The Gift of Woman: In Culture and Church

 

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For those who don’t know, there’s a gem in this little town of Steubenville Ohio called Franciscan University.

Okay so first off, I want to go back in time and attend there.

Secondly, since time travel is not an option, I am determined to have my nephews attend there. The oldest nephew is 13 so this gives me 4 solid years to work on him. Hey, I mean, he’s already seriously considering attending a Franciscan high school so, I don’t think this will be too great a task.

So why mention this university? Well, I recently had the privilege of attending an academic conference there called Woman: Gift in Culture and Church.

Now when most people hear “Steubenville” and “conference” they automatically think of one of these – a teen or young adult or adult conference. But this wasn’t one of those.

This conference was the brainchild of a young woman named Haley Ketschke, an education major. This Friday/Saturday conference was essentially her senior capstone project for the University’s Center for Leadership program.

Together with co-leaders Toni Brown and Marykate Heim, these young ladies put on an amazing and well-organized conference with 4 of the most prominent and popular theology speakers of our time giving their keynote addresses. I was just in awe from start to finish. To think that 3 students put on this conference was just amazing to me.

I don’t have the ability to dissect every session that I attended but I wanted to give a few quick snippets of wisdom that I learned while I was there.


Dr. Pia de Solenni

I attended her keynote called Women in the Body of Christ and in Society as well as one of her breakouts called Maternity and Its Impact on Society. 

Main talking points from both talks:

  • A relationship built and based on love and not one of power, is the goal.
  • No one questions their “rights” and “power” when their relationship is based in love
  • Adam and Eve were promised love but chose power. In effect they lost love and gained power.
  • Motherhood is not something you “do.” It’s who you ARE.
  • Jesus broke ground in several ways with women – Mary Magdalene as the Apostle to the Apostles. At the Last Supper the disciples were asked to do “women ‘s work.” The woman at the well was the only one who gets up and proclaims He is the Messiah. Everyone else questioned him.
  • “Helpmate” – a form of divine assistance; woman was created as a form of divine assistance to man. (Examples – Moses’ sister returning him back to his mother; Judith helping to liberate Israel)
  • “The future of the world depends upon women.” Pope Paul VI
  • Every woman is called to live in maternity – every part of her – spirituality, physicality, mentality
  • We know men and woman can do the same things; the question is about being and how that effects what we do; what does it mean to be a bride? The Church is the Bride of Christ
  • This all points to marriage of some kind. We have the gift of modeling bride- we have the ability of what it means to be Church.
  • We need to keep with the love story, not a story of power. We need to stop asking how we can have better roles in the Church of POWER. This is not what we were created for.
  • Here’s our challenge: How can men and women better live out their vocations outside the 4 walls of the Church?

Dr. Michael Waldstein

I attended his keynote called Where the Order of Love First Takes Root: Woman as Help

The poor guy had to talk after lunch, the most undesirable spot for any speaker anywhere in any venue. But he handled it like a champ and despite his soft spoken and soothing voice, I managed to understand and take a great interest in what he was saying. He gave a great presentation incorporating lines from John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women)  and this beautiful piece of art called Assumption of the Virgin by Titian. tizian_041

It was kind of like art history blended with theology. Really fascinating!

I also attended one of his breakouts called Why the Dominant Culture Opposes the Order of Love which was all about how we have gotten to this point in our culture. He discussed Sir Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. He discussed this ambition for power over nature. It was a short talk in order for him to answer questions instead so we could focus on solutions. One of his answers to “How do we reverse these effects of how the culture has been heading?” was to find like-minded people and to “delight in goodness. See deeply the goodness in people, especially those who serve.”


Dr. William Newton

He was the first keynote speaker and his talk was titled:

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord: Exploring the Ecclesial Vocation of the Women 

Key points:

  • The Genius of Woman is not an IQ – it is a kind of intelligence. It allows a woman to read inwardly the heart of the a person
  • She sees the human dignity of each person, the value.
  • It’s written into us as women, like a charism.
  • The family is the most important job for a woman – to build Christendom in the household, this is the goal and it is always collaborative!
  • The mother has a more decisive role in bringing Christendom into her home – Why? Because she is essentially the home. Her womb being the original home.
  • Women evoke love, we kickstart the process of loving, softening a man’s heart.
  • If we are going to live our vocation we need to bring our femininity with us!

Dr. Newton’s breakout session I attended was titled:

Deaconesses in the Church: Why or Why Not?

My notes were super sloppy on this one but he presented both sides of this issue by asking two questions:

  1. Is there any compelling evidence in favor of deaconesses?
  2. Is there any compelling evidence against it?

After addressing these questions he asked if this was of ecclesial or divine origin? He also questions if we then include the deaconate in the Holy Orders.  If Canon Law says it IS a Holy Order, then is the Canon Law infallible?

The whole discussion was really interesting and although my notes are clear, I couldn’t obviously present his case right here. He concluded, in his own opinion, that there is no compelling evidence for deaconesses and strong evidence against it. But he also said the jury is still not out on this so don’t be surprised if we hear people debating this again soon.


Dr. Deborah Savage

I only heard her keynote talk called The Genius of Man and Woman: Complementarity as Mission

If I had a to pick a favorite, I would say this one was it for me. She had awesome anecdotes, she was very clear about what she was trying to communicate and she was funny!

Some key points:

  • Why did God create us male and female? We have a responsibility to answer this question in order to save the world and fix the culture
  • Creation story – Life forms were created from lower to higher. Women being created “second” to man is not accurate; we were created last! We are on our way up!
  • The word “helper” is not a servant or a slave – We are considered Divine Aid. We are help sent by God, someone who can help men to live.
  • Eve is not below Adam but she’s also not above him – she is NEXT to him.
  • Man knows things that woman does not – he has dominion over the animals. He likes to know how things work, what does it do, what is it for?
  • This is part of his masculine genius
  • He also knows woman is not an object and cannot treat her like the other “things” and animals. It’s a reciprocal relationship from the start
  • Woman Genius  – We are more naturally oriented towards persons
  • Woman sees herself in light of the other
  • The existence of living persons, either in the womb or walking around, cannot be forgotten while we frantically get tasks done
  • We are ordered toward authentic human flourishing
  • Why did the serpent tempt Eve if they are equal? Because she knows very little about the things of this world; she was at a disadvantage.
  • The serpent starts at the top! He knew if he could trick Eve, he could get to Adam
  • Adam failed Eve at the moment she needed his protection the most

There was a Q&A Panel discussion that I couldn’t stay for but I’m sure it was incredibly helpful and informative. It was to be audience-led and I’m willing to bet there were many questions that were addressed that I myself wanted to get answers to. But another conference for another time I suppose!

I will say I left the conference feeling hope for the future. Granted I was clearly one of the few non-students in attendance, it was really encouraging to see so many young people eager to learn how they as women (and men) can be a gift to our Church and how to turn our Culture around from one of death to one of life giving love!

 

Chasing Shade

This past weekend I was house sitting for a friend of mine who lives in an awesome part of Cleveland. The homes there remind me of my old neighborhood, Oak Park Illinois. It’s full of huge trees that line the streets, the local park always has something going on, (one night they had “Movie in the Park” and they were showing Big Hero 6, my newest all time favorite movie), people were out walking their dogs, everyone was very friendly as they typically are here in the midwest. I would describe it as a cozy neighborhood with a “city-like” vibe.

Sunday morning I was scheduled to run 13 miles as part of my marathon training.  As I ran jogged along this part of town, I found myself running away from the sun that was beating down that morning. I was constantly searching for those huge trees because it was getting upwards to 84 degrees and I had started my run a little later than I had anticipated. And since “I’m not fast” (that’s a movie reference but also, very true for me), I was concerned that I would melt away and not be able to complete this run.

I was literally chasing the shade.

Kinda made me think about life in general. Any runner will tell you that your mind wanders, you start thinking maybe a little too much as your feet are pounding the pavement. So this blog might be a little…deep. But bear with me.

Most of the time I’m running I’m thinking “I gotta get some water in me soon,” or “I should probably take a walk break in another mile.” But sometimes you can’t help but think other things too. It’s quiet, there’s no one around because it’s so early in the day. So it’s a perfect environment for some deep thoughts.

I kept coming back to “Gotta find shade, gotta find shade…find the darkest parts of the street.”

Yes I’m doing this to cool off, literally. But I couldn’t help but think it was a perfect metaphor for where a lot of people are in their personal lives. We hide! We run away from light that exposes us.

In the dark, in the shade, we are more comfortable.  “This is my little comfort zone.”

We, and my fellow women can relate best, hide ourselves in darkness. We can hide our scars, our flaws, our less-than-perfect bodies in the dark. No one can see lines, the wrinkles, the cellulite, the stretch marks, the blemishes, the soft parts, the flabby parts in the dark.

The more light, the more they are exposed and revealed. And the more REAL we are when there’s no shade to hide us.

By the end of my run, over 2 hours later, I didn’t care so much about the shade anymore. I didn’t care about hiding because I knew it was almost over. But I was also exhausted from seeking out the shade. It became a grueling effort to hide from the heat. I had to admit that it felt like I was running scared. And I didn’t like that feeling. I had to get out into the light, no matter how much I didn’t want to. I really had no choice.

The sun was out in all it’s hot glory and there was no running away from it anymore.

So this is my little shout out to those who feel the need to hide – You’re going to have to get out from that darkness at some point. Come on out into the sun. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, and it’s shining brightly! Just like you.

 

 

Book Review: Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst

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I’m not a book reviewer. I just read this book and thought, “I should blog about it!”

So I’m calling it a book review but I think it a better classification might just be:

“My favorite parts of a book that I read that might be useful to my readers because it’s a book about food and healthy eating and females and Jesus.”

But that title would be really really long.

So let’s call it a book review and be done with it.

The gist: Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst has the subtitle: Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food. From the back cover: “This book is not a how-to manual or the latest, greatest dieting plan. Made to Crave is a helpful companion to use alongside whatever healthy eating approach you choose- a book and Bible study to help you find the “want to” in how to make healthy lifestyle changes.”

There’s no discussion about paleo or veganism or eating certain foods. It’s not a diet book at all and that’s what attracted me to it initially. Also, the author is the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries which has nothing to do with fitness but everything to do with women and how to live awesome God-filled lives. Plus, her daily devotional kind of inspired me to start my own daily devotional blog (shameless plug!)

Back to the book – Lysa takes certain passages from the Bible and applies them to real life. It’s a book geared toward women (but men struggle too, I’m sure) and how we put so much pressure on ourselves to be these thin, skinny jean wearing fit females.  Basically, the lesson is – turn your cravings of food into a craving for God. Instead of trying to summarize the book, I’m going to outline some of my favorite parts. (I highlighted and underlined practically every chapter which goes to show to just how much I loved this book…and I think you females would be wise to pick it up).

Disclaimer: Lysa never suggests that you CAN’T have any treat EVER AGAIN. She actually believes what I believe: You can have a taste of sweets and cake on your birthday and all that…but probably not at first. Not until you learn self-control. You may have to abstain or cut out the junk for a “season” as she puts it (i.e. a long time) but when you have that self control, then you can re-introduce those treats back into your eating plan. But it takes time to learn and apply that self-control and discipline, no matter what “diet” you’re on.

  • If we want to conquer our cravings, we’ll have to redirect them to God.
  • Lysa discusses our “Want To.” In other words, we all know what to do to lose weight, don’t we? It’s the fact that we don’t “want to” change enough to do it. She says it’s about “recalibrating our souls so we want to change.” So she lists a few ways we need to Find our Want To:

1. SpirituallyShallow desires produce only shallow efforts. Seek a spiritual want to empowered by God Himself. In other words, don’t use the vanity seeking reasons to lose weight. That will only get you so far. Just saying “Oh I want to look good in a bikini” is a vanity seeking reason. Besides, who DOESN’T want to look good in a bikini? Dig deeper.

2. PhysicallyTurn those spiritual insights into practical choices. As I’ve mentioned a few times, our weight is a direct reflection of our choices and our health. Whatever spiritual perspectives we read about are awesome for our mind and our soul, but you have to put the healthy food choices into practice to make it work.

3. MentallyWe were made for more than compromise. We were made for God’s promises in every area in our lives. Stop settling and thinking: Well this is just the way I’m meant to be. I’m meant to be overweight, there’s nothing I can do about it so I might as well not even try.  Enough with the self-pity talk. We were made for more and we can do better than settling for garbage food and garbage quick fixes.

  • God, not food, is who is in control of me. Food can fill our stomachs, but never our souls.
  • We grow closer to God by learning the powerful principle of denying ourselves things that distract us and hold us back from following. We grow closer to God as we learn to look and act more and more like Him. The bible calls this participating in His divine nature.
  • As you go to get on the scale once a week – Define your week by obedience, not by a number on the scale.
  • Confession from the author that I thought was interesting and applicable to all of us: I depended on food for comfort more than I depended on God.
  • Embrace the benefits (of exercise) instead of resisting the hardship. (This is definitely worth an entire blog post in the near future)
  • There is a good reason we must face our temptations (food, addictions, drugs, sex, etc). The struggle to say no may be painful in the moment, but it is working out something magnificent within us. Asking ourselves, “This feels good now, but how am I going to feel in the morning?”
  • On Idolatry and Food: Expecting anything outside the will of God to satisfy us is idolatry. Nutrition, which is food’s intended purpose, means consuming proper portions of healthy choices that enable our bodies to function properly. Idolatry, in the case of food, means the consumption of ill-sized portions and unhealthy choices because we feel like we deserve it or need it to feel better. We are to flee the control food can have over our lives. If we flee from the pattern of idolizing food and stop depending on food to make us feel emotionally better, we will be able to more clearly see the way our God promises to provide when we are tempted.

There is so much more that I could quote as Lysa had countless examples of scripture that could be applied to so many situations we might find ourselves in as we attempt to eat healthy and lose weight. I might take a few of her examples and apply them to my other blog since I feel it might be more applicable there. (trying to keep my faith and fitness separate although, to me, they go hand in hand).

I highly encourage all women of faith to purchase this book, regardless of where you are in your journey to be healthy. The book was/is so popular, the author wrote a study guide and a ton of other resources to go along with it.

I read this book in less than a week. And anyone who knows me knows I don’t read that quickly unless I REALLY like a book so, for what it’s worth!