Bikinis, Sepulchres & Bathing Machines

Hey lovelies, I started this post several days ago and since then the brilliant and talented Rachel Held Evans has chimed in with a fabulous post on this very topic titled: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means. You should read it too even though I am going to quote it a couple times. 🙂

Bikini Girls from a Mosaic found at Villa Romana del Casale a 4th century Italian villa.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23, ESV)

Putting on regulations that look and sound good because they make us feel like we are safe from ourselves DO NOT WORK. They are of no value when it comes to stopping the indulgence of the flesh. You want to know why lovelies? Because keeping the “rules” doesn’t change your heart. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, that is just a whited sepulchre: Pretty and clean but full of death.

Summer is upon us kiddos and you know what that has meant (at least in my Facebook feed)? A plethora of articles from my well meaning Christian friends that tell me what I can and cannot wear at the beach or even in my own swimming pool if I am going to claim to be a proper Christian lady. Bikinis are taboo my friends and not just for me but also for my 10 year old daughter if I don’t want her to grow up to be some sort of floozie. The logic goes, men are visual creatures, they can’t help themselves. They are unable, you see, to overcome their biology. They are weak and they need me to cover up so they won’t think about having sex with me and in so doing commit adultery in their heart.  So if indeed I am a kind and loving person I will help them out by wearing a one piece. Oh wait but not any one piece, that can’t be too revealing either. Perhaps a cover up over it. But why stop there? Bathing suits are form fitting. Maybe they should be looser. Maybe I should just wear board shorts and a t-shirt. But wait, not if the shorts are too short.  Maybe we should go back to some of the old suits or even bathing machines? Where does it end? Where is the line between too sexy and just sexy enough? Because the same folks who tell me there are rules about me wearing a bikini also tell me there are rules about not “letting myself go” and making sure I am still sexy enough for my husband. Sigh. It is exhausting.

Side note: I have friends who say, just ask any man he can tell you where the line is. Well, I’ve got news for you lovelies, every man has a different line.

Several of the articles I have read quote a Princeton study that says,

Brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tool use lights up.”

Men were also more likely to associate images of sexualized women with first-person action verbs such as “I push, I grasp, I handle,” said lead researcher Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University.

[You don’t want to be seen as a mere tool to be used do you? is the question that comes next. But wait we will get to that later.]

Tamara Smith-Dyer (Full-time data analyst at the University of Pennsylvania and Cabrini sociology professor) asserts that the sample in this study is very biased. “Including 21 undergraduate males from Princeton does not provide a representative sample of the population. For example, the age is limited. Race and socioeconomic status will be skewed in this sample as well.”

“The sample size, 21, is very small. While the scientific community typically holds a minimum acceptable sample size to be 30, which is more than the current study’s sample size, statisticians including myself know that even 30 is very limited and samples should be much larger than this when possible in order to prevent ‘false positive’ study results,” Dyer said.

Not only that, the Christian “anti bikini” articles that I read liked pointing out that, “the part of the brain associated with analyzing another person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions was inactive while viewing scantily clad women” however this statement is out of context and is also misleading. When performing the study “the participants, 21 heterosexual male undergraduates at Princeton, took questionnaires to determine whether they harbor “benevolent” sexism, which includes the belief that a woman’s place is in the home, or hostile sexism, a more adversarial viewpoint which includes the belief that women attempt to dominate men.”  The study goes on to state that for “the men who scored highest on hostile sexism, the part of the brain associated with analyzing another person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions was inactive while viewing scantily clad women.” One analyst put it this way, “those who viewed women as controlling and invaders of male space—didn’t show brain activity that indicates they saw the women in bikinis as humans with thoughts and intentions.” Do you see the difference that one little fact that these were the men who held the most sexist attitudes prior to the study makes? So now these are not all 21 young men who took part but only those of the 21 who scored highest for hostile sexism.

SO… of the 21 college men those who had the most aggressive sexist attitudes did not see women in bikinis as having thoughts and intentions. Hmmm. It seems to me they thought that before seeing them in bikinis.

