Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Community of Men and Women

"Because the image of God denotes sociability, we therefore must be in community in order to develop fully as persons, and though this does not necessitate marriage, that community must include the opposite sex."
-Dr. Amy F. David Abdallah, The Book of Womanhood

The way men and women act within Christianity can be interesting at times, and I'm sure questionable to outsiders who may not be in the "Christian bubble." I have to admit, I am often flummoxed by the "rules" that men and women supposedly have to abide by in Christianity. The question I'll be addressing here is this - what are relationships between Christian men and women supposed to look like?

I feel like it's important to give a little background on my perspective. I did not grow up in what I would call a "Christian home." My family didn't go to church, and the Christian influences in my life were friends and their families who would sometimes invite me to church on Wednesday evenings and the occasional Sunday. I didn't start going to church or to a Bible study until my freshman year of college. This is where I became very involved in Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) and later Impact Campus Ministries, and also attended a local Southern Baptist Church while I was away at school. Because of my background, I wasn't instilled with the "rules" that men and women should interact as little as possible, and especially not without a chaperone present. One of my female friends from college said that I shouldn't be seen alone with a boy because that would "give people the wrong idea." As someone new to the Christian world, this was all very confusing for me. I remembered thinking, aren't men and women just people?

I am the only daughter in my family, so growing up, many of my interactions were with boys. And this was never a problem for me or my family. I would spend time with my older brother and his friends, and anyone who knows me knows that my younger brother was and always will be my best friend. Tyler and I were inseparable growing up. I loved spending time with boys, especially these boys who loved and respected me and included me in everything they did. My closest friends in high school and college were boys, as well. I once drove three hours in college to a Halloween party at Anderson University, packed in a small car with four of my closest male friends from school. Don't get me wrong, I had just as many female friends, but my life was better (and still is) for having close male friendships.

But it seems like Christians try to distance themselves from the opposite sex, and I'm still not sure why.

When Justin and I were still in college, we had broken up for a bit (that's a long story), but we both went to a Christian leadership conference with other members of BCM in North Carolina. While we were there, Justin asked if I wanted to go play mini-golf with him, so we left to go walk to the course. Our leader stopped us and said he would go with us, pointing out that it was "inappropriate" for us to be going anywhere alone together. I was 21 and Justin was 22 at the time - we were adults! Like I said earlier, all of this made me question Christianity as a new follower. Was being a Christian about growing closer to Jesus, or adhering to a bunch of rules set in place by other Christians? What was so wrong with boys?

Justin and I have been talking about this topic a lot lately. Recently, he told me he went to high-five a woman at a music festival and she refused because she was engaged to be married. I don't understand this, but I'm not surprised by it because this is how I was conditioned to think during my first years as a Christian. And what is the deal with "side hugs"? I see "Christian side hugs" happening all the time, but I have a hard time believing that, if I saw Jesus here today, he would give me a side hug. The "rules" seem to be that men and women should stay as far away from each other as possible, unless they are married, and then it's appropriate to be around the spouse, but not other members of the opposite sex. I've been married for four years now, but I still love and cherish my friendships with other males. And my husband has many important female relationships in his life, as well. If one of my old college buddies called me up and wanted to have lunch, my husband would tell me to have a great time. There would be no trust issues there, no shaming me into letting go of all my relationships with other males. People are people.

A couple weeks ago, I went with my husband and our youth group to the Life 2016 conference in Kansas City, MO (for more on this, see my blog post My Week at LIFE 2016). While I was there, I attended a seminar by Dr. Amy Davis Abdallah, author of The Book of Womanhood. I was blown away by her talk and her discussion of women and Christianity (and I think she echoed quite a few things I talked about in this blog post: Women and the Church). I ended up purchasing her book and I've been reading through it since we got back. I've been so enthralled by The Book of Womanhood and what it says about women being made in the image of God and how we are called to be in community with others. Reading the quote from her book that I've provided at the beginning of this post really struck a chord with me; we are made to be in community with one another, and that involves both sexes! If this is true, then why do so many of my Christian friends tell me otherwise?

Davis Abdallah writes in her book, "Both female and male, the two sexes, are in God's image. God created sex, the act, and sex, the distinction between male and female" (26). She goes on to quote psychologist Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen when she states, "'If God is a social tri-unity whose image is in all persons, then it comes as no surprise to read in Genesis 2 that it is "not good" for the man to be alone. So God creates the woman. Once they are together, God's clear intention for male and female is equality and interdependence in the context of differing sexuality" (27). However, as Davis Abdallah points out later, this "does not necessitate marriage," but that community and fellowship "must contain the opposite sex" (28, emphasis added).

So, if this is true, why do Christians have such an aversion to the opposite sex? I don't have the answers, but I'm definitely interested in opening up conversation about this topic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vegetarian Life

So, as a long-time vegetarian, people are always asking me what I eat! The idea for this blog post really came together last week while I was in Kansas City, MO, with the youth group from my church (as I discuss in the video below). Our meals were provided, and they definitely weren't vegetarian and there was very little raw food (I think we had a pear one day with our meal). Lots of people were asking me what I usually eat while we were in Kansas City (if you want to read my post about my week in KC, click here: My Week at LIFE 2016), and people ask me on a regular basis what I eat. So here's a short video (the link provided below) of my food intake for the day! 

