Why Does Biblical Gender Equality Matter?

Most people have an opinion about the value and position or “role” of women in the church.  If you don’t think you have an opinion about it, you probably just took on the position you were raised with, or what you have seen predominantly modeled in your church.  Some people can’t even see why it is an issue.  Others go so far as to say that it is a secondary issue in the church.  A secondary issue?!  If there are no secondary members in the church, then how can there be any secondary issues about the equality of women?  This is not a secondary issue because there are no secondary people groups in the Kingdom!

Does it really matter?  I am here to tell you, YES!  It absolutely matters!  Each person is created in the image of God.  There are attributes that we exhibit that are predominately masculine or feminine.  When Adam was created, he was created in the full image of God.  He contained all of the attributes of God, masculine and feminine.  When God fashioned Eve out of Adams ribs, He extracted the feminine qualities from Adam and placed them in a woman.  Whoa!  This is amazing to me!  That’s a big deal!  That’s so much better than the idea that women were an afterthought because Adam was lonely and needed a housekeeper, a buddy, ehem, I mean helpmate.  Women were part of the original design!

The equality of women matters more than we may see on the surface.  The church has been stunted in growth and maturity because women are not being encouraged and promoted into their callings!  Man and woman together are the full representation of the Father.  That’s why he gave us marriage.  After he extracted the feminine qualities out of Adam and placed them in Eve, God gave the institution of marriage, in which case, the two would become one (again).  This also applies to the church.  The church is to be the representation of Christ on earth.  We bear His image!  What does the church look like if only half of its members (who are relatively similar) are being represented or activated?  It looks like the American church!  We are only functioning at half capacity!  The church is only being represented in its masculine form!  (Have you ever wondered why the church is so justice oriented?  Have you ever wondered where the compassion has gone?  Have you ever wondered where the nurturing/discipleship side of the church is?  I believe these questions are easy to answer when you look at who is allowed to be active in the American church.)

The world needs to see the feminine attributes of the Father exhibited in His church!  The world is longing and begging for that!  When women are allowed and encouraged to step into the callings, this will be not only a gift to the world, but will also develop the church into a more radiant bride!  The winds of change are blowing!  I can see it happening!  The Holy Spirit is releasing freedom and peace to men and women everywhere!  Unity and love is here!

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The Prophetic Winter

It’s no secret that I’m not terribly fond of winter, but I’ve been noticing all of the winter trees this season.  Trees without leaves, planted strong, seemingly unproductive looking all but dead.  These trees hold beauty to me.  Without their leaves, you can see the beauty of their structure.  Each tree is unique, the way their branches are formed.  Some have large branches out to the side with smaller ones stemming out.  Some branches climb straight up.  Some have lots of large branches and some have clusters of tiny branches.  Some branches make angular turns and others are straight and smooth.  The beauty of the bare structure has captivated me.

One of the reasons that these bare trees hold so much majesty is because they are in their original, raw, form.  Throughout the year they yield their “fruit”, the leaves.  Many times the leaves distract from the structure itself.  Sometimes the leaves are even deceiving (they deceive you by not allowing you to see the structure underneath).  Winter is the season of dormancy.  It is the time where it appears that all life ceases to exist, but this is not the case.

Fall doesn’t just mark a season change.  The leaves changing colors and then falling off serves a vital purpose.  It is preparing the tree for the perseverance required to make it through the winter.  Leaves change colors because the tree is shutting off water and nutrient flow to the leaves to prepare for winter.  If the trees did not cut off this flow, then winter would kill the tree.  It would essentially bleed out all of its nutrients and would die.  This is where I feel like I am.  I feel like my life has produced fruit (leaves).  Some fruit has been genuine and true, so have been of my own making, and some from the influence of others.  I am in my winter season.  All is bare.  I am coming back to my original structure.  I am looking at what my actual shape is.  My trunk and branches are unchangeable.  They came from the original seed that I then became.  The seed is now a strong system of roots.

Roots’ activity is greatly stunted during the winter, although the root system still very much alive.  The roots are at rest, and interestingly enough, the roots grow at different rates, much like people who experience growth in different areas at different times.  Some are dormant while others grow.  Roots grow the most during the spring and early summer.  This is while the buds and leaves are in bloom.  Much growth below the surface happens while the fruit of the tree is visible.

I am currently resting, completely bare.  This is an important part of the life cycle.  During winter, the root system actually stretches out and expands in search for water (this allows for a larger, stronger tree bearing more leaves next season).  This is a time to get back to your roots.  To find out what is true of your root system (the Gospel/the Father vs. religion).  As you do this, your root system will expand and take your little tree to new heights.  When you realize the truth of the seed you came from, your root system expands, growing deeper, and when the next bloom comes, you will be able to see the fruit of your rest.

