Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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The Transient Community of A Life Overseas {Velvet Ashes}

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When I moved to Southeast Asia, she was one of the first people I met. We were staying in a teammate’s house that shared a wall with Calah’s backyard.

I was outside at the same time she was one day, and we introduced ourselves. The discussion quickly led to the things I needed to acquire in order to set up our new home, and Calah told me all about the stores I should hold out for across the border in Thailand.

Sometimes you just need something happy, you know? Something that’s pretty and makes you feel normal, she said.

It was immediately evident that we would be great friends.

Before long, we were grabbing cups of coffee together and going out for massages. She showed me around town and helped me avoid some major cultural faux pas early into my transition abroad.

Our husbands connected, our children fell in love with each other, and our families spent increasingly more time together.

Read the rest here

Where’s the Blogging Outrage Against Injustice?

I’ve never called myself a blogger, even though I suppose I am. I don’t know…I’m not exactly trying to make a name for myself as a successful, monetized blogger mom.

I’m so intrigued by the blogosphere.

Something big happens on the Internet, and everyone with a URL tries to perfectly craft the 700 words that will be shared over and over again to grow their readership.

See: 50 Shades of Grey.

My friend said last week, “Hey, did you know there was a new movie coming out this weekend?” {and rolled eyes.}

I’m glad everyone felt such a strong need to stand up for purity in their relationships…even their married ones. Truly, I am. Go team.

But as my news feed is typically filled with such strong emotions about worldly movies and the Eternal Yoga Pants Saga, I expected there to be an equal if not greater outrage over the 21 Christians killed in Libya this week.

Apparently, though, we’re more passionate about pop culture than the actual lives of people being martyred across the globe.

And I’m left to wonder, Are our minds so small?

Are our prayers so limited to our safe, little homes?
Are our thoughts so focused on our safe, easy topics?
Are our actions so bound to our safe, simple love?

I suppose if we aren’t practicing building community with the person who lives next door to us, we aren’t really occupying much of our time dwelling on the atrocities in the Middle East or Northern Africa.

And so I cry out, ISN’T THERE MORE? 

How can we turn our faces to the hard things? How can we ignore what our fellow man is enduring in war-torn nations?

Maybe we have no words.
          Still, we can share the words of those who do.

Maybe we feel uneducated.
          Still, information is at our fingertips.

Maybe we are afraid.
          Still, don’t we don’t have a God of POWER…

It’s about time something shook us deep in our bones. It’s about time we had a wakeup call.

40 police and tribesmen burned alive in Iraq.
3 Muslim students murdered in North Carolina.
Reports of organ harvesting, threats of airstrikes, aftershocks of countless terrorizing events.

The world is in an uproar. Chaos is igniting all around us.

And are we really going to stay quiet about this?

…THIS…

If there was ever a time for us to find our voice…to stand up and say SOMETHING, have mercy…let it be now.

We have no business speaking out against how a man chooses to live his life if we aren’t willing to speak up in defense of his right to actually LIVE HIS LIFE.

Lord, forgive our misdirected attention.
Father, forgive our wasted passion.

My friends…

Let us not like, post, share the easy unless we’re willing to like, post, share the hard.

We can’t afford to be silent…not when it comes to Justice and Truth.

Let’s let the words of Jesus calm this storm again. And let’s be the people who share those kinds of words.

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Please don’t run. Please look at these pictures.
Please pray for these faces, and the
masses of displaced and terrorized people they represent.

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Photos via CNN.

And I highly recommend this piece by Rachel Pieh Jones: Motherhood in the Age of Terrorism.

HeidiFebruary 19, 2015 - 9:33 am

Oh. This resonated deeply with me. I too was overwhelmed with the 50 Shades ugliness and the hypocrisy of it all. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Blessings to you,
Heidi

Why I’m Tired of Talking About “Women’s Roles”

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This post is part of a series called ‘Redefining Biblical Womanhood.’ You can check out the other posts here.

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It’s been 404 years since the Bible was first translated into English, but we’re still trying to figure out exactly how women fit into the design of Christ’s church.

What are women allowed to do in a worship service? What role do they play in the family of faith?

Where can women teach? How can women serve?

I’ve asked many of these same questions, and I’ve been given a wide spectrum of answers.

I’ve been told to be quiet, stay seated, or to go bake all the things.

I’ve been told to empower myself and preach the gospel to the masses.

But it seems to me that biblical womanhood lies somewhere between head coverings and head pastoral positions.

I stand with all the women who wish to have their voices heard in their churches. I see your impeccable communication skills, and I nod my head in agreement that you could fill so many relational gaps that our beloved men don’t see.

I affirm that you should be given an avenue to share the ways God is moving in your life…that you could mentor, disciple, and train so many if you were only given the chance. I understand that you need to be recognized as a human being and not just a woman.

I’ve done all the chanting and pleading for the woman’s place in her church. I’ve challenged traditional beliefs and proclaimed my fair share of outspoken thoughts about women’s roles.

I’ve begged to be heard. I’ve prayed to be acknowledged. I’ve cried for equality in a man’s world of religion and theology.

But what the Father taught me through all my stomping and fussing and searching for validation is not at all what I expected.

