Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Are We Bound By a System?


In Mark 6:14-29, we learn that Herod is haunted by thoughts of John the Baptist because he ordered John’s beheading despite himself. Are the forces that led to Herod making this choice that different from forces still at work in our world today?

Lectionary Thoughts for July 12, 2015
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Text: Mark 6:14-29 (Quotations here are from the NRSV)

“The king was deeply grieved” by his daughter’s request for the head of John the Baptist (v 26) because “he liked to listen to him” (v 20). Up until this point he had protected John the Baptist from his wife’s grudge against him (vs 19-20).

What changed in this incident that he would retract his favor from a man he feared, revered, protected, and liked listening to (v 20)?

“Out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her” (vs 23, 26). 

He gave his daughter a wide open promise that she could have anything she asked for (v 23). And he had witnesses to this promise he had made—for he made the promise in front of his guests. Honor was at stake.

If this happened to one of us, we’d probably clarify that we meant “anything within reason,” or “anything *you* want, not what your mother tells you to ask for.” And everyone would understand the limits implied in such a promise.

We would not have to worry about disgrace for refusing the girl’s request. But that was exactly what Herod was facing. Refusing the request would have been to disgrace himself and to disgrace his guests. How could they ever trust his word thereafter?

I imagine he got considerably more careful about the promises he made after that. But this one, he had to keep.

He just had to.

Even though Herod liked to listen to John’s teaching…

He just had to go through with it.

He was bound by the system of which he was a part. In Herod’s case it was the system of honor and shame. He would not go back on his word; the honor and shame system required him to keep his word in order to keep his honor and to maintain the honor of his guests.

Who of us can do better when we remain bound to systems that conflict with our values?

It is easy for us as outsiders looking into the honor and shame system to say we wouldn’t do that. We can see a different path because we are not bound to that system in the same way. We critique it from a safe distance.

But are we so scrupulous, so savvy about the systems to which we are bound?

Do we even recognize them?

Dylan Roof sat for an hour in Bible study. He almost didn’t go through with his plan.

But he just had to.

Even though the group was so nice…

He just had to go through with it.

He too was bound by a system—some system in which he had only one choice that made any sense to him.

That system of thought rose up among us, on our soil, in our land.

It’s harder when it’s so close to home to see ourselves as bound to a system that would extinguish life in order to preserve the system.

Do we even recognize it?

How Being “Relevant” Eludes Me


This is my view at my bistro table on the porch where I do a lot of my thinking, reading and writing.

One of my biggest challenges as a creative type is that of being “relevant” with my content. I fail at relevance on at least two counts, but I still want to believe what I say matters.

Relevance Fail #1

My first and most obvious failure to be relevant is related to what a theologian reportedly taught his students: to examine life with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I’m sure that is brilliant, but, as my mother would say, “it’s not my gift.”

Maybe it should be my gift. But it isn’t.

The thing is, it takes me a long time to consume media and truly process it in such a way to be able to say or write something meaningful about it:

  • In my 30+ years of exposure to the Bible, I still have only begun to scratch the surface.
  • I still listen to music that I got in my teens and early twenties–not because I’m afraid to try new music, but because I’m still avidly enjoying the old stuff.
  • There are books that I read 10 and 20 years ago that I am just now mining for deeper insights than ever before–I’m nowhere near finished processing them.

I’m still dwelling on ancient holy writings, vintage music, and books from yesteryear. Shallow treatment of ideas, texts or other media is not in my nature. As an introvert I go deep with each source rather than branching widely into numerous outlets.

I’m not saying I ignore current events. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that my brain won’t hold pages and pages of the latest news on top of everything else I am still processing.

In my human limitations I have to pick and choose the sources with which I go deep and those that I skim over or ignore. If I ever seem aloof, it is because my brain is deeply engaged in mulling over old information instead of absorbing the latest tidbits.

I fail at relevance because I don’t react to current events in a timely & meaningful way.

Relevance Fail #2

The other way that relevance eludes me is just in general trying to figure out what my readers (or potential readers) want to read and being able to deliver it.

I mean, I have a ton of ideas about what I want to write about. But I just never know what’s going to resonate with people.

I know other bloggers have dealt with this too, the idea that something you think is brilliant gets only a cool reception whereas something you just dash off quickly gets shared all over the place.

This is also a struggle for me because what I’m doing on the blog is, at least in part, a coming of age. Much of what is here is just me blabbing about my issues, my preoccupations, my fear of being irrelevant, etc. I want this space to be for us, but many times I need it to be for me.

So, I fail at relevance again because my content ends up being more self-serving than might be helpful. And when I try to be helpful to others, I’m still uncertain what to write about.

Reason to Hope

It’s possible, despite my relevance-challenges, that what I write and say can still matter:

  • The very depth with which I engage media actually serves me well in providing troves of ideas for what to write about. My constant thinking and processing of old information often leads to creative insights in the here and now.
  • Even though I’m not always quite sure what my readers need, I am listening. I may not be relevant by nature, but I am very relational. By being where people are and engaging with them I get a better sense of what they need.

What has been really cool is that since I started blogging and writing more I’ve been having more interesting conversations. Once I started putting my ideas out there and offering my two cents on just whatever I have gotten into great discussions with folks.

I’m finding new depths of engagement with people–even those I know best in my life. Just by putting myself out here in some way I have become more incarnational, more present to people.

Even if I am still processing old information and tossing around my own personal baggage, I’m here.

