Hope for Abbey

I’ve been volunteering with the One-on-One Visitation program at the Tennessee Prison for Women here in Nashville, TN for just over a year, and my husband and I made a site for the young lady I’ve been visiting with.  I’m basically just posting here what is on the site, so if you would rather go to it there, or if after reading this, you feel led to donate, you can see the site at http://hopeforabbey.com. The woman I have been visiting with and getting to know is named Abbey Leavitt, and this is my plea for a little help and hope for her new start. She is up for parole in May of 2013. I’ll tell you a little bit about the program, so that you have a little background for Abbey’s situation.

One-on-One Visitation is a Faith-based group that provides a mentor to incarcerated women. It is significant that they only partner with women who receive no visitors, and have submitted an application to be in the program, so the women in this program are very alone, but they want to learn, want to be mentored, and want to change their lives. The expectations of the program are that you will visit them once a month and write letters, faithfully, in between. These women have no one who is able or willing to be there for them while they are serving their sentences. As you would imagine, it follows that many of them also have no one who can help them when they are released.

Though justice is served by their punishment, unfortunately, it doesn’t end for them when they have completed their sentences. They often have no legal identification, no money to start out, nowhere to go or no way to get there, and obligations, such as child support, that are almost immediately back in effect upon release.

This is Abbey’s situation. Abbey is a young mother with three young boys. Two of them live in Washington State with their father. She dreams of returning and making a life there, but will have to stay in Tennessee long enough to regain custody of her other son, who lives with her brother in Memphis. This puts a strain on an already difficult situation, as her brother struggles to get by financially and will not be able to offer her much. Jobs will be tough to get with her criminal record, and legal obligations are imminent. She is considering a halfway house to help her get back on her feet and employed, but even halfway houses usually require an up-front fee.

Abbey is a beautiful and funny young woman, and her honesty will sometimes take you by surprise! She isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and wants other people to do the same. She has a ready laugh, but you can see the concern for the future in her eyes. She loves the Lord and wants to live her life differently than she did before her imprisonment. She tears up when she talks about how much guilt she feels over not being there for her sons. Please read Abbey’s story and pray about whether giving her a helping hand is something you are able to do. Nothing is too small, and everything will be appreciated, and I know that God will put it to your account!

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:20

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

ABBEY’S STORY

My name is Abbey Leavitt, and I am 24 years old. I have 3 boys, and was born in Michigan. Although I might not look like it, I’ve lived a life way beyond my years. The elder people in my life call me an “old soul.”

I must let you know that I’m a far cry from an angel. I’ve done drugs, sold drugs, stolen, and lied to satisfy the hole that couldn’t be filled with earthly gifts. Let me tell you my story:
It started when I was about 2 years old. My little sister’s father would put me to bed and I would scream. Of course, everyone just thought I didn’t want to go to bed, but I was being fondled to pornography, and he would lay me on top of him and hump me until he was satisfied. That went on until age 6, when one night he decided to molest me in my anus. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I remember like it was yesterday. He called me his favorite. (I wonder why!) I did tell one of my brother’s friends the next day.

To make a long story short, we moved to Colorado. That didn’t last long due to racist shootings, high prices and extremely cold weather. We stayed about six months. We brought a couple of people back, though. Momma always had a way of adding folks to the family.

Now, most of the molesting from not only my step-dad, but my girl and guy cousins occurred in Michigan. That started when they would make me play house or hide and seek, or simply give orders for sexual favors. As I look back, I’m not angry with them. They were only children, too, and were learning the behaviors somewhere!

At age 4, I witnessed my big sister get killed in front of me. She asked my mom if she could go to the store to get the movie E.T. My mom said, “No,” and my sister said, “I hate you.” Then she went and told my brothers that my mom said, “Yes.” Well, they jumped on their bikes and headed to the store with my oldest brother leading the way. My sister took her time while I cried out at the window, watching, wanting to go. As she was crossing, a man driving a truck with a boat attached sped up and hit her! Her bike went under the truck, crushing instantly as she tossed in the air like a beach ball, hitting the boat on the back of the truck and almost dismembering her entire leg. The driver kept going. My brothers screamed and pulled my sister out of the road as she took her last breath in his arms. I lost my mother that day. She was there physically, but mentally she wasn’t for years, and all the while I’m being sexually abused and it was becoming “my normal.” If my mother wasn’t getting beaten and chained in the basement or we weren’t in shelters getting molested by the “battered women,” it was by our closest family members.

I became pregnant at age 15, living in Washington State with my eldest brother and his family. Life was rough. I couldn’t find happiness or fill a huge void I felt in my heart. So, I would play men and women…lots of them…trying to use them like they used me. I became involved in drugs and hacking computers. You name it – I was involved in it. I became pregnant with my second son at age 18, and my mother passed when I was 9 weeks. Needless to say, I died with her.
I chose to stay in Washington and do the family thing. It worked for a while until my immaturity and bitter heart tore my family apart. I ended up on the streets with two kids and no hope. I sold drugs and got back into using them again. After being pistol-whipped in front of my children by a meth addict, I threw in the towel and called my other brother. I jumped on a bus with my two kids and as much as I could carry for a 3 day ride to Tennessee.

When I got settled in Tennessee, I became bored with the slow pace an began to commit small, petty crimes and do city crimes in a small town that eventually led me to state probation and three violations, and eventually prison. Here I have been for almost three years, and it is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It is in here that I have found who I really am and what beliefs I want to instill in my children. I have taken parenting classes, anger management, and completed an intensive rehab program.

I’m starting over, but I need help. I have no clothes, no money, no identification – nothing but the willingness and determination it takes to achieve my goals. I want and will go to college, but I am at ground zero. I have a struggling family who cannot help me, but they do the best they can with my children.

I look to be making parole in May of 2013. I struggle every day, but I’m thankful. I’m thankful for my past, my trials and my pain. It has molded me to be the woman I am becoming every day. I am not looking for a handout, just a helping hand. I am willing and ready for a change – the kind of change that will pay it forward to youth in my situation. If my testimony has touched and moved your heart to help me, you will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
Abbey Leavitt
“Never ask for a lighter load, rather, a stronger back.”
You may contact me at:
Abbey Leavitt , #436394
3881 Stewart’s Lane
Nashville, TN 37218

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Women and the Bible – Christian Atrocities

Prior posts on Feminism and the responses to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article (the article can be found in the first link):

Feminism and the Bible

Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16

Women and the Bible – Church Roles

Women and the Bible – Heroines?

In this segment, I am focusing on one major complaint from Gaylor: the oppression of women under the hand of humans who are claiming to be doing the work of God.

 I think the very first sentence of her article is enlightening: “Organized religion always has been and remains the greatest enemy of women’s rights.”  She says organized religion is the enemy of women’s rights.  This may be at least partially true, but God is not to fault for that.  Humans are.  I will elaborate more fully after we look at the next section of her writing:

 “Church writer Tertullian said ‘each of you women is an Eve . . . You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.’  Martin Luther decreed: ‘If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.’  Such teachings prompted 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton to write: ‘The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation.’  The various Christian churches fought tooth and nail against the advancement of women, opposing everything from women’s right to speak in public, to the use of anesthesia in childbirth (since the bible says women must suffer in childbirth) and woman’s suffrage. Today the most organized and formidable opponent of women’s social, economic and sexual rights remains organized religion. Religionists defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. Religious fanatics and bullies are currently engaged in an outright war of terrorism and harassment against women who have abortions and the medical staff which serves them. Those seeking to challenge inequities and advance the status of women today are fighting a massive coalition of fundamentalist Protestant and Catholic churches and religious groups mobilized to fight women’s rights, gay rights, and secular government.”

It’s a common argument against God and Christianity:  “Look at all of those horrible Christians and what they have done – what they continue to do.” 