This is me in college with a "GO VEG" sticker.
The life of a (somewhat raw, sometimes vegan) vegetarian:

I also get asked often why I became a vegetarian in the first place. The short story is that I grew up in a house full of hunters. I was an animal lover at a young age, so seeing my dad and brothers hunt and butcher their own meat (let it be known that I have no problem with this - it is a humane and natural form of obtaining/eating meat - it's just not for me!) made me back away from meat as a kid. I never really liked the taste or texture of meat either, so making this switch was easy for me. I was probably 11 or 12 years old the last time I ate meat. What did my parents say? Well, I've always been an extremely picky eater, so they went along with it. Yes, they sometimes got frustrated with my limited diet, but my mom became a master at making me veggie/tomato sandwiches (she still is the master).

Okay, so maybe I sometimes wanted to check things out after my dad/brothers went hunting.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments section!

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Week at LIFE 2016

Last week, I attended the Life 2016 conference in Kansas City, MO, with the high school students in our youth group at First Alliance Church along with my husband (who was just promoted to the Director of Student Ministries at our church!) and Alec, the summer youth intern. We shared a bus on the way down and back with the high school youth group from Westgate Chapel, another local church.

When Justin started his first ministry position at St. Paul's, I was in between jobs (we had just moved from Indiana to Ohio) and I hadn't started school yet at Bowling Green. Because of this, I was able to be very involved, attending youth group every Wednesday, leading a small group, helping coordinate fundraising events, and going on the annual mission trip. However, once Justin started his new job, I was in the middle of a busy semester at Bowling Green, teaching, grading, going to class, and studying every single day. Because of this, I didn't actually get to meet or get to know the students in the youth group until a camping trip over Memorial Day this past May (Justin started the job in February).

When Justin asked me to go on this trip as a leader back in March, I tentatively said "yes." I knew I would be taking summer school and that I would need to get a summer job, so I wasn't sure if I would be able to go. About a week before the trip, anxiety began to set in. I had a lot of work to keep up with for my summer school class, the students didn't really know me, I committed to helping a family with childcare for the summer, and my best friend's health was fading fast and I was uncomfortable being so far away from her (for more on this story, see this blog post: Still Perfect).

But despite the anxiety creeping in, I accompanied our group to Kansas City on July 5th. The bus ride down was a combination of movie-watching, sleeping, listening to music, and talking. Our bus had some issues and we had to switch to a new bus, so that put us behind in getting to the hotel before the first session of the week began. Because of this, we all ate pizza as fast as we could on the bus, getting to the session so late that we had to sit on the floor at the convention center. However, despite the rush and being in the very back of the auditorium, we had a great first night of praise and worship. We got to listen to Francis Chan speak. FRANCIS CHAN! I read his book Crazy Love at a Bible study I was in in college and I LOVED it, so it was an amazing experience to hear him in person for the first two days of the conference.

I ended up having to stay at the hotel during a couple of the sessions throughout the week so I could get my homework done, but it got done! I was concerned going into the trip that I was going to fall behind in my class, but God gave me opportunities to stay caught up and get my work done.

Our days were pretty structured at the conference. I shared a room with the three female students that went on the trip and we hosted breakfast for the whole group at 7:00 each morning. Since all of us had to get ready, this meant getting up very early and getting breakfast out and ready for everyone. We were on the bus at 8:00 to get to the conference center for the first main session of the day - worship and listening to a speaker (like Francis Chan and Jefferson Bethke). Then we went to our first seminar of the day followed by the second seminar and then lunch. After lunch was free time, which usually involved heading back to the hotel to swim. On one day, we all went to the mall that was attached to the hotel and took photos outside by the fountains. On our last day, we went back to the mall and had pizza and ice cream together for dinner. During the other days, we would be back on the bus by 4:00 to get to the convention center for dinner, followed by free time (this involved a variety of things at the convention center - archery tag, frisbee, and other group activities). Afterward, we had our final main session of the day with more worship and another speaker followed by small group time where we would pray and chat about our thoughts from the day. Then we all went to the block party downtown until 10:15 where there was live music and games. Then it was back to the hotel for sleep and to do it all over again the next day.

It was an exhausting trip, but one that helped me get to know and bond with the students and grow closer to God. The seminar that stands out to me the most is one that was given by Dr. Amy Davis Abdallah. She has a PhD and teaches theology and Bible at Nyack College in New York, so I felt like I could relate well to her situation. She talked about the value of being a woman and that being a woman is a privilege to be proud of. We are all made in God's image! (It all reminded me of a recent blog post I wrote. Check it out here: Women and the Church). I bought her book, The Book of Womanhood, and I can't wait to start reading it.

During our small group time one evening, Justin and I got to share with the group about my best friend and her health and the anxiety I was feeling about the situation. I also talked a bit about how nervous I was going into the trip about being able to stay caught up in my summer school class. I think the main thing God shared with me on this trip is that I need to trust him. I admit that I am a "worrier" and I often get anxious about the future and things that are completely out of my control. There were several of those anxieties going through my mind on this trip that were distracting me from what God had for me, but I heard him through the chaos. He is faithful. He will take care of me. He knows my future. He knows the big picture. His plans are better than mine. Period.

Cohen's mother kept me updated consistently while I was on this trip. I spent time working on my schoolwork. I got to know the students. God took care of every issue I was concerned about going into Life 2016.

He is good. He is faithful.

I am truly blessed for having been able to go on this trip.

Justin and I in downtown Kansas City after the first evening main session.
The First Alliance Church group.
The girls of the First Alliance crew.
The group at the photo booth during free time.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
-Matthew 6:25-34