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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

Say Her Name

#sayhername (4)

Say her name.

Say it out loud: DaJerria Becton. A beautiful name, let your voice say it out loud.

Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God – Jesus gives us ears to hear and then faith comes. I think there’s something powerful about our own voices speaking the truth out ahead of ourselves. Our words matter. Our voices matter. What we speak aloud often sinks its way into our soul and our memory and then into our actions.

So here is what we could say today: DaJerria Becton.

I believe that today the crucified and resurrected Christ is saying her name with us: DaJerria Becton.

You are made in the image of God, DaJerria, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are valuable. You are beloved.

She is not “Bikini Girl.”

Not “that black girl in the bikini in that video.”

Not “the McKinney girl.”

Not whatever terrible name she was called that day or in the days since as people cast judgment on her and her friends for the way the day ended: a white man’s knees pressed into her young back, forcing her face into the grass while she cried out for someone to call her mama.

“Someone call my mama!”

Her name is DaJerria Becton. 

She is just fourteen years old, someone’s child, yes, but she is her own person, made in the image of God. And she was brutalized, terrified. No matter what lead up to that moment, this was deeply engrained racially-motivated and sexualized violence. That man’s instinct was to throw her by her braids, a slender teenager in a bikini, to scream, to point a gun, to put the full weight of a culture that believes she is a danger because of her skin and disposable because of her sex right into her back.

There are a million reasons to be outraged: as a feminist, as a follower of Jesus who deeply loves the powerless, as a mother.

If anyone could watch that video and not feel the rage, the impotent need to rescue that child, then I have to wonder: how numb have you become to injustice?

Nameless victims are somehow easier for us to forget. But she’s not a nameless victim.  She’s not what she wore or what she said, she’s DaJerria Becton from Texas and she’s fourteen years old.

From the ancient tribal culture of the Bible to Boko Haram and ISIS to our own “civilized” societies, there are stories of the hundreds of nameless victimized women throughout patriarchy’s history. One after another after another, until our sisters somehow blur together. God’s global daughters aren’t a nameless, faceless sex. We have names. History glosses over us, we’re the collateral damage to the wars of men, and so our voices matter: lift them up and remember, we have names. We have stories, we have families.

Every woman matters. Black women matter, too. Aboriginal women matter, too. Poor women, too.

There’s  litany of names. One woman after another who has been murdered or damaged, made even more vulnerable often because of socio-economics or race or location. Here in Canada, our litany includes our aboriginal women – more than 500 murdered or missing as far as we know. We become numb to their faces, to their stories, it’s always one more one more one more one more in the news.

Let her be a person, not a news story or a litany or a victim. We will learn from the marginalized and oppressed, we will believe their stories. We will incline our ears and amplify voices. We will become educated beyond our own narrow context. We will not become numb and we won’t mind our own business, we will let our hearts cry out alongside of our sisters.

Say a name today.

DaJerria Becton.

We see you. We weep for you. We will carry you. We will pray for you and for your community. And we will never stop labouring for God’s dream for humanity to come true. We won’t give up and we won’t lose hope. 

We will be angry with you and for you – and then we will let that righteousness move us further out into redemption. 

Say a name today (there are too many to choose from, so many names, so many women.)

Jesus, be near to the brokenhearted, comfort the afflicted, bring freedom and truth and reconciliation. 

Today, go on, I dare you, say her name: DaJerria Becton. 

And let your heart break.

 

(This post was inspired by the powerful hashtag #SayHerName to raise the visibility of the Black female victims of police brutality.)

Continue Reading · faith, social justice, women · 22

Don’t turn away now: how to help with peacemaking in Iraq

 

Go read this dispatch from Iraq by Ann Voskamp, my fellow Canadian and dear friend. Go on now, I dare you.

You can walk into any mall and buy a pair of NIKE running shoes for what they are buying a Christian or Yezidi girl from 1-9 years of age — $172 dollars. And she’s yours. For whatever you want, for as long as you want, to make do whatever you want. Sit with that. Yeah, we’re all done living in a world where a pair of shoes can last longer, have more worth, be treated with more value, than a fondled, raped and discarded 9 year-old-girl.

The United Nations reports this week that at least one young girl’s been “married” over 20 timesand forced at the end of each violation to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.

So it could be ripped open and destroyed by the next highest bidder.

LookWe’re all done with keeping up with the Kardashians or whatever flash of skin is being flaunted on red carpets — when there are little girls being devoured on bare concrete floors and we will keep company with Jesus and be the ones who do something about the things that breaks His heart.

