The Jesus Job - Part 2

I start April 15th.

Well, let me rephrase that: I start getting paid April 15th.  I’ve already been doing the work for months.  Volunteering was a good way to get my feet wet, to test the waters before I dove right in.  I find it’s a smart approach to church.

Church is full of problems and hypocrisies and I haven’t been immune.  

Like when I asked the Florida pastor’s wife for advice in my young marriage, and she told me I should just be thankful I had a man who loved me and get over everything else.  Or the time when several women in my small group in Las Vegas gathered around me with their Bible commentaries and rehearsed statements to silence my questions concerning women’s roles in the church.  Or when the pastor in Guntersville told my new husband he didn’t allow the internet in his home because there was so much evil in it.  

But none of these people really mattered to me, so their opinion mattered even less.  The nature of my reporting jobs never had us living in one place for too long, so I never felt like any of these churches were my home.  I knew I was always leaving soon and we'd find a different church, hopefully with as few whack jobs as possible.

Then we moved to San Diego and the people and their opinions began to really matter.

Roots started to grow.

We went to the church Jason attended during his summer breaks in college.  We joined a small group.  I started volunteering at the Thrift Store and then leading a small group of middle school aged girls.

My roots found dirt.  

The Teaching Pastor wears t-shirts and flip-flops on Sunday mornings.  He won’t preach on politics.  He says this is the greatest time in history to be a Christ follower and doesn’t feel threatened by changing culture or ideas.  

During the church marriage retreat, I enjoyed mojitos with our Executive Pastor and a few days ago, overheard the Youth Pastor yell “dammit!” after he learned a teen had died in a car accident on the way to school.  It was the appropriate response in my opinion.

Over time, I started thinking that maybe I wouldn’t have to hide who I am, what I believe, or even how I vote.  

My roots found water.

But one issue was still keeping me from fully embracing this new church: The issue of women.

What did my church believe about women?  Do they think I should be silent?  Do these pastors think my prayers are somehow less than theirs?  That my leadership skills are clouded in femininity?

Then along came Bill.

He was our new Connection and Formation Pastor.  Basically that means he heads up all classes and smaller groups for adults...anything that feels like church, but isn’t happening on Sunday morning.

I’d gone to a “learn about what we believe” kind of lunch after church.  There was a question and answer portion at the end.  Most lined up to talk to our teaching pastor.  No one really knew Bill yet.  He was in a corner of the room with no line and no waiting.

I’ve never been one to line up to speak to anyone.  Sorry.  None of us are that important.

So I walked straight to Bill.

“I’m really loving being a part of this church,” I told him. “But I need to know what you think about women in church.  I don’t know if I can be a part of something that tells me I don’t have the same value as the men in here.”

He smiled at me, almost knowingly, and then answered.

“There’s two schools of thought on women and the church right now.  One is complementarianism.  It basically states that women are there to compliment men.  They can do certain things, like lead kids ministry and host events, but they can’t be pastors, or hold top leadership positions.” He explained.

I nodded as I’d heard this line of thinking for years, and he kept going.

“The second is what is called egalitarianism.  Egalitarians believe women can do whatever men can do in the church.  They can go as far as Jesus takes them,” he continued.

Then he said the four words to forever change my view of church, the apostle Paul, and God himself.

“We believe in egalitarianism.”

Suddenly my roots found sunshine.

He recommended a book by Scot McKnight called The Blue Parakeet.  It is a game changer.  

Soon, I’ll be writing a series of posts on my beliefs on feminism, Jesus and women, and what it all means for the girls and church.  But for now, this was the moment I found home.  

The moment a pastor told me my gender would never be used to keep me small.  To keep me quiet.  To keep me from moving up.

Soon after, I started volunteering for Pastor Bill, and he would eventually fight with the powers that be to create a paid position just for me. 

It’s part-time.  Doesn’t pay much.  But it feels right.  It leaves room for my writing (being an author is still the goal), and doesn’t require I swear to a list of theological ideas as God mandated beliefs.  

