I’m a Christian feminist

I’m a Christian feminist. Yes, there is such a thing and no, that f word isn’t an obscenity.

The label may not be a familiar one, but Christian feminism predates well known secular feminists and activists including Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem. There is, in fact, a long history of Christian women devoting themselves to fighting for the status of women, and the right of women to vote, to own property, and to defend themselves in a court of law against rape and domestic abuse. Women like Nellie McClung who, based on her understanding of God’s intention for creation, together with Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby and Louise McKinney, launched a legal challenge that would pave the way for women to be declared “persons” under law and to participate equally in all aspects of life in Canada. Thankfully, theirs is a rich tradition of pro-life feminism that continues today.

Within the Christian church, there are two schools of thought regarding the roles of men and women. Complementarians believe that men and women, though equal in worth, are meant to have distinctly different roles. Egalitarians, while agreeing that men and women are equal in worth, believe there should be no gender restrictions on what roles they can fulfill. Marriage and ministry are the primary points of disagreement between the two viewpoints.

When we first married, I was a baby Christian. I tried to be the submissive wife that my husband had been taught was his due simply because he was born with a Y chromosome and an extra appendage. It didn’t work. He wasn’t a good leader and, truth be told, I wasn’t a good follower. All the while, I wondered why God would want me to submit to a sinful man. Then I realized that He didn’t. We were meant to be partners, submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21) with God as the head of our household.

But what about Ephesians 5:22-24 and Colossians 3:18, verses that exhort wives to submit to their husbands? We can’t simply ignore portions of scripture because they make us uncomfortable or dismiss the parts we don’t like. Sometimes we have to grapple with scripture. We have to understand the context and the time in which the words were written. We have to dig deep and seek to understand the principles being taught and then figure out how to apply them in our time and place.

“It’s dangerous to cherry-pick a few stand-alone verses, particularly when they are used as a weapon to silence and intimidate, effectively benching half the church… We can’t read letters written to specific people with specific situations in mind in a specific context and then apply them, broad-brush, to the whole of humanity or the church or even our own small selves.”  Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist

These select verses telling wives to submit to their husbands line up with the Greco-Roman household codes that were part of Pax Romana law at the time and in the place that the apostle Paul was writing his epistles. They were the law of the land at that time and, as in Romans 13:1-2, Paul is telling his readers that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.”

Interestingly, just four verses after Colossians 3:18 instructs women to submit to their husbands, verse 22 tells slaves to obey their earthly masters. While wives must submit is a core teaching in most Christian churches today, no one takes that verse literally and suggests that slavery is actually a godly practice. I jokingly respond that if I have to submit to my husband, I also want my slave!

In addition to slavery, which is never actually prohibited in the Bible, the church has rightfully done away with many Biblical practices including polygamy, the buying and selling of daughters, stoning, the requirement that baby boys be circumcised, and many other ancient practices that were once culturally acceptable. Gender inequality is just one more example of an injustice that we need to let go of.

Nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that any of the gifts of the Spirt, which include teaching, pastoring, prophecy, evangelism and leadership (Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12), are gender specific and yet many Christian churches today exclude women from these roles. Sadly, in spite of the fact that there are numerous examples of women leading, teaching, ministering, and prophesying in scripture, patriarchy is alive and well in many churches today. This is clearly contrary to Acts 2:18 which says “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Paul himself says in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I served on the board of our previous church for seven years, but in our present church I would not be allowed to because I’m a woman. I’m okay with me not being on the board, but I’m not okay with half the church being denied full opportunity to use their God-given gifts simply by virtue of being female and I’m not okay with a church board not having the benefit of the female perspective. The very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God created male and female in His image and gave THEM dominion over all that He had made.

According to Genesis, God did create Adam first, but He also said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The original word translated in English Bibles as helper or helpmeet is ezer, a word used twenty-one times in the Old Testament: twice in Genesis for the woman, three times for nations that Israel appealed to for military aid, and sixteen times for God Himself as Israel’s helper! God created His daughters to be ezers, strong and resourceful partners for His sons. He also makes it clear that in relationship, they are to become one. That’s partnership, not patriarchy! When a woman is held back, hushed up, minimized or lessened in any way, she is not free to walk in the fullness that God intended for her as His image bearer, His ezer.

