Surrounded by the Power of Prayer

Last week my husband and I (Sandy) got to have a date night. We don’t really like date nights honestly because when my husband isn’t working we prefer to be together as a family. (Don’t worry we get alone time it’s just that crowded restaurants, congested parking lots and overpriced food aren’t really our thing.)

But last Thursday was something different. Michael W Smith and TBN decided to put together a free event for Nashville called Surrounded. The event was designed for Christians to come together and worship with some amazing musical talent and church leaders from all over the city would lead them in prayer over the community, state, and nation.

It was an amazing experience to see an arena the size of Bridgestone in Nashville full to capacity, with everyone singing at the top of their lungs. It was obviously an impressive sight. But what was even more notable to me were the church leaders who led the prayer section.

With all the people backing this event, they could’ve paraded celebrity preachers and worship leaders from all over the country across that stage to pray elaborate, poetic, inspiring prayers, but instead, they went into our community and they gathered together pastors and church leaders and gave them the platform to pray very specifically for what our city needs. It was also hard to ignore the fact that they had an even number of men and women praying, they had all ethnicities and even prayers in Spanish and Chinese.

It was very profound to see an event of this scale recognize that the prayer of a woman is powerful. We’ve talked a lot about how we are all created in the image of God as equal partners, but Elisabeth and I very much believe that men and women were created uniquely and they have different strengths and gifts and talents and that is all part of God’s design to create a couple who balance and support each other in life and in our mission to serve Him.

It’s disheartening when so many churches limit women’s involvement and influence to the church nursery. Hearing the prayers of these people who all live in the same place and minister to the same communities made it remarkably clear that our perspectives are unique, our missions are unique, our passions are unique and likewise, our prayers are unique. To withhold the prayers of a woman is to rob ourselves of God’s blessing. There are ways a woman prays that a man cannot and there are things that a woman thinks to pray for that a man wouldn’t even begin to ask.

Although the worship was powerful and I will likely write more about that later, the most profound thing that I walked away with was a renewed sense of calling to prayer. It’s something God has been preparing my heart for even before this event. I have always believed in the power of prayer but lately, I have had a burning fire to pray more and more. For people I know and for total strangers alike. In times of celebration and in times of hopelessness. In the quiet of night and in the chaos of the everyday.

This event reminded me that our prayers are needed. Our prayers are necessary. We need to pray BIG. We need to pray for each other. We need to pray for our cities. We need to pray for things that we can’t even imagine we would see in our lifetime. And we need to pray for what we hope the world will become for our children.

Never doubt the power of your prayer.

-Sandy

Smooth talk and fine words.

I won’t make a habit out of sharing other people’s thoughts, but in this case, I feel like it’s important to point out that there are actual living, breathing humans who think like this and preach this to other people. Not only are there a couple hundred people who have taken the time out of their day to like, and love, and comment on this post in particular, but there are another 80,000 who follow this page.

It is very easy to edit words to make it say what you think it should say. Unfortunately, we see that all too often with Proverbs 31, and we also see this passage held up as the gold standard for all women when there is no indication in Scripture that it was meant to be used in that way. There are 1,189 chapters of the Bible and yet we are to believe that there is only one that teaches women how to be a good wife?

For example, verse 28 says: Her husband and children praise her. Without any other context it makes it sound like she never leaves the home but in verse 31 it says: she was praised in public for what she has done, so obviously the whole city knew of her work.

In verse 20 it says: she helps the poor and needy so we could infer that women could work for charitable causes only but just before that in verse 18 it says: she knows her trading is profitable, so we know that she makes money.

We could say that in verse 16 when: she inspects the field and buys it, that maybe that’s only because her husband instructed her to, except the very next thing it says in verse 17 is that: with money, she earned she plants a vineyard, so again she’s making money.

We see in verse 26: she watches over her family, so again she must be at home, except that in verse 24 it also says: she sells her garments at the market, so obviously she is away from the home. And before you say well she doesn’t have a full time job because she just goes to market occasionally to sell things she made in her home let’s just wander back up to verses 13 and 14 where she: goes out to find wool and flax…she is like a merchants ship bringing food from afar, so she is obviously traveling to source material before spinning her own thread, weaving her own cloth, making her own bedding and fine clothes and clothes for the local merchants before also surveying property, planting a vineyard, helping the needy and receiving her praises at the city gates. (You know, just your typical Etsy mom.)

The truth lies in between the two extremes. There are absolutely women who are called to be in their homes and there are absolutely women who are called to serve outside the home. See, the problem here is not with the Scripture, but that there are thousands of people who are willing to completely twist, edit and manipulate God’s word to push their own agenda, and thousands and thousands of others are hurt by this perversion of Scripture every day.

More and more women are propping up Proverbs 31 without digging into the historical context or even acknowledging all the attributes of the character of this woman, and certainly without looking at any other examples of women in the Bible.

They show no love or compassion or empathy for those who have been harmed by the church, and while we rejoice that not everyone has been hurt by the Proverbs 31 rhetoric, we must recognize, acknowledge and grieve with those who have.

It is not God’s design to hold women to an unrealistic Stepford Wife standard of Biblical Womanhood. Instead, we must look to ALL of God’s word (both inside Proverbs 31 and outside of it *gasp) to inspire our character. We must celebrate the beauty and the diversity of God’s creation.

Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to look out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles to other people’s faith. They are against the true teaching you learned, so stay away from them. Such people are not serving our Lord Christ but are only doing what pleases themselves. They use smooth talk and fine words to deceive the hearts of the naïve.

Romans [16:17]-18

It seems very clear that people who use the Scripture to try and make their own way perfect are hurting other people’s faith. They are driving people away from God and from the hope of salvation. It doesn’t hurt me directly. I am strong. I am capable. I am unyielding in my faith and my divine purpose. But, it hurts people who have not yet found their faith. It hurts people whose faith has not yet been tested and proven and who are young and innocent and that hurts me. As a Christian, as a woman, as a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ, it hurts every ounce of my soul to see God’s own words to His people being twisted into a stumbling block and causing pain to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

God’s plan for us is as unique and individual as we are and the only way we are going to find God’s plan for us is to seek His face. We cannot follow the path of others because that is not our path. The only one we should be following is Jesus.

-Sandy

Share your gift

This morning I am thankful for women who are brave enough to use their gifts and talents from God. I can’t imagine life without the beauty of music. Step out boldly and show God to the world.

-Sandy

Stand firm.

My husband had a conversation this week with a long time friend. He has been in various pastoral roles and is someone we respect and trust. After catching up a little they began to talk about our show. I always find it interesting to hear men’s perspectives on our show. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that they agree with our thoughts and are even shocked that there are churches who are so dismissive of the importance of women and oppressive towards women. I have obviously done well to surround myself with real men of God and I am very blessed by those relationships.

But before they said their goodbyes he made sure to leave us with some wise words and I wanted to share them here. Both for your consideration and as a reminder for us later down the road. He said Be Prepared because when you speak the truth they will come after you. It is something I had given a considerable amount of thought to before starting on this journey but it is always affirming to hear it from someone who is hundreds of miles away with no knowledge of what you have been planning for the last year. That affirmation is also a bit terrifying.

As we go further into the word of God and work to strip away the bias and prejudice that has been added towards women and other groups over the years we expect to receive hate and anger and we expect people to try and dismiss us using the same lies that have been used to pollute the Bible for hundreds of years.

In 1 Corinthians [15:58] Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters, stand firm. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted.” Notice that he says, brothers and sisters. That is not a mistake he was speaking to the church, meaning the people, the first Christians. Men and women of God, Stand firm.

My prayer for us and for you is that even when people try to push in a different direction, silence us,  and dismiss us, that we will Stand Firm in the work of the Lord.

-Sandy

What’s your Unofficial Love Language?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. ”
John [13:34]

An oft-quoted verse, but how do we live it out? How is it practically applied? One of the best resources I’ve found on this for day-to-day life in my family is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you haven’t heard of them, the basic idea is that people receive love in different ways – Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, and Touch. Jesus clearly showed all these kinds of love to various peoples throughout his ministry, and knowing what speaks love to your close friends and family is an invaluable tool.

But what about the “Unofficial” love languages? The more individualized tiny bits of things that mean so much to someone’s specific heart. My husband, John, often jokes that his Love Language is Memes, while I frequently state that mine is coffee. Indeed, if he’s having a bad day, a well placed meme can make him feel better, and the effort of sending him one makes him feel loved.

This morning I realized that in my new house, I was out of coffee. Apparently the second pot yesterday was only a good idea at the time. After a moment of panic, I remembered that two of my dear friends from Florida had given me a bag of fancy whole bean coffee – and a Slytherin mug – as a going away gift.