I like it.  I’m excited about it.  Let’s see where it goes...

The Jesus Job - Part 1

I never thought I would do it.  

Yet, here I am, filling out W4 and direct deposit forms and signing a receipt of the employee handbook.  

I now officially work for a church.

And not as someone who answers phones, or handles childcare, but someone encouraged to have vision and create new ways of thinking and doing.  I even have a title: Connections Coordinator.

My church has anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people attending any given weekend.  With a church this size, it’s not hard to meet people, but it is hard to actually know people.  My job is to help people be known.  I do this, by getting them into a smaller group, or a class, that meets outside of just Sunday morning services.  

I’m perfectly comfortable with my job description.  It’s the church part that’s terrifying.

Let’s be honest, church is not always a nice place and here I am saying yes, please, control my paycheck and make a pastor my official boss.

I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of hurts from churches and their broken pastors.  From the southern Assembly of God pastor who ignored me after my aunt died - he came by the house the night she died and specifically prayed for everyone there but me, and then later at the funeral left me out as one of those “surviving her” in the eulogy - even though he knew she was like a mother to me.  To the pastor who told my husband I was “crazy-town” when we called for marital help, and then spread an untrue and adulterous type rumor to some friends of mine.

Brutal to say the least.

Then there’s that whole woman’s role in church thing.  For two thousand years, a few verses have been used to keep women in “supportive” type positions in church.  Not preaching, rarely teaching, and never leading.  I could work to be CEO of a fortune 500 company, but the church’s glass ceiling is made of solid steel.  That’s probably the greatest reason of all I never would've dreamed I’d take a job at a church.

Yet, here I am.

The fact I never gave up on church is in and of itself a small miracle.  The fact that God showed me his goodness despite the representation of some of his very screwed up people, is an even bigger one.

 

 

Stay tuned for The Jesus Job Part 2 - where I’ll explain how this healing happened and why I feel not just safe in my new job, but excited for what it will bring.

Behind the Red Light

I have a problem with hating men.  

It’s kind of my go to response to sexism, domestic violence, and the sexual trafficking and forced slavery of women and girls throughout the world.

This weekend, I started reading Half the Sky.  It was written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Sheryl WuDunn and her husband, New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof, to showcase how gender equality is crucial to ending global poverty.

I’m only three chapters in and the atrocities committed upon women from the brothels in India to the family homes in Pakistan, had my blood boiling.  And my heart filling with disgust for men.

Amsterdam; not far from the red light district

Amsterdam; not far from the red light district

But then I remembered the day my husband Jason and I stood on a bridge overlooking the Red Light District in Amsterdam.  

We watched as the girls posed in windows and the men stared and debated whether or not they could afford it.  The girls were dressed in corsets, thigh highs, and coated in an inch thick layer of makeup.  A tourist pulled out his camera to snap a picture of these objects in the windows, but the girls saw him and immediately turned sideways to hide behind the window frames.  

(Don’t kid yourself.  Yes prostitution is legal and regulated in Amsterdam, but the people in the windows are girls. It is a known fact, most are brought in very, very young from poor, Eastern European countries.  In places where sex for sale is allowed or even just tolerated, such as Las Vegas, it’s not hard to find a 14-year old beaten into it. By the time they’re older, they may be prostituting willingly, but very few start without gross and violent coercion.)

European "frat boys". But let me be clear, this was on a canal. I have no idea if any of these particular gentlemen would ever visit a brothel.

European "frat boys". But let me be clear, this was on a canal. I have no idea if any of these particular gentlemen would ever visit a brothel.

It was still light outside, maybe four or five in the afternoon, yet a crowd of beer drinking European frat boys were already filling the narrow street.  The girls stretched their bodies in uncomfortable angles to entice would be buyers, but we could easily see the look of disdain in their eyes for the pathetic display in front of them.  

