She kept reading, a win

She kept reading, a win

“Well the Bible says it, so it must mean it.”

Cue incoming brain shut down. This statement has been used to terminate further discussion for generations. I could read the signs written all over the body language of my opinionated teenager. I would have limited time and verbiage to be heard without an argument.

If you haven’t read part 1 and 2 of my daughter’s voyage into the “offending” limitations of 1 Timothy 2, you might want to catch up.

Part 1: A Young Feminist Reads 1 Timothy.
Part 2: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends

My daughter had just finished reading 1 Timothy 2 through verse 15. Even though I had prepped her reading with interesting tidbits about the pervasive mythology driving Paul’s instructions to Timothy, she had done what many Bible readers have done in the past. She divorced the context from the passage, hence misunderstood the meaning, and then made sweeping conclusions by being complacent with a naive, literal interpretation. Simply, it was confusing and she didn’t want to think any more about it.

I asked, “Who was Paul talking to?”

“Women.”

“Which women, specifically?”

“Uh… the women in Timothy’s church?”

“Yes. You remember where I said they were?”

“Oh yeah. The place where the temple to Artemis was?”

“Ephesus. Can you see any connections?”

“Not really.”

Window of Opportunity closing in 5…4…3…

Speed talking now, I said, “Could it be possible Paul wasn’t talking about women, everywhere, in every time? The women in Ephesus had been deceived by the Artemis myth, and most likely, they were pretty confused. Paul didn’t want them teaching others.”

2…

“Oh, Okay. I just want to get my reading done.” She opened the Book and began flipping to the right page.

1…

“Great. Let me know if you have any more questions.”

“Mm Hm.”

Conversation closed.

She sat on her bed with the Bible open.  She might not understand all the theological points Paul was and was not making in that chapter, but she was still reading. I consider that a successful foray into the mires of a modern mind reading 1 Timothy. Simply understanding that we might not understand, is an important lesson to learn when reading the Words of God.

So, what about 1 Timothy 2:9-15?

It was enough for my daughter to know that I believed the passage taught something different than her literal, isolated understanding of it. For me, that was a gift I could give to her… an open door.

For decades, this passage closed the door to ministry for me. I was taught this passage was written to all women, everywhere, at every time. Like many others, I used this passage to interpret all other Scripture written about women, instead of using Scripture (especially the immediate context) to decode the meaning of these limitations and teaching.

If you’re willing to go deeper with me than my daughter wanted to go, join me for the next few posts as I explore the purpose of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in context and in application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends

1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends

Read the first part of this story here: A Young Feminist Reads 1 Timothy.

I thought I had set the stage carefully. I’d explained the historical, cultural and religious background of Ephesus at the time 1 Timothy was written. I had her attention and interest. I thought she could just read through the second chapter, and accept that there were things she didn’t understand, and give Paul the benefit of the doubt. That’s what I had done as a young girl.

I was wrong. A few minutes later, this…

“I CAN’T STAND READING THIS. PAUL MUST REALLY HATE WOMEN. I THINK THIS IS CRAP.” She slapped the Bible closed.

And I absolutely agreed with her.

I would like to cut this portion of our sacred text out and silence it, as it has been used to silence God’s feminine image for thousands of years. 

But if I did that, where would I stop? There are a lot of passages that have been used to harm. Should they all go? Am I the proper judge for God’s Word?

Nodding my head in agreement, I said to her, “I know. Its hard to read. That’s why I spent time giving you context. I wanted you to see the problem these words were addressing. You’ve done what so many other people have done, isolate this passage from the rest of the letter and the rest of the Bible. Do you believe God likes men better than women?”

“No. But this passage makes it seem like it!”

“Yes, it does. But Paul himself said that God does not show favoritism (Rom. 2:11). This is a hard passage to understand, and there are many explanations.”

Let me stop the conversation there.

Take a moment and read the words of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.  The Revised Standard Version reads:

 9…also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire 10 but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

You have just done what many expositors, preachers and theologians have done since… well, forever. You have read these words in isolation.

When we segregate these instructions from Paul’s intent and passion for the truth, it offends. When we quarantine these instructions away from Jesus’s life and ministry, it confounds. When we disengage this passage from its surrounding context, we are kinda horrified. When we detach this passage from Paul’s support of women in Christian ministry elsewhere, we get this zinger of demands that has been used as justification for restricting women for millennia.

