Dismissing My Own Disdain: when words ruin witness

I promise not to become a person who constantly critiques how we use social media simply because I’m pausing my own use of it. However, I think most social media users will admit some parts of it do deserve critique. Screens make it easy to treat people who do not share our positions with disdain. Memes reduce solid positions to straw-man arguments. Biting captions chew up and spit out those who may be wrong, but need our compassion. Disdain, treating people with contempt and as unworthy of respect, never wins people to our side or to the truth. It is more likely to gain applause from people who agree with us than to start conversations with those who don’t.

It is far more helpful to consider our words on social media or the internet in general, (this is my goal here as well) not as shouting from a stage in front of a cheering crowd, but as words across a dinner table with a person we love who holds a different viewpoint. Those are radically different conversations and tones and intentions. The goal of a dinner conversation isn’t to win or to convert, but to fellowship and know each other. You want to leave the table understanding something that you didn’t before even if you still don’t agree. These are the people who come to your house in the middle of the night during a medical emergency to sit with your kids or drop off coffee when you’re sick. Some of those people are hopefully not just like us. Yet we can learn to live well with them.

Risk, masks, and an unveiling of our hearts

When Micah was seven days old, the resident at UK Children’s Hospital told us she was transferring him to Cincinnati Children’s. In UK’s PICU (pediatric intensive care), they operated in-house. They shut down the entire unit to visitors, including parents, and performed surgeries right in the child’s room. When they were prepping Micah for transfer, we were told that they were breaking the rules to sneak us in the back to see him before transport despite an operation being in progress. You might be tempted to think that was considerate of them, but really they were concerned that he might die during the trip. Tears trickled down my face as I looked at my infant covered with tubes and wires, but the resident in the corner sobbed as she watched.

Later that same evening at CCHMC, a team of specialists wanted to put Micah on dialysis. His ammonia levels were so high that nothing else would clean his blood. The problem was that he was technically too small for their smallest dialysis machine. It would remove too much blood from his body. They had a plan to add extra blood to minimize the risk, but the risk was great. We signed the papers anyway. The other option was to watch him die without trying anything.

Risk is something that has gone hand-in-hand with Micah’s life. I’ve watched him with bated breath for eleven years. His runny nose affects his behavior. A low fever starts a sick day protocol and murmured prayers as I stress clean. A simple stomach bug lands him in the ER for fluids. Risk is inherent in him being alive. Not just him, but all of us, though often to a lesser degree.

Faithful, but not Fast

One of my goals for this year is to write publicly every week. Most often that is here, excepting the week I send out the monthly newsletter. I need both the encouragement to write consistently and the discipline of writing longer form pieces. Last week I hadn’t written much, mostly because I was discouraged. I feel discouraged about raising my kids. We’ve been at this for a while and it still feels like we are doing the same work. I feel discouraged about the conversations about women and the church because sometimes it seems like we’re still having the same conversations. I feel discouraged about my own sense of vocation because I can’t see a path forward. I’m still living these same days.

After some thought, I’ve realized that much of this discouragement is because I can’t see an end line. There’s no banner stretched out over the finish that I’m straining toward in any of these areas. The boys will weigh on my heart as long as I’m alive, even after my work of raising them is complete. There will always be those people who are happy to subjugate women and slap the name of Jesus on it. My own path forward may always feel like a mystery. I’m slowly practicing obedience and faithfulness in the everyday and not analyzing other metrics like success or notoriety or feelings.

Last week, I started reading Keep Going by Austin Kleon. In the introduction he says “the question is always the same: How to keep going?” To frame it that way helps me. This is what life is. Life is beautiful and difficult, joyful and terrible, boring and ecstatic. These days can be both excruciating and strengthening. But the call is always onward because I am actually going somewhere, even if it’s not a somewhere I was taught to look for.

Patience on the Path to Maturity

This week the woman I’m discipling and I laughed hysterically over a story in Rich Villodas’ book, A Deeply Formed Life. He tells about a temp job that he had shortly after he became a Christ in which he prominently displayed Romans 3:23 on his computer screensaver and wore t-shirts with Bible verses on them in an attempt to evangelize his coworkers. Before quitting the job, he sent an email to the entire company explaining how they could go to heaven. He walked out feeling triumphant.