My heart broke.  I hated it.  I was pissed off.  I wanted to cry.

Just as Jason and I were about to leave, a man walked out of one of the brothels.  He was overweight and balding.  His chubby face was bright red and coated in a layer of sweat dripping down his forehead.  He stumbled out the door and turned left, away from us, before quickly turning around, as if in a confused daze, and making his way back toward our direction.

I added vomiting to my list of urges.

“Do you see that?” I asked Jason incredulously.  

It was clearly a rhetorical question and I was about to go into a tirade of how disgusting the man was, when Jason suddenly answered, interrupting my line of attack.

“Oh yeah. The shame.  Look at that...it’s written all over his face,” Jason said.

Shame??? What shame?

I hadn’t seen it, but I looked at the chubby man’s face again.

And there it was.

There was something more than physical exhaustion hanging heavy on his hunched shoulders.  He seemed embarrassed. He looked ashamed. It was as if he were enticed into believing this was what he wanted, and once he got it and the fuzz cleared, he felt hollow.  

A red light in the distance...

A red light in the distance...

Like he knew he’d done something off.

Suddenly, I was looking at this Red Light District and seeing something else entirely.  I saw an empty lie being sold to the highest bidders.

The lie said...I will make you feel good.  I will satisfy.  I will give you what you want.

And yes, those girls may satisfy for a moment, but I believe cheap sex isn’t really what men want either.  That at the end of the day, they too can’t help but think this is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister.  That in the aftermath, they suddenly see past the lipstick and high heels to the person underneath.  The person with real feelings, with a real soul, with a real life.

And they hate themselves more than I ever could.

And maybe that leaves real hope for the other half of our sky.

Below the Waist

Instead of going straight home from church on Sunday as usual, I gave a barely teenage friend some sex advice.  This after she had told me her phone had been taken away because of certain pictures she'd sent to her boyfriend.

 “My mom cried, but my dad was pretty mad about it," she told me candidly.

Admittedly, I wasn't too surprised and wasn’t about to add to her emotional shame over a picture.  However, I also wasn’t about to let her go on thinking negative attention is better than none at all.

So I took her to lunch.

She told me she's been having a tough time at home. No one is getting abused, or anything so severe, but no one's family is perfect either.

As she talked, I looked at this girl from across our table and saw all the loneliness, insecurity and desperate need for acceptance and love.  Such things are easy to see when you first find them in yourself.

When I was her age, I wanted a boyfriend as much as she does.  I wanted the feeling of romantic love, of being someone’s number one. I remember deciding what age I expected to be kissed by - and we’re talking make out session, not a My Girl style peck.  I calculated when I would let him go up my shirt and debated the pros and cons of hand jobs.

Naturally, I was too young to know any better about any of it.  My self-esteem was obviously too low to care.

So I tried to explain to her that it’s always the prettiest girls who are most insecure.  No one wants their value to be in something they have no control over, such as their looks, but that’s where the pretty girls get most of their love.  I told her we really want to be told we’re smart, kind, funny, and good at math, or history.  I told her, when you send a boy a picture like that, you’re telling him that’s where he should value you...and that, will leave you empty.

All this felt pretty standard for young teen self-esteem building.  But then I decided to get practical.  After all, self-esteem building only works until the next big punch to the gut.

“Look, if you’re sending pictures now, you’ll be given blow jobs at 15 and having sex before you graduate high school,” I said.

Girl didn’t even flinch at my language.  I’m sure she’s heard it all before, so I kept on.

“I decided when I was young that I wouldn’t have sex until I was married. So I didn’t. I waited.  But that was the only boundary I set for myself, and I ended up do everything else with boys who just made me feel worthless and used.  When I was 16, my boyfriend talked me in to giving him a blow job. Once he found out that was as far as I was going, he moved on to the next girl.  Here’s the deal: he would’ve moved on no matter what.  You don’t believe the guy who's only out for one thing is actually out there, until the day you date him,” I told her.

She looked a bit more surprised, but I had her attention and kept going.

“If you think in your head, I may have sex when I find the right one, when I’m love, then I promise you, YOU WILL HAVE SEX WITH THE WRONG ONE. And do a whole lot more you’ll regret in between.”

I told her keeping a guy around by being sexy, will never make her happy.  I told her it will only end bad.  And since I know you can hear that a thousand times and still make your own mistakes, I gave her some advice I thought she could agree to.

“When it comes to dating, once you’re in high school and allowed to go off with a boy alone, I would say nothing below the waist. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but make that your boundary. Nothing below the waist.”

Let’s be honest. I know she’s going to make out with boys.  I know her current boundaries are shaky, at best. I know plenty of church people would’ve told her to participate in nothing but kissing, or nothing at all.

But that’s just not realistic.

Some girls just get wired to put boys first.  I can relate.  So I’m going to work within her wiring until she has the ability to see new paths.

Still, I wonder if I gave her good advice.  God approved advice, if not church people type advice.

I'm not even sure it's the advice I'd give to every girl...

Either way, you can bet your ass I’ll be checking in on her and every guy she dates from now until the day she marries.



 

Breaking through the Blog Noise

After eight months of blogging, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was only adding to the noise.

You know the noise I’m talking about. Internet noise.

The kind of static inside all those buzzfeed pictures distracting you from work. Or all the shouting in those offensive, and often religious, open letters. Or the annoying prattle of those who’ve “gone through something” and are suddenly an expert on life, the universe, and everything.

How does it add anything to our lives? How does it help?

It takes a lot of courage to claim to help, maybe for some it only takes a little vanity.  I don’t want to be vain.

So I stopped. Stepped away for a couple of weeks, and tried to clear my blogging mind.

Storyline Conference.  They called this the Blogger's Breakfast...although no breakfast was served.

Storyline Conference.  They called this the Blogger's Breakfast...although no breakfast was served.

I went to a conference and attended a blogger’s class, a marketing class, and a dream building class.  And in front of a couple hundred people, I raised my hand and asked how to avoid becoming noise.  While I didn't get the golden answer, throughout the conference I did rediscover why I want to blog.  

No Beauty Queen is a place for redemption. You’re either searching for it, or you’ve already found it.

Famed psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl said, “Suffering ceases to be suffering when it finds meaningful context.”

In other words, it doesn’t suck so bad once you discover the meaning, or purpose for your pain. It doesn’t mean you believe the world is all butterflies and rainbows. Your hurts...those deep wounds...are worth grieving.

It simply means we ask the question, “What can we also do with this?”

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, speaking with the host and Donald Miller about life, God, and writing.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, speaking with the host and Donald Miller about life, God, and writing.

I want you to know, it may take all the grit you can muster and all the grace you can handle, but we can go from victim to hero, and change someone’s world. Or save their life. Or save many lives.

You can ask why.  In fact, I want you to ask why.  I promise, you can get your answer.  

I don’t care what all the great theologians say about the mysterious ways of God and all we don’t understand. I may never understand why He stuck a tree we weren’t supposed to touch in our garden in the first place, but I do understand why he let my father drink.  I understand why he let my mother leave. I understand why he let my marriage collapse.

To quote Donald Miller, author and speaker at the conference, “God is looking at the enemy saying, you see what you did with my girl? … Watch what I do.

Once a week, we’ll meet here at No Beauty Queen and watch what He does.

I'd Rather Be Wrong

A friend recently gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received.

“If he’s going to be a Christian, I want him to be Christian the way you are. Love, and grace, and all that” he said.

The “he” my friend referred to, was a co-worker who recently chose Jesus and was in the process of learning what this new “Christian” life would entail. As we all know, not all who claim to follow Jesus, like the part of loving like Jesus. Instead, dealing with insecurities and flaws by taking parts of the Bible out of context and using them to find fault in others. My friend fears the new convert could inadvertantly end up on this path.

