Dismissed

The more connected the world gets the more disconnected I feel from others. Folks that were friends seem to split down the oddest lines of faith, politics, racial issues and gender. Friends who had enough in common to connect in the first place find themselves divided over ideology. Spend five minutes on Facebook and you’ll not only find someone you disagree with, there will be plenty of venom on both sides of the aisle to film a war scene in Lord of the Rings.

We used to be content knowing the names of kids and your favorite band. Kindness mattered more than being right and respect was a given. I would love to pour out the answers to what’s happened but I got nuthin’.

As sometimes happens on social media, I was alerted to a blog post by Beth Moore today. It wasn’t a direct link to the post itself. It was an apology written to women in the church as well as Beth Moore. The author, Thabiti Anyabwile makes a beautiful case for honoring the words of the piece but of the God who created both women and men. In his “Apology to Beth Moore and My Sisters“, Anyabwile admits to being inwardly dismissive towards women in ministry. In a beautiful gesture he asks forgiveness, not only from Beth but from the sisters in Christ who’ve also endured decades of being seen as less qualified strictly because of their gender.

It’s really so much more than women in ministry. It’s the devaluing of women in our congregations. I once attended a church where the men were finding their own sort of revival as they became intentional about knowing scripture and each other. They were breaking down strongholds and the women wanted in on the action. In the pastor’s own words he announced that he’d been asked, “When do the women get a turn to do the same thing?” He relayed to us his response, “When the men start leading in their homes.” Cue jaw drop…

When I become passionate about a topic, my voice raises a few octaves and I get animated. It’s quite possible I spit but not on purpose. “Why do other women have to wait until all the husbands get it together before ministry can happen in us?” I told a friend. It was grossly unfair to stall the spiritual growth of women because we were waiting on men. What about the single women or those whose husbands attend other churches? Why were we relegated to social events while the men deepened their relationships with God?

To be fair, it wasn’t meant as a punishment. It was just misguided at the most. There was no diabolical scheme to keep women unschooled in the ways of faith. It was just a long line of misconceptions about men, women and their ability to lead according to their gender. We found ourselves in a denomination where women even held some of the highest leadership positions but many of the churches were unable to embrace women as full partners in ministry.

In the past few years women have begun to raise their voices in all areas of life. Stories of being dismissed, ignored and even abused have  risen to the surface as shame has been given over for freedom. We’ve found the space to heal and move out of those old stereotypes as #metoo captured our attention. Even then, the thoughts and experiences were being shoved aside. Perhaps some found it easier to plug their emotional ears and sing LALALALALA to drown out the truth. The truth that many of us know, it’s not just men who grope and abuse that are culpable. It’s also the men who silence women or chose not to believe our stories because somehow that means changing more about ourselves than we think we can.

Three years ago I told a raw story of being molested by a man in leadership in our denomination.  I pointed out that there was more that could have been done to protect others but leadership found it more important to protect the denomination. Of course it was under the guise of protecting me but I never bought it. If they wanted to protect the women, they would have done something before he did something else (which he did).

It comes down to being able to see each other as Christ’s creation. He says the church is his bride. What if you went to a wedding and they didn’t let the bride speak? What if she had no say in the music or vows? If she were in the shadows or the background we would wonder if she’s there willingly. If we believe that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church as in Ephesians 5:32 , then our focus will be love, not allowing women to be devalued.”

We need to get down to the business of discipleship. We can’t win hearts to Christ if we can’t join our hearts in the church. Reconciliation is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t require us to be perfect or know everything, it just requires us to move forward and respect each other’s gifts along the way.

 

 

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Dear World, From Roseburg – Part 2

Note: The day after the shooting at UCC on Oct. 1, 2015,  I wrote a letter to the world that quickly went viral across the globe. Two years later, this is my sequel to the original commentary. This post was featured in the New Review and at nrtoday.com.

 

Dear World,

Two years ago you were introduced to Roseburg. On October 1, 2015, our tranquil valley became known for the tragedy that the face of evil brought to our town. Our name became part of a list of cities whose schools became the seat of violence, and like all cities that bear the same mark, we didn’t want to be known for the horror of that day.

We hoped you’d see us for the way we came together and for how deeply we care. We want you to know that we are stronger than ever, and our resolve is rooted as deep as the Douglas fir that covers the hills throughout our county.

Like most of our community, I didn’t sleep that night. When the unthinkable happened, I couldn’t shut off my brain. Instead of sleeping I began to process grief. At 4 a.m. I shuffled into my husband’s office and penned a piece, pouring my troubled heart onto the page. My message began a discussion between friends and strangers. It became evident that there were far more people who love this peaceful community than those who feel trapped by this small-town life.

