A Non-Traditional Birthday Gift Guide

In honor of my birthday this month I thought I would share 25 gifts (in no particular order) you can use as inspiration for your friends and family or shamelessly give yourself.

Some you can present with a bow on top and others are too meaningful for gift wrap. I list most of these with the hope they improve our quality of life or the lives around us.

(As I was finishing this list I saw a general pattern in the gifts: presence, learning, and reflection. All vital elements in life, in my opinion. What do you think?)

photo: pinterest

1. Invest in Therapy

Therapy is an investment in your overall health. If your insurance isn’t great, there are different options to keep mental healthcare accessible. Telehealth options are in abundance at the moment, so really, what are you waiting for?

2. A Library Card

A library card opens up the wonderful world of learning. Even if your library is closed, many offer ebooks and audiobooks on apps like Libby and Hoopla. Libraries can also be hosts to all types of resources and events, not just books.

11 Library Card Perks You’ve Never Heard Of

3. Spread Kindness

In a nation riddled with hate, division, and uncertainty, kindness makes a huge difference.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

— Amelia Earhart

4. Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be beneficial for anyone! Learn more about it here.

5. Spend Time Outdoors

With increased isolation and time indoors, I am so grateful to spend outdoors. It’s a great way to safely interact with others (or not!) and move your body.

How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? — University of Minnesota

6. Spend Time with Loved Ones

Even if you can’t physically spend time with someone, there are still ways to spend time together. As things slowly open up, be both mindful and creative!

7. Invest in Sex and Relationship Education

Sex/sexuality and relationship education isn’t a one-stop-shop in middle school, it’s a lifelong conversation that grows and matures with time. Whether or not you’re in an intimate partnership, it is important to sharpen your relationship skills, like communication, boundaries, and problem solving.

8. Volunteer for a Cause

If you feel strongly about animals or social reform or creation care or any other cause — volunteer! And better yet, bring a friend!.

9. Invest in Physical Wellbeing

Try a new yoga practice, grab a gift card for a therapeutic massage, or explore a new sport. Find a way to care for yourself on purpose.

Make it date and learn a new dance with a partner.

10. Establish Prayer or Meditation Practice

There are hundreds (thousands?) of books on prayer and even more ways to pray. If you feel stuck, try something different like a lectio divina or the examen. Don’t feel obligated to sit still, by all means, walking or household chores can lend themselves nicely to prayer or meditation.

11. Learn About a Different Faith or Culture

It is well worth the time to listen and understand, rather than be understood.

“People of different religions and cultures live side-by-side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us in very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what- and who we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings.”

— Kofi Annan

10 Honorable Ways to Learn About Another Culture

Book and Film Lists – Racial Equity Tools

12. Take a Screen Time Sabbath

Screen time can be useful, but take a moment to pause the scrolling. This is surely a gift to yourself and also to those around you!

13. Declutter Your Space

Set the timer for 5 minutes, even 2 minutes, and focus on the kitchen counter or the pile in the bedroom. Surprise yourself with the difference you made.

Cleaning and detailing a friend’s car might make you the best friend, ever!

14. Drink More Water

You know this. I know this. We all know water is a miracle worker. A reminder to drink plenty of water is both mom-approved and science-based.

15. Care for a Plant

Plants teach you valuable life skills, like gentleness, patience, and understanding how and when to nurture or prune. You might also get some delicious herbs or veggies, too.

Word to the wise, plants make lovely gifts.

16. Give Yourself Compassion

This is a gift I’m giving myself this year. It’s not the easiest gift to give, but it’s been well worth it. Give yourself permission to be human, to be vulnerable, to grow, to learn, to fail miserably and then find a way back up again.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

— Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

17. Take More Pictures

Try taking pictures to remember the moment, not fill up Instagram. Take bad pictures. Take silly ones. Take photos special only to you. Have someone else take your picture, because God knows you need to be remembered, too.

18. Journal or Read a Memoir

I learn a lot about myself from journaling and reading the experiences of others through biographies or memoirs. Journaling doesn’t always have to be pen and paper. Recently I’ve been using the app 1 Second Everyday to record pieces of my life.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

— Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

19. Create a Rule of Life

I talk a little more about this here. If you don’t have one yet, now’s the perfect time to start brainstorming and crafting one! This is an excellent gift to yourself.