Part of the problem is that it would seem in order to have a case against Christianity, Gaylor would have to assume that all Christians agree on everything and blindly follow every church leader you can name.  Trust me, this is not the case.  So, whatever Tertullian and Martin Luther said, it does not follow that all of Christendom is on the same page.

In addition, if you follow the logic of “Christianity must be false because of all of the bad things Christians have done” then it also follows that non-Christianity must be false because of all of the bad things that non-Christians have done.  You may reply that people who are not Christians have never claimed to be good, whereas Christians do.  I beg to differ.  In fact, all of the arguments against Christianity would be pointless if those people did not think that non-Christianity led to a better life than Christianity.  For this particular argument, that is their main point: if there were not Christians, none of these bad things would have occurred, because non-Christians wouldn’t have done that.  I ask, what about all of the bad things that occur at the hands of others?  The basic answer is this: none of these bad things would have occurred if there were not any people, at which point it would not matter because there would have been no one for the bad things to happen to.  And that’s about as far as you can take this logic.  If you want to start generalizing what is true and false by whether the people who believe in it are good or bad, then nothing in the world will ever be believed, because there are both good and bad people to be found in any belief system.  So, what we arrive at is this: there sure are some bad Christians out there.  And I concur. 

But here’s the main problem: God is not a tyrant.  If He was, we would all be forced to do what He wants all of the time.  Christians would all be perfect and they would never say or do anything stupid.  But He’s not a tyrant, and therefore, a whole heck of a lot of us screw up.  I screw up.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, although I know a few people who try to pretend like they don’t.  Some of us screw up worse than others.  God has forgiven us (ALL of us – some of us just haven’t accepted His forgiveness). 

 

But I think if you look at the “problem” logically, you will see that there is not really an alternative.  People complain that God is too strict, too demanding, too forceful…always pushing His supposed agenda (I purport that God has no agenda except to love us and give us the best).  He has too many rules.  You want a softer God.  But when it turns out that He IS a softer God –  meaning, he does not strike us all dead to clean up the streets when we start messing things up – you do not like it.  People think things like, “If God were God, He would have stopped that.  He wouldn’t let His followers act like that.”

 

Unless my logic is bad, I don’t think you can have it both ways.  You want a softer God when it comes to your own life – one that will be sort of hands off and not really bug you about what you’re doing wrong – but you want a tougher God when it comes to those evils that you happen to be against.  Or perhaps it is more a question of the level of evil that you think is being done – if you want to lie to your neighbor about “borrowing” the rake he left outside, you want God to keep quiet.  But if someone is going to steal your car, you want God to step in.  God doesn’t see sin in degrees.  And if He did, then His scale would most likely opposite ours based on Jesus actions in the Bible – the most notorious sinners were the ones that He extended His love to with such mercy.  It was the falsely pious religious leaders that He seemed to have the biggest problem with – the ones who didn’t know that they were also part of the problem.  So, if you want to consider yourself above a car theif when you just stole your neighbor’s rake and you wish that God would stop the greater evils, then you had better watch out.  Theivery is theivery, and you just added hypocrisy to it.

 

The point is that God is at neither of these extremes.  He does not let us get by with things, nor does He stop us from committing any evil.  There are definitely consequences for misrepresenting God; we don’t get off scot free.  There are natural consequences from any negative behavior, and God also works in our spirit.  But at the same time, He does not reach down His hand and physically stop us from doing something bad every time we begin to.  We would all be puppets on a string.  Yes, He can intervene in such a manner, and He has in particular instances.  I can’t answer the question of why sometimes He does and sometimes He does not. 

 

So, all I can do is apologize for the atrocities committed by Christians down through the ages.  I can apologize for my own part in misrepresenting God’s character.  I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t happen.

 

What I will say is that God is not to blame; God is on the side of the victims.  And what He does do is offer healing to those who are wounded, afflicted, oppressed and underprivileged.  The Christians are supposed to be the hands and feet of this healing, not the administrators of the wounds, but unfortunately, as I said above, we often fall short.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound.”  Isaiah 61:1

 

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

 

God also specifically calls us to minister to widows and orphans in multiple locations in the Bible (below).  I don’t see how a God who seems to care so deeply about providing for widows can be painted as a God who does not care about women – or worse, a God who wishes women ill.

 

“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”  Deuteronomy 14:29

 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”  Psalm 68:5

 “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”  Isaiah 10:1-2

 “Leave your orphans.  I will protect their lives.  Your widows, too, can trust in me.” Jeremiah 49:11

“’So I will come near to you for judgment.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurors, against those who defraud labors of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me’ says the Lord Almighty.”  Malachi 3:5

And as for the “organized religion” that Gaylor complains of, Jesus complained about it as well, and even in the context of their oppression of women:

 

“And as He taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the market places, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  They devour widow’s houses and for a show, make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.’”  Matthew 12:38-40  This text goes on to discuss the giving spirit of one widow in particular, who Jesus points out as an example of faith to his disciples.

 

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep onself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:27

 

Incidentally, James 1 also speaks against anger in us…”Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God describes.”  So, when you see Christians responding to any group by taking personal offense and responding in hatred or wishing another ill-will, you can know it is not God’s will.  The sin that the Christian is opposing may actually be a sin, but their response to it is also sin.

 

And if you continued on to read James 2, the entire chapter speaks against oppression, against assigning varying degrees of importance to people, against men pronouncing judgment on other men.  God is for equality. 

 

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus said, “’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.’”

 

What we are commanded to do is love others as we love ourselves.  It is the second greatest commandment because it flows out of the first.  We are only given the strength to love others in this manner if we are first committed to loving God unreservedly.  We don’t have that kind of power within ourselves.  And all of the disturbing things that Christians have done over the years have come from failing these commands.  Loving another human being as you love yourself leaves no room for any type of oppression or any lording over another, whether it be because of gender, class, race, age or infirmity.  Loving someone in this manner means defending another’s rights as you would defend your own.

 

Christians fail this in more than one way – we often do the opposite, as discussed above…creating more rifts and more oppression.  But we fail it in another way as well, and that is that when we see it, we too often turn our faces from it, deny it, ignore it, treat it as if it is not our problem.  But it IS our problem, and this commandment to “love each other as we love ourselves” proves it.  We are supposed to care about others as if the injustice befalling them were on our own heads.  Can we commit to do this so that we can stop providing people like Gaylor with ammunition against God?  If we did these things, Gaylor probably would not even want to write her article, she would be content to let us continue being loving…if that’s what we were largely doing.  She may even start wanting to believe in what we have.

 

And in Matthew 25:33-43, God even says that acts of kindness performed to the poor, the imprisoned and the sick will be considered as acts towards God Himself.  We need to get on the ball.  And, don’t worry, I’m talking to myself here as well.  

Women and the Bible – Heroines?

Prior posts on Feminism and the responses to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article (the article can be found in the first link):

Feminism and the Bible

Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16

Women and the Bible – Church Roles

In continuing with my discussion on Gaylor’s article, I’m not necessarily going to work in the order of the questions she raises. I find that my adherence to attempting to follow something letter for letter too often results in my not completing a task at all, since what I want to do at that moment (or for this task, what I want to answer) is too far down on the list for me to feel motivated. This is not to say that I am still not planning on attempting to respond to all of the points in question; just that I may skip around a bit, instead of taking Gaylor’s points sequentially from her article.

This post is in response to a statement that she makes about the heroines of the Bible in general. Her quote: “The few [female] role models offered are stereotyped, conventional and inadequate, with bible heroines admired for obedience and battle spirit. Jesus scorns his own mother, refusing to bless her, and issues dire warnings about the fate of pregnant and nursing women.”

