Announcing Thomas Talks!

I am so excited to announce that ThomasTalks.net is live! This is the culmination of my life’s journey and working for 3 years with a ministry coach and a team of amazing women who God has brought into my life to help me on several projects — I’m so grateful they have continued alongside on this one!

Please, check it out! If there is anything you would like to see addressed there, or you would like to talk to me about contributing there, please let me know. There will be memes and voices and I hope it will be an encouragement to many of you as you navigate the journey of life and ask questions about how faith impacts who we are and what we do.

On Complementarianism . . . or, “But I know a marriage that . . . “

I’m excited that we have launched Thomas Talks and I’m moving some articles over there! http://thomastalks.net/2017/06/22/on-complimentarianism-or-but-i-know-a-marriage-that/

Thoughts on Shabbat

I’ve heard people argue that women weren’t expected to observe lots of Torah because it was sexist and they had to take care of children. it is true that women were excused from the obligation of certain things in Torah because of caring for the children, but it’s more that God views caring for the needs of children and the elderly as most important. God doesn’t consider these things work!

Everyone in Israel — Jew and the sojourner, the servants and the animals, was expected to rest. It isn’t just for Jewish people. In fact, Sabbath means “rest.” And it’s commanded, but it’s a gift and an invitation extended to us. God finished creation and then rested and invites us to rest with him in his completed work. I’ve most loved the analogy that it is like a date day with God. That God set aside a day to spend with us and invites us to join him in what he’s doing and we either show up or don’t.

Shabbat is a "date day" with God

Shabbat is a “date day” with God

Lots of people ask me “what is work that we have to avoid?” I tell them Scripture speaks of not engaging in buying and selling in the market, not lighting a fire, and not doing your every day work. And then I tell them, “You know when you’re working.” Sometimes I start something and then realize I’m working so I stop πŸ˜› Jesus spoke about the acceptance that if your ox falls in a ditch on Sabbath you pull it out. A friend once shared that her father added, “If your ox falls in a ditch every Sabbath, fix the fence.” πŸ˜‰

When we were able to faithfully observe Sabbath it was a wonderful time in our lives. Moves, pregnancies, near death experiences, life . . . honoring Sabbath changed a bit in what it looks like, but here’s what I learned . . . being able to really rest took planning. I cleaned the house over the week and kept to my routine and knew what we were eating on Sabbath and kept to fresh or crock pot meals so that I didn’t have to work at food prep. Some weeks now I just intentionally set aside work that didn’t get done in advance – if I couldn’t be bothered to do it over the last 6 days it will keep for one more πŸ˜‰

I love that it’s forbidden to fast on Sabbath — it is a day of love – loving God, loving your family, loving your neighbor, loving yourself!

I love the quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel from “The Sabbath”:

“One who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screen of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man.”

One of the things that I love is that the New Moon celebration every month is also a Shabbat — for women only! Women aren’t allowed to work that day.

I think our culture has so completely abandoned the appreciation of rest in the shadow of the Protestant work ethic. We need to rest. We were created for it.

My Darned Life

One of the projects I’ve been working on for a little over a year is My Darned Life. I have set as a goal for myself the knitting/crocheting/sewing of a granny square for every person in my life.

Contemplative Knitting

Contemplative Knitting

There is a practice called Contemplative Knitting/fiber arts that involves praying for the person something is being made for. It’s done a lot with projects being made for the very sick, or newborn babies, or friends going through a rough time. There’s even a project right now called Welcome Blanket that involves knitting a welcome blanket for every refugee with a goal of creating blankets bigger than the size of the proposed wall for our Southern Border.

My project is a little different. It does involve praying for the person I’m creating the square for, and it is something I can return to as that person has prayer needs throughout life. A tangible reminder of who they are and how much I love them that I can hold as I pray for their needs.

It is also going to be a tangible picture of the people who are helping create the literal fiber of my life so that when I am old and my project is done I will be able to hold and be grateful for every person who has touched my life. Every person who has enriched me, challenged me, encouraged me, impacted me, shared my life in some way will be represented.

the diversity of life as seen in balls of yarn

the diversity of life as seen in balls of yarn

This project excites me!

Privilege is what we have to share

Privilege comes in a variety of areas of life and is not the same as “perk, benefit, blessing, gift, or unearned anything.” Privilege is potentially damaging to the people who have it if they don’t handle it appropriately, which is why it’s important to some of us to talk about it. It isn’t anything to feel guilty about. It is simply the reality that within cultures there are some things that come with inherent value that the people who have it enjoy without thinking about it but those who don’t have it are aware that they don’t have it. That isn’t an excuse, or a justification for being a victim, etc. Usually it’s in the area of the things that we wake up not having to think about or be aware of. We may or may not have done anything to get it. But we have it and it has value.

