I’m Sorry: Wednesdays with Walter: Day 5

In light of events this past week the following entry in The Social Principles of Jesus struck me deeply. It is in the second chapter, “Solidarity of the Human Family.” I have provided the scripture reading in the English Standard Version.

Matthew 11:20-24 English Standard Version (ESV)

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

FIFTH DAY: SOLIDARISTIC RESPONSIBILITY

We know that by constant common action a social group develops a common spirit and common standards of action, which then assimilate and standardizes the actions of its members. Jesus felt the solidarity of the neighborhood groups in Galilee with whom he mingled. He treats them as composite personalities, jointly responsible for their moral decisions.

  • What groups of which we have been a part in the past have stamped us with the group character for good or evil? How about those of which we are now part?
  • What have we learned from the Great War about national solidarity?

I remember reading Nehemiah’s prayer of confession in Nehemiah chapter 1 as a child. You can read it by clicking here. Nehemiah fasts and prays — confessing the sins of his nation and his forefathers. Pleading that God would forgive him and forgive them. I remember thinking to myself, ” What the heck, this wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault! He was a GOOD man! Why does he have to confess for something he didn’t even do!”

But Nehemiah, along with the other writers of scripture and wise individuals since them like Rauschenbusch, recognized that we are part of “composite systems” — stamped for better or worse with group characteristics and responsible for corporate sins.

I’m tempted to spend the rest of this blog pointing out where I see others lacking the mature sense to take responsibility for our current “composite personality.” But instead…

I’m sorry and I confess…

  • … for the sins of my forefathers that have stained me, shaped me, and which through action or inaction I have accepted as my own sins.
  • …for not standing up for the disenfranchised and oppressed.
  • …for not speaking up for those without a voice.
  • …for not seeing Christ in the other and for not receiving them with that realization.
  • …for demonizing both those on the right and the left of me politically, theologically, socially. I am sorry and recognize that I am the problem for which I point my finger at you. Please forgive me!

Who wants to be a millionaire? — Wednesdays with Walter: Day 4

Sometimes life gets busy and we forget about commitments.  Yesterday, I completely forgot it was Wednesday, and so I missed Wednesday with Walter.  I’m sorry; of course, I’m sure no one really missed it that much anyway. 

No one missed it anyway.  Just another excuse.

I think social justice is that way for most of us – I know it is for me.

I get busy, and I walk by the person asking for help on the street corner.

I get busy, and I ignore the stranger.

I get busy, and I don’t bother making a stand for the one oppressed, the one different, the one in need.

But let’s be honest, what differerence can I really make?

What difference can I really make.  Just another excuse.

Social justice, for the follower of Jesus Christ, is a commitment — not just for Wednesdays but everyday — but we get busy, and we think that there is little difference we can make anyway.  We excuse our inaction to do something with our perception that we can’t do anything of significance.

I’m reminded of the parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30.  In the parable, a wealthy man goes on a trip and entrusts his wealth to three servants.  To one, he gives five talents; to the second, two talents; and to the last, one talent.  

It’s difficult to know the exact value of these gifts, but some have argued that the approximate value of each talent in today’s currency would be around $1.25 million.  So the first received $6.25 million; the second $2.5 million; and the last $1.25 million.  For more info on converting talents to dollars, check out this wiki page.

The first and second servant, go out and double the masters wealth and present it to him at his return.  The third, however, concerned that his master was a hard master who “reaps where he does not sow,” buries the wealth.  I imagine, he goes about with a busy life. Thinking from time to time about his commitment to his master, about the gift that he has received, but life is busy, and after all, he didn’t get as much to work with as the other two.

A couple of things strike me about this parable.

  1. The gifts are unbelievably generous.  
  2. The third servant isn’t rebuked for his perception of the master.

1.  THE GIFTS ARE UNBELIEVABLY GENEROUS

In this parable, these talents represent God’s blessing in our lives.  God has blessed each of us in a variety of ways, but one way of significant blessing for each of us is our relationships and our spheres of influence – some have been blessed with more influence than others, but we each have been blessed with more than we probably realize.  My family, my friends, my social circles both online and in person.  These are of inexpressible value; gifts from God.  

