The one about a third option (Jesus Feminist Study pt 2)

This is the second part of an ongoing series delving into Sarah Bessey’s book “Jesus Feminst”. The first part can be found here.

There is a pretty common phrase that says “there are two sides to every story, and then there is the truth.” The point of this thought is rooted in communication theory. People are not deliberately lying, they genuinely believe the truth of whatever it is that they are saying. But, their perspective is always going to be a little skewed toward making themselves look as good as possible. The truth usually lies somewhere in between the two perspectives. I was thinking about this while reading chapter two in Jesus Feminist. Bessey writes that she has received wisdom and insight from both egalitarians as well as complementarians.(p.24)) If you have never heard of these terms, a quick GENERAL definition will be needed. (Please, I don’t want to get into a debate about these terms so these will be very BASIC)   Carolyn Custis James in her book Half The Church defines these terms as follows.

Egalitarians: “believe that leadership is not determined by gender but by the gifting and calling of the Holy Spirit, and that God calls all believers to submit to one another.”

Complementarians: “believe that the Bible establishes male authority over women making male leadership the biblical standard.” (p.154)

I’m not here to get into a debate between these two schools of thought. And neither is Bessey thankfully. Instead she states her purpose as wanting “to take a step out of those debates, to pursue a third way; a redemptive way.” (p. 25) She goes on,

“God has a global dream for his daughters and his sons, and it is bigger than our narrow interpretations or small box constructions of ‘biblical manhood and womanhood’ or feminism; it’s bigger than our frozen-in-time arguments or cultural biases, bigger than socioeconomics (or the lack thereof), bigger than all of us-bigger than any one of us.” (p.25)

This brings me back to the opening quote. We limit ourselves when we act like there are only two ways to put God’s word into practice; by either letting women take on major leadership roles, or not. While we are busying arguing for one side or the other, God is standing in front of us pointing to the third option. It’s the path that we can’t see because right now we “see through a glass darkly” and God is waiting to bring us face to face with him. So until we are living in eternity and fully understand the message of God and how best to put that message into practice, what do we do in our daily earthly lives? I believe that God doesn’t wait for perfection in order to move and transform the world, and so does Bessey. Instead he “works with whom he’s got and with what we’ve got-all to bring about his purposes.” (p. 26)

The world we live in is broken. We can sense that brokenness and we long for something to come into that brokenness and help us. God’s solution is called redemption and it is a powerful thing. Each Sunday when my pastor prays over those who are making a decision to follow Jesus for the first time I get chills up and down my spine. God’s redemptive grace is so amazing and overwhelming that it never ceases to amaze me.

Bessey talks about how in Scripture we see a redemptive movement of the Spirit in operation and often it is practiced by Jesus himself. She writes that ” Jesus would teach or quote a portion of the Law and then move us forward from our current place toward God’s original intent.”(p.27) The example she uses to drive this point home is Jesus taking the “eye for an eye” accepted law and telling us to instead “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” As Bessey says “God is both here with us, and ahead moving us onward to fullness.“(p.27) I love this thought so much. God loves me and accepts me for who I am right in this very moment, no questions asked. And yet, he is not content that I should stay where I am at this exact moment. Instead he gently moves me forward in a redemptive move toward himself. Powerful.

What Sarah Bessey is doing in this chapter is very subtle. She is showing how Jesus worked within the paradigm he was given and yet at the same time was always shifting the paradigm slightly. She also gives a few examples of how the church has done this same thing and it easy to move from this thought and see that she is also commenting on certain interpretations of Scripture that seem to prohibit women in leadership. Bessey first brings up slavery and how for hundreds of years many Christians understood any Scriptural reference to masters and slaves to imply that slavery was both biblical and right. However Christians of today would almost universally say that what God wants for humanity is justice for the oppressed, not slavery. (p.28) So what happened? I’ll let Sarah elaborate.

“The church eventually moved to the forefront of abolition because it understood this truth: just because the Bible contained instructions about how to treat slaves in a context and culture where it was acceptable to hold slaves does not mean that slavery is a godly practice or part of God’s intended purpose for creation.” (p.28)

Today, not only do Christians oppose the slavery that occurred in the past, but they actively fight modern day slavery. Bessey mentions one of my favorite pastors, Christine Caine, and her organization The A21 campaign which fights human trafficking. Chris Caine is a dynamic speaker and her heart for slaves around the world is awe inspiring and humbles me greatly. She is doing great work and she’s doing it because she believes in the redemptive plan of God that wishes to free all people from oppression. But as Bessey points out, “all this battling to eradicate human trafficking happens despite the fact that there is actually no specific verse in Scripture that prohibits the buying and selling of human beings.” (p.29)

This reiterates a thought I’ve had for awhile now. The Bible is the inspired word of God and I believe it’s message and teaching is infallible. I also believe that human beings are extremely fallible. When the Bible doesn’t make sense I don’t question the Bible. Instead, I question the way I’m reading it; the cultural biases, the beginner theology, the personal biases I’m bringing to the text. This doesn’t just happen on personal level. The Church as an organization is extremely fallible and sometimes we put our stamp of approval on things that future generations look back on and shake their heads in dismay. I think of Rachel Held Evans in her book Evolving in Monkey Town. In the introduction she talks about the things we hold tightly in our hands and how sometimes we hold them so tightly we crush the real truth out of them. When 21st century Christians look back at Civil War era Christians that vehemently spoke out in favor of slavery, we shake our heads. They held too tightly to something that ended being incorrect. I wonder what future generations will shake their heads about when they look back at my era of faith? It isn’t wrong to hold beliefs. I just need to hold them loosely with my hands open ready for my Savior to take them out if he so chooses. What am I holding too tightly?