It would seem to me that the way we teach our boys to think about women has a bigger effect on whether men see them as objects than what they have on. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive, I know men will look at women in bikinis and find them sexually attractive. They will also look at women in shorts, skirts, pants, blouses, dresses and for some even shapeless denim jumpers and find them sexually attractive. As RHE stated in the post linked above,

The truth is, a man can choose to objectify a woman whether she’s wearing a bikini or a burqa. We don’t stop lust by covering up the female form; we stop lust by teaching men to treat women as human beings worthy of respect.

Contrary to what some think I personally do not believe the mere biological, chemical and psychological processes involved in sexual attraction are in and of themselves sinful.

I am the mother of one middle school aged son and one middle school aged daughter. My daughter wears a bikini. The other day we had a conversation about this topic. I assured my daughter that if someone looks at her and is sexually attracted to her she is not sinning. I assured my son of the same. I also assured them that if they were sexually attracted to someone they were not sinning. Sin enters the picture between our ears and in our hearts when we choose to objectify that person and look at them as something to be possessed. I will quote Rachel again here,

It is important here to make a distinction between attraction and lust. Attraction is a natural biological response to beauty; lust obsesses on that attraction until it grows into a sense of ownership, a drive to conquer and claim. When Jesus warns that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he uses the same word found in the Ten Commandments to refer to a person who “covets” his neighbor’s property. Lust takes attraction and turns it into the coveting of a woman’s body as though it were property. And men are responsible for their own thoughts and actions when this happens; they don’t get to blame it on what a woman is wearing.

I promised you I would get back to the tool thing so here we go…this part of the study was actually done on both male and female undergraduates and suggested that men are more likely than women to link women wearing bikinis with first person action verbs such as “push,” “handle” and “grab.” However when the men looked at fully clothed women they associated them with the third person forms such as she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs.” The researches felt this implied that the men viewed women who were fully clothed as in control of their own actions. I just think well, duh. It is kind of obvious that heterosexual men would be more likely than women to see a woman in a bikini and think push, handle grab than they are to think those words about a woman in say a business suit. I don’t think this implies a dang thing about their motives or whether they will choose to sin or not.  Also, as far as I can tell in this portion of the study no questionnaire was given as to what sexist attitudes any of these men (or women for that matter) may or may not have had and so we do not get to know if there would be the same correlation as before with people’s preconceived attitudes about male and female roles/relationships and what they thought when presented with images of women in bikinis. I suspect there would be. Once again, just because one has a thought come to mind or a biological process kick in, does not mean that person, either the man who’s tool sector (see what I did there?) is kicking in or the woman in the bikini at the pool, is sinning. It just means they are attracted, they see something they want to touch. What seems to matter most (at least to me) is the attitudes they already brought to the table about the roles, relationships and motivations of men and women.

All that said, I think it is up to each woman whether she wears a bikini. Some women are comfortable in one and some are not. Here’s a fun little exercise. Let’s have a look at Romans 14 and how it might look in re to our current conversation…

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome her, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes she may wear anything, while the other wears only what is “modest”. Let not the one who wears a bikini despise the one who does not, and let not the one who does not wear a bikini pass judgment on the one who does, for God has welcomed her. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before her own master that she stands or falls. And she will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make her stand.

One person esteems one bathing suit as better than another, while another esteems all bathing suits alike. Each one should be fully convinced in her own mind. The one who does wears the bikini, wears it in honor of the Lord. The one who wears, wears in honor of the Lord, since she gives thanks to God, while the one who does not wear, does not wear in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to herself, and none of us dies to herself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your sister? Or you, why do you despise your sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of herself to God.

So to all my Jesus loving women friends out there (yes you!) rock that suit, bikini or not for you are beautiful and it doesn’t matter if the whole world knows it. Being attractive is not a sin. Judging your sister is. Being attractive does not cause sin any more than being hungry causes gluttony.  And to all my Jesus following male friends out there. Sexual attraction is not sin. Treating a woman as less than you is. Admiring beauty is not sin. Treating a woman as something to be possessed is.


Hey, I just thought of this on my laundry folding break…

We don’t say:
The chef caused me to be a glutton, they are sinning by making the plates look so beautiful and the food taste so good.
They should have to make it less delicious and less appetizing so I won’t over eat.