Will I be too busy to invest in these gifts with God’s values, with God’s heart, with God’s intention to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to cloth the naked, to heal the broken, to invite in the stranger, to visit the one in prison.  

I fear that too often I was too busy to show my own children, who are now adults, the importance of kindness — the kindness of a Christ to those different, those in need, those with whom I most strongly disagreed.   What a gift God gave to me in them.  Did I invest in them the socicial principles of Jesus?  Will God’s values that I hold to be true be multiplied in them?  I hope so, and I pray that I will continue to have opportunity to invest in them — as they also invest in me.

Am I intentional to invest the social principles of Jesus in my Facebook posts, my Tweets, my conversations over coffee?  There is nothing of greater value than the relationships with which God has blessed me.   Worth more than millions and millions of dollars.  Do I untentionally bury those relationships because of my “business” or do I multiply their worth by investing the social principles of Jesus in them?

2.  THE THIRD SERVANT ISNT REBUKED FOR HIS PERCEPTION OF THE MASTER.

“You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?”

I recently heard a sermon on this text with my family.  After the sermon, my son and I were talking about the message which we both appreciated.  But we were both struck by the rebuke of the third servant — he was rebuked NOT because he didn’t understand who his master was but because he did nothing with this realization.

My son reminded me of the texts that state that God is a jealous God; if He is the one who gives everything, then He expects everything we do with it to reflect His glory, His values, His principles — the social principles of Jesus.

Walter Rauschenbusch realized this, knew it, lived it.

He realized he was a millionaire because of the opportunities and relationships with which God had blessed him.

He didn’t allow the business of life to get in the way of investing the social principles of Jesus in every opportunity, every moment, every relationship with which he was blessed.

He didn’t let the fact that he was only a preacher, only a son of an immigrant, only a whatever keep him from realizing that he was given much, and he multiplied it, he invested the social principles of Jesus in it, and God blessed it.  God gave him even more — opportunities to invest the social principles of Jesus in the lives of governors, presidents, policy makers.

May we recognize that we too are blessed with millions in value because of our relationships.

May we faithfully invest the social principles of Jesus into the relationships with which God has blessed us.  

The Force Awakens: Wednesdays with Walter: Day 3

 

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“Doubtless the objection has arisen in our minds that it is not in the interest of the future of the race that religious pity shall coddle and multiply the weak, or put them in control of society” (The Social Principles of Jesus, p. 13).

To conclude his section on “The Value of Life,” Rauschenbusch raises the question above that he believes would be in the minds of his readers.  And it is a concern that has been in the minds of countless individuals for nearly 2000 years.

f Marcus Cornelius Fronto 1.JPG
Marcus Cornelius Fronto

One of the earliest criticisms of Christianity was that it was a religion for the weak — widows, old men, prostitutes, gullible women — according to Marcus Cornelius Fronto, a tutor for the Emperor Marcus Aurelius — a religion that consisted of the “dregs of society” (Late Ancient Christianity, Virginia Burrus, p. 216).

Rauschenbusch continues in his conclusion to this section by saying, “But did Jesus want the weak to way weak?”  The implied answer is a resounding “NO!”

“[Jesus] was an emancipator, a creator of strong [individuals]….  [T]he spirit of Jesus is an awakening force.”

I fear that modern Christianity errs on either side of this biblical truth.  It seems that Christianity has either become a bastion of earthly power with no room for the poor, the orphan, the refugee.  Or Christianity has become a religion of “settling” with no expectation of awakening the good within each person with the transformational power of Jesus Christ.

Is there room within Christendom for a Faith that loves and reaches out to all regardless of race, gender, political party, sexual orientation, etc., but still calls each adherent to the Faith to the high life giving standard of Christ through His Spirit?

The point of the Social Gospel wasn’t to ignore personal piety but that Christ’s awakening force would transform the individual sinner into a saint and the broken social constructs into the Kingdom of God.  It is impossible to have one without the other!

How does your faith welcome all?

How does your faith call each to an awakening force in Christ?