“When half the church holds back – whether by choice or because we have no choice – everybody loses and our mission suffers setbacks.” Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church

So what do I make of 1 Corinthians 14:35 which says “If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”? Again, if we were to delve into the historical context for this verse, we would find that it was written in direct response to disruptions that were occurring in the Corinthian church at that time. The underlying principle is not that women 2000 years later should be forbidden from speaking in church, but that a church service ought to be orderly, not chaotic, a topic that Paul actually begins to address at the beginning of chapter 11.

And what about 1 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent.”? Again, Paul’s restriction was given in the context of a personal letter to Timothy giving advice about a specific issue concerning false teaching that had arisen in the church at Ephesus. There is no suggestion that he was establishing church policy for all time. Neither is there any mention of this in the rest of Paul’s writings or elsewhere in the Bible. As has already been mentioned, there are clear examples elsewhere in scripture of women teaching, prophesying, and taking leadership roles.

So why do I, a Christian feminist, stay in a male-dominated church? First of all, there aren’t a lot of options in our small community. Fortunately, however, there are ways that I can use my spiritual gifts of teaching and faith within the confines of a patriarchal setting and I’ve always been comfortable worshipping with genuine believers who don’t see eye to eye with me on all matters. I also believe that God has placed me behind enemy lines, so to speak, for a reason. Though it likely won’t happen in my lifetime, I can pray for change and speak for justice for the women of the future. I may not be allowed to preach from the pulpit, which I don’t feel called to do anyway, but I can speak the truth, as I know it, when opportunity presents itself and I can certainly preach it from my keyboard!

For further reading on this topic, I highly recommend:

  1. Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, Carolyn Custis James
  2. Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, Sarah Bessey
  3. The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth, Beth Allison Barr
  4. A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans

This is, of course, a controversial topic. I invite dialogue in the comment section, but I also insist that it remain a safe and respectful place for the expression of differing viewpoints and experiences.

One Word for 2022

For the past few years I’ve chosen one word to inspire or guide me in the new year as well as a scripture verse to go along with it. There’s actually a whole #OneWord365 movement on the internet urging members to choose a word to focus on every day, all year long; a word that sums up who they want to be or how they want to live.

Much has been said over the past 22 months about how the Covid-19 crisis has robbed us of our freedom. Thinking about that led me to my word for 2022.

Freedom

Interestingly, of the 165 people worldwide who have registered their One Word for 2022 online so far, I’m the only one who chose freedom! I’m a tribe of one!

The Bible verse that I chose to go with this year’s word is a good transition from last year when my word was TRUTH.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

So what is freedom? Oxford Languages defines it this way:

  1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint
  2. absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government
  3. the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved

There are really two kinds of freedom, freedom to and freedom from. There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has, at least temporarily, curtailed our freedom to travel, to gather in large groups, to celebrate special moments with those we love, to enjoy many of the activities that we once took for granted, and so on. Though it’s difficult to be optimistic with the Omicron variant running rampant, I do hold out hope that some of these freedoms might be returned to us before this new year comes to an end.

As I settled on freedom as my One Word for this year, however, it was actually freedom from that was at the forefront of my mind. While I’m enormously thankful that we, in the western world, are for the most part free from the kinds of oppression that are common elsewhere, I was thinking on a more personal level. For many years, I suffered from what has been identified as betrayal trauma. As a result, I clung to a root of bitterness that gave me a sense of stability. I was afraid that if I let go and let myself trust again, I would be completely blown away and destroyed. Several months ago, as God began to gently loosen my grip on that root of bitterness, I pictured it this way…

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For some of us, art can be a creative and healthy way to deal with trauma. My daughter, whose own journey toward freedom included an art therapy course, illustrated the words of American author and activist, Glennon Doyle, in this beautiful expression.

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Regardless of how confined we are by the present health restrictions or those yet to come, I want to live 2022 in the fullness of the freedom from that I have finally found! I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t also point out that true freedom is found by surrendering our lives to the almighty Creator of the universe. Galatians 5:1 tells us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” and 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Have you ever chosen a word to inspire or guide you in a new year? What would your one word for 2022 be?

The miracle of adoption

Eight years ago, a beautiful discussion took place between our daughter and our then 5-year-old grandson:

Drew: Mommy, what is adoption?
Melaina: Adoption is when a baby grows in one mommy’s tummy but she can’t take care of him so another mommy and daddy adopt the baby and become his new mommy and daddy. Uncle Nate is adopted. He grew in a different mommy’s tummy but then we adopted him.
Drew: So Gram and Grandpa still got to be his mommy and daddy?
Melaina: Yes!
Drew: Wow! That is like a miracle!

Yes, Drew, yes it is! And now, many years later, Uncle Nate is himself the father of two adopted children!

When this conversation showed up as one of my Facebook memories recently, I was reminded of the many “miracles” in our extended family, but my mind also went to Romans 8:14-15a

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.” (NLT)

and Ephesians 1:5

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (NLT)

Wow! Nate’s adoption story is an amazing one, but is there anything more amazing than being adopted into the eternal family of the Creator of heaven and earth? How can that be?

When we brought Nate home at three days old, it wasn’t a temporary or part time commitment. We weren’t just babysitting. It was for life. He was 100% ours! That’s how it is with God too. He wants 100% of your life for all time. That’s why He sent His Son to die to take the punishment for our sins, so that by accepting that amazing gift and surrendering our lives to Him, we would receive His Spirit and be adopted as His children.

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With Christmas time fast approaching, that’s really something to think about, isn’t it?

He completes me

Have you ever thought about what you’d like to be able to tell your much younger self? If I could, I’d tell the naive young woman that I once was that the romantic notion that a woman needs a man to complete her is absolute balderdash!

After 45 years of marriage, does my husband complete me? No! Absolutely not. He has a different skill set than I do and different spiritual gifts, so we are better together than individually, but he does not complete me nor I him. In many ways he complements me, but he cannot possibly meet all of my emotional and spiritual needs. There is no man on this planet who could do that and to expect otherwise is to put a load on another’s shoulders that there’s no way they can carry. I wish I’d known that sooner. 

In the 1996 romantic comedy/sports drama of the same name, Jerry Maguire uses the line, “You complete me” when trying to win back his love interest, but in the real world a partner or spouse should not define who you are. While “I love you” speaks of genuine affection, “You complete me” reeks of dependency, of needing another person to fill a gap, solve a problem, or heal a wound.  

So who completes me? Am I complete in and of myself? In some ways yes, but not entirely. 

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I am not a theologian or even a Bible scholar, but I do know that only God, the one who created me and knows me more intimately than I even know myself, can truly complete me. 

So what does complete mean? In this context, the dictionary defines it as to make something whole or perfect

Does that mean that I think I’m perfect because I’ve surrendered my life to Christ? Absolutely not! That will never happen this side of heaven, but God has imputed His perfection, His righteousness to me. That means that when He looks at me, He sees Christ’s perfection in me, not my own human imperfection. His estimation of me is equal to His estimation of His Son! 

Being completed by Christ means even more than this though. It means that because I am united with Him, I can lean on His absolute sufficiency. Hard as he might try, my husband can never be my ultimate source of peace, joy, or security. He is human. He will fail me. If I look only to him for meaning, significance, and value, I will be disappointed. No, these are the things I gain when I allow Christ to complete me. 

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These are things I would like to tell my younger self. 

Thoughts on turning 69

It seems that every woman has a birthday she dreads; an age that she has trouble accepting. For me, that age was 60. The whole time I was 59, I dreaded turning 60. It was such a big number and sounded so old, but then the day came and nothing really changed. It was just another day, another new beginning, and I’d wasted an entire year worrying about it!

Now, nine more years have passed and tomorrow I turn 69! My 60s have not been easy. They brought three different cancer diagnoses, relationship trauma, the death of both my parents, and now a worldwide pandemic, but through it all, I learned endurance, perseverance, and resilience. I also learned to live one day at a time.

Learning not to count on the future, but to see every day as a gift and a blessing, was a very valuable lesson. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer shortly before my 61st birthday, I really didn’t expect that I’d still be alive today. Four years later, I threw myself a “still alive at 65” birthday party and now, just one year short of 70, I’m still here and still going strong!

One thing I know that I won’t be doing when I’m 69 is wasting time worrying about turning 70. Instead, as long as God gives me life, I’m going to be busy living it to the fullest and doing my best to accomplish whatever it is that He is keeping me here to do!

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It’s pumpkin spice time!

 

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I’m always sad to see summer come to an end and this year is no exception. With our long, cold winter just around the corner, fall is bittersweet. Thankfully, it’s also pumpkin spice time! There’s something about a pumpkin spice latte that warms the tummy and the heart. I’ve always said it tastes like hot pumpkin pie in a cup!

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Sadly. when I learned that I was prediabetic and had to start seriously limiting my sugar intake, I had to stop indulging in these fabulous autumn treats. “Don’t drink your sugar,” is the advice given to those of us on the diabetes spectrum. 

There are sugar-free pumpkin spice recipes online that use artificial sweeteners, but I haven’t tried one of those yet. What I have been experimenting with and perfecting lately is a simple pumpkin spice smoothie recipe that I’ll share with you today. It’s not sugar-free, but it’s low-sugar, healthy, and delicious.  

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (for one)

  • 1/2 cup cold canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbsp artificially sweetened maple syrup substitute
  • 2 tbsp unflavoured protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Put all seven ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

If sugar and/or fat content are not a concern, you can use whole milk, regular yogurt, and/or maple syrup instead of the low-sugar, low-fat substitutes that I use. 

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I’m still using hubby’s laptop to blog while the WordPress Happiness Engineers do their best to figure out a way to help me. My fingers are gradually getting more accustomed to his keyboard and I’ve figured out a way to transfer photos from my computer to his, but the whole blogging process is slower and less satisfying than usual. I’m not giving up, however. I will persevere until the problem is resolved or I have to buy a new laptop! 

 

Still walking, but not enough!

It’s been two months since I last posted an update on my summer walking challenge. On May 2 of this year, I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. Five months to walk 300 km. Easy peasy! Right?

I got off to a really good start reporting 87.07 km by June 2 and another 63.59 km in the month that followed. Two months into the challenge, I was already half way to my goal. In my third month, I walked another 68.83 km for a total of 219.49 km.

That’s when I slipped off the rails and I’m sad to say that in the past month I walked and/or hiked only 38.41 km! What happened? Well, I could make plenty of excuses. There was time spent with grandchildren. We did go hiking while they were with us, but other than that, I didn’t take time away from them to go for regular walks. We’ve had some rainy days. I do own an umbrella, but it’s easier to stay indoors on those days. And then there’s the fact that I hurt my back again. That one was a pretty good excuse for a few days, but even though it’s still not 100%, I could be going for short walks. In fact, they might even be good for me.

Most of all though, I’ve just been lazy! When it became obvious that I’d be able to reach my goal well ahead of schedule, I slacked off. Now it’s time to get off my butt, lace up those walking shoes, and finish the job! With only 42.1 km left to go and a full month until our anniversary, there’s plenty of time to get this done!

Stop exploiting Holocaust symbols!

I’m going to jump into another Covid controversy. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but sometimes there are things that just need to be said!

For several months, people protesting proposed mandatory “vaccine passports” have been comparing them to symbols that the Nazis forced Jews in occupied Europe to wear and to the numbered tattoos forced upon the prisoners who were abused and murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Last Wednesday, US Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted, and then appears to have deleted, a black-and-white image of a clenched fist with a number tattooed on the wrist. “If you have to carry a card on you to gain access to a restaurant, venue or event in your own country, that’s no longer a free country,” the meme stated. That tweet echoed comments made in May by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, a conspiracy theorist and QAnon enthusiast, who compared mask mandates to the Holocaust.

One of Massie’s staffers, Andrew Zirkle, took to Twitter the morning after the objectionable tweet appeared to announce his resignation, citing it as his reason for quitting. “I quit. I wanted to let everyone who knows me personally to know that as soon as I got in to work this morning, I resigned my position in the Office of Congressman Thomas Massie because of his tweet comparing the horrors of the Holocaust to vaccine passports.” Now that’s a position I can respect!  

