Category Archives: BODY of Christ

Forward Friday: The Mary-Wannabe-Martha-Reality Check

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Read part 1 and part 2.

You wanna be like Mary, but in reality, you’re like Martha.  Believe me, lovely reader, I know how you feel.  I’ve been there, and I’m back there again.

So if you’re a Martha and wanna be like Mary, what do you DO about it?

Here’s a little exercise to try this weekend:

  1. Recognize your gifts, passions, and personality. Understand and accept who you are.  God made you that way for a reason.  God likes you like this!
  2. Recognize how you are feeling.  Are you worried and upset?  Are you critical and judgmental? Are you jealous of people who seem to have an easier time sitting at the feet of Jesus?
  3. Identify what is motivating you right now. Are you distracted by the preparations?  Are you busy with things that seem necessary but really are not needed?
  4. Take it to God.  Mary and Martha both went straight to Jesus.  They just had different catalysts for their encounters with God.  Maybe being stressed and overwhelmed by the tasks of your day can be used to turn your attention to the one thing that is truly needed.
  5. Allow God to redirect your focus.  Where should your time and attention be right now?  What is truly needed?

Maybe sitting at Jesus’ feet isn’t your natural state of being.  Maybe it takes work.  It was work for Brother Lawrence, St. Ignatius, and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, too.  That’s why they devoted so much time and effort toward cultivating their focus toward God.

If you’re task-oriented, make time with Jesus one of your “tasks” for the day. Maybe it’s your only task for one whole day, the only and best accomplishment.  If you like lists, put time with Jesus on there along with runs to the grocery store and calls to clients.

And if you’re not like this at all, if you’re naturally a Mary, well then…

YOU ROCK! We all wish we could be more like you.  Don’t let ANYONE take away what you have chosen.  God promised you could stay right where you are at the feet of Jesus, and God will defend you!  You just keep on sitting.

For the rest of us, put sitting on your list.  And then DO it.

And then come back and share your experience in the comment box below.

The Mary-Wannabe-Martha-Reality: Part 2

Read part 1 here.

So let’s say you’re like me.  You are an achiever. You are, as Tom Rath wrote, “utterly dependable.”  You are a DOer.

You are like Martha.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Notice how Martha responds to the situation.  She does not burst into the room and drag Mary away to help her with the preparations.  She does not grumble under her breath, building up resentment and anger, and passive-aggressively snub Mary for the next week.

Martha goes straight to Jesus.  She tells him exactly how she feels and asks for exactly what she thinks she needs.

Notice how Jesus responds to Martha.  He does not condemn her.  He does not criticize her work.  He does not tell her to stop doing all the good and productive tasks she is responsible for.  Here’s what he DOES say:

  1. You are worried.
  2. You are upset.
  3. Most of these things aren’t needed (not that they aren’t good or productive or worthy or useful, just that they aren’t NEEDED).  In other words, your energy and effort are misplaced.  In Luke’s words, you are distracted.
  4. Your criticism and judgment of Mary are misplaced.

Martha goes to Jesus with her frustration and anger, and Jesus gently redirects her focus.

This is what mentors and supervisors would call a “teachable moment.”  Instead of punishing Martha for her Achiever and Responsible nature, Jesus uses the situation to show Martha the truth about herself — how she is really feeling and what is really motivating her actions — and to help Martha recognize what really is needed and better, and ultimately, what will resolve her feelings and correct her motivations.

Here’s what I love about this passage: what Mary does naturally, Martha has to learn.

Now here’s what we learn from Jesus’ response.

You do not need to change who you are or how you operate.

If you are like me, if you are an exhausted, inexhaustible achiever who is too responsible to allow yourself to let go of and step back from the tasks you have taken upon yourself, then you can breathe a sigh of relief here.

*Whew!*

You will always be the achiever.  You will always be responsible.

What you need to learn, what we all need to learn here, is that we are easily distracted by the worries and frustrations around us.  We focus on the wrong things.  We get caught up in what we think is necessary when really only one thing is needed.

If you’re like me, you want to be like Mary.  You want to be a BEer.  You want to be satisfied with nothing else than sitting at the feet of Jesus.

You wanna-be-like-Mary, but that is just not naturally who you are.  In reality, you are more like Martha.

You don’t feel settled if you haven’t accomplished something for the day.  You don’t feel comfortable if you backed out of a commitment or let something fall through the cracks.

That’s okay.  God made you with that drive for accomplishment and that dependability.  God loves that about you!

So what do you do when you wanna be Mary but are really a Martha?

Find out tomorrow!

The Mary-Wannabe-Martha-Reality: Part 1

If you’re like me, you have a complex.

You have a desire, nay, a driving need, to DO, to DO WELL, and to HAVE DONE more, concurrently, and better than everyone else you know.

You excel at doing, and you draw your self-worth from how much you have done and how well you have done it.

You are a task-completer, a list-checker-off-er.  Your number one strength on the StrengthsFinder test is Achiever.  (PS. This actually means you have a bigger complex than I do because Achiever is only number three on my StrengthsFinder results. Nany nany boo boo.)