For the Love of Creativity

We are all created by creativity.  We are all born with creativity.  Long before time began, you were creatively designed.  You are a product of the creativity of the Divine Creator.  He didn’t just create, and end there.  He crafted you from His DNA.  He intended for you to continue creating.  You have been given a unique expression of creativity that the world is in desperate need of!  Inside you, there is a seed that needs watering and cultivating, to bloom into a beautiful expression of love from the Father.

I know I started out creative.  I was the super emotionally energetic child.  I was the child whose parents bought “The Strong Willed Child” book.  I remember having a very vivid imagination.  I remember hours turning into days of make believe fun.  I’ve been told, I never knew a stranger.  I would draw, act, play piano, sing, and write tons of stories!  These were my expressions.

One day, something changed.  Someone else in my family was labeled “the artistic one”.  Many of my friends began to excel musically.  As it turned out, I was only an average singer.  One day, the unthinkable happened, and I forgot my lines in a skit, in front of the whole school.  The only thing that hung on through my teen years was intellectual and academic pursuits.  I guess it’s safer that way, not having to put yourself out there, and risk.  In one last ditch effort to pursue creativity, I decided to take art my senior year of high school.  That didn’t last too long.  I was kicked out.  Sure, it wasn’t because of my lack of artistic ability, but that’ll pretty much put a damper on things.

So like all people, in their formative years, much of my actions were based on other’s reactions to me.  I don’t believe that anyone made the decision to not be creative for me.  I very clearly remember comparing myself to others and feeling defeated.  I opted for what was safe, and was sure to steer clear of anything involving risk.

One day, all of that changed!  I had begun reading about how God created us, and created us to create!  I learned that art (along with everything else creative) can be prophetic!  He wants to partner with the creativity He put in us, and have that shine for the world to see!  He longs for us to create things of beauty that will leave the world in awe!  All of that points to Him!

For me, it started with a gift card to a craft store.  I had nothing to lose.  I’d always wanted to try my hand at painting, and here was my opportunity.  I had beautiful pictures that God had given me, in my heart and in my head, but had no idea how to get them from my heart onto the canvas.  I just started!  The hardest part for me is just starting, and giving myself permission to make mistakes.  That’s exactly how it started.  I went from a person that was completely shut down and a non-creative, to a woman whose brain is always on, always receiving, always longing to create!  As soon as I actually started, I began receiving more and more!  As I utilize these gifts, God keeps pouring even more over me.  I don’t feel like there are enough hours in a day to create everything in my heart!  I morn over the years lost, and look forward to all that I have left in life.  I will continue to create, and my hope is to help others realize the creativity they house.

Right now, I’m starting slow and steady.  If you want to check out my facebook page, it holds some of my creations.  I will be revamping and expanding in 2015!  I’m so excited for the things to come!

https://www.facebook.com/HTArtpage

HT Art Premier

Saturday was my first official art gallery.  My bestest friend opened her home and hosted the event!  Not only did she host, but she helped organize and hang all of my paintings (after i came in with two boxes and said, “help”!)  The turn out was amazing!  More people came than I ever expected.  It was so amazing to have friends there to hang out with, and all the support and encouragement I received blessed my heart so very much!

The only problem I encountered was what I’d like to be able to call a technical problem, but in fact, I believe you could only call it a personal problem.  My super-not-amazing-beyond-ancient phone’s memory was full, and I ended up forgetting my camera at home.  So, I only have before pictures.  I don’t have any with all of the wonderful people that came.  I’d still love to share them with you.  (They definitely show off my bestie’s great gallery skills!”)

 Christmas collection
 Main Section
 Close up!
 Side view
 Ocean Collection
 Textured Wall
 Not sure what to call this collection yet
Ideas anyone?
Sunny Collection
Thank you so much for everyone that came out to support me!  It means more to me than you know!