20. Share Your Creativity

Creativity looks different for everyone. Coding, painting, carpentry work, writing, boat design — share it with someone! It doesn’t have to be polished or perfect to be meaningful.

21. Read a Children’s Book

When was the last time you browsed the shelves of the children’s section? (Amazon counts!) Children’s books are colorful, whimsical, and often include timeless life lessons — like how to be a good friend or why it’s important not to eat yellow snow.

Here’s a couple I like: The Rabbit Listened, The Moon Jumpers, Miss Rumphius, and Hats of Faith

22. Learn More About Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram

These models are more descriptive than prescriptive, so explore with a grain of salt and enjoy the process of learning. They can be especially helpful in a team setting or in a relationship.

23. Eat a Nourishing Meal

You probably already know the power of food. It’s not simply physical nourishment, it’s emotional and spiritual food, too. Whether a meal is made for you or you create your own menu, food is an amazing way to say “You’re loved!”

24. Create a Playlist

Music is a beautiful way to show someone you care for them. Playlists are the new mixtapes. Select a few old favorites and mix in a few new ones and you have yourself a thoughtful, personalized gift for a partner, friend, or family member.

25. Finally, Try New Things. Always.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope you enjoyed this list. What would you add to it?

A Guide to The Examen Prayer

The prayer of Examen is a space you create to reflect on (to examine) your day in light of God’s presence. This is a practice I’ve been using in recent weeks, as I approach my 25th birthday, and I’ve found it helpful and comforting.

“…to pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

— Mary Oliver

This extraordinary time of life has lent itself to more personal reflection, the reorganization of priorities, and renewed awareness to life’s complexity. We must continue to examine our understanding of “normal,” and for many, our privilege, and seek to conform our hearts and minds to Christ.

Practicing the Examen

There are a few different variations of this form of prayer and if you decide to practice the examen, you’ll find your own rhythm that works best for you. I’ve found it helpful for my own practice to associate the steps with something tactile: gardening. Similar to adding motions to a children’s song, the gardening metaphors help me to remember the rhythm.

photo: jade seok

Give Thanks

Begin by planting seeds of gratitude. Offer thanks for whatever comes to mind. The “seeds” are all different sizes, some harder to pick up than others. There is a power in recognizing what you’re grateful for, even if you don’t *feel* very thankful in the moment. The seeds will continue to grow and fill up your garden.

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!” 

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Be Present with God

Don’t be quick to wipe the dirt from your hands. Allow yourself to be fully present with God. One of the best parts of gardening is putting your hands in the soil. Its mildly therapeutic, in my humble opinion, and encourages me to be mindful of the task at hand. In silence or with a few words, invite the Holy Spirit to guide you as you pray.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways…Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?”

—Psalm 139:1–3, 7 NRSV

Reflect on the Day

Notice how the garden has grown. Where have light and water nourished the garden? Where have weeds taken over? Allow the Holy Spirit to direct your attention to God’s presence in your day.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,

Any every common bush afire with God,

But only [s]he who sees takes off [their] shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

— Elizabeth Barret Browning

Identify Areas of Growth

Remove any weeds from the garden. Invasive species or common weeds are inevitable and must be tended to with a sharp eye and gentleness. Where is pruning needed? Ask the Lord for forgiveness where you’ve been wrong. How can you initiate or participate in reconciliation?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

— Ephesians 4:31-32

Look to Tomorrow

Water with care. Reflect on your hopes for the next day and ask God to help you in any anticipated temptations or challenges. The act of watering is an act of hope for new growth and new life.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

— Lamentations 3:22-23

Alternative Method

We all get overwhelmed and sometimes it’s too much to think of the entire prayer, or the entire garden, if you will. If this describes your day, it may be easier to ask yourself just two questions:

  • Where have I spoken or acted in love?
  • Where have I spoken or acted in fear?

As you ask these questions, allow yourself to be present with God, even for a few minutes.

Additional Resources

Little Things with Great Love

Most days at I try to get out and walk around our neighborhood. Our suburban town has a nature trail I sometimes walk but other days I opt for the sidewalk that takes me by rows of older homes, bits of main street, and some historical remnants of what used to be Salem.