The Moral Quality of Contempt: Wednesdays with Walter: Day 2

“You have heard that it was said to those of old,
‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council;
and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  
Jesus, Matthew 5:21-22

“The important point is that Jesus ranged hate and contempt
under the category of murder….  The horror which Jesus feels for such action
is an expression of his own respect for the worth of personality.”

— Walter Rauschenbusch, The Social Principles of Jesus

angry.pngI’ve grown weary of contempt.

I see it expressed by our national leaders and expressed towards our national leaders.

I’ve grown weary of contempt.

I see it on Facebook…  on Twitter…  on the radio…  on television…  in the papers…

I’ve grown weary of contempt.

I feel it from the “right” and the “left.”

I’VE GROWN WEARY OF CONTEMPT!

I just wish I could say it is because I am only a victim of contempt, but I know that my hands are stained red with the blood of those whom I have murdered with my own contempt.

And I realize now more than ever that my sins have found me out — that those whom I love the most see the stains on my hands.

I’ve grown weary of my own contempt and pray that God forgives me and gives me strength to change — to wash clean my murderous hands.

If we are to value life, we must pray that God gives us the strength to love the other — to overcome our contempt and anger towards the other — and even our enemy.

We CANNOT justify our actions of contempt and anger by saying we are fighting fire with fire.  We cannot say that acting virtuously won’t cut it in this day.

And I need to come to grips with the reality that this spirit of contempt isn’t new — Facebook, Twitter, etc. are only new weapons used to murder through contempt, but the problem of murderous contemptuous attitudes is as old as humanity.  Jesus fought it; Rauschenbusch fought it; and I pray for strength to do the same.

Will we recognize today that our actions of contempt and anger are killing us?

Will we share in the horror which Jesus feels for such action as an expression of his and our respect for the worth of personality?

Will we have the strength — not to agree with everyone — not to ignore sin — but to confront it with love instead of contempt — with life instead of murder?

How does contempt raise its ugly head on your FB feed?

How do you see contempt in your place of work?  …your home?  …your place of worship?

How will you challenge a growing culture of death and contempt for life with an abundant life of joy?

 

 

Wednesdays with Walter: Day 1

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 2.12.37 PM.pngI had hoped to post this as a video.  I even recorded about 30 minutes of video and tried to edit it — it was awful.  Not the quality of the video, but the quality of the content.

There is something tricky about presenting issues like social justice.  It’s tricky because we don’t listen to each other anymore.  We don’t spend anytime listening.  We might spend time with our mouths shut in a conversation, but too often we’re just preparing what we are going to say next when the idiot “across the aisle” finally shuts-up.

I guess that’s why I want to do “Wednesdays with Walter.”  I want to see if we can still listen….  I want to see if I can still listen to someone with whom I disagree.

Book cover.jpgIn the introduction to “The Social Principles of Jesus,” Walter says, “[This book] does not undertake to furnish predigested material, or to impose conclusions.  It spreads out the most important source passages for personal study, points out the connection between the principles of Jesus and modern social problems, and raises questions for discussion.”

Are we still capable of doing that — reading together, exploring connections between the source of our convictions and the real life problems in front of us, and engage in serious discussion about the most important questions facing us.

I hope we can.

I hope I can.

Walter breaks “The Social Principles of Jesus” into four sections.  The first of these four sections is “The Axiomatic Social Convictions of Jesus.”

If you’re not sure what “axiomatic” means, don’t sweat it — I had to look it up to make sure myself.  It means that these are self-evident — they are the “duh” principles of Jesus.  They are obvious by just looking at his life and ministry.  For Walter, he wants these to be axiomatic — self-evident — in the lives of followers of Jesus as well.

The first of these axiomatic social convictions of Jesus is the “Value of Life.  This is the first chapter of the first section.  Each chapter is broken down further into 7 daily readings and then some concluding thoughts by Walter.

Take a minute to read the first and second day readings for the first chapter:

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As I read these two Biblical stories in close proximity, I was convicted about the sacredness of human life in the story of the child and the story of the sick.  Walter raises questions for his own day, but his placing these stories in such close proximity raised questions in my mind about our own day and problems facing us within our own society.  And this is where it gets tricky.

Are you willing to listen?