The car manufacturer caused me to envy, they are sinning by making the cars too fast and stunning to look at. They should design uglier cars so I won’t envy.
The clothing store caused me to shoplift, they are sinning by setting the price higher than I can pay. They should lower their prices so I don’t steal.
He was working with his shirt off, he is sinning by being out where women can see him. He should put a shirt on so women don’t lust after him.

We do say:
Her dress is too short (or she is wearing a bikini), she is sinning by being too sexy. She should wear a longer skirt so men don’t sin.They did something I find annoying, they are sinning by causing me to get angry. They should stop doing that so I don’t lose my temper.

I wonder why this is? I guess that is fodder for another post.





The Dark Stories

“Those who seek to glorify biblical womanhood have forgotten the dark stories. They have forgotten that the concubine of Bethlehem, the raped princess of David’s house, the daughter of Jephthah, and the countless unnamed women who lived and died between the lines of Scripture exploited, neglected, ravaged and crushed at the hand of patriarchy are as much a part of our shared narrative as Deborah, Esther, Rebekah and Ruth…it is our responsibility to guard the dark stories for our own daughters, and when they are old enough, to hold their faces between our hands an make them promise to remember.” -Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood

I am loving this book so far. Rachel’s point in this chapter is that not all (or maybe not any) of what is recorded (and not recorded) about Biblical womanhood looks like 1950s America and June Cleaver. Sometimes it is ugly and sometimes Biblical women were mistreated or killed in the name of serving God. That makes God sick to His stomach and that should make us sick to our stomachs as well. It is not God’s design for His daughters that they be held under the thumb of abuse and oppression in order for Him to receive glory. Not my God. Not my Jesus.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

The Spirit of The Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. Luke 4:18

Lists, Ambition and One Last Thing

Much has been made in the last week while I was away about a list of the Top 200 Church Bloggers posted by Kent Shaffer. There is also a cover story done by Christianity Today about 50 Women to Watch coming to news stands near you.

And while I do care that Mr Shaffer’s list was 93% white males, I do not care that word of a woman was no where to be found. I honestly don’t care about ever making his list. I also don’t care if Christianity today decides I belong on their list of women to watch even if I do love me some Rachel Held Evans. I appreciate them attempting to celebrate female followers of Jesus who they feel are making an impact, but I personally don’t care if I ever meet the criteria to make their list. For me having a women’s list that is separate from the men’s list is just more of the “our church lets women lead” mentality that Kathy Escobar wrote about recently. This may lead you to ask what I would do if I were ever to make a list such as this one. One way to react is the way Rachel Held Evans did this week in her post Is Ambition a Sin? She explained:

I weighed in a few times myself, thinking that, as one of just three women who made it to the Top 100, no one could accuse me of sour grapes. I even offered some tips regarding search engine optimization, design, posting schedule, and so on, hoping they might help some women whose content is great, but whose blogs might be blipping just under the radar. If we don’t like the list, I reasoned, let’s work to change it!

I agree on the one hand, working to change it is all well and good but in the end there is no doubt this is Mr. Shaffer’s list and he is free to choose whomever he wishes to be on it and it is no skin off my nose if he only decided to include baptists or pastors or  Chevy owners. I also understand, as he does, that his selection “approach is subjective and consequently flawed.”

So the question remains my lovelies, why don’t I care about making a “top Christian _______” list? The reason I don’t care has nothing to do with lack of ambition or feeling that it is unladylike to self-promote. On the contrary, I want to be an influential blogger period: Christian or not. I want to be the Mumford and Sons of blogging. I want my blog to be recognized because it is making the world a better and more beautiful place. I want it to be widely read because it connects on a deep level and maybe just maybe it reflects a spark of the divine and makes people long for more of that which calls us all to be better. This has never been about being influential with church people for me. This is about being influential with people. I believe with all my heart that God has given me words to speak that are worth hearing or I wouldn’t be here. This blog is and has always been about love; loving God and loving my neighbor; speaking out for freedom for the oppressed, and asking how we can see God’s kingdom come here and now in every corner of life. I want that message to go out to as many as humanly possible. And so…I write, because I have to, because I must, because I believe He wants me to or He wouldn’t have given me this heart, these words or this fracking awesome technology that allows us all to be more connected than ever.

