Monday, January 30, 2012

The Difference Four Little Words Can Make

It was turning into another one of those days when my eldest child found fault with everything I did.

Breakfast milk wasn't in his regular cup (because I hadn't got around to washing yesterday's dishes). I didn't leap off the treadmill and run downstairs quickly enough to fast forward through every second of the taboo commercials. I didn't pour enough dressing for his fresh spinach salad at lunch. I didn't read enough books. I forgot yesterday's promise to watch this VeggieTales movie instead of that VeggieTales movie after nap time.

For each perceived injustice, I apologized, but "I'm sorry" just wasn't cutting it. In fact, it was if I were saying nothing at all.

"But mooooommy..." he would say, continuing nonstop with the whiny complaint of the moment. "How would you feel if someone..."

I was already losing the war, and that was before he had a sudden revelation that I'd taken a particular art project off the fridge and (following the normal routine) replaced it with his newest creation. For some reason, this masterpiece that I threw away was more important than the other thousand I'd callously sent to the landfill.

It was the proverbial straw that sunk the camel to his knees. When I say buckets of tears were welling up in his eyes, I'm not exaggerating. A whopping thunder storm was about to hit over a single piece of paper decorated with markers and I felt powerless to stop it.

At the small kitchen table, I dropped to my own knees beside him.

"I'm so sorry, Wyatt. Mommy didn't know that one was special. She didn't mean to hurt your feelings." And then, without any well-conceived plan, I blurted out, "Can you forgive me?"

Eyes that had been riveted to the floor as the first raindrops fell suddenly flickered upward. A sheepish grin wiped like a rainbow across his once stormy face, him seemingly embarrassed at the requested forgiveness, a word we reserved for our conversations with God.

"Of course." he stammered. "I forgive you, mommy."

And that was that. He moved on as I knelt still in humble silence. Could it really be that easy?


Over the last month, I have made a concerted effort to follow up my apologies to my children with the words "can you forgive me?" The first few times I consciously chose to say the words, I felt like I was trying to cough up a hairball. There is nothing my spirit wanted more than to not say those words.

Requesting another's forgiveness is instantly humbling, a greater admission of one's flawed nature than a mere "I'm sorry" conveys. Such words put the heart out there, exposed in the open for someone to either throw down and stamp with his heel or cup tenderly with both hands, gently give back to you in one restored piece.

Weeks later, the words don't always stick quite so harshly in my throat. My children still duck their heads in shyness, drop their voice to a whisper as they grant me their forgiveness. It's as if they know what it means for me to ask for it...and for them to grant it. It's as if they realize mommy is admitting how flawed she is and that their heart is echoing back their love for a mother even with her flaws.

The hardest part, though? Was extending this practice to my husband, to bring the audible, spoken word "forgiveness" into our marriage.

Husband caught on to what I was doing before I had even talked with him about it, one night drawing me to him as he put his arms around my waist, right there in front of all three children surprising me with "I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"

Just like my son, my head snapped upwards and I felt a flush of embarrassment as I experienced the intimacy of the moment--not the physical intimacy, the spiritual intimacy of forgiveness.

To those of you who drop by here, I would like to challenge you to do something for the month of February. For the next 29 days, commit to asking your spouse for his/her forgiveness when you would usually only say "I'm sorry." Commit to actually voicing the words aloud. As you interact with your children, start using that same phrase, too.

The best way to express love may be to offer up yourself in a simple request for a loved one's forgiveness.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

No, You Can't Play Together

I listen to them argue over a toy, cry crocodile tears over a sibling-bumped head, complain over a real or perceived injustice. I nod my head in mock seriousness, hand out hugs and kisses by the dozen to the injured party of the moment, remind them all of the "do unto others" verse, sing the "love, joy, peace and patience" ditty to remind of the fruit God wants to see in them.

Some days, the whining and bickering is so intense, I refuse to enter the fray, hold my hands out defensively and say I'm Switzerland. "Work it out yourselves or you can't play together."

They go away, offer apologies and forgiveness for the short-term. But they always come back with the next offense and the next...and the next, until I follow through with my warning.

"You can't play with Emerson anymore. Nope. No. Go away from him. If he's on the playground, you have to be somewhere else. And you--you can't play with Wyatt anymore either. Go play by yourself in another room."

