ARDEN UPDATE #1: The Mother of all “Time Outs”

The mother of all “time outs” is only a week away.

After her April 18 hip dysplasia surgery, four-year-old Arden faces 11 weeks in a body cast. That’s a long time for a very active four-year-old to be sidelined.

But Arden isn’t the only one who will feel the slow passage of time.

Those 11 weeks will feel interminable to three-year-old Avery. Her little world will tilt off its axis when her bestie won’t be able to play with her.

They have their moments, but the two of them are inseparable.

This won’t be a “time out” for their mommy. Instead it will be a time for Allison to ramp up in new ways to love her little ones through this tough time. She is working on all the numerous details, booking flights, and packing bags.

Many thanks to friends and family who are tracking with us, praying, and contributing to this campaign. We’re a third of the way to our goal and encouraged by the response.

Help us spread the word so others will help too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Better Questions—Re Women in Ministry

It has been happening for a while now. Invitations to speak at churches, conferences, colleges, seminaries, and on podcasts aren’t just coming from women who are interested in engaging a more expansive discussion about God’s calling on his daughters. Invitations are increasingly coming from men—mostly (but not always) younger men—who are uncomfortable with the expectation that women and girls will hold back. They want to talk about it.

They are pastors, professors, and podcasters who have enormous respect for their female colleagues, husbands who recognize and value the gifts, experience, and potential of their wives, and dads who can’t bear the thought of restraining their daughters when they see the strengths, treasure, and promise emerging that God has placed inside them.

These men are asking bigger and better questions.

They’re fearlessly venturing into uncharted territory for the sake of the gospel and for the women and girls in their lives and (no less important) for their own sakes. In colleges, seminaries, and churches men are asking for a better conversation about women and about relationships between men and women. This better conversation is happening.

The Better Questions Podcast (above) that I did with pastors Chris Nelson, Dan Drake, and author/podcaster Andrew Drake is a perfect example. It was refreshing and hopeful to interact with these men.

I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as I did!

Reminder: Don’t forget Arden’s GoFundMe campaign. My 4-yr-old grand-ezer is scheduled for major surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital on April 18 to correct severe hip dysplasia. We’re already 1/3 of the way to our goal!

Help us finish the job!

Correction: Arden’s surgery is April 18. The original version of this post said March.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our Little Ezer’s Big Battle

In late March, our Arden (Allison’s 4 1/2 year old) was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. She only complained recently that her leg was hurting, so you can only imagine the shock this diagnosis was for us.

X-rays revealed her femur is completely out of her hip socket. “How she has managed to be so energetic and active all this time?” is the question we’re all asking. The pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Anchorage who diagnosed her remarked with amazement, “Arden is one tough little kid!”

He referred Arden’s case to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Todd Blumberg at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH). After that, things began moving quickly. Arden has already had a consultation with Dr. Blumberg that underscored the seriousness of her case.

Surgery to reconstruct and restore the normal functioning of her hip and leg is scheduled for Thursday, April 18. She’ll be in a Spica (body) cast for 11 weeks and then rehab to learn to walk again.

I’ll be going to Seattle via Grand Rapids, where I’m speaking at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary’s final Talking Points Conference. So I’ll be there to support and help out during and after Arden’s surgery and later in Anchorage.

Obviously, Arden’s diagnosis has been devastating to our family. It is impossible for us to think of anything else but her. We are concerned for our little ezer and the battle she faces and want to do whatever we can to help Arden and her family get through this.

We’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover airfare for multiple trips between Anchorage and Seattle and for household expenses when Allison takes an unpaid leave from work to care for Arden. I’ve written more about Arden’s situation on our GoFundMe page: “Arden is one tough little kid.”

In the meantime, thankfully Arden is not in pain. She’s carrying on and doing all the normal fun things little girls her age do. The grown-ups in her family are the ones who are feeling anxious (and that is an understatement).

Our comfort and hope are in knowing Arden is in the Lord’s hands and always has been. But we’re under no illusion that this battle will be easy. Already we’ve been blessed by extended family and lots of friends who are praying and under the burden with us. And we hope others will join them.