You feel as if every day starts at zero.  By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself.  And by “every day” you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations.  No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied.  You have an internal fire burning inside you.  It pushes you to do more, to achieve more.  After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment.  – Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0 (p37)

Okay, maybe not all of you are Achievers, but a lot of you are.  A lot of Christians are, especially Christian women.  We’re taught early and often that we live to serve, and that our value both in our church community and in our homes is based on what, how much, how often, and how well we DO for everyone.

This is not news.

Martha, sister of Lazarus and friend of Jesus, would have scored Achiever as her number one strength, right above Responsibility.

That’s right. This is you, too, and a lot of other Christians.  Your word is your bond.  You always come through.  You never let anything fall through the cracks.

[You] take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.  Your good name depends on it…. This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable…. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should. – Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0 (p149)

Super-DOer.  That’s you.

You have this need to achieve, and whether you want to or not, you find yourself committed to doing more and more.  You are the quintessential soccer mom.  You have it all together.

You are super human.

You are BUSY.

You are TIRED.

You are JEALOUS and CRITICAL of anyone who is not caught up in your whirlwind of activity and responsibility.  You JUDGE.

How do you have time and energy to do and be everything everyone wants and expects you to do and be?

You are a DOer.

So was Martha.

Okay, that’s not news.

Rachel touched on this when she said advertising tries to make us believe we aren’t enough.  Kathy touched on this when she said that well-behaved women won’t change the church.

What you need to know is what to DO about it, right?

To be continued…

Saturday Sex-versations

My computer crashed this week, and I lost most of the interesting and well-written articles I had pulled for all you lovely readers this week.  I included below the ones I could recover, but I’m afraid the list is a little short this week.  To compensate, share your favorite conversation-starter article from this past week in the comment boxes and include the link so we can all benefit and stay informed together.

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment of current conversations on issues of holistic body theology.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

A blocked quote indicates a highly recommended link.

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) The Fierceness of God In addition to expressing the nature of God’s protection over us, it also sheds light on the imago dei in women. Although men are traditionally construed as the “protectors,” I think we all know how fierce women can get with their children.

2) Are You There, World? It’s Me, Tina. Without Makeup. In a moment of pure insanity I thought, if my beautiful friend Claire can be honest about how many times she has weighed herself, I can be honest about what I look like without makeup.

3) Letter against gay marriage to be read in every Catholic church this Sunday The letter…restates the anti-gay-marriage campaign’s argument that “neither the Church nor the State has the power to change [the] fundamental understanding of marriage itself”.

4) Fit, not skinny I’ve decided to love my body no matter what the scale says.

5) Relationship Myth #2: If I Have to Tell My Partner My Needs… It is from this vulnerable place that we start to form the distorted thought, “If I have to share my needs, it doesn’t count because he/she should know me well enough to just know them.”

6) Rush Limbaugh and three evangelical blind spots Currently, evangelicals tend to force young adults, especially young women, into simplistic sexual categories. They are either “pure” or “impure,” “whole” or “damaged,” “virgins” or “sluts.” There does not seem to exist a vocabulary within evangelicalism with which to talk about men and women who are sexually active, but not promiscuous.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Loose All female sins can be reduced to same one: a refusal to allow men to define and control female sexuality.

2) My Take: New TV series ‘GCB’ portrays Christians as caricatures Still, “GCB” challenges every Christian – including me – to consider our own faith journey and if our talk really matches our walk.

3) What the Hunger Games Taught Me (and the Church Should Have) About Men In our culture, men are given license to satisfy their desires for pleasure by using women, just as women are given license to seek pleasure in pampering themselves. This message carries way beyond Christian teachers—it’s everywhere.

4) Gender Disparity in the Clergy: Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling Let us capitalize on this national moment of frustration and revelation and commit to concrete action in promoting women as religious thought leaders in our faiths, culture and society.

Community: Equality and Other Issues

1) Foundations in Community–Part 1 The geese know that their best chance of survival is to travel in flocks, yet value the individual goose enough that they will not simply abandon them in crisis.  We could learn a lot from these geese.

2) Femsculine Christianity As we learn more about God, we can live out a Christianity that is both uncompromisingly feminine and genuinely masculine.

3) Brew Pubs, Putting Down Roots, and What the Incarnation Means for Local Living A local gospel must be important for a God who entered our physical space, Emmanuel, to dwell with us.

4) Does Suburbia Hurt Christianity? Community is spread out. It occurs irregularly at appointed places such as schools, churches and athletic facilities that are miles apart. It offers little in the way of unifying cultural and civic institutions because there is no commitment to a place … because there is no “place.”

5) the underground railroad when we choose the path of leaving systems & structures that continue to keep us in bondage, we choose a lonelier, scarier road.

6) The Torah and Making Sacred Spaces Confronted repeatedly by frailty, isolation, mortality, and error, we find strength and solace in community and the achievement that community makes possible.

7) Down We Go: Practicing Equality Jesus broke down barriers of inequality. Now we need to play our part in it as well. Equality crosses more than just gender.

8) Taking Root: Creating The church recognized that because God’s attribute of creativity is so important and because people are made in His image, it is essential for humans to create. It’s a part of who we are.

9) The Myth of Religious Superiority [Y]et another group thinks Christianity is one way of salvation, a true way, but there are other ways too (pluralism).