Are you willing to hear the voice of the other?

Are you willing to see the axiomatic social convictions of Jesus and allow them to challenge you regardless of where you stand — theologically or politically?

If Jesus saw “something heavenly in children, a breath of the Kingdom of God,” then what should our response be to the 600,000+ unborn children who are aborted in the United States each year?  How should we respond in the ballot box as well as in the pew?

Some have probably stopped listening.

Others may be saying “amen” and asking for more, but the more that Walter provides — the more that is part of the undeniable, axiomatic social conviction of Jesus — asks us to consider the care for the sick — especially the sick among the unwanted.

If Jesus is so moved by the humanity of the leper that he stretches out to touch him, what should our response be to those in most desperate need of health care in our country — the uninsured, those with pre-existing conditions, and even those here illegally?  We may be tempted to say that this is the role of the church and the individual.  But if we truly live in a country where the government is of the people, then shouldn’t the government be an extension of our convictions of care for the least of these?  How does this affect our view of the current debate over health care?

It surprised me that in two very short pages, Walter Rauschenbusch is able to confront and convict me from the “right” and the “left.”  Basically offend everyone!  Is this the offense of the Gospel of which Scripture speaks?

I hope that you will continue to join me for more Wednesdays with Walter.

I hope that you will leave comments and join the conversation.

I hope that we will be able to listen to one another as we explore together the social principles of Jesus.

 

Check out my website for more about Kerry Bender — www.KerryLBender.com

 

 

What I Deserve

…of whom the world was not worthy…
Hebrews 11:38a

I have actually started typing this post seven or eight times, and I’ve begun it in my head countless times.  It is hard to write.  Not because I don’t know what to say.  But rather because there is so much left to say.

There remain countless women who were teachers, mentors, family members, friends, colleagues who remain unmentioned but who have a lasting impact on my life.  

I would have loved to write a post this month celebrating…

  • …my childhood Sunday School teachers.   These faithful women who were the first outside of my home to tell me of God’s great love and help me fall in love with the stories of the Bible.
  • …Flannery O’Conner, whose short stories inspire me to be a better story teller, a better preacher, but  most importantly a better person because a good man is hard to find.
  • Perpetua and Felicity.  If you are a Christian and don’t know their stories…  Well, then shame on all of us; stop reading this blog and google their names or click on their names above to at least read their Wikipedia page (After you’re done reading about them, please come back and finish reading this post, follow my site, and share on your social media).
  • …Mary the mother of Jesus, who was favored by God.  In a world where our daughters need positive role models, why are we NOT celebrating Mary in our evangelical protestant churches!  

The list of possible posts, goes on and on!  We need more than a month!  Of course, that’s the point, right?

Until we realize that far too often the roles of women have been forgotten, overlooked, minimized; until we realize the unbelievable impact that they have had on Christianity and the world; until we realize that they are listed alongside the men of old of whom the world was not worthy; until we realize that these women are truly a gift from God; well until then, we need a day, a month, a reminder, that we don’t deserve them either.

Of all the things — and believe me when I tell you that they are too numerous to count — of all the things that I have learned from my wife, Stace, the most important is that I don’t deserve the best things that I have in my life.  She, like the rest of the best, is a gift from God.

I am privileged to walk through life with her — I wouldn’t want to walk it without her.  I am privileged for the women (and men) who have gone before us on this road.  And I am excited to see those who are coming behind us with their own adventures.

Me and Stace walking awayAs this series concludes, my hope for myself and all who read it is that it will simply serve as an ongoing reminder that we, like the rest of the world, are not worthy of their faithfulness, their strength, or their inspiration.  And because we don’t deserve it, we will remain forever grateful. 

 

The Fiction of Peace

Stace HawaiiAbout today’s author:
Stacy Bender derives her earthly joy from three earthly areas: her family, her friends, and her work.  Though she could probably have hobbies, she would rather connect other people to what makes them tick.  Her current claim to fame is living in a 1965 airstream trailer at least part of the last year. For a couple of years, Stacy blogged daily (click here to read all about her racing mind).  In the past few years, she has blogged once every so often. 

