Monday, September 17, 2012

On Submission, Entitlement and Love

Lately I've been listening to a CD series by Kris Vallotton entitled "God's most Beautiful Creation." It's a sermon series on women. It's been fascinating. Some thoughts it has stirred up are eager to get out, so I thought I might try to put them down in writing. Bear with me.

Let's start in Ephesians 5, where it tells men and women to submit to each other. Then it goes on to describe what that submission looks like for each. For women, as I understand it, this Godly submission is a call to respect her husband and willingly give in to his authority. For men, as I understand it, this Godly submission is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and willingly lay down his life for her. We are both invited to willingly surrender things that are within our power to give up, in order to be in Godly relationship with each other.

This passage describes some connections. Man is the head of his wife, just like Christ is the head of the Church, just like God is the head of Christ. So the question jumps out at us - How does God use his authority over Christ? How does Christ use His authority over the church? Therefore, how ought men to use their authority over their wives? God lifted up Jesus and put all things under His feet. He used His authority to empower Jesus and set Him up to rule. Jesus lifted up the church and seated it with Him in heavenly places. He used His authority to empower believers to rule with Him. He said, "All authority is mine, now YOU go and use it to make disciples" (Matt 28:18 paraphrase mine) Authority as demonstrated in God and Christ does not appear to be about dominating others, but about empowering others and inviting others to join them.

They way I've grown to see it, Godly authority is demonstrated when the man empowers His wife, shares His authority with her, and invites her to rule with him. That's Godly authority. It's only when a sense of entitlement creeps in that we see men using this authority to set themselves up as the boss of their household, rather than as a servant of their household.

So when a woman is called to willingly offer submission to her husband, to give in to his leadership, she is being invited to surrender to thriving. If her husband shares his authority and invites her to lead with him, she is set up, empowered, to thrive and use her strength to bless others. In that place of thriving, she is called to give her husband the same gift. To respect him and share in his life with out being critical and demanding of him. Unfortunately, women can also be deceived by a sense of entitlement. They can read the Bible and think that they have the right to demand that their husband be a certain type of leader for the family. Rather than walking side by side, complementing each other's weaknesses, and being allies on the same team - poor theology has left thousands of Christian households locked in a negative cycle of entitlement, resentment and demanding.

Here's the simple bottom line - maybe I should have started with this - love calls us to willingly give a sacrificial gift to one another. For women, that is submission. For men, that is love. Yet when either of those is demanded, through entitlement, they completely lose their power. Submission, by definition, is voluntarily given. Once it is demanded, it is no longer submission, it is slavery, or servitude. At the least it is obligation. On the same token, love, when demanded, becomes obligation and entrapment. When husbands and wives sit around resentfully demanding that their spouse obey God's Biblical calling for men and women, the marriage loses it's capacity to function in the brilliant beauty that God designed. But when the men voluntarily lay themselves down, and the women voluntarily surrender to their husband - a divine beauty is birthed that is called by the name of LOVE.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trust and Obey

I was reminded of my oldest nephews this morning. They are twins. 25 (or 26, sorry guys) and married. One has a beautiful baby daughter now. This morning while I was running I wasn't thinking of their mature, Godly, grown up lives. I was reminded of two adorable four year olds I knew long before I ever dreamed of becoming their aunt.

See, I've been struggling with obedience for most of this 4th decade of life. It's a word that gets my shackles up. It's not that I don't want to obey God. It's just that obedience has long been rooted in legalism for me. In the effort to be free of the shackles of religious "shoulds" and "can'ts," I have swung the pendulum to the other side. You know, the "Give me liberty or give me death," kind of Christianity.

Yet I still bump into my sin and I know there are areas of my life where the way out of the pit is through obedience to God's loving direction. However, as soon as I get the faintest whiff of "Do it because God says so," my pharisee sensors start beeping and I react away from what could ultimately be for my good. I seem to be caught in a cyclical battle between the fullness of life God promised and the religious baggage of our culture and personal experience.

Years ago in a four year old class at church I was sitting with a circle of children and I asked them what their favorite song was. Usually you get the classics, like the ABC song, or Old MacDonald. The twins' answer jumped out at me, and stuck with me, because it wasn't your typical four year old answer. One of them, I don't remember which one, said, "Twust and Obey". You know, the old classic, "Trust and obey, for there's no better way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

This morning, as I ran, their precious little voices broke into my thoughts as I considered life, being stuck, the way out and how to change. Real change. "Twust and obey." The key to Biblical obedience - obedience not based on rules but based on love - is trust. If I truly grow in trusting that God has my very best at the center of His intentions, it moves my obedience from the place of "I'm doing this because the Bible says, therefore I have to" to "I'm choosing this because my good and loving Father says it will be best, even if I can't see it as good from where I stand."