Edict issued, I intentionally turn my back on them all, ignore their complaints, and return to whatever task kept being interrupted with battle cries, confident that there is no way my words will be obeyed.

It won't take long. A minute. Maybe five. If I peek out the window, listen down the hall, I can see them try valiantly not to play with each other, do their own thing. But it never fails.

Eyes watching over his shoulder to see if mommy is watching, one will sneak over to where the other ones are playing. The others don't turn him away but join in sneaking glances down the hall, at the side door, too. In minutes, all are happily unified in their play. Now, that they're doing what mommy has told them not to do, nobody can come tattletale. So, they share where they would usually snatch and grab. They comfort where they would usually annoy. And should mommy open that door or round the corner of the hall? They are prepared to instantly split three-ways, pretend to be doing individual tasks that they're not.Sibling rivalry turned into sibling unity. Although it's rooted in joint defiance (them versus me), the end result is cooperative working together, so many fun giggles reaching the treetops....such joy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Was That God's Voice? Or Just the TV.

I hadn't wanted to go to the meeting. Not really. Not at all. And so I decided a dozen times to stay home, only to find myself wrestling all day with the Spirit's voice within me. Go. Go.

Three hours before I had to leave, I finally sat down to prepare for my part in the program. Nothing had pricked my heart in the monthly literature. Then, I remembered my mother had shoved a small book in my hand earlier that morning. Her eyes alight, she told me it was life changing, worth my time to read.

With children watching their afternoon Veggie Tales above my head, I leaned back and read the first three chapters. Interesting. Not really life-changing, but I felt the heart-stir anyway.

The book spoke of how we don't pray the big prayers because we're so comfortable in asking for what doesn't require faith, for what we already know He can do...for what we know is possible. We shy away from the prayers that would involve moving mountains--the impossible.

Convicting stuff.


The group was smaller than normal. I knew all the ladies there, loved them all. But still, I wanted to be not there. I am ashamed of my attitude, but if I'm honest with myself, I know I went with no expectations of hearing God's voice speaking to me. My ears weren't even listening for Him. My body was just filling a seat, fulfilling what I considered to be a duty.

And there He was anyway, His message meant specifically for me in an off-hand comment about a group of 40+ persecuted Burmese Christians who had fled their homeland, who were living in Baton Rouge, and whose #1 need was learning how to speak English.

It was as if a firecracker had gone off in that little room. I instantly remembered back to my college days, when I strongly felt God telling me in my spirit that He would have me teach ESL classes, I believed, to China. A couple I loved dearly even became missionaries in that area.

One summer, a group from my childhood church flew to meet them and help teach such classes. Already committed to teaching summer school at my college, I was so frustrated that I couldn't go, too....even more frustrated when the couple moved back to the U.S. a few years later, eliminating what I thought was my way of achieving that ministry.

Then, my children were born, and that calling seemed to dim further in my memory, only every now and then growing bright as I wondered if I had really heard God's voice at all.

Later that night after I made it home, I looked up Burma and gasped when Google pulled up a map showing the little country touched China. It was as if God was saying since I couldn't go, He was bringing that part of the world to me.

I was excited, yet terrified. I have no experience teaching ESL. As I looked further into the country, I realized the Burmese alphabet didn't even look like English.

And then I remembered those chapters I'd read earlier in the day. In Be a Circle Maker: The Solution to 10,000 Problems, Mark Batterson writes, "If you've never had a God-sized dream that scared you half to death, then you haven't really come to life. If you've never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small. If your vision isn't perplexingly impossible, then you need to expand the radiuses of your prayer circles" (45-46).

He continues, "A big dream is simultaneously the best feeling and worst feeling in the world. It's exhilarating because it's beyond your ability; it's frightening for the same exact reason...In my experience, you'll never feel qualified. But God doesn't call the qualified; God qualifies the called" (46-7).

Awesome. Exhilirated and frightened--that was me. That is me.

Before I could let the fear overwhelm, I took the leap, contacted those involved, offered to teach, and contacted others who could help with materials. Everything was moving so rapidly, too quickly for this clueless servant. A date was set for the first meeting, transportation and a building secured. Full steam ahead.