It takes humility to let faith be about you and God alone...and not you, God, and what everyone else is doing.

Which is why hearing these words from my friend filled me joy. I’ve spent too much of my life worried and threatened by the person across the room, instead of removing that plank in my own eye.

Adding to the compliment, my friend has been wounded and mistreated by those in the church. To say he finds Christians annoying, is perhaps an understatement. My husband and I have understood and respected both his resentment of faith, and his choices concerning it. In return, we have received equal respect for ours.

My friend’s kind words are evidence, understanding and respect go much farther than the need to be “right.”

I’m not sure God calls us to be right. I don’t think He needs it. He is the author of all truth after all.

But I do know He calls us to be loving. And love looks like respect. Love looks like making room for people different than you. Love requires letting it go, when you’re justified to lash out.

Sometimes love requires a few years of therapy to figure it out. Most of the time it helps for someone else to be brave enough to love first.

I’ve had both.

Yet, I still catch myself fighting to be right. I certainly don’t have it all figured out.

But I’d rather stand before God wrong on a few theological points, than be right and have to tell Him no one ever looked at me and saw His love staring back.


8 Reasons Why Busted Technology has you Seeing Red

I recently bought a new laptop.  Like most new relationships, the one with my new MacBook Air was beautiful the first couple of weeks.  It was light, shiny, and fast.

Then Monday, our quick courtship ended without warning. It didn’t just crash, it shut down and refused to come back on.  I plugged the charger in, tried again, nothing.  I waited, pushed the power button down, holding it for several seconds...still nothing.

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My technology failed me.

Let the fuming begin.  

I called the Mac store where I purchased my $1,500 machine and was soon talking to another machine.  It didn’t take three questions before I was screaming for someone human to help.

“OPERATOR, OPERATOR! ZERO! ZERO! LET ME TALK TO SOMEONE ALIVE!” I yelled.

“I do not understand what you want.” It answered.

“Of course you don’t! YOU’RE A MOTHER FLIPPING COMPUTER! And your computers don’t work!” I yelled back, as if the talking computer cared.

“Please hold and I’ll transfer you to someone who can help you.” It responded.

And then I was transferred.  To someone in INDIA.

“Hi! Do you have the serial number for your Mac product?” the woman in India asked in a thick accent.

“What? No. Why would I have my serial number?” I answered rudely.

“Well, do you have the box your product came in?” She responded.

“No, because I bought a Mac and they’re not supposed to break three weeks after you buy them!” I said a little too sharply.  

I finally asked the woman if she would just make me a Genius Bar appointment at my local Mac store, choking on the word Genius as if kids with six weeks of computer operations training qualified them as geniuses.

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When I arrived at the store, the “geniuses” took one look at my computer and freaked out on my behalf, shocked they too couldn’t get it to come back on, and handed me a brand new machine.

It worked out in the end, but this whole incident got me thinking:  Why is it when technology doesn’t work the way it should, it pisses us off like nothing else?  I mean I see red when my phone quits, or my computer needs to restart.  And in my previous life on TV, I saw plenty of doors slammed, and four letter tirades when a machine breaks.  

Maybe broken technology plays into some of our deepest fears.  And here's eight reasons why:

1. Technology is an irreplaceable part of your everyday life.  When the cell phone breaks, you can't go grab the extension in the kitchen. If you forgot to hit save, there's hours of work you will never get back.  It freaks you out to suddenly lose the thing you spend most of your time with.

2.  99% of the time technology works so well you don’t even know it’s there.  This is one of those, you don’t miss it until it’s gone kind of things. When it stops working, you’re faced with the reality of just how much it impacts your life.

3.  You have no control over why it crashes.  For some of us, we love nothing more than control.  Especially when we’re surrounded by things we can’t control, we grab tightly to what we think we can keep in order and following our commands.  A crashed computer makes us feel weak.  Feeling weak sucks.

4.  More than likely, you can’t fix it yourself.  Most of the time, you don’t know what is wrong with it, or how to fix it.  There’s nothing you can do, but rely on someone else’s expertise.  When you’ve got deadlines, relying on someone else is irritating beyond measure.

The husband's busted iPhone.  It may be a while before we get it fixed...

The husband's busted iPhone.  It may be a while before we get it fixed...

5.  It’s often expensive to fix.  If it’s not under warranty, technology ain’t cheap to fix.  Just ask anyone who’s dropped their iPhone.  That’s $200 just to replace a screen! Losing money causes people to lose their mind.

6.  It’s a bad surprise.  Most people like fun surprises, but all people hate bad surprises.  You’ve got your day planned out to the minute.  You don’t have time to drive to the mall, find parking, and wait at that dang Genius Bar for someone to finally tell you, “Yup.  It’s broken.”  

7.  You’re Powerless. No matter how many times you smoosh the ON button or throw that keyboard, your technology won’t work.  You can’t threaten it, beg it, plead with it, or promise it your first born.  Being powerless to change something is enough to warrant a small projectile to be thrown across the room.

8.  Plays into fears of betrayal.  This one is hard to admit, but when something promises to be there for you, to send your emails and update your Twitter page, and then it doesn’t, you feel duped and misled.  Betrayal stings.  Swiping a credit card is an act of trust.  In technology and all things beyond, anger is the emotion easiest to feel when your trust is broken.


 

In the Girl's Camp

After 32 years, I finally went to camp.

I’d never been  before.  Not once.  Not as a child.  Not even with church groups.

Then eight middle school girls captured my heart and dragged me to the dustiest, filthiest, coldest-food-you’d-ever-eaten, camp in southern California.  Well maybe I’m exaggerating a bit about the conditions...but not by much.

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When we arrived, and I saw the bunk beds and showers one doesn’t survive without shower shoes, I’d thought I’d be writing about my experiences.  The moments I had with these kids - fifty 7th and 8th graders went, not just my eight girls.  I’d thought I’d want to tell you about the quiet moments I had out in the wilderness and the clarity I found there.

But now all I really want talk about are the girls.

A lot of people don’t like 13-year old girls. They’re stereotyped in our world as hormonal, emotional, and bratty.  They’re assumed to be too cool for school, and their bad days are called “attitude”.  

13-year old boys don’t get this so much.  They get the eye rolls sure, but they’re treated like it’s perfectly natural for their hormones to go crazy and their attitudes to kick in.  They’re not annoying...they’re just being “boys”.  Even if half of them decide to prank the camp by peeing on the giant slide.  (And that’s another story…)

Yet, I look at these girls and I see some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  

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When I look at tears, I see their amazing strength to be vulnerable. When drama arises, I don’t see sides, I see loyalty for their friends.  When they shout orders during camp games, I don’t hear bossiness, I hear a leader.

Sadly though, I also see my girls already starting to pull back, to make themselves a little smaller.  I’m watching their desire to be liked, trump their desire to succeed.  

And I don’t know how to make it stop.  I don’t know how to tell them they matter.  I don’t know how to let them know they’ve got so much more to offer this world than being “sweet”.  I don’t know how to tell them to live big and loud in a world that tells them doing so makes them come across as obnoxious, bratty, and a mean girl.

I don’t know how to help them take on the world when the voice telling them to be nice girls still plagues my own thoughts.

But I do know it’s an amazing time to be a girl.  I do know opportunities are opening for them, not available just a decade ago.  I’m talking to you church.  I do know I will tell them they are smart, more than I will tell them they are pretty.  I will tell them they are funny, more than I will tell them they are sweet.  I will tell them there’s a plan for them no boy can bring down.

And I will tell them I’ve got their back...no matter what.

Because that’s the power of woman.  To see the future in 13-year old girls.  And it’s bright.

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