Sunday, May 31, 2009

First a Little Fun, then a Little Update

A bunch o' chicks have arrived at Trinity's home.

Here is Kris, teaching Trinity to "pet very gently."

And Daddy, who has transformed an old chicken coop into what we are calling "The Chicken Hilton."

A little "Rhode Island Red." These are -- or will be-- the laying hens who will hopefully produce lots and lots of eggs for the family to sell.

And the pretty little yellow ones will be...ulp...dinner some day. But not for a long while. Aren't they just the cutest little things?

Now the update. Ken is slowly continuing to improve. His appointment with the infection specialist was delayed, but he is off the IV antibiotics (though the IV line, called a PICC is still in place) and taking two different oral ones. It has been over a month since we first visited the Emergency Room. He is hoping to go back to work part time soon.

First, however, comes a visit to the Veterans Administration Hospital for a whole day of evaluation for disability payments. We leave tomorrow, spend the night, and he will spend all day Tuesday getting poked, prodded, questioned, viewed and reviewed. He has received a small check from the USMC for years now, but there is a good possibility that this will be greatly increased because of long-term diabetes-related issues and consequences of a knee injury incurred while working for Uncle Sam. You know, bad news and good news. This is "good," because...

I am still unemployed. Still looking daily. Still praying "fervently"about minsitry opportunities and trying to trust God and do what I can in that arena...but mostly, right now, just needing to work somewhere. The situation is getting drastic. Wal Mart? Maybe. Nuff' said.

It seems that Ken's brother Kevin, who I wrote about here, will be coming to live with us in about a month. We thought this was going to happen just about a year ago, but he had a heart attack and was unable to travel, and other things changed. This time it looks pretty certain. He is an amputee, and there are lots of other issues. We look forward to it, but it will be challenging for all of us, especially considering our finances. Kevin gets disability, but...

Well, see you when we get back from the VA.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Little Big Foot: Mary Gets a History Lesson

If you would like to read the "Little Big Foot" story from the beginning, just click on the link at the bottom of this post, or the one in the sidebar under "Labels." While Little Big Foot is a fictional town, and there is no Eastside Methodist Church in Madison, the other places I have mentioned are real. It is true that many Pentecostal churches in Wisconsin were started by women and also true that this is not widely known.

Mary Coats had not known what to think when the pretty redheaded preacher had visited North Woods Chapel. Until Lee had told her about it, Mary had never seriously considered the idea that a woman would choose to be a pastor. Mary had watched the visiting minister share her testimony on that extraordinary Sunday with such a confusing swirl of emotions and thoughts that it had made her feel almost ill.

She knew that her husband was not happy that Brother Young had suggested this woman come to preach for them, nor that the other deacons had agreed. One evening after a board meeting he had told her, in some frustration, "I do not understand how a man like Gene Young can even suggest this. The Bible is clear that a woman is to be silent in church, is not to teach men, is not to be in authority. I mean, he is a man of the Word!"

He had sighed as he sipped the iced tea Mary had brought him. "It isn't like we don't know that men and women are equal." He had smiled kindly at his wife and she had listened sympathetically as he went on, "It's not like we don't have plenty of places for women to serve. Doesn't he understand that we have God-given roles? God made men to lead. It started out that way right from the git-go, right from the Garden of Eden!"

Mary had patted his arm and nodded, listening. She loved her dairy-farmer husband, and loved that he had always been gentle and patient with her. "Like you, sweetheart," he had said with a smile. "You always understood that a woman's highest calling is to be a wife and a mother, and I love you for that. I'm glad you never got ideas that you didn't need a man to love and protect you." He had stood to his feet and stretched, grinning at her, "Of course, that's why I married you when you were still young and not set in your ways."

She had smiled back. "Why would any woman want to be in the ministry?" she had wondered aloud. "Who needs that kind of stress? A woman wouldn't be able to deal with that for long."

Then came the Sunday when Dee Anna Hanson had been the visiting minister at North Woods Chapel. As she listened to the young woman share a little of her early life, Mary had found herself leaning forward, fascinated. Occasionally she had caught herself and shifted back in the pew, glancing at Lee. She related to so much of what she heard, and once or twice she found herself wondering what it would be like to finally share her own story with a pastor.

She almost forgot that it was strange to see a woman standing in their pulpit and blessing the wine and bread at communion. It seemed undeniable that the Holy Spirit had done something unusual in their midst that summer morning. On Sunday night Mary had been surprised at Dee Anna's sermon. She was afraid to admit it to herself, but she did realize that it was the best sermon she had heard in some time. She and Lee had talked about it as they lay side by side that night. Lee had agreed that the Lord had been with them, and that he could find no fault with the sermon, or with the woman herself. "I like her," he had admitted, holding Mary's hand in the dark. "Actually, I tried not to like her."

Mary had laughed a little then and confessed, "Me too. But I did like her, Lee. I liked her a lot." Lee had squeezed her hand, where it lay on top of the sheet. A warm breeze had been blowing, she remembered. And she also remembered that Lee had turned to her and said, "Hey, don't go gettin' ideas! Or maybe just maybe get some different kind of ideas."

He had laughed and rubbed her cheek with his beard, and then they hadn't talked anymore...but later, listening to her husband's steady breathing as he slept, Mary had lain awake and wondered. She had prayed softly, "God, if it isn't right, why did so many people respond? Why did I want to listen to her some more? Why did I sense your presence in the stillness, and in that woman's words? Is their something we just don't understand? And God, what about Lee?" Her thoughts tumbled like clothes in a dryer, she thought, smiling at the image. She finally told herself, "Well, I won't worry. I bet this will be the end of it anyhow."

