Silent No Longer

I have sincerely appreciated the outpouring of support for my book, awards received at work, and other professional accomplishments in recent years. It truly means a lot to me, because I endured quite a lot to get to where I am today.

What keeps nagging at me, though, is how people can be so proud of me for these things, how I’m respected as a knowledgeable authority on topics like ethics in fiscal administration, and I think (hope) I have a reputation as a pretty smart person with integrity and a heart for others, yet when it comes to spiritual matters, I’m not permitted (in most church circles) to speak with authority or lead co-ed groups of adults. Why the disconnect?

For the love of my sanity, don’t say, “Because the Bible says so.” We can play the Bible Drill game, if you really want to, but I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt, and I will smoke you. I don’t want verses recited to me; I want to know WHY. For years, I put this issue in a box neatly labeled: Agree to Disagree, but the longer I’m silent about it, the more I’m complicit, and I cannot keep quiet anymore.

After all, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I’m expected to provide spiritual guidance & instruction to my children. When does that authority expire? Does my 18-year-old son suddenly supersede my spiritual authority because he’s technically an adult? Do the decades of my faith-walk have an effectiveness expiration date?

The faith community has made plenty of tweaks to its interpretation of Scripture over the centuries. Case in point, how many people do you know who cheated on a spouse but are still alive (Lev. 20:10)? It used to be culturally acceptable to have multiple wives & concubines (here’s looking at you, Abraham, David, Solomon, and others). On that note, some people still interpret 1 Tim. 3:2 to mean that elders & deacons cannot be divorcees, as opposed to currently married to one person. For crying out loud, people used to use the Bible to justify slavery (& some still warp Scripture to justify present-day racism)! Also, if Matt. 5: 27-30 were taken at face value, there would not a man alive who’d still have eyeballs or hands.

So, if we can make concessions based on certain cultural understandings as a rational society, then why are we still in the dark ages when it comes to women in leadership roles in the church? Gen. 1:27 says that male & female were created in God’s image. The same Spirit resides in me in equal measure as my male counterparts (John 3:8; John 14:16; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 3:16; Acts 5:32 and others). Our giftedness was not somehow distributed in lesser portion than that of men (1 Peter 4:10-11; Rom. 12:6-8), neither were our gifts meant to be squelched (Joel 2:28-29). Why, then, aren’t women allowed to exercise their gifts for the benefit of the whole church … which is kind of the whole point of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-11)?

Riddle me this: If men are supposed to be the leader-supreme of the household/society/whatever, then why did Adam sit quietly by instead of taking a stand while the serpent conned Eve (Gen. 3:6)? After all, Adam was the one to whom God gave the command about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil – not Eve (Gen. 2:15-16). He was right there, yet he did nothing.

Rather than hide behind a verse here or there to try to justify keeping women in their subservient place, I urge you to take a contemplative look at WHY you really believe women shouldn’t preach, teach, and lead. Do you earnestly, truly believe that women aren’t capable, knowledgeable, or called? Or, is it something more deeply rooted, like tradition or fear of change?

Change is hard; I get it. Accepting a change of this magnitude might mean taking a stand and having a difficult conversation with a church leader. It might mean leaving your church or denomination. It might mean disappointing your family. It might mean being excluded from certain privileges and positions in the community. It might mean being called names.

Yet, let me ask you this: Since when was walking in faith supposed to be easy?

I’m not trying to be inflammatory. I’m not a power-monger, nor am I hankering to be a preacher. I’m writing this because I want other women & girls to know that they can do more than teach Sunday School or lead a ladies’ Bible study. Those are fine roles, if that’s what they want to do, but I also want them to know that they can lead in the mission field, write a commentary study guide, or shepherd a church. I know plenty of people will oppose what I’m saying; I’d be shocked if they didn’t, because systemic change often takes generations to come about. But, I’d ask those people to agree to disagree in silence – after all, that’s what I’ve felt like I had to do for years.

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Now What? (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 20, 2015)

I remember sitting in the rocking chair in my living room after bringing my firstborn home from the hospital. Family members were visiting from out of town, and a friend from work had stopped by to see the new arrival. At one point, though, I was in the room by myself with the baby, and I remember looking at him in my arms and thinking, “Now what?”

 

When you are preparing to have a baby, it can be information overload – childbirth classes, baby registries, pregnancy journals, and other women sharing their unsolicited labor horror stories. However, there’s not as much information about how to manage after the baby comes home and reality sets in.

 

Unfortunately, I think we often operate in that same mode when it comes to our faith journeys. This is the season when we focus on Jesus’ arrival, and people who haven’t attended church all year decide to show up out of the blue. We’ve put so much preparation into Christmas morning – decorating, gift buying, grocery shopping, travel arrangements, etc. Yet, what happens next week, or next month? What happens when family members leave to go back home, the decorations go back into boxes, and the New Year gets underway? In other words, “Now what?”

 

In Luke 2, we get a glimpse of the hustle & bustle surrounding Jesus’ arrival, and I’d like to point out one verse, in particular. It’s tucked in the middle of the shepherds’ story: “… Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Luke 2:19, NLT).

