Book Review: Jesus Feminist

Sometimes a book comes along that challenges you deeply.  Other times, a book comes along that puts into words the deep longings of your heart that you couldn’t yet express.  And other times, a book is so compelling that as soon as you’re through, you become an unofficial member of the marketing team.

Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist was all of those for me.

Some of you will be off put by the title alone, but please, I urge you, don’t write it off just yet.  Others of you will immediately gravitate toward the book because of it’s title alone, and I urge you, keep reading; it won’t be exactly what you expect.

With gentleness born out of a sweet relationship with Jesus, Sarah addresses topics like gender equality, submission in marriage, and Biblical manhood and womanhood.  Her voice is quiet, patient, and loving – not necessarily what we have come to expect when we hear from a feminist.

Sarah is completely feminine and completely feminist.  I dare you to give this book a chance whether you claim to be all feminist and the mention of Jesus in that mix makes you feel funny or whether you claim to be the opposite of a feminist and the mention of that word makes you feel funny.

If you need to read just how the author defines feminism before you risk requesting the book from the library, here you go:

“At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too.  Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance – not greater than, but certainly not less than – to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women.”

If you are a woman who reads this book, you will feel loved, you will feel important, and you will feel called deeper into God’s greater story of redemption in the world.

If you are a man who reads this book, you will feel loved, you will feel important, and you will feel called deeper into God’s greater story of redemption in the world.

This book isn’t an invitation to fight; it’s an invitation to dialogue, and even more, it’s an invitation into kingdom work.  This book isn’t a means to divisiveness and arguing amongst people of various theological and denominational lines, but rather, it’s an invitation to unity.

This book isn’t about feminism, really.  This book is about redemption.

“Biblical equality is not the endgame; it is one of the means to God’s big ending: all things redeemed, all things restored. Jesus feminism is only one thread in God’s beautiful woven story of redemption.”

Because of this book, I feel more encouraged in my gifts and calling.  Because of this book, I feel more spurred on to continue to mentor and grow with fellow women of faith.  Because of this book, I feel more compelled to put down my boxing gloves, and instead, grab a hand and get to work.

Regardless of how you fill your days, whether with babies or excel spreadsheets, or perhaps a combination of both, you will feel affirmed through this book.  And you will feel compelled to affirm the goodness in the women and men in your life because of this book.

If you still aren’t convinced, my friends, the author closes with a commissioning and a benediction. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good benediction?  Grab the book and start with the commissioning, and you’ll get just a taste of what the spirit of this book is all about.  And then read the rest of the book.  And then get your friends together and talk about it and reclaim women’s ministry (that will make more sense after chapter eight).

Let me know what you think of the book, sweet friends!

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So We Put Our Hands Up Like the (Glass) Ceiling Can’t Hold Us

This summer, my husband and I are leading a small large group through our church for all the college/grad school-aged students that are around Nashville. Tuesday nights from 8-10, cars take up every open spot on the street and we gather on lawn chairs around citronella candles and tiki torches under a sea of twinkle lights to study the Bible. This summer, we’ve chosen to go through the Corinthians.

Summer Small Group

Tuesday nights are by far our favorite nights of the week. We get to see some of our favorite Nashvillians, and we get to learn from one another. The discussions are rich, the community is real, the depth would put any middle-ager to shame. These students are eager to learn, eager to share, and eager to change the world.

We love working with college students because it reminds us to hold onto things loosely, cling to relationships closely, and to keep an open and adventurous mind to whatever and wherever God will lead.

As we’ve been going through Corinthians, we’ve been talking about unity in the body of Christ, the purpose of the body of Christ, and the gifts in the body of Christ. A few weeks ago, we gave the students a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, and asked them to take the week to figure out their gifts. The next week, we came back and shared.

And it was incredible. It was an incredible night to hear how God has wired each of us differently, and incredible to see the students putting together how their gifts line up with their majors and career goals. Some of them are wrestling through changing majors, others are feeling confirmed. It’s incredible!

But there was something that happened that night that I simply cannot shake. As students arrived, we had them mark their top 5 spiritual gifts on a white board. One of our female participants marked 4 of her gifts, and then said, “Well, pastor was one of my top 5 but obviously I can’t use that gift” and she contemplated not marking her tally.

So we unpacked that a little in the group that night, because there were a number of ladies in the group who had pastor as one of their top five spiritual gifts. And then this week, we talked some more about it, because we were going through 1 Corinthians 14, when Paul states in verse 35 that “women should remain silent in the churches…” And then we talked about some other similar passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-14, that have been used by many churches and Christians over the decades to determine a woman’s reach in the body of Christ.

This is a subject that has long been debated in various cultures, churches, and faith groups. It’s not an easy subject. And it has shattered the Church’s unity; the very thing that Paul, the writer of these passages about women, is so passionate about.

We have to remember that Paul wrote these letters to specific churches who were struggling with specific things in a specific period of time, in a specific culture. As Rachel Held Evans put it, “The epistles were written for us not to us.”

But many have taken this and other passages out of context. Many have selected bits and pieces from Paul’s letters, deeming some time and culture transcendent and others outdated. And that cherry picking of passages has affected the health and effectiveness of the body of Christ for centuries. When Paul talks about the gifts of the spirit in Chapter 12, he doesn’t delineate that only some gifts are given to men, and others apply to both genders.

“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:11).”

Brothers and sisters, we can’t keep putting up glass ceilings in our churches, because we’re selecting certain verses and soundbites to further our opinions about gender roles. The church shouldn’t lose ambitious, bright, competent, and most importantly gifted women to the corporate world, the not-for-profit world, or the Church world. God has gifted men and women alike to further His cause in the world. Why are we fighting so hard to put limits on half of God’s kingdom?

“When female executives, entrepreneurs, academics, and creatives are told that they have to check their gifts at the church door, many turn away for good. And while our sisters around the world continue to suffer from trafficking, exploitation, violence, neglect, maternal mortality, and discrimination, those of us who are perhaps most equipped to respond with prophetic words and actions – women of faith – are being systematically silenced in our own faith communities. ” Rachel Held Evans, Year of Biblical Womanhood

I wrote a letter a few years ago, and I want to share it again (for the full letter, read here). I want to share it for the ladies and gentlemen in our college small group because I believe in you, and I believe that the sky should be the limit for you. I want to share it for the ladies and gentlemen who are my age and who are past my age, because I believe in you, and I believe the sky should be the limit for you. I want to share it for all of us, because we need each other, and we need each others’ gifts, and the world needs our gifts and unified selves to bring healing and hope.

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Dear Female Christ-Follower,

Let me first say that you are a valuable member of the body of Christ. You are a co-laborer with Christ. You are not a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God. You are not a “helpmate” in the work of Christ. You are not limited in your calling.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” My sisters, you are one with your brothers in Christ. You are not second in line, you are not the shadows, you are not meant to be quiet and wait for your cue. Your cue comes from Christ, not from your male (or female) counterparts. As a Christ-follower, your calling is to love God and love others. You do that by being “you” in the way that God uniquely created you. He gave you a unique personality and giftings, so use them to live out your calling. Your giftings are not limited because of your gender.

If you have an extra few minutes, read all of 1 Corinthians 12. For blog length purposes, I’ve hilighed a few verses:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… There are many parts, but one body. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the Church, God has appointed first of all, apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

My fellow female Christ-followers, each of you is a part of the body of Christ. And each of you is a different part. You aren’t limited to being certain parts because you are a female. Forgive me if this seems crass, but I’m going to say it: Women, we aren’t the breasts of the Body of Christ – You know, ‘nice on the eyes, but really only practical and useful for babies and small children.’

Women, some of you are apostles, some of you are teachers. Some of you are prophetesses, and some leaders. Some of you have the gifts of helping, or mercies, or giving. Some of you have the gift of tongues. Yes, I said it, some of you are leaders, and you should be leading – and not just in the nursery ministry, or children’s ministry, or women’s ministry. Some of you are teachers, and some of you should be teaching adults, not just children’s Sunday School.

Women, some of you hold leadership and management roles in the workplace, in which you supervise, manage, lead, and steer both men and women – and you’re good at it. Why then, are you asked to check your gifts at the door of your Church? If you have gifts (and you all do), use them! Some of you love children, and are gifted at ministering to children; do that! Some of you are servants; so serve. Some of you are amazing cooks and you help by cooking meals for new moms and families in need. (Some of you men are also good cooks, sorry we as a Church haven’t often invited you to help with this!) Some of you are leaders; so lead in the areas that you are gifted! Not all of you are leaders, teachers, and apostles, but whatever your gifts, use them!

And if any male Christ-followers are reading this letter, may I remind you that some of you are apostles, some of you are teachers. Some of you are prophets, and some leaders. Some of you have the gifts of helping, or mercies, or giving. Some of you have the gift of tongues. And if you are a Christ-following male, who does not have a gift of leadership or teaching, but rather, who has the gift of mercy or helps or giving, you are not a second-class citizen in the body of Christ. You are not weak; you do not need to be called to greatness. You do not need to be corrected. May I remind you of Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth above: “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:18)

My friends, if you are feeling skeptical about women leading, teaching, and steering the Church, let me remind you of some God followers who have come before you:

Junia – Apostle (Romans 16:7)

Anna – Prophet (Luke 2)

Priscilla – Teacher – (Acts 18) – Interestingly, she was listed before her husband in Paul’s writing – Priscilla and Aquilla

Deborah – Leader (Judges 4,5)

Phoebe – Service (Romans 16)

Read these women’s stories. They used the gifts that God had given them to serve their entire community; both men and women. Then, think about your gifts and whether or not you are using them. If you don’t know what your gifts are, talk to the people who love you in your life or take a spiritual gifts inventory. My spiritual gifts are: Leadership, Administration, Teaching, and Apostle, and Pastor. But I’m a woman, is that a sin? Absolutely not! It’s a sin for me to not use these gifts!

My fellow female co-laborers with Christ, we need you! We need all your gifts. You are first a follower of Christ. You are not first a wife or a mother or a career woman. You are a follower of Christ. There is a world full of hurting, lonely, lost people who need to hear the message of the love and redemption that Jesus brings. So bring the message through your gifts, your prayers, and your unlimited co-laboring.

Love,

Allison

Radical Exceptions? Following with a Growing Family

Radical Blog Series Graphic

Thanks for joining this week as we discussed the ideas of there being exceptions to following Jesus in the series Radical Exemptions?  We talked particularly about parents and the call to follow Jesus.  And since I am not a parent, I turned the blog over to parents all week who talked about how they are continuing to follow Jesus with a growing family.  Here’s Tuesday’s guest post, here’s Wednesday’s, and here’s yesterday’s in case you missed them.

And I don’t want to leave anyone out.  If you have ideas and thoughts to share, here’s how you can do that.

Today’s final guest post comes from Shannon Krueger.  Shannon and I met in California through our husbands, who were both serving as youth pastors at different churches.  They are a family that has embraced the idea of organic outreach and believes in sharing Jesus in natural rhythms and relationships.  Shannon and her husband, Keith, live in Northern California with their daughters Alexandra, Hannah, and Elliyah, and their son, whose adoption is nearing completion (but whose name must be kept confidential until that time).  I know you’ll enjoy hearing Shannon’s take on following Jesus as a family.

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Being a follower of Jesus has been by far the best adventure of my life! It’s definitely like being on a roller coaster with twists, turns, ups, and downs. I answered the call and became a follower of Jesus in 2000 and it has been a wild ride ever since. I was reflecting on this wild ride this week and how even during the very challenging times Jesus has been right there with me. He was celebrating with me with the highs and carrying me through the lows.

Jesus calls us to love and serve him wherever we are. This may be in an overseas mission field, across the country or it may be right in our own home. I love that Jesus is so creative because it provides limitless possibilities to shine for Him! One way we are following Jesus is by growing our family through adoption. My husband is adopted and has had a desire to adopt for as long as he can remember. For me it was a different story. God really did a work on my heart and placed a desire in me to adopt, but it didn’t happen overnight. The Lord has used my husband to help me see that the decision to adopt is not about me. It isn’t about me not being able to handle four children and it’s not about my inability to handle the challenges we are going to face. It is about making a difference in one child’s life. It is giving a child an opportunity to love and be loved, it is providing a loving home for him to grow and most importantly it is sharing the love of Jesus with him.

We started the adoption process with an introduction class and paperwork in 2008. We had finished our first round of paperwork and the next step was to meet our social worker. Well SURPRISE I found out I was pregnant the week we were going to meet our social worker! Talk about adventure…this was not even on our radar, let alone with our plan of adoption. We had to let our social worker know that we would be calling back in a few years. Fast forward to 2011 and after our youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday we decided to start the process of adoption again. We filled out paperwork, answered lots of questions, took adoption preparation classes, read a bunch of books, and prayed A LOT! After preparing our hearts and home, we received a call about a boy who needed a home in October 2012. We were on vacation and when we returned we had two days to get his bedroom all ready. The night before we were going to meet this boy we found out he wasn’t going to be coming after all.

There was no doubt God knew who our son was and He would bring him to us at the right time, but it still hurt. A few weeks later we found out about another boy who needed a home. As we have learned with the process of adoption there are always twists and turns. We didn’t end up meeting this boy until January. The day we met him my husband and I knew he was our son. We had him stay with us several times, we went to visit him several times and in March 2013 he came to live with us forever. We are still going through the adventure of court hearings and waiting periods for the adoption to become final, but God has made it very clear to us that this boy is the son we have prayed and waited for.

I have been thinking a lot about the adventure of parenthood. One of the biggest ways God has been growing me is overcoming fear. I was so afraid of having 4 children and the challenges of adoption. God meets me where I am at each time and every step of the way has reminded me to keep following Him, that this is part of His plan. Even though we are only a few months into having four children, I am grateful I didn’t let fear stop God’s plan.

I know some people think that being a stay at home mom is boring and mundane. And believe me I am not a fan of the laundry and other chores, but the challenge for me is to not lose sight of my main purpose. My role is to show Jesus to my children. I have only led two people to Jesus in my life and those two people were my oldest daughters. I do hope as God continues to use me that I will have the privilege of leading more people to Christ.

So how am I serving Jesus every day? When I die to self and serve my family by managing our home, I am showing them Jesus. When I home school our son so that he can get caught up and have an easier transition to his new life, I am showing him Jesus. This year I organized informal prayers walks with a few other moms. I printed up the staff list at my daughters’ school and we walked the neighborhood around the school praying for each person on staff. We usually had a few of our younger children in a baby carrier, stroller, or walking with us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I am definitely weak! I do not in any way have it all together. I am constantly asking for forgiveness and feel like I am falling short as a mom. But what I do know is that if I keep asking Jesus to use me, He will. The other day my son said he wants to be a police officer and one of my daughters said she wants to be a social worker to help children like her brother. All of this hard work is not in vain. My main prayer for my children is that they will love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. If my husband and I raise them to not only have a relationship with Jesus but to show Jesus to others around them, then impacting our four children will impact others who will impact others.

We are in a season of pouring a lot of our time and energy into our four children. We are in that stage of just trying to survive each day and a lot of people are showing Jesus to us through their prayers, meals, helping with the kids, encouragement, etc. But as we come up for air we will be able to bless our community more. That might be picking up trash as we walk home from school, praying for a friend who is struggling, baking some goodies for our neighbors, visiting a convalescent home, and whatever other creative ways God asks us to show people who He is. We are eternally grateful that He allows us to be a part of this incredible journey!

Radical Exemptions? Raising Children to be Global Citizens

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Thanks for joining in this series Radical Exemptions?.  This series is all about following the call of Jesus and how that call to follow Jesus is pretty radical.  We’re talking particularly about parents following the call of Jesus because of this article that started the whole discussion.  Since I’m not a parent, I acknowledged that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and have turned the blog over to friends this week who are sharing how they are continuing to follow Jesus now that they have children.  (Here is Tuesday’s guest blog in case you missed it, and here is Wednesday’s).  I hope you’ll continue to join us for the rest of the week as we continue this series.

Today’s guest blog comes to you from Jon and Jan Huckins (although they will always be Jonny and Janny to us).  We met the Huckins in Northern California through a small group of Youth Pastors & Wives.  We ate together, shared about ministry struggles and victories together, the men surfed together, and we cried together.  We always admired Jon and Jan’s adventurous spirits and deep desire to make an impact on the world.   Jon & Jan have two daughters; Ruby and Rosie and they all live in Southern California (when they aren’t traveling the world).  I can’t wait for you to read today’s guest post!

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Before we had kids, we loved to travel, had worldview stretching experiences and were all together creative in how we lived the lives we had been given.  For us, having the right kind of experiences meant far more than have the right kind of house, car or other possession that could be associated with “success.”  As we reflect on our development individually and as a couple in the context of marriage, it is clear that these experiences (and resulting relationships) have shaped us more significantly than any classroom or lecture series.  It has been the classroom of real life relationships that have formed us into global citizens who follow a Jesus with a global reign.

And then we had kids…

Having heard that we would finally have to “slow down” or change our unorthodox way of life with the wee ones around, we were feeling a bit anxious about this new stage of life.  Would the most life giving elements of our life quickly be swept away in exchange for dirty diapers and trips to the laundry mat?

Well, they could have been, but we quickly realized that the very best gift we could give our children is to live the kind of life we would desire them to live as faithful followers of Jesus.  In other words, if we are to be role models to our children, we need to live the kind of life we’d hope they’ll live someday.

So, we figured we’d just keep on living the unorthodox way of life and bring ’em along with us.  That’s why God made front packs and folding strollers for crying out loud!!

We are far from having things figured out, but here are a few key learnings we aspire to embody…

Faithful Living In Exchange For Fear Based Parenting

There are few things harder that releasing control (even if its just a little!) over the well being of your child, but in order to faithfully live into the call we know God has for us, it has become a nonnegotiable.  Rather than fear based parenting, we want to willingly step into those situations and experiences that will stretch us and expose our children to the kind of people and places they wouldn’t encounter if we don’t jump off the path of security.  Janny feels called to support and come alongside families who have come to San Diego as persecuted refugees.  Rather than going alone, she chooses to bring our daughter (Ruby) and invite her right into the middle of an experience that would stretch any mother’s protective instincts.  With dozens of snotty nosed kids running around, women from all over the world gobbling up our little 8-month old and kissing her face, Janny has to intentionally release control for the sake of faithfully being present in the places and relationships she has been called.  As a result, not only do these sweet women call Ruby “habibti” (my love), Ruby is learning to see others through the lens of a shared humanity rather than a set of cultural, religious or social constructs.

Kingdom Values VS American Ideals

We deeply desire our children to view themselves as global citizens.  In other words, rather than only seeking the good of our neighborhood, region or country, we want them to seek the good of the world.  We desire for them to see the direct lines between the way we shop, vote and live here in the US with the impact of our brothers and sisters half way across the globe.  In an effort to live simply (we really don’t have a choice on this one!) and to advance the common good globally, we try to shop at thrift stores (and host neighborhood clothing swaps!) as much as possible.  Our kids sure don’t know the difference and we hope that they view thrift stores as their department stores!  Another example is that we choose to buy multi-cultural baby dolls for our daughters so they see diversity as normative, rather than princesses and barbie dolls.  Although sometimes uncomfortable, make these types of decisions in the small things so we can promote well rounded world-views and experiences.  Who knows if it will work, but we at least giving it a shot when we are able!

Invitation Rather than Isolation

Lastly, we really try to do our best at inviting our children into the natural rhythms of our life, work and worship as much as possible.  Rather than removing the kids from our times of community worship, we are learning to celebrate their presence (even when it isn’t all the pleasant!) as part of the worship.  Also, we invite our kids into the lives of our adult friends.  Having committed to walk intentionally with a community of Jesus followers means we have also committed our children to walk with these people.  Although we may do some things differently, we are learning to release some of our control and allow our kids to be invited into the lives of those that love us most.  It is now to the point that Ruby has to pray for EVERY person in our faith community before we go to bed.  We never thought prayer could be so exhausting!

In the end, things are very different than before we had kids.  Things certainly move a bit slower.  Things often don’t go in the way we envision.  And things are viewed through a much different lens.  But we are realizing that is the beauty of family and a continual process of learning to live lives of selflessness, hospitality and generosity.  Parenting has become one of the most dynamic forms of discipleship.

Blessings on your families as you navigate these waters and please share your best practices!

Radical Exemptions? Following Jesus Defines the Culture of My Family

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Thanks for joining in this week’s series “Radical Exemptions“.  If you missed the first two days, feel free to refer back!  I kicked the week off with some musings, and then I passed the baton to my friends who can talk more soundly and from experience about the subject of parenting.  I hope you’ll continue to join us all week as we continue this discussion.

I met Molly during freshman orientation at Asbury College.  She and I lived on the same hall and fast became dear friends.  Molly’s resoluteness about her faith is one of the things that initially drew me to her, and has continued to inspire and challenge me.  She has met each season of life with resolve and conviction from teaching to graduate school to marriage to parenting.  Molly and her husband Nate make their home in Alabama with their three boys: Mark, Tim, and Peter.   

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I read Radical back in the fall of 2010 during a perplexing, exciting, and hopeful time when God seemed to be leading my husband and me to adopt our first child.  We had been trying to conceive for over a year, and after the Lord led me on an incredible journey out of anger and bitterness and into the sweet rest of surrender, He instilled in us the desire to adopt.  As He did this, He renewed in me a passion for His glory; I wanted to live so that others would see how great He is.  So the ideas in Radical completely resounded with the path on which God had put me.  And let’s face it: intending to stop the process of trying to have a biological child at the age of 28 and pursue adoption was somewhat radical. And so the book was very reassuring.

And then God stopped us in our tracks as we were about to begin the adoption paperwork by giving us not one, but two, babies.  Twin boys.  We also moved at this time to a different town in our state because of my husband’s job change.  And so suddenly our lives didn’t “look” so radical on the outside.  We moved from one subdivision to the next in smallish-town America, though our neighborhood demographics did shift quite dramatically from one filled with young families and couples to a street made up almost entirely of retired couples and elderly widows.   I stopped working and became a stay-at-home mother, and we also found and joined a local church plant.

But even with the major changes God brought to us, the need to apply the premise of Radical in our lives didn’t change because the premise of Radical is based on the Word of God and the commands of Jesus in it.  What are these commands?  One, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39).   And two, to make disciples of Christ as we go where God has placed us (Mt. 28:19-20).

Why are these commands “radical?” They are radical because they do not come naturally.  And they do not come naturally because they are costly to one’s self.  They are not convenient.   They require planning, intentionality, and sacrifice.  And so as a mother, for example, rather than follow Christ’s commands, it’s easy to slip into the “let’s just raise nice, moral, and respectful young men” parenting mindset.  And accompanied by this mode of mothering is an entire turn inward, to where I receive God’s blessings in my life with the end goal of merely wanting to be blessed more, rather than to be a blessing to others.

This two-fold worldview as a mother becomes my default mindset if my heart, mind, and soul are not utterly captivated by the Gospel.   The Gospel is the only antidote to my selfish cravings to live to please myself.  And the more I am consumed by the Gospel, the less radical Christ’s commands actually seem.   

So what is the connection between the Gospel and my heart to love God and others?  God saved me so that I would make his glory known among the nations, beginning in my home and them extending outwardly (Eph. 1:11-12, Ps. 67:1-2).   He has transformed me from an object of his wrath to an object of the riches of his mercy (Eph. 2:3-7).  He bought me with the precious blood of his Son and adopted me into his family (Eph. 1:5-7).  Once an orphan and now his child, how can I not love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love others selflessly?  With the Holy Spirit in me, this is not radical.  Living for His glory should define the culture of my family.  With eyes of faith, following God’s commands, loving others, and discipling my children are merely the fruit of seeking first the Kingdom of God.

And so I’ll give you a glimpse into how living out the culture of the Kingdom of God looks for me in this season of young motherhood, in no particular order:

  • Reading the Word of God when I’d rather stay in bed, catch up on Facebook’s morning news, or watch the Today Show
  • Practicing hospitality, even when it’s uncomfortable, risky, and takes a lot of effort
  • Sharing with others, even when my budget is tight, when it means I might not have leftovers for the next night’s dinner, or when it might involve an extra trip to the store with three children
  • Searching the Word of God for passages that apply to the sinful attitudes of the heart that I see in my toddlers, and then applying it verbally as I correct them.
  • Searching my own heart after I correct my toddlers and repenting of the same sinful attitude I see in myself
  • Visiting the widows on our street when I’d rather have a playdate or get the laundry done
  • Praying that God would show me who the “least of these” is in our lives and sharing our lives when He brings them our way, even if it means a homeless man who visits our church and needs a home-cooked meal and a shower
  • Seeking to do all things in our home excellently and to the glory of God so that He would look beautiful to my children—things like unloading the dishwasher or cleaning the bathroom without pushing my boys out of the way and getting angry when they mess something up or try to help
  • Serving faithfully with a local body of believers as part of a church plant, which sometimes looks like taking the whole family on a Saturday morning to scrub bathrooms and vacuum
  • Living simply, choosing household projects wisely, and not accumulating any debt so that we can give to others and also hopefully be in a financial position to adopt a child one day.
  • Taking time to clean our home or call a friend, even if it means abandoning my selfish demand for “me-time”

I’m not going to lie.  Each one of the things I have listed is an ongoing battle.  They’re not easy.  I’m a homebody, an introvert, and I’m frugal.  I’m also a control freak and a perfectionist.  I’m a people-pleaser and don’t like to risk rejection by sharing the Gospel. Seeking to obey God, love others selflessly, and disciple my children faithfully are at war against those characteristics every single day.  But I’ve learned that when the commands of Jesus feel too radical, too inconvenient, and when they feel like items on a to-do list, it’s time for me to soak myself in God’s Word.  It’s time for me to pray that the Lord would overwhelm me with the Gospel once again.  And He is faithful and has, and will continue, to do it.  And then obedience—this living “radically”–becomes pure delight.

If you would like to read more on living out the Gospel in the midst of the mundane, I highly recommend the blog Domestic Kingdom. It has been a source of great challenge and encouragement to my soul. 

Radical Exemptions? Living Overseas Doesn’t Exempt Me From the Ordinary

Radical Blog Series Graphic

Thanks for joining in this week’s series “Radical Exemptions“.  Yesterday, we started a discussion about following Jesus fully, intentionally, and sacrificially.  We talked about the fact that following Jesus means that we follow with him in many seasons of life (some of which some of us will experience and some of which some of us will not): singleness, dating, marriage, children, retirement, caring for aging parents…  We noted that we don’t get sidelined for certain seasons when it comes to being a follower.  We looked at an article that sparked the whole discussion about parents, in particular, being radical with their faith.  So we honed in on parents.  Since I’m not a parent, I’ve asked friends who are to guest post all week about how they are following Jesus in their everyday lives.  For the rest of the week, we’ll look at how they are teaching their children to follow Jesus, and how they are continuing to follow Jesus with their children as a part of that story.

I met Ruth (Ruthie back then) over the summer of 2001 after receiving a roommate assignment letter for my freshman year at Asbury University (Asbury College back then).  Despite our different backgrounds, personalities, and fashion sense, we became dear friends.  I consider Ruth a friend and a sister, and I deeply respect her life and her calling.  She lives with her husband, Kevin, and daughter Juliana in China. Baby #2 is due sometime in early fall.

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I put in a load of laundry then thread my way through the maze of toys on the ground to check if there are enough left-overs for dinner.  I convince my 2 year old to sit on the potty (oh, the joys of potty training) and browse diaper patterns for the baby on the way.  I make a cup of coffee and forget to drink it.  My life is very ordinary.  Oh, except I live in China.

I’m currently studying one of the world’s most difficult languages without any special language aptitude.  I cook on a one-burner stove in a kitchen that freezes over in the winter, but I’m just glad we got rid of the hordes of nasty roaches.  My daughter watches Chinese cartoons, loves tofu snacks, and thinks her grandparents live in the computer on Skype.  When we go out people stare at the strange foreigners and run over to take pictures on their cell phones.  If you were here, you would probably find many things strange and fascinating.  But after seven years, even the strange parts of my life have become ordinary.

Sometimes at the end of the day I wonder, “Does it really matter that I’m here?  Am I doing anything more significant than laundry?”  Even in China, it’s easy to get consumed by the mundane.  I never realized before how much time and energy children take (and I still only have one!).  How do we accept the mundane, embrace our role as parents, and resist complacency all at the same time?

Well, fortunately I have some super profound and experienced thoughts categorized numerically to make them seem more organized:

1. Don’t separate the mundane and the sacred.  Cooking is a part of life, and you can only go so long without washing clothes and still expect people to hang out with you. I’ve heard people talk about praying as they fold laundry and memorizing verses in the shower.  It sounds like a great idea and always makes me feel guilty that I’m likely composing a mental to-do list or thinking about something I saw on Facebook (Sorry to shatter the illusion…moving overseas doesn’t suddenly turn you super-spiritual.  I know, I was disappointed too.)  But guilt-factor aside, we’ve got to stop dividing our lives into “the boring, meaningless stuff” and “the exciting, super-spiritual stuff.”  God loves to meet and teach us in the midst of the mundane.

 2. Invite people into our lives…the laundry room as well as the living room.  Let people see you in the mundane aspects of life – how you respond to your kids when they are screaming and what you do when the washer is breaks again.  In a mostly non-creepy way, people are watching you.  Not just the “smiling nicely in your Sunday clothes” you but the “up with the baby all night, haven’t showered in two days” you.  That’s where the real you comes out -not always glamorous, but authentic.

3. Realize there are periods of life when the mundane kinda takes over.  I just got through three months of fabulous morning sickness where I did little except move between the couch and the toilet and meditate on how I felt like dying.  Laundry was difficult and cooking pretty much out of the question; dragging myself to class was about as much as I could handle.  Some periods of life are like that.  It’s hard enough just to get by.  Accept it; it won’t last forever.  But if you find all of your life is just struggling to get by, maybe it’s a sign to either re-prioritize or reach out for help.

4. Don’t separate parenting from “a life of adventure.”  Parenting will certainly change what you do and how, but it shouldn’t be the death sentence for influence outside the home.  You may not have the flexibility you did before, but parenting can actually expand your spheres of influence.  For me, becoming a parent has had a very humanizing effect: “Oh, the strange foreigner is a mother too.  Maybe she’s not so strange after all.”  Lots of people approach us now that never would have before; kids tend to lower the intimidation factor.  They give an automatic “in” with other parents, grandparents, and people who like kids.  And in their own simple ways, children speak truths in ways we might not be able to.  When we stop thinking of them as obstacles, children can be a great asset to our “life of adventure.”

 5.  Ask for opportunities.  A life of adventure may mean packing up and moving to China or fostering a child.  It may mean befriending the grouchy old woman down the street who seems all alone.  It may mean starting a playgroup of people very different from you.  If you ask God to show you openings in your life, he will.  Just be prepared: it probably won’t be comfortable and orderly and fit nicely into your schedule.  It will more likely look something like this: You are in the middle of a super busy day, your children are fighting fiercely, the house is a mess, and someone you find kind of annoying shows up at your door for an unexpected chat.  You consider pretending you’re not home, but instead you take a deep breath and invite that annoying person into your messy, honest life.  And from there, you just never know what will happen.

Radical Exemptions?

Radical Blog Series Graphic

I’m not a parent and so I realize that writing about parenting is a risk.  I’ve only written about parenting one or two times before, and both times, I hit the “publish” button with fear and trembling.  I feared and trembled because I know I haven’t earned my parenting badge of honor and I’m not an expert.  I don’t know what it’s like to raise a child.  And no one likes the person who thinks they’re an expert when they’re not.  I’m acknowledging that I’m not an expert, but I’d like to engage in a conversation that was started last week and hopefully create some more conversation this week.  And so, today, with fear and trembling, I am yet again pushing the publish button on a blog that involves parents.

I read this article last week from a suburban mom in response to the “New Radical Movement” that’s spreading in American Christendom.  The author’s perspective seems to be that the concept of radical Christianity is a more of a male, adventure-seeking construct and not an accurate depiction of following Jesus.  The author worries that the radical movement views suburban moms as “lazy”, and elevates missionaries and pastors to a holier status.  The author said she worried Platt would yawn at the monotony of her day to day looking-after-children-life.  (This is a quick and dirty version, please read the whole article for more context).  A week after reading this article, I can’t shut off all my thoughts and I need to process it.  So here’s my start at a discussion, please join in.

The call of Jesus is radical.  To follow Jesus is radical.  All of us, who claim to be followers of this radical Jesus have the same calling.  Our calling is to live out the great commandment and the great commission:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

If we’ve grown up in Church, or spent a few years in pews, we’ve undoubtedly heard these verses, maybe even committed them to memory.  They sound simple enough when repeated over and over, but they aren’t simple at all.  The call of the follower of Jesus requires focus, intention, and sacrifice.

And that, in summary, is what the “Radical movement”, championed by David Platt, Francis Chan, and a growing handful of others is all about.  It’s been labeled by some as the “New Radical Movement” probably because of David Platt’s first book which is entitled Radical.

These radical champions challenge American Christians to look deeper at the message and calling of the gospel and compare them to what we are experiencing in our churches and day to day lives. “Somewhere along the way, we missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.  We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” (Platt, Radical)

The radical movement isn’t necessarily a call for every American Christ-follower to give up everything and move to the inner city or another country (although it braces us to be open to that very thing), but the radical movement is about the condition of our hearts.  When Jesus called the disciples, they abandoned their careers, their hometowns, and their families to follow Jesus.  The disciples abandoned themselves when they followed Jesus.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Platt and Chan didn’t make up the unpopular message that following Jesus is costly; Jesus did.  When we decide to follow Jesus, we are agreeing to a lifetime of following.  And following isn’t easy, especially during certain seasons of life.

The truth is, we don’t get temporary leave from following Jesus’ call when we have life changing events like going off to college, or starting a new job, or getting married, or even having children.  Our family status doesn’t interrupt or exempt our calling, although, it might impact the scope and reach of our calling.

The radical movement isn’t a call for everyone to uproot from the suburbs and move to Africa or the inner city.  It’s a call to be radical where we’re called.  And if we get called to Africa, we need to be radical there.  If we get called to the roughest part of downtown, we need to be radical there.  If we feel called to stay where we are, we need to be radical there.

No matter our family makeup, we are called to serve, love, and sacrifice.  Christ-followers are not exempt from answering the call because money is tight, or because of marital status, or because of a recent birth or adoption, or because of aging-parents.  All Christ followers are called to share Jesus with our neighbors locally and globally.  All Christ-followers are called to serve the poor.  All Christ-followers are called to care for orphans and widows and the oppressed.  We can do that from the suburbs, from the city, or from China.  And we can not do that from the suburbs, from the city, or from China.

Being radical is about our hearts, our intentions, and our actions; not about our location.

Having children isn’t a “get out of radical living free” card.  I don’t know this personally, but I watch many of my friends continue to live out the call of Jesus after adding children to their families.  I have friends that are living radically within the confines of their neighborhoods; some live in the suburbs, some live in cities, some live communally, and some live overseas.  The choice to have children doesn’t negate the call to follow Jesus wherever and however He leads.

Being a parent is an incredibly high calling, but it isn’t a mom or dad’s only calling.  We are called to Jesus and His kingdom first.  We aren’t called to focus on our families first.  We are called to raise up children to know and follow Jesus, and this doesn’t only happen in Sunday School and VBS and nighttime prayers.  Children learn how to follow Jesus by watching how their parents follow Jesus.

If parents are whole-heartedly following Jesus, children learn how to whole-heartedly follow Jesus.  If parents are safely following Jesus, children learn how to safely follow Jesus.  If parents are only following Jesus to church, children will only follow Jesus to church.  If parents want to raise up the next generation of leaders, parents need to lead how they want their children to lead.

When children see parents serving the poor, praying for the world, taking care of the environment, sharing Jesus with neighbors, and giving sacrificially, children will learn that’s what following the call of Jesus means.

And I get that all this sounds well and good in theory, but I’ve been around enough moms and dads with little ones to know that day to day work with children is, well, work.  Kids are little, but they produce unthinkable amounts of laundry and messes and they eat a lot, and subsequently go to the bathroom a lot.  Little ones nap a lot, too, which impedes flexibility.

But I would argue that while it may not be as persistent, urgent, or difficult to neglect, all of us have monotonous daily tasks that consume our lives.   The majority of us work jobs that are routine, monotonous, time-consuming, and time-constraining.  We all do laundry, cook, clean, shower, do yard work, and go to the bathroom whether we live in the burbs or the ghetto or a remote village. If we do or don’t have children, we all have monotonous tasks.  All of us have to battle the monotony.  A radical response to the Gospel doesn’t mean that we won’t have monotony, it means that we’ll be intentional within the monotony about our purpose.

We all  have to fight the battle of the ordinary, whether we live in the suburbs or the city or overseas.  We all have to fight to remember that we are called to live differently

Romans 12:1 says it perfectly: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Since I don’t know what it’s like to have children and still live out my calling as a Christ-follower, I decided to ask some of my blogging parent friends to share this week about how they are living radically while juggling feedings and nap schedules and squeezing in a few hours of sleep.  Please jump in the discussion this week and stay tuned as we hear from some friends who are downright radical parents in their everyday lives.