Freedom Friday – I Know Why I’m Here

So, it’s been a crazy couple of months. My friend Kelly and I started a social change group called #unitecloud to tackle some issues in our city.

11234042_1084323008263655_1457335929421886117_o

Check us out on facebook here or on our website here. It has literally taken over my life for the past months and I am so happy that it has. Our city has grasped onto our movement like someone who reaches out for a life-saving device while drowning. Kelly and I thank God for His vision in this project and His continued protection as we are not the most popular people in town with some folks:)

Yet, I realize that #unitecloud is not why I’m here on this earth. Neither was worship leading. Or teaching. And, it’s not to be a mother or a wife. Those are all secondary callings.

My first calling is to open my heart to God. By opening my heart to Him, I can get a sense of His heartbeat.

If I tune myself to that heartbeat, I can begin to make out the things He loves. Our worship. When I choose patience with my kids. When we love our enemies.

If I continue hone in, I begin to see the things that break His heart.  A desire for vengeance. A self-proclaimed righteousness that separates us from others. Fear.

When I am tuned into His heart, my heart desires the things He desires and my heart breaks for the reasons His heartbreaks.

Last night, at a community meeting, I experienced so much fear, self-proclaimed righteousness, and even a hint of desire for vengeance. I publicly pleaded with hundreds of people in my town to live at peace with their neighbors. And I specifically spoke to the Christians in the room, of which I knew there were many. Search your heart, I said. What would Jesus do? Who does He say He is? What were His actions in the bible? Where did He not act? How can we follow His example?

The crowd booed, jeered, and rolled their eyes. My heart didn’t break, though. No, it was already broken. I was ready for that reaction because I saw it coming. Fear is a horrible way to live.

I thank God that a woman came up to me at that meeting. She said she was so afraid. She has stage 4 cancer. She is afraid that Muslims are going to blow all of America up in 2 years, like the speaker had just said. She said she was considering giving up on her cancer fight and just dying so she didn’t have to live in fear anymore.

“I understand”, I said. “I am concerned for my children’s future too. Say, are you a Christian?”

“Yes”, she said hesitantly.

“Praise God!”, I said. “Can I pray for you?” She said I could, I gave her my e-mail address and asked her if we could go out for coffee.

“Yes, I’d like that” she said, holding back tears.

I pray that she e-mails me. I want to meet with her and tell her of the times that God has granted me His powerful peace in the midst of my dying baby, my rocky marriage, or my self-loathing.

He is just so darn faithful. His heart is steady. It beats for me. And for You.

Freedom Friday: Women in Church

There are a few struggles that I wrestle with continuously. One of the main ones is the topic of women in church. women

For many years now I have been in church leadership. My role of Worship Director is an interesting one, especially due to the fact that all of the denominations of the churches I have served in hold to the fact that the Bible teaches that women do not have free reign in church leadership. There are limits. Women can’t be Pastors, women can’t be elders, and so on.

I have talked this out with Pastors that I trust and respect. Some Pastors that I have worked under are quite conservative, others more liberal on the spectrum of what my role can be in church because of my gender. All of these men have brought it back to Scripture.

We talk about Paul and his New Testament views on this subject.  Paul “does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man” and goes on to say that “she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12). Paul also says that if I am praying or prophesying, I should cover my head (1 Corinthians 11:5). Why don’t we follow the head-covering teaching of Paul in today’s church and yet we use Paul’s teaching as a reason that women can not be pastors? The explanation most often is that the head-covering part is cultural. My question then is, who gets to decide which part of Paul’s teaching about the church is cultural and which part is a biblical mandate for all time?

The answer I usually get to that question is that we have to bring it back to creation. Man was made first. And, after the fall, God told Eve that her “desire would be for (her) husband, and he would rule over (her) (Genesis 3:16). Again, my question to those thoughts is, who gets to decide which of the Old Testament mandates are ones that we should followed today? Why doesn’t the church still set forth that, if a woman isn’t a virgin when she gets married and her husband finds out, the whole town could stone her (Deuteronomy 22)? If some are “cultural” and others are “biblical” and must be followed, who gets to decide which is which?

My personal answer is that, when Jesus came to earth, things changed. The veil between us and God was torn and now we live with the Holy Spirit inside of us. All of us….even women and children! While we all have the same access to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, some of us are more mature than others in our faith. Also, we all have different gifts given to us by God. Some to preach, some to teach, and so on (Ephesians 4:11). It is my belief that these roles are what rise to the top when we decide who gets to do what in the church. I don’t think that the gender of a person overrides the gifts that God has given them.