So thanks Andrew and Taylor. I know you were only four, but your words echo for a long, long time. And today they blessed Aunt Jennifer.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm no expert

I'm no expert, but here are some random thoughts I've had lately on a variety of life-topics:

- Dog poop - I hate it when it is in my yard! We live in town. We get dog poop in the front yard relatively often. Usually when my children step in it, I grumble and complain and get angry with the stranger who didn't pick up after their dog. A few days ago I saw one of those "strangers" down the street from our house, walking away after the dog made a mess. Call it intuition, call in the Holy Spirit, I just had that sense of knowing that this stranger was in a hurting place. I saw a face, and a heart, and I decided not to curse the dog poop peddlers, but pray for them. So, random tip #1: When you step in dog poop, pray for the owner of the dog.

- Pace - I went out "running" the other day. I had two kids with me on scooters. I knew the pace would be slow, but I didn't know it would be lethargic, and stopping every 30 seconds. However, as we progressed, I realized how very tired my body was and that the pace was actually a gift. I was outside, getting fresh air, stretching my legs, using my muscles, with no pressure to "work out hard". It was enjoyable. Random tip #2: Accept the pace of your day. (Takes way more energy when you fight it!!)

- Sleeping and eating - I'm on a slow upward path out of the pit of unhealthy habits. I'm not making any big promises, just trying to make better choices one at a time. In the pit, there is a double whammy that gets me every time. I stay up late, and because I'm up so late, I get hungry. Since I'm hungry, I eat. (because I've never been very good at not doing exactly what I want) So, as I progress down this path, I eat more than I need and I sleep less than I need. As you can imagine, this is not a good combo. Random tip #3: When you're tired, go to bed, do not go to the kitchen.

- Process - Life is a journey, not a destination. I've lived far too long with a destination mindset. "Just as soon as I _____________, then I will . . . feel better, make better decisions, start the project I've been needing to do, make that phone call. . . " The problem with the destination mindset is that it sets me up for success or failure. I love the successes, but I crash around the failures. And the reality is that it's neither a success nor failure, it's life. And tomorrow will come just as surely as today is here and my job is not to "arrive" but to live! The best tool I have is awareness - not accomplishment. Random tip #4: Live life as a journey, accepting the awareness of your situation as a road map rather than an evaluation form.

- Love - God's love is stronger than I give Him credit for. It isn't just a warm fuzzy, it is comfort when I am lonely, strength when I am weary, wisdom when I am confused, courage when I want to hide, peace when I am in angst, clarity when the way seems unclear. . . Random tip #5: "Your love neither abandons me nor tolerates my evasions." (M. Robert Mulholland Jr.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I was wrong

All my life being "wrong" has been the enemy. I can't tell you how many stop-gap measures I have preemptively put in place in order to avoid even the potential of being wrong. I have expended a lot of emotional and physical energy to attempt to appear and act in right ways. Another name for it is "perfectionism".

Perhaps I should list some more synonyms of what I am calling "wrong". At least in my book it is equivalent with mistaken, uninformed, imperfect, forgetful, untrained, failure, conflict, loss (in competitive settings), immaturity. . . quite frankly, anything with a negative connotation or impact on myself or those around me.

Just the other day I was wrong. I forgot that I was assigned to be the mystery reader in Abby's classroom. I didn't show up. The teacher had to adjust her schedule and do something different because I forgot. Ironically, I was in the building, helping the office manager. Ran into the teacher 20 minutes later only to find out that she had been expecting me. Arghhhh. I hate that feeling! The yuck in the pit of my stomach. The instantaneous desire to have a do-over. Even as the teacher stood there assuring me that it all worked out just fine, I'm beating myself up inside because I didn't have it "together" enough to avoid making a mistake.

Over the years I have been learning that the fear of failure - my effort to avoid being wrong - has not served me well. I have become a prisoner to my own perfectionism. If life is a race, I line up with the others in the starting blocks, but when the gun goes off, I stay, stuck tight in a ball. If I go, I may fail, so it is safer to stay on the starting line, with my potential coiled and ready to spring, but not moving.

I have learned to risk failure, foolishness, or even pain so that I can join the race and run. I have learned to try things that I've never tried before. I have learned to admit what I don't know and accept help from others. I have learned to celebrate progress, to value the journey. I have learned that it is not all about the end result. It's not all about winning, or admiration, or comparing or proving. It's about living, falling, rising, and loving.

And then I hit some area of my life that has been untouched by recent truths. An emotion or belief that got stuck in the perfectionism vault and needs to be brought out into the light, aired off, and deconstructed. These old beliefs exposed in the light of new understanding are not easy to walk through. When the flashlight of truth first exposes them, deep in the vault of my personal history, they hold all their original power and persuasion. It is scary, even painful, to open the vault, bring the old belief into the light of truth, and release control over that area of my life or emotions.

