Archive for November, 2012

So Much More Work To Do . . .

Friday, November 9th, 2012

If you are strong of stomach and not faint of heart, if you wonder why I go on as I do about “Christian” patriarchy and the evils thereof, you might want to check this out:

A Christian Men’s Defense League?  Really?  That seems to be a bit like having a Bully Defense League, given the tremendous inequality in society that men, particularly Anglo men, most of whom identify as Christian, benefit from. 

I’ve spent years proclaiming the Biblical mandate that the Church be the one place, or, better, the first place, where distinctions of gender, race, and class are never an impediment to the full use of any man’s or any woman’s Spirit-given gifts.  After all, I live in one of the primary Ground Zero areas in the U.S. of Christian Masculinism and Reformed Patriarchy; I’ve seen and experienced the worst of the worst Scriptural exegesis and practice, and I’ll forever be committed to combating it.  Our local patriarchs don’t use “slut” all that often, but their sentiments seem distressingly in line with the grotesque overflow of testosterone represented above.  Flowery rhetoric is as unable to disguise contempt as rose linen spray is at freshening a fouled diaper.

Of course most complementarians don’t use language like this, and for that I’m grateful.  But wrong theology and worse practice leads inexorably to excesses like this.  That’s what happens when the exegesis that comforts the comfortable and encourages the oppressor is taken to be the only correct, only acceptably evangelical, exegesis.  Once they’ve opened the door to erroneous teaching, good-hearted complementarians must acknowledge that those who seek Scriptural validation for their worst behavior will rush through it — producing, as is the case here, vile commentary that differs only in tone and vocabulary from the message of some of their comrades.

A Church that denies women the equality Christ died and rose again to give them is a Church that views women as less-than — less worthy, less valuable, less gifted, less made in the image of Yahweh.  That leads to the view that a man’s “sisters in Christ” are women first and only incidentally full members of the family of God, bound together in living out the Gospel. What’s the result?  A Church weakened, disobedient, compromised, and impotent, limping along with only half of its God-given energy, trying to attract a fallen world to a Body in which one half either ignores or disdains the other. 

I’ll write more — no, I’ll write forever — about this, but I’ll end with this as an antidote to the toxic words above.  I pray our putatively “Christian” brothers who wrote the garbage above will understand that there’s nothing wrong with rabble-rousing and disturbing the peace of the rest of the world.  But it must be for the good of the Body and come from the potency of a heart devoted to Jesus, not from the fragile potency of another organ devoted to the perpetuation of male privilege:

“I would like to organize and prioritize, to rabble-rouse and disturb the peace of the rest of the world on behalf of justice, truth, beauty, and love. I’d love to hear the prophetic voice of women in our church.” – Sarah Bessey

Aunt Carol’s 80th Birthday

Friday, November 9th, 2012

There aren’t many people I’m taller than.

My husband’s Aunt Carol, the sister of the woman I call “Mom,” is one of them.  She’s maybe 4′ 10″, which means that when I’m around her, I feel tall, if not tall, slim, tanned and blonde.

Aunt Carol ceased being “my husband’s Aunt Carol” approximately 17 minutes after I met her 29 years ago, when I was not-yet-engaged to my pen pal and trying desperately to remember everyone’s name as he coached me on who was who in his sprawling family.  I moved to Western Washington in the winter of 1984 so that I could spend time with the man I would marry that Fall.  That meant spending time with his cousins, sisters, parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle.  I fell in love with Jeff before I moved to Snohomish; I fell in love with his family shortly thereafter.

So I was delighted when, on our recent trip back to Monroe, I was invited to a ladies Tea Party in honor of Aunt Carol’s 80th birthday.  We all dressed up, wore silly, floppy hats, met at an authentic British Tea House in Bothell, and celebrated not just the birthday, but the life, of this remarkable, indefatigably faithful, astonishingly life-loving woman.  There were about a dozen of us, and we spent a few hours enjoying the “Elizabeth” menu — an  array of pastries enhanced by teas whose names I’d never heard of and the sweet time spent with cousins and old friends we sadly don’t get to see enough.  Uncle Gale, currently battling cancer and believing God for its healing, paid for the whole thing, and their daughter Kathy coordinated visitors from three states, all coming to celebrate a woman who, at the start of her ninth decade, truly has her hands full.

But even with the vagaries of life, Carol’s heart is fuller.  She’s the matriarch of more than just her three daughters’ families, and she’s more than a grandmother, mother, aunt, and sister.  In this woman, with her dancing eyes and honeyed voice, faith in Christ Jesus truly lives.