And then, we came to a brick wall built right across the road. Another group had the training and experience I lacked. They were taking charge of the project. Yes, my church and I could still help teach, but we would wait on their lead.

Initially, I was relieved, hoping to learn from these teachers, my heart thinking maybe we could duplicate this ministry with the Hispanic community around our area. But two weeks later, we're still waiting on the word.

I have felt deflated, discouraged. Really, God?!? Did I not hear you right then and now? All last week, I kept shaking my head. This just couldn't be right. I knew I heard God...right?

But with each passing day, I doubted.


Friday found me in the stores, scouring the deep winter clearance sales I love. Knowing the Christmas cards were 90% off, I drove to LifeWay Christian Bookstore. And there, amongst the leftover candy canes and tree ornaments sat one lone book, stuck way out on the edge.

Bright cobalt blue amongst the Christmas red, gold, and green. I couldn't miss it if I had tried.

English Lessons.

It was the same exact book I'd been told to use, had been planning to use when I helped teach the ESL classes. I held it close and almost broke down in tears on my knees right there in the middle of the store.

My Father knew my doubting heart, and so He chose to speak again.

I'm still not sure if I will be ministering to the Burmese group now or in the future. There's a lot that is uncertain. But what's not uncertain is that God does desire my willingness to serve in this ministry--somewhere, somehow, with someone.

I just need to be open to go whenever He wills it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Books are for Being Re-Discovered

Last April, I pulled from the bookshelves all the baby books with their thick cardboard pages with chew marks and stacked them by my bedside. Even the twins had moved on to the more complex tales of Winnie the Pooh and Clifford. I intended to cull through them, save just a few to remember this phase of life...but there they sat for a couple months until I decided that no, I couldn't give them away.

The cribs, toddler beds, baby toys, burp cloths, tricycles, and oodles of clothing, I sent to needy homes with relative ease. But the books? I just couldn't do it. Is Your Mama a Llama and Goodnight Moon squeezed inside plastic grocery bags with Clifford's Peekaboo and The Little Lost Lamb before taking up residence inside my dressing closet. The plan was for husband to bring me a box so they could live in the attic until I wanted to bawl over them one day when the children are older.

Ten months later, I'm still tripping over those bags, that is, until the other night when my oldest, Wyatt, discovered them, intentionally unloading the entire lot across the closet floor, the typical household book situation described in Wednesday's post.

I found him in the closet, head hunched seriously over the book in his lap as he read softly. He didn't remember them, thought they were new books. And even better, they were new books with words he now knew.

Seeing me, Wyatt yelled, "Listen, mommy! I can read it!"

Even though I was supposed to be hurrying him on toward bedtime, I found myself sitting with him on the sofa, helping sound out he words he didn't know as he read, "Is your mama a llama I asked my friend...D-ay-vuh. No he is not....."

I smiled tight. Bittersweet.

Later, I sat down with a few books from my own childhood that my mother found this past week. I opened Come Play with Me, its imaginary watercolor images still fresh in mind thirty years later.

I listened as Wyatt easily read aloud the book about rainbows, the one I had forgotten until my mother read the blog post on parking lot rainbows and realized I didn't remember the book that first started my love of them.

I put to the side the book about the dog coming to dinner, its cover connected to the memory of a very young me sitting on my bedroom's purple carpet, my head crumpled in frustration as I struggled to read that particular book...before hiding it away from my mother.It is good, Wyatt and me both re-discovering these books.

You're going to be shocked, but the same is true of Jim Henderson's The Resignation of Eve, which I reviewed here two weeks ago. In my original read of the book, I disagreed with how he interpreted the data in the first and last few chapters, felt he began with a hypothesis and made the research fit his theory. I enjoyed the case studies of the women (as did my husband who found himself reading over my shoulder versus watching football), but I disagreed with his overall conclusion (and still do).

And then, Mr. Henderson showed up in my comment box...and he wasn't snooty, pretentious, or dismissive like some authors I've met in the secular realm. In the face of negative criticism, He was real, kind, humble, and demonstrating a sincere heart for Christian unity in the church, a true Christ-like attitude that blew me out of my seat.

