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The Gentle Savior

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him

In Gratitude for Love Over Guilt

November 20, 2017
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angel with hands over faceNo question about it, 2017 has been the best year of my life.

I have so much to be thankful for, including getting married to a dear man who is my partner in every way, moving back to scenic West Virginia into a vintage craftsman-style house-of-my-dreams located in a quaint historic village, and working at what I love from my home office. Of course, I have my beautiful daughters and extended family, including all the new family I married into.

In reflecting on my many blessings, of course God’s faithfulness comes to mind and this one thing especially:

No more guilt.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)

We are so often plagued by guilty feelings. Even though the Bible and the pastor keep telling us we are forgiven, it seems like guilt should be the natural response to our inability to shake free of sin. It’s like we think guilt is a fruit of the Spirit, but it’s not. (Read More)

Some Resources for #metoo

October 18, 2017
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This week’s #metoo campaign on social media has been a powerful and sad reminder of how many of us have experienced sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. If you missed it, the point was for women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write “Me too” as a Facebook status in an attempt to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

I have especially appreciated the #complicit follow-up, in which men have acknowledged their part in the problem even though they may never have perpetrated violence against a woman. They confess that their objectification of women, their silence in the face of misogyny, their laughter at statements degrading or mocking women make them complicit in a culture that allows abuse and protects abusers.

Jackson Katz’s insightful statement pointing out that the way our language about sexual violence practically ignores the existence of predators is also making the social media rounds again. By the way, his powerful TED Talk about violence against women being a men’s issue is definitely worth watching.

Awareness of this issue is so important and is a topic Christians should be addressing regularly because so many women and men in our churches have been affected by it. Jesus was an excellent model of respect for women. In The Gentle Savior Bible study, I pointed out in Chapter 10 that

(Read More)

Book Review: Love Big, Be Well

October 2, 2017
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Hi Friends! I don’t usually post book reviews, but this is special because I am so proud of my dear friend and former pastor Winn Collier for this beautifully written volume:

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town ChurchLove Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church by Winn Collier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier made my heart happy, and I highly recommend it to readers who are hungry for a break from big church clichés and over-promising certainties.

The book’s premise is that a pastor returns to the ministry after some time away working a secular job and accepts a position with a small town congregation, the fictional Granby Presbyterian Church. The book is a series of occasional letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock over the course of six years as he gets to know them, grows to love them deeply, and walks through life with them. He shares his thoughts about God, his experiences with God, and how his beloved faith community can rest in God’s love. (Read More)

Never Stop Asking the Questions

September 11, 2017
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While we were still reeling from the disturbingly open displays of racism in my beloved Charlottesville, hurricane season swept in like a vengeance with Harvey and Irma. Wildfires are ravaging exquisitely beautiful forests out West. Earthquakes rocked cities in Mexico.

Add to these massive catastrophes the countless recent individual experiences of serious illness, death, splintering relationships, etc.

One of these tragedies alone can make us wonder where God is and why isn’t he intervening in more obvious ways. I wouldn’t dare speculate on the “why?” questions here, but my thoughts certainly run in the same direction as Martha’s did when she encountered stress and loss. She had the advantage of pondering directly to Jesus, so we might be informed a bit by his responses.

Don’t You Care?

This is the question Martha asked Jesus on that familiar occasion in Luke 10, when she was worried, upset and left alone by her sister Mary. (Read More)

Can My Friends Recognize Jesus on My FB Feed?

July 20, 2017
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Imagine a medical practice whose ads ran with this kind of content:

  • “If your blood pressure is high, it’s your own fault. Just cut the sodium.”
  • “Your smoking addiction offends me.”
  • “Suffering from diabetes? What a jerk you are. If you cared about your family, you would just eat less sugar.”

I can tell you that no doctor with that attitude would ever need to file an Aetna claim from me!

Which brings me to Jesus, a well-known healer of physical misery. Throngs of people flocked to him for relief from their suffering (see Matthew:  4:23-24, 8:16-17, 9:35-36, 4:13-14, 15:29-31, and 20:29-34). They not only knew him as a source of healing, but he was also safe. Matthew says he looked on the crowds with compassion and saw them as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). That’s why the Canaanite woman could risk asking for help when her daughter “suffered terribly” from demon possession (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30).

Even more important, Jesus offered spiritual restoration and made that offer safe too:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)l

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to introduce a broken world to spiritual healing—rest, peace, restoration, a better way of living, freedom from the chains of sin. I worry, though, that our social media activity is more often presenting an impenetrable barrier to Jesus. (Read More)

God Has Been Good to Me

May 11, 2017
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***

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:7-9

 

I got married! Lynn & Christian April 15, 2017

I got married!
Mr. & Mrs. Christian Pechuekonis
April 15, 2017

Nearly 13 months ago I took a chance and answered a message from a nice looking man named Christian on an online dating site. His profile identified him as a follower of Jesus and a widower who had cared for his wife through a two-year terminal illness. Reading between the lines, I sensed a good-natured man of integrity. He seemed like he might, at the very least, be good friend material. I agreed to my first, first-date in 38 years. So weird.