I’ll be honest here – I’m not sure what Gaylor wants from a heroine. I find a wide variety of heroic female figures in the Bible, and would honestly like to hear how she is able to discount each of them as not worthy of being considered an adequate heroic figure. Also, her assertion that there are “female role models” in the Bible concedes that the Bible does esteem some women. They just don’t happen to be esteemed for something that she wants them to be esteemed for. Now, she has put herself into a difficult position. Because it would seem that she has asserted that women are only worth of being venerated when they fit her mold of heroism, and therefore any respect from the Bible for anything not deemed heroic by her own assessment should be completely disregarded. The truth is that different people find different qualities estimable. Apparently, Gaylor does not believe that 1) obedience and 2) battle spirit are worthy characteristics at all. And this does not even speak to the fact that, as I mentioned above, there are many more qualities than just these two attributed to female figures in the Bible. So, we can agree, by her own assertion, that none of these women have met Gaylor’s requirements for a woman worthy to be recognized as a role model. This seems to indicate that Gaylor’s own opinions of what it takes to be a respected woman are much higher than the Bible’s, and that if I can only find qualities in myself that are found in the Biblical heroines, then she would discount me, as well.

I am going through and listing women that are looked up to and praised in the Bible as well as a few women that were just treated well in general. I will include the Biblical reference, but not necessarily the text, as I’m sure my post will be long enough as it is, and putting in the entire books of Esther and Ruth seems like it would be overkill. So, I will give a very brief synopsis of the woman’s story, and list some qualities I recognize in her. This is not to say that my list will be comprehensive. Feel free to contact me with more if you see something or someone I left out.

  • Rahab (several times in Joshua 2; Matthew 1 – genealogy of Jesus; Hebrews 11:31 – woman of faith; James 2:25 – for good works) – a harlot who helped the Israelite spies when they entered Jericho. Because of her actions, she and her entire household was spared when Jericho was destroyed. I have to mention a little more about this story. Gaylor also discusses in her article how women are frequently referred to as harlots. “Harlot” in the case of Rahab is not derogatory, in the sense that she is not being judged or condemned in the text. In fact, it is telling us of her bravery, faith and good works. Not to mention that she ends up being one of Jesus’ forbears. Note that harlotry itself is condemned by the Bible, but so are many other acts that are committed by people who go on to become remembered as heroes and leaders in the Bible. In this case, is simply stating the fact that she is a prostitute. Nowhere in the text about Rahab does it demean her – quite the opposite. The Bible is not a book about perfect people. In fact, I find only one perfect person in it, and that is Jesus, who is the only one acknowledged to be perfect. Instead, the Bible is a book about how imperfect people are not a lost cause, and we see this theme occur time after time in its pages. It’s a story of redemption, and that redemption is open to ALL people. So, any time the Bible does mention someone’s sin, it should be understood that redemption and forgiveness is offered to them. It is their choice to accept it or not. If you doubt this was the case before Jesus’ coming, Rahab is the perfect example. She was a foreigner and a notable sinner, but was granted safety, forgiveness, and ended up in the lineage of the Son of God – hardly discriminatory.
  • Deborah (Judges 4 & 5) – she prophesied and went into battle in order to defeat an enemy of her people. She showed courage, discernment and faith.
  • Jael (Judges 4 & 5) – killed an enemy battle chief, in order to aid the Israelites. She showed courage, ingenuity and initiative.
  • Ruth (The Book of Ruth) – who took care of her mother-in-law with no apparent thought to her own comfort. She showed loyalty, unselfishness, faith, initiative, perseverance and diligence.
  • Hannah (I Samuel 1 and 2) – was barren and prayed to God for a child, promising that she would dedicate the child to the service of God. God answered, and blessed her with five more children. She showed faith, integrity and gratitude.
  • Abigail (I Samuel 25) – righted a wrong that her husband had committed. Her action also kept David from shedding unnecessary blood. She showed courage, wisdom, good judgment, fairness, honesty, humility and foresight.
  • Esther (The Book of Esther) – who saved the Israelite people from death due to a government conspiracy. She showed courage, composure, faith and patience.
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus (namely: Matthew 1 and 2, Luke 1 and 2) – was willing to undertake public disgrace in order to allow Christ to be born to her. She showed courage, peace and humility.
  • The Bleeding Woman (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48 ) – a woman who had been suffering a bleeding illness for twelve years simply touched Jesus’ robe, and was immediately healed. Jesus, sensing someone had touched him, told her that her faith had made her well.
  • Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56&61; Matthew 28:1; Mark 15:40&47; Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2; Luke 24:10; John 19:25; several times in John 20) – Jesus freed her from demonic possession and she was a faithful follower from then on. She showed loyalty, gratitude and the heart of a servant.
  • Mary, Martha’s sister (Luke 10; John 11) – was praised for prioritizing correctly. I have to expound a little bit here as well, and say that the Luke 10 story of Mary and her sister Martha is big relief to me. I think that most women, in general, have a tendency to do – to work and work and always have a list and never feel like everything is complete enough to stop and rest. This story is like permission. It’s not only permission, but stopping to take the time to rest, learn and replenish my spirit is required and respected, whether I think everything is complete or not. Martha was in the kitchen preparing things for Jesus. Presumably, Jesus was willing to do without whatever she was preparing to serve him in order to allow her time to rest and learn. This is a great story about the essence of what Christianity is as opposed to what we have made it. It’s not all about us and how hard we need to work for God. It’s about loving Him, receiving His love and listening to what He says to us.
  • The Samaritan Woman (John 4) – Jesus reached out to this woman when there were three reasons others would not have: 1) she was a Samaritan and Jews did not associated with Samaritans (the woman herself even asks Jesus about this, 2) she was a woman, and the disciples wondered him talking with her when they came back out from the city and 3) she was living in sin, as Christians would call it today, having been married five times, and now living with a man who was not her husband.
  • Priscilla (Acts 18; Romans 16:3; I Corinthians 16:3&19) – was a respected fellow worker with Paul, and referred to as such.
  • Elizabeth (Luke 1) – referred to as a righteous and blameless woman and conceived John the Baptist when she was apparently well past child-bearing age.
  • The Crippled Woman (Luke 13:10-17) – Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. He healed her on the Sabbath day and was reprimanded by the church leaders, whom Jesus answered in turn by calling him a hypocrite for thinking the rules of the law were stronger than the compassion of love – another cry against the idea of false religious piety. For as Jesus said in Mark 12:29-31, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
  • The Adulterous Woman (John 8 ) – a woman caught in adultery was being stoned. Jesus stepped in and stopped those stoning her, asking which of them was sinless. OK, time for another tangent. This is an illustration of Jesus’ points in the Matthew 7:1-5 (and similarly in Luke 6:37-42) where he states:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It’s people who have decided to take the job of judgment on; God says we are supposed to leave it to him. Humans were never meant to. The consequences we receive when God is the judge are always just; it’s people who are to blame for all of the shameful acts perpetrated by Christians down through the years:

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18 )

“To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

  • The Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50) – this woman was apparently a notorious sinner – that’s how she was described – and she came to Jesus to wash his feet with expensive oil and humble herself by drying them with her hair while she wept, presumably from guilt. When Jesus heard someone speaking against this display, he spoke up and defended her. In this defense, he again points out the false religion of the hypocritical church leaders, and stresses the poignancy of forgiveness.

Now, let’s move on to the next point where Gaylor states that Jesus “scorns his own mother, refusing to bless her.” On this one, I’m not sure exactly what she is referring to. The only thing in the Bible that I know if that can be even construed to mean something close to this is Luke 11:27&28 which says, “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” If this IS the passage she is talking about, I would say it’s a far cry from Jesus refusing to bless his mother. It is more of a call to the correct perspective. He is saying that someone is not blessed because of a position they hold or because of their particular importance to you; a person is blessed because of their faithfulness to God. You cannot be innately “blessed” simply because of something that you happen to be; it’s a responsibility you must uphold that provides the consequence of your blessedness…or not. In these verses, Jesus does not even say that Mary is not blessed. He is simply using the moment to clarify what “blessedness” really means.