Bessey closes the chapter with what I’ve taken up as a reiteration of the calling I’ve often felt on my life.

“As a Jesus feminist, I believe that we are part of the trajectory of the redemption story for women in our churches, in our homes, in our marriages, in our parenting, in our friendships, and in our public lives. This trajectory impacts the story of humanity.” (p.30)

I can’t wait to see what his plan has for me next.

What about you? How do you see God’s redemptive movement in your own life? Are there other examples of The Church in the past holding tightly to something that we now have let go? Is there something you wish the church would hold less tightly?


The one about Christmas Music

I am usually one of those people who gets annoyed at how every year Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier. I love Thanksgiving, I really do. So why the entry on Christmas music before Thanksgiving has even happened? Well, my laptop’s motherboard fried about two months ago. It all comes together just wait. So, the internal hard drive on my laptop was not harmed (thank goodness) which means I didn’t lose every piece of information on that laptop. Because a very generous friend lent me the use of her old laptop I decided my first priority was to buy an external hard drive so in case something like this every happens again I will be prepared. I wasn’t too worried about a time frame with regard to moving data from the internal to external hard drive; until November began and people started talking about Christmas music. All of a sudden I realized, my Christmas music was sitting on that internal hard drive and there was no way for me to access it until I moved it all to an external drive! Needless to say I went online very quickly to purchase said hard drive, and thanks to another good friend, by next week I should be able to have access to all of my Christmas music. Priorities people, priorities!

All of this was to say that Christmas music has been on my mind recently. If you celebrate Christmas you know that certain songs and even certain albums become indelibly linked to the holiday. I decided to share some of my favorite Christmas albums, and I decided to do it pre Thanksgiving so that if my readers notice any gaps in their own collection they have plenty of time to stock up before December 1. Before I get started I want to say that I will be unable to go into great detail on 6 of my favorite Christmas albums as they are mixes that I cannot locate until my music is restored to me. The 6 albums were made by one of my closest friends, Heather Strange. Heather and I met in college and right before winter break junior year she made all of her friends a mix entitled “A Strange Christmas”. Heather has really great and eclectic take in music so I was always happy to receive a mix from her. But these mixes were even more special. She has made them for me every year since then and I credit her mixes with being part of the reason why I never get sick of Christmas music. The songs she picked were so different and interesting and so outside of the mainstream that it really does cure Christmas music fatigue. This entry would not be complete with a mention of those albums, and once I have access to them again I will be editing this entry with links to them so that everyone can enjoy the riches I’ve been enjoying every year since I got my first mix. (November 11: Good news! I my Christmas music back! Scroll to the end of the entry to see Heather’s songs!) Now, without further introduction; my favorite Christmas albums.

sandipattyI’m starting with pure nostalgia albums. These are albums that may not hold up super well (although I think most of mine do), and they may not appeal to every person that reads this. That’s fine and in fact almost deliberate. I love this album not because of Sandi Patty’s incredible soprano voice and ability to hold notes past the point when normal people need to breath. I love this album because listening to it brings me back to being a very small child in my family’s tiny living room in Rancocas Woods. It also brings back memories of Christmas Eve services where a few of the songs on this album were always in the program; “Bethlehem Morning”, “The Gift Goes On”, “Worship the King” etc. As discussed before I am a person with hardly any childhood memories, but my memories of Christmas have always been the most clear in my mind. I have to believe that part of that comes from music like this being so ingrained in my brain that memories were stored along with it.

amgrantOh Amy Grant. You were Christian Music’s darling, then you weren’t, then you were again…I think? It’s hard to keep track. All I know is that this album is another that is inextricably tied to my childhood. I know “Breathe of Heaven “ is super overdone in churches now, but that doesn’t diminish how beautiful it is. As a kid I always loved this album because it had variety, which in my mind meant both fast AND slow songs. For some Brenda Lee’s version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is the definitive version, for me it’s Amy Grant’s. Another reason I loved this album was because I could sing along with it in the written key. Go Alto Ladies! Even now Christmas Eve is not complete until I listen to her song “The Night Before Christmas.” (One of the few songs with children on it that doesn’t sound creepy.)

mannheim2Mannheim Steamroller has put out other Christmas albums, but these two are my favorites. If I had to pick only one artist to listen to over Christmas it would be Mannheim Steamroller. These albums more than any other transfer me to a very specific time and mannheimplace when I hear them. We had a very scratchy green rug in the living room of the house where I grew up. We also had a small woodstove fireplace where we hung our stockings which alternated red and white stripes and green and white stripes. When I hear these albums I can feel that scratchy rug under my elbows as a I lay on my stomach, chin propped in my hands feeling the heat of the fire and looking at the lights on our tree. It isn’t Christmas without Mannheim Steamroller.

