Keeping the Pen Open

Keeping the Pen Open

Just reflecting this morning on God’s word. On his commandments to love. On Jesus’ greatest acts of love. I’m thinking about all of the times we’re told to fear not. I’m remembering the words of God hidden within a popular children’s song, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” Fear not. Love one another. Be a light. These are all simple tasks for believers living within the comfortable bubble of safeguarded, feel good Christianity. Going to church with the fold. Interacting with the fold. Living out the commandments with the fold. Many become nodding sheep moving within an insulated bubble of Christendom, contentedly cut off from the outside world. This is not the Christianity of Christ. Christ did not die for the righteous. Christ did not bleed for the saved. Christ did not suffer for the sinless. We’re directed to love our neighbor as ourselves, not love our Christian neighbor as ourselves. We’re directed to let our light shine before men, not shine our light before Christian men. We’re told to be like a city on a hill, a beacon which can’t be hidden from any part of the world, not a hidden city accessible only to those who know the secret location. We’re told of the senselessness of lighting a lamp only to shield it under the covering of a basket. The light, we’re reminded, is for a table, visible and accessible to ALL who are in the house. In Acts, the walking orders for believers are clear, “‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'” In John 10, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd who will give up his life for his sheep. He uses the parable of the shepherd and herd to foretell his death on the cross for sinners. What often gets overlooked in the parable, however, is Jesus’ assertion that there are other sheep who are not within the pen who are his as well. “I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them together too, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.” Christians, we do not exist in a pen all our own. When orders are given to ban human beings from our country because they are fleeing the savagery of extremism in their own country, and we remain silent, we are not loving our neighbors or shining a light or walking without fear. When human beings from other religions are vilified and excluded, and we remain silent, we are not loving our neighbors or shining a light or walking without fear. When children of refugees are washing up on the shores of beaches, drowned and lifeless, and we remain silent, we are not loving our neighbors or shining a light or walking without fear. When our country insulates itself within the protective pen of Christendom, turning away women and children who have survived the terrors of hate and religious extremists, and we remain silent, we are not loving our neighbors or shining a light or walking without fear. When our country removes its light from the hill and its lamp from the table, and we remain silent, we are not loving our neighbors or shining a light or walking without fear. When our country sends a message to the world that the pen is only open certain sheep, and we remain silent, we are not loving our neighbors or shining a light or walking without fear. The word of God is clear. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves and that includes our Syrian, Somalian, and Libyan neighbors. The word of God is clear. We are to shine our light to believers and unbelievers alike, witnessing to each with the same love and grace as Jesus. The word of God is clear. Just because we’ve found our way to the pen does not mean the door to the pen closes to those who are still out in the pasture. The door remains open. The light remains on. There are other sheep who are not yet part of our fold, who are in the same desperate need of hearing God’s voice, who are trying to find their way out of the same dismal darkness, and who are longing for the same life-saving love as we were when we were lost and wandering and alone. The door to the pen didn’t close to us when we finally found the pen, the light in the stable didn’t turn off when we finally walked into its warmth, the other...

Marching On

Marching On

While I’m not attending the marches today, I am soldiering on in support of equal rights and freedoms for all. I’m going to be honest, I felt regret at not having made a better effort to join one of the marches. I probably could have made it work. So today, as I watched the seas of pink made up of my sisters and brothers for equality, I felt a since of failure at not having worked harder to participate. Then I remembered this effort isn’t a one day or one way deal. It’s a mindset formed by a strong, passionate belief in the forward progression of equality for all American citizens. Since I’m not marching with my feet, I will march with my words. I will continue to use my voice to fight back against efforts to undo the work of the men and women who’ve gone before me, the men and women on the historical battlegrounds of religious freedom, civil rights, women’s suffrage, women’s rights, and marriage equality. I will continue to do the unpopular work of stepping away from my Christian fold when it has lost its way, when the throng of sheep march mindlessly down a path which seems lead more and more by the heart of man and less and less by the heart of Jesus. I will continue to speak out against hate of any kind. I will embrace the most important commandment and that is to love my neighbor as God has loved me. As God has loved me, an imperfect, flawed, lost, stained, undeserving sinner. When I reflect on what that type of love looks like, it looks nothing like the current platform of the White House. I will continue to place my allegiance behind leaders who view their role toward humanity with the same humility as God: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 I will continue to stand beside leaders who work to shine a light, not cast a shadow, who work to undo chains, not bind with old shackles. I will continue to use my words to defend attitudes which objectify half of God’s creation. I will not sit idly by and watch the admittance of sexual assault lessened to a locker room joke that was simply swept under a rug. I will continue to remind women of their role in this world. A role that doesn’t involve being a man’s servant, eye candy, or play thing. We are not the reward of a conquest, a means to an end. Daughters, you are not just something to “get with.” Sons, your goal isn’t to “bang that” or “hit that.” Rather a woman’s role includes reflecting the image of God into this dark world: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female and he created them.” Genesis 1:27 I will continue to open the eyes of women and men to Christian feminism. We are equal creations of God. We are equal image bearers of God. We have equal and direct access to God. God lives in each of us as fully and as equitably as he does in man. We have equal freedoms in God. So to demand equality and necessitate the freedom of women in the church, home, workplace, and community is not a world view. It’s a Biblical view. Earned for us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Yes, my marching didn’t get done today with my feet, but I will not let that stop me from contributing to this monumental movement for freedom and equality for all Americans with my words. Today I marched with my words. How will you march? We all have a way to contribute; there is no insignificant effort. Find your way and march on, my friend, find your way and march on.    ...