You can read more about how Stacy has influenced Kerry’s life as his wife and friend, and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading tomorrow’s final post in the series “Celebrating Women.”

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If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
-Romans 12:18 (ESV)

Biff and Momsiah and momIf you look at my public Facebook feed, you will see a lot of smiles on it.  The biggest smiles most recently have been in some live videos with my daughter (who authored the post a couple of days ago) and with my son after the closing of his recent on stage performance of The Amish Project at Baylor University.

I do not smile all of the time.  

In fact, every year that goes by shows more wrinkles on my forehead from the “Stacy Scowl” that often contorts my face to represent the ugliness that resides in my heart.  I harbor resentments, I want to be right – or at least seen as someone who can find out what is right, and I lack trust in others to watch out for me.

Who knows where this comes from?

Research could probably point to a number of different “risk factors” in my life, but I want to be clear that, given how many people seem to have risk factors,  I see it more as “normal dysfunction” in my life: a lot of fun stories, a few laughs, and a lot of tears.  Side note: I like the concept of “normal dysfunction.” I just coined it; maybe there is other research out there that has already coined it, but it’s the first time I have written it in a published work .

Of course, research has its place.  We could measure my cortisol (stress hormone) level to see how it differs when I am with people I trust versus those who have hurt me in the past.  We could create charts, graphs, and pretty images to depict how everyone else is responsible for my feelings.

And that could feel good – giving everyone else the responsibility and weight of my feelings.  

In the words from a recurring line in The Amish Project, “Am I right?”

Of course, I’m right.  You responsible for me takes away the responsibility from me for me…and for you…and for anything.  I can blame you for all of my problems, I can feel better, I can avoid you, and I can talk about you in counseling office, in prayer concern time at Bible study, and in passive-aggressive story-telling at a favorite coffee shop.  Everyone will sympathize with me, they all will feel better about unloading their stories, and they probably will feel fine talking about me when I’m not there.

“Am I right?”

Sarcasm.

All of this is sarcasm.

And it makes us feel better.  We internalize it.  We believe it.  We live it.

Until it doesn’t feel good at all.  

Until I have to look at myself in the mirror and realize that the broken relationships in my life have one common denominator – me.

The fiction of peace is that you can give it to me or that I can give it to you.  

We do this thing in liturgical churches – we extend the peace to one another.  But it only works if I extend peace to you while you are extending peace to me.  You cannot give me peace while I hold onto peace and not extend it to you.  You can extend it, I can extend it, but – without a recipient – there is only a fiction.  Peace hangs in between us and begs us to accept from one another as we extend it to one another.

And actually – isn’t that the truth?  That peace hangs…or at least hung…on a cross…

Romans 12:16 is not a stand-alone verse.  We come to this verse after a lengthy discussion of what sacrifice is and what love is.  The bottom line is that love and peace and sacrifice are not concepts but rather a person.  When God sent Jesus, heaven came to earth.  Jesus brought peace in the form of a living breathing person who because a dying sacrifice who conquered death – an our lack of peacefulness – in the day of Easter.

The fiction of peace is that we are extending something to each other.

When we share the peace with one another in a liturgical church setting, we are not extending our peace with one another.  We extend the peace of Christ – God himself – to one another.  This becomes less about us and all about what God has done and is doing in the world.  Romans 12:3-15 describe what it looks like to be the church in action  – to be Christ’s peace to one another.

I am not saying that allow ourselves to be doormats.  Boundaries are healthy.  Toxic relationships should be handled with care.  We should make wise choices about how we relate to those who have deeply hurt us.

More often than not, though, we use this as an excuse to harbor resentment, to put up walls in relationships where bridges should be built, and to create havoc in the lives of others because of our choice to withhold peace from them

Kerry asked me to write about “being a wife” and what that means.  Being a wife means to be someone who is willing to live at peace to the extent that it depends on me by relying on the One who is peace to be the peace I bring to my relationships. To be clear: I have not perfected this concept of peace in all of my relationships.  There is still plenty of work to be done.

So…let’s get to work, shall we? Together.  Let’s all be peacemakers in our hearts, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our country, and in our world.

ps: You can bring this concept to your Facebook feed…smile!Stace Waterfalls

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Women Through the Ages

me and beth zoo
Beth and Me at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, ND, (I picked the picture!)

About today’s author:  Elizabeth Bender is a junior at Baylor University studying Medical Humanities and Child and Family Studies.  She hopes to become a certified Child Life Specialist after graduation. She enjoys reading, watching movies, sleeping, and spending time with friends. Previously, her writing has been featured in Wherever” – a devotional book published by Village Creek Bible Camp and on a church Lenten blog.  You can read that post by clicking on “Fasting from Fear.”

You can read more about how Elizabeth has influenced Kerry’s life as his daughter and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “My Daughter Taught me to Speak.

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I appreciate that I grew up with parents who encouraged me to seek out knowledge. They encouraged my passions as well as my random interests. The academic program I am a part of at Baylor University also encourages its students to take a wide range of classes both inside and outside their area of study.

During my fall semester of 2015, I had the opportunity to take Christian Heritage with Dr. Rosalie Beck, a required course. While it was a requirement, I enjoyed taking this course and learning more about the history of my faith tradition. I believe this course enriched my faith as well as my understanding of Christian history. I loved the way Dr. Beck set up the course and her obvious passion for the topic. Therefore, the following fall semester, I registered for Dr. Beck’s course “Women in Christian History.”

I registered for this course not just because of how much I enjoyed Dr. Beck’s other course but because the topic interested me. The course focused on the role of women throughout Christian history. It explored Christianity’s view towards women and how that view has morphed over time.

For the majority of history, women’s sphere of influence was limited to the home. Women, however, maintained control and heavy impact within their sphere. They were took on the role of spiritual heads of their families. Throughout history, mothers instructed their children and often their husbands as well in spiritual matters. Women held spiritual well-being of a family upon their shoulders. With the growth of Christianity in the early centuries, women continued to wield significant spiritual influence in families.

There are countless men (i.e. St. Augustine, Basil of Caesarea; John and Charles Wesley; etc.) whose lives and impact on Christianity are owed to the influence of their mothers, sisters, and female friends.

Christian women used their sphere of influence, whatever it was, to impact the course of Christianity and the world. Later, as women’s sphere broadened, they continued to influence their families and considered their community an extension of families. Later still, women impacted the culture at large and gained respect to be recognized for their influence.

Here are my three takeaways from the overall course:

1. Women have taken both background and prominent roles throughout Christian history; whether in the background or the forefront, women ALWAYS worked with passion and conviction! Some were culturally respected in their call for change and others approached change counter-culturally courageously speaking in the face of opposition.  And sometimes, just like today, women stood on opposite sides of issues. Regardless of how women approached their role, the current state of Christianity, and the world as a whole, today would be different if those that spoke out had chosen to remain silent. May we listen to the women around us and integrate their voices into our discussions and approaches to change, and may we as women have the courage to speak.

2. Women fighting for equal rights within society often set their desires aside to assist in making change in respect to other issues. Specific examples of this within the United States include women’s involvement in the Temperance Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Women chose to fight not only for their own rights but for other inequalities and injustices, at times sacrificing their own rights in doing so.

3. Whenever you define or characterize one group, you automatically define or characterize the other group. Specifically in this course we discussed whenever you define woman, you also define man. Likewise whenever you define man, you define woman. I am not arguing that this is negative, but I am arguing that we can not be passive “definers.” These definitions, either explicit or implicit, can have the unintended consequence of limiting or restricting someone.  May we recognize that our words have greater meaning and power than we know. May we make space for the ‘other’ to define themselves. May we use our voices to characterize the voiceless with justice and with love.

In addition throughout the course, I learned about a variety of women.  Some of my favorites you may want to investigate include:

  • St. Teresa of Avila (I also read her book The Interior Castle and I highly recommend.) 
  • Phoebe Palmer
  • Katharina von Bora
  • Sarah Grimke
  • Perpetua and Felicitas
  • And many others!

I enjoyed hearing their stories and the impact they had on Christianity during their time and into the future. I am thankful to those whose stories are told and recognize that there are countless stories of women who remain hidden in history; I am thankful for their providing me examples of strong women.

