What Not To Say

Coffee and I do not have  relationship.
At all.
Not everyone is OK with women in ministry. Well, that was an understatement to begin with. Always start with the obvious and go from there.

I remember the first time I realized this. I was on summer break after my sophomore year of college. The pastor had invited me into the pulpit on a Sunday morning to talk about what I’d been doing in school and what I felt God calling me to do. When I mentioned that I felt called into ministry, he asked what sort. As a joke, I replied, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll take your job.”

This was not received as a joke. (It was by him—he was a wonderful, kind, and honest man. Wherever you are, Gerry Robertson, you are one of the best men I’ve ever known.) There was silence in the congregation like you would hear after an announcement that California had dropped into the ocean. I didn’t know why. As a new Christian, I knew none of the cultural norms. I had no clue that, for some denominations, women could not be pastors. I barely had an idea what denominations were.

In the ensuing years, I’ve met people with whom I’ve disagreed on this issue who were gracious thoughtful people, and I’ve met those who were . . . not. I’m not here to debate who is right and who is wrong. I could do a series of posts on that—but I don’t particularly want to.

What I’m going to offer are a few tips for talking about it together. There are ways to talk to women in ministry and ways not to, no matter which side you fall on. There are things to say and things not to say. If we all want to veer toward the gracious and thoughtful side, even while disagreeing, here I offer:

Five things not to say to a woman in ministry

(And yes, all of them have been said to me. All of them.)

Yes, I know where my spoons are. Usually. But not
anyone else’s.

Where are the serving spoons in the church kitchen?

I don’t know. I also don’t know how to turn on the oven or make the coffee. Honestly—I don’t. You would not want me to make the coffee. Unless you’re going to ask the male pastor the same questions, don’t ask me. Being female does not equate to knowing my way around the kitchen by some cosmic genetic cooking code. (If there is a genetic cooking code, I so did not get it.)

So, your degree is in Children’s Ministry?

There is a reason my first career was high school teaching. I love interacting with teens. I love interacting with kids under ten solely on an individual basis. An entire room full of them? I think I’d rather take a job selling frostbite balm in Panama.

So no, my MDiv is in theology, in fact. Just like the question above, if you would not dream of asking my male colleagues this, don’t ask me. Try, “Is there a particular area of ministry you’re passionate about?” That opens a door for us to talk about so many things.

Is your husband a pastor, too, then?

Assumption underlying this question: You could not/should not do this alone; therefore, the only possible option is if you’re helping your husband. It’s so much fun when we are introduced in groups. Inevitably, as soon as they hear, “This is Pastor Richardson,” people turn to my husband and say, “So tell me about your church. What kind of ministry do you do?” At which point my husband, having a good sense of humor, says, “Well, I cut peoples’ throats for a living.” (He’s a surgeon—just making that quite clear.) “But you should probably ask my wife about the church.”

If you want to know what my husband does, just ask that. Then, if you’re more comfortable talking about that, great. I love bragging on my husband. He’s one of my favorite topics. (Although I have to admit to being far less comfortable talking about cutting out cancer than about theology. But maybe that’s just me.)

I don’t think I could take a women in the pulpit seriously. They’re too emotional/hormonal.

I once had a fellow seminary student critique my sermon by saying, “I was too distracted by the fact that you’re pregnant to listen.” Um, sorry. Next time I’ll just . . . deflate. (To his credit, the professor made it very clear that criticism based on physical appearance was not OK, ever. I had some good profs.)

I am not this. You are not this. Which is good.
Because I’ve not seen an episode where they end well.
Some women are emotional. Some men are emotional. Most of us are just human, with a wide range of feeling depending on the topic. Would it be OK for me to say, “I don’t think I can take a man in the pulpit seriously. They’re unfeeling, sports-crazed, Mr. Spock wannabes?” Of course not—because that’s a generalized male stereotype. I’ve never worked with a pastor it fits.

People should be evaluated for who they are individually, not as a herd. God creates individuals. We’re not assembly line. Only Cybermen all get the same wiring. Hey, let’s talk instead about the last sermon you did take seriously and learn something from. I’d love to hear those thoughts and learn something, too.

I read my Bible and I believe it means what it says.

I’m very glad you do. That’s a good choice. If more people did, we’d be a lot less messed up.

I read my Bible. I really do. Every day. Almost. Heck, I spent four years of my life and lots of student loan money studying that book and reading it a lot. If I truly believe it’s in the Bible and I do not obey it, I am grieved. I know the effects of disobedience, and I don’t want them in my life. I read the Bible, and I believe that it means what it says. But I’ve read it front to back, inside and out, in context, and I don’t believe it says I can’t minister equally beside my brothers.

