Jesus Calling: January 1-6, 2013

As I move into 2013, I find myself seeking and anticipating a time of renewal. My daughter is finally getting to an age where I don’t feel that she demands all of my attention and I can return to some of the things in my life that have been put on the back burner. One of the tools of renewal is the Word of God, and I love that Jesus Calling begins with the encouragement “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) We cannot truly have a renewal of the mind without regular time spent in the Presence of Jesus.

A consistent theme in the first week of Jesus Calling is the presence of God. Throughout the week, the author chooses beautiful phrases and scriptural references to remind us about the attentiveness of His presence, His healing presence, the light of His presence, the peace of His presence, and His universal presence. It is one thing to understand that Jesus said He will never leave us or forsake us. But do you also realize that this means His presence is constantly with you? That in the here and now He is fully and universally attentive to you?

Don’t get me wrong — this is not an “all about me” idea. Many believers make the mistake that everything Jesus did and said was all about them and now they just need to figure out how to squeeze the blessings out of this salvation thing. Wrong. Everything that Jesus did and said was because He was carrying out His father’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself. We are part of that plan. God has desired relationship with His creation (including us) from the beginning, but it took the sacrifice of Jesus to bring that relationship back to fullness.

Relationship requires the presence of both individuals. As many people in broken relationships know, it doesn’t work if only one person is present. Jesus offers us His constant presence and in return He asks us for our attentiveness to that presence. He asks for trust, deep dependence, and profound reliance. His presence is our constant companion and place of refuge. The author of Jesus Calling encourages us to hide in the secret of His presence, knowing that we are in the Presence of the One “who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20)

Enter into His presence today.

My Daughter, the Princess

This weekend, my almost 3-year-old daughter was invited to a little boy’s birthday party. She is just now “getting” the idea of birthdays and birthday parties, so needless to say she was extremely excited to go. In addition, this little boy is a playmate from church and one of her favorite people. Before we left she announced, “When we get there I am going to give (insert little boy’s name) a big hug and a big kiss and tell him that I am a princess!!”

My first thought was “go for it!” but then I got very emotional and proud of her for having the sweet audacity to tell a young man that she is a princess. You see, growing up I was always quick to give the boys a hug and a kiss but never knew that I also needed to remind them that I am a princess. I didn’t receive that kind of guidance growing up. I didn’t know how to relate to boys other than to do whatever it took to get their attention — positive or negative. God love my Dad, but he just wasn’t there for me in the sense of teaching me about the kind of respect and positive attention that I should expect from a boy. I didn’t learn that until I understood Jesus as my Father and me as His bride.

A dear friend of mine always tells her two foster girls that they are “Daughters of the King” and I am trying to carry that lesson over to my daughter. And a daughter of the King is — you guessed it — a princess. My prayer is that it will be rooted deeply in my daughter’s psyche that she is a Daughter of the Most High King Jesus, that she certainly is a princess in His eyes, and the boys better know who her Daddy is.

Follow-up thoughts on head coverings…

I feel blessed to have a pastor who occasionally visits my blog! Mike recently read my post on head coverings and I Corinthians 11. I thought he had really good feedback and caused me to think about some new aspects of the issue. For example, I now feel more comfortable viewing my long hair as a covering and may choose to wrap my hair up on my head if I don’t feel like wearing my scarf (although I love my scarf – lovely light blue embroidered silk from Vietnam). I definitely agree that the focus is on a woman developing a submissive spirit and the demeanor of servanthood.

Here is some of what he had to say:

I am so grateful that it is your heart’s desire to submit yourself to all that the Lord has in His Word…. that being said the idea of the head covering has been read in a few different ways (you may know the discussion).  The covering of the head and the length of the hair seems to me to have been invariably tied together as referenced by the “cutting off of the hair” comments for a woman who prays or prophesies without a covering.  V. 15 goes so far as to say that the long hair is given the woman “as a covering.”

Therefore, my best reading of the text is that the “covering of the head” was a reference to the way in which the hair would be wrapped back over the top of the head as a certain kind of covering.  A couple of examples of this kind of impropriety that was perceived to accompany a “nonsubmissive woman” might be the woman in Numbers 5:18 who has her hair “loosened” as part of the test of her fidelity to her husband as well as what was culturally perceived to be the scandalous activity of the “woman with a sinful past” in Luke 7 who “let down her hair” and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears.

I think the point for me is that there is a universal principle of a submissive spirit that is a beautiful thing for women in light of God’s economy of servanthood, being highly cherished in a community where sin is truly put off and greatness reserved for those who love and cherish servanthood and submission.  That being said, in our world these days, … there are very few, if any, cultural markers that actually work to indicate this sort of beauty.  In our day, the broader culture just doesn’t understand the value of submission from a Kingdom perspective.  In  a word, wearing the hair in a certain way does nothing more than communicate “hairstyle,” unlike the 1st century world.  It seems to me the very closest equivalent to a “submissive spirit” for our day must be primarily demeanor-driven.  I wish it were more concrete than that; however, I find the pluralistic world in which we live and the confluence of the multiple symbols and icons that convey multiple meanings to us in our day make it very difficult for us to ask women of Christ to: 1) wear their hair in a certain way or 2) if one concludes this to be some sort of covering (which I don’t), to wear a covering as a mark of obedience to the text of 1Cor. 11.

