders, no role models, NO HEROES at all.

So many of us have grown up in the comfort of Sunday School, of Christian schools or home schooling. Many of these ladies have not even graduated high school. They are the FIRST in their family line to lift their heads from the dust and look to a possibility of a better future for themselves and for their daughters.

So Jamie Z. has decided to create a library for her friends. She wants to create a REAL bookshelf full of biographies and Bible stories about women of our history and legacy – missionaries, women of valour, faithful women, kingdom women, women who have changed the world.  The women who can read can check them out, but they’ll also be available to do read-alouds for women who are still learning to read. Biography, autobiography, essays, children’s books, young adult books, and audio books, whatever – they want to begin to create spiritual midwives and patron saints for each other.

I believe in the work that Jamie is doing, absolutely, but I also believe in each woman who is there. They are women of valour! This is kingdom work.

Beloved Warriors, here is what we will do: let’s build the  library for these precious women.

If you have these kinds of books just sitting on your shelf, please consider mailing them to Jamie! Walk around your house or your local bookstore or your church library, toss a few books into a box, write a note of encouragement, and pop it in the mail.

Send new or gently used to 1806B SE 59th St. Oklahoma City, OK 73129. 

For instance, you could send books about Corrie ten Boom, Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Harriet Tubman, Amy Carmichael, Evangeline Booth, Gladys Aylward, the women of the Bible, or even current heroes like Malala Yousafi.

And Jamie, to you and all the women – eshet chayil! Woman of valour! We are all cheering you on. 

 

 

Continue Reading · Beloved Warrior, Jesus Feminist, women · 45

In which I am carrying on their legacies :: a guest post by Dusty Counts

I received this beautiful letter from a woman in North Carolina named Dusty Counts. (Isn’t her name amazing?! I love the South.) After reading it, I asked her if I could share it here on my blog as a guest post because I love her legacy and I love how consciously she walks out that legacy in her life right now. Eshet chayil! 

Do you have a family story? Have you heard it all your life? This was my situation when I read Jesus Feminist. Somehow, reading that book made two of my family stories come to life.

My grandmother was 8 years old (can you imagine?) when she had to quit school. She was in the 3rd grade. Her mother had broken her hip, so my grandmother had to stay home, both to take care of the younger children as well as run the household. Did I mention she was 8 years old? Cooking was done on a wood stove, which my grandmother chopped the wood for. She also killed chickens. And she was never able to return to school.

But my grandmother decided life would be different for her four daughters, who all finished high school. This was unheard of in rural North Carolina during those times. My grandmother then cashed in some small life insurance policies to send her daughters to business colleges. All four of them then proceeded to graduate from business college!

She always, always, did for others. My mother told me she could never remember a meal (when she was a child) where my grandmother didn’t also fix a plate to send to someone in need. She did this, despite the fact there was little to send. These were far from wealthy people.

My grandmother also demanded that the first indoor bathroom in the community be installed in her house. There is a famous family story about her wanting a renovation to the house. My grandfather wasn’t quick enough in starting the project, so my grandmother took a sledgehammer and beat through the wall one day while he was at work. The renovation was completed.

My mother was a quiet person. She would never talk about her faith. But she prayed every night, for what seemed like hours to me. At her funeral, I learned there was more than one person that my mother had quietly provided toys and food for at Christmastime. She was such a person of faithful prayer.

At my church, Renovatus, we say: “We are your grandmother’s church and your great-grandmother’s church and your great-great-grandmother’s church.” I always think of my mom and grandmother when I see this.

These are their stories. I feel such a deep connection to these ladies who are now gone from my life. They were truly Jesus Feminists.

Thank you for making their stories alive again to me. You have given me a priceless gift.

I have been thinking about how I carry on their legacies. Am I doing that in any way?

I have a community life group that meets in my home every Monday night. We do a meal each week. Although my husband does the cooking, I like to think that this is carrying on the ministry of my grandmother.

And, I am on the prayer team at my church. We meet every Thursday night to pray for the ministries and members of our community. I like to think this is carrying on the ministry of my mother.

And, I have just become one of the first two women elders at Renovatus. There is an old saying in the south, “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.” This means we are more like our parents than we realize. I believe the spirit of my mom and grandmother are living on. That spirit is a part of me.

Love,

Dusty Counts (isn’t my name awesome? An adjective and a verb!)

dusty countsDusty Swink Counts hangs out in Charlotte, NC where she has spent 35 years climbing down the corporate ladder arriving happily at the bottom. From an IT professional to a stay at home mom who homeschooled to retail to preschool teacher to food service worker, it’s been quite a ride. She has been married to Jim for 30 years and mom to Dustin, 27; Ian, 26; Greylan, 23 and Christine, 22. This motley crew includes a financial advisor, a barber, an arborist/dancer and a Geology/Secondary Education major dance minor. When not asking, “Would you like to large size that meal?” Dusty enjoys reading, visiting with her children and awesome daughter-in-law and having coffee with friends. She has recently been ordained an elder at Renovatus, a church for liars, dreamers and misfits where she fits right in!

 

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 16