Sunday, February 20, 2011

US Christian Leaders and China's Persecuted Church

The link below will take you to an article I found very disturbing.

Here's a small quote:

International Christian Concern (ICC) recently met with three leading Chinese Christian human rights activists who reported that the persecuted Church [in China] is facing increased persecution. The church there is desperate for vocal support from U.S.-based churches and denominations.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ten Lies Men Believe

I have given away many copies of J. Lee Grady's book, "Ten Lies the Church Tells Women." Sadly, but not surprisingly, you will probably not find it in a
"Christian book store." You can find it online. Here's a link it on Amazon. If you scroll down you can even get a deal by purchasing it with two other excellent books, "What Paul Really Said About Women" and "Why Not Women."

Now, at last, the companion volume, "Ten Lies Men Believe" is here! I suspect I may need to order extra copies of this one as well.

Here is a small quote from the book:

"There’s a little bit of Cain in all of us: It’s why men hide behind their careers; it’s why men go to bars at ‘happy hour’; it’s even why some Christian men put on their spiritual bodysuits and act the part of a man of God when they are actually trembling with fear on the inside, afraid that someone will discover they aren’t the perfect husbands, fathers and employees they pretend to be.”

Thank you, Lee, for your extraordinary efforts on behalf of women in the church, women in leadership, women in bondage of various kinds around the world.

Here is the link to Amazon. I'm ordering mine today.

If you'd like to know more about Lee, here is a link to The Mordecai Project.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Egyptian Christian Woman's Point of View

The following is an except from Lee Grady's "Fire in My Bones" column.

A prayerful minister says her country is passing through a “spiritual birth canal”
My Egyptian friend Nadia* praying—and asking the Christian community in the United States to join her.

“For the church in Egypt, it feels like we are going through a spiritual birth canal,” Nadia told me in an interview this week. That birthing process is precarious. The uprising that began on Jan. 25 is a response to years of political and economic oppression. Yet at the same time Islamic fundamentalists are angling for control—and they could turn Egypt into a radical Muslim state like Iran....a foothold to eventually take over the country,” Nadia says.

The Christian community in Egypt is divided over how to respond to the current crisis. Some are simply hoping for a return to calm. Others welcome the change. Some even say the church may have to go through a season of difficulty—perhaps even a wave of persecution...“I never would have thought two weeks ago that my country would be turned upside down like this,” Nadia says. “But I am praying, ‘Lord, use this to establish Your sovereign will.’”

Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise in Egypt for decades. Christians often are denied jobs and promotions. Outside of churches, public assembly of Christians is rarely allowed. All ministry directed toward Muslims is illegal, and Muslim converts to Christianity are not allowed to change their religion on their national ID cards.

Yet last weekend, during the street demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a hint of religious freedom was in the air. On Feb. 6, a large group of Christians from various churches sang and chanted “Bless my nation!” while an Egyptian preacher told the crowd that Jesus Christ—Issa the son of Mary, as he is known to Muslims—defends justice and cares for the poor.

A few days earlier, in the same square, a group of Christians encircled some Muslims who were praying, locked arms and formed a human shield to show the world that Christians would defend their Muslim friends as they assembled to worship. [Pictured above.] More than 320,000 people have viewed that scene since a participant in the demonstration posted a photo of it on Twitter.

Nadia says most Egyptians—including a majority of Muslims—were horrified on New Year’s Eve when Islamists blew up a church in Alexandria, killing 25 people. “It shook the nation,” Nadia says. “People could not believe this was happening. It laid the ground for some unity.”

Nadia, who is involved in ministry in Egypt, remembers walking around her city when she was a young adult. Back then, it was rare to see a woman wearing the Islamic veil. But today, she reports that as many as 85 percent of women are covered in hijabs (veils covering all but a woman’s face and hands) while some don the more conservative niqabs (full black tents that only allow a woman’s eyes to be seen).