Now, several weeks later Mary sat in the North Woods Chapel sanctuary by her husband, remembering these things and feeling tense. She hadn't expected this meeting to be happening. Part of her heart was longing to know what it would be like to have Dee Anna Hanson as her minister. She knew that a part of her actually hoped that the lady preacher would be voted in, and she felt guilty about that. Most of all she was afraid. What would happen if the people voted for Pastor Hanson just because they liked her? What would happen to their church, to Lee and the others, and to her if they went against the clear message of the Bible?

As the meeting began, Mary sat quietly, hands clasped in her lap. She hoped there was no conflict. She hated conflict. Everything had gone fine until Bob Tucker had stood and asked his questions. What would happen now? Mary watched anxiously, glancing at Lee who stared straight ahead as Gene Young stepped away from the podium and Jim Johnson came back.

There was a pause, and then Brother Young began to speak. "Friends, I need to give you a very short history lesson." He began to pace slowly back and forth as he spoke, unconsciously adopting a mannerism from his days as a professor. " The Methodist movement began with brothers John and Charles Wesley. Pentecostalism grew out of Methodism and the nineteenth-century holiness revivals. There is evidence of Wesleyan teaching in the classic writings of many Pentecostal leaders. In short, we who call ourselves Pentecostals are rooted in the Wesleyan theological tradition. John Wesley is one of my favorite theologians, if one is allowed to have favorites in the ranks of church fathers." He smiled and then went on for a few minutes, speaking about John Wesley, circuit riding preachers and brush arbor revivals.

Then he stopped and said, "Well, please excuse me. I find church history fascinating. I will just add that the famous William Seymour, the preacher of Azusa Street, had Methodist roots. My mother, God bless her, was a Methodist too. Are some Methodists too liberal for my liking? Sure." He looked directly at the questioner. "So are some Pentecostals. And some are too rigid, my friends. Do you realize that we have our own questionable practices? We are not here to debate the merits of other denominations, though I understand that you may have concerns about the fact that Reverend Hanson has been a pastor in a different church tradition. She was one of my students in Texas at Bible college and she served as a children's pastor before going to seminary. I lost track of her, but one day I saw her at a prayer gathering in Madison. That was a surprise, almost too much to be totally coincidence. We got reacquainted, and she introduced me to her husband, Michael. We became good friends, and I want to make it very clear, a finer man of God I never knew. I never heard a better preacher, but more importatnly, he was a proclaimer of the good news of God's love by how he lived. Michael Hanson was a fine example of what a follower of Jesus Christ should be. He was courageous, gracious, steadfast, a great father to his little daughter. I miss him. Please do not insult his memory."

The congregation waited as he resumed the chair and Jim Johnson was seated. Then he went on, "The deacons have discussed a few doctrinal issues with Pastor Hanson, and we will be happy to share some of that with you. However," he paused and stood very straight, "we will not turn this meeting into a debate on denominations. And what is more, as regards women pastors, perhaps some more history is in order. Are you all aware that a woman founded this church?"

"How did I not know that?" thought Mary.

Stop the Presses: Susan Boyle has feelings!

This is an excellent article. The fact that it STILL needs to be said just makes me furious. Susan Boyle is not the ugly one, folks. I'm not saying that her outburst of profanity was a good thing to do (if it even happened--it was reported in British tabloids). But imagine the stress this unknown woman has endured for the past several weeks as she was catapulted from obscurity to instant fame. And no, we do not need to describe men the same way. We need a crash course in basic human respect. Arrrgh!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rolf McPherson, son of Aimee Semple McPherson, Has Died

Rolf K. McPherson, son of Foursquare Church founder Aimee Semple McPherson, died last Thursday, aged 96.

When his famous (some would say infamous) mother died in 1944, Rolf took over the radio station his mother had founded and several other corporations, including the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and L.I.F.E. Bible College, now known as Life Pacific College. He also became the pastor of Angelus Temple, a church that had a capacity for seating over 5,ooo--not so unusual now days, but striking for the time.

The son of a Methodist father and a Salvation Army mother, "Sister Aimee" had built her ministry with a combination of drama, music, and a flamboyant preaching style. Criticized for her "antics" some would say she was just ahead of her time. I tend to agree about that, though I am well-aware that there were some highly questionable things about her life as well. Even her death was questionable.

Nonetheless, there were many things to admire about this woman--a person who defied the man-made restrictions of her day and blazed a trail for many women who came after her. Rolf McPherson seemed to have many of his mother's positive traits and not some of the less-desirable ones. As far as I ever knew, he was well-respected by his peers. Under his leadership, the Foursquare Church grew to a membership of several million worldwide. Today the Foursquare Church is found in 63 nations and has about 60,000 churches.

As a young teenager In the mid-60s I attended an Angelus Temple Sunday night service--my first Pentecostal service. I never forgot it. I was astonished at the emotional worship displayed by the congregation--all those hands in the air! And everyone praying out loud at the same time! Eyes closed? What was that about? I came home feeling a little smug about my more sedate Baptist worship style. Hearing that the church had been started by a woman was just plain weird to me and just added to my opinion that, while these people were probably sincere, they were misguided at best. Life is ironic, isn't it?

However, there were elements of that service that stayed with me. I've written about that before, and that isn't the point of this post, except to note that I recall standing in front of an enormous glass case somewhere in Angelus Temple that contained many crutches and other devices for aiding physically ill or disabled people. I didn't know what to think. I still don't. I have prayed many prayers for someones healing. I have been present when a healing that occurred was undeniable and verifiable. Still, I am sceptical of much of what passes for "healing" ministry today.

Regarding his mother's prayers for the sick, McPherson said in an interview a few years ago, "They used to bring ambulances and stretchers, and they left empty. Often Mother would-right in the middle of her message-go down and pray for somebody on a stretcher. They would get up off the stretcher, and the stretcher would be carried off empty." He believed in the veracity of his mother's ministry, and he once remarked that he had been part of the greatest move of God that the city of Los Angeles would likely ever experience.