Even with the guidance of physical distancing and wearing masks people are pretty quick to wave and say hello as we walk past each other. I’ve also noticed teenage siblings shooting hoops outside with their family pup, a parent regularly outside with their little one, and several neighbors chatting over the fences. These are relatively small interactions but now they seem so much more meaningful. Physical touch, face to face conversations, sharing a meal — our social interactions have significantly shifted from what we were used to.

photo: steiner engeland

I’ve taken a lot of this for granted. Now tucked away at home my days blur together and there’s little change in the day-to-day routine. I’m “homesick” for the people who have helped make this corner of Massachusetts “home” and I’m sad to have cancelled travel plans with family, my original “home.”

The following song feels especially relevant during this time. The small things I’ve overlooked for so long, are becoming the primary sources of life for me: taking great care in preparing meals, both by planning for a trip to the store and trying new recipes, selecting a new book to read, driving, being outside and waving hello to a fellow trail-walker, among other things. These are the tender mercies of my new normal.

“Oh, the deeds forgotten; oh, the works unseen
Every drink of water flowing graciously
Every tender mercy, You’re making glorious
This You have asked us
Do little things with great love
Little things with great love”

Recognizing these small-but-significant gifts of wonder and beauty has made the uncertain days a little easier.

I do recognize I have the privilege of staying home, slowing down, working remotely, and avoiding much hardship with this change of pace. There are others who have much different experiences: survivors of domestic violence, the unemployed, healthcare and essential workers, the elderly and homeless, others without access to vital resources, and those dying alone. Their suffering is not forgotten.

“In the kingdom of the heavens, no suff’ring is unknown
Each tear that falls is holy, each breaking heart a throne
There is a song of beauty on ev’ry weeping eye
For there is One who loves me
His heart, it breaks with mine”

I lament the toll this virus has had around the world and the fear it carries with it. I watch the numbers rise each day in our county and state and find myself feeling helpless sometimes. I have no answers to offer, other than the encouragement to walk with great love in all you do.

“Oh give us ears to hear them and give us eyes that see
For there is One who loves them
I am His hands and feet

For there is One who loves them
I am His hands and feet”

Oh Lord, give us eyes to see.

Practicing Lectio Divina

In our corner of the world we are working remotely, staying home, and slowing down in hopes to slow the growth of COVID19 cases. The first week or so was new and sort of exciting but by now it’s set in that life will continue to look different in the coming months. I’m sure we all have mixed feelings about the forced slow-down. I know I do.

If you find yourself in a new rhythm of life, you may also find a little bit more room for family time, walks outside, solitude, preparing meals, or whatever else springs up when you’re at home.

As you recalibrate your routine, consider adding a new (or beloved) form a prayer, lectio divina. This form of prayer can be done individually or with a group.

“By its very nature, meditation is a discipline that enables us to slow down and respond with intentionality to the truth. We might compare this kind of reading to an extended meal that lasts through an evening, where each morsel and course is savored without hurry. We pause, consider, ruminate and take it in at a moderate pace, realizing that if we move too quickly we will miss something important.”

Gordon Smith, The Voice of Jesus
delta-breezes:
“Ann | @ancherdesign
”
photo: pinterest

What is Lectio Divina?

I won’t overcomplicate this type of prayer by getting too detailed, so if you’d like more information I’ll include a few resources at the very bottom. Essentially, there are only 4 elements. All you need is a passage of scripture and a notebook and pen if you’d like to jot down your thoughts.

“…the lectio divina honors the historical and human character of the Bible. It is important to stress that this kind of reading of Scripture takes the nature of the Scriptures seriously…We do not honor the Scriptures when we do not honor the way in which God brought them into being. Scripture has a fundamentally human character that must be respected if we are to appreciate its divine character.”

Gordon Smith, The Voice of Jesus

Lectio

Begin by reading or listening to a passage of scripture. The passage does not need to be too long; 10-15 verses will do. Many suggest reading the passage 2-3 times either silently or aloud.

What is the scripture’s literal meaning?

Meditatio

After reading or listening to the passage, meditate on the text for a few minutes. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination to picture yourself in the passage. Consider how the scripture is relevant in your own life. Does anything stick out?

Where do I see myself in this passage?

Oratio 

When you feel ready, respond with prayer. Aloud or silently, spontaneous or with a prayer book, long or short — how you respond is up to you.