Gaylor goes on to say that Jesus issues dire warnings about the fate of pregnant and nursing women. I am also not quite sure exactly what references she is talking about here. I do find in Mark 13:37 when it is discussing the tribulation in the end times that it says, “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!” If Gaylor meant what she said about it being a “warning,” then I agree with her. The entire chapter is a warning to all people. If you read the rest of Mark 13, you would indeed never want to be a pregnant or nursing mother during those occurrences. However, I think she is trying to intimate that this is a threat. But He does not say, “Woe to you because you are pregnant or nursing.” He is simply stating a fact. Whatever is hard for anyone during those times will inevitably be harder for pregnant woman and those with nursing babies. I’m not sure how this is a reflection on what he thinks about women in general.

If anyone finds my information incorrect or my logic lacking, please let me know. My only desire with these thoughts is to defend a loving God against the common misconceptions about Him. I’d love to hear thoughts.

 

Women and the Bible – Church Roles

If anyone remembers, a friend of mine and I took on the task of combating the accusations in an article by Annie Laurie Gaylor, which can be found in the following post: Feminism and the Bible. I’ll be the first to admit that both of us got seriously side-tracked from this project, as you can see from the date of that post, a little over one year ago. I could make excuses, but I won’t. Let’s just work on into the article by Gaylor.

Other posts related to this issue:

Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16

Women and the Bible – Heroines?

After her comments on Genesis 3:16, and the consequences for women she based on this, which I covered one of the the posts listed above, the next issue Gaylor brings up is I Timothy 2:11-14: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

Ouch. Admittedly, that is one of the most difficult Scriptures pertaining to women in the entire Bible, and I am not going to pretend to have the definitive answer on its meaning. I have read commentaries and conjectures on what it may mean based on cultural interpretations, but I have not heard anyone (who was credible and whose logic was viable) who gave an explanation of it, claiming to have the final word. Pretending like you understand something just so that you have an argument to present does not make you look more intelligent, nor does it grant any redemption to your viewpoint. Everyone sees through conjecture, and so I am not going to do it. I will state some facts, give some opinions, and try to delineate between the two.

What I believe it does NOT mean is this: that a woman is to sit quietly and never speak in church because she has nothing to offer. The two main reasons for this belief are this: 1) the literal translations of some of the words and 2) inferences from other Scriptures.

The literal definition of the word used for silence used in both instances in this verse means something more like desistance from bustle or language; peaceable, undisturbed. The connotation is one that is more of resting, being still and teachable rather than just keeping your mouth shut.

Bear in mind that it also says, “But I suffer not a woman to…usurp authority over the man….” That’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s a pretty Biblical precept that one is not to usurp authority at all. The definition of the Greek word used there is this: to act of onself; dominate. If you have not read my post on Genesis 3:16, now would be a good time. In it, I discuss a portion of the consequences of sin that are listed in that passage. The woman’s “desire” for her husband in that passage is an unhealthy “stretching out after” (literal definition), and by giving in to the nature of pride that Satan exploited in Eve’s deception, it seeks to elevate one’s own self over another by control or domination. That “stretching out after” has occurred in our broken system from then until this day, and is wrong no matter who the perpetrator is.

I mention that many people often use cultural interpretations to explain this passage away, but this does not mean we should not look at it through the appropriate cultural lens. We should simply never use it as a means to twist what is there. I do believe that the discussion of “submission” in the I Timothy passage should be viewed through this cultural lens. The education of women common in that day was severely lacking. Most women who were not in the aristocracy were only given a lower education, and that was basically focused on learning the duties attributed to wifedom or on the things they needed to know in order to educate their own children in basic knowledge or sometimes in something that could be turned into a trade. Even the education for the women in the aristocracy, though somewhat different, was focused on educating them for the purpose of being more satisfying partners for their husbands, studying things such as literature and music. Though their studies extended longer than the lower classes, it still ended far before their male counterparts, and left out education innately for the respect of a woman’s intellect. So, the discussion of women learning at all in I Timothy is a statement that women should be allowed to continue their education, giving no stipulations as to age or status or the purpose it would serve to men. So, while distasteful to us, it was probably necessary for the women to “learn in submission” at this time, being less educated than the men doing the teaching. They had some catching up to do. Perhaps this was part of the problem being addressed – that the women, though not considered inferior, were less knowledgeable, and trying to take over teaching before they were sufficiently prepared. Admittedly, there is some conjecture in this paragraph, and I could never represent this theory as fact. It is, however, a logical deduction based on the times.

Let’s also speak to the fact that if the author of I Timothy was speaking to the lack in the women’s education, this does not mean that he was stating that the less educated have less rights. A child is less educated than an adult, but may, in fact, be far smarter than said adult, and no one would say that a child should have less rights; just that their rights are more supervised until the time they are learned and mature enough to be responsible with them. Anyone in a learning stage on any particular subject needs supervision in order to grow.

I think it is also important to note that God does not view importance and worth in the same way we do. I Corinthians 1:27 states, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” It also says in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” and in Matthew 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last….” We should be able to recognize that in the Bible, most of the figures that God uses to do mighty works are in the most unlikely of vessels – weak, broken, sinful. As Christians our place is to humble ourselves, regardless of gender. And by this, I mean not attempt to assert our own importance over another’s. Unfortunately, that is not in our human nature. But, honestly, women have the advantage here, being, albeit unjustly, pressed down by most societies, we are more readily open to being the humble vessel God can use, unless we let this brew bitterness in us instead of true humility. We can still stand up for what God has called us to (and more successfuly so!) without becoming embittered, angry and defensive.

I cannot move on without addressing the verses preceding the portion that Gaylor included in her article. Verses 9 and 10 of I Timothy 2 speak to a woman’s modesty: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

Just to clear something up before continuing, “shamefacedness” here means something like awe or reverence. One can infer fairly conclusively from this passage that the women were attempting to substitute high fashion for good works. If this were the case, it would obviously be distracting to an atmosphere of learning, and would further validate the need for their subjection mentioned in verse 11. The writer of I Timothy could have simply been trying to get their priorities straight.

So, you viewed I Timothy 2:11&12 based on these views, in modern English, it would read something more like this:

Let the woman learn, undisturbed, with humility. But do not allow a woman to teach taking authority away from a man, but to learn in peace.

And though this will be unpopular, I will reiterate what I spoke in my discussion on Genesis 3:16. I do believe that there is an order of authority that God intended, and we broke it with our choice to step outside of His will, which also takes us outside of His protection. I believe wives are actually to be in submission to their husbands, but not in that pandering, servant-like way that we imagine today. Their submission is first to God, and the submission to their husbands is a responsibility of helping. God says in Genesis 2:15 that He is making Adam a “help-meet”, which means counterpart or to view from the other side. It does not say anything about servant. God wanted Adam to have someone who could look at the other side of things along with him, challenge him, encourage him. And again, if you understand what God asks of husbands, which is to “love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25) and to “love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). Submission hold absolutely no fear when you are submitting to someone who loves you in this manner. It is not a punishment, but a gift of love, a gift of someone who is commanded to love you more than he loves himself. And based on this explanation, I maintain that even if the passage is referring to submission, it is not the kind of submission you have any reason to be offended at.

Let’s move on to verses 13 and 14 of this passage. I will also be including verse 15, as I believe they are all needed in order to grasp a few important things.

“For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

So, “Adam was first formed.” What does this mean for us? I don’t, personally, think it means much. I could be wrong, but I just think it means that he was formed first. It may have something to do with the order of authority I mentioned above (which in the Biblical sense is in NO way discriminatory), but “first” should never be confused with “better”. Going back to the adult/child reference, is an adult “better” than a child because they came first? Not in the sense of being more important, that’s for sure. The adult may be better at playing chess or better at balancing a checkbook, but “better” in the sense of a higher being, no. So, men may be better at some things than women, but women are also better at some things than men. And “first” is just first.