Reading of Rolf McPherson's passing reminded me of my long-ago visit to Angelus Temple. If the crutches and other artifacts I saw in that glass case were from genuine healing miracles...well then I know of no one today who is experiencing those kind of healing gifts in their ministry. Not in America, at any rate.

I wonder why? I wonder, are we so disgusted by the antics of some of the more "renowned" charismatic or Pentecostal healing ministries or methods that they will simply never happen again? Was the Holy Spirit doing something remarkable in those days that simply is not happening now? Is it a general atmosphere of unbelief?

Don't you envy the ease with which Peter and John must have been able to share the good news of Jesus? I mean, so far no one has been healed when my shadow fell upon them.
The scriptures list ministries of healing among the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I say, please, Holy Spirit, reveal yourself to a hurting world. Use whomever you choose. Use me, if you will. Give us people of passion and purity and devotion in today's church, of whatever denomination.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Little Big Foot: The Congregational Meeting

The Reverend Gene Young stood in the rear of the North Woods Chapel sanctuary gazing forward at the pews. A good number of people had come out for the meeting, and he noticed that the four deacons were all near the front and that each one's spouse was present. Good.

The long sanctuary windows were open to the late-summer breeze. The pleasant sound of crickets filled the room and a red-tinged sunset lit the sanctuary with a rosy glow. After the initial rustle of people entering, signing a roster, greeting friends and shuffling into pews, it had grown unusually quiet.

Deacon Jim rose from his seat on the aisle and moved to the front of the room, standing near the altar table at a lectern that two teenage boys had brought up from a basement classroom. Jim seemed relaxed. He rubbed the top of his head as he began to speak, but only his wife, Lorene, and a few who knew him well realized that he was not quite as composed as he would like. He welcomed the gathered congregation, thanked them for coming and called the meeting to order. He briefly prayed for God's blessing on the meeting that was about to commence and introduced their guest. He asked Brother Young to explain the evening's proceedings and to serve as the chair for the meeting.

Gene Young was in his mid sixties, with thick silver hair, a ruddy complexion, long arms and legs and large hands and feet. He also possessed a warm smile and affable manner that sometimes, along with his Texas drawl, concealed his brilliant mind. His blue eyes, wrinkled at the corners by years of sun and wind, missed little. He moved to the front and prepared to begin the meeting.

"What a beautiful evenin' the Lord has given us. And what a great turn-out! Thank you, friends, for taking the time to be here. We all are aware that this church has been without a minister for some time. Many have been praying earnestly for the Lord's direction as we go through the process of discerning who should be your next pastor. It has been a privilege and a joy to work with this great board of deacons." He paused to glance at the four men seated to his left. "Thank you, each one, and thank you to your lovely wives as well. I know you ladies have had to give up your husbands quite a lot more than usual." He paused, gazing intently at the congregation and then went on, "I hope all of y'all had a chance to meet Dee Anna Hanson a few weeks ago when she led your Sunday morning worship. I know that Lee and Jim have already reported to you regarding the Sunday they all visited Eastside Church in Madison. I have spoken at length with your deacons. I have also spoken at length with Pastor Dee Anna."

On the second row, hands clasped, sat Dennis and Marla Whitewater. Marla smiled and nodded slightly. Jim and Lorene sat near them. Chad sat just behind Dennis, looking intense, as usual, as he tossed his hair back from his forehead with a nervous gesture. "Dee Anna was right," Gene Young thought. "He really does look like a young Donald Trump." Next to Chad sat Lee and Mary Coats. Lee' s arms were crossed and Mary looked at her lap. He went on, "Most of you know that North Woods Chapel operates under what is called a 'congregational' form of government. This means that those of you who are members of this church will be voting this evening. Your deacons have had many questions for me and for Dee Anna Hanson, and they all know that some of you may have questions as well. Please be courteous." He spent a few more minutes talking about Robert's Rules of Order and outlining the agenda for the meeting. Then he walked to the front of the center aisle as he said, "I'll be frank. Reverent Dee Anna came here at my urging. As many of you know, she is the pastor of Eastside Methodist Church down in Madison. Her husband was the senior pastor there until his tragic death a while back. The congregation asked her to stay on, and she has done so, serving with distinction."

He stepped over to the pew were Jim and Lorene were seated and briefly put a hand on Jim's shoulder. "I suggested to your board that they invite Pastor Hanson to come in view of a call." He smiled as he added, "I suggested the same thing to Dee Anna, but she was not enthusiastic." A few people frowned slightly. "However, after several weeks of prayer, conversations, and a second visit with these men," he gestured towards the deacons, "she has agreed to consider serving here. As I said, the board had many questions for me, and there were some concerns." He paused, and took a deep breath. "However, they wisely decided to put the matter before you for a vote, after time for discussion." He stopped, allowing them to absorb his comments.

At the rear of the sanctuary, sat a group of about 15 teenagers. They were quiet and seemed to be listening carefully. There were several others who looked to be in their 20s. Brother Young was a little surprised to see so many young people present. There were some couples, a few people who sat alone, and a group of elderly women. Behind Lee and Mary Coats sat a couple who were both wearing overalls. A few people appeared to be Native American or perhaps Hispanic, a Black couple sat across the aisle from the teens. Two middle-aged women sat together on the front row. "An interesting bunch," thought Gene Young, as he asked for a reading of the roster. Next, he asked Dennis Whitewater to read a statement from the deacons. Dennis stepped forward and in his characteristically direct way began to speak. "I want to tell you that we did not come to this position hastily. We met at length. We were not all on the same page, it seemed." He looked straight forward, avoiding eye contact with any of his fellow deacons. "We agreed to a sort of compromise. We would meet with Brother Young here and ask him some specific things. One of those things was about the biblical stance on women preachers. After asking him many questions we decided to speak to Pastor Hanson once more. Then we went to Madison as I think you all know. We watched her with her congregation, took her to lunch, questioned her some more. We prayed, and prayed, and then we prayed some more. Only then did we determine, even though we were still not in complete agreement about everything, that it seemed the right thing to do to commend her to this congregation. Since things are a little unusual this time, we asked our brother presbyter here," he nodded at Gene Young, "to come as a representative of the district."