I’ll be posting updates here and at GoFundMe as the battle progresses. Please pray for Arden, support her GoFundMe if you can, and help me spread the word to others!

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Raising Little Ezers

The podcast entitled “Upending the Patriarchy“—a subject I take up in Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World—turned into a discussion about dads and daughters. For Seth Price, host of the Can I say this at church? podcast, questions about patriarchy aren’t academic. He’s raising little ezers and wants to be the best dad he can be.

That’s what we ended up discussing.

I loved his honesty, his questions, and his heart. How do we cultivate and steward the treasure God has invested in his daughters from day 1 of their stories? Is a man’s power diminished if he empowers his wife, his daughters, and the other women in his life? Do men and boys have something to lose when women and girls thrive? Are we teetering perilously on the delicate brink of what many believe is a God-ordained social system where men are the leaders and women the followers or are we on the threshold of something better?

You can listen to the podcast here.

NOTE: The books for little ezers (ages 4-7) that Seth references at the end is the beautifully illustrated Called and Courageous book series for girls that focuses on stories of women in the Bible.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

An Invitation to Lament

Old Testament Professor Robert Hubbard once described lament as “the best way to reckon with the pain and suffering so prominent in today’s news.” It is also our most honest and healthy response when the losses and pain hit closer to home. In the following article, Rev. Keith A. Marsh, Rector at Church of the Messiah, Lower Gwynedd, PA, offers an invitation to lament that I find freeing and also hopeful. After all, lament is not the end of the story, although for all of us it is an inevitable part of the journey. The article is published here with his permission.

Second Sunday in Lent
17 March 2019

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

It really shouldn’t need to be said, but we can all use a good reminder: Our prayers should be honest, sincere and heart-felt. For God deserves—and expects—nothing less than the truth from his children. That having been said: have you ever considered that sometimes the best and most truthful prayer to God may be a groan, a lamentation, a plea, or the voice of grief.

Maybe you have had this experience . . . You attend a visitation at a funeral home, or perhaps here in the narthex of the church, and the place is crowded. As you enter, you notice that people are gathered in small groups, engaged in animated and lively conversation. It looks and feels like any other successful social event . . . except, of course, that no one is holding a cocktail, and there’s a casket at one end of the room. 

Or have you ever been with a group of friends, and somebody breaks the news that a particular couple, well known to all of you, is getting a divorce? There’s an awkward silence. Perhaps a nervous cough. Facial expressions turn serious. Then somebody brings up a different subject, and the conversation picks back up and rolls along. 

What’s missing in these two scenes is public lamentation. In one case, somebody has died. In the other, a marriage has collapsed. There’s acknowledgment of what has happened, but no public lamentation. People may feel bad, but heartfelt, honest emotions remain hidden inside. 

In today’s Gospel, some Pharisees tell Jesus that he is in danger from Herod. Are these Pharisees friendly or antagonistic toward Jesus? Should their warning be appreciated as welcome advice, or are they trying to silence Jesus by making him afraid? It’s hard to tell. We don’t really know. Perhaps some of both.

But Jesus does not fear Herod or focus on him for long. Instead, his concern is for Jerusalem and its people, and he vents his grief over that holy city with its history of killing the prophets sent by God. There in front of visitors and disciples, he bursts forth into public lamentation: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Perhaps these words spill forth from his lips, from his heart, at some place where the city’s skyline can be seen—perhaps from a vantage point overlooking the city on the Mount of Olives. 

Today we often hear the question: ‘What would Jesus do?’ The initials WWJD appear in many places as a reminder that Jesus is to be our great exemplar. If he is, then consider this: In this morning’s Gospel, we hear about something Jesus does. He laments. He publicly expresses his grief and sorrow. And perhaps we, following his example, must do the same at times. 

Jesus expresses his grief over Jerusalem as a city that persecutes, even kills, the prophets sent by God? And he leaves us with an unforgettable image, an image at once tender and gentle, and somewhat surprising. Listen again to what he says: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” 

Surprisingly, Jesus pictures himself not as a king or a conquering warrior, but as a mother hen, eager for her little chicks to find shelter and protection beneath her soft, comforting wings. This does not describe the mighty and triumphant warrior-king many people are waiting for. Yet this is how Jesus presents himself, there in this moment of deep lamentation. 