I think now is a good time to integrate the meanings of “equal” and “same”, as well. Our society, as a whole, confuses the two. People think that because someone may be different, they deserve less – or more – rights. Different is feared and looked down upon. Therefore, our tendency is to try to make everything equal by making it the same. This is a huge mistake. Women should not have to prove their worth as people by showing how like men they can be, and this is, if I may interject an opinion, what the feminist movement encouraged. It maintains that women should be treated equals, and tried to attain this goal by proving that women can do everything that men can do. This does not heighten the importance of women, but simply creates more man-like figures in the world. It is, in a sense, stating that women are innately less important, but answering to that something like, “But, look! If we do all of the things that men can do, we can make ourselves just as important!” I maintain that women should be treated as equals because they are human, not because they are the same. Because they are not the same. No one can, in reality, pretend that they are. I am not trying to imply that they should be limited in their pursuits by outside forces denying them rights and privileges, because they are “different” and not suited for some tasks. This is what discrimination does, as a whole, to any minority. I am, however, stating that a woman’s nature is something beautiful that should be taken into consideration when life decisions are being made, and that this choice has actually been taken away by the feminist movement. I agree that women should be allowed to join the work force, and that before the feminist movement, this was unjustifiably looked down upon. However, the end result is that women, by and large, no longer have the option to choose. Most families require both incomes for a family to manage their finances. The women who do not feel the emotional need to enter the workforce and have a desire to care for a family instead are largely denied that option, resulting in many women who are over-worked, dissatisfied and under excessive stress. The “equality” we have gained is not equality, as statistics will show. Even in two parent homes where both parents work full-time, the most recent figures from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households show that the wife does 31 hours of housework a week, while the husband does only 14. That’s hardly equal in my book. Note that the men have never pushed for the same type of “equality” that women did, which entails the “privilege” of taking over all of the opposing gender’s responsibilities. I would have been happy to stick to my own responsibilities, thanks. The point is that both roles are necessary. One person was never meant to have to do the work that was intended for two, and without roles or “job descriptions”, no union, relationship or business runs smoothly. You can redefine the job descriptions as you like to suit personal preferences in your own marriage and family life, but there still must be roles, and “equal” as “same” has simply muddied the waters.

I got a little off track there, so let’s get back to the Bible. Moving on to I Timothy 2:14, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” This verse cannot be used to imply that Adam did not transgress, because he did, and was given the consequences of his choice, just like Eve was. In fact, if you look at it logically, is it not worse to choose to sin knowingly, rather than being deceived into thinking it is a good idea? Eve had a good excuse; Adam just followed the crowd.

And then we are up to Verse 15, “Notwithstanding she shall be saved [preserved, healed, made whole] in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” Verses 13, 14 and 15 when taken in context with one another are obviously sort of a shadow referring to Genesis 3, because he incorporates the fall, and then the woman’s consequence because of it. However, the writer is explaining that the consequence can be undone and redeemed. He is, in no way stating that women must have babies in order to be granted salvation in the Kingdom of God. He is stating that despite the transgression, childbearing does not have to be thought of as that negative consequence, but that a woman will be preserved in it through her faith and love and holiness and sobriety or “soundness of mind”. He is encouraging women not to revel in their misfortune, but to grow in God’s truth, and redeem their circumstances. He could just as easily say the same thing to men about their travail in the work world – and He does, in more generic terms all throughout. “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) If we do labor, man in work or woman through childbirth (referring back to the consequences in Genesis 3), if we do it for Him, the burden of it is lifted. Verse 15 is a promise, not a punishment.

And now that we have worked our way through my commentary on the verses, I will list some Bible verses from which we can determine what I Timothy 2 does not mean.

Judges 4 and 5 – Deborah is identified as a prophetess and listed as a judge over Israel and even goes to battle. This is most definitely a position of authority, and she was respected enough by the leader of the battle (Barak) that he said he would not go into battle unless she would accompany him. I am uncertain whether she actually fought in the battle.

Acts 18:26 – Aquila and his wife Priscilla are equally mentioned as instructing a pastor named Apollos more perfectly in the way of God.

Acts 21:9 – in which four young women prophesied (defined as: “speaking from inspiration”), so, clearly, speaking is allowed.

Romans 16:1 – Phebe is referred to as a minister or deaconess, using the feminine form of the same word used to refer to male deacons, so she was even serving in a position.

Romans 16:3 – Aquila and his wife Priscilla are addressed equally as Paul’s helpers, which is translated “fellow worker”, which denotes no lower connotation for Priscilla.

I Corinthians 11:5 – This verse addresses the apparel of a woman, and is a disputed passage among some denominations. However, it clearly states that a woman will be praying and prophesying in church.

Galatians 3:28 – I will quote this one, as it is more of a broad statement than a specific example of one thing. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” If this verse does not promote equality on all faces, I don’t know what would.

I think this will do for now. I will end with the repeated disclaimer that I am not the final word on any of this. This knowledge and these opinions have been gathered from various sources, and I have attempted to represent everything as accurately as I can.

My closing thoughts are as follows: Through other verses and reading, I still have some idea that there may be limits to the leadership roles a woman should take. However, I have not found anything that can clearly delineate what these limits may entail. There are so many times when women were the vessels through which Christ was made known, and the Great Commission is clearly for every believer. Here, Jesus commands: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you….” (Matthew 28: 19-20)

What I do whole-heartedly believe is that if there are, in fact, limitations, viewed from God’s point of view, they are not meant as restrictions, but as gifts, much in the way that submission to someone who loves you above his own well-being would be no sacrifice.

Yes, thirty. Yes, really.

This is a play off of my “Thirty?  Really?” post if you missed that one.  That was only August, but for some reason now I am actually feeling like I am in my thirties instead of my twenties.  I think this is for a couple of reasons.  This post could be taken to mean I am thinking of all of this negatively, but read on, and you will see my summation. 

First of all, I don’t, as a general rule, look like I am 30.  Most people assume I am in college, and I have even had a couple think I was in high school, as recently as a year ago.  I think this contributed to my feeling like I am not “thirty” in that sense of being stereotypically thirty.  I am aware that part of this assumption of age is based on the fact that all of my jobs are “glorified teenager jobs,” to quote a guy I met one time.  I work for a nanny service and a caterer and a vegetable farm.  People see what I am doing and assume my place in life, which probably contributes to the age bracket they give me.  But moving on, my point is that for the past week or so, I have been looking in the mirror and thinking, “Hmmm…why do I all of the sudden look thirty?”  I have begun to notice the infamous lines around and bags under the eyes, etc.  I think this has been exacerbated by the fact that I have had a cold, and have also been burning the candle at both ends non-stop for over a month.  I guess I need to stop, huh?  Stress really does age you!!  🙂

My second moment is great, though, because of what it symbolizes to me.  It is more like an emotional marker that I didn’t even recognize until after I had done it.  This guy I went to high school with found me on myspace.  He was a few years younger than me (it was a small school), so we weren’t best buddies or anything, but we had a good repoire.  Anyway, he was always one of those kids (I say kids because in high school, he was enough younger than me that I thought of him as a kid, although, of course, the age difference is small enough to be inconsequential now) that was just good-looking…no, good-looking doesn’t get it…hot.  OK, he was hot.  So, now he’s a grown-up.  And guess what?  He’s still hot.  And he’s also in med school.  So, he “friended” me, and I wrote him a message.  And in the message, I told him (along with the fact that I am VERY happily dating the best guy in the world) that I thought he was trying, successfully, to set the bar for the stereotypical “handsome doctor.”  And I did this competely un-self-consciously.  I just said it because I thought it.