Dennis paused, and Marla nodded at her husband encouragingly. He went on solemnly,"In Acts, chapter 15, the early church had a problem. At first the followers of Jesus were all Jewish. But then many non Jews became believers. That was good, of course, but questions and disputes arose. Some people were upset that these new believers were not circumcised and did not follow the Jewish laws. The apostles themselves did not all agree about what to do with the Gentiles who were becoming Christians. The church was changing. At the end of what was probably some pretty heated debate, they decided to write a letter and send it out to all the people. Here is what they said, 'Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are saying.' Dennis paused once more. "This is powerful stuff, I think. Listen to this next part...It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us." The people in the pews were silent, gazing at him. "Did you catch that? It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. We believe that whatever else she may be, Dee Anna Hanson is a remarkable woman of great strength. We believe the anointing of the Holy Spirit was evident when she was here with us. We welcome your questions but we believe we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in what might be an unexpected direction. We are not certain what will come, but we believe that you, the people of this church, will try to do what is right. If we follow the leading of God, well, it will be good to the Holy Spirit and to us."

Dennis returned to his seat. He let out a long breath. He hadn't realized he'd been holding it. Marla squeezed his hand. "Good job," she whispered softly. Brother Young returned to the podium and after a few more remarks, he opened the floor for questions. There was a long moment of silence. Just as it was getting uncomfortable, a short blond man stood to his feet abruptly. "Well, I will get this started," he stated. "Somebody has got to." He glanced around for a moment, and then he looked at Brother Young." Why are we talking about a woman as our pastor? Wasn't there any man who wanted to come here?" Chad frowned and abruptly shifted in his seat. Marla glanced at Dennis. Mary twisted her hands in her lap. Lee remained expressionless, and Jim and Lorene both sighed quietly in unison, turning towards the speaker. Most in the congregation looked uncomfortable. A few nodded, and a few frowned. A teenage girl made a not-quite audible comment to the boy sitting next to her.

"Well," thought Gene Young, "might as well get right to it." Before he could speak the man blurted, "And another thing, why are we considering a...a Methodist? Those Methodists are all a bunch of liberals!"

"Well," said the chairman calmly, " let's take the second question first. I believe that in the question-and-answer session you had when she visited here, Reverend Hanson spoke about this with those of you who were present. Isn't that rignt" Several heads nodded. Pausing, he looked intently at the blond man, who sat down. "As I mentioned, her husband, Michael Hanson, was the pastor at Eastside. I met Pastor Michael several years ago." He stopped abruptly. "Brother Jim, please come to the podium. I would like to briefly turn the chair back to you. I would like to speak from the floor."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring Has, at Last, Sprung at the Owl Backyard

Should you be inclined to click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see Trinity's swing and the ever-present dandilions. The crabapple tree is gorgeous, and I could not do it justice in a picture.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pastors and Other Intersted Persons!

I am sending out a brochure I made to let pastors and others who make such decisions know about me--my experience, particular emphasis, generally my availability. Sort of

Yow! I really dated myself with that one, didn't I? Anyway, if you would like one mailed to you, please send your snail mail address to me (or I can send the doc. to your email inbox, but it won't look great) here
dkgeorge AT charter DOT net
removing spaces etc. Thank you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Friends Friday Five

A new F.F. hostess for Rev Gals, Jan, has been thinking about friends. She says, " Being an only child (all growed up) who moved around a lot in my lifetime, friends have always been very important to me. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: 'The way to have a friend is to be a friend.' So today let's write about the different kinds of friends we have, like childhood friends, lost friends, tennis friends, work friends, and the list goes on. List 5 different types of friends you have had in your life and what they were/are like.

Only five...that is difficult.

1. I will start with a few childhood friends. There were my neighbors Pat and Kathy, two beautiful Hispanic girls who were my best "neighborhood" girlriends for about 7 years. Their mother gave me the first quesadilla I ever ate (with her homemade tortillas!). I was hooked, so my mother started making them too, and now they are a family favorite of more than one generation. My best friend, however, was George. We played lots of imaginative games, some times with improvised costumes--cops and robbers, pirates, cowboys and Indians, Robin Hood and Maid Marian and many more. George was the one friend of my childhood who never, not once, took advantage of the nearly-blind-and-wearing-braces me. For that and many other things, I loved him. I still wonder about him. He was a very sweet boy who had what I now realize was an abusive mother.

2. High School friends. We never forget those, do we? The two who were my closest friends were Pat and Loretta. Pat was so skinny she looked like Olive Oyl. Her boyfriend was Ken's best buddy. They introduced Ken and me--and the rest is history! The other was Loretta, a beautiful Native American who I loved like a sister. I wish I knew where she is now. There is a certain song of 1968 vintage (You Were On My Mind by the We Five--one hit wonders) that never fails to make me think of her with love and appreciation.

3. Family Friends. Some family are not friends, try as one may. At least that has been my experience. Then there are those that are family AND friends--who are trustworthy and loyal and loving. And then, of course there are the family friends by which is meant FRIEND OF THE FAMILY. Oh boy, those can be strange. And then there are those friends who are just as close as if they were part of the family. Sisters and brothers, parents, children, who have no genetic connection but claim a part of one's heart. God has blessed me with some of these, who will be part of my forever family. If you are one of those, I have told you! :-)

4. Cyber friends. I would have thought it impossible, but there are several friends I have never met who are very dear to me. Those include Dr. and Mrs. Platypus, Teri, Maureen, Jeannie, and several more. There are a few who I have had the joy of meeting face to face: Ruth, Bronwen, Sharon, Cheesehead in Paradise, Psalmist, Mary Beth (all too briefly). Many of my cyber buds called, emailed or messaged me to share support and prayer during Ken's hospital stay. How wonderful to have friends in England, Australia, Ireland...and yes, they are REAL friends.