Not only that, but he invited dialogue on our differences concerning women's place in the church. And when I spoke, He listened. He, I, and a couple women whose stories are in the book actually began a good discussion in the comment box that led to a couple emails worth of conversation. There were no rude thoughts, no anger at our disagreement....just honest, thoughtful dialogue. In the end, he said, "I think we only disagree in degrees not in substance," and I found myself agreeing.

Although we disagreed on the bottom line of "degrees" concerning when/how women should lead in the church, we were still unified in the underlying "substance" of creating a climate of unity and mutual respect in Christ's church where all feel welcome to worship and serve our God.

In one comment, Mr. Henderson said, "I'm tired of Christians 'breaking up' over simple disagreements and differences - Jesus told us to love one another not agree with one another." Although this "agree to disagree" attitude works between me and my husband, because my church broke in half two years ago in disagreement, I have not really experienced such an attitude in the body of Christ. And I have to tell you--it is refreshing.

This author's Christ-like attitude has made The Resignation of Eve a continued topic of conversation at my house for two weeks--not because of how I disagree with him but because I've been able to look past that disagreement to see the women depicted in the stories inside the pages.

Re-discovering this book--it has left me silent in humble contemplation of how much unity could really be found in the church if we all put ego aside and focused on what holds us together: love for Christ.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Books Aren't Just For Reading

The princess in fluffy yellow Belle dress pulls up a stool and perches, almost regal as she sits tall to grasp a handful of books from the third shelf. Like always, she grabs too many, and a few instantly drop to the floor. I watch from the kitchen as she flips through one, chunks it, then goes through another, looking at the brightly illustrated characters and remembering the story line. The more engrossed she is, the faster the other thin stories in her lap slip down the net skirt to join the others already lying beneath her.

My sons sit cross-legged on the living room floor, both competing over who reads what book first from yesterday's library bag. Like his twin sister, Emerson flies through the pages, looking at pictures and sometimes retelling part of the story aloud to himself. But Wyatt takes longer with his book, annoying Emerson who just wants him to hurry up already and share.

Simply put, my house is a constant nightmare of pressed wood pulp and ink underfoot.You could visit my house any hour of the day or night and find a messy pile of books scattered everywhere. If by some miracle you didn't stumble over one lying on the entryway rug, you would surely find a tottering stack in the living room, on the upstairs sofa, under a chair at the kitchen table, or (if it's a favorite) hidden under a sleeping child's bed pillow.

I can never pick them all up...never. Believe me. I've tried. Dozens of times each day. Even at the Christmas party where our home was more similar to a Better Homes and Garden photo than it will likely ever be again. Even then, halfway through the evening, I peeked in the school room and saw a half dozen children's books discarded on the floor, one flopped open, interrupted in mid-read.

When I had but one child, I was foolish enough to organize the books on the shelf--all the Cliffords, then Winnie the Pooh, then Thomas... Now? I feel blessed if I can keep separate the 15 library books checked out each week. (And that doesn't take into account the ones the children "borrow" from Oma or Grandmama or Grandmother.)

Bookshelves full of neatly lined up books, all the spines facing outward, are as irresistible as an unwatched chocolate cake to my brood.

And me? I can't complain too much because I know it's my fault.

Ever since they were born, I have waved books under their noses like Godiva-filled cookies, taught them that a sure way to get some undivided mommy attention was to guilt her into reading another and another and another book.
I've taught them that books are for living, not for mere reading, that books' story lines are to be mixed up and retold in puppet shows at the dining room table. Or better yet, they're to be lived out in family parties like the now annual Berry Blossom or Autumn Harvest festivals.

Last week it was the book Mr. Gator's Gumbo. Couldn't I just make some of that alligator's gumbo? With a possum. An otter. A skunk. There was a "recipe" on the back. See?

Sure...but I couldn't find the otter, so I had to substitute. Would that be ok?

Before that, it was a request to make an Amelia Bedelia "sheet" cake (yes...another "recipe" in the book). A month ago, Wyatt asked for The Magic School Bus: Ants in Your Pants book be transformed into his birthday cake. Why not?
I fuss about books covering the table at breakfast, lunch, and dinner when all I'm trying to do is serve a meal. I growl when there is no miraculous parting of the books so I can walk a dry path down the hall.