Resting in Him

Resting in Him

My soul stirs when I see women arguing on behalf of a patriarchy, particularly when they do so in the name of God. Today I read this in a comment feed, “Also, ruling is hard and takes a great deal of responsibility (when done right). The women get to rest in the men just like we get to rest in Christ.” There is so much I want to say about the view this woman holds of how God sees her role here on Earth as his daughter, his image bearer, his lamb, his beloved. “…women get to rest in men just like we get to rest in Christ.” Man is not God. God does not want women to rest in men. He wants us to rest in him. “Be still and know that I am God,” and “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest,” and “My soul finds rest in God alone,” and “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and rest.” It’s dangerous to put men in a position reserved for our God. “Ruling is hard…” Doing anything in the name of God should never be hard. Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” If ruling over women is hard, then perhaps the men who view this as their role should reconsider if it is truly a directive of God’s. Women, you are no longer under the curse. You no longer need to be ruled over by man. Your freedom was secured the moment Jesus took his last breath on the cross. God has equipped each of us to lead. We may not do this in the same way as we all have unique, yet equal gifts of the spirit for this purpose. Some of us are equipped as prayer warriors, some as teachers, some as worship leaders, some as discerners, some as healers, some as counselors, and some as preachers. While different, our gifts, when used to their full capacity, keep the body of Christ functioning. “…and takes a great deal of responsibility…” Sisters, we have a responsibility to our God, not man. God longs for his sons and daughters to be brought back to him, to be restored to him. He longs for believers, women too, to lead others back to him. If women position themselves under the authority of men and wait, resting, letting the man do the “hard work” of ruling and directing and leading, we are not using our gifts to further the kingdom of God. No women, beautiful image bearers of the great Creator, you are not called to be ruled over by a man. You are not called to rest in man. “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15) “Women get to rest in the men…” We don’t GET to rest in man. We have work to do, so get out from underneath man-made roles like spiritual leader, head of the house, and husband pastor, and get to doing the wonderful work of the Lord for which you were...

Leaving Our Mark

Leaving Our Mark

Over the past year, I’ve become more and more aware of the brevity of life on this side of eternity. Little things have helped highlight the rapid passing of time. This summer, while walking on the beach, I confused my son’s footprints with my own. My breath caught for a moment when I realized it was the silhouette of his 9-year foot and not my own. Needing to see for myself, I called him over and placed my foot directly alongside his, and sure enough, his was the mirror image of mine. I know, I know, kids grow, it’s what they do, but the memory of my son’s newborn foot cupped in my hand was as clear and vivid to me in that moment as the movement and sound of the ocean’s waves before us. The Bible compares our lives to a mist that appears for a short time only to disappear (James 4:14). I’m an English teacher. I seek meaning from words. I love to unpack tightly wrapped packages of metaphors and similes and analogies, amazed by the depth of meaning and interpretation a few words can inspire. Our time here on Earth is like a vapor, a mist, a fog, a smoke, appearing and disappearing. But is that all there is to it? Is it that depressingly simple? Is that ultimately what our lifespans amount to, a disappearing mist? A footprint fading in the sand? When we wade a little deeper into this metaphor, there’s much more to be discovered. While mist and all of the synonyms associated with it are finite, they are not forgettable or unremarkable. Each leaves an enduring, notable impression on its surroundings. The mist from the ocean, tiny, microscopic droplets, settles on the surfaces of objects near and far, some hundreds of feet from the sea’s edge. Smoke permeates a space, filling every nook and cranny, every corner and niche, its scent clinging to any porous surface. Fog moves in silently and settles over and around roads, buildings, mountains, and valleys, moving to the forefront, temporarily dominating our view. Vapors diffuse and suspend in the air, hydrating and scenting the atmosphere with infinite aromas. Wading into the nuances of these words adds layers and layers of meaning to the impact of our lives in this present time and place. Yes, like life, each is temporary. Yes, like life, each is finite. Yes, like life, each moves on, disappearing from our conscious world. Yet each, like life, makes an unmistakable, permanent impact on its surroundings. The impact, however, is more substantial at the focal point than it is at the edges because mist, smoke, fog, and vapor all weaken and dilute at the margins. The same can be said of the mark we’re capable of leaving behind with our lives. When we overextend ourselves, pushing into the exhausting edges of being overworked, overloaded, and overbooked, the evidence of our existence becomes more scattered and less visible. When we push out into crowds of the less familiar, of acquaintances and associates and colleagues, our aroma becomes more faint as we can only manage to leave behind hints of our true selves at the perimeters. I’m moved more and more to be cognizant of the impact my brief time in this place will have on my immediate surroundings. I’m more mindful of the fringes. I’m more aware of my boundaries. I’m more stingy about where I allow my mist to fall. I no longer care to sprinkle little bits of myself here and there. Rather, I’m finding home to be the place where I want my droplets to settle. I’m more particular about where I let my fog linger. I prefer to stay in the forefront for my family and close friends, hovering over them, engulfing them with my time and attention and love. I’m more deliberate about the people with whom my scent will remain. I know it will be with the people I love and care deeply about and who love and care for me that the scent of my life will tarry forever. I avoid the ledges now. Yes, now I opt for the beach. I choose to plant my feet firmly in the sand at the water’s edge where the mist from the ocean is at its strongest. Yes, this life is like my son’s footprints in the sand. Like an early morning fog on the lake, vanishing more quickly than we’d like, but if we’re careful, the mark we leave behind can be everlasting.          ...

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