As details began to unfold, stories of those we lost became our stories. We sat in a collective waiting room for those whose wounds weren’t fatal but still, we recognized that bits of their lives were stolen. We prayed with the families of both survivors and victims. We baked cupcakes, welded yard signs, printed decals, poured coffee, lit candles and held vigils.

Local churches opened their doors for the countless volunteers who came simply to comfort. Home-grown businesses donated, collected and sacrificed while the world watched us grieve for a short while.

During that first week, I had several conversations with different media outlets. From a local Seattle station to a reporter from CNN, the question was the same: What makes Roseburg different? The question was merely for the interview because they had already noticed on their own.

As the list of tragedies he had covered was recited, one reporter told me this, “No one has ever been as kind and cordial to us as the people here.” He wondered if we were anxious to have the media lights dimmed. I nodded and assured him that the first order of business was to create a safe place to heal.

As often happens during times of grief, there are those who return to their lives as if nothing happened. Media loaded their trucks and moved on to the next story. Through memorials, prayer vigils and fundraisers, we leaned on one another and those who had reached in when it was too painful to reach out.

We woke up soon after to a “new normal” where the quiet left us feeling raw and disoriented. So much loss so fast, and to this day, there isn’t a part of this that makes sense.

We’re here two years later and still standing. We’ve come together in ways we hadn’t before and survived the pain as well as the controversy. When public figures and outside forces tried to change the conversation, we stayed strong. As the reports of the investigation were released just a few weeks ago, opinions of how the information should be handled varied. We still have our own viewpoints and passions to be sure, but we still have our community.

We have inspiration from the lives we lost and the wounded who fought to stay alive. From the first responders to the emergency room personnel to the long-term caregivers, their stories have become our stories. The pastors and neighbors who have sat with the tearful have offered comfort through unimaginable loss. Community leaders continue to meet in order to chart a course in hopes that we can continue to heal and grow.

We’re here, caught in a place where we’d like to forget that day and mindful that there is so much we need to remember, like being kind and gracious to each other. We can disagree and be angry yet find it in our hearts to be civil. We can actively give and peacefully listen to those still carrying the scars of that day.

As time moves forward, so will we. There will always be hearts that need mending and victories to celebrate. Our friends will continue to heal, and new classrooms will be built, and we’ll be right here. We’re ready to listen, bring meals for some, and for others, save lives and comfort souls. We’ll continue to welcome visitors and new neighbors. We’ll work hard to improve our community and teach our children what it means to stand strong and proclaim, “We’re still here!”

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Do You Need a Fresh Start?

I’m not really what you would call a “morning person”. It’s not natural to me to be fully awake at the crack of dawn, springing out of bed as I summon delightful rays of sun into the windows of my home.

The more accurate picture is of me sitting in bed drinking coffee in the darkness. At that time I’m only summoning my eyelids to stay open long enough for the rest of me to wake up.

A year and a half ago I became drawn to watching the sun rise.

It was the morning after celebrating our 25th anniversary. My husband Russ and I couldn’t sleep. We had renewed our vows in front of our dearest people and couldn’t settle down.

We sat in in front of a window, bundled with blankets as we watched the sun peek over the mountains. I had just fallen in love with my husband again so I guess it was the perfect time to fall in love with the sunrise too.

Maybe I’m enamored because every one is different or that the singing birds are the most beautiful soundtrack of the day. Sometimes I realize that it’s a quiet, gentle start to something new as if I’m being reminded that every day is a great day to start fresh.

The sky often reminds me that it can wipe away whatever the day before has brought.

This morning as the blackened sky has given way to a blueish light I find myself quieted and grateful.

I’m grateful to live in such a beautiful valley where the sun illuminates the trees on most days and the rain makes everything fresh on the others.

Do you need a fresh start today? Find something you take for granted and give it another look. Maybe you’ve already seen a thousand sunrises but forgotten the beauty of a new day.

Whatever you’re going through, where ever you’ve been, can I encourage you this morning to slow down and take another look. You might find that there has been beauty there all along.

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Knowing whether or not your opinions are invited to the party

As my husband and I take our morning walks, our feet shuffle through piles of leaves throughout the neighborhood. We find ourselves admiring homes and giving input on what we’d do differently. We speak of the “what ifs” and the “let’s just not ever do that.”

Because we’ve owned and remolded numerous homes, we have definite opinions on what we think works and what doesn’t.

We use it to share our own ideas with each other. It helps to know what the other one likes when it comes to rearranging our own home. It keeps us on the same page and even helps ponder ideas we haven’t thought of before. I love getting his perspective and he welcomes mine too.

