Jesus Feminist: Book Review

The word “feminist” carries different meanings and evokes a variety of feelings depending on the circle it is used in. I suspect most in the conservative arena (myself included on occasion) have tended to believe feminist=man hater. Sarah Bessey not only refutes this definition but she gently challenges the church to fully welcome women’s “diverse voices and experiences”.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect with Jesus Feminist since the word has angry undertones. I suspected this book would have anger and vitriol woven through it based solely on the title. I’m glad my assumptions were inaccurate.

Sarah Bessey is a popular Canadian blogger who has written Jesus Feminist out of a place of peacefulness and hope. The topic of feminism and women leading within the Church is a powder keg subject today among Christians. The topic of women leading within the Church is not a topic I spent much time thinking about. I have no desire to lead or to preach, but I have gifted, talented female friends who do. By virtue of association, I now pay more attention to this subject. It now matters to me because it matters to those I care about.

The author finds a way to discuss this topic without animosity or bitterness. Bessey invites the reader to join her around a proverbial campfire to sit, listen and share. She gently points the reader towards stories of heroic and strong women from the Bible, shares her own story and asks questions about what Scripture means in regards to women in leadership within the Church.  She references Scripture and asks questions but does not point fingers nor provides pat answers.

I will have to read this book again. The electronic Advanced Reader’s Copy I received is riddled with typos and formatting errors which made it very difficult to focus on the author’s message. I feel I missed a great deal as a result.

However, the bottom line for me is Sarah Bessey is a talented writer who takes on a hot button issue without disparaging anyone or cheapening Scripture. She’s a fellow sister in Christ who has questions and is seeking answers. I’m quite eager to read more of her work.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Holiday Hangovers

Yesterday marked the end of Christmas for the Huisman Hooligans as we celebrated the holiday at my parents home with my extended family. A great time was had by all with wonderful food, loads of laughs, great conversation and a few lovely gifts.

The tree and other decorations are put away, New Years’ Eve is this week and then we get back to the reality of jobs and school.

And I don’t want to do any of it.

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I’ve been having way too much fun hanging out with friends and family, eating whatever I want, reading for fun and binge-watching movies and TV shows with my kids. I don’t want to be a responsible adult now.

That’s the trouble with extended breaks sometimes. It’s hard to get motivated once rest time is over and get your hustle back on. Throw in this is the time of year when almost everyone is discussing goals and resolutions for the coming year and it’s enough to make me want to go back to bed.

But I’m won’t and I hope you don’t either.  Although a new year is a good time to set goals for ourselves, we really don’t need it. The next moment is just as good as any.

I’ve given some thought as to what I want to achieve in this next year, set some goals and will be revising them down to more realistic steps.

  1. Continue working on my Bachelor’s degree. I will take only 4 classes in 2014 as opposed to 6 as originally planned. I’ve learned I get too stressed and drive my family (and myself) crazy when my work load is too intense. I will make peace with this decision and decide any progress towards my goal is better than none at all.
  2. Start exercising again which is another reason I’m only taking 4 classes. I’ve regained all the weight I lost last year due to a lack of boundaries and realistic goals. I don’t know what this is going to look like yet. I hesitate to make a gym commitment but living in the Midwest during the winter months means no outdoor walking or bicycling (which I can definitely commit to in Spring and Summer).
  3. Finishing stripping and repainting this chair. I bought this last Spring at a local antique store and made it my project. I would love to see if I can restore this chair with my own hands (and advice from my husband). I’ve never tackled a hands-on project before.Metal chair project

That’s it. Three simple, but labor intensive goals. By this time next year, I hope to have four more classes under my belt, weigh less than I do now (no size or weight goals, I’m just going for progress) and a lovely yellow and white metal chair to lounge in.

Wish me luck!

Alone in the Pew

I was on staff at a church for several years.  Attending and working at a church for a long time allows you to meet many people; some of which you grow close to in one capacity or another.

You work side by side together, get to know each other’s families, have dinner in each other’s homes, participate in White Elephant gift exchanges at Christmas, celebrate birthdays, send dinners to each others homes during challenging times, laugh together, pray together and yes, even fight together.

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Being a part of a church is an all-encompassing experience. When you’re involved, you’re completely INVOLVED.

I remember when word would trickle through the grapevine a family or individual was leaving the church and attending somewhere else. It was oh so easy to take their decision personally or to judge their motives.

Very easy.