One example (and by no means a defining one, but it is a relevant one and it resonates with me because my undergraduate degree is in theatre) is how represented you are in media. White men are everywhere — they are the majority of heroes, main characters, romantic leads, historical characters movies get made about. Prior to discussions about privilege and representation most black characters were slaves, bad guys, minor characters or not represented at all. The impact of growing up seeing yourself as the hero and the main character in every setting has an affect on you — just like growing up not seeing yourself adequately represented, or only represented in relation to the main character, has an impact on you. It’s not white men’s fault that they were the ones most represented, but they benefited from that. That benefit is the privilege. All they did was watch the movie — and they got to see themselves portrayed in amazing ways. All the time — every movie.

This is a systemic issue — and there are lots of privileges that are granted to all different people depending on their subculture and personal accomplishments. But the issue isn’t about blaming privilege or people with privilege — it’s about what we do with our privilege. And until we acknowledge the areas where we have privilege we are not doing anything productive with them. It takes humility to consider where we might have been granted something unearned, undeserved, and unsought that others had withheld. And when we engage honestly and humbly with the issues we see that there are ways that we are empowered to help others.

Just as an example, if I’m in a group where someone makes racist jokes I tell them it’s not okay. I don’t expect any person of color present to stand up for themselves because clearly the person telling a racist joke isn’t interested in hearing from a person of color. There is no respect there. There is no privilege granted them in that position — they could speak up, they have every right to speak up, but I’m not in the group being demeaned so I’m going to say something. In the same way, when people are denigrating women I don’t hesitate to speak up but I’m also grateful for the men present who step in and call it out. A man who demeans women is less inclined to listen to a woman than they are a man — so when a man says it’s not cool that carries more weight to someone who listens to men and not women.

Think about the Beatitudes — they aren’t just words of encouragement to those who are down on their luck until God sees fit to bless them and change their circumstances. They are pearls of wisdom for how we are to live. Meek, humble, merciful, peacemakers.
When it comes to privilege if we can stop being defensive and honestly and humbly consider the areas where we are privileged we can engage with meek humility and seek mercy for all as we try to be peacemakers. Jesus had the privilege of being the Son of God and he did not think it worth holding onto but he came to earth and endured what humans do when we’re confronted with holiness — and died for us so that we might live. He laid down his privilege.

Privilege is what we have to share

Privilege is what we have to share

So this isn’t about victimhood anymore than acknowledging our struggle with sin is victimhood. And I don’t personally need anyone to acknowledge their area of privilege in order for my life to go on exactly as it has and will continue to go on. But I know from experience that when we can acknowledge our areas of privilege and lay down our lives for those who don’t have that privilege, and if we all did that for each other, we’d be living in a much better world. I know that because it’s following the example of Jesus.

I know you think we agree

Not on everything, but on what the Bible says everywhere. At least, that’s your thought if you believe there is a “clear and obvious meaning of the text.”

You think we read any portion of text and we all know it says X and that means if I do Y I have obviously rejected the “clear and obvious X meaning of the text” and I am rejecting Scripture.

I know that’s what you think because that is how you have behaved. It comes out in how you talk to me. It comes out in how you post to me. It comes out in your dripping sarcasm in that Facebook group. I’m not blind to it — I’m ignoring it. (Or, sometimes, just calling it out and letting you know I’m okay with it.)

I don’t take offense because I get that you think we agree.

I’m writing this to make it very clear to you that we do NOT agree. bible-428947_1920

For decades I have been studying the Bible — taking it very seriously, learning how to read Hebrew and study in the original languages, learning how to use study tools, learning everything I can about the culture in which it was written and the context around the verse in question, getting a Master’s in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and studying for my career — and sometimes where you believe it says X I am convinced to the core of my being and the depth of my soul and the fullness of my mind that it says Y.

You are free to disagree with me but know this . . . I disagree with you and I believe you are wrong.

I’m comfortable with that if you are. I feel no need to be right and have no interest in trying to prove you wrong. I believe you have come to your belief with what you’ve done to get there and that’s fine with me. If you believe it says X then you definitely need to be obedient to X. That is your conviction.

I believe it says Y. I must be obedient to Y. I answer to God for Y. I’m not going to do X just because you said I have to.

I’m writing this to share with you the real issue here . . . if I do X it will be out of fear of men. If I continue to do Y it will be out of respect for God. I’m going with God.

I’m willing to continue sharing. I’m open to hearing how you concluded it said X. I love engaging in dialogue with people and many times as they share their process I learn new things and I may end up respecting their position more. I am willing to share my process and how I understand the text and why. We can get to now each other’s opinions.

If you’re open to that let’s do it! If not, I respect your choice and we can end this dialogue. Perhaps our path will cross again. It will be interesting to see where we are if that happens. I wish you well and pray blessings on you.

It’s good to reject false images of God!

The problem with far too many theologies is that God is understood and presented as an abuser.

Some abusive men start by picking at you and telling you everything you do is wrong. One thing at a time. Today it’s how you dress, then it’s how you do your hair. He reminds you all the time that he loves you and only wants the best for you, but the best is never what you’re doing. It’s always something different. And because you want to please him you do your best — but it’s never good enough. And in the end he reminds you how lucky you are that he chose you and loves you . . . especially because you’re not worth the love he’s giving you.

Some abusers declare their love and shower you with good treatment, but it’s always with a catch. And, ultimately, the threat of them leaving you is subtly (or not so subtly) hanging over your head. They love you, but if you don’t love them back good enough or the right way, or you don’t live the way they tell you to, then they will punish you by leaving you and you will have to learn to live without them. Or they will make sure you know your place and you will suffer at their hand because that is all you are worthy of and it’s their job to teach you that truth.

"I'm doing this because I love you and it hurts me more than it hurts you."

“I’m doing this because I love you and it hurts me more than it hurts you.”

Some abusers make you feel special that they chose you and over time they isolate you from your family and friends because they aren’t good enough. You’re only allowed to have the family and friends that they say you can have and those people all think the same way so if you try to tell anyone that he’s abusing you they will deny it and correct you on how you’re thinking — explaining why it’s not abuse. Usually it’s about you having the wrong perspective or if you only trusted him enough or if you could have his perspective you would get it.

God IS love. God is not an abuser. God is not twisted but so many doctrines are. Rejecting these garbage doctrines — rejecting the idea that God is abusive and refusing to live with an abusive deity — is NOT rejecting the God who created you, loves you, died for you and redeemed you. It’s healthy to reject a false image of God.

Ephesians 5 . . . husbands/wives and Christ/Church

A human has a head with a brain and a body with a heart. If either is dead the person is dead. In Ephesians, Paul explains that, for the purposes of the analogy he is making — AFTER saying that all believers are to submit to one another — the man is the head of the person and the woman is the body. This fits with the idea held at his time that the man was closer to the mind of God and the woman closer to the heart of God . . . it also fits with the belief also held at his time that the heart was the ruling organ of the body and the Jewish belief that women intuitively understand things about God that men need to study to learn.

The human — who was one person until divided into two and then called to be Echad — a word that translates “one” but which is not “singular one” but is more like “one bunch of grapes” or a plural, multi-faceted one. I express it as plural unity because it is the word for the two shall become one AND the word used when Moses says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Just as Jesus said “I and the father are one” and he explains that he hasn’t do anything the hasn’t seen the Father doing. They function in plural unity.

One bunch of grapes

One bunch of grapes

And that’s important because Paul ends the section of Ephesians 5 with this statement “29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 β€œFor this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (yes, there is one additional verse here but it’s a practical summary moving back from the analogy and it’s been twisted so much that it warrants it’s own discussion)

Jesus loves the church how? By sacrificing, laying down his life, redeeming, and loving us thoroughly! Men — imagine your wives are like your own body — imagine you have literally become one flesh with them. That’s the mystery and that’s the picture — as well as you do this, that’s the picture you are giving to the world about what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like. Your picture will be imperfect, but that’s what you’re aiming for.

Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church

So Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church. And just as the church is supposed to strive for plural unity with Christ, that is intended to be expressed to the world when they see husband and wife functioning plural unity — the picture we give is what they will understand. And where we fail we destroy the picture . . . kind of like how Moses struck the rock and destroyed a picture of Messiah and the Jews know they needed and credit with their errors from that point on.

Women and Men really can be Friends

I know that most messages in our culture are saying the opposite. I know that everywhere we look we’re told that men and women can’t be friends.

Sam and Diane (Cheers)
When Harry Met Sally
Selfie (for the Millennials who might now know it was a modern adaptation of the classic My Fair Lady which also fits the list πŸ˜‰ )

The reason that most books, tv shows and movies appear to be sending the message that women and men can’t be friends is that they are primarily about the two main characters who ultimately get together. This is why we watch — we like the romance, we like the idea that two people will find each other in the midst of the crowds of people we interact with on a daily basis.

The two finding each other is the crowd is so exciting is because it’s not our experience with everyone. We don’t fall in love or into bed with every person we meet. Which means that everyone we don’t find that romantic connection with has the potential to be something else . . . a friend.

women and men really can be friends!

women and men really can be friends!

Let’s be honest, it’s not cool to hang out with people who don’t have integrity and you don’t want to be romantically involved with someone who lacks integrity either! Just avoid them! And if you only hang out with people of integrity you can have wonderful friendships whether they are women or men.