10) Women: The Church’s Most Wasted Resource But for many women (particularly wives and mothers), leaving doesn’t mean walking away; more often it means showing up without being present. Women often do this because they want their husbands and children to grow spiritually.

Service: Social Justice Issues & Creation Care

1) What the “After-birth Abortion” and “Personhood” Debates Have in Common “Merely being human,” they claim, “is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.”

2) Let’s Retire the Term “Slut” The term hurts women. Men use it to hurt women. Women use it to hurt women. We think it’s time to stop using it.

3) Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh: Let’s Retire the Word “Slut” [M]ost people — women and men — who call women prostitutes, whores, or sluts don’t do so because they think that’s the truth. They do it to defame, demean, and shame. They do it to keep women quiet and to keep women cautious in speaking about their own sexuality….

4) ‘Dawn of a new hope’ for whom? Systemic violence and impunity plague women in Ivory Coast “Women have a lower status than men, even though the constitution recognizes women’s equal rights. Domestic violence is very accepted as a way of educating and controlling women. Sexual violence is then possible because we don’t see women as protected and supported by the general community.”

5) Compassion in the Everyday Do not fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, especially those who have the spotlight; reach out to those around you, wherever you are, and you will start to see your impact.

6) The best and worst places to be a woman 1) Best place to be a woman: Iceland

Saturday Sex-versations

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment of current conversations on issues of holistic body theology.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

A blocked quote indicates a highly recommended link.

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) The Story Is Everything How does kingdom of God reshape the story of sex? How does new creation plot sex in its story?

2) Utah House passes bill to allow schools to skip sex ed “In truth, few of us are up to the task of effectively teaching our kids ourselves the things they need to know about sex.”

3) Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice [of yoga] can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.

4) Why (and How) Abortion Should Be Talked about in Church Churches that speak of abortion without acknowledging that many women have experienced it as an injustice, not as a choice, drive women deeper into their pain rather than set them free from the captivity where they are both bound and gagged.

5) How Old Should You Be to Marry? It’s not just about meeting the right person, but it’s also about their personal maturity.

6) Aw, Hey, Fella Aw, hey, fella–/Whatcha gonna do/When a pretty lady’s/Not ashamed of what she’s got?/Better let her know/Just what nasty names you’re thinkin’/‘Cause it’s so much easier/Than changing whatcha think.

7) Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? The church needs to re-evaluate its relationship with singles, especially in light of the increasing numbers of unmarried adults.

8) Breastfeeding in Church, and Other Petty Crimes Breastfeeding is itself a work of art wrought by the Greatest Artist.

9) Day 13: Seek Intimacy Now Do I find it easier to be loved by God because someone else has said that the body I was created with is beautiful?

10) Birth Control: Burden or Blessing? This decision was meant to be hard—God meant it to be hard. He wants us to contemplate life with the utmost care and caution. He wants us to deeply consider the potential for life that we carry around in our bodies.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Women & Social Media Women are moving from passive purchasers to online authorities and tastemakers.

2) America’s Top Magazines: Still Not Hiring Women Do we really have to educate editors that women can bring new perspectives on major stories, and not just to stories about living as a single woman or going through a divorce?

3) Gender bias in books journalism remains acute, research shows Vida is instead trying to support women writers throughout their careers, and attempting to encourage people to examine their own biases.

4) Dear Oscar: Women Have Stories, Too When girls grow up seeing story after story that tells them they are sex objects, accessories or victims, they will learn that to be a “woman” is to play one of those three roles.

5) O Women, Where Art Thou? Certainly, something like a feminist intersectional analysis is rarely performed in the boardrooms and cafes of the Los Angeles film industry.

6) The Hidden Damage of Eating Disorders This inadequacy is due to the lie that resides beneath our cultural over-emphasis on physical beauty: “The only thing that is truly important or valuable about your identity is your appearance.”

7) People for the Ethical Treatment of Anyone but Women PETA’s use of nudity and sexuality has long been criticized as being exploitative of women, but many feminists say the new campaign crosses a line by trivializing domestic and sexual violence, further injuring an already-fragile demographic.

8) Why Do Only Women Whine? By stating that determined women are “whiners” their opinions instantly lose credibility in a distinctly sexist way.

9) you is smart. you is kind. you is important. the messages passed on to many of us through our families, relationships, and some of our church experiences are more like: “you’re somehow not enough.”

10) Does “The Help” Hurt? It is all too easy to accept caricaturizations of others that affirms our sense of justice while never addressing the inherent assumptions that come from living in a culture that is still largely “white normative”.

11) 3 Lessons Every Writer, Speaker, Blogger, and Musician Can Learn from Led Zeppelin Sometimes staying true to your art grabs the multitudes. But more often it does not. Staying true to yourself and faithful to your calling should always be the goal.

Community: Equality and Other Issues

1) This Easter Season, Remember: Church Growth is About More Than ‘The Marrieds’ These latest reports about childbirth and marriage suddenly show us that our typical evangelism efforts in churches are aiming at less than half of our nation’s population.

2) “I’m Dad, the Babysitter,” and Other Cultural Myths Dads are parents, not babysitters.

3) Tell Your Story, Tell It Well The church, if it wishes to speak into the culture around it, must regain its ability to tell testimonies. It must read its history and learn to tell its individual stories, and to tell them well, so that hearers hungry for a roadmap might find it in us.