And yet, I can't help but smile at the mess, knowing it is necessary to cultivating both knowledge and the imagination, that it needs to be a bit messy if one is to learn how to take the written word and shape it into something useful for the world outside the typed page.

In recent years, it's been those times when I've had my own mess of Bible commentaries scattered across the floor that I've learned the most, too.

Not to self: Ignore the mess. Read another five minutes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Human Hearing Doesn't Measure Up

The lunch time crowd is tough today. The normal silliness and giggles are still there. But they don't want to talk of childish things like most days, only of the mysteries I still haven't nailed down with a certainty I'd be willing to die for.

What will we eat in heaven? Will there be cake? Will there be leaf piles? Cats? Bicycles?

Cats we've been over before. But bicycles? That's a new one.

We reach across the small square table to hold hands, say lunchtime prayers in thanks for the standard fare--a fold over peanut butter, grapes, carrots, and "mommy's salad" (fresh spinach) piled near the puddle of sun dried tomato vinaigrette.

As always, the prayer is loud. Too loud. It's like they're competing, each yelling over the others to make God hear their prayer most.

I sigh, think of Wyatt going to kindergarten in the fall, know it won't take long for some other kid to make him not want to pray so loudly...or pray at all.

"You know, you don't have to yell the prayer for God to hear you. He can hear you when you whisper. He can even hear you when you only think something."

Wyatt dips his carrot and turns my direction, then folds in on himself, head hunched over inches from his plate. "Even when I talk like this?" he asks, voice soft as a whisper.

I smile. It's a game to him, but it's still an acknowledgement that he's listening. "Yes, even then."

I swipe another glob of peanut butter on white bread and take a peek over my shoulder at his silence. His shoulders are hunched forward again, his hand cupped over his mouth, apparently whispering softer than my ears can register.

"What about that?"

"Even then. Mommy may not be able to hear you, but God always can."

I'm the one teaching the lesson here, but the Spirit within helps me hear these self-spoken words as if I were the student.

I don't hear everything, at least not anymore.

Two blue-winged baby monitors with matching halos have perched by my bed for five years, their green lights offering reassurance that even when I slept, my children were only inches away should they need me.

Over the years, I've listened over the intercom to brother whispers after lights out, songs sung in lieu of counting sheep, cries of spiking fever or tummy aches, tears from bad dreams, and the inexplicable sound of someone needing a late night potty run.But with Wyatt now five, and the twins three, the monitors are no longer really necessary. My children are more than loud enough to hear without a monitor. The intercoms are more for my comfort than for them.

Two weeks ago, still unsure, I turned them off. But I left them there by the bedside "just in case." Lights off. Collecting dust.

It seems I need to hear my own teaching--God can hear my children. God is always watching over my children. Even when I cannot.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When God Calls Us to Help the Sparrows

I wake to their chatter, the unmistakable conversation of south-flown robins filling the silence as soon as I crack open the door to do a jacket check. Overnight, hundreds of these red-breasted beings have chosen my back yard as a place of rest.

Scattered at even intervals across the green, road-weary wings tucked, they bask in early morning sun, warming themselves as a few almost casually seek their breakfast. As long as my feet stay firmly on the concrete, as long as the children use their inside voices, the birds stay.They watch us. We watch them, each a rapt audience, ever attentive to the other's every move.

Over by the "swamp," amidst the delicate parrot feather and frost bitten water hyacinths, water droplets spray a foot into the air as a few of the braver ones duck their heads beneath the water's surface, fluff their feathers wide for the cleaning before taking wing to safety in the tree branches overhead where they'll roost today.I realize I haven't even filled the feeder for the finches that arrived last week, not that these larger birds would stoop to choosing my store-bought seed over the meal the Lord provides beneath their feet, but at least I would feel as if I were helping sustain them.

How they cover so many miles each winter, how so many survive the trip when sustaining pit-stops of forest and field continue to shrink with urban sprawl. Each year, it amazes me.

Yet, I do know the how. Their arrival comes only days after I spoke the how to a class of four and five year old children in Sunday School, after I watched little sponges gobble up the words of Christ before taking crayons, glue, and sunflower seeds to create a reminder of answers to the very questions that just coursed through my mind. This is just another of those God-incidences where the Father pieces together circumstances in the everyday to show me Himself.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matt. 10:29-31).