carpentersTalk about rocking alto ladies, and you have to mention Karen Carpenter. Her voice can only be described in chocolate terms; rich, dark, and creamy. This album is both of The Carpenter’s Christmas albums combined for extra cheer. I can’t decide which tracks I love more; “Merry Christmas Darling”, “Christ is Born”, “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays”, I can’t decide! So instead of deciding I just play it all the way through over and over again. Karen’s story has a sad ending which makes listening to her voice very bittersweet, but I like a little bit of bittersweetness in my holiday cheer. It makes me appreciate the good times even more.

charliebrownAny list of great Christmas albums is incomplete without this one. Talk about childhood! Is there anything sweeter than the little voices on “Christmastime is Here”? Jazz and Christmas are forever linked thanks to this album. There isn’t much else to say about this album except I put it on and instantly smile. Pretty good review.

relientkI was a fan of Relient K before this album came out. Their ska, pop punk sound was high school me’s jam. So when they put out a Christmas album I was of course stoked. It’s a mix of classic songs done with a Relient K twist, and silly originals by the kings of silly originals. This album makes me smile. Also, “I Celebrate the Day” is one of the most amazing original Christmas songs ever. This album can be summed up as: a creative, fun, original twists on old favorites both in song and idea. Get it. It’s amazing.

sufjan 1I found this man’s music thanks to Heather and her Christmas mixes. After I noticed that her first one had 5 or 6 songs from Sufjan, I determined to just buy the whole 42 song album. Sufjan Stevens is orginal and one of the most interesting musicians I’ve ever listened to. What I love about this album is his reverence for old Biblical hymns, verses, and carols combined with his ability to do something very outside the box musically with them. Some of the songs on here are only a few minutes in length, but all of them pack a punch. And before you leave me a comment yes I know he put out a new Christmas album in 2012 called “Silver and Gold” also full of songs. I purchased the album last year right before Christmas so I really didn’t get a chance to listen to it very much before the season ended. However, I am confident that after this year that album will also become one of my favorites. The amount of songs on this album can be overwhelming, but I would highly recommend listening to all the versions of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The latter is particuarly breathtaking.

michaelbubleWhen I saw this album was coming out last year I knew it would be one of my favorites. Michael Buble’s voice was made for Christmas standards. Despite one clunker of a number (“Santa Buddy” anyone?) the album is really great and hearkens back to a good old fashioned Christmas in the style of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Nat King Cole.

So there you have it! My favorite Christmas albums. Please keep in mind this was a not a list of my favorite Christmas songs because of course that list would be MUCH longer. But these are albums that I listen to every track and love them all. What about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas album that wasn’t mentioned on the list? Share it in comments! I’m always looking for more Christmas music.

Here are Heather’s mixes she made me! Some songs appear on more than mix so I only put them down when they first appeared. All songs can be found on iTunes or wherever you download music!

A Strange Christmas”

  1. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas- Relient K
  2. 2,000 Miles- KT Turnstall
  3. I Saw Three Ships- Sufjan Stevens
  4. Get Behind Me, Santa!- Sufjan Stevens
  5. Baby It’s Cold Outside-Leigh Nash & Gabe Dixon
  6. Give A Little Love: Rilo Kiley
  7. It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!- Sufjan Stevens
  8. Carol Of The Bells- The Bird and The Bee
  9. The Friendly Beasts- Sufjan Stevens
  10. Fairytale of New York- KT Turnstall
  11. All That I Want- The Weepies
  12. Maybe This Christmas- Leigh Nash
  13. Mistletoe- Colbie Caillat
  14. In Like A Lion- Relient K
  15. Last Christmas- Jimmy Eat World
  16. Filled With Your Glory- Starfield
  17. Holy, Holy, Holy- Sufjan Stevens
  18. Eternal Gifts- Leigh Nash
  19. That Was The Worst Christmas Ever- Sufjan Stevens
  20. Star Mile- Joshua Radin
  21. Boxing Day- Relient K

Merry Little Christmas

  1. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year- Andy Williams
  2. Sleigh Ride- KT Turnstall
  3. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm- Frank Sinatra
  4. Donde Esta Santa Clause- Guster
  5. 12 Days Of Christmas- Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
  6. Pocket Full Of Miracles- Frank Sinatra
  7. Once In Royal David’s City- Sufjan Stevens
  8. Angels We Have Heard On High- Sixpence None The Richer
  9. That’s All I Want For Christmas- Jessie Baylin
  10. The Christmas Song- Catherine Feeney
  11. I’ll Be Home For Christmas- Mindy Smith
  12. The First Noel- Bing Crosby
  13. Lo! How A Rose E’re Blooming: Sufjan Stevens
  14. Silent Night/Away In A Manger- Relient K
  15. Awake My Soul- Sandra McCracken
  16. Here With Us- Joy Williams
  17. Love Never Fails- Brandon Heath
  18. I Celebrate The Day- Relient K
  19. I Know The Reason- Mindy Smith
  20. Auld Lang Syne- Various Artists (from the album “Winter Songs)
  21. Hallelujahs- Chris Rice