4) More Than Enchanting: A Q&A with Jo Saxton I hope it changes the minds of women who have given up on God, their call on the church because of how difficult it’s been for them. I hope it changes the minds of those who have felt too inadequate to respond to God’s call.

5) Helen Lee: On Not Playing It Safe I still struggle with moments in which I distrust myself, in which I doubt myself, in which I would rather disappear into the background rather than put myself and my ideas forward into the public arena.

6) Reading the Magnificat During Lent [B]ut our faith is not something that concerns just us. We exist as a body and as members of the body of Christ the disciplines we engage in should always work towards the good of that body.

7) Resisting a Segregated Church Except for church, my life was one of post-Civil Rights integration.

8) Good Girls Never Change the World: Part 2 Esther more closely resembles the monarchs favourite prostitute than she does his married-in-a-church-before-God-and-all-our-friends-in-a-white-dress wife.

Service: Social Justice Issues & Creation Care

1) Earth Care as Lenten Practice If fashioned from the earth, and blessed and called by God, how can we live into an awakened relationship with the earth?

2) Living Abundantly “We understand that we can’t think about food without referring to the narrative of creation and linking it with a deep understanding of how we have been created to be the bearers of the Spirit and part of the community of life on this planet, not its owners,” Claudio said.

3) Because Children Need a Defender For children suffering in silence…justice and healing may seem impossible. But they are not—not when there is a strong defender standing beside them in the fight for justice.

4) Finding a Home for Oklahoma’s Orphans While not everyone is called to foster or adopt, every follower of Christ is called to bring justice to orphans and can do something to change the outcome for these kids.

5) Criminalizing Homelessness? Fallout feared from anti-Occupy bill “It’s criminalizing the right to exist as a human being. It’s outlawing homelessness.”

6) Desmond Tutu: Tackling Child Marriage in India One of the most common features of all these women is that they are educated, but has it reduced their worth? No, their worth has been enhanced.

7) One Small Wardrobe, One Huge Cause “I’m using my body and what I wear to represent these women. I feel like they can’t speak.”

8) Black Evangelicals, White Evangelicals, and Franklin Graham’s Repentence They see those 2,000 scriptures about poverty and injustice. And this new generation of white evangelicals is committed to fight systemic and structural justice because of the Gospel.

9) Feeling a Sacred Trust But the idea that we are separate from our world is a dangerous delusion. Every breath of oxygen we take was first exhaled by a leaf. No animal, even us, can be safer or healthier than its habitat.

10) Altering Clothes, and Lives, with Design “You have these smart students who care about the community, the planet and using recycled materials, and we have these people here in Detroit who really want to work and need money.”

11) Picturing the hands of Christ I touch people on their hands and feet and bodies to be a reminder to them that they are not alone when they are ill or dying, especially when they are dying. It is a holy moment to be with people in death.

12) Our Hands Tell Our Stories We receive the body of Christ in upturned hands every time we kneel at the altar. And as we kneel and wait, our hands, so unique and revealing about our lives, are made equal.

Saturday Sex-versations

As part of the on-going series, the links below will take you to current conversations about sexuality and relationships as well as issues related to the other three categories of holistic body theology: community, cultural discernment, and service.

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) In which I am on my soapbox about shame Has shame ever helped a woman? This is just the other side of that same “You’re not enough” coin.

2) The Secret Sexual Revolution If this generation wants to reverse the trend and reduce the number of Christians having premarital sex, the first step is trying to figure out why so few are waiting.

3) Clothing In Church: Why It Matters The way we dress is frequently an external expression of an internal reality, a way for “the body, or even the self, to communicate itself to society,” in the words of theologian Tom Beaudoin.

4) Sex Is A Big Deal And I Wish Someone Had Told Me No one ever talks about the casual dating and casual hook up aftermath. Instead, it is glamorized and a fun, sexy, effective fix-all.

5) Transfiguration and Beauty We offer the Lord these forty days because we believe God loves us. We believe that when we let go of control, we will see more clearly the movement and the beauty of Jesus.

6) The Secret Life of Hasidic Sexuality Actually, the main purpose of sex — as explained by Jewish law — is to create something called devek, best translated as an intense spiritual/emotional cleaving between the couple.

7) Veiled Muslim women and revolutionary modesty Whether we’re wearing hajibs or jeans or baggy t-shirts or mini-skirts, are our clothes making us slaves to patriarchy and consumerism?

8) Resurrection Spirituality And this kind of eschatology leads to body image problems now, not to mention lack of care with creation and lack of concern with any sense of salvation having to do with creation and cosmos and new creation.

9) When Your One Beauty Goes Gray But then there are the days when I find that pesky, out of place gray hair, and I wonder.  Will anyone love me with gray hair?  Will anyone think I’m beautiful if it was gone?

10) Dear Victims of Rape and Sexual Abuse No Shame. No Guilt. No Excuses. No Blame. No Heartache.

11) Phyllis Tickle & Doug Pagitt: Welcome to Ash Wednesday Of all the observances of Christianity, Lent is far and away the most physical, starting not with Ash Wednesday but with Mardi Gras. [The last minute is especially wonderful.]

