Are Women ‘More than Enchanting’?

{Once again, I’m delighted to be participating in the Patheos Book Club, Take & Read!}

This fortnight’s pick is Jo Saxton’s More than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World from InterVarsity Press.

I’ve never really hoped to be a ‘leader,’ but last week when I listened to myself on Family Life Radio, I thought,

“Someone get that lady a PULPIT! She has a lot to say.”

(I used to enjoy hopping up into the pulpit to mimic my dad’s preaching and mannerisms, or jumping into the empty baptismal tank to give fake, dramatic testimonies a la ‘Unshackled,’ but I digress.)

Jo’s book made me hopeful because she doesn’t enter into the arguments on whether women should have positions of leadership and influence in Christian churches.

She assumes that they already do.

From the cradle to the cross, it’s women that are by Jesus’ side; while it’s tempting to call St. Paul a misogynist, Jo points out that he refers to women as ‘apostle’ Junia and ‘deacon’ Phoebe. In plain language, Jo handles the interpretive issues surrounding women’s leadership with grace and strength.

Jo also see in the examples of Nympha, Chloe, Priscilla, and other early church women a call to an empowered, missional perspective on domesticity that I find refreshing:

“There are many women who know that their home, not the church building, is a key place for ministry…It happens around the kitchen table, through meals and conversation. Their home is balm for the worn and weary, for those who’ve not experienced God’s love in a community. They seek to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus in everyday living, influencing the world around them. The oikos [household] was a powerful strategy for kingdom expansion in the New Testament, and as a model continues to be so today.”


Thanks for the encouragement, Jo!

{You can read a Q&A with Jo Saxton here.}

The Bible Supports Slavery, Or, Why Boaz Should’ve Dissed Ruth

I’m currently reading a great book about one of my very favorite writers of old–Harriet Beecher Stowe.

(She was a writer passionate for justice who stood at barely 5 feet tall and was married to a scholar of the Hebrew Bible–how can I *not* love her!?)

Stowe did a lot to win Christians to the abolitionist cause. Before her, Christians in the US were likely to view the Bible as supporting slavery–the patriarchs appear to have owned slaves, for example, and the New Testament doesn’t openly condemn slavery.

{Philemon, in fact, is a letter from Paul in which he’s, um, returning a runaway slave to his master.}

But Stowe–like most Christians nowadays–was right to discern in Christianity–yea, in the Bible!–a redemptive, liberating call–a duty to struggle against slavery. And she took up that struggle–with her pen. When Lincoln met her, he said, “Is this the little lady who has started this great war?”

Thing is, sometimes even Bible people are, well, unbiblical–and admirably so.

You take the book of Ruth.

Ruth’s a Moabite–the text won’t let us forget that–and her ancestors refused to give hospitality in the form of bread and water to the Israelites as they left Egypt.

This insult led to a prohibition against the Moabites in Deuteronomy 23:3:

“No […] Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation [Hebrew-Bible-speak for, ‘seriously, not ever!’] none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.”

Complicates things a bit, no?

Boaz doesn’t say, “Oh, hey, I’m sorry for your bad situation, Ruth, but your ancestors insulted mine, so I’m biblically required to do the same to you.” No.

He breaks a ‘biblical’ law to fulfill a Greater Law in sharing bread with Ruth.

And then he marries her.

Does the breaking of the bread trump the breaking of the law?


Support Groups for Self-Starvation


Carolyn Gregoire has an eye-opening report up at Huffington Post on how Tumblr has become the home to a secret obsession of thousands of teenagers who use the microblogging platform for ‘thinspo’–for posting images of super-thin women along with disturbing messages like one I found on Tumblr:


Perhaps not surprisingly, a 2011 study found that teenaged girls’ susceptibility to body image and eating disorders positively correlated with the amount of time they spent using social media.

Some of the teens couch their anorexia in terms of a ‘lifestyle choice’–as in “I’m just choosing to life a low-calorie lifestyle.” But eating disorders are nothing of the kind. The deadliest of all mental illnesses, anorexia is more of a deathstyle choice.

another gem from Tumblr #thinspo

To me, the saddest thing about this phenomenon is how the users form community with one another online even as they keep their eating disorder a secret from the people in their lives. It’s such a distortion of how God made people to live: in life-affirming communion with one another and with God, and in harmony with the rest of the creation–which includes eating.