We can never have a rational, fair discussion if there is an a prioriassumption that I am not as dedicated to Scripture as someone with whom I don’t agree. If you expect me to believe in your integrity and devotion to Scripture, please believe in mine. Let’s start from there.

Ask me why I believe in interpreting Corinthians or Timothy differently than you do. Ask me what I do with difficult passages that talk about submission. That would make a great discussion. We can still come out of it not agreeing. But we will have respected one another. And that makes Jesus happy, if I interpret John 13 correctly.

What do you think? Can we disagree and still be respectful and generous? How?

we are mamas

This weekend was Family Weekend at Child #3’s new college. Of course, I went, because it’s been four weeks since we dropped her off there and four weeks is a l-o-n-g time. It’s FOUR weeks. Possibly, I miss that kid.

We had the privilege of watching a beautiful ceremony as she was inducted into what they refer to as the Mac Scholars program, a group of students chosen to pursue an honors track. Standing at the bottom of three flights of stairs, she ascended them to take her place among the other students. It’s a visual reminder that she is taking her place in the world now, as well as in that program, and a momma can be both proud and sad at moments like that.

I am not good at saying goodbye to my kids. It’s kind of a teaser to invite me back after only a month in. I’ve informed them all that it would be perfectly within reason for us all to buy several acres some day and build four different houses on it. I’m sure we could work this out.

With all this fresh in my mind and heart, I watch the news stories. And I realize—we are blessed. I knew that. But the sadness of goodbyes throws that reality into a light where I can more clearly see other mothers, and other goodbyes. And I know the truth.

East of us, other mothers watch their children being murdered because of their parents’ faith. They say their goodbyes in both deep grief and deep faith that I cannot fathom. South of us, mothers are desperate enough to put their babies in the hands of strangers in the hopes a new country will save them from drug cartels that kill and enslave. It is an act of both hope and goodbye I cannot grasp.

We are mothers. We are together. And my own grief, so slight in comparison, breaks my heart for them and the decisions they have to make.

My child is where she belongs. Because she wants to be. She has been allowed to grow up and do what one of her heroes, Malala, nearly gave her life for-get an education. Freely. She will take the place God means for her to be without opposition or violence. And I know we are blessed and I have no room for complaint that she can do that.

My heart is broken for the other mamas saying goodbye whose daughters do not have a choice.

Today, fresh from our visit, fresh from watching child #3 go up those stairs and become part of her tomorrow, I want to remember to appreciate it. I want to remember to wrestle in prayer for those other mamas. To do what I can from where I am. We are mamas. We are one. I am more blessed than I deserve. 

PS: Speaking of mamas and kids and all that–There is a new book out TODAY that I am very excited about. And it isn’t even mine! It’s Amy Sullivan’s When More Is Not Enough: How To Stop Giving Your Kids What They Want and Give Them What They Need

Amy talks about her family’s journey from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. (Yes, that’s a word now. Because it should be.) She also gives practical ideas on how to make that happen in your home. 

If you know me at all, you know that from time to time I will post interviews here for other authors, tweet for them, etc. Rarely will I flat out say GO BUY THIS BOOK. I value your trust, and I don’t want to violate it by advocating anything I would not have written myself. So–if I tell you you need this, I mean it. Anyone with kids, grandkids, church school kids, etc. Take a look. 

Besides, Amy is just one of the best all around best people I know. That’s saying a lot. 🙂 

50 Shades of the NFL

I had every intention of staying away from anything controversial this week. Playing it nice and safe. It’s so much more fun. But then . . . all the news broke last week about domestic violence and how we must stop it and who is to blame and whatever shall we do?

And I remembered this piece I started writing a while ago and planned to use in February, when a certain movie gets released in theaters. But I think the time is now, not later.

See, here’s the thing. We condemn domestic abuse in all forms, which is absolutely right. We call it out in the NFL, and we should. But when we wring our hands and wonder how on earth we can stop it? When we point our fingers everywhere for blame? We’re ignoring the fact that it is part of our culture, and that’s where it has to start to end. And our culture includes—us. 

We can start to end it when we start to change what we accept as culturally OK.

Which is where that movie comes in. Fifty Shades of Grey. Aka, How to Abuse a Woman and Still Have Thousands of Other Women Swooning over You.

I’ve seen a lot of explanations for why women read the book and are excited to see the movie. 

It’s freeing. 
It’s sexy. 
It’s just a story, so there’s no harm. 
She changes him in the end, so it’s redemptive.

But what about when it’s not fiction? What about women for whom physical and emotional abuse, whether in the bedroom or the living room, because there is really no difference, is no breezy little story?

Here are some statistics on the harm:
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers.
  • One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States.
  • 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
That means that for millions of women and children, this is not a fun piece of fiction. It’s their life. So here are the reasons I don’t plan to hand over money to the theaters this winter.

Because to millions of women, pain is not romantic.

Statistically, there are women sitting in our churches whose husbands/boyfriends physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse them. They are there. They are silent. And every time they hear another woman talk about how “sexy” or romantic it is to read about Christian Grey dominating his girl, they’re a little more silent. They live that life. It’s not romantic, or glamorous, or safe. They are afraid, always.

Then they see us imply that they can change that man (they used to dream that, too) and that he’s really exciting when he behaves this way, and they die a little more. We feel genuine compassion for these women and offer help and prayer. But it only confuses them when they know we find their real life great fictional entertainment.

Because our daughters are watching.

How about we prefer this fantasy for
their future?

Bad boy fantasies aren’t uncommon among girls. Why do they say yes to dating the boy they know isn’t good for them? One of the most common reasons girls go ahead and date that bad boy is that they want to be able to change him. They’ll feel powerful and redemptive, and that feels good. They’ll be like Anna, and we’re telling them that’s great. That it works. If it works in fiction, it will work for them, right?

That’s the fantasy. But fantasy it is. A lot of young girls have this fantasy. They don’t end up with the hot guy and the thrilling life. Girls who take this route find themselves abused, stalked, and threatened by the bad boy they believed they would change. Too often, they end up dead. 

Dominating a young woman is a sociopath pattern of behavior that nearly always ends in at best entrapment they can’t leave for fear of retribution and at worst death at the hands of that man. It’s cold, hard statistics, not fiction. The myth of “I can change him” truly kills girls. That’s not redemptive entertainment.

A formerly abused woman tells her story:

During my first semester of college, I dated a young man who tried to control whom I talked to and what friends I could have. When he got drunk – which was often – he called me “a stupid whore,” he threatened me with physical violence, and he pushed me. Afterward, he would cry in my arms, tell me that he was broken, and beg me to help him. I didn’t stay, not forever, but I did stay for a while, because I loved him, because I wanted it to work out, because his emotional vulnerability made me feel more responsible for his emotional well-being than my own. Mine is not an unusual story. Ours are not isolated incidents.”

Can we look our daughter in the eye, or a niece, little sister, best friend’s daughter, and imagine her choosing to be with a man like this? Tell me you didn’t turn away and cringe. Please, stop telling her that it’s OK to give up your dignity and safety because a man is attractive and you feel good being his personal Messiah. It never ends well outside of fiction.

Because our husbands need to know they’re enough.

Think about it a minute. When a woman bids her husband goodbye and heads out to the theater, consider what he’s feeling. You know, that man you promised to honor through everything life throws at you? Sorry, dude. You’re not exciting enough. You’re not good enough. You’re just not . . . enough.

Real Supermen? They do dishes. There is nothing sexier
than a man doing dishes.
In real life, a husband may work long hours, have dirt or grease under his fingernails, and forget about the baby spitup on his sleeve. He gets tired, cranky, and sick. In real life, there aren’t very many men with no real work to do, good looks that never get messed by playing with the kids or sweating through a car repair, and enough money to give a woman anything she desires.

Most husbands are normal, average guys trying to do their best for their wives and keep their wedding vows in good and bad. Don’t tell them that’s not good enough. Ladies, that’s as good as it gets. That’s amazing. That’s a blessing from God, and don’t forget it.
It’s not only the NFL culture that turns a blind eye to domestic violence. It’s our culture as a whole when we take the same real thing that happened in a elevator and put it in a bedroom story and call it entertainment. It’s not harmless. It’s not fiction. And it’s totally our call whether we want our daughters to believe the myth or not. I choose not.

30 Days of Savings

Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids

Think mission trips are only for teenagers and adults? Think again.“Because much of short-term missions is geared toward adults and youth groups, Richardson fills her pages with encouragement for bringing young children on short-term missions. Writing from personal experience, she shares the opportunities her daughters had to actively participate in service during a family trip to China.

She helps parents know how to prepare spiritually and practically before taking the family to an international mission with step-by-step instructions, She even includes a Spiritual Gift Inventory families can evaluate to identify each person’s individual gifts and talents. For anyone who is considering taking their children overseas, this book is a great resource for encouragement, preparation, and settling back home.” Amy Bither, Free Methodist World Missions

On sale today only here on kindle.
Print version here.

This month only too you can win one of three Amazon gift cards by clicking below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tomorrow take a look at Lorilyn Roberts’ The King, on sale here

Hobbits, Elves, and Dragons—More Real Than You Believe?

Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. 

What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!

Other books in the 30 Days of Savings lineup:

Lorilyn Roberts The King 9/8

Michelle D. Evans Spiraling out of Control 9/9

Cheryl Colwell Secrets of Montebellis 9/10

Laura J. Davis He Who Has an Ear 9/11

Krystal Kuehn In Christ, I Am 9/13

Violet James God Restores 9/14

Emma Right Keeper ofReign 9/15

Pearl Nsaih-Kumi The Last Train at Sunset 9/16

William Burt The King of the Trees 9/18

Kimberley Payne Women of Strength 9/19

Cheryl Colwell The Proof 9/20

D.K. Drake The Dragon Collector 9/21

Jill Richardson Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World 9/22

Robin Johns Grant Summer’sWinter 9/24

Elizabeth Paige He’s Looking for a Bride 9/25

Shoshana Rhodes One LambRedeemed 9/26

Michelle D. Evans Spiraling Out of Control 9/27

Sharon A. Lavy Deadly Secret 9/28

Lorilyn Roberts Children ofDreams 9/29
Dana Rongione Through Many Dangers 9/30

William Burt Torsils in Time 10/1

Laura J. Davis Come to Me 10/2

Kmberley Payne Fit for Faith 10/3

Emma Right Dead Dreams 10/4

Val Newton Knowles Everyday UpliftingYou 10/5

Elizabeth Paige Boo-Hoo Moo Cow 10/6

Jill Richardson Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids 10/7

God’s Not Dead. But He May Be a Tad Unwell

God’s not dead. This is true. I believe it with all I have. But I won’t be tweeting it or texting it. In case anyone was waiting.

It’s big news that the DVD version of God’s Not Dead is out, and Christians are lining up to buy it. I admit right now—I’ve not seen it. Nor do I plan to. So maybe you think I am unqualified to offer up an opinion, and maybe you’re right.

But some reading and thinking I did over the weekend made me consider that, maybe, I should. Not necessarily a critique of the movie, nor a judgment on anyone for purchasing it. If you liked it, we’re brothers and sisters. Let’s not infight. But a discussion of the message, and how it impacts more than we realize, might be in order.
That reading led me to two places this weekend—an atheist’s blog (not my normal reading fare, but perhaps it should be), and the book Almost Christian. Both address the thing that had been bothering me about this movie, and the blogger put it in a way that should certainly make Christians pay attention.
Here is the important part of his critique:
In the end the central injustice of this movie is its failure to fairly represent a class of people whom Christians purport to love. But it’s not loving people well to misrepresent them this badly. This movie caricatures, dehumanizes, and depersonalizes people like me, portraying us in the worst possible light.

This is not love. You cannot love people while ignoring everything they tell you about themselves. You are not loving people when you refuse to listen to their stories. You are not loving them well when you decide before hearing them that you already know all that you need to know about them. This movie represents a grievous failure to love people like me.
Ouch. Double ouch. Infinity ouch. He’s right.
It is simply impossible to accuse an entire group of people of having no moral compass and then claim you are taking the moral high ground by virtue of being a Christian. 

It’s impossible to characterize and degrade a person I do not even know simply because he belongs to a particular belief system and call it a Christian perspective. When it is done to us, we balk, and rightfully so. When it is done to a racial group, we call it evil, and rightfully so. But if we do it, and call it “defending God”? Well OK then. Carry on.
Yes, I know that there are professors on our campuses who are hostile to Christian faith. The university I attended began as Unitarian and got more liberal from there. So, I get it. Yes, I know that there are those who will argue and criticize and outright mock Christians for their beliefs. They will use any public forum they can to do so. I have atheist friends who refer to Christians as fools (and far worse things I won’t repeat) on Facebook. We are friends, and it hurts.  
But that does not make it acceptable to return fire in like manner.
Jesus said others would know we were his by our love. But somehow, we’ve decided, it’s OK not to love atheists because, hey, they called us names first. We’re only giving back what we’ve gotten for decades. Which sounds suspiciously like “Do unto others as they do to you,” a version of the golden rule that deletes a few vastly important words.
Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus didn’t make any exceptions. He didn’t say, “Unless they were mean first.” “Unless they don’t believe in me anyway.” “Unless by being unloving you can make a big impact for Jesus in theaters. Then, well, it might be OK.”
He said love your enemies. Pray for them. Look for ways to do good to them. Give them the shirt off your back if need be. Why, why do we ignore those words, given with no condition, when we think we have some sort of holy culture war?

