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In which we are chasing dreams in the Midst and in the Afters

A_Sarah

 

I have a confession for you: sometimes I used to get so mad at the Inklings. I have felt resentful because C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and all these other writers, real writers, had luxuries like housekeepers and pubs and colleagues and writing cabins and a way to pay their bills, they had creature comforts and every time the Muse arrived, they didn’t have to shush her, plead with her to come back later because, right now, Muse, can’t you see? Preschool, supper, diapers, bath times, and everything wonderful in my life needs my attention.

I’m not someone who has pursued a very traditional path to becoming a writer. Even now, my life doesn’t resemble the Great Writers and their habits.

Instead, I imagined my little yellow book while I was a full time working mum with another one on the way. And then I actually wrote most of it while I was on maternity leave with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a newborn.  I remember once crying in self-pity, “Hell, anyone could have written the Narnia books if they had a housekeeper and sustained silence. Even I could construct Middle Earth if I had a full night’s sleep!

Instead, I wrote most of my book at my kitchen table during naptimes or sitting on the bathroom floor while a kid was in the bathtub or at the public library with earphones on so that the study groups of teenagers wouldn’t distract me.

This is the season of chasing my dream in the Midst of my life and in the Afters of my life: in the midst of raising tinies, after supper, after bath times, after stories, after kitchen dance parties, in the midst of Saturday morning cartoons, after bills are paid, after work, after groceries are put away, after laundry is folded.

I write after it all and in the midst of it all because this life is what I’m writing about….

If it wasn’t like this, I don’t know what I would write about anyway. Our lives are always content. I remember hearing once that all theology has its roots in autobiography.

I’m over at SheLoves Magazine today sharing about why I believe there isn’t one way to be a writer. A lot of us write in the Midst and in the Afters. Click here to read the rest of this article.

Continue Reading · SheLoves, women, work, writing · 18

In which we pray: bring back our girls

bringbackourgirls

 

Our Father who art in heaven, bring back our girls.

Two-hundred-and-twenty-three precious young women are still lost to us.  We are weeping for our children, hear our prayer.

We are grieving and we are angry. So angry that our beautiful girls have been abducted, stolen, from their lives and their innocence by such unspeakable evil. We are desperate for their return, and we are desperate for someone to pay attention to them, to save them, to rescue them.

Our pillows are soaked with tears. We carry our grief in our wombs. We cannot be comforted while our daughters, our brilliant and beautiful daughters, are in the hands of extremists who are threatening to sell them. Dear God.

Why does no one care about our girls, Abba? I am angry because I believe that if they were 200 students from Ontario or Ohio, the world would have turned itself inside out until they were found but because our girls are in Nigeria, they are just another story, another “what a shame” story.

But I don’t want to remain isolated in my anger, I want my anger to work for our girls. Use my anger, Jesus, turn the force of it towards justice.

There is still time.

Abba, I pray for rescue. I pray for ways to escape and favour for the journey.

I pray for people on the inside who are filled with doubt to begin to set the girls free. Reach into their hearts, into the shred of humanity that is still left, and may they stand up against their leaders and fight for justice from within this evil. Repent, may they repent.

l I pray for governments to move to action. I pray for the United Nations and the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon, the people of influence all within the region, may they lean heavily and hard into the evil, until all of our girls are free. From the north and the south, from the east and the west, may we begin to rise up against such evil, such common evil.

We know that if this group succeeds, it will only be the beginning. Give us the courage and the resources to end this, now. Compel our leaders and wake them from their slumber. Dismantle the self-preservation instincts of governments.

I pray for courage to be in each school – the students, their parents, their teachers – who still stands in the crossfire between extremists and education even now today. They are feeling vulnerable and afraid, please guard them. Give them friends. May their communities rise up and surround them. This school, these girls, are hope to a nation and to a world, let our hopes not be crushed.

Father, among all of the devastation that this group has wrought throughout their region, all of the deaths, so many sparrows falling to the ground, may we notice it, may we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand, and may we grieve our brothers and sisters, may we rise up and say NO MORE with you. 

I feel so helpless. All I know to do this morning is to pray. It feels futile but take this small seed.

We know that your heart is for rescue and for life. May we move with you, however we can, to rescue, restore, and redeem our girls and their neighbourhoods from this evil still stalking the land.