Rachel Held Evans asked her readership how they felt about ambition yesterday and I am glad she asked. In Philippians 2 it says that we should “do nothing out of rivalry (some versions say selfish ambition) or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It does not say, “Do nothing out of ambition,” but rather selfish ambition. That phrase implies that there is also unselfish ambition. Google defines ambition as:


  1. A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
  2. Desire and determination to achieve success.

I don’t know about you my lovelies, but that sounds like a good thing to me. As far as I can tell, I am supposed to love and reconcile as many as I can; I am attempting to achieve that through my writing (among many other avenues); Therefore, I continue to be determined and work hard to do what it takes to succeed, including promotion and branding to ensure that my blog is seen by as many people as possible. Make no mistake, no list can determine the value of what I do here on the blogosphere any more than being named employee of the month or father of the year makes it so. The value of Word of a Woman can only be determined by whether it stirs in you, my lovelies the desire to love God, to love your neighbor, to use your life, your talent and all you are to see the world made a better place.

One last thing…

Mr. Shaffer did publish a response to the female bloggers who objected about not being included called, Open Letter to Christian Women Blogs in which he attempted to explain the list at least in regards to the exclusion of more women’s blogs. Unfortunately, in my opinion he missed the point in his response post. I could go into all the details but that would be missing the point of my own post. 😉 I will just let you read it for yourselves and make your own decisions. I will however make one point. In her response post on the Her.meneutics site, Laura Ortberg Turner relays this discussion:

In an e-mail exchange with Shaffer, a Christianity Today editor inquired as to why Her.meneutics was not on the list. He responded in a way that is indicative of a false dichotomy between “church” and “ministry” within our larger church culture:

“It hasn’t been included because we’ve subjectively decided it doesn’t focus on ministry topics frequently enough. The value in our list (although flawed) is its relatively narrow scope of topical focus. You write good posts, but they tend to be focused more on sex, relationships, adoption, politics, etc. than they are on topics rooted in ministry.”

Mr. Shaffer, this is where you completely lose me. You said that Her.meneutics was not included because their posts “tend to be focused more on sex, relationships, adoption, politics, etc. rather “than they are on topics rooted in ministry.” Really? How are these not topics rooted in ministry? I know no human, male or female, who is not personally invested in relationships, sex, adoption and/or politics. I personally reject the notion that there are ministry and non ministry topics; that posts (or anything else) can be pigeonholed into exclusively secular or uniquely sacred. I would even go so far as to say that you cannot have a blog as a follower of Christ that isn’t about a ministry topic.

In the end however you view the lists, they are subject to the list makers and the criteria they set. So why worry about whether or not I am deemed worthy by Mr. Shaffer or Christianity Today or any other person or group of making their list? Seeing my blog on a list is not my ambition. Love and Liberty and Reconciliation…now those, those are my ambitions. If I happen to end up on some “top whatever list” some day, I will most likely file it away with my Miss Congeniality award from high school, my ADDY award and all my other atta’ girls. They’re nice and all, but in the end, they don’t mean much. What survives in the end isn’t the lists or the accolades but the love and I want to be known for as much of that as possible.

Grab your Loop and Run like Hell -or- Hang Ten

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Dr. King


The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker


As I reexamined that memory on light of justice I was beginning to realize that I wasn’t being neutral at all. My lack of conviction had been an accomplice to the unequal treatment of women. My diplomacy was misguided. In my quest to maintain peace and unity, I had become a woman with a divided mind and heart.  – Pam Hogeweide, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church.


over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman.  we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited.  we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured.

so here i am, in a place i never thought i’d be. an ex good christian woman. wreaking havoc on the norms that women are supposed to have in the church, encouraging women to get their voices, pursue their dreams, quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God no matter what other people tell them they can or can’t do. to seek change for their lives, quit doing the same old unhealthy thing in their relationships and learn a new way. to seek God’s love and approval instead of human’s. it’s been hard for me to make the shift. i still feel shame for feeling this way. even as i write this, i am wondering what person is going to say how unbiblical i am, how if i just knew my role and leaned into it i would have God’s perfect peace. you see, good christian women are filled with shame. shame for the things we do do, shame for the things we don’t do. and i was a great christian superwoman. – Kathy Escobar


Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be.  Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.

Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

I imagine them around a fabled table, in suits, no doubt, pulling the chairs in tight and tighter, until they are the only ones left there, crowded around a tiny table in an airless room that feels small and smaller. Me? I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.  – Sarah Bessey


At first I thought this would be a good letter to the 16 year old me and then I realized that in spite of the struggle and the difficulty and the muting, I am who I am right now for a purpose. Lovelies we were born for such a time as this. Do you get how exciting this is? Do you get how your struggle has brought you to the point where you are standing atop the surf board, salt air in your face, hanging ten as you ride toward the shore with the wave of equality and freedom at your back propelling you into a future where there is ROOM FOR US ALL?

We stand once again at the terminator of history. The terminator or twilight zone or gray line is the moving line that separates the illuminated day side and the dark night side of a planetary body. We are coming out of the darkness and sit expectantly in the gray zone, but instead of merely waiting for the light to arrive I picture us like the people who unfurl those huge flags at the Olympics opening day ceremonies. When the music starts they grab their loop on the flag and they run like hell for the other end of the field until the full beauty of the banner is visible to all.  I picture each of us, Rachel and Sarah and me and you and Pam and every woman God has made, grabbing the loops to our collective banner, yelling into the air, “FREEDOM!!! (like Mel Gibson in Braveheart)” as we run like hell for the goal line. I picture the stands full of people watching and waiting to see what kind of banner it will be. And let me tell you when it is finally displayed for all to see, when the full picture comes into view, WOW, my lovelies is it something to behold! The colors of the lives of the men and women made in Gods image bleeding together and showing a picture, the image (if you will) of God! Holy crap. Can you just picture it?

Now, imagine all of us, men and women, young and old with Jesus in the middle, our hands on the loops of the terminator of history running like hell for the horizon pulling the light of the new dawn across the whole surface of the earth. Do you hear us? Shouting and singing and proclaiming justice for the oppressed and freedom for the captives? C’mon. Grab a loop and run with us. And look! He is making all things new.


This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event, One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.  You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read all entries by participating bloggers.

Sometimes I Grow Weary of the Fight

This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event, One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.  You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read all entries by participating bloggers.

I hate to admit it but sometimes…

I grow weary of the fight.

I want to retreat into my own marriage and life and let everyone else fend for themselves.

I feel like it is an uphill battle in which the hill is coated in grease and I am wearing skis.

I am just done asking for a seat at the table and just want to smash the table to bits.

I want to give up when I hear the things people say to me and other women I know about why they should be quiet and ask their husbands at home.

I mourn for the girls who are told that education is wasted on them and the only reason they should go to college is to find a husband.

I am discouraged when women I know choose to mute their own voices to keep the peace.

I get angry when pastors and leaders teach that because of my gender I am just a smidge less equal than my son or my husband or my father or any other man simply because he is a man.

I want to throw in the towel when rather than lifting up their sisters our brothers choose to stand on our backs to elevate themselves.

My heart breaks when I hear single women or women without children told that the highest calling of a woman is bearing children rather than loving God and loving her neighbor as herself.

My soul hurts when women who are abused are told that God will reward them for enduring the abuse of their husband.

The fight just goes right out of me when young women are taught that their voice should be muted so their husband’s can be heard.

I get so upset I can’t speak when women are blamed for the sexual sins of men because they look too good and then chastised for not “keeping themselves up” for their husbands.

The road seems too long when I listen to the voices of young men when they explain that they are looking for a Proverbs 31 woman and they think that means she should be ALL the things on that list in order to measure up. Rather than seeing it as a way to look for things she is doing well and praising her for them.

I die a little inside when I realize I still have to explain honor killings and acid attacks to my daughter.