12) Transgender kids get puberty-blocking drugs, sex-changing hormones; MDs say numbers are rising Switching gender roles…is common in young children. But these kids are different. They feel certain they were born with the wrong bodies.

13) Seven states sue government over contraceptives mandate “This lawsuit is about protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience, our most basic freedoms as Americans.”

14) The Millennial Church: The Future of Christianity (Pt.5) At the heart of the loss of virginity before marriage lies a bigger issue in the eyes of millennials, morality/ethics.

15) ‘Am I Ugly?’ Videos: Young Teens Ask YouTube Users Whether They’re Pretty Or Not But, in a world of carefully curated Facebook profiles that put personal lives (and looks) at center stage…it’s perhaps unsurprising that young people are sharing their body image anxieties in such a forum.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Erasing Women: How Both Sides Contribute to the Media Blackout on Female Pro-Lifers But as all this happens—and it is happening, however slowly—mainstream institutions such as the media, the government, the schools, and the entertainment industry need to recognize that these women exist and have voices worth hearing.

2) The Final Freaking Rose. [H]ave we grown so apathetic to the human condition that we’ve turned Love into a gameshow?

Community: Equality and Other Issues

1) there are a lot of ways to pastor [T]he world is crying out for more “pastors”, people who will bravely and freely extend Christ’s love, hope, care, mercy & justice in a broken & hurting world.

2) Mimi Haddad on Gender and Equality in the Church Now, you can hear more from Dr. Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality on gender and equality in the Church.

3) We Need the Full Vocabulary of God To my mind, the church today has impoverished itself by praying with and singing with and thinking with such a small set of the many images for God found in the Bible.

4) And Daniel Kirk Said This Too! How are we to assess these women who, in the narrative world, are outsiders, on the margins?

5) Our Problem is Authoritarianism and Not Legalism Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a Christian, because of title or position, has moral authority over another Christian.

6) Male and Female God Made (Most Of) Them: Part 2 Christians cared for people no one else cared for.

7) When Church Becomes a Verb Instead of going to church to be fed, to be welcomed, to be loved, why don’t we go to church to feed, to welcome, to love?

8) A Little Grace for Masculine Christianity I am saying [masculine Christianity is] one way—it’s part of the truth, just as God’s more traditionally feminine qualities are part of the truth—and for some people it’s critical.

9) Women of valor at Truett Seminary I can’t help but smile to myself when I think about the fact that over the next ten years, those who think that women should be banned from church leadership will have to contend with the talents and enthusiasm of these women of valor!

10) Evangelical 2.0: The Deception of Mark Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network Acts 29 commits itself to “…get behind the men (emphasis added) who are planting churches by…networking with men in different denominations and networks for the kingdom good of the city.”

11) Women in Ministry Series: All Are Invited to Talk I struggle as a woman in a conservative church. Do I stay and work for change? Or do I escape to enjoy freedom elsewhere?

12) What Diversity Should Look Like [T]he temptation is always to elevate your own experience over someone else’s. Within the Church, this can lead to conflict, division and sorrow. But those differences can also be the glory of God made manifest.

13) Is There a Place for Creative Christians? In community that is caring and healthy, an artist brings not only beauty and inspiration but also powerful observational skills and spiritual awareness.

14) Phyllis Tickle & Doug Paggit: The Physicality of Lent In the third installment of my conversation with Phyllis Tickle about Lent we talk about the physical nature of spirituality.

Service: Social Justice Issues

1) The Santorum Question: Should Theology Affect the Way We Vote? Faith and politics are enmeshed with each other in both vital and destructive ways.

2) Counting the Cost I have learned, however, that when you take these numbers and put them within context and place, these numbers actually tell a story.

3) Justice in Guatemala: Man Convicted for Raping His 15-Year-Old Daughter And the conviction sends a strong message to the entire community that sexual crimes against children will not be tolerated under the law.

4) A Savvy Peacemaker Building Across Missouri’s Race Lines The divide has resulted in tension between the African American community and the predominantly white authorities and social service agencies. Lawson sees his calling as bridging that gap.

5) The Significance of Linsanity Fortunately, the symbolism hasn’t been wasted; rather, it has turned into a fascinating conversation about the need for forgiveness and humility.

6) Role Reversal: The Problem of the Increasing Marginalization of Men And the Khasi men are experiencing the crippling prejudice, discrimination, and oppression that women throughout history have known all too well.

7) Haitian millionaire determined to build back better Now the 45-year-old is using his entrepreneurship to benefit communities uprooted by the devastating 2010 quake.

Saturday Sex-versations

As part of the on-going series, the links below will take you to current conversations about sexuality and relationships as well as issues related to the other three categories of holistic body theology: community, cultural discernment, and service.

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) Beautiful Sex and the Impact of Porn in Marriage  Incorporating the use of pornography is as beneficial to your marital sex life as having a threesome with a disease ridden meth addicted hooker.

2) ‘Love InshAllah,’ Newly Released Book Shatters Stereotypes on Muslim Women, Sex and Love “There are still misconceptions about Muslim women, because Muslim women, their bodies, their lives, have been so caught up in political debate,” Mattu said. “I feel like this is a way for people to connect with women who are revealing their full humanity.”