5. Church friends. Some of the people who have at one time or another shared a pew with me, or listened to me preach, are a great blessing. Of course, we all know there are some who are anything but--ha--but I have been blessed by knowing some truly wonderful fellow-believers. Some were part of church in my childhood but they are still dear to me. My beloved Pastor Stanley Polk, deacons who served with my father and loved my sisters and me, Sunday School teachers, professors....many more. Just in the last month one mowed our lawn, one sold something and gave us the profit, some gave flowers and a card that brought tears to Ken's eyes, one put gas in my empty tank, another gave me a gift certificate to the grocery store. Another cut my hair. One cried with me. One hugged me till I could hardly several have shared prayer with and for me. What a blessing that is! Especially that.

Gotta have friends!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More on Men, Women and Church

There were some interesting and insightful comments to this first post. Many thanks to those who responded.

I promised a follow up, but before I get started, I'd like to answer a question. Much 2 Ponder asked about why I did not interview men who did not attend church as part of the article published in Mutuality. Good question. I was asked by the editor of the magazine to rework a post she saw here into an article, and that is what I did. There were time constraints, and while I did some further research (a closer look at demographics in my church and those in the area among a few other things), I did not have time to do much else before the magazine's deadline. Also, it would have made for a much longer article..

I would love to do this, however. I am thinking about coming up with a survey that could be used for this purpose, and I'll let you know if I do so. I will likely ask for help! Also, some of you commented last time that you were going to "count heads" at church. If you did, please comment about what you found. Thanks!

Now on to Part Two.

While there seems to be no denying that we need more men participating in our local churches, it is hard to generalize across both "sides of the aisle." Some comments came from people in mainline church traditions; others are in the evangelical camp. Are the issues different? My opinion at this point is that some are and others are not. And in this post I seem to be asking even more questions--but I hope church leaders think more deeply about this issue.

An Aging Church Usually Means One With More Women

Several commenters noted that in churches where there are more older people it is not surprising that the women outnumber the men, since that is true in the population at large. Ruth says, "In some ways I think the age difference is more noticeable than the gender issues." Gilly says, "It seems to me that churches that attract families, have men in the congregation. Where young families do not attend there is a preponderance of women. So the aim would seem to be to attract families, including the men. If you 'catch' the children, you 'catch' the women...If you 'catch' young men then you get the women along too." LutheranChik seems to confirm this when she says, "In our church we have a good male/female ratio, I think because we have an influx of younger families with kids..."

In the first church Ken and I pastored, the women outnumbered the men by about 1/3, but a large part of the congregation were over fifty; several were in their 70s or 80s. None of the books or articles I read about gender disparity and the supposed "feminization" of the church mentioned age as an issue. It seems that a church (or a denomination) that notes an aging demographic increase might need to think about attracting younger members instead of a single-minded focus on manly ones.

Spiritual Cotton Candy for Women Versus Meat for Guys-- Could it Become the Opposite?

Some noted that women's ministry sometimes tends to be spiritual fluff, with the meat reserved for men. Bad Alice calls it, "bland...on women's topics." I hope that this is an unconscious thing and not intentional, but I have no doubt that it happens. Not long ago I attended a function that was advertised as a "Prayer Retreat for Women." Prayer was a small part of the proceedings. Instead we got decorating tips, tips on how to be submissive wives, personal testimonies from women (while those were good, they were not meat) and a speaker that was so girly (for lack of a better word) I could hardly stand it--and I was not alone.

I believe this is at least partly due to Victorian ideas of women as more fragile and less intellectual than men. The woman of the 21st Century is vastly different than those of a century ago--not in innate intelligence or ability, but in her perception of her "place" and what she can or cannot do. Some segments of the church, it seems, have yet to realize this.

Ironically, however, if you take even a casual look at the 'manly" genre of writing you will find a fairly negative stereotype of men as, in Murrow's words, "less studious than women" as well as less disciplined and more juvenile. Frankly, I am mystified as to why any intelligent man finds this anything other than laughable. Any men out there who can help? Please chime in.

However, might we find in the not-too-distant future that women are seen as studious and spiritual and men are seen as wanting something less? A family member recently told me about attending the men's ministry gathering at his church for the first time. He is intelligent and studious and was looking forward to prayer and some study of scripture. Instead it was an evening of watching a football game on the church's big TV. Not even a simple devotion was offered. He did not give it another try.

Is it a "Lack of Male Leadership" Issue?

Here is a quote I saw recently, from a Men's Ministry director, "The great majority of ministry in Protestant like the Titanic..."women and children first." God appointed men to lead. Men don't follow programs, they follow men."

Is it true in your church that a disproportionate amount of money and attention goes to women and children? It wasn't true in my church. And what about that claim that men follow men?

Rev Sis seems to have a healthy balance of men and women serving at her church, but she expressed some of the concerns I had too, saying, " My concern is in addressing the needs of men as a female pastor. Some will come to me with their issues but not nearly as many as women." I wonder, do male pastors have this problem with their female parishioners? In a male-dominated clergy, do women open up to their pastors, or do they find other avenues for help?

Sally says, "I think that almost 70- 80% of the Church in the UK is female, but the leaders are still mostly male." Gilly, also from the UK, says, "I've never met 'girly' worship, but I have found...powerful worship which both men and women have participated...I have heard boring sermons from both men and women! If it really was a matter of men v women 'up front' then surely those churches that forbad women to be ministers would be full of men? And they are not."

