October 13 Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

The Christian Synchroblog that I am a part of is tackling the issue of Same Sex Marriage today as the topic for October.

I’m sitting this one out, but here are the links from the bloggers who are participating. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I look forward to reading through what everyone has to offer on this hot button topic.

Kathy Baldock at Canyonwalker Connections – Marriage “I Do” For Who

Dan Brennan at Faith Dance – Sexual Difference, Marriage and Friendship

Steve Hayes at Khanya – Same Sex Marriage Synchroblog

Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – In Defense Of Marriage

John C O’Keefe – Exactly What Is Gay Marriage

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful

Herman Groenewald at Along The Way – Same Sex Debate

Margaret Boelman at Minnowspeaks – What Have We Done

David Henson at unorthodoxology – ban marriage

Erin Word at Mapless – Synchroblog: Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Joshua Jinno at Antechurch – The Church Is Impotent

Kathy Escobar at The Carnival In My Head – It’s Easy To Be Against Equal Rights When We Have Them

Peter Walker at Emerging Christian – Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

K. W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent – Mountains, Molehills and Same-Sex Marriage

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

What is a Spiritual Practice Blog Series

Christine Sine’s blog series on What is a Spiritual Practice has been going strong and there have already been a number of very interesting articles and the promise of more to come. If you haven’t been following this series, I encourage you to check it out. Here are the posts so far:

Jason ClarkSmoking to the Glory of God?

Mark ScandretteLove-Making as a Spiritual Practice

T FreemanThe Spiritual Practice of Apologizing

Brigid Walsh Gleaning as Spiritual Practice

Bowie Snodgrass Grief as Spiritual Practice

Thomas Turner Engagement as Spiritual Practice

Stan Thornburg Making Space for the Rabbi

Gary Heard Encountering the Stranger as Spiritual Practice and GPS Navigation as Spiritual Practice

Jason Fowler Listening for God’s Voice in Music

Sheila Hight Birdkeeping as Spiritual Practice

Steve Taylor Composting as Spiritual Practice

John O’Hara Anyone Can Cook – Spirituality in the Kitchen

Bethany Stedman – crying as a spiritual practice

Christopher Heuertz – Feeling close to God in the graveyard

Gerard Kelly – twittering as a spiritual practice

Tim Mathis – blogging as as a spiritual practice

Mary Naegeli – Writing a sermon as spiritual practice

Hannah Haui Cultural Protocol as spiritual practice

Jamie Arpin Ricci Pet Ownership as spiritual practice

Matt Stone – Listening to Enemies as Spiritual Practice

Dan Cooper – Washing Dishes as Spiritual Discipline

Maryellen Young – The spiritual practice of taking a shower

Christine Sine – virtual Eucharist: Is this a spiritual practice

christine Sine – Is Breathing a Spiritual Practice

I found today’s post “Smoking to the Glory of God?” to be particularly helpful to the dialogue as it reminded us that, “Everything can be a ‘spiritual practice’, but not everything is a ‘spiritual practice’.  It is the ends, the means, and the formation that takes place within our activities that determines what is ‘spiritual’.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Shiphrah and Puah: Courageous Midwives

We’ve all heard the story of how Moses was saved by his mother who hid him from Pharaoh’s soldier’s and then set him in a basket of reeds along the bank of the Nile, but it recently came to my attention that if it hadn’t been for the courage of two midwives who “feared God” Moses’ mother may never have even had the chance to try and save her son. It’s a story I had never heard or noticed until recently, but one that I think is worth telling. Here is my retelling of the story of Shiphrah and Puah in honor of International Women’s Day. This post is also part of the International Women’s Day synchroblog, so please also visit the links below to see what others have to say in honor of women today.

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I could feel Puah trembling next to me as we waited in the great hall. We had been summoned by Pharaoh himself. What could he want with us? It’s true we had gained quite a lot of recognition… there had been so many successful births that the Hebrew people were growing as quickly as wild grass by the Nile. Many attributed that to our skill, but we knew better – God was blessing His people. Perhaps Pharaoh had heard of us and wanted to learn our tricks and see the midwives who were at the heart of the Hebrew’s growth. But, something in my gut didn’t believe that was the case. I had heard stories of those who were summoned before Pharaoh and they did nothing to put my worries at ease. I was lost in my own contemplations, when we heard the door at the end of the hall swing loudly open and Pharaoh and his many attendants and guards entered the room. He sat down on a large chair directly in front of us and called us forward. I could see why the people called him a son of the gods, he had a strength and regality to him that I had never seen before. Here was a man who was accustomed to having people do whatever he commanded and who could give and take life at whim without a second thought.