3) Love You! Now, the Difficult Stuff… Once people decide they are in love…too often they will duck tough conversations for fear of undermining what they see as a magical connection.

4) Should the Church Begin Arranged Marriages? With children hitting puberty earlier and earlier, and the level of sexual brokenness in our culture, having arranged marriages provides people with, hopefully, a healthier sexual outlet at a younger age.

5) 10 ways to have a horrible first date if you’re a Christian 7. Tell him you play handbells at church. And then, play them during your entire date.

6) Sex change British man gives birth to son Last night medical ethics experts called for a full inquiry into the issues surrounding transgender births, saying the interests of the child should not be risked to “fulfill the rights of an adult”.

7) Country’s first openly gay bishop preaches inclusivity beyond hospitality He called on the 300 people in the pews before him to work harder to integrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into their spiritual lives.

8) To the Girl Who Has Never Dated Dating seems to have fallen into this weird category in Christian circles where we are either one date away from marriage or ruining the rest of our lives. Talk about extremes.

9) What Is Love? The Soul Knows If God is one and love is infinite, why limit ourselves when it comes to choosing a partner?

10) Interracial marriage in US hits new high: 1 in 12  “The rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter century…but America still has a long way to go.”

11) Unplanned Parenthood: The Blessing of an Inconvenient Pregnancy [F]ertility and childbearing highlight my addiction to control more than almost anything else…. Women are, after all, trained to control our bodies. Managing one’s appearance and conducting one’s body in a way that honors God are common female virtues in the church.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Kelli Anderson – Disruptive Wonder for a Change The world is full of order that doesn’t necessarily deserve our respect. Sometimes there is meaning, justice, and logic present in the way things are — but sometimes there just isn’t. [Her thoughts on media literacy begin around 9:30 with an astonishing prank.]

2) The Truth About Disney Love  What Disney fails to tell us is that when you wish upon a star, it usually doesn’t come true.

3) Why Pretty Women Are Overrated Don’t let culture define you.

Community: Equality Issues (There’s so much happening this week in the wake of John Piper’s remarks that I thought it deserved its own category.)

1) The Rhetoric of Masculine Christianity Yet the most important issue is not that Piper’s view would be misunderstood.  The absolute fundamental problem would be that it would be mistakenly taken as good news.

2) John Piper’s Masculine Christianity There is certainly a masculine feel to Christianity; but does this masculine feel necessarily exclude an equal female feel? Aren’t there aspects of the Christian faith that have a feminine feel to them…and should we also seek to promote these?

3) Lecrae, 116 Clique and John Piper — 100& Masculinity I assert that it is not masculinity that saved us from femininity; rather, that love compelled Christ to come and save us from fear, hate and darkness; that love compelled Christ to sacrifice all to save us from ourselves, our sin and our selfishness.

4) Writing for a Sexist World  [A]s women who write we have to be feminist, explicitly feminist—because the reception of our work will often be sexist.

5) Women’s History: Give Credit Where It’s Due Motivated by the belief that men and women were made in God’s image to “rule the earth” together, these pro-woman, pro-justice believers sought to right wrongs for those who had less social power. Isn’t it time we reclaimed our own story?

6) Masculine Christianity’s Problem One of the major issues today is the rise of education among women, making some men feel intimidated.

7) Unbinding the Feet: Women in Ministry In hindering some women from the fullness of their callings, we hinder the entire Body of Christ as well.

Community: Other Issues

1) seeds matter. we don’t have to keep perpetuating systems we fundamentally disagree with.  we don’t have to pass on a legacy of inequality and sexism to our children.  we don’t have to comprise our integrity  to keep fitting in. change starts with us.

2) Interview with Dan Brennan [W]e should never treat persons as instruments for achieving our own agendas….This is foundational for a life-giving, holiness and reverence between the sexes in marriage and friendship.

3) Does Anyone Actually Belong in Church? I want to step back and ask, “What do we mean when we say we don’t feel like we belong in church?”

4) Why Young People Are Feeling Conservative Evangelicalism The report cites the tension felt by young adults who find it difficult—if not impossible—to remain “sexually pure,” especially since most heterosexuals don’t marry until their mid-to-late twenties.

5) A love note to the workaholic One of the most commonly held and dangerous myths about vulnerability is that being vulnerable means being weak.

6) Why Jeremy Lin Matters Given Lin’s clear profession of faith, Asian American Christians in particular embrace him both as fellow ethnic kin as well as a fellow believer.

7) Christianity Out, Religion In?  In fact, these days more and more Americans are discontent with religion, and instead turn to spirituality to reconnect with God, themselves, and others.

8) When Words Become Flesh Our words must become flesh.

9) What’s the Point of Church Membership Perhaps the actual problem is that we don’t want to commit to a bunch of broken people who will inevitably hurt us and let us down. So we settle for tarnished intimacy and feigned vulnerability.

10) Gong Story My real agenda was not even to disciple her, but to make her more like me – and she saw straight through it. Who wants to be like a gong?

11) Amazing Gift: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion “Anybody working toward including a particular group,” said Hartmut, “soon discovers that inclusive ministry does not stop there. It leads to many other groups, whose access to the holy table deserves equal attention.”

