Women In Authority: Boxed In

Woman on the stage --- Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

Woman on the stage — Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

I’ve taken some time off from my promised series Women In Authority. Forgive me for being lax in my posting. I’ve heard from some you wondering if I’m still blogging. Yes, I am! Like so many of you, I’m a busy woman; I run a business with my husband, homeschool my children (Summer? What summer?), work part-time, research and write, and oversee various other ministry endeavors. Thanks for bearing with me this year!

Picking back up on Women in Authority, if you need to catch up on the previous posts follow these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I know many women feel called to various ministry roles. Some of us have struggled quietly in the background, trying not rock the boat; some of us have gone a little nuts demanding that the world give us our due; some of us have given up; and a few of us have found a way to successfully navigate the rough waters.

In our struggle to step into our purpose, and in the church’s struggle to deal with this issue tranquilly, we’ve often succeeded in drawing a box around powerful women and giving them free reign – within the box. We split hairs as women try to pacify their churches and as churches try to pacify women leaders. We’ll say it’s okay for a woman to teach and men just happen to be in the room, as long as she’s not addressing the men; as long as she’s really teaching other women or children. Some will go so far as to say that if a man chooses to put himself under her authority as she teaches, then that’s okay, too.

Sometimes it’s like teaching without acknowledging the “elephant” – a.k.a. the men – in the room. Teach your heart out. But be careful not to address the men. It seems arbitrary and gets confusing. The lines are blurry and different churches and organizations have different rules and women leaders are continually stubbing their toes as they try to figure out where the box’s boundaries lie.

I want to briefly speculate on the issue of authority. On the one hand, whatever authority we have is given to us by God. No one can take away that authority. Likewise, no one can wrestle away more authority than is ordained by God. Whenever I face this issue of women having authority over men, I kind of shake my head because I wonder how I can possibly have authority over someone who refuses to receive that authority. I can exercise authority over my children – and right now they are young enough that I can scare them into submitting if need be – but the day will come when they will choose of their own accord whether or not to submit. In reality, though God has given me authority over them, I don’t in practicality have any power over them if they choose to rebel. If they rebel, they will face God and the consequences of their rebellion. This is true in every avenue of life: a boss has as much authority over his employees as they are willing to submit; a pastor has as much authority over his flock as they are willing to acknowledge. Where ministry is concerned, I might find myself in a position of authority, but that does not mean, in practice, that I have authority over anyone who won’t submit to it.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another. There are no qualifiers for this, no gender, age, or race differentiation. The Greek word for submit in this verse is a military term; but in non-military context it implies a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon). It isn’t about who has authority over who; rather it is about who has the strength of character and the humility to voluntarily cooperate. Galatians 3:28 reminds us that we are all one in Christ – neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. We’re all one.

So, why then does Paul admonish Timothy about women in authority over men? Stay tuned…

Kenya, That’s A Wrap

On safari!

Thank you for reading along these two weeks. I’ve been caught off guard by the number of people following along. Thank you for putting up with the time difference, the unreliable connection, and the mistakes I made trying to post from my phone. 

All told, we saw 104 people come to the Lord for the first time!

We spent our final day in Kenya dealing with car troubles and so hung around the hotel instead of going to our final scheduled school. This worked out okay, though, as most of us were pretty tired and one or two of us was feeling under the weather. We enjoyed a day of rest and got packed up for home. 

We spent the day yesterday shopping, etc. in Nairobi before heading to the airport to wait on an 11pm flight. Currently, I am sitting in London’s Heathrow Airport waiting for our last flight home to Houston. I gotta say I miss my husband and babies and I’m ready for my own bed.

What can I say about my time in Kenya?  Well, I suppose I’ve said it all in these blog posts. I don’t know if I can say that it’s changed me or changed my worldview. But it has definitely reminded me of God’s deep love for all peoples, even those that rarely cross my insulated American radar. I have seen, and smelled, and even tasted things television cannot fully communicate, if indeed we stay on those channels long enough to watch. It’s real. It’s present. It’s my problem. It’s your problem. God’s love can span an ocean, a continent, a world. I pray I remember this. I pray you remember this. 

Before closing out I have to give a shout out to my amazing team. 

Blake (left) and Buddy

These two men led us well. Blake gave directions, corralled us as needed, laid out expectations, and showed us love in action. Buddy has been my walking Kenya encyclopedia. He loves this land and these people deeply and much of the information I’ve been able to share with you has come from him.   They led with knowledge, confidence, laughter, and compassion. And they were protectors in some uncomfortable situations, intimidating enough to have no need of the proverbial Big Stick. 

Four amazing young people!