LutheranChik's church has a balanced male/female ratio and "a balance of women and men in leadership positions." On the other hand, P.S. notes, "Currently our whole paid staff is women and a good strong part of the volunteers are men. It has been an interesting evolution of the "old days" when the man pastor did everything, the men...didn't have to do much...[for] women...there were always the kitchen and cleaning duties...duties with the children...We now assign both men and used to just wait around for the wives to finish in the kitchen; now they are in there pitching in."

I found that remarkable, and if she is on to something, having a woman in the pulpit would not have a detrimental effect on men volunteering--in fact the opposite might actually be true. Thinking back to my own church, we had men serving alongside women in every ministry team of our church (except the women's group, of course). My husband was the only man who volunteered for nursery duty, but I think that will change too. As noted in the magazine article I found that the churches near me had about the same ratio of males to females, regardless of whether the pastor was a man or a woman. I don't find much, if any, evidence that male leadership translates into more men in the congregation.

Are Women Dissatisfied Too, but Stay Anyway?

Kristen's church is growing and has a balance of men and women. But she notes that some of her acquaintances attend churches where there are more women than men. She adds, "Some of these women have told me that their church isn't really that great for them...the sermons don't engage them...the worship doesn't uplift them...but they go anyway, out of a sense of duty and 'for the children.'" She wonders if cultural conditioning plays a part, saying that if men don't like going to church, they just won't go. Women, on the other hand, are much more conditioned to do things because we feel obligation or duty. She concludes, "So for some churches...maybe sometimes nobody really wants to be there. But the women are the ones who stick around anyway."

Are "Masculine" Stereotypes Part of the Problem?

Iris said something I find very significant. "I believe that in the conservative evangelical branch we have burdened the men with this 'godly man image' which no one can effectively bear. I believe they are expected to be and do far too much and as a result they feel inferior, ineffective and eventually back completely off. If we would forget these 'roles' and images (women ones included) and just work together in the Kingdom I believe there would be a proper balance."

I absolutely agree. Those pushing the men the hardest to "step up and lead" may actually be doing the opposite. If you were a man who was not necessarily a leader, not particularly "manly," perhaps quiet, a follower, or maybe unsure of your abilities, what would you want to do when every men's leader tells you about your "leadership" role and the extra burden you bear just because you are a Christ follower who happens to be a male?

Bad Alice seems to confirm this when she notes that the men in her church are active and involved, perhaps because "...the men seem to be honest with each other about their problems and challenges (at least according to my husband). Perhaps the men at my church just feel that there is a place for them -- that they don't have to be godly, upright, and strong and they can safely admit that they aren't and be encouraged.

Love and Authenticity Not Programs and Causes

That leads to the next point. Several commented about a need for authenticity in relationships, and a sense of community that transcends divisions of age, gender, etc. Much 2 Ponder said, "One thought that I can't get away from is the fact that gender is even an issue. It makes no sense because it is contrary to the way that I believe God sees men and women." Grady says,
"Gender is real, and there are times to focus on it, but that will always be secondary to God's love and calling for each individual. I doubt that any church which is fully focused on the reality of God and His Word will have much gender imbalance."

Nightmare says he is not a "fan" of church but that this has nothing to do with being a man. He says many churches focus on "the acorns and are oblivious to the forest." He wants to see more focus on Jesus' love and less on evils to "fight." (Incidentally, the is exactly the opposite of most of the advice I read on how to "masculinize" a church.) He adds, "It seems to me I remember Jesus hanging out with lepers, prostitutes, the downtrodden, and he showed them how to live a life to honor God..., [not]...pointing fingers, talking down to them. He lifted them up, he did not shame them, they were not rebuked, they were shown love, mercy, and compassion, something sorely missing from a few of the churches I no longer attend."

My husband, Ken, sort of fits the "manly" stereotype. He is a big guy who likes sports and the outdoors and he is a natural leader. He says, "I think it is self-fulfilling statements. 'Real Men' don't go [to church] so if you are a Real Man you won't want to go. You will find something else to do with your time that is more manly. I love the bumper sticker that says 'Real men serve God.' That is want a 'Manly Man' should be doing, not letting someone else dictate their feelings or choices...It matters little who is the pastor or song leader."

After I wrote the first post about this issue, I ran across several on-line discussions about men and church. I'd like to share a little of what I found, much of which was in the form of comments to various posts. You might or might not agree. One said,

Two reasons, I think:
1) Religion is seen as a *crutch* - as something that helps you cope with life - and men like to pretend we don't need help. It's the same reason we drive in circles for 3 hours instead of asking for directions.

2) We like to think we're more logical than women. (I didn't say we *were* more logical, but we think we are.) Faith requires the abandonment of logic to a certain degree.

Another said,

"Here are some observations, not value judgments:
1) Women tend to be more emotional than men on average and religion can address this rather well.
2) Women still have the lion's share of child rearing responsibilities. Support structures such as those offered by churches, synagogues, etc. will therefore naturally see more traffic from women than men.
3) The feminization of society, and religion, continues unabated. Women will feel more comfortable with this than men -- on average.

And this from another post and another comment,

I don't think it has anything to do with religion at all, but rather with the structure of our churches. Men in general are less willing to be subservient to the authority of another than women. Following a pastor or church leaders requires deferring to their judgments over yours, implicitly acknowledging them as being "above" you at some level. Our culture makes this a negative trait for a man, but a positive for women. Also, outside of the authoritative hierarchy of the church, it is more like the family structure where women traditionally take more responsibility of organization and maintenance than men, so I'm not surprised they they volunteer more for those areas.

Interestingly, the e-magazine "New Man" featured an article last week titled, "What Does it Mean to be a Real Christian Man?" Here is a part of what was said (and I would give credit to the author but I could not find who that was).

What does the ultimate, ideal Christian man look like? That would be Jesus.