And yet, I currently attend a church who does not hold the same views that I do on this subject. I struggle with this. Should this be a deal breaker for me and, for that matter, my family? And if so, where will I go? Should I solely base my church membership decision on their views of women’s roles in the church? And if I do, what if I disagree with other strongholds that church has that I may disagree with? Which issues should rise to the top?

The “easy” answer and the one I am giving today is : JESUS. I see Jesus at my current church. I see them loving others the way Jesus would. I see them praising Jesus with their mouths and their lives. So for now, I’m staying put. But, the fight inside my soul is still there. And I’m not sure what to do with it.

Music Monday

This song is one of my all-time favorites to lead in worship.

“Yes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul….and I never, ever have to be afraid, ’cause one thing remains: Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”

Praise God that I have found this to be true over and over and over again.

Music Monday

There are so many versions of “In Christ Alone”…which is just fine because it is just a GREAT song. We did Kristian Stanfill’s version this Sunday at church and I really liked the ending bridge. Check it out!

I could learn something from Caitlyn Jenner. You could too.

I’d love to just sit down and talk with Caitlyn Jenner.

I’m sure I could learn a lot about something I know nothing about…what it’s like to feel stuck in a body that you don’t feel belongs to you. What it’s like to wrestle with it to the point where you pay good money to do something about it. What it’s like to have the money to do something about it. Where she sees God in any of this (if at all). Would she wish these issues on her worst enemy? How is that all of her kids support her in this when that just wouldn’t be the case for so many people? Is it because they were shown consistent unconditional love by their parents growing up so they know how in turn to give it back to their dad? And on, and on, and on. 

These are interesting questions that point to the humanness of all of this. The humanness in all of life. Life that includes things like sex changes.

These are not questions that have anything to do with “is this a sin or not.” Who the junk cares to label things in the “sin/not sin” category? Not me for one. No. Not for other people.

For my kids? Sure.

For myself? Sure.

For Caitlyn Jenner? No freakin’ way.

Yes, I am sure I could learn a lot from Caitlyn. But for now, I thank her for helping me learn a lot about those around me as I watch how they react to her. For helping me learn more about the things I want to teach to my kids and the bullying behavior I want to steer them away from. Especially when people bully others and claim to do it in the name of Jesus. Yikes.

Hey, Christians: the way you talk about Caitlyn Jenner and this whole situation reveals what you really believe about Matthew 25:40. However you talk about Caitlyn Jenner is how you talk about Jesus. She is one of His.

Love. Love is what Caitlyn needs. Love is what I need. Love is what I will give.

Freedom Friday

The freedom of American feminism is tough. Amazing, but tough.

There are may things that I have been told that I “should” be doing in the name of feminism.

1. You should make sure that you are doing SOMETHING to further your career while you stay home with your little ones.

2. You should be working full time once your kids are in full time school. Why not?

3. You should vote. If not, why did women fight tooth and nail for the right to?

4. You should go back to school to become a Pastor. After all, you are a Jesus feminist. That’ll show ’em.

5. You should build some “me” time into your schedule. You deserve it.

6. You should use that “me” time to hit the gym. Get strong, girl. Strong is the new skinny.

7. You should feel blessed that you and your husband are egalitarian. You sure are lucky that he cooks and cleans. And he has a full time job? Whoa.

8. You should really not stand up for the Somali-Muslim community here in St. Cloud. Don’t you know how they treat their women and girls? How can you be for that?

9. You should be careful with your love of Somalis. I hope you like black. ‘Cause soon, you’ll be wearing a hijab.

10. You should feel blessed to be a woman and still get to be in most forms of church leadership. Some churches don’t allow that.

I could go on, and on, and on. With so many things that I apparently SHOULD do, how do I decide what I AM going to do?

First, I get alone. Usually in my mini van as I’m driving to pick up somebody from somewhere. I turn off the radio. I wade through all the “should’s” and I listen to what the Spirit deep in my soul is saying (talk about new age, hippy Jesus-love jargon;). I shove aside my pride and look at the big picture of my life. My kid’s life. My family’s life. I ask myself, again, what I should be giving up today that can free me up to take the next step of faith tomorrow.

This is freedom, mixed with courage, minus hubris. It is a concoction that is never finished and always changing. It is a fight, yes. Sometimes I am to heavy on the freedom or to brazen in the name of courage. Sometimes I forget to minus the hubris.

All in all, THIS is what I SHOULD be doing.This constant battle. For feminism. For others. For Jesus. For my kiddos. For my husband. And, yes, for me.