I sit with 4 Yezidi mothers in a shipping container where they sleep.

They need someone to have enough courage to not turn away.That is us.

That is us.

It sure as hell will be me. My nearly nine-year-old daughter woke up this morning and wandered into the kitchen, her childish voice asking for porridge and a hug. I wanted to clutch her to my chest and howl: now I know. Oh, my God, what if it was you? Now I know what is happening to her sisters in Iraq, to the their mothers, and then I made breakfast and I nursed the baby and I made beds and the whole time my gut was boiling with anger and grief and the need to DO SOMETHING.

I refuse to do nothing.

I won’t turn away and I beg you to stay awake to the pain of it, too.

Let yourself feel it. The howl is caught in your throat, I know.

Don’t turn away now. And for God’s sake, don’t numb yourself to it. Don’t inoculate yourself to this.

You are waking up now. Stay awake! 

Channel that rage and grief you feel, that sisterhood rising, and push it straight into peacemaking and into prayer.

 

And again from Ann:

It begins to end when the world lives what we actually are: We are sisters. We are a sisterhood. We belong to each other. We belong to the women who can’t read, we belong to the women who have been stripped of every hope, who are being sold in slave markets, whose daughters are coming back to them with ripped apart virginity. ISIS doesn’t own these women — they belong to us. They belong to the sisterhood of the world. When we live like we all belong to each other, we answer much of the longing in the world. 

When we understand that we are all made in the Image of God, the Imago Dei, we stand with each other and for each other and about each other. What ends the apathy and the trafficking and the racism and the fighting everywhere — is when we start seeing the Imago Dei in everyone.  

When we don’t belong to each other, we participate not only in the devastation of the world, but a desecration of the image of God.  

I’m going to lend whatever small voice I have to the peacemaking and the healing, to the long-term vision of Iraq through empowerment of women and the education of children.

I’ll be resourcing the peacemaking and I will be praying earnestly.

I’m joining with Ann to ask you to help defy ISIS by JOINING WITH PREEMPTIVE LOVE.

Here is the request:

1. Empower one woman to defy ISIS & start her own business: If we don’t help Sozan, Leyla, Mawra — these women have no help coming. Preemptive Love Coalition wants to empower women like Sozan and set these women who ISIS would like make invisible free to care for their kids with dignity and long-term security, so these mothers can provide food, water, shelter, clothes, and healthcare for themselves. $1,000 will give Sozan a business startup grant. How many women together can we empower? Our sisters are literally counting on us to give anything, something. 

2. Defy ISIS and give these kids the power of an education. Mohammadin with his red pen? Preemptive Love Coalition aims to put 22,000 kids like him back in school by this Fall. If a child loses more than one year of school, we know their chances of ever succeeding are severely diminished. Girls are especially vulnerable — invisible inventory.And boys who are not in full-time school are vulnerable to further radicalization by groups like ISIS. We can put 10 kids back to school this Fall for $100. How many kids together can we put back into school and defy ISIS?  

This is all our possible choice. 

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 5.49.10 PM

*Update*

In just a short amount of time, we crushed it.

Instead of raising $120,000 as was the goal, together we all raised more than $616,000 in just three days – and we are still counting.

JOIN OUR RESPONSE: www.preemptivelove.org/lovefirst

 

Continue Reading · Iraq, social justice, women · 8

Why not have a woman preach

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Why not to have a woman preach. It’s a statement, not a question. Here’s why not. Here’s all the reasons why not. Here’s why women should not preach. Or teach. Or lead. Or pastor. Or prophesy. Or exhort. Let’s parse it, narrow it, nitpick it, label the functions so that we can figure out the line and walk it well. Here’s one verse and another and another. You can’t argue with the Bible, after all.

***

But more and more I see people adding a question mark to that statement and that question mark gives me hope.

Why not?

Well, indeed. Why not have women preach? It’s a question that many devoted disciples have asked through out the ages – long before the 70s and 80s – and it’s a question that was resolved in the early church, in the practice of Paul’s leadership, in faithful followers of Jesus through the ages. There isn’t anything new under the sun, it’s true, and the use of Scripture to silence the witness of women, to sideline the gifts of half the church, isn’t new either.

Why not have a woman preach? Why not have a woman at a pulpit, teaching the Scriptures, proclaiming the Gospel, leading others in the way everlasting?

Sometimes the Spirit’s movement begins with the question mark instead of the period.

***

Why not? Well, because the Bible says so.