Head Coverings Links

Thanks to the Those Headcoverings blog for linking to my most recent post. Those Headcoverings is a blog discussing headcoverings of all kinds: Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and nonreligious. For those interested, there is also a link on that blog to the Called to Cover webring for Christian women who have felt the Holy Spirit’s leading to cover their head.

As women created in His image, may we continue to be led by the Holy Spirit in all that we do!

Head Coverings: Taking I Corinthians 11 Seriously

For those who have known me for awhile, this may be a surprise…

I have recently started covering my head during prayer at church.

This decision came after looking closely at Scripture, a lot of prayer, and many discussions with my husband. I feel like writing about this because I am interested in what other women have to say – women who are already covering their heads, women who would never even consider covering their heads, and women who are just interested in engaging in the conversation with me.

I should preface by saying that I grew up in a family with a very strong “female” presence and I learned feminism from my mother. She grew up in the 1950s, got married and had children early, and looked on as women across the country burned their bras, marched for the Equal Rights Amendment, and fought for reproductive choice. I know that she has always wondered what her life would have been like if she would have grown up in a big city, gone to college, and been part of the feminist movement. But in her own small way she instilled feminist ideals in me. I remained a feminist activist well into adulthood, taking classes in Women’s Studies in college, marching for choice, working for Planned Parenthood, etc. But things have slowly been changing since my relationship with Christ was reconciled about 8 years ago.

I believe that there is the world’s definition of feminism, and there is God’s definition of feminism. I believe that if we claim that God’s word contains everything we need to know about living in this world according to God’s will and God’s design, then He has everything to say about who women are, our nature, our role and place in the world, and how He plans to bless us as His unique creatures. But that’s the subject of another post…

What does I Corinthians 11 have to say about women covering their heads? It says this:

(3) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(4) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, (5) but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
(6) For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.
(7) For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
(8) For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.
(9) Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
(10) That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
(11) Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; (12) for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
(13) Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? (14) Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, (15) but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

The Greek word for “head” used in all of these verses is kephale, literally meaning a person or animal’s head and metaphorically meaning anything supreme, chief, or prominent (a husband in relation to his wife; Christ as Lord of the husband and the church). (Thayer’s)  God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and the husband is the head of the wife. The Greek word for “cover” is katakalupto, meaning to cover up or to veil or cover oneself wholly. (Thayer’s)

Men should not cover their heads, since they are the image and glory of God and covering their heads would dishonor the One who is supreme over them (God). Women are called upon to cover their heads because they are under the authority of man, and to have their heads uncovered would dishonor the one who is supreme over them (husband). The head covering is the symbol of this authority.

So why am I choosing to cover my head during prayer? I believe that no part of God’s Word is void of meaning or significance. I don’t believe that this part of the Word is simply “cultural” or has been over-ruled by the modern feminist movement. I believe that there is blessing in this practice.

Will I forever continue to cover my head during prayer? Not sure yet. But I am confident of this: God is aware of what we do and the intention of our hearts. My only goal is to learn more about Him and thereby learn more about myself as a woman created in his image. I hope that by choosing to walk with God in a certain manner, even for a season, I will receive His blessing and experience His majesty.

New websites (at least new to me!)

Secret: I have a connection for great websites! My (very cool) Aunt surfs around out there and gives me regular updates on sites that are speaking up with real, true, meaningful messages. Here are some of her latest finds:

Real Beauty Is… bold, courageous, perfectly imperfect

~Love the link to http://www.feelyourboobies.com (it’s a breast cancer awareness site!)

Love Your Body from the NOW Foundation

~Be sure to check out the links to examples of negative advertising and positive advertising

Neue Ministry from the makers of Relevant

~Lots of free downloads for individuals, small groups, and worship

Lunch with Travis of the True Campaign

I got to sit down to lunch today with Travis Stewart of the True Campaign. What an incredible privilege! I am such a fan of what they are doing with their young organization, and it was just awesome to listen to Travis talk about some of the True Campaign’s goals and plans. I hope to be able to work with them to further their cause and be a part of the changes they are making in how women in America view beauty, culture, and identity.

Are you interested in what the True Campaign has to say? Do you think there are people in your community who would attend a True Campaign conference or presentation? Do you want to be a part of the True Campaign movement? Take a look at their True Pact below and go to the True Campaign website to sign up!

New blogs (at least new to me)

I received 2 great blog recommendations recently:

Create Radiance — “Empowering people to create radiant lives from the inside out” — lots of great thoughts related to positive body image and learning (or re-learning) to love yourself for the beautiful creature you are.