I had set up my dating site profile four months earlier and had experienced practically no interactions up until then, which was fine. With a couple of years of grieving over my broken marriage out of the way, I felt mostly content with my life—fulfilling job, healthy church, rich female friendships and challenging volunteer work. Still scarred and a little cynical about men (and God, to be honest), I felt no real urgency to have another man in my life and expected that dating would be about an even mix of thrill and disappointment. (Read More)

Not the Women You Expected

December 12, 2016
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the-virgin-mary-874005_1280

December brings us all back to the gospels to reread the narratives about the birth of Jesus.

Matthew interests me because his gospel tells us about the visit of the Magi and all the troubles with King Herod. The gospel begins, however, with what some might consider the most yawn-inducing opener of any book ever written: “So here’s the genealogy of Jesus …”

It’s a wonder anyone ever gets past the first 17 verses to the wonderful news of Immanuel (“God with us”). Despite the popularity of Ancestory.com, few people enjoy reading biblical genealogies. The names are unpronounceable, and who even knows who half of those people are?

Matthew’s genealogy is actually worth paying attention to, though, because it contains some hidden gems—details not common to most of the biblical lineage lists: Women! (Read More)

Jesus, Mary and Martha in John’s Gospel

March 5, 2016
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flowerI’m spending a little more time in the Jesus-Mary-Martha stories on the blog this month, because I recently ran across an interesting article that interprets John 11 through a more literary lens.*

Considered from this perspective, we can see that John used both Martha and Mary in their own way to reveal something about the identity of Jesus. Rather than being set against each other, as in the Luke 10 story, John shows both of these women exemplifying faithful, albeit different, responses to Jesus that the gospel presents as models of discipleship.

This story fits well within the context of John’s gospel, whose major purpose is explicitly stated at the end:

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

As the narrative begins in John 11, Mary is immediately highlighted:

“This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.” (John 11:2)

This foreshadowing is unusual for John and may indicate that his readers were already familiar with the anointing story. They may have known her from Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:1-9, where the woman went unnamed, yet Jesus stated, “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  (Remember that John’s gospel was the written last.) Clearly, John wanted readers to know beforehand that they were reading about a familiar figure. (Read More)

Five Women in the Messiah’s Bloodline

January 16, 2016
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I loved this post by Cara Strickland on the Junia Project blog last month. She said it so well that I thought I would share an excerpt with you here:

wildflowersRecently, I heard a sermon preached almost entirely on Jesus’ genealogy in the book of Matthew.

I was visiting a church I attended in my youth, a place where I learned a lot of what I’ve needed to unlearn about theology of women. I was delighted to see that the pastor immediately picked out the women in the narrative, a little disappointed to realize that he did so only to point out that they were all foreigners, with the exception of Mary. But this got me thinking in another direction, as sermons so often do. I began to think through these five women, to question what else they might have in common.

Right there, as the pastor continued with his sermon, I realized something I’d never noticed before. Each of the women in the genealogy was either single (in the case of Tamar, Ruth, andRahab), or sort of relationship adjacent (Bathsheba’s husband was away at war, leaving her vulnerable, Mary was betrothed, but easily sentenced to death for being pregnant at a word from Joseph).

The very things that made women safe in the cultures of their day: marriage and children, were missing from their lives.

This affected me especially because those things are also absent from my life. I don’t know what’s it like to be a widow. I can imagine that the process is made worse by unfair treatment from a frightened father-in-law, who watched two sons die after coupling with Tamar. Still, that doesn’t excuse the fact that he sent her home to her father’s house, making her present and future uncertain. Without children to carry on her husband’s line, there would potentially be no one to care for her. She might be worried about where her next meal would come from, or how she would continue to live. Read the rest of this post (originally titled “The Women of Advent” at The Junia Project.

 

Cara is a freelance writer and food critic based in the Pacific Northwest. She can often be found writing at carastrickland.com.

Good Reads for the Soul

December 19, 2015
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booksThis lovely holiday season also coincides with the close of another year, and it has me reflecting a bit. I feel like I’ve been doing some stretching and growing spiritually over the past 12 months—a more blessed and joyful kind of growth than I experienced in the prior couple of years.

Along with attending a new church, I read some challenging books this year, all of which I highly recommend. I thought I would share some of my 2015 book list with you, in case you are looking for some reading to expand your thinking.

Nonfiction

Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels
 by Richard Bauckham

This book takes a definite scholarly tone, but Bauckham presents some great in-depth examinations of a few gospel women. My favorite chapters covered both Luke’s inclusion of women in his gospel, in general, and the disciple Joanna, in particular. The book gave me lots of interesting new fodder for my writing and speaking on the topic of Jesus and women.

Quotable: “There is a good deal of evidence that in the Greco-Roman world in general women were thought by educated men to be gullible in religious matters and especially prone to superstitious fantasy and excessive in religious practices.”

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity
by Dianna E. Anderson

This book changed my thinking about ways the church talks to women about modesty, virginity and sex. It definitely made me regret some of the things I said to my daughters when they were teenagers. You might be left dissatisfied with Anderson’s refusal to insist on a biblical injunction against sex outside of marriage, but she makes some really important points about the church’s near obsession with sex, as well as its double standard and the toxicity of its sexual shaming.

Quotable: “Women in evangelical culture bear the brunt of modesty teaching. The vast majority of this teaching goes in one direction only. Women do not have sexual desires—we are not ‘visually stimulated’ in the ways men are. Therefore, the burden of modesty falls on our shoulders because ‘men are wired that way.’ (Read More)

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