It can feel like a free-fall for a time. As if I had control, but in releasing control and opening the door to the unknown, I have cast myself over a black abyss with no idea where I will land. What pain will this expose me to? What failure will I have to face? What will the people around me think of this journey I am on? How will my exposed emotions impact my friendships, my family, my marriage, my own soul?

And then I remember the freedom I have found when I let other areas of my life out of the vault. The current journey, seen in the light of previous seasons, becomes less fear-filled, and more anticipation. Yes, this is hard, but what is God preparing me for if He is tilling the soil of perfectionism once again, and exposing areas yet to be delivered?

"With change comes the ability to be strong; because when one recognizes their own fallibility, the threat of it is diminished - and the freedom of growth develops. To be wrong is to be free." Margaret Becker  -With New Eyes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Runner

I don't consider myself a runner in this season. Sure, I run a couple miles a couple times a week, but that is much different than being a runner! I even know some things for sure about running:

I love to run - always have!
After I run, I'm glad I ran.
Running helps me stay healthy
And keep off unwanted pounds.
The more I run, the more I CAN run.
Running is a good activity for me.

I know these things to be true, but I still do not consider myself to be a runner. Why? Because there are ways runners think that I do not currently think! I know, because in previous seasons of life I could say with the running masses, "I am a runner."

Here's the difference - thought patterns. My current thoughts go something like this:

I need to run.
But I don't feel like it.
But I need to run.
The kids are home and I shouldn't leave them.
Running is good for me.
But it means changing clothes and going out and getting sweaty and then I'll have to wash my hair. . .
But I need to run.
My knee hurts, I better not go out today.
If I don't run I'll gain back more of the weight I lost last year.
But I'm busy, I need to pack.
C'mon Jen, get out, you know you'll be glad you went.
Uhgg, I know I need to run, but. . .
So I put on my shoes, step out the door, stand on the porch, and dread taking the first step.
But I do it, and within a block I'm glad I'm outside, fresh air making my thoughts clearer
And I'm glad I went

However, those are not the thoughts of a runner. Maybe occasionally a true runner has days like that, but it has been my experience, like when I was training for a 1/2 marathon, that a true runner thinks more along these lines:

What days can I get out this week?
I want to get more miles in, so I need more time.
I'll pay a babysitter to come so that I can have a full hour.
My knee hurts, I'll just stretch a bit more and go anyway.
I'm busy, but I always think better after exercise.
It's not about the weight, it's about getting out and doing it.
Who can I get to go with me?
How far can I go today, I'll push a little harder.
How fast can I go today, maybe I can increase my pace.
So I put on my shoes, hurry out the door, bound down the steps and I'm off.

Same verb - run - very different lifestyles!!

So as I'm jog/walking this morning, thinking of this blog post, it occurs to me that running and being a follower of Jesus might be a pretty good parallel. You know, thought patterns, where we get stuck, what comes easy, and what takes work, eager anticipation versus duty. . . but rather than write out my thoughts I think I'll leave you to come up with your own parallels today.

If you find yourself in a season of life where "running" doesn't come easy, remember that you'll be glad you got out and did whatever it is you need to do. And perhaps the more you do it, the more you will grow into a true "runner."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Be Loved



Not enough

Good intentions
   Nice try
      Looking good
How did I get here, a.gain?!


Deep breath
   Shoulders back
         Let go

Open heart
   Accusation silenced
      An invitation

Walls down
   New eyes
      Joy renewing

There is love that came for me
   Before I was, He Is
      No earning or winning
         Just love

My part?

Be loved
   Live loved
      Quit hiding
         Walk on

So with me
   Will you
      Live loved
         Be loved?

Monday, April 9, 2012


Abby picked me some dandelions today. It's a beautiful bouquet. We put it in a vase and set in on the stove, where it will reflects in the black semi-clean glass top. I noticed them throughout the day, open, bright, joyful.

I went out for a walk with a friend tonight. Needed to get out. Needed to hear truth. My pace has been crazy-making lately and I felt more than a little crazy today. Good walk. Good talk. Good fresh night air. Very refreshing.

Walked in the kitchen and noticed the dandelions are closed for the night. And it hit me. These little weeds have an internal clock. A ticker that gives them their rhythm. Daytime, open and bright, night time, tucked in to rest.

I need a ticker. An internal thermostat of sorts that tells me when it's time to tuck in and rest. My ticker is broken. Has been for quite some time. Occasionally I hear a random tick-tock that tells me it's not completely gone, but somehow I have learned to tune it out. Press through. Keep going. Open and joyful round the clock.

It's not working out for me right now. It's a pattern of push, crash, push, crash. . . I would rather open when it's time to be open and close when it's time to close. Not sure how to get there, but tonight I am noticing the dandelions.