Its funny how the source of our faith seems to get lost in the debate among various Christians. Although each group claims a different aspect of Christ, I keep looking to the gospels to see the ideal godly man. Jesus had it all. Want solid thinking? How about constantly answering questions by quoting Scriptures and providing revelations from the Old Testament. Want a strong man? How about a guy who can spend 40 days in the desert without food, or sacrifice Himself for the salvation of everyone? Want a balanced man? How about a guy who treated women with more respect than anyone in His day and age.

I've almost always found that the best answers in Christianity are the most simple ones. If you want to know how to be the best Christian man you can be, look to Jesus.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


There is Ken with Trinity a few days ago. He did manage to smile whenever she was around.

Ken took a turn for the better yesterday, so this evening he is home. He is not "out of the woods" yet, but we can do everything for him here that they could do in the hospital, at this point. A visiting nurse will be here any minute to show us how to use his PICC line (a more-or-less permanent line from his bicep up to his heart) to give him the three-times daily IV cocktail of antibiotics. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts, emails, and prayers. Ken thanks you too! I'll let you know how he is doing in a few days.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I'm Still Here

I have most of a follow-up post written regarding men and church. Thank you to those who commented...what great insights! I will try to finish it up later today. I also have part of the next LBF chapter written. I'm spending much time at the hospital. As for Ken, he saw an infection specialist today and some changes are being made. He will likely be in the hospital for another week, but that depends on progress in the leg, of course. For now, surgery is not on the table. (Pun intended!) Thank you, my wonderful friends, for thoughts, phone calls, emails and prayers. Most of all for prayers!

Meanwhile, you might want to check out a insightful and thought-provoking post called, "False Distinction Between Gifts and Roles" by Sarah Flashing, who blogs at Flash Point. I do not agree with her on everything (for example, her view on women as pastors), but she has much to say that is well worth reading. Here is a snippet from this article.

When gifts and roles are pitted against each other, an important and valid distinction is lost between self-denial and selflessness, the latter which we find as the example of Jesus who gave his life for the church. We also find that it is selflessness, not self-denial, which is the foundation for biblical submission. When women focus their energy on denying or refusing to embrace God-given aspects of who they are in an effort to preserve or protect the image they have of wife and mom, the biblical teaching of submission also falls prey to becoming an act of negation (“giving up”) instead of a positive act of love (“giving to”)...Submission ceases to be a selfless way of living and takes on the form of denying the self of pleasures or wants. It becomes a new rule instead of a virtue.

What do you think? Back later, dudes and dudettes.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Prayers Requested

Ken has been battling a serious leg infection for about a week and a half. He is a diabetic, and has other leg complications. He has been in the hospital for the last three days but the leg is much worse. Horrible, actually. If something doesn't improve soon he will be having some drastic surgery to try to get at the infection.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Buggy Friday Five

Rev Gal Sophia, who lives in California, says:

As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised to find it swarming with ladybugs. The sweet little red beetles are one of my favorite insects and also my daughter's blogname... This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia: Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness? That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes? Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!

In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?

Ladybugs. I used to love them until they were replaced in these parts by those annoying, smelly, biting, ladybug impostors, the Asian beetle. I don't think I have seen an honest to goodness ladybug in a long while. We don't have roly-poly bugs up here, but I remember them from California, and we called them roly polys or doodlebugs. Never heard of a Jesus bug or water skeeter??? They walk on water?

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?

I am happy to co-exist with spiders in nature. I love spider webs, and I find spiders pretty fascinating generally. I mean, have you not read Charlotte's Web? But any spider who is foolish enough to come in my house is gonna get squished. Pronto.

3. Favorite insect?

Favorite? Hmmm...I don't have a favorite insect. See number one. I find many of them interesting, however. When I was a kid I had an ant farm.

4. Least favorite?

Cockroaches. UGH UGH and UGH. I could tell you disgusting stories from our days of military housing...Washington DC, North Carolina...but I will refrain. Suffice it to say that I once almost had hysterics just from seeing a cockroach. I'll tell you why in a minute.

5. Got any good bug stories to share?

Here is my roach story. In Oceanside, California, we lived in a charming (NOT) housing area for enlisted families called (ironically) Sterling Homes. They should have been condemned. They were WW 2 barracks that had been converted into housing, and they were pretty much reminiscent of "project housing." Ugh. They were roach infested. Periodically the bug exterminators would come through and we would have to pile everything in the center of the living room floor so they could do major bug killing. This resulted in a horrible stench of fumes, concerns that our brains were losing brain cells, totally disrupted lives---and about one week of roach-free living. The roaches, of course, just hopped over to a building that was not being fumigated and then returned when the coast was clear. The USMC would issue memos about how to keep a "clean" house. This would make me FURIOUS. I mean, it is not like just keeping one's counters crumb free will guarantee roaches will flee. Did you know that one of the cockroach's favorite foods is the glue of book bindings? Even to think of those days, and the pitter patter of little roach feet in the dark, makes me a little queasy.

Okay, here is the story. We carried those disgusting, filthy insects with us across country...and then when finally about to leave the military and head to N. Dakota to continue our education we started all out war. We fumigated, sprayed our furniture, sprayed every box before we packed it--and more. Ah, we figured nothing could survive our onslaught. Just to be safe we set off three bug bombs inside the U Haul truck before we headed west.

When we arrived, the U Haul floor was covered with bugs and egg sacks!

Still with me?

We just knew we were finally done with roaches.

We were wrong.

One day I saw ONE roach on the counter. I cried...I yelled...I mean I was seriously distraught. If one roach is on the many more lie in wait? We packed up the kiddos and we left town. But before doing so, we left the windows open. It was North Dakota, and it was November, and it was frigid. When we returned, about three days later, we did find a few dead bugs. But that was, at last, the end of the coexistence of the Owl family and the bugs. It has been a long time, but if I saw a cockroach these days I'm sure I'd still freak.

Bonus question: share a poem, song, quotation, etc. about insects.