These four crazies won my heart. They love the Lord so truly and brought such laughter, silliness, and joy to our time in Kenya. They were amazing with the children, which was so important considering we spent the bulk of our time and energies ministering to young ones. They also spoke boldly and confidently when called upon to do so. I was proud to have them with us. They were truly the life our team. 

Then there’s this young man, my amazing son, Michael.

To say I am proud of him is such an understatement. He gave this trip his all. And he allowed God to change his heart forever. He handled himself with such maturity and grace. He looked out for his mom. He jumped in to help solve problems. He engaged not only the children, but made fast friends with everyone whose path he crossed and showed love and generosity every chance he got. I know him in a way I didn’t before and my heart is incredibly full for the knowledge. He might only be 12, but he’s God’s man all the way. 

Praise God for His wonderful works!

Pressing On

We were so blessed to take some time to rest and enjoy the beauty of Kenya. Blake treated us to a four star lodge and a safari. There is something so amazing, so freeing, and so refreshing about standing in a safari van with the wind blowing through your hair while you watch a herd of elephants jog across your road. 

Leaving Sweetwaters, we traveled through the mountains to a town I can’t spell or pronounce. But our purpose there was to visit yet another orphanage. Guys, the Kenyan countryside is dotted with them. I had a heartfelt conversation with a new friend  here about the number of orphans. We spoke about abortion, how prevalent it is in the states and how rare here. As we spoke and watched the children in the orphanage going to and fro, we noted the light in their eyes and the hope they represent for Kenya. There will be many who will grow to repeat the mistakes of their parents, but there will be many who will draw a line in the sand and choose a different path. I cannot look upon those kids, their sweet smiles, their faces of light, and think it would be better were abortion acceptable here. Even in their wretched conditions, there is beauty and hope and life. 

I have posted a lot about the deplorable conditions of the orphanages here. I want you to see and be compelled to come here and love on these kids, even it it’s only for a week or two. The way they live is not okay and it’s not acceptable. However, I want you to also know that in the midst of such ugly and desperate need, there is hope and there is beauty. Today’s orphanage was the worst I’ve yet seen, though I’m told it teally isn’t so bad for Kenya. Here are some pics:

You can’t tell from the pictures how small the plot of land is. The buildings are all wood, so the risk of fire is ever present (remember, they cook over wood and fire, not a gas stove). There are gaps and holes in the roofs and sides of the buildings. The children sleep 2-3 to a bed. And, friends, it smells. They raise their own quail and chickens and there is a cow pen next door. The smells of livestock, cooking fire, an outhouse, and so many bodies living so close together can be overwhelming depending on the direction of the wind. 

And yet, at this particular home, these children have been taught about Jesus. They pray. They sing his praises. When we took them to a nearby park to play, several of the girls lined up to sing and dance in worship. I tried to post a video, but with my connection here it’s a no-go. I’ll post it another time. Listen to the lyrics. They are singing, “I know who I am… I have favor… I am blessed.”  I stood listening and recording and my heart beat faster as I prayed for the children across this whole land to stand and declare who they are, and Whose they are. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day to living. So easy for our world to shrink to a narrow piece of life, where all we see are the things that lap against the shores of our small piece of life. Even for those of us who give a big part of our lives toward ministry and giving to others, still it can narrow and narrow until the days run together and we lose ourselves and we lose our focus. Until all we see is what is right before us. 

But God dreams big for His children. We’re invited to a bigger life. These two weeks I feel like I’ve lived life big. My focus has once again expanded. And it’s a powerful thing and a good thing. Yes, I will return home and by and large, over time, see my focus again narrow. Still, I see it and will fight the harder to live, to really, really live. 

Please think about getting involved in missions. Do something bigger than you. Come to Kenya. Americans are so generous with their money. But sometimes we hide behind that. You can send money. You can buy school supplies, or shoes, or toys. But due to corruption and, in some cases, apathy, the children might not ever benefit from it. So come. Give your time. Give your love. Play with a child that rarely gets to play. Hold one in your arms. Kiss their cheeks and their heads. Let them touch your hair, your face, your arms. Hold their hands. Let them see, and feel, and hear from you that they have value. That they matter. That God sees, He hears, and He knows. 

Go to Guatemala. India. Germany. Go to the inner city where you live. Take your children. Volunteer at a food pantry, a pregnancy center, or a homeless shelter. Do something. Let yourself be touched by a side to life that so many of us are so easily insulated from. Raise up your head and reach for a big life. Don’t allow yourself to be smothered in the mundane of day to day living. Endeavor to be so intentional about how you go through your life. A smile, an invitation to dinner, a walk in the park. It all matters.