It just seems sometimes that while we are desperately trying to prove Christianity is true, we’re missing the one hallmark Jesus said would prove it. 

Jesus will have none of a graceless following.  .
In Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean puts it beautifully:
“Mission is not just a matter of geography—whereJesus was sent into the world. It is also a matter if identification—asJesus was sent, as a person, and specifically as a person whose love for humanity was of such divine proportions that he chose to share human suffering in order to overcome it with God’s death-shattering power. ‘As the Father has sent me, so send I you,’ Jesus tells his disciples. In other words, Jesus not only sends the church where he was sent; he sends us in the same way that he was sent, as human translations of divine love, people whose words and actions do not grasp for God as much as they reveal a God who grasps for us.
The church’s identity is not defined primarily by its edges but by its center: focused on Christ, the sole source of our identity, no intruder poses a threat. No alien hops a fence, because there is no fence. Boundaries are determined by proximity to the Holy Spirit’s centripetal pull, not by arbitrary human borders. The more churches lose our ability to barricade ourselves off from one another, the more God’s grace flows from us into the world.”
This neighbor built a fence.

So what would it look like if, while we ably and thoughtfully “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” we remembered the second half of that verse: “But do this with gentleness and respect,keeping a clear conscience . . .” (1 Peter 3.150-16).
This one tore one down. Guess which neighbor we
actually talk to?

What would it look like if rather than do anything to defend God, who needs no one to prove him or defend him, we would do anything to love like God?

As the Father sent me, so I send you. How do you want to be sent? As one of the commenters on the atheist’s blog added: 

“Christians, we can do better than this.”

The Hesitant Heiress–A Musical Heroine

Here is the second in the Hartline Blitz series. Hey this book–you get to read the first chapter! How cool is that? Then decide for yourself if The Hesitant Heiress is for you. Here is author Dawn Crandall’s summary of this historical romance.

   With the rare ability to play the piano by ear, Amaryllis Brigham wants nothing more than to someday found a music school. However, someone keeps undermining her hopes and dreams at every turn. 

    Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men—the son of the very man she suspects has been bent on ruining her life. However, Nathan Everstone turns out to be much more than he seems… and everything she never knew she wanted. But can she trust an Everstone man?

Read the first chapter here.

Dawn Crandall writes long inspirational historical romantic suspense. She has a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University and lives in northeast Indiana with her ever-supportive husband and their newest addition, a little baby boy.

Look for Secrets at Crescent Point

As part of something we’re calling The Hartline Blitz (because it sounds cool, right?), I’m going to be featuring from time to time a book by another author in my agency. Today, it’s Raquel Byrnes, author of The Noble Island Mystery series. Enjoy this short blurb from Raquel if you like mystery, romance, and a bit of suspense.

This week the second book in my Noble Island Mystery series came out! Set on the same mysterious Noble Island as the first book, this one delves into the strange and secretive ways of the island’s Romany people. Secrets at Crescent Point is a Gothic Romance with intrigue and thrills, I know you’ll love Raven and Siyah’s adventure!

Here is an official blurb…

Leaving Noble Island amid scandal and accusation, Raven vows never to return, but when her sister’s fiancé goes missing, Raven has no choice. Shunned by the island, if she is to unravel the mystery of Niklos’s disappearance, she must rely on the only man she’s ever loved, Siyah Cavaler.

Siyah was devastated when Raven left Noble Island, but as the clan’s heir apparent, he has a responsibility to keep the families from falling into ruin and crime. To preserve the island’s future, he agrees to a bride from a rival family, but Raven’s return stirs his heart and jeopardizes his position in the council. Giving in to his love for Raven would mean turning his back on all he’s ever known.

When Raven’s investigation uncovers a grisly discovery, a darkness is unleashed that threatens them both.

Bizarre accidents, unexplained deaths, and strange apparitions shroud the island. Raven and Siyah struggle to save the families and their love as they race to stop another death and unveil the Secrets at Crescent Point.

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