This was not its original intention. I can say that with absolute confidence. Because, this passage is nestled in a literary context that Paul explained. Paul was no misogynist. Nor was he worried about acquiescing to the patriarchal culture of his day. Paul saw no difference between Christian men and women in Christian ministry (Gal 3:28). Paul appreciated that women worked hard for the advancement of the gospel (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2, 22:4; Rom. 16:12; 1 Cor. 1:11, 16:19; Col. 4:15). He affirmed their prayer and prophesy in the church gatherings (1 Cor. 11:4-5, 14:23-24). He confirmed that Christian women taught men elsewhere (Acts 18:24-26, Acts 21:9, 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15), that women served as deacons (Rom. 16:1-2) and apostles (Rom. 16:7), and were co-laborers with men (Rom. 16:3, Phil. 4:2-3). The “extreme” limitations Paul placed on the women of Ephesus was contrary to his customary practice.

So, why does he limit women when writing to Timothy in Ephesus?

That’s where we’ll pick up our conversation next time.

 

Navel Gazing: Regrets

Navel Gazing: Regrets

As we age, I think most people have things they’ve done that make them shudder when they remember. I have a list of them that I recall to mind when I need to take my ego down a notch. Thinking about them is my rendition of flogging. I pull these memories out of my personal failures to punish myself, and to remind myself how much I need grace from God and others. I won’t share all of them, as some are just too painful, but I would like to mention three as personal confession.

  • I gave my best friend’s groom, whom I had JUST MET, the “where will you go when you die” third degree after the rehearsal dinner. I was so convinced she was about to marry a man who was not a Christian, I contemplated not being in her wedding party as protest. Ugh. I was so full of myself. I created so much drama. Shame on me.
  • When I was a newlywed, we committed to support two missionary friends for $50 a month. When our start-up business failed, and we were below the poverty line, we failed to keep this commitment. At that time, I was not in charge of our finances, and I was committed to being a submissive, go-along-with-my-husband’s-leadership type of wife. But, I wish I would have nagged a little harder on this one. I always regret letting this commitment slide, and have felt deeply embarrassed by this deficit.
  • I absolutely hate that I missed being a bridesmaid in my friend Deanna Pan’s wedding. I was traveling a lot at this time in my life, and I knew I had promised I’d be there for her wedding, but I was not diligent to make it happen. I got my dates mixed up, and was in the middle of the Amazon jungle when I should have been wearing a gorgeous red Chinese bridesmaid dress in her honor.

If any of my friends are reading this now, I confess I made a mess of those things. I’m sorry you had to suffer for it.

Confess your sins to each other. James 5:16

On making goals: a look back at year 2017

On making goals: a look back at year 2017

I started the year by making 10 goals. In the past, I’ve tackled 2 or 3 ideas that I wanted to accomplished each year, but this year I went all out. I was inspired by another local blogger who seemed like she was having such fun knocking things off her goal list. I definitely felt that way about certain items on the list, but for others, they became a headache and guilt trigger. I concluded in month 2, that I had to drop one item off my list because it was a vanity item that was causing more stress than assistance. Others, I found I just didn’t care that I stopped working on them. Apparently, those things I didn’t really want to accomplish.

9) Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

Take this one. In some esoteric way, I wanted to move each month through another spiritual discipline, until I had a dozen sacred “belts” earned. I honestly wanted to see if the discipline of Bible reading, memorization, prayer, simplicity, service, fasting ,etc. would open the door for a deeper spirituality that I find lacking. I can’t tell you if that would happen, because I didn’t accomplish it. Life, like spirituality, isn’t routine. Its more rhythmic. At least for me. At least this past year.

Perhaps the key to this goal is to focus the entire year on one or two disciplines. I believe I actually did that this year with Bible reading and service. I read through 2/3 of the Bible, and was pleased to offer my services in two major commitments this year. I was trained and sworn in as a CASA, and am advocating for my first child. I also re-connected with our ESOL Alpha at Westminster Chapel. I adore this opportunity as it makes me interact with international seekers and Christians I would not normally connect with. It has been a source a great joy this year. I just love looking at those faces below!DSC_1323.JPG

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

I completed 14 credits. Perhaps exceeding this goal will cancel out the ones that I didn’t make? Nah, I don’t think it works that way.  I am 46 credits into my 94 credit degree – almost halfway!