How will I respond to God?

Contemplatio

The final step is to contemplate how to practically apply what you’ve just read, meditated on, and prayed about in your day-to-day life.

Where in my life can I implement what I’ve learned?

Read more:

Guided Lectio Divina

If you’re like me and you like a little structure, here are some resources that might be helpful as you explore what works best for you. Most are relatively short and easy to listen to.

  • Contemplative at Home
    • “Guided meditative prayer sessions which help you slow down and listen for the truth that is being born out of God’s love for you today. Imaginative and contemplative prayer with gospel stories, psalms and other scripture, drawing on Ignatian Spirituality and Lectio Divina.”
  • Being Podcast
    • “You’re a human being, not a human doing. A podcast for taking a moment to just be.”
  • Exploring Peace Meditations
    • “Caring for your soul is vital to living a peace-filled and purposeful life. Join author and host, Whitney R. Simpson, for a regular dose of peace and calm for your breath, body, and spirit as you explore these practical mediations. Using yoga teachings and ancient spiritual tools such as the Prayer of Examen, Lectio Divina, and Breath Prayer, allow Whitney to companion you on your spiritual formation journey.”
  • The Slow Word Movement Lectio Divina
    • “Savor the scriptures with lectio divina with host and spiritual director, Summer Gross.”
  • slō
    • “This is a facilitated space for you to slow down and be still in the presence of God. Whether you are listening with a group, on your way to work, cleaning your house, or in a focused time of devotion, may your heart and mind be filled with peace.”
  • Exhale
    • A contemplative prayer podcast led by Pastor Faith Romasco.

Music

If you need some music to accompany your lectio divina or other forms of prayer or scripture study, here’s a few to get you started:

On Earth, Lissom, Salt of the Sound, Rhys Machell, as well as this album.

If you’ve prayed in this way, I’d love to hear about it!

A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Feminism

In the words of Carolyn Custis James, is God good for women? How would you answer that question?

In your personal experience and study of scripture or history, has the church been a reflection of God’s loving kindness and faithfulness to women? Where would you like to see the church improve? Is there a difference between equality and power?

(If you’d like a brief summary of feminism and it’s history you might be interested in this post.)

Addressing the Fear of Feminism

For many evangelical Christians there is fear associated with the concept of feminism. It can be perceived to be a threat to masculinity or an attempt to overturn the “biblical” design. Many people do not speak kindly about it or those who support it and there are plenty of polarizing, misinformed nicknames and phrases as evidence of this.

There is such a broad, beautiful spectrum of feminists. Feminism supports the idea women can freely make their own choices and raise their voices on issues that matter to them. The goal isn’t to be a monolithic movement, but to give women the same opportunity to think and choose for themselves as men have had. Women have a right to choose what to believe and how to worship, how to love those around them, care for their bodies, and how to shape their career.

For example, as a Christian feminist, I support women working hard to advance their career, whether in the marketplace or at home with her children. I support a woman’s right to choose where and how she works, even if I choose differently.

You might think women have these freedoms already. And yes, many women have these privileges. Feminist movements in the Western world have given us the right to vote, the ability to work outside the home (if you want!) and be paid (theoretically) equal for the same job, and equal access to education and healthcare. The results aren’t perfect but they have made significant progress we can celebrate. Yet, on a global level, many countries still have not adopted these practices and girls and women are not able to access education, financial independence, or bodily autonomy (female genital mutilation, child marriage, legal marital rape, etc.), among other things.

Let’s say you’re still unsure but you’re open. My purpose in this post isn’t to get down to the Greek and convince you of anything, nor is this the most elaborate explanation of how to be feminist Christian. I’m still learning, too. I offer my perspective as an invitation to discover how the Christian faith and feminism can actually work together for the mutual flourishing of women and men.

photo: Hannah Busing

Is God male or female?

A quick skim of the scripture reveals a text full of male imagery and pronouns for God. Names or metaphors like Lord, King, or Father are used in both Old and New Testaments. Without a background in languages it may seem silly to ask if God is male or female, when the text is so “clear.”