The heavy fabric is a visible manifestation of the shift toward Islamic fundamentalism that has occurred in Egypt since the 1980s. It also symbolizes the retreat of women to more traditional and less visible roles. However, the uprising of Jan. 25 has brought many women out to the streets to call for freedom.

Regardless of what happens in the next few months, Nadia is holding tightly to a prophecy from Isaiah that many Egyptian Christians have memorized.

Isaiah 19:21-22 says: “Thus the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them. (NASB)”

“I know we will see the glory of the Lord cover Egypt,” Nadia says confidently. “An altar for the Lord will be established in our land.”

* Nadia’s name was changed to protect her and her family.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Loving Friday Five

I John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

It is my turn to post the RevGal Friday Five. In two days my husband and I will have been married (ulp!) forty years. And, of course, Valentine's Day is coming soon so I'm thinking about love. So for today's everyone is asked to tell us about five people you love, people who will remain in your "heart" forever. This can be a friend, teacher, family member, mentor, pastor...

This is difficult, because my mind is sorting through dozens of wonderful people. I'll just pick the first five that come to mind as I type.

1. Mary Newbill. Mary was my Sunday School teacher when I was very small. Preschool, I think, or not much older. So more than fifty years later I can still see her tall, spare frame, her salt and pepper hair, her makeup-free but kind face, always with an expression of love and kindness. I was, in those days, not very well. I was also cross-eyed and nearly blind, and quite "pigeon toed." Pictures of me from the time show a pretty little girl, with thick dark hair, is hard to be pretty with obvious problems, you know? I was a shy child, mostly because I couldn't see, I think. Anyway, I was already aware that not everyone was comfortable with me, though I did not understand why. Not so, Mary Newbill. When Mary looked at me she saw me. She made a point to talk with me, to greet me every Sunday, to send me little cards in the mail, to tell me how much Jesus loved me and what a lovely person I was. I believed her when she said Jesus loved me, because she obviously did. I will be sure to thank her when I see her on the other side.

2. My husband. We got married young. I was 20 and he was 19, and when I look at wedding pictures I shake my head--such babes in the woods we were! Our lives were planned to be very different than what they have turned out to be. He was going to be a career Marine. I was going to be the best little homemaker ever. We were, of course, going to live in California if we weren't stationed elsewhere. We did spend nine years in the Corps, but other than that--nothing has been what we expected. Except we are still in love, still putting up with each other, still kissing each other good night without fail...I love you, Ken!

3. Rosa Mae Wead. I don't know if I can exactly say I "love" her--except in a general sense. We were not close, though I wish we could have been. "Sister Wead" was the wife of Roy Wead, president of Trinity Bible College years ago. I was struggling with an increased sense of God's call in my life, struggling to believe that it was true that women could preach and teach and lead God's people. I was reading books and studying--but Rosa Mae Wead was the individual God used to show me, in a living form, what a strong, capable, gifted woman could do. She mentored me from afar. She was never arrogant, very classy and ladylike (maybe I thought all women preachers would be masculine), a loving wife and mother as well as a minister of the Word. She was dying of cancer when I took her "Women in Ministry" class. She was able to teach only a few classes of the course, as she grew rapidly worse. But it was enough. She walked in the power of the Holy Spirit like no one else I've ever known. One day she asked the class members why we were there. Many said they wanted to be good pastor's wives, etc. She grew visibly disturbed as woman after woman spoke of their "husband's ministry." Finally, she slammed her hands on the desk and said, LOUDLY, "Stop! Aren't ANY of you women called to PREACH?" She was staring (and pointing) directly at me. It was a life-changing moment. Another woman I'll thank when I reach eternity.