Thoughts on hell

I often get asked about the Hebraic understanding of Hell and what Scripture says (or doesn’t say) about it. In response to one of the more recent exchanges I was in I presented this and since I worked so hard putting it together I thought I’d share it instead of trying to do it again. These are my current thoughts and I can’t say they won’t change, mature, finesse, etc., over time, but I offer them for what dialogue they may provoke.

I believe that hell is a Greco-Roman construct that is based on the mythology of the god Hades. I believe it was imposed into theology when the catholic church (little c from the time that “catholic” meaning universal was the only church) separated itself from the Jewish Sect known as the Way that was the faithful expression of the early believers who were first called Christians (this is history found in the New Testament that I’m referring to — if you want to read about the separation that took place for primarily socio-political reasons and resulted in different theologies you can check out Stern’s “Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospels”) Some Christian believe this -- but I don't

I believe that Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus was consistent with the Jewish understanding of Abraham’s Bosom which contained Paradise (where the faithful went to await Messiah) and Torments (where souls unhindered from the body were given the opportunity to learn lessons that they did not learn while in the body that they needed to learn to recognize Messiah — the rich man sought to fulfill himself with food and drink which is why he was thirsty — he needed eternal waters that only Jesus could provide). It has nothing to do with a Greco-Roman idea of Hell.

The idea of Gehenna also has nothing to do with a Greco-Roman idea of hell because it is referring to where the body of one tried and found guilty of violating Torah would have been thrown if they were put to death for their sins. That is why Jesus refers to it in the ways that he does — it would be better to be . . . . than to have your body thrown to the place where someone tried for violating Torah and found guilty would have their body thrown, etc.

Some people try to say that the Lake of Fire is hell but, again, there is no Hebraic concept of a hell where people who don’t believe in God are sent to be tormented forever in burning fire. The Lake of Fire is understood to be God’s bosom because God is eternal holy fire — imagery that is used throughout Scripture to refer to God and the reality in stories is that those who enter God’s presence in an unworthy manner or with their sin still upon them burst into flames and burn up. Death, Hell, the Grave, the Accuser — all created for a purpose in this life to bring about God’s purposes — will burn forever in the Lake of Fire. Those who follow them will be cast in after them but it is reading too much into the text to add to it that they will also be tormented forever. It is more consistent with Scripture to take Jesus at his word that no one survives the 2nd death without faith in him — and that the Lake of Fire is the 2nd death. (Rev 2:11 “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”; Rev 20:6 “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” and Rev 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”)

Now, it might seem unrelated but I believe it’s vital so I want to address the idea that God cannot be in the presence of sin. It is foolishness — it is sin that cannot be in the presence of God without burning up. If we die and we are still carrying our sins then we cannot survive the 2nd death which is the Lake of Fire. We will burn up in the presence of God — like Aaron’s sons in the Temple. I believe that Jesus carried all of mankind’s sins into the presence of God and they were burned up and he remained because he was without sin. This is GOOD NEWS! We do not have to fear the 2nd death. We are freed from the power of sin and death so that we can live righteous lives!

The Good News is you have been freed from the power of sin and death by Jesus

I do not believe we have to understand this, or what it means, or how it happened, or anything because our finite brains will never truly understand the things of God. I do believe you can reject God’s gift — but I do not believe any of us can know when someone has truly done that and our words and actions are not the final say. God judges the heart and we cannot see one another’s hearts. We can disagree with doctrine. We can have different understanding of theology. We *cannot* judge someone’s salvation and to try and do so is to sit ourselves on the throne of God and that is blasphemy! Therefore I focus on sharing the Gospel by doing just that — sharing the Good News. You have been freed from the power of sin and death by Jesus and if you accept that is true you will be able to live an abundant life full of blessings! You will have experienced forgiveness and be able to forgive others and you will have been first loved by God and that will provoke you to love! And we will know you are a believer by your love because anyone who loves God will love their neighbor and loving your neighbor is loving God. You cannot love without God because God IS Love.

Therefore, if anyone says they are in the light but hates their brother they are a liar and are still in darkness (1 John 2:9) and 1 John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” Yet 1 John 4:12 says this “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” is one of the main reasons that I don’t believe in sharing the Good News that Jesus saved us from the power of sin and death with the threat of punishment — eternal or otherwise. We love God because he first loved us — not because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t.

Rejecting Bad News is not rejecting God

Anyone who says they are saved because they are afraid of the alternative is someone still walking in darkness because they do not understand the Good News and are not walking and living in the abundant life that is expressed through love. I would rather spend my time with people who are loving others and revealing that God is at work in their lives (even if they don’t have my same doctrinal expression of faith) than with people who can string verses together to prove they are saved but do not have love and reveal themselves to be liars. And when the supposed “Good News” is delivered with a threat it has ceased to be the Good News and rejecting it is not the same as rejecting God or His Love and free gift of salvation from the power of sin and death.