“You are the midwives of the Hebrew people, is that right?” He asked us.

“Yes.” I replied, suddenly very aware that everyone in the room was staring at us as if they were weighing us on a measure.

“Then hear this, the word of Pharaoh, the word of the gods: The Hebrew slaves are growing too strong and must be subjugated. Therefore I lay down this command to you, midwives of the Hebrew people, when you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl let her live. This is my command. Do you understand?”

I stood there in shock for a minute before answering hesitantly, “I understand.”

“Good. And you understand the penelty if you fail to follow my command?” I trembled, but did not need to answer, everyone knew well what happened to those who disobeyed Pharaoh.

“You are dismissed.” And with a wave of his hands his guards quickly ushered us from the room.

We walked slowly as we left Pharaoh’s palace, both lost in our own thoughts.

After a while Puah spoke softly at first but with growing strength, “We cannot do it… We cannot kill these precious little lives that have the hand of God so strongly upon them. Our purpose and calling is to aide in bringing forth life not to take it away. There is one God and he is the God of the living, we cannot rightly stand before him with the blood of his people on our hands. Pharaoh may kill us… but… I cannot take the life that He has given.” A shiver ran up my spine as I heard her speak. I knew she was right, but I knew the consequences of the decision we were making. I took her hand and smiled and said, “Well, at least we will face what is to come together, my friend.” I tried to shake off the fear that hung so tangibly in the air.

We hadn’t gone more than a few steps farther when a young girl came running up to call us to her mother who was in the last stage of labor. The poor girl had been searching for us for hours as her mother labored alone. We ran with her to the house and found that the woman had just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. It was the first test of our decision. I cleaned the baby and handed him to his mother to feed. She smiled at him and they looked at each other with the look of love that can only be exchanged between mother and child after the difficult passage of birth. As Puah and I looked on an idea came to me, “Puah, we will not obey Pharaoh, but if we are called back to him to give an account for our disobedience we will tell him that all Hebrew women give birth like this women, quickly and vigorously, giving birth before the midwives arrive.” She looked at me with a bit of wonder, for it was not normally in my nature to be untruthful, but she knew as I did that it was a good plan. Pharaoh could not fault us for our disobedience if we were not present at the birth to obey or disobey.

And so that is exactly what we did. We continued to deliver babies and did all we could to keep each alive as we had always done, and when we were called to Pharaoh we told him what we had to and he let us go. God looked kindly on us and today I can sit and tell you this story, child, for it was not long after this that God gave us families of our own. I want you to remember, my daughter, that Pharaoh may be powerful and his slave drivers may be fierce but God is more powerful than he is, and God will deliver us from his hand. But, in the mean time you must act bravely and do what you know you must for we do not belong to Pharaoh, but to God… Oh, and remember a little bit of cunning, when used for good purpose, can sometimes be a very good thing.

—–

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s work
Pam Hogeweide on
teenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Peterson on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women
Beth Patterson on The whole megilah revisited

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

SynchroBlog: Faith and Ethnicity

Sadly I haven’t had time to really dig into this month’s synchroblog topic so I did not write a post for January’s synchroblog. But, I wanted to share with you all what my fellow synchroblogers had to say on the topic. Please explore the links below for some insightful thoughts on Faith and Ethnicity:

Phil Wyman (That’s me) on Seeing the Middle East from a Jewish Perspective
Susan Barnes on Just a God of the West
K.W. Leslie on Why I went to an all-white church
Adam Gonnerman on Multicultural experience (and inexperience)
Matt Stone on Is the church ready for a multiethnic future?
Beth Patterson on Viva la particularities
Steve Hayes on Christianity and ethnicity”
Matthew Snyder asks What’s Your Nation?
Jeff Goins on Gypsies in Spain
Joshua Jinno the Antechurch

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Moving Towards True Being: The long Process of Maturity

When I first heard that the topic for this month’s synchroblog was “Maturity” I was excited. I even wrote a blog right away with some random thoughts on maturity. But, then it came time to actually write my synchroblog post and I didn’t really know what to write. I found that I couldn’t really write until I answered one important question:

What is maturity?

So, of course, I went were any respectable blogger would go for an answer, Wikipedia. Here’s what it said:

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner.”