7)   Connect with one person a week.

The purpose for making this goal was to get me out of my cloistered existence. It rather goes hand in hand with my spiritual discipline goal, as I often find “hanging out” a chore. Well, at least the process whereby you make friends close enough that I can simply “hang out.” All the folks I’ve been closest to are far removed, and so connecting with others is rather a bother. I judge this goal as accomplished, even though I didn’t accomplish it exactly as it was laid out.

I didn’t write a 12-week study, but I did write a 6- week study that incorporates the material I hope to include in the 12-week course. I plan on teaching this Bible study in May-June 2018. Its called The God of the Matriarchs: women at the beginning.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

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After:DSC_1770.JPG

I had a small project on my list. I wanted to make a reading plank for the bathtub. I had an old piece of cedar from a stash we had from my childhood home in Georgia. I also took the hutch off my childhood rolltop desk and painted it.

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We finished tiling our front steps and completed the exterior siding and sealed our upstairs patio.

We replaced our main bathroom light fixture and Stephen built a new linen closet.

I re-designed my garden layout and Stephen built new garden structures for me.

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3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

Accomplished! In fact, I’d say I got at least 30 minutes every day.

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2)   Fix my teeth. 

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1)  Hike to 12 new places.

This one was only half completed. I gave up on it after summer. I didn’t make the time to make it happen. Hikes completed:  Twin Falls, Little Si, Snoqualmie Tunnel, Franklin Falls, Stone Mountain, GA, biked Milwaukee Trail.

So to wrap up, out of the 9 goals for 2017,  2 goals were only half completed, but 2 goals were exceeded! 4 goals were accomplished, and 1 was not met. I am grateful for the health and ability to hope, plan and attain a little more from my life.

 

Making Exceptions

Making Exceptions

I am a regular rule-keeper and a regular rule-breaker. I want society to run smoothly, and a good set of rules enables that. In my Christian college, I earned very few demerits (Do they still use demerits?), but was considered rebellious. I have no problem bending policy, and believe in the gray shades of compliance. Yet, I have an eye for detail, and can submit to the little letters of the law with ease.  It seems where I get into trouble with rules, policies, procedures, standards and guidelines is in the exceptions. And, don’t we all?

One of the most memorable occasions where I learned the value of giving allowance was when I was the one refusing to make the exception. In that case, I should have shown grace and bent to the individual, instead of sticking to the policy for the good of the organization …because the organization would have been just fine. Whereas the individual was broken and needed the privilege of reprieve.

When I am in a position of power, it is so easy to miss the need to bend the rules for some. If I had a nickel for every time I said, “If I make an exception for you, I’ll have to make an exception for everyone,” -well, you know. That saying is fiction in the Christian world. God is in the business of making exceptions. In a post I wrote on Rule-breaking Misfits years ago, I asked,

“Can we allow those who break our policies and rules to be blessed of God and in turn bring blessing to His people? Does it rub you the wrong way to “reward” rule breakers?  Is God’s Spirit the ultimate rebel?” –article on Numbers 11

I guess I’m still working through this issue, because here I am again struggling with the same feelings that sent me to type that article out four years ago. Only this time, I am the misfit, not the one in charge.

I have described myself as nearly impossible to offend, but there are a few hot buttons that trigger me. When I get worked up and hurt, my first instinct is to run my mouth. That is a hard response to control. This week, I’ve sat on an issue in silence for a few days, and let my thoughts stew. Why did I feel hurt and angry? Was it right to feel that way? What am I going to do about it?

Ultimately, my hurt and anger resulted because I thought I deserved an exception to a rule. And, I still think I do. But, I will not insist. I must work to not harbor ill will. In this particular case, I can get past it with grace. However, the underlying issue that drove me to my keyboard is a big problem in churches. The rigidity of organizational policy overlooks the individual and causes harm to the whole organism, which is the living church.

The rigidity of organizational policy overlooks the individual and causes harm to the whole organism, which is the living church.