I have since seen the Massie meme reposted on Facebook several times. To put it bluntly, these thoughtless analogies are ignorant and incredibly offensive. They trivialize the deaths of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. I can only imagine how painful it must be for survivors who are still alive today to see people, including elected officials, making flippant comparisons between what we’re experiencing during this pandemic and the unimaginable atrocities that they witnessed or endured.   

What really breaks my heart is when I see Christians posting these things. Though the Bible calls us to unity, to be like-minded, it embarrasses me to be lumped together with those who so casually and thoughtlessly spread such hurtful messages and, while I probably shouldn’t, I feel a need to apologize to my Jewish friends on their behalf!

There’s nothing wrong with respectfully expressing your opinion, just stop exploiting Holocaust symbols to do it. Please, people, be a little more creative and a lot more respectful!

 

At Gram and Grandpa’s house

After more than a year of Covid restrictions, spending time with family was our highest priority for this summer. We’ve been blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren (and one more on the way), so it was a delight to be able to spend the past two weeks enjoying five of them. First, our daughter and her three children spent a weekend with us at Camp Harmattan and then the kids came home with us. The day after they left, we went to Edmonton for a medical appointment and stayed a couple of days with our youngest son’s family. We spent an entire day at Fort Edmonton Park with his two children, and then brought them home for a visit with us.

Our days with the grandkids were filled with afternoons at the beach, fun times on the golf course (driving the golf cart is a highlight), wiener roasts in the backyard, picking raspberries and eating them with ice cream, playing games, and reading stories. We also took both sets of grandchildren to one of our favourite hiking spots, Big Knife Provincial Park. On the way, we stopped at the Diplomat Mine Interpretive Site.

Some enjoyed checking out the enormous machinery…

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Can you find our oldest grandson in the photo?

while others had fun on the smaller equipment!

On both occasions, we enjoyed a picnic lunch before hitting the trail. While most of us hiked, this one did cartwheels!

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The best part of the hike for all five children was climbing around the hoodoo area.

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Now they’ve all gone home. The laundry is done and the beds remade. Gram and Grandpa are getting back into routine, but the house is very quiet and I’m missing the other two more than ever. We haven’t seen them since before Covid and with case numbers increasing in their province and ours, I don’t know when we’ll be able to. 😦

Ferry Point

In the very early 1900s small settlements sprang up across the Canadian prairie, but with the coming of the railroad many that weren’t located close to the new railway lines disappeared or were moved. One of these was Ferry Point, so named because of the ferry service that shuttled settlers back and forth across the Battle River at that location from 1902 until 1907 when a bridge was built. 

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Though it was once home to several businesses including a store, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a pool hall, and a feed mill, the last major building in the community, the Ferry Point Hall, was moved to the nearby town of Rosalind in 1921. Now, there’s nothing there to mark the spot except a small unserviced campground operated by the Ferry Point Historical Society. 

Though it’s less than an hour from here, I had never heard of Ferry Point until last night when I decided to search for a new place to go kayaking. Upon arriving this morning, we discovered that the campground has an excellent spot for launching a canoe or kayak. 

There are many stretches on the Battle River where a person could do an all day or even overnight paddle, but that requires a lot of planning and a second vehicle, something that we don’t have. Instead, our trips on the river are always in and out, back to our starting point. We usually begin by paddling upstream, saving the easier downstream stretch for the return trip when our arms are getting tired. As we made our way upriver, however, we discovered that it was shallow and very weedy as far as we could see. It was a haven for ducks but just about impossible to paddle! 

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After about 15 minutes of tangling the paddles in the weeds and making very little progress, we decided to turn back and try going downstream instead. Though there were still weedy patches, it was much better and we enjoyed a good outing, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch in the boat, and paddling a total of about 7 km.  

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If you’ve followed my blog for very long, you know that I’m fascinated by the old decaying buildings that dot the prairie landscape. Though there are none left at Ferry Point, we passed an old house very close to the road a few kilometres to the north on our way to the campground. On the way home, I asked hubby to stop so that I could take a few photos. One end is leaning precariously and it looks like it could come tumbling down at any moment! 

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If walls could talk, I always wonder what stories these old houses would tell. Who climbed those corner stairs? What joys and challenges did their lives hold? 

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Today the old house is home only to the flock of pigeon who, surprised by my sudden appearance, flew from the windows when I came close. I was as startled as they were!