12) The Challenge of Disability to Christianity Persons with profound cognitive disabilities tend to teach us that the truly significant thing, the main thing, is located at the ineffable core of our being.

13) In which there is a crack in everything  Here’s my own life, I’m determined to share it, to pour it out unfinished, imperfect.

14) Five Principles for Surviving Community [Community] is a purposing to stand hand in hand with a variety of others, for a variety of reasons, and to say somehow–”These are MY people.” while not obscuring the fact that countless others, yet unknown, could equally fit such a description.

Service: Social Justice Issues

1)Stolen Childhood: How Do We End the Use of Child Soldiers?  [A]lmost 40% of child soldiers are girls. Not only do they serve as combatants, but many are also taken as “bush wives”, a term used by militia commanders to refer to sex slaves.

2) Crocheting for a Better Tomorrow [T]he cards are meant to serve as a reminder that we should remember to feel compassion and love for our neighbors both locally and globally.

3) Do We Have to Forgive Chris Brown? Something is very, very wrong when a story about Jesus protecting a woman from male violence is being used to protect a violent man from feminist criticism.

4) Finding Our Political Will to End Poverty Remarkably, we made it through 2011 without any major cuts to programs focused on hungry and poor people. We maintained the safety net in this country, and it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

5) Cost-Effective Compassion The difficulties in assessing the impact of antipoverty efforts only magnify the need for understanding the impacts of different types of programs.

Forward Friday: The Body of Christ and the Body of Christ

This week we looked at community in Bonhoeffer’s writings and how that relates to being the body of Christ and the body of Christ.  In case you missed it,

Part of holistic body theology is engaging in healthy community as the body of Christ.  We are the community of God, and through Christ we interact with one another to build each other up as we seek to live fully into our identity as the image of God. Likewise, another part of holistic body theology is engaging in healthy interaction with the world, both as individuals and together with the community of God.  This is the body of Christ, the activity and impact of the community of God as we participate in the incarnation of Jesus.

Yes, I did just quote myself.

So for today’s Forward Friday, let’s try our hand at one of the two below.  For extra credit, try them both!  Leave a comment below to share what you tried and how it worked out.

1) Being the body of Christ

Bonhoeffer wrote that the greatest benefit of community is the sense of togetherness derived from doing life together.  This weekend, invite some fellow Christians over for dinner.  They can be your close friends, acquaintances you’d like to know better, someone new to your community, or a combination. No need to prepare a Bible study or elaborate ritual for the group.  Just enjoy being in community together and sharing a meal, mindful that Jesus often broke bread with his friends, too.

2) Being the body of Christ

Bonhoeffer wrote that one of the costs of discipleship is dying to self in order to free ourselves from our own selfish concerns and turn our attention to the concerns of others.  This weekend, try focusing on a current issue, either in your town or on a larger scale, and look for a way to participate in advocating for others.  Not sure where to start?  Check out International Justice Mission and become better informed about human trafficking.  Then, get involved. You could volunteer with a local social justice group, sign a petition, or support a valued charity.  Find one opportunity to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, and take it.

Lessons Learned in Prison — Part 4

Community, as Bonhoeffer describes it, requires Jesus as mediator, discipleship, and participation in the incarnation.  Today, we’ll conclude with a brief look at the benefits and challenges of community as well as how Bonhoeffer’s theology relates to holistic body theology.

Challenges: pride and disillusionment

Bonhoeffer criticizes those who live apart for their pride, which separates them from living in a right relationship to God and to others. “The wish to be independent in everything is false pride,” he writes in one of his prison letters and continues, “Even what we owe to others belongs to ourselves and is a part of our own lives, and any attempt to calculate what we have ‘earned’ for ourselves and what we owe to other people is certainly not Christian.”

Bonhoeffer recognizes the difficulty of this kind of intentional Christian life and takes great pains to acknowledge that sin happens.  He warns against idealizing community life by glossing over sin: “In Christian brotherhood, everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.”  The greatest harm to a community comes through disillusionment when sin enters in (as it inevitably will) and is revealed or is kept hidden.

Shame is a deeply crippling issue universal to the human experience.  Christian or not, we deal with shame because of our fallen nature.  Bonhoeffer writes in Ethics: “Man perceives himself in his disunion with God and with men…Shame is man’s ineffaceable recollection of his estrangement from the origin; it is grief for this estrangement, and the powerless longing to return to unity with the origin.”  Shame requires hiding (i.e., we were ashamed because we were naked), and hiding creates an environment of isolation and loneliness within the community, exactly that which community is designed to eradicate.  When sin comes out, disillusionment sets in and the community rarely survives.

Benefits: freedom from shame and loneliness

For Christians, however, there is hope: community.  Bonhoeffer urges “brotherly confession and absolution” to correct this tendency toward shame.  “Lying destroys community,” Bonhoeffer observes, “but truth rends false community and founds genuine fellowship.”  It is this truth spoken to one another in community that keeps accountable for the sin that cannot be avoided completely.

Confession and intercession are essential for a healthy community life. Bonhoeffer encourages his readers to confess to one another when he writes, “If a Christian is in the fellowship of confession with a brother he will never be alone again, anywhere.” When we confess sin in a safe space to a safe person, that sin no longer has power to shame and isolate us from the rest of the community.  “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses,” Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together, ” I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.” When we pray for someone, it is infinitely more difficult to remain distant from that person.  Prayer brings us together, whether we are praying with or for one another, because we are looking to Christ who mediates between us all. Church, like the home, should be a safe environment to make mistakes and be encouraged.