Letter To My Daughters On Biblical Gender Equality

Dear Daughters,
               
                You are so beautiful!  You are so amazing!  I can’t believe that God gave me this many daughters to raise!  I am so blessed by you!  I want nothing more than for you to know God and love Him and let Him wrap you in His arms of love!  There is no higher pursuit.  God fashioned each of you to be a radiant expression of Him!  You certainly are living up to the calling!
                I want you to know that you are free!  You are free from the things that bind you simply because you were born a girl.  The world is getting much better with this!  Globally, we have made so much progress.  You are so blessed to be born in the United States.  Your daddy has sacrificed so much for this freedom you are to wear with confidence.  Unfortunately, the church is where you may run into problems.  In my lifetime, I have seen so much change, and I hope that by the time you are ready to launch, all of the gender constraints will be gone forever!  Don’t ever forget that Jesus paid the price for you!  He set you free from the restrictions that people will try to place on you.  Beware, these debilitating laws can be thrown at you from men and other women.  Most are well-meaning.  These people fall into three categories.  There are people who do not view women as equals and want to keep women down.  There are also those who truly desire to follow God and believe that they are interpreting scripture properly.  The subservient position they take on and command, is out of their desire to follow the Bible.  (Fortunately for us, they got it wrong.)  Thirdly, there are those that blindly follow other’s spiritual dogma.  They make no attempt to read and study the Bible on their own, thereby not utilizing the Holy Spirit in their studies, and blindly following very misled people. 
                I want you to follow the dreams that God has put in your heart!  I want you to know that WHATEVER God has called you to, you are to pursue with an unparalleled passion!  I never want you to reach the end of your days, and wonder why you didn’t do what was in your heart to do.  God has big plans for you, and He longs to use wonderful, amazing girls like you!   Do not listen to others when filtering what God has told you.  Filter His word for your life only through His Word. 
                You have something the church is missing!  You are feminine.  Not only are you feminine, but you are the representation of the feminine attributes of God!  The church and the world need to see you shine!  They have so been missing the physical revelation of this side of Him.  You are strong and gentle, beautiful and lovely, full of love yet prepared to fight, determined, smart, courageous, emotional yet level headed, creative and logical, quiet and loud.  You are woman!
                I don’t want you to have to deal with the same problems that I have had to face.  I want you to always be free.  I never want you to let others hold you back, and I want you to know, you never have to hold yourself back!  Always be cautious because since the Garden of Eden, Satan has waged all-out war on women, trying to lure her into the chains of domination and slavery.  Don’t fall for his schemes!  Jesus set you free from the domination from anyone!  Protect your heart from these attacks.  Be aware of what they look like, and run the other direction.  When you run that direction, you will run right into the arms of your loving Savior.
                I certainly hope that I’ve been able to provide you with wonderful examples to follow.  My goal is to surround you with beautiful women that will help you grow, women that excel in every area.  I hope you have seen gifted wives, singles, mothers, teachers, singers, leaders, dancers, preachers, evangelists, apostles, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, and senators.  Any of this can be yours!  Instead of spending years trying to figure out if you are “allowed” to do these things, I want you to spend that time investing into becoming who you are going to be! 

                Be empowered!  Be free!  Be love to the world!  Be courage for the weak!  Be a woman that frees other captives!  Be all that God has called you to be!  He designed you with a specific purpose in mind that only you can fill!  Go and fly!
Love,
Mom

