Friday, June 15, 2012

The Women of the Gospels

Rachel Held Evans is launching a series on her blog about "The Women of the Gospels" beginning with my post on "The Fab Four." These four Old Testament women mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba—are some of my all-time favorite ezers.

If you've read The Book of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, you know that Ruth is my hero. Her story (recovered  in recent years from the passive, overly-submissive, romantic Cinderella version usually taught) was a total game-changer for me. And Tamar? I doubt I'll ever get over the shock of learning how we've misunderstood her story and how much(!) we've lost as a consequence.  We need Tamar's story!

So I jump at any opportunity I have to give the straight scoop about these strong ezers versus the negative portrayals we often hear.  Thank you Rachel for this privilege!

My post is just the first in this series. I'm personally looking forward to the others. Let me also say that if you aren't a regular reader of Rachel's blog you are missing out! Check out her website and prepare to think and engage!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Women of Action!

 Reading a book like Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide can cause a paralysis of horror to set in. That paralysis is understandable, given the unspeakable nature of the atrocities, the vast scope of the problem, the power of the perpetrators, the dangers, and the laughable thought that one person can do anything.

None of that has stopped two women in Massachusetts from trying. They've confronted—head-on—the question, "What can I do?" and are helping other women confront it too. Their boldness in turning horror into action is spreading.

Brooke Sulahian, Lexington, MA
In the winter of 2010, Brooke Fowler Sulahian of  Lexington, MA asked a small group of women to meet with her. That meeting marked the first time I met Brooke, who was trying to figure out what she could do and was feeling drawn to one of the problems she read about in Half the Sky, fistula—a devastating but highly (and inexpensively) treatable problem  that has turned millions of women and girls into outcasts.

That was the beginning of two organizations—Hope for our Sisters, Inc., which is in the battle against fistula, and the Gathering for Hope, that is mobilizing women in Massachusetts to wrestle with what they can do and to answer God's call.

Nancy Merring, North Shore, MA
Then, in 2011, after attending Synergy2011—"The Rest of the Story: From Here to Eternity" (which Brooke also attended), Nancy Mering returned to the Massachusetts North Shore, read Half the Sky and Half the Church, and was ready to act. I put her in touch with Brooke, and a second Gathering for Hope was born.

What I love about these Gatherings is the fact that although the groups work closely with each other and each group is intent on informing and mobilizing women in their area, they aren't locked into a certain way of doing things. The North Shore Gathering is focusing on group project, while women in Lexington are moving in a variety of directions while encouraging one another.

This week the Gatherings were written up in the Melrose Free Press online, "Local group empowers women to oppose global injustices," and even though I've just arrived in France and am about to join Lifesprings friends for dinner, I couldn't resist the opportunity to trumpet what my friends Brooke and Nancy are doing, not simply to encourage them in the excellent work they are doing, but in the hope that these gatherings will multiply.

You can find both women and both gatherings on FaceBook!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Returning to My Roots

Laurence Voorhies Mouton
A trip to France, for me at least, means returning to my roots.

My mother's side of the family passed down a significant chunk of French genes through her father, a red-blooded American, but a Frenchman to the bone. I grew up hearing stories of my petite French great-grandmother, Laurence Voorhies Mouton. Her tiny waist (and the uncomfortable apparatus required to keep it that way) thankfully have not been preserved as family tradition.

You can be sure that the whole time I'm in France, she, my grandfather, and those French family roots will be on my mind.

But the biggest return for me is to my theological roots.

As a writer, I am always more eager to talk about my latest books than the first one I wrote. I expect other writers will relate. It feels like moving backwards when I'm asked to do a retreat that focuses on When Life and Beliefs Collide, which came out back in 2001. But that's the topic the women want to hear about in France.

Strangely enough, at the moment a return to When Life and Beliefs Collide is  probably what I need most, because that's what's happening to me.

When more of life is coming unraveled than holding together, when trouble seems to gain the upper hand and things get broken that can't be fixed,  I need reminding that God is still good, that he is still on his throne, and that his purposes cannot be derailed by all the stuff and mess and suffering that comes with life in a fallen world.  

So I'm pondering again the story of Jesus and Mary of Bethany—who I'm still convinced was the first great New Testament theologian.

I'm remembering Jesus' unbending defense of her when she opted to sit at his feet—to be the Rabbi's disciple—to study and learn from him instead of helping prepare his dinner. I'm revisiting that wrenching scene between Jesus and Mary when he arrives too late to save her critically ill brother from dying. It's tough to go there when I'm making my own prayerful 911 calls for my father, among other things. I'm remembering how God used all the study and learning, the disappointment and tears to equip Mary to be the ezer who stood with Jesus by anointing him for his burial when others were turning their backs. 

I don't believe there's a formula to this. God's ways are mysterious and unpredictable, and trusting him is hard. I won't be leaving formulas behind in France.

What I will leave behind is the call that is lifelong—to commit ourselves to knowing him better so that faith has more to grasp when the lights go out and we are feeling our way through the dark.