 

We have a choice to make. We can box up the Christmas décor and tuck away the baby Jesus figurine with the nativity set to wait for next year, or we can treasure the living Christ year-round. I encourage you to find ways to get plugged into a faith support structure. Your “Now what?” plan could mean attending a Life group, Bible study, or weekly lunch to stay connected with other believers. Or, maybe you need to start a Bible reading plan (there are gobs available free online) or begin a daily conversation with the Lord in prayer. However it works best for you, keep the Christmas miracle in your heart and think about it often.

2015 Word

My word for 2014 was Set. As I reread my post from last January, I was struck by how much happened in 2014. Truly, it was a year of launching off the starting block and swimming full-speed down the lane. Now, as we’ve just begun another year, I’ve been thinking of what word might stick with me in 2015.

I was introduced to this song a couple of days ago, and I have been playing it on repeat ever since. It speaks to my spirit like a mantra, and I think the word I will choose for 2015 is Brave. The song is so beautiful; just close your eyes and listen to the words.

“You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.”

“No fear can hinder now the promises you made.”

“Champion of heaven, you made a way for all to enter in.”

YOU make me brave, Lord! I have accomplished nothing in my own strength, my own power, my own anything. YOU have given me strength; YOU have empowered me; YOU are my everything.

The Champion of heaven is on my side. What have I to fear?

Amen!

Transparency & Privacy Settings

This week, my humble lil’ blog has surpassed 2,500 posts and now has more than 150 followers! I remember when there were just a handful of followers, and those were folks I knew personally. Times have changed; life has changed. I’m grateful that people care to read what I have to say.

The focus of my writing has shifted, since I converted my posts over from an academic blog in mid-2008. I do have some geeky posts tucked away in the Scholarly Stuff and Techie categories, but that hasn’t been my main focus for a long while. There are also a variety of recipes and other food-related posts in the Nomnomnom category. I’ve got several poems filed under Musings, fix-it projects under DIY, a couple of reviews in Book Nook, and some adventures described in Travels. The biggest categories, though, have been Little Men, Grief, and Ponderings.

I posted frequently in the Grief category for the first few years after my brother died, and I still write entries there occasionally. I have been frank about some of the struggles that I’ve gone through, in the hopes that my candor about grief would help others cope, as well, but I try not to be inappropriately transparent.

I began writing some devotional thoughts in late 2010 and then committed to posting them weekly/daily for my church in January 2011. Since then, the Ponderings category has become the largest section of the whole blog. I enjoy writing the devotionals, and they seem to be well received, so I plan to keep posting for as long as the Lord leads.

It’s the other category, Little Men, that gives me pause these days. I have always been conscientious not to use my children’s real names, for some semblance of privacy in this digital world, and I don’t think that I write about topics concerning them that are overly personal. Most of the entries in this category are simply posts that seem too long (or too “deep”) for Facebook.

So, here’s my predicament right now: the birthmother of my nephew-sons is an unstable individual, to put it politely. She has mental illnesses combined with God-only-knows-what substance abuse issues (there have been numerous ones over the years, both prescription and illicit); she is intermittently homeless, in & out of rehab, and waltzes in & out of the boys’ lives whenever she’s lucid enough to remember to call. Her last call was in late October, for the younger one’s birthday. She never sent whatever it was she promised to mail him for a present, and she completely missed Thanksgiving and Christmas … again.

I don’t talk about her because I don’t want her stumbling across my blog and reading it, but that’s precisely why I need to talk about it today.

Truthfully, it’s emotionally easier on the boys when she stays away than when she’s on-again-off-again. Even at 10 and 11-years-old, they don’t quite know how to voice their anger and disappointment with her, so when she goes through periods of calling frequently and then dropping off the face of the planet again, I’m the one who has to deal with the emotional aftermath, as they wrangle with their frustrations over her. I also have to deal with her empty promises, lies, and threats, like when she tells them that she’s going to send them boxes of gifts that never arrive, or that she’ll “get them back” from me to go live with her, because I “stole” them from her. (Never mind that my brother had sole custody of the children before he died; when she gets into one of her manic episodes, there’s no telling what is going through her head.)

I had my Twitter account (@Ang_PF) public until several weeks ago, when I got an automated alert that she was a new Follower. Again, I don’t talk about deeply personal things on Twitter, and she’d probably bore quickly of my countless football-related posts, but the thought of her snooping into my everyday life was disturbing, so I changed my privacy settings. I already have very tight public settings on Facebook, for that same reason, but I never dreamed she’d try to follow me on Twitter. Knowing her, she probably just followed whoever happened to be in her address book, but still — I don’t want to be that close to her, ever.

That’s why I’m planning to not post anymore under the Little Men category here, and just focus on the devotionals. I can still share stories and pictures of the kids on Facebook, where I have a little more control over who sees the posts, but I’m removing that category from public view on my blog. I know some people are averse to using social media at all because of this type of issue, but I’m not going to live in fear; I’m just going to try to be smarter about what information I make publicly available about my family.

My 12 Days of Christmas

Since my true love should know that I’m allergic to birds & therefore cannot accept the traditional 12 Days of Christmas, I took the liberty of writing my own wish list. 😉

1 steaming hot bubble bath
2 hours of quiet
3 tweens not arguing
4 broken things repaired
5 glasses of Malbec
6 months of teenage auto insurance
7 loads of laundry
8 errands run
9 mismatched socks paired
10 shoes that still fit
11 trips to the grocery store
12 dishes washed

Merry Christmas! 🙂