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But now I’m on the other side of leaving. I’m the one who left and I’ve learned just how painful a decision leaving a church is. No matter how much time taken, how much effort, thought and prayer put into the decision-making process, unintended consequences occur.

  • Friendships are lost. I expected to lose some friends as a result of our decision to find another church home. I actually thought I knew who I would lose but the list was longer than I anticipated. It still stings. People I’ve known for a long time suddenly don’t recognize me at Target. A random email carries a bit of venom from an unexpected place. It would be easy to retaliate, beat my chest and scream at the unfairness of it all but instead, I mourn for once was and what could have been.
  • Friendships are challenged and changed. I have a handful of really close friendships and I’m so grateful those are still going strong today. But our relationship has changed. I hearken back to the days of being on church staff and taking someone’s decision to leave personally. I think my decision affected some relationships in the same way.  Conversations are a bit stilted and even censored on some subjects.
  • Traditions end. This realization barreled through my heart like a runaway freight train this holiday season. After many years of spending Christmas Eve volunteering or working at our former church, sharing meals together in between services, seeing coworkers little children all dressed up in their Christmas finest, this year was very different compared to years past. I missed seeing my best friend’s daughter in her Christmas dress. I missed singing Silent Night and lighting a candle at the end of the evening. I missed telling familiar faces “Merry Christmas” as we headed home to spend the holiday with our families. Traditions I didn’t even realize existed until they were gone.
  • Starting over is hard. After an agonizing decision to worship at another church was made, we are now in the midst of doing the hard work of getting involved and trying to make the new church feel like home to us. We will be volunteering soon, attempting to attend Bible studies, and make an effort to meet people. It’s tough being the new kid after so many years of being part of a whole. Truth be told, I think we feel a bit adrift these days as we strive to feel at home and known.

It’s my feeling leaving a church is similar to feelings of getting a divorce.  Much is lost, rebuilding must occur, and you feel as if you’re missing a huge part of yourself.  We really tried to leave in the right spirit and in the right way but damaged still occurred; this grieves us both. I’ve lost count how many times my husband and I have gone over our decision to leave and it always comes back to the same result: it was time to go.

Knowing this, I still walked into Christmas Eve services feeling quite sad and a bit angry. I inwardly lamented worshiping on Christmas Eve in a room full of strangers. I missed having a church family, even the one that wasn’t right for us anymore. As the usher guided us to our seats, I looked down at the end of a pew and spied a familiar face; someone else who walked the same road I’m walking. I looked at this friendly face and waved. She smiled and waved back. After services, we hugged in the vestibule. As we herded the kids out into the parking lot to head home, I realized God made sure I knew I was still known and still have part of my spiritual family. It’s small now but it’s not gone.

The Wall Around Your Heart-Book Review

Wall Around Your Heart

 

2013 has been a year of change for many of us in my family. Some of these changes were choices of our own making, some were the result of the passage of time and some were beyond our control. Quite frankly, we were wounded and it hurt. When the dust settled down from all the “newness” and we attempted to get used to our new normal, I realized I was carrying around a very bitter heart inside of me.

Resentful, angry, bitter, incredibly sad and hurt were the only emotions I was capable of feeling. I knew I wasn’t emotionally healthy but I didn’t know how to get out of this depressing spiral. Rational thinking, time, and encouragement from my friends wasn’t helping. I couldn’t let go of what happened which meant I couldn’t move forward.

I felt permanently broken inside. People suck and no one can be trusted.

Enter The Wall Around Your Heart: How Jesus Heals You When Others Hurt You by Mary DeMuth. DeMuth knows about being wounded, being hurt and betrayed. She also knows about grace, forgiveness and breaking free from the past. Her story can be found here.

The Wall Around Your Heart is the first book I’ve read by Mary DeMuth and I’m impressed by her transparency and her depth. Usually I’m skeptical of books of this nature. Some authors tend to make light of real problems or treat prayer as a band-aid; slap it over the wound and move on. DeMuth does not take her subject matter lightly. This book breaks down The Lord’s Prayer verse by verse and guides the reader in how to use this prayer as a road map toward healing, forgiveness and living more openly.

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Mary does not claim to have forgiveness and freedom from her past completely figured out. She is open about her mistakes, some aches are still present in her life but she constantly points the reader back The Lord’s Prayer and the healing power of God. The author has been through the wringer throughout her life and is finding redemption, grace and healing. Reading her story and this book have been the beginning of healing in mine.

