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!

Advertisements

Book Therapy

If y’all haven’t yet heard of Brene Brown, you’ve had your head in the sand.  If you’ve heard about her, but haven’t yet read any of her books, you’re missing out.  If you don’t think you have time to read, I’m sad about that for you, but at least watch this Ted Talk that’s worth every moment of the 20 minute watch time.

I say this as a recent convert and half-hypocrite  because I am only mostly through my first book of hers, but holy guacamole, this woman speaks truth and she speaks to my soul.  Seriously, stop everything and go to amazon and order at least one of her books.  I’m all about library rentals, but you will need to hilight, write, and wipe tears off her books, they are not loaner kinds of books.

This is, no doubt, the first of many Brene Brown inspired posts – if it gets too wild I’ll either add a Brene category to my menu, or label myself a stalker. This brilliant woman, (whose a social worker might I add) has researched shame and vulnerability, and has made a career of helping people embrace courage.  What an amazing calling!

Her stuff is deep.  Every time I open my book it’s like cozying up in my therapists’ leather chair – I want to be there, I want to go there, but I’m terrified to go there, because there will unlock some stuff that needs out that I’m not sure I’m ready to let out.  You know what I mean?  But when I do expose what needs exposed it’s a good bad feeling that’s good enough to keep going back.  And so I keep reading.

This week, I was reading in Daring Greatly about vulnerability armory, which are the ways that we have found to protect ourselves from being hurt, or from being vulnerable.  Sadly, I use nearly all if not all of the weapons in the armory she talks about in her chapters (if I’m not explaining this well enough, don’t worry, you’ll understand when you read her books – have you ordered them yet?)

She writes that one of the greatest weapons many of us use to fend off vulnerability is perfectionism.

Dang.  I know I do.

I mean, I really struggle with perfectionism.  This week was proof if I ever needed it.

This week, I am doing a several day training for principals and teachers.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to teach teachers, but they are a tough crowd.  They are good at teaching, and they have every right to be suspicious of and critical of those of us who don’t do this daily.  I’ve been preparing for this training all year, and subsequently, I have had too much time to build up my own expectations and fears about the success of this training.

What if they don’t connect with me?

What if they don’t listen to me?

What if my presentation isn’t good enough?

What if my presentation isn’t perfect?

Truthfully, I’ve had an elevated heart rate for a week, I’ve been dreading this week, and I’ve been a total meanie to those closest to me.  When I don’t feel like I’m going to do well enough, or be good enough, I am super tense, super on edge, and super sensitive.

I let my fear of how I will come off to perfect strangers affect my relationships with my closest people.

So, yeah, I struggle with this.

But the good news for me this week is that in the midst of disappointment that I let my struggles with this perfectionism gremlin win, I am struggling through perfectionism, not just with perfectionism.  The fact that I realized what caused my anger only 3 minutes after snapping completely irrationality at my husbands question about the weather is proof of struggling through.  The fact that I quickly disclosed to him and a dear friend that I was feeling anxious, powerless, and fearful and needed support is a total indicator that I am struggling through.  So this week, I am experiencing glimmers of hope that there is a brave woman underneath this shield of perfection.

This week, I’m continuing on this journey of letting go of my desire to please and desire for approval.  “If we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from “What will people think” to “I am enough.”

Any other perfectionists out there?  

How have you embraced that you are enough?

Intentionality and Implementation

It’s environmental care week on the blog.  

church earth

Monday we talked about a Christian response to environmental care.

Tuesday we talked about mindfulness.

Wednesday we talked about contentedness.

Yesterday we talked about selflessness.

And today, we talk about intentionality.

We need to get past the point of knowing and talking about taking care of the environment to actually taking care of it.  How many self-proclaimed “green” friends do we know who drive SUV’s and use Styrofoam plates, and eat only imported vegetables.  I’ve done all of these things – I’m not passing blame without accepting blame.

Americans buy an estimated 29.8 billion plastic water bottles every year. An estimated eight out of every 10 of these bottles will end up in a landfill. (Container Recycling Institute)  Today, during a staff meeting, I watched several coworkers throw their plastic water bottles into the trash can directly next to a recycling bin.

We know better, and yet we struggle to change.

There are so many options encourage sustainability that perhaps we get overwhelmed.  But my encouragement to all of us is to start somewhere.  A few years ago, after reading Serve God Save the Planet, my husband and I started making some small changes to our lives.

1.  We got militant about recycling (no more recycling laziness)

2.  We stopped buying and using paper napkins altogether and only use cloth

3.  We started using reusable grocery bags

4.  We started celebrating Christmas differently (less consuming, less stress, less spending on family and friends, less wrapping paper, more celebrating, more giving to others in need).

Soon enough, these things stopped feeling weird, they just became a part of our everyday lives.  And with more reading and more conviction, we’ve added some more changes over the last few years:

5.  Use reusable tupperware vs. plastic baggies if at all possible

6.  Use cloths vs. paper towls for cleaning

7. Avoid paper products unless we don’t have enough real dishes to feed the party

8.  Check out books from the library rather than buying them (unless they are fabulous enough to add to our personal library).  Be generous and share books with friends rather than having them buy books.

9.  Ditch the SUV and get a hybrid (we love our little prius)

10.  Eat vegetarian at least half of our weekly meals

Our newest fun additions are:

11.  Share tools with neighbors (we have a lawnmower, our friend has a weedwacker – we share, we save, and we have a fun excuse to see each other every other weekend).

12.  Use reusable produce bags (I love our new bags!)

13.  Grow our own veggies (our little seedlings are looking good)

14. Compost our waste

I hope that we can continue to simplify and be intentional.  With each new change, we feel more connected to God and our brothers and sisters around the world, as well as the earth God created.

And these are really small things.  I realize that we have a long way to go. We have a long way to go before we get to hanging our clothes to dry year round, canning veggies, and bringing our own tupperware when we’re craving takeout (all Dr. Sleeth’s suggestions) but maybe someday we’ll be there.

What about you?  What changes have you made in your everyday routine to make the earth more sustainable?  

Selflessness and Sacrifice

church earthIt’s environmental care week on the blog.  In case you missed Monday’s intro post (spurred on by earth day), we are talking about a Christian response to caring for the environment.  I’d love for this week to be a conversation, so please link up, comment, and share.  I’ want to hear your thoughts and implementation of caring for the environment.

In all of my learnings, musings, and elementary practice of environmental care, one theme is consistent: In order for me to care for the earth, I am going to have to sacrifice.  If I don’t change the way that I dispose of waste, or the things that I purchase, or the amount that I purchase, or what I drive, or how I drive…  nothing changes in the world.

Sacrifice is a strong word, because even in my “sacrifice” I am living an easy life.  And even in my “sacrifice” I can still sacrifice far more.

My selfishness inflicts pain, difficulty, poverty, loss of resources, and loss of freedom for others around the world.  My husband and I owned an SUV for several years, and we placed a toll on our environment.  I choose to eat my favorite produce year-round, which places a toll on our environment.  I choose to get paper cups when I purchase an afternoon chai rather than use my morning’s coffee mug, which places a toll on our environment.

“The earth was designed to sustain every generation’s needs, not be plundered in an attempt to meet one generation’s wants” (Sleeth)

My choices of whether to buy that certain type of wood could mean home displacement for a resident in a heavily forested area in South America.  My choices of whether to take the time to scoop out and rinse that gross plastic container (you know, the one with mold growing in it) or just throw it all away could mean health or cancer for my neighbor.  My choice of whether to use that bleach product that makes me feel like the bathroom is squeaky clean could mean healthy or toxic streams.

The thing that comes between me and making good choices for the earth is selfishness.

And the honest truth is, that as a Christ-follower, I don’t really have the option for selfishness.

“The Christian is not at liberty to do whatever he likes.  Christians are constrained by conviction to think about their lives, their actions, and their responsibilities.” (Sleeth)

22,000 children die each day in poverty

2,000 children die each day from having unclean water

More than 1 million Americans get cancer every year 

159 million Americans live in areas with polluted air

40% of rivers, lakes, and streams in the US are too polluted to fish or swim

3.5 million tons of trash have been dumped in the pacific ocean

Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population, however, Americans produce an estimated 40% of the world’s waste, eat 15% of the world’s meat, and use 20% of the world’s energy.

I don’t want to be a part of contributing to these statistics, and as a Christ-follower, the only place I should have in these statistics is in reducing them.

What do you think about this?  What sacrifices have you made to make the work more sustainable for others?

Contentedness and Condensing

church earthIt’s environmental care week on the blog.  In case you missed Monday’s intro post (spurred on by earth day), we are talking about a Christian response to caring for the environment.  I’d love for this week to be a conversation, so please link up, comment, and share.  I’ want to hear your thoughts and implementation of caring for the environment.

Our culture loves newer, thinner, faster, bigger, better stuff.  We are constantly bombarded with messages that we should upgrade.  We look at what our neighbors, coworkers, family members, pew-mates, and friends have and we want.  We want their lives, their fashion, their budget, their technology.  Sometimes we stop at envy, other times, we copy and consume, and still other times, we go bigger than our neighbor and we consume more.

But the truth is, when we consume, we are only satisfied and happy for a short season, and then when the new iphone comes out, or the summer line of handbags, or the newest flatscreen, we become dissatisfied and discontent and we start buying into the idea that we need to upgrade again.

Matthew Sleeth puts it this way; “The content mind is one of the greatest obstacles to a rich spiritual life”

We know Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6, where Jesus says, “19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I think most of us want our hearts to be in the right place. I know I want my heart to be in the right place.  We want to store up treasures in heaven, but that’s so ethereal.  We aren’t bombarded with heaven-treasure-storing messages daily, unless we are intentional about it, but we are bombarded with earth-treasure-storing daily without having to seek it out.

We are met with upgrade messages constantly at work, on the television, on the highway, and even at church.  Many of our own churches have upgraded to the fanciest of screens, state of the art lighting, and best of the best graphic designs.  It’s downright counter- cultural  even among Christians to live simple, content lives.

How do we become truly content with what we have? How do we live simplify our lives?

“Simplifying means having less, wanting less, being satisfied with what you have or less than what you have.  It does not mean boredom.  People with too many things are the most easily bored.” (Sleeth)  Isn’t that true?  The more we get the more quickly we tire of things and move on to the next.

Aside from our unhappiness, jealousy, tight budgets, and credit card debt over our consumption addiction, there are environmental implications, too.  Our culture’s constant need for new stuff has overwhemled our landfills with technology (because no one wants to pay to recycle technology properly when we could trash it for free) and other items that were still functional.  Our culture’s constant need for new stuff requires more oil, more chemicals, more slave labor… and the list goes on.

And in addition to environmental implications for our consumption addiction, there are societal implications.  Our need for new has stripped our budgets from wiggle room to be generous.  Rather than contribute to ending world hunger, to educating women in countries where that is not common, to providing clean water for a town, we have chosen to store up treasures on earth.

“On no subject was Jesus more clear than on materialism  A life focused on possessions is a poor and misguided life.”

For about a year after reading Serve God Save the Planet, Adam and I took the author’s suggestion and prayed before every purchase asking God, “Will this bring me closer to God.”  More times that not, the answer was no.  We scaled back our purchasing and the less we shopped the less we wanted.  But slowly, over time, we slipped back into old habits.  We made a budget and because we had budged for things, we bought things.  Sure, we had prayed over our budget – perhaps that’s how we justified our spending.  But easily enough, we started slipping back into purchasing more.  Consumption is a habit that can turn into an addiction if unchecked.

When we bought our home in December, we started having some talks again about fighting consumerism and embracing generosity.  We had a treasure check.

Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.

Where my treasure is, there will my heart be also.

This topic is a difficult one, I’d love to hear from you on this subject.  

How have you found contentment in what you have?  How have you embraced simplicity?  Do you struggle with consumerism?

Mindfulness and Minimizing

church earthIt’s environmental care week on the blog.  In case you missed yesterday’s intro post (spurred on by earth day), we are talking about a Christian response to caring for the environment.  I’d love for this week to be a conversation, so please link up, comment, and share.  I’ want to hear your thoughts and implementation of caring for the environment.

Yesterday, I divulged that the Christian circles I grew up in weren’t keen on caring for the earth.  In fact, there was a general snubbing of the idea that green living was godly living.  It took me moving to the west coast and being around some legit Christians who cared a great deal about the earth, to realize that one can be both a passionate Christian and a passionate environmentalist.  In fact, over time, I learned that passionate Christians should be passionate about caring for the earth!

It took observing environmentally minded Christians and reading Serve God Save the Planet  to realize that I had my head in the sand about a critical issue.  Our earth is not in good shape.  We are depleting resources faster than we can replenish them.  Our world has more diagnoses of cancer, greater obesity rates, higher reports of depression and anxiety, more reports of stress and stress-related health problems, higher volumes of slavery, and greater instances of war over natural resources than any past generation.  All of this can be tied to our consumption and quest for convenience.

What I wish I’d learned earlier in life, is that caring for the environment isn’t a personal choice, but rather, my choice to or not to care for the environment has an impact on others.  “Environmental concerns are intimately tied to issues of poverty, health, and compassion” (Sleeth, Serve God Save the Planet).

Green living isn’t as simple as recycling (although that isn’t a bad start).  Green living is about recognizing that our everyday choices affect the greater world.  My choice of what to drive (and how much oil it uses) affects people around me and people across the world. My choice to upgrade my current technological devices affects landfills, oil production, and my financial flexibility to give to others around the world.  My choice of wanting whatever produce my heart desires year-round affects treatment of farmers, oil consumption, and prices for my neighbors.

How and what I consume affects the world greatly.

And until my early 20’s I literally had no idea.  I shopped for what my budget would allow, and I recycled because it was free and I bought new technology when I wanted to (because I was earning a real income for the first time post-grad and I could).  And my choices then, and my choices now affect me, and affect others.

The first step to caring about the environment, is caring.  And the first step to caring, is being mindful that there’s a problem.  If you don’t think global warming is real, or that cancer is more prevalent, or that we have a waste problem, we aren’t reading the same science books.  My friends, I don’t know why conservative Christians tend to downplay this issue, but it’s not a made up liberal agenda: We are fast depleting the earth of its resources.

But, we can make a difference!  Fellow Christ-followers, here are some reasons to care for the earth:

1.  Caring about creation brings glory to God

2.  Caring about creation helps other people

Caring for the environment enables us to live more meaningful, godly, and equitable lives.  Caring for the environment helps others today and in the future.  Caring for the environment makes us more content and less materialistic.  Caring for the environment makes us more grateful and more generous.  Caring for the environment slows down our pace, and helps us to rest (Snippets from Serve God Save the Planet).

That sounds like a spiritual agenda, not a political agenda, am I right?  So today, let’s be mindful of the fact that the earth is not in good shape, and let’s be mindful of how we can help to change that through minimizing our consumption and quest for convenience.  Let’s be mindful of the fact that our choices affect others now and in the future.

A Christian Response to Earth Day

church earthAll across the United States today, elementary school children will be planting trees, commercials will roll in support of recycling, community centers will be cutting ribbons for new gardens, and many conservative Christians will be rolling their eyes.

I don’t get it –  I don’t understand how Christian conservatism has decided that caring for the environment is an evil, or at best unimportant agenda.  I grew up with eye-rolling at the mention of environmental care and you don’t even want to know what happened when the name Al Gore was mentioned.  I’ve seen many a church-goer balk at talk of “green living” and “global warming”.  I don’t know who called dibbs, but somehow, conservatives got pro-life, pro-death pentalty, and pro national safety, while liberals got pro-choice, pro-welfare, and pro-environmental care.  And when those sides were taken, conservative Christians decided they couldn’t adopt earth care as their own ideal so it was deemed bad.

But that’s crazy!  Christians believe that God created the world and gave us dominion over it.  This dominion doesn’t mean ownership but rather it means stewardship.  Christians should be the leaders in environmental care because we should be passionate about what God is passionate about.  God created the world and called it good, but we have to fight to keep it that way.

Perhaps it was moving to central California where the hippies are plentiful, nature is stunning, and folks know how to make a mean salad.  Or perhaps it was reading this book that rocked my viewpoints of green living to the core.  Or perhaps it was seeing modeled how to live simply, economically, and environmentally.  But over the last 7 years, I have grown a passion to be a good steward of the earth, and I want to share that passion over the course of this week.

I am astounded at how little many of my fellow Christian friends know about caring for the environment, so this week, we are going to go philosophical and practical.  Please join me all week as we talk about a Christian response to green living:

Tuesday – Mindfulness

Wednesday – Contentedness

Thursday – Selflessness

Friday – Intentionality

If you’d like to link up to this series and include a post about how you’ve grown to care for the environment, please add this link to your post and add a link to your Earth Care blog in the comments section.  I’d love for this to be a robust conversation.

Cheers and Happy Earth Day!