Returning to my theological roots means I will read aloud to the women in France (and to myself) the sobering and wise words of Dr. J. I. Packer,
“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life, blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

Domaine Lyon Saint Joseph

Every once in a while, I take an unintentional hiatus from sending out The Ezer Report. It has happened again over the past several months.

2011 ended with the devastating news that my father has lung cancer. My family has been in this battle with him ever since. I've been to Oregon three times for extended precious visits with my dad and mom so far this year. He's survived pneumonia and one round of radiation that miraculously reduced the tumor by a third! Despite these gains, he's lost a lot of ground, and, as many know who have been through this, the grief starts early.

At the same time, life doesn't stop. The year has been rich with opportunities to speak in interesting venues. Wednesday, June 13, I travel to Lyon, France for Lifesprings Ministries International's women's retreat at Domaine Lyon Saint Joseph (pictured above). The facility is a former philosophy seminary. Just walking into the building may do wonders for a person's IQ. At least I can hope. What they do promise is that the place is peaceful, which sounds too good to be true. Last year, I taught at the Lifesprings School in Zurich, so I'm eager to reconnect with their leadership and to meet the women they are ministering to in France. 

So at least for the moment, I'm back and hoping you have a peaceful, pleasant summer!

If you're not subscribed to The Ezer Report, you can subscribe here. Rest assured, at the rate things are going for me, I can safely guarantee not to clutter up your inbox!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dangerous Women Creed

Lynne Hybels' "Dangerous Women Creed" has been around for several years, but is worth reading again and again. I read it to the women at the Freedom Climb luncheon in Colorado Springs. Lynne's words ring true for them.

If this doesn't get your blood pumping too, you need to see a doctor!

Dear God,
Please make us dangerous women.
May we be women who acknowledge our power to change, and grow,
     and be radically alive for God.
May we be healers of wounds and righters of wrongs.
May we weep with those who weep and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
May we cherish children, embrace the elderly, and empower the poor.
May we pray deeply and teach wisely.
May we be strong and gentle leaders.
May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear.
May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us,
     and righteous anger energize us.
May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world.
May we dismantle abusive systems and silence lies with truth.
May we shine like stars in a darkened generation.
May we overflow with goodness in the name of God and by the power of Jesus.
And in that name and by that power, may we change the world.

Dear God, please make us dangerous women.  Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An Ezer Story

I love this beautiful story of an ezer's unrelenting love, featured on today's CBS Sunday Morning. It will make you cry.

If you're having trouble viewing this video go here.

Dangerous Ezers

Regina Bergeron, Cathey Anderson, & me
at Regent University School of Law
2012 Human Rights & the Rule of Law Symposium
My schedule has been so crazy lately (and is about to get worse) that I have fallen way behind with my blog posts. So I'm reaching back several weeks to catch up because there are women I want WhitbyForum readers to know.

I don't know anyone who would associate danger with a women's luncheon. But trust me, the women's luncheon I attended several weeks ago in Colorado Springs should be classified as dangerous.

Last November Cathey Anderson, the ringleader of this infamous group, wrote me about her vision (hatched in 2010) for an international team of women to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro "to bring awareness of modern day slavery and oppression of women and children globally."

I was stunned to learn that reading Half the Church propelled her to act on her vision.

Any sense of elation I felt on hearing that my book had inspired Cathey to charge forward was dashed when a good friend reminded me, "People die climbing Mount Kilimanjaro!"

Much to my relief, the January Freedom Climb was a success. In fact, the climbers set two world records in the process—one for the most climbers (48 of them) attempting the climb and a second for their high rate of success.  91% of them summited.

I had the privilege of meeting Cathey and one of her co-conspirators, Regina Bergeron, in March when I got to hear incredible (and some hair-raising) stories of the climb.

Climbers Jane Morrill, [me], Cathey Anderson, & Tina Yeager
I met with them again in windy Colorado Springs where they hosted a Freedom Climb luncheon to talk about future climbs and recruit more climbers. They aren't stopping with Mt. Kilimanjaro. (Obviously, my sense of relief was premature.)

Again and again, I'm heartened by how Christian women are stepping up to engage human trafficking and other justice issues and the lengths (or in this case the heights) women are going to to sound the alarm and mobilize others to join them in addressing these evils. The Freedom Climbers have literally raised the bar for what the rest of us can do.

And although I feel a sense of danger for them as they continue their climbs, the one who faces real danger is the Enemy as these ezers battle fearlessly to recover territory and lives that belong to God.  

The Freedom Climbers are definitely a group to watch. If you're interested in joining this dangerous group of women, September 20-23 is their next event—the first Freedom Climb Conference in Colorado Springs combined (for those brave souls who dare) with a climb to the top of Pike's Peak.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Good for the soul ...

This will have a calming effect, no matter what you're going through. Solo artist is Jordan Daniel; cellist is my cousin, Lindsay Wilson.