The Wall Around Your Heart is not a quick or an easy read. You will be challenged, you will think and you may shed a tear or two. DeMuth doesn’t shy away from pushing her readers to face pain or harsh truths but she does it with grace and love. It’s very apparent she wants her readers to experience freedom and open up their hearts to living again.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present

Holy is the Day

I was first introduced to Carolyn Weber through her first book, a spiritual memoir entitled Surprised by Oxford. This book chronicled Weber’s surprising conversion to Christianity while a student at Oxford. I loved this book so much…and I don’t particularly care for spiritual memoirs. I tend to find many of them  self-indulgent and whiny.

But not Carolyn Weber.

Weber has a gift with words. She paints beautiful images on the page. I fell in love with her writing and became a bit envious of what I assumed her life was like. The author is a beautiful blonde, attended Oxford, found romance and became a college professor and a published author.

Then I read Holy is the Day and find I have quite a bit in common with Ms. Weber. She’s a wife and mother. She works outside the home. She has broken relationships in her life she aches to heal. Rough patches and bad things happen. Terrifying events occur. I created a fantasy version of Carolyn Weber that “Holy is the Day” proved false. Carolyn Weber has struggles and painful moments like the rest of us. She shows the reader it is hard to find God in the mundane moments and in the dire situations.

Weber writes with an achingly beautiful voice as she recounts being willing to ask (and accept) help, learning how beautiful authentic community is and finding the presence of God in a hospital delivery room when her life and the life of one of her unborn twins was at stake; and experiencing God while being surrounded by cranky children and mountains of laundry.

“Holy is the Day” will be available in October. I whole-heartedly recommend this book as well as “Surprised by Oxford”. As my friend over at Bookwi.se expresses, this author is not necessarily well-known. She doesn’t appear to have a large popularity, she does not pack arenas at speaking events, but I dare say that she has a talent for words that few people possess.

I’m A Quitter

I survived summer school.

Actually, I did better than that. I successfully PASSED summer school with pretty decent grades.

Back in April, I thought it would be a pretty good idea to always be enrolled in two classes each semester so that I was consistently making progress toward my degree. Smart, right? Not really. It was pretty foolish to think I could handle five months of course work crammed into a seven week bag.

Fast forward to June and I’m in a full on panic. Every day I had a self-inflicted headaches and I rarely experienced a day when I didn’t feel sick to my stomach. What was supposed to be…not necessarily easy but definitely not difficult, turned into one long nightmare. Every week I had on average 10-15 assignments due…for one class. I didn’t factor in the amount of reading and research required for these classes. In hindsight, I was pretty cocky and stupid.

Each and every day, I wanted to quit.

It was too hard.

It was too much.

My grades were slipping towards abysmal.

Clearly summer school…clearly COLLEGE was a huge mistake. Family and friends endured daily rants from me. I complained, I cried, I panicked. I wanted one person to give me permission to quit. If I couldn’t do this and do it well, there was no point in continuing. During my lowest point, I said to my oldest son,

“I’m not doing well.”

“So?”

“Would you think badly of me if I quit?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because then you wasted time, money and effort.”

You’re being kind of mean.”

“No, I’m not. You wouldn’t let me quit if it was me. Just do it.”

There it was. My son thought I was a quitter. And that’s when I realized that he’s right. I have a lifelong habit of quitting.  I quit when things get hard. I quit when I don’t achieve perfection. I quit when I’m tired. I quit when I don’t have support from everyone (and I do mean everyone). Facing a hard truth about yourself is not easy but it stings more when it comes from your child. I felt a sense of shame that I never felt before and I couldn’t deny that if I quit, my son would lose some respect for me.

I’ve always told my kids that if they could look themselves in the mirror and say they tried their best, then that would be good enough. Clearly I needed to give myself the same pep talk. I knew I was giving these courses my best effort and that must be good enough. Regardless of the final outcome, the one thing I could not do was quit.

Somehow I made it through the final weeks of class and was able to yank my grades up from the abyss into something respectable. The relief I felt once these classes were done cannot be described. It was a joy to be free of headaches and nausea. It was a joy to have time to spend with my kids again. But it was a bigger joy to know the satisfaction of seeing something through until the bitter end. I am proud that I didn’t quit on myself.

My son’s words stung. I was hurt by what he said but I’m glad he was honest with me. I needed to quit quitting.