“What does this have to do with your age?” you may ask.  The point is that, a few years ago, I would never ***I repeat NEVER*** have told a guy that.  And if I had, by some chance, said that to someone, I would have been kicking myself afterwards…stressed out that they would think I was hitting on them or desperate, etc.  Somehow, now, though, I have gained a different kind of security with who I am and where I am, and a different perspective in my thoughts on what other people might be thinking about me.  I have a good friend who is about 15 years older than me.  She told me once that she felt that as she got older, she got “more comfortable in her own skin.”  She said that if, when she had been 20, she had been as secure in who she was as she was now, at 45, she would have lived life differently – happier, more serenely.  I tried to make it a point right then not to wait until I got to be 45 to feel that…to stop judging myself by how I guessed others might be viewing me, and just be myself, say what I wanted to say, or at least, say what I wanted to say after checking in with God to make sure I was not just spouting off, which I also do.  My point is that I guess I have, to some extent, gotten there.

So, today’s lesson is this: for a minute, I started worrying about the wrinkles around my eyes.  And then I remembered that when I look at people, I do not see wrinkles, I see people.  I do not count their wrinkles or creases or age spots.  What I love in people has nothing to do with that.  And if I want to worry about that and spend a lot of time figuring out how to look younger, then I am going to be taking away from becoming a person that others love because of who they are, and giving them a pretty shell instead.  But even that would be temporary, because, time does not care where you go or what you do…it will find you.  I chose, when listening to my wise friend, to learn to be “more comfortable in my own skin.”  And I’m not going to stop now. 

Last Lesson from “Captivating”

OK, so we’re almost done talking about this book.  I think.  The third major perspective change I got has to do with spiritual warfare as it pertains to the physical world.  I know when you start talking about spiritual warfare, some people tend to look at you crazy…the thought that there could actually be demons attacking and angels defending us seems a little out there.  I’ll just say that I am a firm believer in it, and think that the devil is out to thwart our growth and God’s plan for us at every turn.  I think I’ve had this mental block, though…a block that made me think that only spiritual things are attacked spiritually, and physical things are just, well, as they are.  So, I would generally only pray spiritual prayers.  “Lord, teach me patience.  Guide me in my decisions.  Show me how to be like You.”  Rarely, if ever, would I allow my prayers to overlap into the physical realm, as in, “Lord, help me find a new job.  Give me more energy today.  Heal me of my sickness.” 

A compartmentalization of God…I guess I forgot all of the miracles He worked both in the persona of God in the Old Testament and in the flesh of Jesus Christ in the New.  Well, last week I mentioned all of my physical symptoms in my Technical Difficulties blog.  I won’t list them again, but my point is that I had never seriously prayed about them.  My boyfriend has been trying to get me to see it this way for a couple of months…to see my healing as something to pray diligently for; even that this is something God has allowed in me in order to teach us how to pray as my symptoms have worsened.  I had been praying about it at his prompting, but I don’t think I had much belief that it could affect a change.  I think he started me down the road, and that is why I asked for prayers last week.  But the real shift in my mindset did not occur until after I wrote that blog, as I was finishing up “Captivating,” by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Stasi is writing at this point, and talks about a book on spiritual warfare that she was reading.  The book was called “Bondage Breakers,” by Neil Anderson.  I don’t know anything about that book except what she says.  She says that in the book she was reading, it tells a story about a woman who had dizzy spells.  This woman began reacting to her dizzy spells as if they were a spiritual attack, commanding authority over them in Jesus name, and her dizzy spells stopped.  Stasi says that when she read this, she told her husband that she had dizzy spells, too, which he did not know as she had never mentioned it.  She decided to begin responding to hers in the same way this woman did.  She says that at first they worsened, but she kept praying every time.  And then she had one so bad that she fell down, and she prayed anyway.  And it was the last dizzy spell she ever had. 

It really was like God put this story in here just for me.  I don’t even think if He had used any other symptom, it would’ve had the same effect.  My dizziness is the newest severe symptom…I never really had these dizzy spells until this year.  It’s also the one that seems to be getting the worst the fastest.  A couple of weeks ago, I had one while I was driving and had to slam on the brakes (there were no other cars) because I thought I might drive off the road if I didn’t.  That was the worst one I’d ever had, and it really worried me.  How could I make a living if I couldn’t drive?  Two days later I read this story.  My dizzy spells a spiritual attack?  This was a new concept to me.  It broke down the mental block I mentioned earlier, relegating God to His spiritual realm in my mind.  It reminded me of something I should already know: that just because something manifests physically does not mean it can’t have spiritual roots. 

I’ve heard a fable before about a man who was drowning.  The man began to pray for God to save him.  Just after he prayed, a boat came by.  They tried to help, but he waved them on, “No, I’m waiting for God to save me.”  Then a rescue helicopter flew up.  “No, I’m waiting for God to save me,” he said.  This man prayed for God to help him out of a physical situation, but then expected supernatural means.  If I were the man, with the mindset I was hanging on to before this shift, I would have been praying, “Lord, help me be OK with drowning.  Help me handle it with grace. ”  Not a bad prayer, but just a little incomplete, if you actually believe God can keep you from drowning at all. 

After I read this, I was discussing it with my mom.  She, in turn, told me a story about a woman who was going to volunteer where she works (a Christian non-profit agency).  The lady had gone through her volunteer training, and was scheduled to start her weekly volunteer shift, but she woke up that morning, and her son had a 104 degree fever.  He didn’t have any other symptoms, but they still rushed him to the emergency room.  The doctors didn’t find anything wrong with him.  They sent them home, and, in a couple of hours, the fever was gone.  Her son was fine the rest of the week.  At least until the next time she was scheduled to volunteer, and then suddenly, her son came down with another 104 degree fever.  No other symptoms.  Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong.  Three weeks in a row this happened only on the day she was supposed to go volunteer.  After the third week, the woman directing the center at the time told this lady that she thought it was a spiritual attack.  She told her next time, just to pray, and come on in anyway.  The following week, the son did have the fever again, but the woman prayed, and went on to volunteer.  The fevers never recurred.  Clearly, Satan will use any method he believes effective in keeping us down, keeping us immobile, keeping us inert. 

I am not pronouncing God a magic charm for healing or for anything else, but I am now acknowledging His power in all areas.  I think that sometimes it is beyond our comprehension why we may not get prayers answered, but I don’t think He ever meant for us to not pray them, whatever the subject.  I have been praying, since this, every time I have a single symptom, for God to protect me, to heal me, and for Satan to stop trying to defeat me.  And I’ve felt better.  The symptoms have not disappeared, but they have been noticably more infrequent and less severe.  You can say whatever you want about placebo effects and the power of positive thinking.  I’ve tried the power of positive thinking before and it didn’t do a darn thing.  God’s doing something…not the least of which is teaching me about His power and His love. 

Lesson 2 from “Captivating”

I told you I would dedicate other blogs to more lessons I learned from the book I didn’t want to read to begin with, “Captivating,” by John & Stasi Eldredge.    So, this blog is actually about the first lesson I learned.  (My “Literary Arrogance” having been second, thereby allowing me to recognize the first as it is associated with this book.) This lesson has to do with my relationship with my boyfriend. 

The first thing that I want to say is that I have the most amazing boyfriend in the world.  He does not ever belittle me or criticize petty things or ask me to do things his way instead of my way.  He often encourages me, compliments me, and just, in general, loves me.  Actively.  Not as in the state of love, but as in the action.  Any criticism I ever receive from him is for the purpose of instruction, growth or perspective.  He likes to get me to see things in a different way than I have been seeing it, to look at the other person’s side of a story and stretches me when I am being rigid.  I honestly cannot remember a time he has ever told me a negative thing over something petty.  My point here is that the emotional place I had come to was not his doing.  But you don’t know what that emotional place is yet, so I’ll tell you now, and then wrap it all up in a neat little package. 