The same God who protected each bird on its seemingly impossible flight here--he is the God who cares for all life. He is the God who does not need me to help feed the birds. No, He is quite capable on His own. Yet, He allows me to participate in ministering to His creation.

It's the physical and spiritual needs of the hurting, the hungry, the homeless that burden me. God calls me to do more. He demands that I do more to be Christ's hands and feet to those whom many would consider as worthless as a sparrow. This is the path I'm seeking, the ministry opportunity I'm listening for.

I'm linking here to a YouTube video with David Platt's interview of Katie Davis of Kisses from Katie and her newly published book by the same name.

Listening to Katie's burden for both the spiritual and physical needs of children in Uganda, my heart can't help but hear her burden echo within it. Maybe your heart will echo the same.

Joining in community each Wednesday with Jennifer Dukes @ Getting Down With Jesus.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is The Christian Church Driving Women Away?

Rarely do I read a book and feel from page one that the author started with a hypothesis, then worked his statistics and stories to make that hypothesis true. Yet, such seems to be the case with Jim Henderson's newest The Resignation of Eve: What if Adam's Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Church's Backbone?.

Henderson believes women are leaving the church in droves for one reason--inequality, because there is a glass ceiling in leadership which prohibits them from becoming pastors or elders in the church, because women feel they are undervalued and unappreciated.

In the preface, George Barna of the Barna Research Group says, "I don't know if I agree with all of Jim's conclusions..." That's a nice way of saying it. From the Author's Note at the start of the book, Henderson appears to twist statistics to suit his hypothesis, playing on the reader's fear that women--and only women--are leaving the church in droves, so we Christians should change our ways or there will be no one to serve in the future kingdom.

The problem is Henderson conveniently leaves out any statistics about men and their rising absence from the church pew. A quick search of Barna's website shows men and women both leaving the church. Granted, the 18% increase in "unchurched" women is much higher than men's 9% increase; yet, Henderson doesn't even mention males, as if their church attendance/participating is stable when women's are plummeting. He also cites a 2005 Gallup study showing 38% of women are unchurched but fails to mention that same study showed 49% of men were also unchurched.

Again, Henderson cites Steve Smith's "Study Tracks Church Attendance Trends" to bolster his claim that women have shifted away from the church over the past two decades; what he fails to mention is that Smith believes this shift is not caused by a power-struggle between the have's (men) and the have not's (women) but because of increase in women's level of education.

Henderson even commissioned Barna to do quantitative research of women; yet, when Barna's research finds that "few [women] seem frustrated about their opportunities to lead in the church," Henderson dismisses the study, implying that women are really frustrated but just don't know it because they're so culturally brainwashed by the male-driven church...or if they're not frustrated, it's only because they've already disengaged or moved to a more free church.

But Henderson doesn't like statistics. As he says "stories are the new statistics" (11). And so, the bulk of his book is composed of stories of women and their experiences.

In the first few chapters where Henderson chronicles the lives of women who don't feel there is a problem with women not leading in the church, have never really thought about it, or merely live with the inequalities for the sake of their husband/children/church unity. Henderson's disapproval of these women's attitudes literally oozes through the narrative, making him almost too condescending to read. Yet, in the later chapters detailing women who are in positions of church leadership or who have left the church for secular leadership roles of Christ-like service, Henderson actually gushes over them, calling one of the women a "hero" and throwing around words like "intelligence" and "wisdom" to describe them.

Of the two women he describes resigning from the church because of their disillusionment with the hierarchy, one of the women is bipolar; her story is sad but seems to have nothing to do with women being denied leadership more than it screams of Christian lack of understanding of the disease and compassion. The other woman who left the church was in therapy before determining somehow that the church was squashing her self and keeping her from true freedom--not really the leadership equality argument issue either. Neither demonstrates the average woman is leaving the church because of leadership inequality.

Henderson admits that this entire debate boils down to how a person interprets Scripture concerning a woman's role in the church, whether Paul's words were meant to be a literal or cultural recommendation. I've lived several years at the brunt end of one denomination's attempt to make women's opinions no more important than the dust they came from. I'm also currently living in a denomination that does not allow women to be ordained pastors or elders.