Bonhoeffer suggests in Life Together that the “fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship.”  However, the imprisoned Bonhoeffer feels the lack of community on a much more human level: “I very much miss meal-time fellowship…So may not this be an essential part of life, because it is a reality of the Kingdom of God?”

Living and acting out the spiritual disciplines within the community are certainly essential, but Bonhoeffer realizes while he is in prison that we most feel the lack of simple coming together, sharing life together; not just the Lord’s Supper but any supper.  Not just confession but communication.  Not just the visible church-community but daily and freely communing with fellow believers.  It is the sense of togetherness that Bonhoeffer suggests as the greatest benefit of community.  After all, where two or three are gathered, there is Christ among them.

Holistic Body Theology: The Body of Christ and the Body of Christ

Part of holistic body theology is engaging in healthy community as the body of Christ.  We are the community of God, and through Christ we interact with one another to build each other up as we seek to live fully into our identity as the image of God. Likewise, another part of holistic body theology is engaging in healthy interaction with the world, both as individuals and together with the community of God.  This is the body of Christ, the activity and impact of the community of God as we participate in the incarnation of Jesus.

As we learned from our tour of Bonhoeffer’s writings this week, community and Christian fellowship are infinitely vital to the Christian life. Equally vital, however, is the role of the visible church-community in the world and the impact it should have through participation in the incarnation of Jesus.

Bonhoeffer writes, “A man’s attitude to the world does not correspond with reality if he sees in the world a good or an evil which is good or evil in itself…and if he acts in accordance with this view,” that is, idealistic interaction with the world is lacking in the reality of the call of Christ to the action of the disciples.  Rather, “his attitude accords with reality only if he lives and acts in limited responsibility and thereby allows the world ever anew to disclose its essential character to him.”  (This is what Richard Niebuhr would call Christ transforming culture.)

We are called to be a city on a hill, but we’re not supposed to be a gated community, inaccessible if you don’t know the secret code. Jesus entered into the context of his day, and so should we. The role of the Christian in the world is to think and act according to the ever-changing reality of events in the world.    Bonhoeffer makes community life seem so apparent and logical, so clear in scripture, so necessary a part of the live of the disciple who is participating in the incarnation and acting on behalf of those who need justice.

Let’s take our cue from Bonhoeffer and follow his example into a community that has Jesus as the mediator, is made up of costly disciples, and is determined to participate both individually and communally in the incarnation as the body of Christ.

Lessons Learned in Prison — Part 3

This week, we’ve been honoring Bonhoeffer‘s birthday by taking a tour of some of his writings to discover what he teaches about community.  In addition to Jesus as mediator and discipleship, let’s look at the third requirement for community.

3) Responsibility and deputyship (participation in the incarnation)

Bonhoeffer says that we as Christians should be in community because Christ exemplified it for us every day he walked on earth, especially in the way he interacted with his disciples: “In bearing with men God maintained fellowship with them.”  We are God’s deputies here on earth, participating in the incarnation of Christ.  If Christ is our example of community life, how much more are sacrifice and service to be the themes of our interaction with community members on a daily basis?  “If you reject God’s commanding word,” Bonhoeffer warns, “you will not receive God’s gracious word.  How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point?”

Repeatedly, Bonhoeffer stresses the fact that community is about dying to self.  In agreeing to participate in the incarnation by becoming a disciple and taking on the responsibility of entering into the lives of others, we are freed to suffer—“The cross is not the terrible end of a pious, happy life.  Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ.  Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death”—and freed to forgive—“Jesus’ call to bear the cross places all who follow him in the community of forgiveness of sins.  Forgiving sins is the Christ-suffering required of his disciples…of all Christians.”

When we give up the claim to our own rights, we are freed to turn our attention and concern to the rights of others.  This freedom is the deputyship Bonhoeffer charges to each Christian; it is an ethic of relationship and community, the requirement of incarnational service for others.  In one of his prison letters, Bonhoeffer writes, “It’s remarkable how we think at such times about the people that we should not like to live without, and almost or entirely forget about ourselves.” 

Our human nature has been designed for community life.  It is a sacrifice to be in a position to love others rightly, but it is a sacrifice only because of our sinful nature, not because of our true natural inclination.  Dying to the self makes us able to live the life we have been designed for, which is why Bonhoeffer can create an ethic that requires our participation in the lives of those around us.

Regardless of the environment in which we live, community living is still a responsibility and expectation of every disciple. Bonhoeffer asserts, “This principle [of deputyship] is not affected by the extent of the responsibility assumed, whether it be for a single human being, for a community or for whole groups of communities….[E]ven the solitary lives as a deputy, and indeed quite especially so, for his life is lived in deputyship for man as man, for mankind as a whole.”

Whether we’re in a position to live intentionally among other Christians, or whether we find ourselves in a position of being a solitary light to the world, we are all called to participate in the incarnation of Jesus as the body of Christ in the world.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the challenges and benefits of being in community and what it means to be the body of Christ.

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