Somehow, I had come to a point in our relationship where I was constantly despairing over the fact that I believed I was not good enough for him.  Let me state that this was not always the case in our relationship.  I have been, in this same relationship, one of the most secure girlfriends I’ve ever known, completely relaxed in his love.  I didn’t stress out about losing him; I didn’t worry that I wasn’t doing enough to keep him.  You get the picture.  This despair did not come about because of any change in his behavior…unless it was a change in his behavior for the better.  See, when we started dating, my boyfriend was an alcoholic.  I knew it, and we talked about the fact that he knew I wouldn’t be OK with it long term on our first date.  We can get into the wisdom or foolishness of this from my side on another day perhaps, but I will just state that I prayed much over it, and never felt God saying that I should not date him.  Quite the opposite in fact.  But, moving on….  Let me state that he was also a Christian, and ten months into our relationship (we’re at 2 1/2 years now), he quit drinking.  Since that point, I have seen him grow and mature more than I can possibly explain to you.  He’s become a passionate spiritual leader.  And it’s not that he was immature before.  It was just the fact that he had this barrier of alcohol blocking him from being in constant communication with God, as well as keeping him from spending his time learning or studying.  I guess I thought that since I was confident in our relationship, I would always be confident in our relationship.  I now realize that when circumstances change, emotions are quite ready to follow.  Looking back now, I can see that my insecurities probably began to surface when I saw how well he was doing, how mature he was becoming and how meaningfully he was spending his time and pouring out his energy.  My heart thought it meant that he would not need me anymore.  He had sort of eclipsed me spiritually, so what use was I?  The main problem here was that I did not even realize my thought process had changed.  However long it had been since the insecurity crept in there, by the time I recognized it through the grace of God and the reading of this book, it was bad.  To the point that my heart would twist everything he said.  If he said, “You did well on that,” it meant to me, “You must continue doing that well or he will not love you anymore.”  I didn’t consciously have these thoughts, or I would’ve known I was being stupid.  It was more the attitude I took things in.  I was always scrambling to feel like I had something to offer that he would value.  If I was drained emotionally, I tried really hard to look pretty.  I would go through my day in my mind before I called him, hoping I could think of stories to tell him in which I did something worthwhile, learned something meaningful, improved myself in some way so he wouldn’t think I was a loser.  And if he said something negative in the way of instruction, well, it did its own work.  That meant he knew there was something wrong with me; I was selfish or lazy or not smart enough.  I was not perfect, therefore he would stop loving me. 

I know, you’re thinking, how could I do all of this and not recognize it?  I’m wondering myself, but I have a feeling it was something Satan knew I cared pretty deeply about, and stuck his big toe into the crevice of my fear…got a good foothold and just kept digging it in.  Keep her scared and ignorant of the fact that she’s even scared.  She won’t know what’s wrong with her.  Good strategy.  Thank God (literally) for showing me this.  It was taking its toll.  I was tired.  And I really didn’t know why. 

The great thing about this is that it really is something that I can turn off, like a switch.  My awareness of it was all I needed.  I know it is a silly attitude, and a pointless one.  First of all, attempting to be what you think someone else wants you to be will almost inevitably make you exactly what they wish you were not; insecure and wishy-washy because you’re constantly second guessing what your idea of what they might want is along with a host of other really annoying qualities.  I know that my boyfriend, most of all, wants me to be who God wants me to be and to do what God wants me to do.  So, it’s a re-focus.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added unto you.”  God is what I need in order for everything else in my life to be what He’s designed it to be.  And I had taken my eyes off of that truth. 

So, as to me thinking I was so great at not being a “silly girl,” as I mentioned in my Literary Arrogance blog, I think I had definitely adopted what I would coin a very common, prominent and detrimental “silly girl” attitude.  I recommend this book if you find yourself trying to be the woman you think someone else wants you to be.

Lesson 3 from “Captivating” coming soon. 

Update on the Study and Literary Arrogance

So, if anyone’s wondering what’s happening with the study on Feminism and the Bible, here’s the latest.  First off, let me say that I have not gotten very far on actual points.  My friend and I were going to attempt each taking the article point by point and researching one at a time each.  (She’d take one; I’d take one – then we’d both discuss and conclude that segment.)  This was a very naive outlook on how we could manage this.  If only it were that simple.  First off, you find that everything you hunt on one point inevitably leads to really good information on a different point.  Secondly, the very first task is to solidify what we do believe God’s outlook on the role for women is.  Again, naive in thinking that is simple.  A few examples:  Does God approve of women teaching in the church?  I feel like He does and, needless to say, I want Him to, but this is not about feelings or wants.  I’m trying to get a solid understanding here.  I’m trying to get to truth in a way that anyone can grasp it, even if they don’t agree with it.  I’m even prepared to find out that answers to questions like these are not what I wish they were.  I think that if the answer is that God does not want women to teach men or in the church or however you interpret I Timothy 2: 11-14, that there will be a reason (if we can grasp it) that makes me OK with that.  (But then we also get into the question of who decides what ‘teaching’ means.  I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous lines drawn since looking into this, as in “Women can ‘share’ but not ‘preach.'”  Huh??  And also, “Women can ‘talk’ in church as long as they don’t stand behind the pulpit.”  Ummm, OK.)  However, back to the point: as in the submission of wives to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-29), I’m not ruffled by this statement, because it also tells men to treat their wives as Christ treats the church.  I’m good with that…Christ gave everything of Himself for the church and did everything for her benefit and well-being.  If a man is going to treat me like that, unconditionally, as Christ did with the church, I think I can handle a little thing like submission.  (Although, I’m still wrestling with the questions: “Do you still have to submit to a husband that is not following Christ, and if not, who decides when they are not following Christ?” and “Do you only not have to submit if a husband is asking you to do something specifically against God’s commands and if so, who decides that as well?”)  My elusive point is that I feel there would be good, satisfactory and understandable “footnotes” for God’s decision even if that decision was that a woman is not supposed to teach a man or in the church.  I’ve got to tell you, though, finding a really solid answer to this debate is not simple.  I didn’t think it would be an easy task or even a short task, but I will say that I did not expect to find so many poor arguments for people’s interpretations (and not just for this one Scripture).  I’ve seen a lot of things that make me understand why people often think that Christians are uneducated…interpretations that use poor logic to explain something away or use an argument that fights against itself.  It saddens me.  I guess maybe the question is harder than I think, and I shouldn’t be so disappointed in the Christian community. 

So, I’ve said a lot of nothing about what I haven’t learned.  Let’s talk about what I have.  I’ve learned a lot about myself.  It seems God leads you to study things that maybe you need to know for your own personal reasons in addition to the reasons you study it (in this case, for the defense of His truths). 

Here goes.  I am reading a book someone recommended in my comments, “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge.  The friend I am working on this project with bought it, and gave it to me to read first, as she had some other reading material she intended on starting out with.  Well, I apologize, zephaniah317, because I really did NOT want to read this book.  I’ve heard of it before, and never had any inclination to read it. 

First strike: it’s about girls.  I’m a girl.  OK.  I don’t need anyone to tell me about the fact that I am a girl or about feminity.  Or how not to be a silly girl.  Or how not to be a naggy wife (girlfriend, in my case).  I’m pretty good at those things.  Or am I?  We’ll see, but the fact is that anything “girly” turns me off in the first place.  I don’t like pink.  I don’t like lacy, frilly things.  I hate to get my nails or hair touched by any stranger.  I don’t like massages.  This book is inherently girly.  That’s its whole premise. 