Yet, unlike Henderson's self-assured stance, I know only that although the footing around the cross is equal, I'm willing to say "I'm not sure" Christ automatically offers all offices equally to all. And even if He does offer universal freedom for the full equality Henderson desires, I'm concerned about something Henderson just dismisses in his mad thrust for women's equality in the church--women leaders being a stumbling block to men.

Just because we can do something freely in Christ doesn't mean we always should.

Henderson's concludes by looking in the secular world and seeing the same problem he sees in the church--women being denied the highest positions of authority, women being undervalued (underpaid), etc. Yet, of this comparison, he says, "When you see these same patterns in diverse systems, it makes one wonder if what we're dealing with isn't a gender issue at all. Maybe it's more primal than that. Maybe it's a power struggle. Those who have it (men) don't want to give it up to those who lack it (women)" (242).

I say maybe it's neither. Maybe, instead, it's God's design from the garden permeating all creation--secular and spiritual--thousands of years later...even after the feminist movements and legal mandates against gender discrimination.

Although several passages resonate with this overworked / undervalued woman, Henderson's attempt to blame all of women's problems with the church on leadership inequality is so blatantly influenced by his own family's experiences that he fails to note how this bias makes his argument horribly simplistic in that it ignores other societal causes behind the statistics and ignores men's comparable church drop offs.

Maybe the Barna statistics are really accurate and the problem isn't that the majority of women feel oppressed by the church. Instead, perhaps the drop in women's involvement in church is because more educated women have become too rational for faith. Or maybe it's that women have become primary or important secondary breadwinners like their spouses so that they don't have time for the church. This book surely doesn't consider these options.

*I am obviously not paid by Tyndale to provide a positive or negative review of its books. I am graciously provided with a complementary copy for review.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Naming the New Year

"Take a picture of me hugging a tree!" he asks before wrapping arms around the biggest oak in our yard. I had brought out the camera to only capture images of happy children diving into big leaf oak leaves piled high for the crunching. But I drop right knee in the dust anyway and click the shutter twice.

I notice the pink flushed cheeks from afternoon play in the cold north wind, the shadow of brown earth under his fingernails, the uneven bangs growing out from his attempt to give his own hair cut .

And I notice his smile, not because I just spent the last half hour raking and re-raking leaves for their enjoyment but because I've taken a few seconds to listen to him, to take this shot.

Finished, he jumps towards the house for our afternoon reading time where our pattern is taking turns--I read a book, he reads a book. He listens. I listen.

I've been hitting my head against a brick wall since before Christmas with Wyatt not listening to me. He hears, can even usually repeat it back to me verbatim. But hearing is not listening.

And then this past Sunday night, Wyatt listened. Listened well.

For the past four months, I have explained to Wyatt why he cannot participate in communion with our church family, why he cannot break the wafer with the cross imprinted on it, why he cannot have the "juice" in tiny cups.

Yet, each time the deacons pass around the body and blood, I tuck my head towards his in whispers to explain anew. One day, when he chooses to give his heart forever to serve and love Jesus--then he can join mommy and daddy.

I thought perhaps he was just too young to understand or too upset over being denied what he perceives as treats to understand...or his usual hearing without listening.

As the service ended, our pastor offered an invitation, said "I want to ask you a question. Is there anyone here who has never become a Christian, a child of God?"

Instantly, my son's hand shot skyward. He was raising his hand to say yes, that described him. Face flushed with embarrassment, I quickly reached to yank his hand down, but even as I did, my heart felt the pang, knowing he was being truthful.

Even when he seems to not be listening, he is taking it all in, working the complexities of God out to understand his need for a Savior.


While I'm not one for a long list of annual resolutions, I do like to name the new year with one word, one that describes where I think God is leading me in the seasons ahead. Last year was a year of putting down roots. The year before, I felt the promise of God's restoration.

I entered 2012 with no notion of what God was speaking to me. In all honesty, I could hardly hear His whisper through my struggles at the tail end of 2011. Yet, through these and a few more God-incidences, God has been beating His own head against a wall, trying to get me to see that like my son, I also need to work on listening--to my children, my husband, my friends, and Him.

In 2012, I am opening my ears.