I want to scream, “Stop comparing yourself to a woman you were never meant to be! Let your voice be heard! You are a fierce, beautiful, lovely creation of God meant to bear his image as much as any man!”

I want to whisper, “You are enough. You are loved just as you are. If you never DO another thing. You do not have to be anything except who God already made you.”

And then, sometimes…

I am reminded there are others out there throwing off the cone of silence and shouting to the heavens, “I have something to say! Jesus gave me this voice and these gifts. I was born a woman to reflect the image of God!”

I watch in amazement as others fumble with their keys to unlock the shackles of others in bondage to a set of rules God never put on them; rules that are kept in place by leaders who would never consider bearing the same burden themselves.

I gain strength from husbands and brothers and fathers who support and defend and practice mutual submission, and in the face of being accused of weakness and passivity they show a strength that shakes the earth and frees the captives.

My heart sings as I watch a young woman who would never consider muting herself as the way to attract a man of character but rather looks for a man who is strong enough to want to hear what she has to say.

I burst with joy when I see the tide turning as post after post, and book after book, and woman after woman, and marriage after marriage are spoken and written and unleashed and transformed from something that resembles at best a benevolent dictatorship into a beautiful dance of mutual respect, mutual submission and self-sacrificing love that reflects the relationship of the trinity.

I want to shout from the rooftops, “The tide is turning! It cannot be stopped! Jesus has come! Freedom has come! The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

I want to whisper, “Come quickly, Lord. Bring freedom to as many as possible. Let their voices, women and men, come together to lift each other up by outdoing each other in love and honor. Don’t let me lose heart. Give me strength to never give up because every person you made bears your image and their voices must be heard just as you made them for them to fully love you and others as you intended.”

The Closest Friends I’ve Never Met and an Unladylike Manifesto

These days I have lots of friends I have never met and I am surprised by how much a part of my life they are. A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog by Rachel Held Evans (I am not even sure how). Then I got her book on and she rode shotgun with me while I eagerly listened to her every word. Together we laughed and we cried. Rachel is actually someone that I have had the privilege of meeting and lived to blog about it here.  After a couple months of reading Rachel’s blog and several others it lead me to, including Sarah Bessey’s, I had an epiphany of sorts… I had something to say! For those who actually have met me in person it will be hard to believe that I would be at a loss for words, but because of past experiences over time I unwittingly became (or tried to appear to be…) ladylike. For me, most of the time meant biting my tongue. I am a natural talker and strong woman with leadership skills that don’t involve kids, crafts or tea and little sandwiches. Outside of my church life, this was never a problem, in fact it was seen as a strength in most areas: high school, college, bar tending, and in the art departments where I worked after college. No, it was only in my church life and with my church friends (I never thought I kept my life separate and I most ways I didn’t but when it came to my behavior and how much I spoke up and took a leadership role I was definitely leading a divided life) that I felt the need to be less _________ and more ___________ than I am. You could fill in those blanks with all kinds of words. I was always either too much (Alise Wright) or not enough (Rachel Held Evans). At one point I even had a friend (someone I admired and whom I love very much) write down verses and talk to me about how I needed to speak less and be more dispassionate about what I had to say. That one act both upset me greatly and muted me for a long time. I became somewhat convinced, in a very conflicted way, that there was something wrong with me. It took me a lot of years, the support of my husband and a lot of listening to the voices of other women who were tired of being quiet, dispassionate and ladylike to finally be okay with releasing my true and authentic voice: the one God gave me.

These days, I am much less “ladylike” (Webster: feeling or showing too much concern about elegance or propriety or lacking in strength, force, or virility) and also much “less divided” as my friend Kathy Escobar (who I get to meet in October!) said in her recent post (you must read it, you must read it now!). It is one I am printing out and keeping to read and reread whenever I need it, kind of like my emergency chocolate. Like my friend Kathy, today I am happy. She writes,

the thing that makes me happy right now is that many people i know are finding freedom and becoming less divided.  we’re breaking free.  we’re finding our way.  we’re loosening shame’s grip.  we’re stepping into who God made us to be.