Christmas 2010

  1. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (Remix)- Andy Williams
  2. White Christmas: Pink Martini
  3. Get Down For The Holidays- Jenny O.
  4. Little Road To Bethlehem- Shawn Colvin
  5. O Holy Night- Sara Groves
  6. Do You Hear What I hear?- Pink Martini
  7. Perfect Gift- Natalie Hemby
  8. Show Me The River- EastmountainSouth
  9. Stay With Me Jesus- Guster
  10. Making Pies- Patty Griffin
  11. What Child Is This?- Fernando Ortega
  12. The Heartache Can Wait- Brandi Carlisle
  13. O Come O Come Emmanuel- Maeve
  14. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus- David Potter
  15. Ten Thousand Angels- Sandra McCracken

Christmas 2011

  1. Cinnamon & Chocolate- Butterfly Boucher
  2. Christmas Time Is Here- Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
  3. Sleigh Ride- Los Straightjackets
  4. Little Drummer Boy- Meaghan Smith
  5. Let It Ride- Animal Liberation Orchestra
  6. Take It To The Country- Katie Herzig
  7. Christmas In Prison- Joshua James
  8. My Father’s Father- The Civil Wars
  9. Blue Ridge Mountains- Fleet Foxes
  10. Boots- The Killers
  11. Joy Joy- Sojourn
  12. Silent Night- Priscilla Ahn
  13. January Hymn- The Decemberists










The one about learning new scales (Jesus Feminist study pt 1)

(Note: this post will cover the introduction and Chapter 1 of Jesus Feminist)

Right from the introduction Jesus Feminist has been blowing me away. The content is both gut punching, and extremely gentle. Already it’s a significant reminder to me that just because something is said in a gentle spirit does not mean that hard hitting truth is not contained within it. I mentioned in the introduction post that my approach to gender inequality has been more of a “turn over the tables in the temple” strategy than the harsh truth contained in gentle words strategy. What I love about Bessey’s book is how she manages to advocate the gentle words strategy without throwing away turning over the tables. Sometimes tables need to be turned over. But sometimes a gentle word approach doesn’t just turn over the tables, it burns the tables to ash. In the introduction Bessey alludes to The Table. She says,

“It’s the Table where coalitions and councils metaphorically sit in swivel chairs to discuss who is in and who is out, who is right (usually each other) and who is wrong (everyone else), and the perennial topic of whether women should be allowed to teach or preach or even read Scripture aloud.” (p.3)

Bessey goes on to advocate that we be done “lobbying for a seat at the Table.”(p.2) She would rather be with those outside of the Table. The misfits, the ones who don’t fit in, and the ones rejected by the Table. She says she is simply getting on with it; that she doesn’t worry about the Table anymore. I posted this next quote on Facebook when I was talking about this series, but I wanted to post it again because when I first read it my eyes welled up with tears and my heart constricted in my chest.

“Years ago, I practiced anger and cynicism, like a pianist practices scales, over and over.” (p. 5)

Powerful words. Words that I no longer want to be true in my own life. I want to move on from that state of mind. Reading this introduction I was reminded of a paper I wrote for a Communication Theory class in college where I applied feminist communication theory to pop culture. I drew parallels between how new feminist communication theory proposed that if certain avenues were closed off,  women should go off the beaten path and create their own paths. I used female comediennes like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as examples. Amy Poehler refuses to answer any questions in defense of women in comedy. When interviewers bring it up she rolls her eyes and talks about how boring she find the discussion. The basis of her thesis is: I’m doing funny things that people are watching. I could not care less about those that continue to perpetuate the false idea that women are not as funny as men. If they don’t want me in their movies or TV shows, that’s fine. I’m too busy being successful in my own movies and TV shows.

Sarah Bessey is advocating the same idea for women in the church. If the Table does not want us to lead, that’s fine. We’re too busy being successful in places that crave our leadership. The trick to applying this idea, at least in my own life, is doing this without anger and cynicism. As Bessey says to not “confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath.” (p. 6) And yet, Bessey does not disparage the other approach. She says,

“I remain thankful for the people called to the hard work of pragmatics and iron-sharpening-iron conflict. Sometimes we turn over tables in the temple, and other times we invite conversation by starting with an apology.” (p. 7)

I read this an appeal to exercise your weak spots. If your approach tends toward turning over the tables, maybe it’s time to exercise your gentleness muscle. Conversely, if you always begin with an apology, maybe it’s time to exercise your righteous anger muscle. I know my righteous anger muscle is strong and well tended. I look forward to giving the same attention to my slightly weaker gentle spirit  muscle. With women (and men) using both muscles in equality I hope like Bessey hopes to one day “throw our arms around the people of the Table as they break up the burnished oak.” (p. 7)