Eating Disorders Blogs — “Supporting recovery from bulimia, anorexia, and related issues” — a kind of “meta-blog” with links to blogs related to ED and ED-related issues. Also has newsletters, free articles, and a therapist directory.

Check them out!

Letting God define my longing

My life has had a theme of “longing” lately. Longing for things of the world: to be pregnant, to have financial security and creature comforts, to feel like everything is safe around me and I am loved. Praise the Lord, in the midst of it all, He has drawn me into his Word so that my worldly longing can have the proper context. God has asked me to allow my longing to be defined by who He is.

What is this longing that I feel? It is a direct result of the Fall. “Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:23-24) Who can even begin to imagine the feeling of longing and sorrow that Adam and Eve experienced as they looked back over their shoulders to the Garden, knowing that they could never return to the paradise lost? Can any human being imagine losing the unique fellowship that our original parents had with God Himself?

The Israelites, our adopted brothers and sisters, experienced 400 years of longing for the fulfillment of God’s promise to them. “Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'” (Genesis 15:13-14) Homeless, transient, living in tents, year after year, generation after generation trusting that God would not abandon them in their affliction. The writer of Hebrews further describes the faith of our Patriarch fathers: “By faith he (Abraham) went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)

Even Moses, after freeing his people from the Pharaoh, receiving the law from the very finger of God, and leading Israel to the banks of the Jordan would go to his death without entering the Promised Land. “And the LORD said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, “I will give it to your offspring.” I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.'” I cannot imagine the bittersweet tears that Moses must have shed on the water’s edge as he gazed upon the land that he would not inherit.

The Psalms are full of the longing of the great King David. When I read his words I can hear his choked sobs as he pleads with the LORD to pull him out of the pit of darkness and not forsake him as he breaks under the burden of his pain. “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes–it also has gone from me.” (Psalm 38:9-10)

And finally, I am overwhelmed by the longing of Creation itself: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:18-23)

All of creation lives with longings not yet fulfilled. We dwell in the land before the promised land. We exist between the “now” and the “not yet.” And yet we too have a promise. “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

We think that we long for things of the world and that these things will truly satisfy us. But our true longing is for what was lost in the Fall–a return to paradise. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2) We long for that which only God can completely provide.

The prize is also in the running

I try to be a runner. I really do. I have tried to be runner for about 15 years and I think running and I have finally made friends. Running used to be part of my eating disordered behavior since I considered running the only exercise worth doing because it burned the most calories. Nevermind the fact that I hated every minute of it and my knees and ankles complained for hours after I was finished. My latest attempt at running on a regular basis has lasted almost 9 months and it finally feels right because I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m doing it because I allow myself to go at my own pace. I allow myself to be patient and enjoy the solitude. And best of all, I’ve found running to be very conducive to spending time with God. I think He likes the opportunity to talk to me while I’m pounding the pavement.

There are many references in New Testament Scripture to running, the race, and the prize. I remember in high school, the theme of one of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes conferences was Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The message being that we should view our Christian life in the same way that we viewed our efforts to win the game/race/match — the ultimate goal of our running (ie, our Christian life) was winning the prize (ie, Christ). However, I don’t recall that we actually talked much about the quality of the running. So, I ask myself, is the prize the whole point of running the race? or could the prize also be in the running itself?

Of course, our reconciliation to God through Christ is the “point” of this life, but I think that God cares very much how we run the race set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I notice that in my ESV the word “endurance” (in some versions “patience”) is used in verse 1 to characterize our running and in verse 2 the word “endured” is used to characterize Christ’s work on the cross. Reading the Bible in English, I think it is easy to mistake these words as being the same or similar. I think it is important to learn that, in the Greek, two different words are used in these verses and the differences between these words are important. 

In verse 1, the word “endurance” – used to describe us – is translated from the Greek word “hupomone” which Strong’s dictionary describes as “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy: enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).” Thayer’s dictionary goes further in describing this word as “steadfastness, constancy, endurance: in the New Testament the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” In verse 2, the word “endured” – used to described Christ – is translated from  slightly different Greek word “hupomeno” which Strong’s describes as “to stay under (behind), that is, remain; figuratively to undergo, that is, bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere: abide, endure (take) patient (-ly), suffer, tarry behind.” Again, Thayer’s dictionary goes a bit further to describe this word as “to remain, ie, abide, not recede or flee, to preserve, to endure, bear bravely and calmly ill treatments.”

Do you see the difference? It makes my heart ache. While we struggle daily running our race, complaining that our burdens are too much to bear, there is a hopeful and even cheerful nature to our enduring because we are waiting, after all, on the promise that is eternity with the Lord. Christ’s endurance, however, was marked by remaining behind, patiently suffering His unimaginable burden because He would not forsake us and leave us without salvation.

I will run. I will endure. And it will all be because of the endurance of my Savior.