Although we’re quite frank with each other, there is one thing we wouldn’t dream of doing – it wouldn’t even occur to us to tell someone how they should change their house.

We wouldn’t comment on the color or shape or style because we hold a differing opinion. You won’t find us knocking on the door unless the house is on fire or being threatened in some way. If there was true danger, we’d bang down the door to help them find safety. We certainly wouldn’t run next door to tell the neighbors first.

Here’s the issue as I see it: Social media seems to have turned it all upside down. Messages meant to knock down doors, freely sharing opinions regarding taste and style.

On the other hand, cryptic posts warning others of danger are posted for everyone to see. The messages are so obvious that if we were all sitting in the same room our gaze would fall on that one person we know it was meant to touch.

Having an opinion isn’t the issue. Like my mom always said, “Opinions are like noses, everyone has one.” The issue is when we mistake opinions for fact. When we really believe that our way to do something is the only way. We become guilty of methodolatry.

Methodolatry: The act of idolizing “how” we do things rather than focusing on the why. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own methods of achieving any number of things in our life from faith to politics to child rearing.

We narrow down our choices in areas that may be important, but how to achieve them isn’t. In other words, just because my life doesn’t look like yours on the outside doesn’t mean I don’t care about the same things you do.

You can’t understand what is going on inside someone’s life or house just by walking by. The ones that appear beautiful on the outside may be cluttered or full of darkness.

There may be turmoil in the lives of those who dwell there. The same can be said for the homes that seem outdated or in need of repair. There may be warmth or joy inside.

Unless we’re invited in, speculation is all we’re left with and judgments based on speculation can only be unfair, unkind and unwise.

Let’s do ourselves a favor, when choosing what we weigh in on, let’s consider the importance of relationship.

If we lead with kindness and friendship, we’ll have a much better chance of being invited in in the first place.

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Small Stain, Large Lesson

Sometime in the spring I found some adorable outfits on Pinterest that I wanted to try. They all involved a nice white t-shirt with bright colored statement necklaces and the rest was left to my imagination.

For years I haven’t purchased much of anything white for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I bought into the whole “dark colors make you look slimmer” approach to life. I’ve had black dominating my closet forEVER because it was safe.

Right behind the first reason was the fact that whenever I wore white I inevitably also showcased whatever I had just eaten in a lovely display around my chest or neck area.

After deciding that messy food and old fashioned fashion rules were not the boss of me, I set out to find the perfect white t-shirt. This turned out to be plural.

I found more than one and to be safe, I purchased them.

Around a month ago I took my youngest on a mom/daughter trip to celebrate her upcoming “Sweet16”.

While getting ready one morning I spilled a dot of makeup on my white shirt. I tried to spot clean it but seriously, Micky Mouse was waiting for us and I didn’t want to mess with that window of opportunity. I sprinkled some water on it and hoped for the best.

After returning home I found the shirt in my dirty clothes bag. The stain mocked me as it had grown to the size of a quarter. As I began to work on getting the stain out I lost track of time. Maybe I even became a little obsessed with getting the stain out but I worked at it, vowing not to give up.

Since then, two other white shirts (one is a new tank) have fallen victim to my inability to navigate a white wardrobe. As I type, all of these poor, innocent shirts with stains are soaking in a borax and bleach solution because I can’t seem to just let it go.

While working on the first shirt something occurred to me. If I had just tended to the stain when it first happened, it would have been so much easier to get out and the likelihood of saving the shirt would have been greater.

This thought made a segue into the topic of relationships.

How often is someone hurt and we just tell ourselves we will deal with it later? We let them sit and soak in the offense instead of tending to the stain on their heart as soon as we realize it?

Later we sit in awe of how someone could have become bitter when at the time it seems like something small.

Bitterness grows out of a wound left untended. The root burrows deep into the ground just like the stain on my shirt. It grabs hold of a soul and doesn’t let go.

You may wonder why I didn’t just toss my shirt aside for one of the others. I don’t know except I didn’t want it to go to waste or to be lost. I even asked myself why I was so bent on saving this one garment. It still had value to me.

It’s vital that we see those who are hurting as valued and worth redeeming. When offenses come we owe it to ourselves and those around us to seek healing immediately.

I’ve decided that I can no longer wait until damage has altered someone. Every soul in our path has value and a purpose. Every person is an integral part of our community and we owe it to each other to engage in the healing process. Whether it is a hurt inflicted by us or we are to help in reconciliation, if we are in a place to recognize it, we can learn to help heal it as well.

James 1:19 tells us to be “quick to hear”. Sound advice to those of us who hope to be healers of hearts as we learn to live gently and love passionately.

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