But is the Bible clear? We use male pronouns in sermons, songs, and in our prayers. The Hebrew Bible also uses the third person singular pronoun in reference to God, which we’ve translated as male. And of course, the person of Jesus Christ is male but does this mean the Holy Spirit and God “the Father” are also male? Taking a closer look we find:

  • God is not a created, gendered being like humans are and cannot be accurately reflected in an image or seen outside Jesus Christ. Language about God always requires an analogy since God is beyond being.
  • God “the Father” is a metaphor used by Jesus Christ in Matthew 6 and 28 is not a literal relationship. God did not contribute any biological matter to create the Son. The Son is a person of the Trinity, which has no beginning. Father-language is used to reflect a personal relationship and can be appropriate to use, although not exclusively.
  • Deuteronomy 4:15-19 prohibits images of God and idols, both male and female. Creating either a male image or female image for God is idolatrous.

It might be grammatically awkward to withhold gendered pronouns while talking about God but it offers a more precise foundation from which to worship, communicate, and cultivate healing. What we believe about God impacts our understanding of gender, personhood, and power. Other gender-neutral names for God include I Am, Creator, Divine, Light, Vine, Redeemer, Potter, Sustainer, and Word.

(This explanation was taken from this post.)

This is just one example of why a feminist lens in theology can be helpful. Feminist theology, in general, wants to read sacred texts from the experience of women, which is notably different than men. Mind you, there’s many different theories and beliefs surrounding feminist theology, some more orthodox than others.

“The uniqueness of feminist theology lies not in its use of the criterion of experience but rather in its use for women’s experience which has been almost entirely shut out of theological reflection in the past. The use of women’s experience in feminist theology, therefore, explodes as a critical force, exposing classical theology…as based on male experience rather than on universal human experience.”

— Rosemary Radford Ruether

Is patriarchy or masculinity bad?

Yes and no.

In the scriptures God reached out to a people shaped by patriarchy, and certainly as Christians we have relied on the faith of patriarchs like Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, and David, to shape our own faith. Yet, just because patriarchy was the longest running social norm does not mean it will continue to be the superior means to a thriving society or the only channel through which God communicates. Just ask the women at the empty tomb.

Similar to patriarchy, masculinity is not inherently bad. However, because we live in a fallen world, our understanding of masculinity and how society enforces its expectations can be misguided. Research has helped us understand that many rigid expectations (Men should be this; Men should be like that; Men should not do this) we have placed on boys and men are not healthy for the larger community as they contribute to increased rates of mental illness and violence.

  • This study in Australia evaluated the impact of beliefs that men are “to be tough; not to show any emotions; to be the breadwinner, to always be in control, use violence to solve problems; and to have many sexual partners.” The report details the differences between men who hold these beliefs and those who do not. Men who believe this about themselves are more likely to consider suicide, initiate verbal bullying in person or online, or make sexual/sexist comments towards women, among other responses. Read the rest here.
  • This study in the UK found “61% of 18-24 year olds feel UK society expects a man to “man up” when faced with a challenge and over half (55%) said that crying in front of others would make a man feel less masculine.”

As people of hope, can we observe a healthy spectrum of masculinity in the scriptures? The Bible is full of wisdom on what Christian life and practice can look like for all people, regardless of gender. The following people are a few specific examples of what masculinity can look like, as an alternative to the toxic/rigid expectations we commonly see today:

  • Jesus
    • Expressed a full range of emotions including joy, sadness, anger, tiredness, and playfulness.
    • Demonstrated compassion, forgiveness, and self-control.
    • Honored, trusted, listened to, and travelled with women.
    • Shared space, time, and meals with those considered social outcasts and untouchable.
    • Washed the feet of his disciples.
  • Job admits vulnerability and suffering but does not curse God.
  • David
    • Held close friendship with Jonathan.
    • Repented from his sin.
    • Expressed emotions through artistic poems and psalms, and dancing in the streets.
    • Demonstrated courage during his time as a young shepherd or as a leader in battle.
  • Boaz acted generously and compassionately towards the poor and marginalized, namely Ruth, an immigrant widow.
  • Barnabas
    • Known as the “son of encouragement.”
    • Believed Saul’s controversial conversion and discipled him and John Mark.
  • Joseph and Daniel lived with integrity even as they were tested physically, spiritually, and relationally.

The authors of scripture also praise and emphasize non-gendered attributes like gentleness, peace, patience, responsibility, and self-control. Where else can you find examples of healthy masculinity in the scriptures?