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Rediscovering Beauty Part 2

What does beauty look like in the church?  I believe it looks exactly like love.  Is that what the church is currently known for?  I think not.  Can we get there?  I know we can!
I know this is bad, but a lot of times I cringe at the persona the church is putting out.  The church as a whole (especially from the outside) looks so different than what Jesus looked like.  The church is known for what we hate.  (I know, I know Christians aren’t supposed to use that word.)  The church is known on the inside for “hating the sin, loving the sinner,” but on the outside we just appear to hate.  I would suggest, that if we begin a statement with the phrase “hate the sin”, we have no idea how to “love the sinner”.
I cringe at some of the predominate tactics used for evangelism.  We all know the church definitions of evangelism and gospel, so I thought I’d check out Webster to see what he had to say.
e·van·ge·lism
əˈvanjəˌlizəm/
noun
1.     the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.
gos·pel
ˈɡäspəl/
noun
1.     1.
the teaching or revelation of Christ.
“it is the Church’s mission to preach the gospel”
synonyms:
Christian teaching, Christian doctrine, Christ’s teaching; More
2.     2.
the record of Jesus’ life and teaching in the first four books of the New Testament.
What I see these people teaching and preaching is NOT the gospel according to Jesus.  He walked in perfect love.  He spoke in love and not condemnation!  The only people he was “rude” to, were the religious leaders (you know, the guys that studied and studied the Torah, and wanted everyone to follow the “rules” and would publicly humiliate and condemn anyone that they deemed unworthy.).
I have to admit, there are certain Christians I steer clear of!  If I see a bumper sticker, t-shirt or other promotional items from these groups, that promote this type of evangelism, I run the other way!  (Now I know that God loves them too, and they do have good in them-otherwise they wouldn’t take evangelism so seriously, but I’ll be honest, my heart is still being worked on here.)  I would be scared to see the statistics for the pain they caused unbelievers vs. the “conversions” they facilitate.  I truly think it’s preposterous to suggest that Jesus went around publicly pointing out random people’s sins, thereby publicly humiliating them, when no one asked for His opinion.  The examples I see in the Bible show the GOOD news being proclaimed.  They show the LOVE of the Father!  They show the power given by Jesus. They show the works of the Holy Spirit.  They show Jesus healing and making whole!  This is a different kind of evangelism than what is at work today.
Then there’s the Christian political movement.  I won’t get too in depth here.  I do want to start out by saying, I believe there are people specifically appointed for this job!  There are people that are supposed to work in politics.  The people that I am thinking of right now are truly amazing people.  They are full of love and grace and smarts and poise.  They truly embody sheep in a wolve’s world: wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.  They are anointed to make governmental changes and bring awareness of national and international injustices.  That being said, I certainly don’t believe that this is the calling on every person’s life!  I don’t know that we are all supposed to stand and “rally” against things, holding signs and shouting at people.  I think that without that specific calling, we are to do our part and be informed and vote in line with our beliefs, but what if there is not change right now in our government and political system because we are actually supposed to be changing the world with LOVE?  What if we are actually supposed to operate like Jesus did, empowered by the Holy Spirit in a new system called unconditional, unending LOVE? 
I think that many times these two scenarios go hand in hand.  You may be thinking that this sounds very critical.  I will just say, I have been there.  I have done these things.  I have “witnessed” by pointing out other’s sins.  I have attended my fair share of rallies.  There was a part of me that never felt peaceful about it.  It didn’t settle right in my spirit.  I’ll tell you one of the moments that started the transformation of my spirit was at a community festival.  It was a small town festival with family fun and food.  As I was walking through the crowd, tall above all of the heads, I see a sign that says, “God HATES: homosexuals, liars, cheaters, thieves, murderers….” the list went on.  I felt my heart rate speed up.  This made me furious.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint why; I didn’t have the words for this type of thing yet.  I kind of lingered in the area to see what was going on.  There was a man holding the sign and then two others handing out tracts and trying to talk to people.  The people were running like cockroaches when you flip on the light!  I would have too!  This is not the environment that Jesus induced.  I finally went up to the guy holding the sign.  I asked him why he was using this “tactic” when trying to witness to people and that I thought Jesus operated in love.  That’s why he died on the cross because he loved us.  The man explained that people have to recognize their sin and God can’t be around sin.  I couldn’t remember the reference, but I quoted the man the verse that says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.”  (Yes, I was so flustered that I couldn’t remember that this was John 3:17.)  I obviously didn’t change this guy’s mind.  I was totally unprepared to see something like that.  I didn’t know that kind of thing existed up until that moment. My heart was sad, and I didn’t even have the words to process why.  
I love the church.  The church is Christ’s bride!  We are to be radiant, not downtrodden and solemn, and barely hanging on!  (Isaiah 60:1; Matt 5:14; Ephesians 5:27) I want to see the church healthy and whole and that starts with individuals.  We must be healthy and whole and living from the fullness of being in Christ before we can impact the world.  Anything less, leads to a counterfeit.  Jesus is the most authentic being ever and if He lives in us, we should be the most authentically beautiful expression of LOVE on earth!  (As He is so are we in the world 1 John 4:17)  I just think we can do better!  I think He has provided a beautiful path that He exemplified on earth, and somehow we as a church decided to take a different route.  What if we all looked like Jesus?  Really truly, looked like Him.  I am not speaking condemnation here.  I want to go up higher!  I want everyone to go up higher!  Let’s not settle for what someone said was the “good Christian thing to do” and start looking and what Christ really did and how he operated!  Let’s start operating and living in LOVE!  And trust me, if it’s really love, it’ll look like love, and smell like love, and feel like love, and sound like love!
One verse that kept popping up in my mind while writing this is Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  I love this!  The etymology of the word lovely has to do with a “beautiful kiss”!!  That is so amazing!  The things we are to be thinking of and operating out of are supposed to be like a beautiful kiss!

The Father is love.  Jesus is love.  The Holy Spirit is love.  Love is perfect beauty.   Beauty takes on so many forms.  What form of beauty is in you for you to express?  How are you to be an expression of beauty for the world to see?  After all, we are the light of the world for that very purpose, so the world will see the beauty of God!