It’s not at all hard to see how too little family time + too much isolated time online could possibly lead to distorted ideas about bodies and eating. Apparently, Tumblr is cracking down on these blogs, but it won’t be long before these poisonous ideas find another platform.

A few thoughts on preventing these support groups from claiming your loved one as a member:

  • Make family meals a priority–family meals are really important. Try to make them happen.
  • Forbid ‘delete history’–Unsupervised time online is almost never a good idea; forbidding ‘delete history’ is one simple, effective rule.
  • Curb your own ‘fat talk.’ Refuse to allow people’s appearance (your own or others’) be a topic of conversation.
  • ‘Interrupt’ dangerous messages. Openly critique the unrealistic images of bodies presented in print, online, and on TV.
  • Celebrate communion, and not just on Sunday. Talk a lot about food as an edible symbol of God’s sustaining love (or whatever metaphor makes sense to you.)

What are your thoughts? How else can we help young people find and form better communities?

Health = Morality = Nothing New

I LOVE this article by the Princeton University Classics Professor Brooke Holmes, which appeared in yesterday’s Huffington Post

“The moralization of obesity is all too familiar these days. As America has gotten heavier, blame has become something of a national sport. Yet the ancient roots of Warren’s Plan are a reminder that the association between health and morality is nothing new…”

“…ancient authors are clear-eyed about the relationship between health and wealth. The author of a handbook on diet that was later attributed to Hippocrates imagines two audiences for his advice: people who lack the money and the time to take care of themselves on a regular basis; and people who can afford to devote themselves to their health. When Plato assigned different doctors to the free man and the slave, he was talking about two models of care. The slave’s doctor barks orders like a dictator before rushing off to his next patient. By contrast, the doctors of rich elites take the time to explain to their patients what’s wrong with their bodies. And not everyone was sitting around reading Plutarch. Health, the ancients knew, is a product of leisure, education and quality care.

Read it all here!

{have a great weekend!}

Guest Post! A Food Lover on the Grace of Taste

{Welcome to the blog, Tim!}

I love the way food tastes, how it feels, the sight of it; the smell of a cooking kitchen. I’ll try just about anything that is standard fare somewhere on the planet, so I’ve tried a lot of foods, and almost always to my benefit. Even though I love good eats, I’m pretty indiscriminate. I can eat pizza every day for a week and still say yes if someone suggests it for the next meal. I love soups from black bean to butternut, gazpacho to garbanzo, lentil to leek. Casseroles? Bring ‘em on, along with steaks, ribs, burgers, and all the fresh fruits and vegetables that, here in California, are abundant year-round.

God didn’t have to give us such wonderful senses of taste and smell so we can enjoy food so much. God could have given us merely moderate senses so that we would eat what we need to for sustenance but not necessarily have the ability to enjoy food to such an extravagant degree.

And that’s what it is–extravagance. Our God has created us with extravagant grace and it’s a common grace for all–like being able to breathe air and enjoy the feel of warm sunlight on our skin and marvel at the sights offered by a walk through a pine forest. To that list I add the experience of taste. And I think there’s a spiritual component to it, too.

Not only does the Bible use food imagery in describing our relationship with God and all God’s goodness toward people, but it  appears also to tell us that we can actually partake of God in a spiritual sense just as we do food in the physical sense. Here are some examples.

  • God invites us to a feast and overwhelms us with love. (Song of Songs 2:4-5)
  • Can’t afford the price of admission? God covers the tab:“Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
  • And both our hunger and thirst are eternally satisfied:

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35.)

With God the functional and the spiritual are always inseparable, so can these word pictures that use food perhaps be more than mere metaphors?

Yes, and Jesus – the Living Water and Bread of Life himself – showed us how.

At the wedding reception in John 2:1-12, the host feared disaster, having miscalculated how much wine he’d need. What did Jesus do? At the urging of his mother, he turned water into wine. Not some boxed red, as some of us might have done, but a notable vintage.

God’s food isn’t only spiritual.

And our enjoyment of food isn’t only functional.

Our ability to taste is God-given–perhaps so that we can understand what it means to taste and see that God is good. In the miracle at Cana, the disciples believed–not merely by seeing, but by tasting the wine as proof of his goodness.

One day we’ll all celebrate a feast that will allow our spirits and our bodies to experience together God’s sustenance as it is truly meant to be enjoyed.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the good food God gives me to taste here and now as a reminder of the great banquet to come.

{Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids now in college, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California.}