Second strike: it’s also very popular within the Christian subculture.  I have only just now realized how deeply my literary arrogance runs.  This book could not be worth my time because it is “popular” and anything that the general public could enjoy is probably too stupid for me.  Wow.  That’s really how I thought.  What a jerk am I.  I’m sorry, John and Stasi Eldredge, for thinking you were all silly, fluffy things and rhetoric. 

I don’t have a third strike, so we’ll just say that’s the only reason it made it through to the “read anyway” pile.  I’m not through with the book yet, but it has already made me severely aware of three separate very valuable issues. 

One of them was, indeed, my severe case of literary arrogance.  God didn’t cure me of that even by teaching me something important through the book.  (I retained a little bit of my reticence after learning the first lesson because of the fact that the book did not spell it out; it just showed me some other things that led me to a conclusion.  So, really, I figured it out on my own, right?  I still didn’t need the silly book.)  Wrenching my disgusting snobbery out of me did not come until I realized that I was acting patronizing to another individual who had genuine interest in this book, that they could probably tell I was being patronizing, and that it probably made them feel a little bit stupid.  Again, what a jerk am I.  God did manage to cue me into this, and make me feel like I wanted to hide from Him because of my pride in this nominal intellect I have.  I did not hide, but I did repent, and not only to Him, but to the individual. The other two things that God taught me through this book really deserve their own blogs.  And since I’m tired, maybe I’ll give them each one another day. 

Feminism and the Bible – Feel Free to Comment

Original post is below, but find my first response to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article (also below) here: Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16, and the more responses to it here: Women and the Bible – Church Roles and here: Women and the Bible – Heroines.

A friend of mine sent me the article below (included after my comments), which accuses religion and specifically the Bible of being the main opponent to women’s rights, and the main proponent of women’s denigration. The friend who sent it to me had seen it because an acquaintance of her’s posted it. She sent it to me out of sadness, wanting to know if I would be interested in helping her refute its claims, not out of a sense of “rightness” but out of a sense of clearing God’s name. Any time I read stuff like this (whether about feminists or gay rights or any of your current hot-button issues) purporting the Bible as a tool of hatred, it hurts me. It mostly hurts because sometimes the accusations about the way people have interpreted the things the Bible says are true, and there ARE people who will take verses in the Bible and use them to undermine a woman’s worth…people who claim Christ as their Savior. People have mis-interpreted a lot of the Bible a lot of the time, but I don’t think their mistakes should be projected onto God or the Bible. My initial thought when I read my friend’s message about helping to answer this article was, “Oh, that’s going to take a lot of time.” When you get to the article below, you will see why. The article states much about historical figures and lists some Bible verses that I have never heard, and others, that I, honestly, have never myself found quite satisfactory explanations of. This is quite a task. Then I thought about my prayers to God lately, which have greatly been about wanting to follow His will and learn His ways and help to grow His agendas. I realized this was a direct, serious answer to this prayer. God, apparently, did not think I was kidding. And so, the research must begin. I was thinking about the best way to begin what seems to be such a large task, and it made me think of my boyfriend. My boyfriend is what you would call a “conspiracy theorist”, although the more you know about the things he learns, the less they seem like “conspiracies”, and the more they seem like “causes”. However, he is one of the few in that circle who presents all theories and knowledge in the light of Christianity. The conspiracy world, as a general rule, chucks God altogether. So, poor thing, he kind of gets it from both sides: the Christians think he’s crazy for his conspiracies, and the conspiracy buffs think he’s crazy for his Christianity. He gets quite a few messages asking him questions and making accusations, etc. He’s coined his responses as “neo-apologetics,” because it is apologetics in the true sense of defending the case of Christ, but taking in consideration information that most main-stream Christians have never even heard, which is necessary when dealing with people in that avenue. He has started just taking each message that he gets, researching each accusation or question, and responding in as much depth as he can to every point. It takes some time, but it also teaches him a lot. I think the same would be true with my friend and I trying to do the same with this article. I was listening to a lecture on intelligent design this morning, and the guy giving the lecture on it was saying that he finally stopped being afraid of science when he realized that every time someone gave him a scientific question from a secular viewpoint, it made him research it, and inevitably would only end up strengthening his point and his belief. He began to realize that he NEEDED the opposing viewpoint questioning him in order to not stagnate in his growth. If we respond to this sort of thing with his attitude, and with the intent not of proving someone wrong, but of proving God loving, I think we could affect a change. So, yes, I said, let’s get after it. Scary…but purposeful. Who better to combat this kind of worldview if not women within the Christian culture? C.S. Lewis says in some of his writings that if you can’t state what you believe in a clear way, then you don’t really know what you believe, or at the very least, not why you believe it. I always feel that I am completely inadequate at stating what I believe AND why, and those statements by Lewis have convicted me. Doing this will definitely aid in changing that. If anyone has any helpful information that would contribute to our understanding of how to best state the truth about God’s view of women, please feel free to comment. I just read this article about an hour ago, so my research has not yet commenced…I have ideas and a few verses in mind, but it is yet a long way to go in any structured form or finality, especially taking in consideration all of the points raised in the article. I’m sure if I read the book written by the article’s author, I would have quite a few more points to study. Ah, well…first things first. Pray for us to be open to God’s wisdom!

Here is the article:

Why Women Need Freedom From Religion
by Annie Laurie Gaylor

Organized religion always has been and remains the greatest enemy of women’s rights. In the Christian-dominated Western world, two bible verses in particular sum up the position of women:

“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”–Genesis 3:16

By this third chapter of Genesis, woman lost her rights, her standing–even her identity, and motherhood became a God-inflicted curse degrading her status in the world.In the New Testament, the bible decrees:


“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”–1 Tim. 2:11-14
One bible verse alone, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18) is responsible for the death of tens of thousands, if not millions, of women. Do women and those who care about them need further evidence of the great harm of Christianity, predicated as it has been on these and similar teachings about women?Church writer Tertullian said “each of you women is an Eve . . . You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.”Martin Luther decreed: “If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.”Such teachings prompted 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton to write: “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation.”

The various Christian churches fought tooth and nail against the advancement of women, opposing everything from women’s right to speak in public, to the use of anesthesia in childbirth (since the bible says women must suffer in childbirth) and woman’s suffrage. Today the most organized and formidable opponent of women’s social, economic and sexual rights remains organized religion. Religionists defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. Religious fanatics and bullies are currently engaged in an outright war of terrorism and harassment against women who have abortions and the medical staff which serves them. Those seeking to challenge inequities and advance the status of women today are fighting a massive coalition of fundamentalist Protestant and Catholic churches and religious groups mobilized to fight women’s rights, gay rights, and secular government.Why do women remain second-class citizens? Why is there a religion-fostered war against women’s rights? Because the bible is a handbook for the subjugation of women. The bible establishes woman’s inferior status, her “uncleanliness,” her transgressions, and God-ordained master/servant relationship to man. Biblical women are possessions: fathers own them, sell them into bondage, even sacrifice them. The bible sanctions rape during wartime and in other contexts. Wives are subject to Mosaic-law sanctioned “bedchecks” as brides, and male jealousy fits and no-notice divorce as wives. The most typical biblical labels of women are “harlot” and “whore.” They are described as having evil, even satanic powers of allurement. Contempt for women’s bodies and reproductive capacity is a bedrock of the bible. The few role models offered are stereotyped, conventional and inadequate, with bible heroines admired for obedience and battle spirit. Jesus scorns his own mother, refusing to bless her, and issues dire warnings about the fate of pregnant and nursing women.There are more than 200 bible verses that specifically belittle and demean women. Why should women–and the men who honor women–respect and support religions which preach women’s submission, which make women’s subjugation a cornerstone of their theology?When attempts are made to base laws on the bible, women must beware. The constitutional principle of separation between church and state is the only sure barrier standing between women and the bible.For more information about the treatment of women in the bible, read the books Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So by Annie Laurie Gaylor and The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible by Ruth Hurmence Green.