So much for the introduction. I could write another 2 or 3 entries about only this part but I want to move on. Bessey spends the first chapter talking about what made her apply the term Jesus Feminist to herself. Some in the church have a hard time hearing the word feminist. It can conjure up the stuff of nightmares for some: women striding around bellowing about not needing a man, disparaging motherhood, and handing out free abortions like candy. Bessey rightly points out that feminism roots are forever entangled with strong Christian women and their commitment to creating a better world. She reminds us that, “it’s not necessary to subscribe to all the diverse-and contrary-opinions within feminism to call oneself a feminist.” (p. 13) This goes right along with theologian Dr. John G. Stackhouse Jr.’s opinion that

“Christian feminists can celebrate any sort of feminism that brings more justice and human flourishing to the world, no matter who is bringing it, since we recognize the hand of God in all that is good.” (p.13)

Near the middle of the chapter Bessey writes what I consider to be the thesis to her book. The qualifier Jesus in front of the word feminist “means I am a feminist precisely because of my lifelong commitment to Jesus and his Way.”(p.13) Like Bessey I feel that my feminism is an outright product of my relationship with Jesus. He was the first person who told me I was equal to any man. Before I ever read any Gloria Steinem, or Betty Friedan, before I heard of Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I read the Bible. I read the Bible and learned about Miriam, Esther, Rahab, Ruth, Deborah, and all the others mentioned in Scripture. Jesus showed me my value and told me I could do great things for his kingdom from the moment I met him. I would never believe anyone who told me otherwise.

My Savior is a god of justice and wholeness. The Church can either move with God in justice and wholeness or “we can choose to prop up the world’s dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language.”(p.14) Wow! I told you this book packed a gut punch. I’m almost winded by that phrase. Go back and read it again. Wow. I pray that we as a body learn to tell the difference between the sacred and the cultural. That we not canonize cultural injustice and power by calling it Scripture and God’s will. What did Bessey learn on her journey of Jesus inspired feminism? She learned how much he loves us. I’ll let her tell us.

“In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates women. Women were a part of Jesus’ teaching, part of his life. Women were there for all of it.”(p.17)

She spends the rest of the chapter going through some of the women that Jesus used and spoke through. I’m not going to go into everyone that she talks about (Seriously you should buy this book), but I wanted to highlight some of my favorites.

On the woman Jesus healed in the synagogue who was bent over: “He called her ‘daughter of Abraham,’…People had only ever heard of ‘sons of Abraham’-never daughters. But at the sound of Jesus’ words daughter of Abraham, he gave her a place to stand alongside them (p.19)

On Mary of Bethany: “Jesus defended her right learn as his disciple.”(p.19)

On the Samaritan woman at the well: “…hers is the longest personal conversation with Jesus ever recorded in Scripture…she became an evangelist.”(p.20)

On the woman who called out to Jesus in the synagogue “God bless your mother-the womb from which you came and the breasts that nursed you!” to which Jesus said that those who hear the word of God and put it into practice are even more blessed: “Women aren’t simply or only blessed by giving birth to greatness; no, we are all blessed when we hear the Word of God-Jesus-and put it into practice.”(p.20)

On the seven women described with the Greek word diakoneo: “the same word (was) used to describe the ministry of the seven men appointed to leadership in the early church.”(p.20)

On Mary Magdalene: “Before the male disciples even knew he was breathing, Jesus sent a woman to proclaim the good news; he is risen!”(p.21)

Bessey opens chapter one with a quote by the Catholic social activist and journalist Dorothy Day. Her quote was the first of many places where my eyes welled up. They welled up with thankfulness that I serve a Savior who values me not in spite of my gender, but because of it. Day writes why women were drawn to Jesus. He,

“rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend.”(p.10)

This truth is one I clutch tightly to my chest. When I see those in power treat women as unequal to the task of leading God’s church I remember my Savior saw us from the moment of his arrival. He saw the woman with the issue of blood. He saw the Samaritan woman. He saw the poor woman in the temple with her one coin. He saw Mary and Martha and Mary Magdalene, and all those who came after. He saw Priscilla, and Timothy’s mother and grandmother. He saw down the ages of time past Teresa of Avila and Juliana of Lazarevo to women like Rachel Held Evans and Christine Caine. He sees my sister Jena; he sees my mother Diane; he sees my grandmothers, my aunts, my nieces, my cousins, my best friends, my readers. He sees us all. Anyone who says we were not made for greatness denies what the Savior saw in all of us from the very beginning; power and the capacity to have an overwhelming impact on the world around us. I’ll close with this thought from Bessey near the end of chapter one.

“The lack of women among the twelve disciples isn’t prescriptive or a precedent for exclusion of women any more than the choice of twelve Jewish men excludes Gentile men from leadership.”(p.21)

These are gentle words. Yet they pack quite a punch. What have I learned from the introduction and chapter one of Jesus Feminist? That whether I use gentle words or throw over the temple tables, Jesus loves me, and he sees me.

What about you? Women, do you find it difficult to identify as feminist? Why or why not? Men do you feel comfortable calling yourself a feminist? Are you reading the book along with me? (I hope you are) what are you thoughts on it so far? Use the comments below to continue the discussion!