Who should submit?

Language and verses related to submission have been used to oppress various populations, both in secular and religious liturgy. The instructions in scripture surrounding submission are not justification for abuse. If you are a survivor of abuse or sexual violence, it is okay to be uncomfortable with scripture or liturgy that includes this topic. Please, take your time to heal and come back gently as you feel ready. With this in mind, I would rather use different terminology to describe the appropriate course of action for friendships, marriages, and communities.

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Luke 10:27

As a church we are called to walk in humility, to love others deeply, respecting who they are and their experience, to relinquish any pride, and as the ESV says in Romans 12:10, “outdo one another in showing honor.”

Self-discipline, service, and submission are all highly praised characteristics in the scriptures. These qualities are not limited to or better suited for one gender over another. But if someone believes in the stereotypes built by benevolent sexism, it can be easy to assume men should be superior to women. After all, they are the “natural leaders,” right?

To submit assumes a hierarchy is in place. Is the hierarchy between genders? Or between Creator and the creation?

There’s enough evidence in the scripture and history to make a strong case for women’s leadership. But I don’t believe Jesus’ radical inclusion of women was meant to flip the patriarchy into matriarchy. The life and ministry of Jesus itself was backwards. The Son of God, second person of the Trinity, the Incarnation of the divine enters the world through a humble birth, denies the offer of power, and goes on to touch those who are contagious and outcast, heals chronic illness, shares meals with social outsiders, and washes the muck from his disciples’ ungroomed feet.

The parables of the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, and the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-16) among other lessons and stories from the life of Jesus reveal there is no seniority or hierarchy in the Kingdom of God. No one is above another. The hierarchy appears to only exist between God and humans.

This is a very simple summary of a vast collection of thoughts and centuries of academic study. I’ve included some more resources below if this topic is your bread and butter.

What if my church has a different view?

Your church may have a formal position on this issue. It may not. If your tradition does not allow women to teach or deliver sermons, this can be especially difficult for women who feel drawn to this type of ministry. Historically many churches have denied women a place at the pulpit but have sent female missionaries to teach and preach doctrine to others. This becomes a challenging situation and calls into question how church leaders view the abilities of women (How are women good enough for global missions but not for local church ministry?) and the personhood of those in “mission fields” (What do you think of the unreached if you send them your “second best”?)

Christianity, and more specifically evangelical Christianity, has not always been resistant towards gender equality. (Read a brief article on the history of Christian feminism here.) I believe this is really hopeful. It’s worth asking your church if they have a formal stance, and if not, asking more about how the church can make space for the voices of women. You could start with reading materials authored by female pastors or theologians, supporting women in seminary, or inviting a guest preacher if there are no immediate possibilities already in the congregation.

If your church has a formal stance opposed to women in leadership, there is still hope. You’ll have to discern for yourself where the Holy Spirit is leading you. If you chose to stay in your church, I suggest finding some type of online or in-person community that supports your exploration. There are still women pioneering the way for others in these traditions who may offer insight and wisdom for your context.

photo: Allie Smith

Do I need to call myself a feminist? Isn’t female empowerment enough?

“There’s too much baggage associated with feminism.”

I hear this more than anything else. And guess what. The people who say this are right. But they forget the term “Christian” is another loaded word that many people associate with racism, colonization, sexism, greed, and horrific physical and sexual violence. As far as I know those fearful of labeling themselves as feminists, still self-identify as Christians.

More importantly, what should I call someone who seeks the equal respect of all genders? In this moment in history we call them feminists, just like we call those who serve the church ministers. Not all ministers agree on all issues and some certainly give others a bad name. Does this diminish the role or purpose of the minister? Or feminist? If you have ideas for a new term, by all means, let’s hear it!

At its core, feminism seeks to remove all boundaries that do not allow women the same rights and privileges as men. Women, like men, deserve to make their own choices and have their voices heard.

There are different theories, perspectives, and methodologies within feminism — just like diversity of denominations or traditions of Christianity. Christian feminism reminds us of the mystery of a sovereign God, the fallenness and beauty in our interpretations of gender, and the practical instruction to honor each member of our community as we love ourselves. Using the strengths of our unique contexts we can embrace the core goal of feminism to nourish communities and glorify God.

Additional Resources