We may feel that the picture of a weeping savior is striking and unprecedented, but in voicing his lamentation, Jesus is building on and following in the tradition of the Jewish people. Consider the Psalms, which have rightly been called the poetry and hymnbook of the Hebrew Bible. In so many of the psalms, we find a communal or personal lament. Something is wrong—whether illness, unidentified misfortune, or national disaster—and there comes an outcry, a turning of pain into speech. To pray the psalms is not only to rejoice in the Lord’s goodness, but also to groan along with a world broken and distressed. 

Indeed, when he voices his lamentation over Jerusalem, the holy city, Jesus builds upon the foundational event of his people: their Exodus from Egypt. Back before the dividing of the Red Sea waters, back before the ten plagues, or even the call of Moses, we hear what sets the whole thing rolling: the Israelites groan under their slavery and cry out. From their slavery and oppression, this deep cry for help rises up to the heavens and the ears of God. 

The people cry out. They do not remain silent. They cry out with a mighty, heartfelt lamentation, and God hears their groaning, their outcry, the lamentation erupting and flowing forth like hot lava from their hearts.

So when Jesus laments over Jerusalem, he builds upon many of the psalms, these emotional and brokenhearted hymns that reach out for hope in the midst of pain. He builds on the story of how his people became a nation, lamenting their slavery, and crying to their God for release. Now he looks out over Jerusalem, where slavery is not so much external bondage, but a freezing of the heart that cannot welcome divine liberation and release even when the Lord is in their very midst. 

In contrast to this ancient tradition, public lament is an experience unfamiliar to us in our culture and time. Rarely is public grief heard, even at a funeral, or when we learn that a marriage has split apart. There’s grief, for sure, but we keep it close and terribly private. Rather than publicly lament, we swallow it, bury it deep within, carry it around, and let it eat away at our insides. 

Public lament is an unfamiliar experience even in most churches. Here as well, all too often, sadness stays private; we keep up appearances at all costs. We take away the cross and substitute a happy face. We hold back how we really feel and call it Christian joy. Far too often, we feel the need—even here in church, where we should feel safe enough to be truly open and vulnerable . . . yet, even here, we are embarrassed by and feel the need to apologize for our public tears. 

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus promises that mourners shall eventually laugh; but he never says they must not first mourn. In Romans, Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but also to weep with those who weep. Christianity is not the practice of the stiff upper lip. Our faith allows us to lament, even demands it. 

Are there not places in this world, this country, this city, where Jesus still weeps and cries out? Countless Jerusalems cause Our Lord to lament, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” 

And if Jesus laments in these places, should we not join him? 

  • Where we attempt to solve social problems by building still more prisons and walls.
  • Where we try to maintain control over others by increasing our arsenals.
  • Where entertainment and advertising do violence to basic human dignity.
  • Where differences of ethnicity or sexual identity turn into barriers of separation and bitterness.
  • Where you and I become small and mean and shriveled, unloving and unloved.

In all these places, and others like them, Jesus still stands and laments, calling out to us: 

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” 

Lamentations such as these are valid prayer. Faith demands them. Lamentations such as these are heard by God. They ignited the Exodus from Egypt. Lamentations such as these are the audacious start of something new. 

Jesus invites us to break free from the poisonous silence, from the culture of denial that surrounds us. He calls us away from mere grumbling and toward brokenhearted lamentation. He invites us to mourn, in order that we may be blessed; to grieve, rather than deny the burden inside us. 

For when we lament a broken relationship, it opens the way to healing. When we lament an injustice, it opens the way to transformation. When we lament a loss, it opens the way to resurrection. When we lament our shortcomings, it opens the way to unexpected change. 

Such lamentations are not death rattles.

They are the birth cries of a new world,
a new Creation,
and new possibilities,
and new life.


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Something to Ponder . . .

“It is not easy to know what Jesus called his hearers to repent from; he speaks often of sinners, but rarely of their sins. The social consensus of his contemporaries about what counted as sin is not of much help; we cannot assume that he shared the widespread notions of sin, because we know that he challenged his contemporaries on that very issue. So we have to infer what he wanted people to repent from by looking at how he wanted them to live; sin appears here as a failure to live the life of discipleship as described in the Sermon on the Mount” (emphasis added).

—Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, & Reconciliation (115)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Case for Open Borders in Theological Study

Recently a female seminarian posted the following lament on Twitter: 

“You’d think after all these years in seminary I’d be used to men keeping their distance, not engaging with me, etc. because I’m a woman. The truth is, I’m not. It still sucks. It still feels like rejection. And it still hurts.”

Thankfully, not all men react this way. I was in the first class of female students (five of us) admitted to the same seminary she attends and, although I’ve experienced plenty of resistance since graduating, that wasn’t my experience as a seminary student.

Our arrival was uneventful. No fanfare, drumroll, or historic speeches. We just walked into the classroom and went to work. I don’t recall anyone discussing with us why the seminary was opening its doors to women or the five of us discussing it among ourselves. 

To be honest, we were simply grateful to be there and assumed the seminary had done us a favor by letting women into this previously male-only bastion. Over time, however, I’ve come to realize something monumental had happened. This was more than another breeched barrier for women. Our female contributions were needed for theological reflection and practice to fulfill the mandate for which we were created.   

In the field of higher education, scholars Jan Meyer and Ray Land have coined the phrase “threshold knowledge.”

Threshold knowledge refers to “core concepts that once understood, transform perception of a given subject.”[1]

Genesis 1 and 2 contain vital threshold knowledge, for this is where God is vision casting for his world and for humanity. God’s creative activity climaxes with the creation of humanity and God’s wholly unexpected decision to create human beings—male and female—as the imago dei. The Creator could not have conferred on us a nobler identity and calling than for us to be reflections of himself, to speak and act for him. Nor could he have placed before us a more demanding challenge. 

As the imago dei, humanity’s first and most urgent task is to know the God who created us to become like him. This foundational enterprise stands at the center of every human life and requires significant effort from each of us—male and female. Every other human endeavor falls within and is shaped by what we learn about our Creator and how we work to represent him more faithfully and engage his purposes in the world. 

It must be said, although some remain uncertain about this, the creation narrative doesn’t contain the slightest hint that responsibility for the study of God falls only or primarily on the shoulders of men. Everything God commissions at creation falls fully on the shoulders of his daughters too. The Creator prefaces the creation of the female with an unqualified statement that has bearing in every arena of human life: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” 

When female scholars engage in biblical and theological studies along with men, their male colleagues will be the first to benefit. If they are willing to listen and collaborate, men will discover a richer, deeper, more robust theological discussion has just become possible. Walter Brueggemann confirmed this when he wrote in the preface of his remarkable work, The Prophetic Imagination,

“I am growingly aware that this book is different because of the emerging feminine consciousness as it impacts our best theological thinking. That impacting is concerned not with abrasive crusading but with a different nuancing of all our perceptions. . . . In many ways these sisters have permitted me to see what I otherwise might have missed. For that I am grateful—and amazed.”[2]

The scholarly study of God and Scripture is not primarily for personal fulfillment, although that surely happens. Nor are such pursuits ends in themselves. They serve the church and indeed, all humanity. The whole church benefits when a diversity of scholarly minds devote their lives to Biblical Studies, Theology and Philosophical Theology and do this vital work together.

A scientist once noted, “If earth were an apple, the exploration we have done beneath the earth’s surface would not yet have broken the skin.” If that’s how far we’ve gotten in exploring this finite planet, how much more remains for us to discover about our infinite God? 

With such a daunting task before us, can it be any less true today than it was in the beginning that it is not good for the man to be alone? 

NOTE: This article was originally published in November 2018 on BLOGOS for Logia.  Logia is an initiative of LOGOS Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology at St. Andrews University which seeks to support women who are considering pursuing postgraduate Divinity education or who are already students or staff at this level. I serve on their Board of Advisors.

[1]Jan H. F. Meyer and Ray Land, “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge—Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising,” in Improving Student Learning—Theory and Practice Ten Years On, ed. C. Rust (Oxford: Oxford Center for Staff and Learning Development, 2003), 412–24.

[2]Walter Brueggemann,  The Prophetic Imagination, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), xxiv.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments