Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Belated thoughts on Mother's Day

I'm thankful that I can look and my mom and know that she is an amazing woman. I can see her for all the sacrifices she made for me, the knowledge she passed along, and the love that continues to show me in her own way. I haven't always been able to do that. I have often focused on the pains in our relationship. More often than not, I have overlooked the times that she went above and beyond to care for me. Instead, I saw the occassions she let me down, or hurt me. Now, as I'm getting older I can

I sat in chapel today as one of the "higher ups" gave a belated talk on Mothers Day. As a not so unexpected surprise, he spoke about the Proverbs 31 woman, and even compared a mother's love to 1 Corinthians 13. Most of us oooed and ahhed at the right times as he went through the outstanding characteristics of our mothers, and gave examples of how mothers exude patience, protection and a hardworking spirit. However, at our tables, we also bemused ourselves with times our motherly parental unit missed the mark on those biblical standards (think for a moment about the phrase "keeps no records of wrongs"). Don't get me wrong I love my mom (regardless of our struggles), and I'm sure most of us the room did too, but can I be so bold as to say, perhaps we expect too much? I can't help but think of two ways that lining up our mothers against the standards of Proverbs 31 of 1 Corinthians 13 can negitively effect both mother and child.

As a woman, and hopefully a mother in the future, Proverbs 31 personally makes me want to crawl into a hole. Ok that's a little strong, but let me explain. I struggle to set reasonable expectations for myself. In other words, I can be somewhat of a perfectionist in certain areas of my life. That long list of duties, turned expectations, often feels like a ball and chain. By the time it gets down to verse 30, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I am so overwhelmed, I can hardly see the redemption of knowing that at least I have that whole "fearing the Lord" down for the most part. I feel a little less intimidated by this whole talk of love... I like to love, and I enjoy the idea that God comes along side us and shows us how to love. Still, I know that as I go through that list, I am sure to have short comings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

love and commitment

(wrote this 4/29/08)

I went for a walk on the bluffs of Pacifica this past Friday. I didn't particularily want to spend all that much time by myself but I was bound and determined to get a nice hike in. Honestly though, it was probably best that I had a bit of time to reflect and just enjoy the awe inspiring wonder of Northern California. As I listened to Matisyahu (my favorite Hassidic Jewish Reggae/Rapper) and contemplated Jesus, I was overcome by a sense of love. I am in love with Jesus. Not just a small crush, or high school romance. I love Him. I want to understand His every move, His culture, His family. I want to know Him better than I know my friends and family. This isn't necessarily the first time I've felt this way, but I think it's the first time I really looked at the disconnect between how I feel about Jesus, and the lip service I give Him.

This issue...
As much as I love Jesus, I am rediculously lame when it comes to engaging in that relationship on a reading and prayer level. I lack commitment in the worst possible way, oh and discipline. I look for anyother way to get my hands dirty with the Lord's work. Lay Ministry, Biblestudy, Youth work, outreach, giving... anything that gets me engaged with people and engaged with what Jesus did during his time on Earth. Sit me down with a Bible and two hours of silence and I will squirm around like a Kindergardener who needs to pee. I will honestly spend more time finding the intriquecies of the corner of a wall, than talking to my God, or reading about His people. Tell me nothing is sick and twisted about that??

I don't think I'm alone in this paradox

Quick update

I'll probably continue my little journey of my thoughts on women in ministry at a later date. I was feeling a little pressured to come up with a well thought out analytical paper on the subject, and that pressure made it really hard just to write my thoughts down. Not to mention, I had a few things I wanted to write about, but I hate leaving things half done. All that said, I'm shifting gears a bit.

This week is my last week in San Francisco until August. As I type this, the reality of the next few months is still surreal. I haven't quite figured out if I just can't tap into how I truly feel about all the changes in my life, or if I'm actually at peace with the whole thing. Believe me, I've most definitly had my moments of panic and fear, but the past couple of weeks have been eriely calm on the emotion front, and dare I say cheery. I think I'm going to stick with the idea that God has supernaturally circumvented my normal anxiety feedback loop and has replaced it with a deep sense of peace. Amidst the peace, however, I am really busy, and I'm wishing that I had planned this past Friday as my last day of work. In between a high school graduation ceremony, band concert, and soccer game, I'll be spending every moment outside of work packing, cleaning and catching up with friends.

All of this said, I may not be able to follow through with all that I'd like to blog about.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Women in leadership (part 2)

I might have intended to go in a different direction with what I posted yesterday, but I had ended up having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine last night.

I'm wondering if some women even recogize that in their church they might not be considered for certain leadership roles, not because they don't have the aproppriate giftings or skills but merely because they are a woman?

A friend of mine was explaining a weird dynamic that's been happening between the church leadership and her role as a ministry co-leader. More recently, she had been having some difficulty with her co-leader who had been upset that she had not cleared an informal group get-togther. The activity had been discussed as a group while everyone was present (including her co-leader) and she took the intiative to follow up and get the details on paper. She was sincerely confused as what she had done wrong, they were co-leaders. From what I can gather her co-leader felt that she should have asked his permission to send out invitation, and the pastor asked if she was specifially "tasked" to do so.

My friend, was confused mainly, because had she have done the same thing at work - taking the initative and scheduling the get-together - she wouldn't have met any opposition, in fact she might have been praised for her initative. Yet, at church she can't figure out why this, what seems to her, "weird dynamic" occured.

We discussed the structure of the ministry she was involved in, and her official role and expectations, and there seemed to be a disonance in some of it. While she was expected to be a leader with equal leadership, and duties, she felt she was being discouraged in taking the initative in more than one occasion. She also felt this underlying expecation of continually clearing thing over with her co-leader, but the same was not expected from him. The list goes on.

I had asked at one point if maybe her co-leader was intimidated at all by her. She mentioned that someone else had asked the same thing, but she wasn't sure why he would be intimidated. Then I finally asked what I had wanted to ask for most of the conversation. Did she consider the possibility that it might have to do with being a woman in leadership? Turns out that it hadn't even crossed her mind! I asked a bit about her church leadership (outside of the ministry she was co-leading in) and what roles women had and such. Honestly I don't think she had ever sat back and questioned any gender relations in the church. She grew up nominally but had become "committed" several years ago, but she never thought anything of the gender dynamics of a church. I almost felt bad for bringing the topic up. Now she must start wrestling with the some of the same questions I've been confronted with in my own life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

women in leadership (most likely part 1)

Google Reader is a Godsend. Just thought I should start out with that, because had I not finally given into trying it out, I may never have found a community of bloggers that think and write about the things I have such a hard time putting into words.

Yesterday I found Janell Paris' blog discussing her thoughts on women in leadership in the emerging church discussion. Well that's my very broad synopsis on the post, and I probably give it very little justice so you should probably just read it for yourself here.

Lately I've found myself wrestling with all that is women and their role in the church. Not that I haven't always questioned the existence (or lack there of) of a female presence in church leadership, but as I grow in my relationship with God and do my best to discern His Will for my life I can't help but struggle with feeling limited. Most of the limitations are mental, and have much more to do with where I'm at spiritually and emotionally, but I do need to acknowledge that some of these limitations come from the cultural context of a male dominated (patriarchal) society.

As far as where I've stood in the past with women in leadership in the church, I've pretty much held every view, and I'm still trying to figure out what on earth I think. My current stance on the issue has been greatly influenced by my amazingly liberal and secular schooling from San Francisco State University.... the (sadly unrecognized) birth place of many a protest and social/educational movements, as well as my current involvement with The Salvation Army (seen by most, who actually know it as a denomination, as a place that is accepting and even encouraging of women leadership). I suppose you could say that my schooling primed me for relearning that women are capable leaders, and The Salvation Army showed how that could be done in the church. The Army also revealed that, while women can be accepted as leadership, it's a hard road to travel down, and you continually have to push to have equal footing. That pushing often results in undeserved stress and backlash - I have a feeling this applies to most settings, not simply in the settings I've seen it in.

My most current round of conversations on women in leadership have been with a good friend of mine, Matt. We happened to be co-leaders for an InterVarsity Bible study during college, and he is now engaged to a friend of mine. Surprisingly, the topic of women in leadership didn't come up until last fall when I visited his church's young adult group with Emily (his fiance). Turns out they were going through the book of 1 Timothy, and not by anything but divine appointment it happened to be the week they were talking about Chapter 2. While the person speaking had managed to sidestep the hot button verse, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." By focusing the lesson on men needing to step up (frankly I was a little miffed because the whole thing was directed to the male audience when the majority of his audience was women). Needless to say the first thing I asked Emily (Matt's fiance) after the closing prayer was "Where does Matt stand on all of this?" Emily was raised in the Lutheran church so women in leadership was normal for her. She assured me that Matt was open to women on leadership... and so began the conversation.

Over lunch last weekend, I caught Matt up to speed with all the changes in my life. I expressed how much discouragement and condemnation I had felt and received, much of which had ultimately pushed me to make the decision to leave my current church. None of the discouragement I had felt, at face value had to do with being a woman, but I think some of it might have been rooted there. He shared with me his frustration at people in the church not encouraging each other out of fear that the person receiving encouragement might become prideful. He also said something along the lines of women getting an even shorter end of the stick in regards to encouragement, because in so many settings, their roles are restricted. We mutually agreed that it was our responsibility to continually encourage others and let them decided whether they should be prideful about it. I know that I left lunch that afternoon, feeling lighter than I had coming into it.

To Be Continued...

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm swimming inside of my head

I haven't really had a chance to verbally process all the thoughts that are going through my head, so it might be unwise to simply flush them out in the form of a blog at this present time. So I'm going to attempt to breifly throw a few things on to paper (so to speak), with the hope that I can write more on them later.

So far I blame Google Reader, Brian McLaren, my friend Matt, and my break up with the church for the onslaught of theological ramblings that have taken room in my, already cluttered, mind.

Thoughts on why we are so obsessed with labeling and naming everything, and how that effects us today. (isms and scisms)

  • Language development
  • Adam labels the animals
  • Biblical times religious legalism meets Jesus
  • Modern religious practices and mentalities forget Jesus

Finding the balance between structure and unstructuredness (did you know there's no antonym for structure???). My desire for structure meets my desire for more freedom. Why I can't stay in a box but keep looking for one to live in.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Yesterday I prayed and the list of decisions

Back in October, the 29th to be precise I posted in my xanga "Yesterday I prayed.... and now I'm confused."

I can't remember exactly what I prayed about but it must have got me thinking because all of a sudden I decided that I wanted to go to Michigan in December and visit camp (I'm sure it's in one of my journals). This must have been my rash decision I made near the end of the year which prompted me to not make any decisions until December 5th (the day I got back from my weekend trip to MI. In my absence, my coworkers drafted a list of decisions that I should make once I came back. The day I returned they handed me this list in all it's glory. Well somehow it resurfaced yesterday and I thought I should post it. In hindsight some of the list is a bit amusing (at least to me, but maybe not to anyone else since most of it has to do with what's going on in my own little world).

Leya's life-altering list... [decisions to make]

1. Become an Officer [Salvation Army pastor]
2. Journey to the holy lands
3. Adopt a family [a Christmas program with The Salvation Army]
4. Become a big sister
5. Volunteer every night at a different corps [Salvation Army church] to assist with kettles
6. Get married and settle down
7. Join a cult (see No. 1)
8. Become a vegan [was for a short time]
9. Become a youth pastor at lighthouse [my now, old church]
10. Embrace a life of vagrancy and travel the world, helping those in need [honestly, I'd love to do that]
11. Dedicate your life to curing cancer
12. Become a pop star
13. Avenge the death of someone
14.Move to Texas and become an oil Baron[ness]
15. Spend 5 minutes every day making a down syndrome child smile

So there you have it the list that my friend from work came up with while I was off trying to figure out how to get Michigan out of my mind. Yeah, I guess that didn't work.