These are a few of the closest friends I’ve never met, let me introduce them to you my lovelies, you will never meet a finer, more fierce, more passionate group of leaders anywhere. There’s Kathy and Rachel and Sarah and Alise and Jo and so many more. It is in large part because of these women that I am able to be truly free to serve Jesus with all that I am. It is my great privilege to join their voices and add mine to their mission to bring freedom to all God’s children, men and women together.

Today one of these women, Pam Hogeweide wrote a brilliant post in response to The True Woman Manifesto which was posted on I want to share it with you. It is truly inspired.

Unla­dy­like Manifesto

  • We believe that male and female are cre­ated to col­lab­o­rate, co-lead and co-exist in a mutu­al­ity of sub­mis­sion to one another. (Gen 2:18 – 23,Galatians 3:28)
  • We believe that gift­ing is appointed accord­ing to the will of the Holy Spirit and that call­ing is deter­mined by gift­ing, not gen­der. (1 Corinthi­ans 12,  John 20:1 – 20)
  • We believe that the power of the Gospel restores men and women in right rela­tion­ship to one another to live, serve and lead side by side rather than in patri­ar­chal hier­ar­chy. (Gala­tians 3:28, John 4:7 – 39)
  • We believe that the voice, influ­ence and author­ity of women is meant to be fully unleashed in accor­dance to the full per­son­hood that women pos­sess. Male  head­ship is a myth. (Joel 2:28 – 29, 1 Peter 2:9 – 10)
  • We believe in the mutual sub­mis­sion and part­ner­ship of mar­riage where nei­ther has author­ity over another by virtue of gen­der. We reject the headship/submission model as a bib­li­cal truth and instead embrace the lib­erty and wis­dom of def­er­ence to the other. (Eph­esian 1:22, Eph­esians 5: 15 – 33, 1 Peter 5:5)
  • We believe that the lead­er­ship of women is needed in full part­ner­ship with the lead­er­ship of men in all are­nas of cul­ture and church. Women were not cre­ated to fol­low any­more than men were cre­ated to lead. (Num­bers 12:15, Judges 4 & 5, 2 Kings 22:13 – 14, Acts 2, Romans  16:3 – 4, 7)
  • We believe that Jesus mod­eled a rad­i­cal agenda of respect­ing women’s full per­son­hood in how he treated them as noted in the Gospels. Jesus went against cul­tural and reli­gious norms in his treat­ment of women. (Luke 13:10 – 17, John 4, Luke 8:1 – 3, etc.….)
  • We believe that men and women of faith ought to resist the injus­tice of inequal­ity wher­ever it is found, includ­ing the halls of the church. Jus­tice is a king­dom of God value and is the lan­guage of love. (Hosea 2:19, Amos 5:15, 24, Micah 6:8)


Who Can Withhold the Water?

This week I had lunch with a good friend. She has been following the blog and wanted to know how my beliefs had evolved on the issue of homosexuals and homosexual marriage. As we talked and I heard her story I felt compelled to share it with you and she has graciously agreed to allow me to share it here. This story and the many many others like it reaffirm my strong conviction that I can no longer remain silent nor does God expect me to. In fact, I strongly suspect that he expects me to speak and that it is the holy spirit within me that  is egging me on.
I listened with intensity and as my friend told me how she came to believe that “God has gay children” over 20 years ago. She read and researched and visited local gay affirming churches. She asked questions that one of the pastors said she would normally refuse to even entertain. But you see, that pastor could see my friend’s heart and that she was truly asking because she desired to understand. In the end, she came to believe that indeed, God has gay  children and that he loves them. So far so good I am thinking, but it was then that the story turns ugly. When she began to talk about what she was learning she found herself face down on the floor, 8 grown men on top of her holding her down, 2000 people looking on while they attempted to cast the demons of homosexuality out of her. Every time she tried to work herself free they assumed it was the evil spirits in her and pushed her down harder. Thank God she was not crushed or suffocated as been the fate of some others in that situation. It did not stop there. Even though my friend is straight, they refused to believe her, she was after all a single woman with no boyfriend. She said they would not be convinced and she wondered if they would believe her even if she had sex with a man in front of witnesses.