Rediscovering Beauty Part 1

I’ve been on a journey to rediscover beauty.  I feel like a whole new person, and I’ve only cracked the beauty door!  I am so excited about this rediscovery because I highly doubt I am the only person that had shut the lid of the Beauty Hope Chest, locked it tight, and had thrown away the key. 
Throughout the ages, people have been discussing beauty, writing books about beauty, and philosophizing about beauty, and more recently, this discussion has picked back up with fervor.  It is really an obscure word, unless you are willing to dig for it, not necessarily in a dictionary, but into your life.  Many philosophers and theologians have stated that beauty is just as real as truth and justice.  I believe that this is a beautiful truth!  We have just as much a need for beauty as we do truth and justice, it may just be harder to identify and fulfill in our lives.
I began my own expedition through the Amazon of beauty through inner healing.  Aahhh, scary word!  It can be scary for a variety of reasons, but it is truly an amazing thing.  What lead me there?  Throughout my life beginning in my childhood, I have been burying my emotions, I’ve been trying to process bad things that happen, I have been trying to form myself into the proper church girl.  I’ve been pruning away parts of myself that weren’t supposed to be clipped off!  I’ve been burying beautiful leaves under the soil that were intended to grow bigger.  I’ve been killing myself!
I’ve been trying to pinpoint how this all started.  I can’t quite do it.  I can give you a list of things that changed my world, and through the process of understanding these things, it brought me into such a freedom, that God was finally able to take me on this trip!
                   1.   I discovered that men and women were valued equally in God’s Kingdom!  This gave me so much freedom!  Now I could CHOOSE to be a “good woman/wife”, and it wasn’t something that was a requirement based on my subjugation to men!

            2.  I was baptized in the Holy Spirit!  Woot! Woot!  I am so thankful for the God-loving house I grew up in!  We were conservative….then I began to look into things….and BAM!! I know I was late, but I’m so glad I got to join the par-tay!!!

            3.   I got a taste that God loved me!  Not the traditional, empty-worded, flippantly-quoted, God loves you, but no He ACTUALLY loves me!  His love is not based on my actions, my sins, my good qualities, or my works.  He just loves me because He loves me because He loves me.  His love makes me free!  I am free!  I am free, to be me, in His love!  These encounters in the love of God, have become real in my very DNA.  I look forward to more and more of these truths being poured into my life. WOW!

           4.  I realized that God is good!  I’m still struggling with the phrase “God is in a good mood”, not because I don’t believe it, but because I don’t think God is moody, but then again, if you add on “all the time,” (which I am certain is what is implied and intended) I can get down with that.  I was so confused about what things came from God.  Now I VERY clearly know, that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and Christ came for you to have life and life abundantly!! (John 10:10)

So, with my new found freedom, I discovered I love art!  I am an artist!  Mind you, this is not in the “I went to art school, and am very learned and a technique wizard” kind of way, but in the raw, kid sense of the word, and it makes me SO happy!  I have rediscovered my love for journaling and writing.  I am exploring my musical side.  I sing!  I even dance!  I know there’s so much more that I have to discover about the desires and passions that God put in my heart, and I so look forward to it!
Oh, here’s where it gets fun!  I have emotions and feelings!  Yea, I know that’s a weird one.  I had cut all emotion and feeling off!  I would only allow my strength, self-control, and perseverance show.  I had conditioned myself so severely, to fit the mold of the church-taught Proverbs 31 woman that I had cut off all emotion.  I tempered everything that made me, me!  Guess what?  This didn’t please God!  He was “dancing over me” and I was laying on the ground, barely breathing and almost dead.  May it not be!  God wants to sing over his beautiful creations that he calls good (Zephaniah 3:17, Genesis 1:31)!  He died for our freedom!  He put His light in us.  When He left, He made us the light of the world!  I wasn’t able to be very “lighty” if I was laying on the dirt, barely hanging on.  So, now I have a wide range of emotions!  I’m learning how to “be” with feelings I haven’t felt in years!  I feel so alive!

Now I’m learning what I looks like to live in beauty!  I know I’m only scratching the surface, but one day, as I continue on, I will understand in full. 
P.S.  Check back for Part 2 next week! 
P.P.S.  I am sssooooo not technologically savvy (as you can tell by the fact that I couldn’t get my “1” the same size as my 2, 3 and 4), but I figured out how to add a “subscribe by email” option to this blog!  I was so proud of myself!  So, it would certainly make me feel like all of my hard work to figure that out paid off, if you subscribe by email 😀