We don’t understand it all, this is complex in some ways but glaringly simple, still. So we are fasting and we are praying and we are standing. We will use everything we have to help, everything. Jesus, bring back our girls.

Whether by miracle or by diplomacy, bring back our girls. We will lean heavily on our leaders until these girls are as dear to them as they are to you and to us.

I pray for an earthquake and for the jail doors to be swung open only by the Spirit. I pray for safety. I pray for courage.

Abba, be near to our girls and keep them safe, envelope them in courage and in love. Speak hope to them: someone is coming for them. We have not forgotten.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 

 

Related:

Boko Haram to “sell” Nigerian girls abducted from Chibok – BBC News

Bring Back Our Girls – by Nicholas Kristof

Sign this petition

Speak up and use your voice – contact your government leaders, write articles, spread the word, protest, rally, anything.

 

Continue Reading · social justice, women · 60

In which her kingdom calling grew with every sentence :: a guest post by Tamara Rice

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 10: Kingdom Come

How can you take part in the redemptive movement of God for women around the world? What hurt are you drawn to heal in even the smallest way?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, Tamara Rice is responding to our question.

Trigger warning: child sexual abuse.

***

As a female Bible major at a conservative Christian college, my ministry dreams were limited. If I didn’t want to work with kids, women’s ministry was mine by default, so I took the class—the class where we learned this ministry was about putting on retreats and planning teas, neither of which was complete without a proper Bible lesson. So my kingdom calling seemed obvious …

Teach her. Teach her.

But I was young. This proved difficult. I had not yet earned the right to be heard by the women around me. I lacked seasons of serving and seasons of suffering. (Oh, thank God, no one let me be a teacher.)

Then, by the time my babies came, my faith surroundings had changed. The women of our new church embraced a variety of roles out in the world, but they shared one commonality: they knew how to love. A few of them taught, sure. But mostly they loved, with hands and feet. They knew how to roll other people’s socks, rock other people’s babies, and put dinner on other people’s tables. It was beautiful, this kind of love, and suddenly I felt my kingdom calling shifting …

Love her. Love her.

Repeatedly, however, life put me on the receiving end of love instead, no matter how I aspired to give it away. The days of my psych ward stay I know by heart, the number of chemo rounds comes quickly to my lips, but the number of my surgeries by age 35 … I have to stop and count every time. I can never quite wrap my brain around the sheer depth of my need for the hands-and-feet love of others in that decade.

And then three years ago, the events of my childhood on a Baptist mission field in Bangladesh began to surface. An American missionary physician had had a thing for girls young enough to be his daughters … then his granddaughters. My childhood friend had exposed his evil in 1989, and for her 14-year-old courage she’d been forced by the mission board to sign a confession of adultery, while he was simply sent back to his home state where he continued to practice medicine.

“Don’t talk about it,” her family had been told. “It’s gossip,” others had been warned.

Justice is underrated, and the need for it doesn’t always fade with time. Twenty-plus years of injustice takes its toll, just ask my precious friend. And three years ago it became clear the man’s victims on that mission field had been many, and a proper investigation—and end to his medical career—was long overdue. My kingdom calling began to shift without warning …

Bind her wounds. Bind her wounds.

And working toward justice was the only thing I could offer her from 2000 miles away, but how? American victims of other American citizens on foreign soil prior to the Protect Act of 2003 have no legal recourse in the US. Options for victims are extremely limited, and the mission board that knew of this man’s guilt refused to expose him, no matter how many adult female MKs (missionary kids) came forward.

As their stories began to emerge first over the phone, then through a blog one victim started, missing puzzle pieces were revealed. My own encounters with this man, who was my childhood pediatrician, began to make awful sense. My 20-year struggle with anxiety and depression began to make awful sense. Slowly, I realized that in attempting to bind the lifelong wounds of my friend and other women, I was actually binding my own.

But the frustration of fighting injustice within the Church has often gotten the better of me. Though we eventually succeeded in preventing our abuser from practicing medicine, the hopelessness of trying to elicit sincere change in this mission board overwhelms me and has left new scars.

But I’m not alone. To date, the advocacy group MK Safety Net reports that dozens of American and Canadian mission boards and boarding schools for MKs have mishandled cases of child abuse abroad during the last 50 years, with the horrific details of the abuses, the number of abusers, and the subsequent mishandling—lack of investigations, lack of reporting, lack of accountability—often staggering.