(It is interesting to note here that this week I was having a discussion on Facebook about President Obama coming out in support of gay marriage, when the gentleman on the other side of the discussion asked me if I was a lesbian. Why is it my lovelies that some folks automatically go there?)

Back to the story, my friend went on to tell me how she had been so damaged by her community that she has difficulty looking at herself in the mirror to this day. They told her she should die. They told her she should kill herself. By now my friend has tears streaming down her face. And she looks at me and says, “that is why I keep silent” about this issue now.

How sad is that?

We wondered together how many people there were in churches like us. Who knew deep in their hearts that “God has gay children.” How many of us are there that are afraid to speak out because they fear the backlash they might receive or in the case of my friend, the backlash they have already experienced?

My friend is one of the most loving, caring, giving people you will ever meet. The people in her current community value her advice and seek her out to pray for them. They trust her with their children. The sad part is she feels like all that would be negated and ignored if they knew her stance on gay marriage. As of now that is not a trade she is willing to make. I do not condemn her. With her past experiences I don’t know if I could do it either.

This week Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazingly powerful post called, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” It is a quote from Huckleberry Finn by the great Mark Twain. Huck faces a moral dilemma over his friend Jim who is a runaway slave. Huck’s neighbors have Jim locked in a shed and are going to return him to his owners for the $200 reward.

Huck has been taught in church that Ephesians says, “Slaves obey your earthly masters”. and has been convinced that by being a friend to Jim he is going to go to “everlasting fire.”

This is the scene Evans quotes,

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”– and tore it up.

Rachel goes on to discuss her own feelings of trepidation about going against “what the Bible clearly says” in the interest of obeying her own conscience. Then she says something that should shake us awake from our slumber,

But another part of me worries that a religious culture that asks its followers to silence their conscience is just the kind of religious culture that produces $200 rewards for runaway slaves. The Bible has been “clear” before, after all—in support of a flat and stationary earth, in support of wiping out infidels, in support of  manifest destiny, in support of Indian removal, in support of anti-Semitism, in support of slavery, in support of “separate but equal,” in support of constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage.

In hindsight, it all seems so foolish, such an obvious abuse of Scripture.

…But at the time?

Sometimes true faithfulness requires something of a betrayal.

She then relays a story about a recent trip she took which found her serving communion in a church that accepts gay people. And as she shared communion with one man in particular  the disapproving words of her own sunday school teacher came to mind and she couldn’t help but remember Huck’s words, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Thankfully she and I both believe that won’t be necessary.

I have been continually amazed by serendipity lately. As I was sitting down beginning this post yesterday I received an email from my husband with a link to a stunning article on the  belief blog called My Take: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage by Mark Osler.

Mr. Osler uses the example of Peter extending the sacrament of Baptism to uncircumcised, unclean Gentiles. Osler poses the idea and Peter asserts by his question, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” that we have “no moral authority to deny baptism to to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit which fell over the entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.”

He also uses the example of Christ who at the last supper offers the bread and the wine not just to the disciple who would take care of his mother but also to the one who would deny him three times, the ones who would desert him and even the one who would betray him to be killed.

Osler issues powerful challenges to the prevailing wisdom. He states,

It is not our place, it seems to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind we find through baptism, communion and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not . The water is for all of us…

Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of God’s love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out to stingily!

Sadly my friend’s current community as well as her former community are still trying to withhold the water. Sadly too many beautiful hearts like that of my friend have been silenced by people who say they follow  Jesus.

I received a beautiful note from my friend this week thanking me for lunch. It was the first time she felt safe to be able to express the fullness of the love that was in her heart. She compared our conversation to, “breathing my first breath of fresh air”. It is my prayer that now that the waters of love shut up in her for so long have been released that the dam that has held back the water in her community would break apart and she could lead the way in offering the love of Christ through Communion, Baptism and Marriage to all, not just the ones we think are worthy.

Jesus, Peter, Osler, Evans and my friend are the reasons why I will no longer be silent. I cannot betray the voice of the Holy Spirit that cries out in my heart, “who can withhold the water?”. You may try to dam the river, but the living water of the “Holy Spirit is relentless, as Osler says, “making us all into something better and new.”