We laughed and laughed and then we shared stories of when we have been just as aggressive and obnoxious and thought we were doing God a favor. We considered the work we were doing as vital to the kingdom, even if it meant knocking on a stranger’s door and accosting them with a question about hell.

I must admit that my perspective on evangelism has changed drastically. (Here’s a short podcast by NT Wright you might like if you’re curious about less aggressive evangelism.) But I need to remember those embarrassing stories so that I will remember God’s endless patience.

Resources for a Discussion on 1 Timothy 2

After a conversation during a Q+R on Instagram, I agreed to discuss 1 Timothy 2. As soon as I agreed to do this, I also told my Instagram friends in a story that they had homework too. They might have asked me to talk through the passage but no one gains anything by someone else doing the work alone or telling them what to think. I asked them to read all of 1 Timothy, noting any themes they saw. Then to walk through Paul’s train of thought in all of 1 Timothy 2, making a very brief “outline” of sorts. Finally I asked them to write down any questions they had and any other passages of Scripture they thought of during the reading.

If you missed that part, feel free to participate in the homework before watching the video or checking out these resources. The whole point of this is studying Scripture so Scripture is where we start. Is that a decent amount of work? Sure. But if we are going to have opinions that we insist are biblical we need to thoroughly evaluate them.

My goal with this conversation is to point out some of the difficulties of this passages and then focus on things the passage does not say. You can find the conversation on Instagram right here! 

Women in Ministry: Models of Faithfulness

I have never participated in a Beth Moore study although I am very interested in her recent Galatians one cowritten with her daughter Melissa. Most of my love for Beth has been fostered by her Twitter presence and listening to her on podcasts. (Her discussion with Esau McCaulley on the Disrupters podcast ranks as one of my favorites.) I’ve heard her preach and teach and she is both dynamic and faithful to the Scripture.

Beth Moore has paved the way for many women in many forms of ministry. In her, women have seen themselves and seen a model for how they can use their gifts for the kingdom. That has come with a cost to Mama Beth, as she is delightfully known, but it is a cost she has paid in the hopes that other women will find an easier way. She recorded some of her experiences as a woman in a conservative denomination in this blog post from 2018 and I encourage you to go read it, especially if you are a man.

I continually face my own frustrations as a woman in the church. I have my own stories, and I hear stories, at least once a week, from women on Instagram about their own negative experiences among believers. Although I am not complementarian, I hold to the hopefully gracious position that many complementarians and egalitarians affirm the authority of Scripture while believing different interpretations of certain passages are the most cohesive with all of Scripture.

Owning My Age: Growth toward Maturity

I turned 34 in January. For a few months now, I’ve been joking with a friend that forty is starting to feel really close. I’m loving my thirties, but forty seems, not old, but maybe like I’m not wise enough to be approaching it. I thought I might be nearing middle-age since I’m turning 35 next year and I still part my hair on the side (I don’t have TikTok but I know that GenZ says that’s a “no” now). Then I did some googling and realized that no one else thinks that middle-age starts until 40 or 45. I have years to go…even though forty still seems close.

I want to own my age whether I’m 34 or 45. I want to mature and not just get old. I’ve never been one to crack jokes about being eternally 29 because I want to live these years and grow and mature and enjoy being that person versus the one I was at 29. (I’m hugging her in my mind as I think of her.) I remember being barely a teenager and there was an older teen, honestly she was probably in college, that I admired. She dressed well, seems poised; in other words, she was all the things I was not at 13. In a tiny way, it was a vision of hope for the future adult I might be.

When I was in my 20s, I remember multiple occasions when I looked around for the adult in charge, and realized that I was actually that person. It took me by surprise then but now I need to be prepared for that. I need to invest time and energy into wisdom and maturity so that I have what the people around me need, so that I am becoming who God is making me. To stay immature is to be selfish, unwilling to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced for the good of others. This shortcut to nowhere cheats myself too.