Here is one that used to be one of my mother's favorites.

The Spider and the Fly

Mary Howitt

Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."

Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."
"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, "
Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a slice?"

"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"
"Sweet creature!" said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you 're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now,
I'll call another day."

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple -- there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!"

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue --
Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing!
At last, up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.

He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour -- but she ne'er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

The creepy thing is, I once had to deal with a couple of church folks who put me in mind of this poem--flattery often hides evil intentions.

Wow! Who knew a Friday Five would bring back such lovely reflections? Heh heh...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Church of Gender Division?

Trevor Sykes has posted a post titled "A Church of Gender Division" over at The Scroll which is a blog from Christians for Biblical Equality. It relates to the post below, so thought some of you might want to take a look.

Monday, May 04, 2009

So is it True That Men Hate Going to Church?

I am wondering about men and church. No, it is not the first time, but I would like your thoughts. Let me share a little background.
"Why Men Hate Going to Church" is the title of a best-selling book by David Murrow. At least it is a best-seller among certain church circles. I read most of it about two years ago when I was investigating the issue of men in church--or more precisely the lack thereof. I did some other reading as well, and I wrote an article for "Mutuality" which is a magazine that is published by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE).
The article is called "Is My Church Feminized?" and if you like you can read it here.
Anyway, I printed some copies of the article to take along for an information booth at our Assemblies of God district council. A long-time pastor acquaintance stopped at the table to see what I was up to. I'll call him Tom, which is not his real name. An interesting conversation resulted.

One end of the table--me and a lot of CBE Material

The other end of the table--me and some of my own stuff.

Looking down at the table, he saw my article and took a closer look. Then he sort of backed up with an odd expression on his face--not exactly a positive look. (And on the slim chance, friend "Tom," that you are reading this post, I'm just writing it like I saw it, and I still like you.) I said, smiling, "Have a copy, Tom. I'm published!" He didn't take one, just looked at me. "Go ahead. I'd love to hear what you think, whether or not you agree or disagree with me."
"Well," he said a little hesitantly, "It is a subject I'm very interested in." "Perfect," I said. "So please do take one and give me your honest feed back." Poor guy. How could he say no?
A few hours later Tom was back. "I liked your article very much," he said, "and I tried but I couldn't really find anything I could disagree with." (An honest man!)
I admitted that I had expected him to disagree with the article. We talked some more and then he asked, "So, do you agree that the church has a problem?" I said yes, but that to blame it on women or the so-called "feminizing" of the church is a straw man (straw woman?) argument that is demeaning and insulting as well as misguided.
He mentioned the book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church." I told him I thought the book was poorly researched, simplistic, and had so many sweeping generalizations in it that I could not take it seriously. He looked thoughtful. Then (to my surprise) he said, "I think this article is really good. I think that what you are saying needs to be heard. Why don't you send it to Leadership or our AG ministers magazine, Enrichment? After a moment said I would. And I will, even though I will be extremely surprised if it sees the light of day at either of those magazines. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I was quite gratified and happy that my friend had made such a quick change in opinion (and thanked God).
However, ever since our conversation I have been thinking. IS there a problem? According to some surveys, about 60% of the American church is female. Is that true where you are? If so, what do you think is the cause of that? If women and "feminization" is not the reason for less men in church these days, what is? What can we do? I'll do a follow-up post with some further thoughts after I give some time for others to comment.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Do You Visit "The Owl's Kitchen?"

Mindy, the Princess of Everything is the opposite of me. That's why I love her. She loves garage sales, crafty stuff, making all sorts of gizmos. One thing we both like to do is to cook. Mindy asked me to enable the "followers" gadget over at my little cooking blog, The Owl's Kitchen. This is just FYI in case you like my recipes and want to know when I've posted a new one (which is kind of hit-and-miss). Thanks, Mindy, for the compliment!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Poetry Party

Christine over at Abbey of the Arts is offering another poetry party opportunity. She shares a picture and invites us to share poems or reflections. I'd like to quote a bit of what she says about this one.

I am writing a book right now on using the four elements of earth, fire, wind, and water as doorways into a greater intimacy with creation and God. These spring days the earth is flowering and flourishing in the northern hemisphere and we recently celebrated Earth Day. So I am inviting you to write poems in honor of the gift of earth and the ways God is revealed to you through stone or mountain, flower or fruit. Let this be your hymn of praise to creation.

When I was in Ireland two years ago I fell in love with the stones which marked the landscape as boundaries to mark property, as ancient tombs like
Newgrange honoring the dead, and as stone circles which date from 7000-3500 BC. These filled me with awe and wonder as windows onto an ancient people and their recognition of the enduring power of stone. Stories fill these rocks and they sing of a God who offers us solidity and a glimpse of the eternal.

So here is my poem, though I'm not thrilled with it.

Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child...I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me!
Moses, to God

Someone asked me, once
"May I call God Mother?"
Peoples of the ancient times
Knew truth that we do not,
Who is "Mother Nature" if not God?

God is timeless
God "conceives" and "carries"
and holds to a breast.
God the Father
God the Mother
Creator of Life.

God's eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made...Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
The Apostle Paul, to the Romans

Such knowledge is too much for me,
a daughter of The Ancient and The New.


Readers of this blog who have been around for a while know that last year I lost my beloved sister, Darlaine, to Alzheimer's. Grady is Darlaine's son and among other things, she passed on her love of words to him. When I visited Abbey of the Arts I was surprised to find an entry from Grady! I just had to share his beautiful poem here as well. I love you, Grady.

Sunlight is shining
Liquid be flowing
Basalt be standing
Heaven is glowing

To all with beginninga purpose is given
To all of creation a mission of love
To all Sons of Adam
an incomplete frenzy
To Sons of the Father a glorious gift

Flying, the birds
Growing, the grass
Swimming, the fish
Giving, the star