The one about being a Jesus Feminist

Short entry today. In fact this isn’t really an entry as much as it’s an introduction. I have been following the blogger Sarah Bessey for awhile. Her entries are always so insightful and full of wisdom. She’s been working on her first book for awhile, and it just came out. The book is called Jesus Feminist and I’ll let the book blurb speak for itself.pic

Gender roles have been debated for centuries, and now Sarah Bessey offers a clarion freedom call for all who want to realize their giftedness and potential in the kingdom of God. Through a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices, Bessey shares how following Jesus made a feminist out of her.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be delving into this book chapter by chapter. I’m really excited to read what Sarah has to say. What I love about Sarah is her quiet and gentle spirit. I tend to have a more “turn over the tables in the temple” kind of spirit when it comes to gender roles in the church. I think both approaches are needed and valuable, but I look forward to growing my more gentle side. I thought I would give my readers a heads up about this project so that if you wanted to buy the book before the series starts you had that chance. I haven’t checked my local library for it yet, but I know the book is available on Kindle and paperback. I hope you’ll buy it. Not just because I’m writing about it, but because I think this book may change your worldview. I hope this goes without saying, but I think this book is of equal value to both sexes, so guys please feel free to join in the discussion!

I’m planning on the first post about this book to go up early next week. Until then here is the amazon link to buy either version of Jesus Feminist.

The one about reading habits

This morning New Jersey had its first snowfall of the season. It didn’t stick to anything and only lasted for a short time but it was still snow. As much as I hate how early it gets dark and the treacherous driving conditions that can occur during wintertime there is one thing I love about this season; curling up with a blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and a good book while the cold weather rages outside. Sometimes when the weather is gorgeous I can feel like I’m wasting my time sitting and reading. Winter allows me to be lazy without feeling guilty. I was reading most of the morning before I left for work, and decided today would be a good day to try out one of the “book tags” I’ve seen floating around tumblr and the blog world. This one is less about the books I’ve read, and more about my reading habits. So, here it goes!

1) Do you have a certain place at home for reading?: I have a few favorite places to read. Most of the time I can be found on my bed. Since I still live at home the only place where I have total privacy is my room. If the weather is nice I will sometimes read on the front porch swing. Also, around Christmas time when the tree has gone up I will read in the living room because I love reading by the Christmas tree.  But, nine times out of ten if I’m reading I’m usually reading in my room on my bed.

2) Bookmark or random piece of paper?: I never use a bookmark. I’m not opposed to them. People buy them for me and I see some lovely ones in the bookstore. I just can’t keep track of them so I figure it’s best not to bother. I usually use library receipts or other scraps of paper I find. I also dog ear pages of books. (I know, the horror!)

3) Can you just stop reading or do you have stop after a chapter/certain amount of pages?: I follow Stephen King’s advice on how to read more. He says in his book On Writing to read all the time. He suggests reading while in long lines, in waiting rooms, and on public transportation. Instead of lamenting that you don’t have an hour to devote to your book read in the 10 minutes you have before your next meeting. The amount of time doesn’t matter nearly as much as how often. I follow this line of thought most of the time. My Kindle makes it even easier to do this. It fits right in my purse so anytime I have a free moment, BOOM I can be reading. Because I read like this I often just have to stop reading mid chapter, and sometimes even mid page. I can come back to it pretty easily. The only books I won’t do this with are really intense non fiction ones. I was reading a book about the women of America and if I stopped in the middle of the chapter, when I came back to it I had no memory of what had come before. With those type of books I try to take them out when I know I’ll have at least enough uninterrupted time to finish the chapter.

4) Do you eat or drink while reading?: If I’m using my Kindle I will eat while reading. I don’t usually eat with paper books not because I’m afraid of messing them up, but because I find it hard to maneuver  holding the book and cutting/eating my food. Drinks I do with book e-books and regular books.

5) Multi-tasking:Music or TV while reading?: I can only listen to music that has no words while I’m reading or else I get too distracted. I read during the commercials when I’m watching TV often. (I’m still in the stone age with no DVR so no fast forwarding for me.) During TV shows themselves, even when I’m not the one watching them, it’s just too hard for me to concentrate on what I’m reading.

6) One book at a time or several at once?: Several at once! The Kindle makes this habit of mine even easier. I’m always reading 2 or 3 books at the same time. However, I don’t read multiple books of the same genre at once. At any given time I’m usually reading a non fiction book, a fiction book that is not considered light reading, and a fiction book that takes no concentration (chick lit, young adult etc). This how I solve the problem of what book to read next. When I finish one book I’m usually still in the midst of at least two others!

7) Reading at home or reading everywhere?: I read EVERYWHERE! I listen to audio books while I drive to work. I read at slow times during work. I read on airplanes, in cars. You name a place and I’m probably trying to read there. If I only read when I was at home I don’t know if I’d ever finish a book.

8) Reading out loud or reading silently in your head?: I read silently to myself. I don’t even mouth the words to myself. The only exception to this is sometimes if the writing style is really difficult I’ll read it out loud to get the point. I only do this when I’m by myself. I don’t want be that weirdo talking to myself in public

9) Do you read ahead or even skip pages?: I don’t skip pages. If I get the urge to skip pages that means the book is boring me so maybe I shouldn’t keep reading anyway. I’m usually very good about reading ahead. Mystery novels are the only type of book where I am tempted to skip ahead, but mystery is not a genre I particularly love anyway.

10) Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?: I don’t worry about breaking the spine. Books are made to be read, cherished and loved. The only books I own that have kept their bindings perfect are the Harry Potter series. I bought all seven books in paperback from used bookstores and use those versions when I want to re-read them in order to keep my hardcover copies in good condition.

11) Do you write in your books?: I underline phrases I love in my fiction books. I underline great or interesting points in my non fiction books. But I always use a pencil not a pen.

12) When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening,?: I would say all of the above. Since I don’t leave for work until the afternoon I read in the morning. At work unless I’m dealing with lots of scheduling issues I have lots of time to read. I also like to read before I go to bed.

13) What do you do first, read or watch?: If I know a book adaptation exists of an upcoming movie I read the book first. But I also really love when I watch a movie and the phrase “based on the book by…” rolls past on the screen because I get to go find it as soon as the movie is done. That is how I found The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. (Seriously, I know Julie Andrews is in the movie but the books are SO much better.)

14) What form do you prefer? Audiobook, E-book, or physical book?: I choose all three please! A true bibliophile doesn’t care how the book gets into their brains, they just want to read! Audiobooks are great for long drives, E-books make air travel so easy and physical books are the tried and true classics for everyday use!

15) Do book series have to match?: Yes. This is an area I can be a little OCD in. I spent several years buying the Anne of Green Gables series in a matching set. I had to troll many used bookstores to find all 8 books. A few months ago I found out one of the novels in the set I own has missing parts of the book. So now I have to start all over again and buy all 8 in a different matching set. Yeah yeah I’m a weirdo I know.

There you have it! Some of the ways I love to read. What about you? Feel free to answer any or all of these questions yourself in the comments!

The One about my nephew

This weekend my nephew Lincoln will turn 5 years old. I was a senior in college when he was born and have been lucky enough to be able to physically be with him on every birthday since then. This year changes all of that. My parents will be visiting for a few days as usual, but this year I will be at home. I’m feeling pretty bummed about not being with him this year, but also feel really grateful that I live in a time where technology allows me to watch him open his presents in St. Louis Missouri while I sit in my house in New Jersey. As amazing as Skype is though it is still no replacement for actually being with him. Watching my parents get in the car to go to the airport I felt really melancholy and sad. So I decided I would write about Lincoln today to channel that melancholy into happy memories.

As I said, Lincoln was born my senior year of college. When my oldest niece, Lily, was born her Aunt Kristin and myself were at the hospital for the whole time leading up to the birth. (It was the first grandchild for both sides after all). I can’t remember what the plans were for Lincoln’s birth because whatever they were we did not adhere to them. I remember the night/day it happened very clearly. My college had two events every year that were a chance for bands to play, people to make funny videos and sketches, and the students to dress up within a set theme called Spring Fling and Harvest Festival. The weekend Lincoln was born was Harvest Festival. I had been up late with my friends. I think it was actually around 2 am when I finally got back into my room for the night. I had gotten into bed when I got a text from my brother in law telling me that he and Jena were on their way to the hospital.

In a way it’s fitting that I’ll be celebrating Lincoln’s 5th birthday with him over Skype because his first day of life was also celebrated over Skype. When Jena had been pregnant with Lily our mom and dad threw a baby shower when she visited the Christmas for her New Jersey friends and relatives. Because Lincoln was due in November my mom had come up with an different plan for this baby. She planned to have friends and family to her house on a random Saturday and then call Jena on Skype to talk and visit as well as show her the gifts that would soon come in the mail for her. The shower was scheduled for November 8, 2008. The text I got from Tim came in at 2 am November 8, 2008. I remember laughing at how perfect the timing was before rolling over and going back to sleep for a few hours.

Later that day I drove over to the hospital with my laptop and met my new nephew for the first time. To make the day even sweeter, everyone that came to my mom and dad’s house for the shower got to see him too!pic1He was tiny little one wasn’t he!

Since that day life with Lincoln has been fabulous. I love being his Aunt. The joke in our family is that Lincoln doesn’t always take the best pictures. See below for a few examples.

pic12To be fair the Jersey shore can be very confusing

pic10Lincoln! Over here!

But honestly I’ve always felt that the reason Lincoln can’t always be captured on film is because he is so full of life and energy that he doesn’t have time to stop for one minute! And too be fair, he can take some pretty decent pictures when he wants to.


When I think of Lincoln I think of how sweet and generous his heart it. Last year my sister severely injured herself while running a marathon. The family had just moved to a new house, Tim had two out of town trips happening almost back to back, and Jena couldn’t walk. So I came out for a few days to help out. The day I arrived, I walked upstairs where Lincoln after greeting me with a bear hug whispered in my ear “I’m so happy you’re here Aunt Nell.” The phrase melt your heart must have been invented for Linc. The kids came to visit for a few weeks this summer. We had a great time together. One day while sitting on the front porch swing Lincoln turned to me and said “Aunt Nell, I wish St. Louis and New Jersey were right next to each other so we could see each other all the time.” In a world that can often push a sense of hyper masculinity I love having a nephew who can create a mess with the best of them, but also express his feelings to those he loves in such an honest and unassuming way.

pic15Walking with my buddy

The other great thing about Lincoln? He’s hysterical. He always has a smile on his face and his giggle is infectious. He’s creative, kind, and loves books and puzzles.

pic16Combining his love of dinosaurs and puzzles in one!