After a few boxes I found the coffee and mug, and had a very nice morning indeed. I felt loved, I felt thought of. At the end of a quite difficult week both emotionally and logistically, my friends love reached me even though they were hundreds or thousands of miles away. It’s not five loaves and two fish, but the sentiment behind it is much the same.

What’s your unofficial love language? What things make you just feel in your soul “Oh hey, they really do love me” ? Let us know!

-Elisabeth

What is a tattooed, debt holding non-virgin worth?

So there’s been a lot of chatter on the Internet about debt-free virgins without tattoos lately. We will likely discuss these issues in the next few months after we’ve had some time to really dig through the Scripture and pray about what we should say on the matter.

But this week I got a clear message surprisingly while reading my daughters nightly Bible story. We read every night from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. She paints such a beautiful picture, not just of Bible stories for kids, but really linking all of the Scripture back to Jesus from prophecy to fulfillment. I love a lot about her work but what struck me this week were two stories she chose to put back to back.

The first was the story of a woman who was a known sinner who came to Jesus as He was dining at the home of a Pharisee. She washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with expensive perfume. It is remarkable for several reasons.

Once again, Jesus is interacting with a sinner who was, by all the current standards, unworthy of His time, a woman who was “sinful on the outside”. I really don’t have to explain this one she was obviously a woman of ill repute in the community, and yet this likely non-virgin, possibly tattooed and indebted woman was one that God chose to anoint Jesus as the King of Kings.

Then, the very next story in the book is that of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. How much more do we need to confirm that this woman got it right? Jesus himself used the exact same example of servanthood to teach his very own disciples how they should treat each other.What a powerful message of worth that is to all women. Jesus looked into her heart. He saw the pain, the burdens, the mistakes and the sin but what He points out to the Pharisees is the love!

So love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and by His grace alone you will be saved. Jesus came to Earth for you. He died for you. And He defeated death for you. Not because you were perfect but because you were imperfect and not because you were worthy but because He loves you.

Your choices and mistakes do not define who you are and they will also not stop God from using you to do great things for his Kingdom. Don’t ever let any man or woman tell you that you are not worthy of their love because you have the love of the Almighty God and that is truly the only opinion that matters.

-Sandy

Lions and Tigers and Biblical Womanhood Oh My!

Episode 001 is now live! Join us as we dive head first into the deep end. Proverbs 31.

This is such a huge topic for the church that we’ve actually broken it into 3 sections so it’s not so overwhelming.

Part 1 is focused on what Proverbs 31 was really intended for, how the church has taken this beautiful passage and misused it and how we need to redefine the true and complete picture of Biblical Womanhood.

We hope to encourage all women to embrace the full set of spiritual gifts she was given by our Creator as an individual child of God and an important part of His kingdom.

Please let us know what you think!

-Sandy

Time to start unpacking

Elisabeth is currently offline, mostly because her computer is still packed but also because she is quite exhausted, but I wanted to share some of her reflections about moving while she enjoys her new home which currently contains a cat, a 4-year old, a box of princess stuff and a coffee pot:
 
“My husband and I have been planning this move for 7 years. It is a fulfillment of a dream and basically the start of a whole new life for our family.
 
But yet we’re still unpacking the same junk. It doesn’t really matter where you go or what you do your junk come with you. If you have good junk like coffee pots and princesses that’s awesome but bad junk like your gross old Brita water pitcher comes with you too. You bring all your junk wherever you go. None if it cleans itself out. You have to do the work.

 
That does not stop with the physical junk either. We all have mental and emotional junk you have to clean out as well. It takes more effort than a
big garbage bag and strong willpower but you can do it.
Spiritual junk, or sin, you can’t clean that junk on your own. You can’t go through the box and pick this is good, this is bad, this is for later. Only Jesus can clean that mess.”
I know I am guilty of holding onto sin that I plan on dealing with later (just like a couple boxes in my attic from my move 4 years ago), but in reality we need to confess it, turn from it and let the grace of an Almighty God clean it through the blood of Jesus Christ.
 
That extra box in my attic really doesn’t make any impact on my life from day to day, but the sin we hold onto makes all the difference every day. As we deal with the hustle and bustle of getting kids back to school and the business that our fall schedules bring to our lives let us not get so lost in the chaos that we allow sin to keep us from the peace and blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
-Elisabeth (Transcribed by Sandy because…moving)