Two cents on gender equality

I’ve been a Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church for three whole months now.  It has not taken long to see that gender equality is not a reality; as much as we may want it to be.  Male and female clergy are seen differently – often unequally.  There’s no doubt that we have made huge strides in the right direction. I actually just said I’m a Provisional Elder, for goodness’ sake; the letters R E V go before my name!  I’m an associate pastor at a great church in the Florida conference. Not all women who have received a call from God to pastoral ministry can say that; not all women are allowed to say that, even today.  I’m ever thankful for the women who have come before me and have blazed the messy, painful trail of women in ministry.
But like racial issues, gender issues are still extant issues – In the world, certainly, but also in the church.  What about the Kingdom? All inequality, including gender inequality, is a direct product of the Fall (Genesis 3:16-17); but since the Church is the body that proclaims the present and coming Kingdom of God, the redemption Christ accomplished on the Cross, we are called to dismantle those barriers.  So let’s identify these barriers; let’s call them out; let’s bring the lies to the light; let us proclaim the truth that ‘there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).’  God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.
-Esther
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Needed Nutrients

The truly happy person
doesn’t follow wicked advice,
doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.

Instead of doing those things,
these persons love the Lord’s Instruction,
and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!

They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,
which bears fruit at just the right time
and whose leaves don’t fade.
Whatever they do succeeds.

That’s not true for the wicked!
They are like dust that the wind blows away.

And that’s why the wicked will have no standing in the court of justice—
neither will sinners
in the assembly of the righteous.

The Lord is intimately acquainted
with the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked is destroyed.

-Psalm 1 (Common English Bible)

Have you ever felt so lonely that you wonder if God is even around?  Have you ever been so sad that you doubt that God cares about you?  Or have you ever been so angry that you question whether God keeps God’s promises?  Read the Psalms.  The Psalms contain all of these emotions and more; they contain over 100 examples of things you can say to God.  In them I see that God knows us in all our emotions and desires for us to express them.  There is tremendous value in meditating on the Psalms and in all of Scripture.

I like Psalm 1 a lot – it’s a preface to the Psalter and I’d even say to all of Scripture (the Bible).  It talks about the importance of meditating on God’s word.  Years ago I would have taken that instruction as another requirement for pleasing God.  I was under the impression that I needed to do things (and do them right and always) to have God love me.  If I failed at any of these requirements that good Christians are supposed to fulfill – one of them being reading the Bible often – I was overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of failure.  I’ve come to find out that this is not at all what God has in mind when he gives us instruction.  God doesn’t give us a list of things to do for the sake of doing things; God instructs us as one who knows us so well that he knows exactly what we need.  I can immediately tell when I have not been intentional about my time with God – meditating on scripture or spending time in prayer, etc. – because I become a mess.  I feel disjointed and overwhelmed by life and then I start wondering what is missing… and it comes to me!  I am like a tree that is not being watered, and I’m wilting.

Psalm 1 gives a great visual of what we are like when we are meditating on God’s word – something God knows we need – or not.  I find in the Bible my hope, joy, encouragement, and need for growth, but also permission to let God know how I’m feeling, good or bad.  God knows what we need to know and hear; he knows the precise diet we require.  God wants us to be beautiful, green, thriving trees with birds’ nests in them, and the ability to provide a really nice shade; like a tree planted near a stream of water.  God does not want us to wither or wilt and have our leaves fall off; like a tree planted in a desert.  God does not give us instructions for the sake of reprimanding us when we fail (and we will fail – I do all the time), but because God loves us enough to care for us.  By the way,  when you do fail God’s feeling for you will not change!

What is your tree’s current health?  Have you been receiving your needed nutrients?  If you’re not used to reading scripture daily, start by reading a psalm a day.

Esther

Stop, Communicate, and Listen

“Hablando se entiende la gente.” (Translated: People understand each other, speaking.)-Spanish saying

Excuse my use of Ice Ice Baby in the title, but I’ve already lost count of the number of times in ministry I’ve mentioned the above phrase often recited to me by my Mom. Speaking, people understand each other. Why is this such a difficult task? Why is our communication with one another so poor? Individuals who speak the same language and who want the same things can get into great quarrels all because of poor communication – a misunderstanding. This tells me we either don’t express ourselves well and/or we don’t listen well. I identify with this because, like I said, I’ve had my Mom say this to me many times when stressful situations have been resolved through conversation. We seem to underestimate the power of having a conversation. Yes, sometimes we end up needing help speaking – things can escalate to where we need mediation – but better communication is still the goal. And if you really just don’t agree, at least you’re on the same page about that.

Who do you need to speak with?

Let’s pray:
Merciful, reconciling God; help us to use the gift of language for good and not for hurting – that we may communicate well with one another. Help us to listen, be respectful, be humble, courageous and willing to submit – for you have shown us by example all of these things. You have been patient with our failings more than we have been with those of others. May we exemplify good communication to the rest of the world, as that’s what you want. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.