She had been a born-again believer for a few years before the carpet was pulled out from under her manicured, Southern Idaho farming life.  Her youngest daughter was just about to finish high school when Gale left the marriage, leaving her alone with two older daughters in college.  He believed he had found something better; she knew he hadn’t.  So she committed the recuperation and renewal of her marriage to her Lord and Savior and began to stand for Gale’s return.  I can’t imagine the devastation she endured.  And, frankly, I can’t imagine having to draw from such deep cisterns of faith in the midst of such profound grief.  Her eldest daughter’s Christian college took the restoration of their marriage as a prayer project.  Some thought they were unrealistic, maybe a little arrogant.  And certainly some thought Carol was, perhaps, a bit more so. After all, some men leave.  Some marriages fail.  Some women give up and find love elsewhere, if they find love at all.

Carol is not “some women.”  She had grown up in a small — no, tiny — town in the Magic Valley, in an area of Southern Idaho that doesn’t immediately announce the discovery of anything particularly magical.  She was the eldest daughter of a prosperous farmer and his wife, two people I loved with all my heart.  She excelled in crafts and in attracting suitors, and when she married a dashing, baritone-voiced young farm- and trucking worker, she no doubt assumed that her marriage would be as solid as her parents’ — a lasting testimony to fidelity, friendship, and faith.

But life threw her a curve, which came in the form of Gale’s departure and which looked for all the world, I imagine, to be the end — not of her life, maybe, but of her dreams.  Carol had had a real encounter with the Lord Jesus, though, that made her hunger for more and believe it could be realized.  It would require faith — faith stronger than she knew existed, faith stronger than many thought a simple farm girl capable of.  She turned her formidable will not toward healing Gale, or even healing her marriage.  She fell to her knees and got up trusting that no man, not even her beloved, could rend asunder what her God had put together.  So she acted as though He could do the very thing she most wanted, but couldn’t possibly, on her own, make happen.

And she believed.

Gale came back about year later.

She wore to our tea the dress she and Gale were remarried in, up at the Canadian Bible college daughter Kathy attended, whose student body, in the innocence of faith not yet tarnished by defeat, had stood by Carol as she stood for her marriage.  I’ve seen pictures of their second wedding; they both looked radiant, and she looked radiant last weekend.  Gale has since been transformed by God into a man unlike any I’ve ever met, a gentle, strong, and sweet man who turned 80 a couple of weeks ago and whose cancer hasn’t chipped away at his faith — his cancer, he says, may or may not be the vehicle that brings him to Jesus’ throne in Heaven, but it’s his beloved wife he’s concerned about.  To be any less would be unlike Gale, and to know Gale is to know more about Jesus than you did prior to meeting him.

Age, heartbreak, sickness, and nearly six decades of  marriage haven’t stifled the passion, love, and commitment they have for each other.  And while I’ve seen some people left infinitely better after the end of their marriage, time spent with Carol and Gale leaves me with no doubt that not only would Gale, as it says in Philemon, “go away for a little while but come back … as a brother,” but that he did so entirely for God’s glory.  Even though that’s not what he initially intended, and even though it must have hurt like blazes.  But God’s glory and the faith it inspired is what Carol drew on then, and what they both draw from now.

Seeing five-generation pictures of Carol and her mother, daughter, grandson and great-grandbaby reminds me that the branches and limbs of families grow more delicate, more threatened, as they expand further.  Drugs, divorce, deceit, depression, declining health and desperate financial situations have plagued her family, as is the case with anyone with more than a couple of living relatives, and that well of faith has been drawn from repeatedly.  It never diminishes, and Carol never tires, it seems, of drawing from it.  There aren’t storehouses enough to contain what she and Gale have given those around them; their faith isn’t satisfied to rest in the lofty perches of prayer, but wades through the muck and the mire with the hurting and the fallen around them, costing them much and at the same time earning them more.

They won’t realize that greater increase on this earth, I imagine.  But when Heaven’s Gate opens for them both — later, I pray, than sooner — the riches of their breathtaking kindnesses will be made evident.  Evident to them, two people who, along with Carol’s sister, my “mom,” Shirley, are the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever known, but who give and give constantly with an innocence and un-self-consciousness that drives me to tears more than the gifts themselves.

I may be taller than she is, but in every way that matters, Carol Conner towers over me.

Obama Wins!

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It’s 8:20 p.m., just eight minutes after MSNBC, CBS, and NBC, on the basis of Ohio’s going to Obama, declared that President Obama had won the necessary 270 Electoral College votes and will serve four more years.

I’m thankful for what I believe to be a gift from God — the repudiation of the contempt Romney and the GOP have shown toward the poor.  Obama hasn’t been perfect, but I believe he’s a good man, and he’s endured more hate, more examples of  false witness, and more entirely unfair and bigoted opposition than any President in my lifetime — and much of it from conservative Christians who hate the man so much they blissfully embraced in Romney a man whose faith is anathema to them and whose character brings to mind images of Jello being nailed to walls.