Oh, really?

There are many ways to read and understand Scripture. For instance, some read Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” and then they silence women in the church … in a well-meaning way. It’s couched with gentle language like “different roles don’t mean difference in value” and a paternalistic ideal. But in some extreme examples, these passages have been used to justify spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse towards women. (Don’t ignore that fact just because it isn’t pleasant.)

***

But we’re missing a few important things in that understanding of Scripture: translation, context, interpretation, let alone communal understanding and practice. Allow me to point you to some wise and mature teaching on this subject: Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb and “But What About 1 Timothy 2:12?” – Ten Talking Points, both by Gail Wallace for The Junia Project.

***

There’s a hopeful and inclusive answer to that question and many of us have already answered it. We’re living into the answer already.

There is Scriptural justification, historical justification, Spirit justification, traditional and communal justification for women preaching and pastoring and leading.

You can’t really argue with the anointing. God anointed some to preach, be careful not to stand in the way of that. I’d think long and hard before silencing someone speaking words of life and fire and Spirit.

 

***

I am always so appreciative of scholars and academics and theologians. I love to learn, theology is my geek-out place (well, that and Doctor Who). I love to read and to learn, I love to study, I’m profoundly curious about Scripture and God and how we live out the hope of glory in the world.

I’m also wildly in love with Jesus, convinced that he is he answer, and I want to be faithful to follow well, I want to glorify what I think I know about the Spirit of God, I want to see prisoners set free, deserts bloom, beauty for ashes, life for death. I have a high view of Scripture and the Spirit. I am faithful to the Church and to my little “c” church.

So these things matter to me. And they matter to the church. And they matter for a world caught in the crossfire. Are we benching the answers? Are we silencing the ones who would cry out for freedom and wholeness? Are we minimizing the wild inclusive counter-cultural dream of God?

I needed to see her preaching, the people of your church and community likely need to see it, too.

***

Women are preaching already.

I hate to break it to you. Women have always preached, just as women have always worked, always taught, always discipled, always followed Jesus. Right from the days of Jesus until now.

We’re getting on with it. We kept walking from the statement to the question to the answer and now we are living within the freedom of Christ.

***

Preach! Preach! Cry out in the city gates and in pulpits and online and in classrooms: we bring you tidings of great joy! However you preach, whatever your method or place, proclaim it: the year of the Lord’s favour has dawned! Beauty for ashes! Resurrection is real! Life and life more abundant!

***

Women are preaching and, did you know? Chains are being cast off. Fear is running away. Deserts are blooming. The Gospel is being proclaimed. The dead are coming to life. People are being born again and set free.

Jesus is working through and in and with women, just as he is working through and in and with men. And wouldn’t you know it? Women and men are working together, beautifully, in what Carolyn Custis James has christened the “blessed alliance.” It’s not either-or, it’s both-and.

We are made in the image of God, watch us walk on water together.

Men and women are receiving steady and sober, wild and holy teaching from women, too. People are being healed, the Spirit is baptizing many. Women are leading in the curve of the globe in business, medicine, technology, academics, sports, and yes, religion in ways unique to their temperament and anointings.

***

You’re missing it. Don’t miss it. Open your eyes and see what the Spirit is birthing in these days, watch women rising up to reclaim their communities for peace and wholeness, watch women laying on hands and proclaiming the Gospel with their lives and their voices and their writing and their songs and even, yes, in their quiet. Watch women raising their children, gathering the lonely, loving the unloveable, building up the church, watch the world change.

***

Why not have a woman preach?

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist, women · 63

The Story that Makes Room for All of Us

Sarah Bessey :: The Story That Makes Room For All of Us

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colours in the world. Matthew 5:14

A few years ago, as I wrote Jesus Feminist, I found myself struggling to land the book – and my own self – in the hinterland between “Everything is getting better! Girl power forever!” and “It’s a cesspool of despair, we going to need way more sackcloth and ashes!” which so often permeates discussions about women in the church and in the world, particularly for people of faith.

For every woman I found who had been empowered, there was a woman who had been terribly silenced. For every woman who had a beautiful and redemptive love story, there was a woman who had been terribly and horribly abused. For every “win” there is a “loss.” For every church that affirmed women in leadership, there was a church that did not. For every story of global women who rose up together to end war or deforestation or cultural evils, there were women who died broken, alone, and unmourned by the world due to civil war or systemic injustice and evil. It’s so complex.