Well, that makes sense, but it seemed to be missing something. So, I went to other sources…

My beautiful mother-in-law described maturity this way:

“To be able to exhibit the fruits of the spirit. To be kind, even though we are not treated kindly. To see others with heavenly eyes, not earthly ones. Allow our speech to be seasoned with grace and be patient with those who are in a different part of that process than we are. To be able to be childlike , without being childish. To never lose our sense of awe and wonderment, even after knowing all that we do about our world. To show hospitality to others in a way that makes them feel special and welcome without regard for our own self. To look for the positive in not only others, but our situation. To have an attitude that not only is a sweet incense to God, but attracts and uplifts those around us.”

I love the picture she paints, but there was something else that maturity seemed to be to me personally that those definitions and descriptions where touching on but not really getting at. After reading a few more things and talking to a few more people, it dawned on me.

I think maturity is the long process of becoming more and more the people we are suppose to be. It’s the process of reaching our full potential as unique individuals. A tree is said to be mature when it has grown from a seedling and has reached its full potential as a tree. A person is mature when they have grown into the full potential of being exactly and fully the person that God desires for them to be. Maturity is not just acting appropriately in a given situation (though that may come with maturity), maturity is a movement that draws us into true being.

I found this quote and I think it sums up much of what I really think maturity is at its heart:

“Becoming [mature] means that the individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is. He moves away from being what he is not, from being a façade. He is not trying to be more than his is, with the attendant feelings of insecurity or bombastic defensiveness. He is not trying to be less than he is, with the attendant feelings of guilt or self-depreciation. He is increasingly listening to the deepest recesses of his psychological and emotional being, and finds himself increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which he most truly is.”

I think maturity is also a process that requires surrender. At some point in order to really become mature, in order to really reach our full potential as sons and daughters of God, we must surrender to His hand and allow Him to mold and shape us.

George MacDonald writes:

“The one secret of life and development is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work – to do every moment’s duty aright – that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come – not what will, for there is no such thing – but what the eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first. If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made – let the maker handle them as the potter his clay, yielding themselves in respondent motion and submissive hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the divine end in view, the bringing of a son into glory; whereas, behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed, notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort: they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds, and ask to be finished.”

I think that maturity is stopping fighting against God’s molding work in our lives and asking to be finished. It is the long process of being finished, of surrendering to becoming the person God desires for us to be. And as we do so, as we surrender to be molded and then are molded more and more into ourselves – the true self which God intended for us when he “knit us together in our mother’s womb” – something amazing happens we find that we are truly free.

I think that maturity is a process that takes us to freedom – freedom to be who we are and freedom to live fully and authentically from our true self. I was talking with a few friends the other night and we were talking about the different stages of development that humans go through and about how our spiritual and inner maturity seems to mirror those stages. Maturing means becoming an adult and growing into adulthood means a new sense of freedom. As we mature spiritually we are no longer the 7 year old that begs God for the toys we want and needs to ask His permission for every little decision we make. Instead we learn that there is much more to walking with God then getting what we want and as we walk with Him he gives us much more freedom to make choices then we ever imagined. It reminded me of a C.S. Lewis quote I have always loved from the book Perelandra:

” ‘I have been so young till this moment that all my life now seems to have been a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking… What you have made me see is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before – that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished – if it were possible to wish – you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit insipid by thinking of the other… And this, O Piebald, is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it… I thought,’ she said, ‘that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent drew me into them; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming… It is a delight with terror in it! One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths – but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.'”

I think maturity is growing into our freedom, learning to walk beside God even though He has made us separate enough from Himself that we can walk away. I think maturity is letting go of our own selfish ideas and desires and learning instead to be in truth that which God wants us to be. Maturity isn’t some place you arrive at and it’s not just being “grown up”, maturity is a process of becoming.

And it comes at a cost. As a friend of mine pointed out mature things, like wine and cheese and pearls and even big full grown trees, are expensive. We develop maturity – we gain freedom and learn who we really are – through struggles and the long passing of time. Maturity can’t be rushed, and it doesn’t come easy. We are refined by fire.

Maturity also doesn’t usually happen in a smooth linear line. It’s often two steps forward and one step back. Like a baby learning to walk we step forward and then fall down. Maturity is a slow process and it doesn’t happen in all areas of our life at once. We grow in bursts, sometimes in one area and sometimes in another. Different parts of us mature at different stages and different paces.

So, that’s what I think about maturity. Those are my jumbled and often borrowed thoughts on maturity. Maybe my thoughts will be more orderly for the next synchroblog… we’ll see J

Here’s what other people are saying about maturity:

Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?”
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories”
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting Spiritual Infants in Charge”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity”
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up”
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schrmal at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue”
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching”
Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.