I’m showing up and making myself available. And I’m pretty sure that matters.

My Interview with Sarah Bessey about Jesus Feminist

In my last post I mentioned my friend Sarah Bessey and her new book, called Jesus Feminist. I recently had the opportunity to interview Sarah about the book for Life & Liberty!

>>>Click here to listen to the interview.<<<

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist

I’ve known Sarah Bessey for more than a decade, since before either of us had kids, before she had her blog and waaaay before she signed a two-book deal with Howard Books. But a decade is a long time and now here we are with her having just released Jesus
, her first book.

As an old friend I am super excited for Sarah getting a book published. And as a woman of God, I resonate with the particulars of this book. I read an e-version of the book from Net Galley and was moved deeply by the beautiful vision that Sarah casts for the mutuality that is possible among God’s people.

Sarah coined the term “Jesus Feminist” and it boils down to the idea that being a follower of Jesus has led to an understanding that women are people too. My own study of scripture affirms this conviction as Jesus and the gospels routinely lift up women.

I credit Sarah with helping me see feminism in a positive light. You can read more about why I identify as a “Jesus feminist” in my previous post titled, I’m a Jesus Feminist Because I Don’t Have to Be One.

Jesus-Feminist-CoverSarah lives in Canada (her homeland) with her husband Brian and their three “tinies.” She’s a non-denominational charismatic and just overflows with the love of Jesus in every aspect of her life.

Sarah calls herself “a liberal to the conservative and a conservative to the liberal” and she often takes what she refers to as “the third way” on difficult issues. Her writing–on her blog ( and in the book–is both poetic and prophetic.

It’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it for anyone who cares about the church and the movement of God in our world. This book would also be ideal for a group study or a retreat. Click the book cover to learn more about the book and to order yours from the Life & Liberty Amazon store.

Disclaimer: Links in this post will take you to the Amazon store at Life & Liberty, an online magazine where I am a contributor. Any purchase you make there will help support our work at Life & Liberty.

I’m a Jesus Feminist Because I Don’t Have to Be One

I'm a Jesus Feminist

My friend Sarah Bessey coined the term “Jesus Feminist” and recently published a book by that name. She has invited others to reflect on the ways they identify with this term. Here’s my take: I’m a Jesus Feminist because I don’t have to be one.

I grew up in a time and place and in a home where, as a young woman, I had every opportunity. This was so completely true that I took feminism for granted.

I even bought into many of the negative stereotypes of feminists. I could disparage feminism in my youth because of the rights and opportunities that past feminist movements afforded me.

I didn’t have to be a feminist because of all the hard work for women’s rights that had already been done.

While I never knew a woman pastor growing up, I was in a denomination where women were permitted to serve in every capacity in the church. But I became acquainted with other denominations where this was not the case.

My own first experience in which I felt I was treated differently because of being a woman wasn’t until college. A guest-lecturer utterly dismissed an insightful comment I made after class only to go right back to chatting away with the male student that was still in the room.

But this was only the beginning. Over time I began to learn more about the plight of women around the world and I realized that I was very fortunate to have the rights and opportunities that I have.

When it came time for me to have my son, I made the seemingly “backward” decision to be a stay-at-home mom–not because I had to but because I wanted to. By this time I recognized that making this decision was a privilege afforded me by the work of feminists ahead of me.

When my friend Sarah Bessey announced that she was writing Jesus Feminist and she talked about her interest in feminism being motivated by following Jesus, it resonated deeply with me. I didn’t want to be an angry, man-hating feminist, but I do care about women being treated as people! And my own personal study of scripture led me to believe that God highly values daughters and sons alike.

I think I took the long route to come to terms with my own feminist streak. But the long and the short of it is, I am a Jesus Feminist because I don’t have to be one.

This post is part of Sarah Bessey’s “In which we are Jesus feminists synchroblog.” >>>Click here to read other stories of how and why folks became Jesus feminists.<<<

I also had the opportunity to interview Sarah about the book for Life & Liberty! >>>Click here to listen to the interview.<<<

Order Jesus Feminist from my section at the Amazon store at Life & Liberty.

Disclaimer: Your purchase via this link will help support Life & Liberty, an online magazine where I am a Spirituality Editor.

Footwashing is Worse Than I Thought

20131109-083051.jpgFootwashing–in particular Jesus washing his disciples’ feet–is a centering symbol for my Deaconess community. I thought I understood the importance of this humble act of service that Jesus modeled but it is more important than I realized because it’s worse than I thought it was.

One of my favorite Biblical scholars is Kenneth E. Bailey. I even did one of my podcasts for Life & Liberty based on some Bailey wisdom. He is well-acquainted with Middle Eastern culture and brings powerful insights to bear on the Bible.

I was asked to speak with a neighboring women’s group about Deaconess ministry. I chose to lead them in a Bible study of John 13–the passage where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.

I could’ve just gone with what I know about it, but since I’ve discovered Bailey I wondered what new insights he would bring.

My husband found me this 16-minute video of Bailey teaching on this passage. I learned a few things from the video that painted footwashing as even more profound than I knew. Please take the time to watch and see what I mean:

A highlight for me was the insight that the radical nature of the act would form a bond between Jesus and his disciples if they chose to accept the act. The idea of the intimacy forged through Jesus’ self-giving really resonates with me.

And of course, Jesus was willing to go even further–and do something even worse–for the sake of not just those few disciples but to reconcile the whole world to himself.

Thanks be to God for the lengths to which he goes for us!

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