Lincoln is turning five. I had to type it again because I still find it hard to believe. He was only a baby yesterday! As much as I’ll miss being there to celebrate in person, I’m so glad he gets to grow up having me just a Skype call away. On November 8th this year this will be the little face in my mind. It’s a quintessential picture that sums up who my nephew is without using any words.


He’s Lincoln. He’s my nephew. And he rocks.

Do you have a child in your life that just makes the day a little brighter? Tell us about them in the comments!

The One about being a girl

A few days ago a friend on Facebook posted a status that said the following: “Being a 5th grade girl is not for the faint hearted”. I felt an immediate affinity to the post and based on how many comments accumulated under the post many other women identified with the feeling as well. When my niece, Lily, was very young (I want to say 3 years old) she told me a story about feeling like a girl at school didn’t like her because she didn’t want to play with her. After comforting her as best as I could, I turned to Jena and said, “The saddest part is that I can’t tell her that sort of thing is going to stop. In fact, it just gets worse the older she gets.”

In some ways that sentence is true. I am 26 years old and I still have to deal with what can be called “girl drama”; who is friends with who, who got invited where, who isn’t pulling their weight in the friendship, on and on and on and ON. It’s a generally accepted fact that girl drama is its own special and terrifying breed of horror. Anyone who has seen the movie Mean Girls know’s that this is true. What’s disheartening is that this attitude is no longer relegated to just high school, but increasingly to younger and younger girls until we have to admit that even 5th grade (even pre school!) is hard for girls. When I read that status I was instantly back in middle school feeling awkward and unsure of who I was, having no confidence that I could be myself, or frankly what my true self even was!

So, if things don’t ever change should we all just put our heads down and sink under the pressure of knowing we will never be fully happy as women? Of course not! While in some ways what I said to my sister is true; in other ways it does get easier the older that you get. The drama does not change (seriously it really doesn’t), but two other major things do change.

1) Your ability to choose the people that are in your life: In elementary school and even middle school there really is not much choice in who we are friends with. This is because most of us haven’t reached an emotional maturity that allows us to know what we seek in a friendship, and because of environment. (AKA you are pretty  much stuck being friends with the people in your class at school, maybe a few people in your neighborhood, and if you are lucky some people at your church.) But, when high school and college come around your ecosystem gets bigger. You can choose who you want to spend time and who isn’t worth your time or energy. I don’t think I could tell you who was considered popular in my high school. I can tell you that I had a great group of friends who made me comfortable in my own skin. (As comfortable as any teenager can be of course). On Friday nights we were usually in the basement of Amanda’s parent’s house, unless it was winter in which case we went to jazz band competitions. I know it sounds really dorky, but we had fun. And I was comfortable. All that “drama” that comes from being a girl? I don’t remember dealing with any of that sort of stuff with these friends. Did we have silly fights? Yes of course. But overall it wasn’t nearly the stress that middle school friendships were. Of course there were still mean girls in high school, but they weren’t my only choice for a social life. That made all the difference. There is a second major thing that changes how girl drama affects you as you get older.

2) You care less about it: I’m not joking when I say the type of drama you see young girls dealing with never ends. Men you may find this hard to believe, but it is true. My mother deals with it, and my grandmother (who is in her eighties!) deals with it. Seriously, when we go visit my grandmother at her apartment complex I hear stories that could come right out of a middle school girl’s mouth. The difference is that after telling such a story my grandmother will literally shrug her shoulders and say “You know what? Who cares?” The good news about girl drama is the older you get, the less you care about it. I can’t stop it from happening, but I can stop how much time and energy I waste on it. I think this point is a direct result of point number one. When you have the freedom to choose your own healthy friendships you can ignore drama when it tries to drag your attention away from your normal life. I’m not a fan of women that say they “hate drama” mostly because I think deep down most of us do enjoy picking apart a scenario and figuring out its meaning. I think a better thing to say is that I hate unnecessary drama. Sometimes you are going to fight with your friends and you’re going to need to confront an issue with them to save the friendship. But that situation doesn’t have the same soul sucking capacity of drama with mean girls because there has been a foundation of friendship established that creates a safe space to deal with the drama.

To any young girl that is dealing with the difficulties that comes from adolescence, I know the above advice doesn’t help in the situation you are in right now. But, I know when I was going through the same situation knowing the above 2 points would have really comforted me. Sometimes just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is enough to get you through the rest of the dark. And while you are still in the tunnel look around at the small points of light that do exist. During my middle school years I was lucky enough to meet my best friend AJ. Even in the midst of crazy drama, good things can still happen. Drama doesn’t change with age. Thankfully, we do.

How about my readers? Ladies do you agree that drama will always exist? If so, what are the ways you deal with it? Guys what are your thoughts on this crazy girl world phenomena? If you have a daughter what advice would you give her when dealing with the horror that is female adolescence?