The temptation is to listen to only one perspective or the other. We choose sides, and often that “side” depends on the place from which we engage life. Whether it’s to do with women’s issues or race or religion or whatever.

The temptation is to say that our own narrow experience trumps all other evidence or the experiences of others.

The temptation, particularly for those of us who operate from a position of privilege, is to gravitate towards the good and ignore the very real and true cries of the oppressed and marginalized or even just-plain-different-from-us of our society, to retreat into the worlds of our own making and the brightly lit aisles of a shopping centre, and then point to the good stories as good enough for us. We seek our convenience and comfort and safety. Surely these stories of abuse or injustice are anomalies, right? And we carry on.

Or the temptation is to gorge ourselves on sorrow and anger and victimhood, to fill our hearts and minds only with the tales of hate and evil and horror, until we forget the beauty and peace and justice growing and rising like yeast among us. We keep our face towards the darkness, weeping or raging, and we miss the candles bravely flickering around us.

And then our temptation is to turn the other side into a straw man argument to blithely ignore or burn in effigy. (Either way, we don’t have to listen to a straw man.)  I don’t think that this is unique to women’s issues or to the Church or to the Internet: we do it in every corner of our life or with any issue.

Yet the word “right” or “wrong” isn’t the proper word for our human experience. Whether it’s a story I love or a story I hate, whether it’s a story that grieves me or a story that angers me, whether it’s a story that inspires me or a story that sickens me, whether it’s a story with a happy ending or an unresolved ending, we often don’t get to decide whether or not it’s right, it is simply what happened. It is the story.

It is real. It is true.

In our broken world, injustice is just as real as justice.

They are both true: the darkness and the light along with the reality that most of our lives reflect both. There is no consistent either-or or even if-then to real life.

I find comfort that in Scripture, we don’t see the typical Christian-bookstore version of redemption and justice with tidy bows and fairy tale endings. No, we see the mess of the truth of redemption and restoration.

It’s all true. The beauty and the pain, the suffering and the overcoming, the defeat and the victory, Friday and Sunday and the life lived between, the Now of God’s Kingdom and the Not-Yet of that same Kingdom.

The hard work of peace making takes place in the tension between both stories. I want to be a better listener, a both-and listener, because I believe that listening is an underestimated expression of love.

I don’t want to ignore those who are happy and settled, who are empowered and strong and thriving.

And I don’t want to ignore those who are angry and hurting, who are disempowered and marginalized and yearning.

We can learn from each other. This isn’t a story of one side “saving” another side or of one side “opening the eyes” of another.

The tensions of holding the word “Both” in my heart has changed my definition of a “right” story – not only for women but for a lot of the tensions we see around us in the world today. All stories matter because all people matter.

Listening to both of their stories and holding them all gently with intention – and hopefully a bit of grace – has transformed me because it’s made me realise that the right story is always the real story, God’s overarching story that Love wins.

Love has won, love is winning, and love will win. Hope does not disappoint. Faith comes by hearing or listening to the right story, it’s true: and the story that I look to for context for it all is the story of redemption and renewal, of restoration and hope that rests only in Christ.

To me, the right stories are in the Word of God – Jesus – as revealed by Scripture, by the community, and by the Holy Spirit – and He is a story of life and love and hope for us all, for all the Boths and the Ands and the Neithers and the Eithers. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one!

The right story is the old, old story of heaven breaking through, of redemption arching, of justice rolling down, of deserts blooming flowers, of exiles planting gardens, of swords into ploughshares, of life instead of death.

The right story is the one to listen to because it’s the one that makes room for all of us, this is the story that holds all our stories with the promise of life and hope, joy and renewal.

I don’t want to be swallowed by the darkness. Nor do I want to be blinded by the light. No, I want to be part of a people who see the darkness, know it’s real, and then, then, then, light a candle anyway. And hold that candle up in the winds and pass along our light wherever it’s needed from our own homes to the halls of legislation to the church pulpit to the kitchens of the world. We’re a people who build bonfires outside on the shore and send up a few signals to light the way for the ships still coming across the water and the pioneers weary in the walking from the east. We set up tables in the wilderness and invite everyone to come, we’re the people who listen.

As Michael Gungor wrote in his book The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse, faith comes by listening to the right story.

It’s true. And the right story for me, the ones I turn towards when I’m tempted to choose one side or the other, is the Great Story that holds all of them as precious and worthy of love.

It’s the story that ends with these words: “And then all things were made right.”

*image source: Lightstock.

edited from the archives.

Continue Reading · social justice, women · 21