I hope you take some time to investigate for yourself women in Christian history who have changed the course of history.  I hope that you will take some time to consider the women that have changed your own story, your own history. 

I hope you consider what type of Christian woman you want to be and what type of Christian woman you want your daughters, wives, and friends to be. What impact can you have on the church’s view of women and how can you shape the world’s view of women?

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

My Daughter Taught me to Speak

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  
–1 Corinthians 13:1

Family
Our Family in 2000 (Beth is the mature one with her tongue sticking out!)

Elizabeth Kathleen Bender was born on January 24, 1996, four weeks to the day before she was due and years before her mother and I had planned.

She continues to be one of the greatest joys of my life!

Even in her arrival, Beth was teaching me.  Her first lesson for me was that God’s timing is always more perfect than our own.

It’s almost impossible for me to believe that she is 21 years old now, and she continues to teach me in ways that I never imagined.

Of all the lessons that my daughter has taught me, however, it is her generosity that challenges, inspires, and teaches me the most. 

Though she struggles with a medical condition that saps her of strength and energy, she does not hesitate to help others or even to avoid burdening them with the details of her struggles.  In so many ways, she often is putting the needs of others before hers.

It is in the application of her convictions, however, that I am most challenged by her generosity.  Beth has strong Biblical convictions. The types of convictions that often place people at odds with one another.

But even those that would disagree with Beth most vehemently cannot argue or rail against her sincere compassion, against her generous orthodoxy, against a love that comes from her faith in One that taught us to love by laying down His life for her, for me, for you.

It always surprises me that in many ways Beth’s convictions are as strong and even stronger than mine – yet Beth is not interested in winning fights, or arguments, or debates. She is interested in winning friends, colleagues, and hearts.  She does this without compromise or surrender; she does it with a language shown to us by God, expounded by Paul, and lived – not just spoken – by any who would follow Christ.

Too often my own convictions are like a clanging cymbal – an annoyance not a comfort.  It seems that we live in a world where this is true of a growing number of people. But Beth continues to speak into this cacophony of noise with actions of love and generosity; she continues to teach me how to speak with the language of God.  Thank you, Biffer!

I’ve asked Beth to write tomorrow’s post concerning a class that she took at Baylor University last semester.  I trust that you will be blessed by her words.  But it will be in meeting her, if you ever have the privilege to do so, that you will learn the most from her and be the most blessed by the woman God has made her to be.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Church Yesterday

Jesus-Feminist-insta
image from Sarah Bessey’s site, “instagram credit @kenberd”

I had the privilege of hearing Sarah Bessey preach yesterday at UBC (University Baptist Church) in Waco, TX.  As of yesterday, I didn’t know about Sarah, but since the message yesterday, I have read several of her blog posts and am looking forward to reading her book, Jesus Feminist.

It’s pretty clear that Sarah and I wouldn’t agree about everything; that being said, isn’t that true about everyone?

After hearing her preach and reading several of her blog posts, I wanted to include her in this series “Celebrating Women” for International Women’s Month (only 4 more days after today!).

The main reason I want to include her is because I have been trying to put words to a thought that has been stuck in my head.  I have been wanting to describe:

  • that one can be both authentically Christian and a feminist (whether you are a man or a woman),
  • that you don’t have to be a feminist inspite of your Christian convictions, but that you should be a feminist because of your Christian convictions,
  • that some who proclaim the themselves mostly loudly as Christians and feminists do things that embarrass me as a Christian and feminist, and
  • that I feel both of these terms, Christian and feminist, have been hijacked, but that I am unwilling to give either of them up!

In Sarah, I found someone that for years has been putting words to feelings and thoughts that I have been having for years.  Therefore, today’s post simply points to a blog post that she wrote earlier this year.  I hope you enjoy it, I hope it challenges you, and I hope to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Even though I have only known about Sarah for a short time, she is one of the women for whom I am thankful.   Who deserves to be celebrated whether you are a Christian or feminist — or if you have the good fortune of realizing that you are both.

Here is the post:  “On Being a Christian and a Feminist:  And Belonging Nowhere.”

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”