And when I started writing more recently, on my own blog, about this struggle for justice, I was startled by the overwhelming response of those who’ve been fighting abuse in Christian environments, like local churches, much longer. Men and women alike, Catholics and Protestants, and those who’ve left the Church, resonated with my laments and my hopes. This was much more than “women’s ministry,” much more than pretty teas and retreats. In finding my voice, my kingdom calling grew with every sentence …

Bind their wounds. Bind their wounds.

While those abused outside the Church have sometimes found healing within its walls, those whose abusers have been among the holy have too often found the Church itself to be the wall—a wall of injustice that cannot be penetrated.

But I beg you to see that these beloveds from whom the Church has too often knowingly withheld justice are a bleeding artery in the Bride of Christ. If you are the Church, every tear shed against that wall of injustice is blood leaving your veins, and I beg you to reach with me for the bandages. You have the power to unleash healing in the body.

Bind her wounds. Bind her wounds.

 

Tamara Rice Tamara Rice is a lover of words and Jesus and family, though perhaps not in that order. She is a breast cancer survivor and an advocate for mental health and for victims of sexual abuse. She was a contributor to The Way Bible (Tyndale) and did dabble for a time in women’s retreats–but the best part was always the remarkable women, not the retreats. Tamara blogs now at HopeFullyKnown.com.

Continue Reading · Guest Post, social justice, women · 50

In which women are people, too :: a guest post by Sarah Schwartz

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 1:

Does it seem radical to you that God thinks women are people,too?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, Sarah Schwartz is responding to our question.

****

It is radical, in a world where 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime.[1]

It is radical, in a world where the worst thing you can call a man is a girl.

It is radical, in a world where women are half the world’s population, do half of the world’s work, earn one tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one percent of the world’s property. [2]

It is radical, in a world where domestic violence causes more death and disability in women ages 16-44 than traffic accidents or cancer. [3]

It is radical, because the abuse and deprivation of women, as former President Jimmy Carter has so aptly stated, is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation in the world.

With so much around us shouting that women are disposable, it is radical that our God believes women are people, too.

But isn’t that just like Him? Isn’t that just like the kind of Abba we’ve read about in the worn pages of Scripture? Isn’t that the kind God we’ve known Him to be?

Because this whole story He’s writing, Genesis to Revelation to now, isn’t the whole thing truly and deeply radical?

Enemies become friends, God becomes man, the dead sit up and talk. The last are first, the poor are blessed, the person who gives everything away gains it all in the end. Kings wash feet and the only way to live is to die. It’s nothing if not revolutionary.

Of course, of course, He calls us up from the margins, us, the unlikely and the left out. We’ve got His breath in our lungs, His image on our souls, and try as they might to tell us we’re less, He comes roaring in to remind us we’re more.

And some would try to tell us that yes, we’re people, but not to get any crazy ideas. You’re people, but you’re a certain kind of person who should know your place and understand your role. Don’t take this personhood thing too far. Fold your hands and bow your head, take up as little space as you can. Your kind is supposed to follow, not lead. You’re here to support, not dream your own dreams.

But we’ll just smile, and shake our heads, because we know this is no tale of partial redemption, or half restoration. We know this a story where all of us, men and women alike, get to be our child-of-God-selves in fullness.

We know the Kingdom needs all of us; it needs our boldness, leadership, and vision as much as it needs our teamwork, humility, and kindness. This is not an either/or scenario where we only get to participate if we can fit into the mold of what they tell us women are supposed to be like. There will be no fragmenting of personhood here, no narrow definitions or burying of talents.

What there will be is freedom. Freedom to live and move and have our being in the One who fashioned us as whole, complete people.

We’ve tasted too much of the good news to believe it’s not good for us, too.

SarahSchwartzSarah grew up on a little farm in Oregon that her Mama’s family has called home for over a century. While her heart belongs to the northwest, these days you can find her in southern California trying to finish seminary, love a few people really well, and make her therapist laugh. She’s captivated by the idea of resurrection, and a God who brings dead things back to life. She writes because (to borrow from Biedma) most days she wants to be a poet, but deep down, what she really wants is to be a poem. Follow Sarah on twitter @SarahSchwartz, and on her blog.

 


[1] George Mason University, Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics, 2005

[2] Barber Conable, former President of World Bank

[3] “Violence against Women.” - Gender Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist, women · 39