4. Of course, Trinity, our grandchild. Yes, all the sappy stuff you hear about being a grandparent is true. And she is beautiful, sweet, and brilliant. :-) But she is extra-special to me because of how and when she arrived. We did not think we would be grandparents, ever (long and painful story). We had endured a couple of years of profound sadness and loss and questions--and then our daughter announced that a baby was on the way--we were full of joy! And she has been the proverbial "ray of sunshine" ever since, restoring things in our hearts that were dormant, helping us smile on tough days, giving us hope for the future.

5. My mother. We had a difficult relationship. I loved her deeply when I was small, thinking she was the best mom in the world, right about everything, and I wanted to be just like her. As I grew older her significant dysfunction (another long and painful story) became increasingly evident. Life at our house was not happy, always unstable, and extremely confusing. She was, I knew, a wonderful warm-hearted, woman who passionately loved God and longed to be of service. She was also a recluse, deluded, sometimes cruel. She ignored me much of the time. The two sides didn't match. In her old age she came to live with us. It was a wonderful, difficult, lovely, bittersweet challenge--and sometimes a joy. I know she probably couldn't help her behavior. And now that she is gone I remember the woman she longed to be and usually was, at least at the end of her life. She blessed many people. I miss her very much. Someday we will talk and we will, finally, make sense of it all.

How about you?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

So, What Are You Doing These Days?

I had a couple of conversations recently that have me back to being more focused about where and how I should spend my remaining decade (I'm optimistic) of working life. I'm still not sure. (Not that I ever intend to just sit in a rocker.)

"What are you doing these days?" Many people still ask me that question. Some still are surprised to hear that I am no longer the pastor at the church where I spent ten years, and it has been nearly two years since I left. I had an idea or two about what might happen to me next. I did not share it on the blog--too personal--but I did share it with a few people. So far, it has not. Could it still? Yes, but it seems less and less likely. I did feel strongly about writing, and so I started doing that in earnest.

Meanwhile, Ken and I returned to the church we formerly attended. We know people there. It has been our "home church" so to speak, for many years. It is a good place, and we love Pastor Rich and Pastor Sharon. I was surprised to find that it was difficult.

Oh, I knew there would be some adjustments to make, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I just had no idea just how profound those would be. A few months ago I turned a corner. How did I know? I didn't cry in church. Oh, I don't mean I was ever boo hooing. And I'm a Pentecostal, so tears in church are acceptable. :-) It was just silent tears, or a lump in my throat and watery eyes. That sort of thing. This went on for a long time--then suddenly it didn't happen, and since then any teary-eyed occurrences have been entirely because of good things. However, I continue to feel that I am not "settled."

A while back I started teaching Sunday School. I love to teach, and teaching the Bible is just extra good, so that was fine. I enjoy our class interactions. But something is not quite right, and I can't say why. I had an idea recently, and wondering if perhaps I should share it with Pastor Rich. Not sure, and I'm surprised at what it is...but God's ways always have been strange, at least in MY life!

Meanwhile, something else has been happening. I preached a sermon a few months back (about Peter). If you know me on Facebook you might have seen my status update about that. It was not a profound sermon, or one I would say was one of my "best" ones, but once again God's ideas are probably a great deal different than mine, because today someone mentioned again how much that sermon blessed them. As a preacher, I am thrilled if someone remembers what I preached about a day or two later--a few months? Wow! About 10 or 12 people have talked to me about that sermon. And the other thing was, it felt good to be up front and leading the service. It felt right.

When I first left my church, it was difficult financially as well. It looked, at one point, like we might lose our home. We prayed a lot. Anonymous people blessed us with money here and there. Life went on and provision came. I started working at a financial firm. It is a good place with good people doing good work. (There is a link in my blog sidebar.) I have a nice office. I have learned a great deal that has been good to learn. I still have ideas of things I'd like to accomplish there.

Perhaps I will just keep on as I am now. Perhaps I will keep working at Veritas, teaching at Christian Life AG, writing, and so on. Perhaps that is as it should be. Or perhaps change is coming. Or perhaps it is just the weather and I'll feel differently next week! Or perhaps I am getting ready for something. We shall see.