I believe Romney is a dishonest man with a moral core like a Slinky, a stunning lack of empathy, and a predilection for political prostitution that’s unusually robust, even in the smarmy world of politics.  The Mitt Romney of 15 years ago, I probably could’ve voted for.  The Tea Party-splashed, religious Right-anointed Romney of this election cycle, however, morphed daily into someone new, a shape-shifting cypher who should have lost.  In fact, he should never have even made it into, much less through, the primaries, and it speaks poorly for the political demographic that claims to represent Christ that he did.

I look forward to four years during which the Christian President, Barack Obama, can govern with the integrity he’s demonstrated and that has been largely denied him in D.C.  The cornerstone of everything “political” in my life is how it would affect “the least of these” whose plight Jesus commanded us to focus on.

I believe my Savior is glorified, perhaps more in Romney’s defeat than in Obama’s victory, and I believe my Lord is pleased. 

Returning From The Contemplative Desert

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

“Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for your public and have no self.”


If you’re a regular to Prevailing Winds, you’ll notice that for the last two to three weeks, I haven’t been.

A regular, that is. I not only haven’t posted since my Oct. 21 recommendation of 5-year-old Isaac’s Scrambled Quesadilla recipe, but I also took down two posts referring to politics in the Church national as well as in the church local. 

I have left the Moscow church I had called home for almost five years, and what I wrote caused hurt feelings.  In the interest of the “as far as it lies within you” part of Romans 12:18, I removed what I posted.  While I’m not entirely convinced that I was wrong in writing what I initially did, I would have been wrong to value my right to maintain a position over the righteousness of being in peace with people I once worshiped with and still love.  So I deleted them. It was an easy call in a difficult time.

Not so easy was having received three different comments in mid-October regarding the tone and tenor of Prevailing Winds — a tone that three people, three Christian women who know me well, saw as angry, divisive, and unproductive.  When three sisters in Christ say similar things, it doesn’t take a profound degree of spiritual maturity to wonder what the Lord is saying.  He may not be saying exactly what they’re saying, but I dared not indulge in the quick and easy avoidance of genuine discipline from the Holy One by assuming that it was just a coincidence, or that they were simply tenderhearted and conflict-averse, or somehow just didn’t understand me.  Those things might be true, but coming to that conclusion, if I ever did, had to come after a period of soul-searching and God-listening.

The risk of choosing not to hear from the Lord when the Lord is clearly speaking is significant.  The disciple not only might miss a needed corrective, or an unexpected affirmation, but also can risk easily turning from the Lord and embracing active disobedience, all because the message delivered might be even more painful than the original comments from friends. 

There had to be something for me to learn.  I wanted to learn it.

So I decided not to write until Election Day.  I chose not to read any local Christian contributions to the blogosphere, and I tried to avoid discussion of what people call “politics.”  Because if the Lord wanted to speak to me about something, he shouldn’t have to bellow to get my attention.  And, at a point of great weariness, sadness, and loss, I wanted — needed — to hear from him more than I wanted to hear accolades and affirmation, however sincere, from others.  If close friends felt I was losing my way in my writing, I needed to risk that my God felt the same way, too. 

I’ll admit that the beginning of my hiatus was frightening.  Very.  It’s an election season, and people expect me to write!  The rule of blogging is that you lose readers if you don’t post with increasing frequency; to not write during the last three weeks of the campaign might mean that no one would be around to read when I began again.  It might make me irrelevant, it might make me unimportant, and it might even have resulted in my never starting up again.  More bracing, though, was the fear that God would affirm exactly what my friends had said — that I was not writing in obedience as a prophetic voice, but simply writing because I was angry and dismayed and wanted to vent.  That would mean great sin, past and, if I continued, in the future, and it could very well call into question what I and others have seen as my spiritual gifts. 

If I didn’t have my writing, and didn’t have it as “Keely writing,” how could I contain the intensity of passion I feel about so many things?  More important, how could I serve God, especially after having been so deluded before?  And so I may have turned off the voices that provoke or inform my writing, but I was flooded with “what-if”s and the possibility of a scolding voice from my Savior. 

If you know me at all, you can appreciate, I think, how risky it felt to turn off Prevailing Winds in order to reflect on criticisms I had received — especially during the waning hours of a contentious, monumental presidential campaign.  Still, risks notwithstanding, it was time to shut up and listen.

So. What did I hear? 

Perhaps my next few posts will give you a sense, and, after the election, I suppose I’ll talk more in detail about it.  But now you know why I was gone, and I hope you’ll stick around and see where it is that I’m heading.

I value your reading and I always seek your comments.  Your prayers matter greatly, too. Thanks, everyone.