Cogs in the Machine

Have you ever heard of the “cog in the works” metaphor? The is a favorite illustration of  Paul Metzger, a professor of mine. Metzger warns against reducing Christianity to a system that only values measurable effects and overlooking the “the unquantifiable mystery of love that is the ground of deep relationships. (Paul Louis Metzger, Interstellar: Beyond Scientific and Everyday Positivism.)” God does not view his people as replaceable parts in His big machine, but as vital parts of His Body deserving of honor because they are a member (1 Cor. 12:21-26). We are each unique and irreplaceable to God. When we view people as ‘cogs,’ we see them as generic bodies that make the machine run smoothly, or the body function properly. If the cog breaks down, or jams the works or consistently needs grease to function, we wonder if that cog is a good use of our time and effort? After all, its replaceable.  And oh boy, have I been guilty of that myself!

When we focus on policies with no room for exceptions, we make people feel like cogs: replaceable, generic, and undervalued.

When we focus on policies with no room for exceptions, we make people feel like cogs: replaceable, generic, and undervalued. Learning to value people not as workers or givers or attendance numbers is complex. Leading with sensitivity to this complex dynamic demands we evaluate policies and learn that “making exceptions” can be the new rule.

Feeling like a cog sucks. Sometimes my broken self just wants the machine to bend over backwards to help me out.

 

A Psalm 

A Psalm 

I was tasked with composing a Psalm for a recent class. I really wasn’t in to it. Psalms has never been a favorite book of mine. Poetry, in general, bores me. Until I discovered Sappho a year ago, I had zero interest in ancient verse. Ancient poetry does not rhyme, but uses parallelism, a repetition of ideas or words. Once I understand how to read a psalm, I appreciated the craft more.

With this psalm, I wanted to bring feminine pronouns into what is an entirely male genre. I wanted to include the female imagery of God, and to correlate woman as the image of God  – as giver of life. God birthed Israel, and births again every Christian. Women have been abused at the hands of men just as Jesus was broken and battered by men. In the early church, martyrdom was the ultimate way to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, and I wanted to pay homage to this traditional view of suffering as an honored act. This is not to excuse or justify any abuse on women, but to recognize the universal and timeless truth that women have suffered, simply for bearing Her image. A woman who trusts in God has the promise of justice and reward.

Favored is she who relies on God.

She trusts without full understanding.

She expects His will to happen.

Confident is she who knows the Lord.

She is not deceived by man nor crowd.

She walks alone.

You have made her productive.

She brings forth life.

She births.

O God, who gives birth to nations,

Who births again life anew,

You have shared your likeness with her.

She bears your form.

Let those who would harm her form be shamed.

As her body is broken, let them be destroyed.

As her blood is loosed, take note and serve justice.

She who suffers is not without privilege.

Her faith is not finite.

Her reward is not shared.

Her hope is not awry.

In death, she does not die.

2017 Goals Weeks 23-33

2017 Goals Weeks 23-33

9) Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

This goal has gone by the wayside. Perhaps I can jump back on in September

8)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

I completed my 2-credit summer course, and that puts me at 8 credits completed this year. One of my fall courses begins in a few weeks.

7)   Connect with one person a week.

This has been going well!

I spent a few days concentrating on writing the last week. It was sheer discipline, but I ended up enjoying myself, like I always do. I have the bulk of four lessons completed and I feel encouraged by the direction its taking.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

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I had a small project on my list. I wanted to make a reading plank for the bathtub. I had an old piece of cedar from a stash we had from my childhood home in Georgia. I also completed the cover for our sofa. We picked up a free leather sectional off Buy Nothing, and we hated sitting on it because it was slippery. I made bottom seat covers that are way more cozy.

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  1. Exterior siding in progress…
  2. Upstairs patio in progress…
  3. Bathtub reading plank Complete
  4. Sofa seat covers Complete

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

Easy peasy to make this happen every day.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

I dragged the kids out to Franklin Falls, but I’m not sure we actually got to the end? The pictures I’ve seen of the place don’t look like what we saw. We climbed around the hills and went off the trail trying to figure out where we were supposed to end up. We saw little falls, but not the “picture perfect” end.

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Henry and I climbed Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia. I climbed it as a teenager. It is an impressive sight. Henry wasn’t thrilled, but he did it.DSC_0953

January: Twin Falls.

May: Little Si.

June: Snoqualmie Tunnel

July: Franklin Falls & Stone Mountain, GA