God has not yet given me the authority to be a feminist. He has not exalted me above others. He has only challenged me further.

He’s pushed me to do the one thing I reject from Scripture the most.

Daughter, submit.

Submission is the word He has clothed me with.

When I’ve lost respect for my church leadership: Daughter, submit.
When I feel empty and unnoticed: Daughter, submit.
When I’m not given an outlet to use my giftedness: Daughter, submit.

Submit.
Wait.
Turn.

You’re looking for validation in all the wrong places, He said.

And now I’m beginning to understand.

I don’t need a man to tell me I’m worthy. I don’t need a church to give me a voice.

As long as I’m seeking a title or a role given by a man, that’s exactly what it will be.

A title given by a man.
A role given by a man. 

I don’t need to be asked my opinion. I don’t need to be placed on a committee.

Because while those things are nice, my place in the Kingdom has nothing to do with my own personal entitlement.

The Father has given me a path to walk and a people to serve completely separate and apart from whatever man might say is my role in the Body.

I’ve found myself exhausted from asking what I can and can’t do. I’m tired from questioning whether I have a place in the church of Jesus Christ.

When I’m sitting with Scripture and I’m talking to my Savior, those thoughts are so far from the way His Spirit is leading me.

The Bible doesn’t speak to women apart from men, you see. 

Sure, there are specific verses that are directed towards specific genders. But as a whole, the Bible was written to followers of God. And there are a lot more verses that clump us into a body of one than separate us into male and female.

So, as I see it now, biblical womanhood is about my personal journey of obedience to the Creator.

I’m validated. I’m loved. I’m accepted by the only One who can bestow honor and glory.

I can move and work within the freedoms Christ has opened my life to, and that is where I’ll continue to focus my time and energy.

Loving the unloved. Giving to the poor. Teaching the lost.
Respecting my husband. Caring for my children. Honoring my elders.

Glorifying God in everything I do.

These are freedoms and roles that no one will argue with. Maybe because they’re mundane. Maybe because they seem dull.

Still, I suppose if I’m filling my time loving, giving, teaching, respecting, caring for, and honoring others, I don’t have time to worry about what man says I can’t do in the church.

I’ll be too busy doing the business of the church.

That’s a God-given role that brings so much affirmation and so little resistance.

Living the gospel instead of arguing for my feminine needs…

This is the atypical kind of biblical womanhood I want to define my life. 

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Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
Colossians 3:23

Dwina WillisFebruary 12, 2015 - 7:22 am

Excellent! This is what I’ve been saying in my classes for years, but you said it better than I ever have. Thank you. Do you mind if I share this with the girls in my class?

I’m enjoying having your sister in my biology class.

Deena TrimbleFebruary 12, 2015 - 8:28 am

Well said, Lauren. I, too, have struggled with my place in the church but not my place in the kingdom. Jesus taught us that to be first, we must be last. In this glory hungry world we live in, that is a daily struggle…. for men and women. But I ask the Lord each day, how can I serve you? And the message is to serve quietly with the people around me each day, to love more and more. 1 Thess 4: 10-12 Think Kingdom, not church, and serve, serve, serve!
Blessings!
Deena

Matt PhillipsFebruary 12, 2015 - 8:32 am

Lauren,
I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled greatly with this topic. It seems that what you’re describing above is how the oppressed can remain faithful to Jesus’ kingdom vision while living in their present situation. It is the heart of Jesus.
But the heart of Jesus is multi-faceted I think. That same heart that submitted to the cross also condemned the pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus both loved Chiaphas and whipped the people running his temple racket & drove them out.
I guess what I’m saying is that we all have certain roles in the body, and perhaps for a woman, it is right to submit on this topic (although admittedly I struggle with that too). But I think for men, it is undoubtedly part of OUR submission to the father to confront this issue (and any other oppression) in our communities.
Jesus has invited us to join him on his mission, and that means he has (in the words of Isaiah & Jesus) “…sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

On the Expectation to Live Modestly

Several years before my husband and I moved abroad, we visited some friends living in Peru. They were well into a five-year commitment to serve in a city where they were spearheading a religious community and outreach program.

I’m not sure what I expected when I walked into their apartment. I had spent time with many families working overseas, so I suppose I had anticipated meager living conditions with the typical mismatched furniture and never-ending bug problems.

But what I found brought me great comfort and joy. My friends were functioning at the highest emotional, relational, and spiritual capacity of anyone I had visited in a foreign context.

Continue reading here at Velvet Ashes.

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Why I Continue to Give to Beggars

Today I sat by the window of a small café in a capital city of the developing world. The waitress brought the Greek salad I’d ordered and placed it on the table beside my Macbook Pro while I continued reading on my iPad and checked my iPhone for texting notifications.

Moments later, I looked up to see two small children standing in front of the window. Their eyes took in the scene of my work venue and their hands were pressed together in a praying motion. Their faces were dirty, their clothes were tattered, and they held out a large water scoop typically used for bathing in SE Asia.

Did I have some money to spare? Their eyes and hands easily communicated their nonverbal request.

There was a disgusting amount of wealth spread out on the table between us. Three different screens represented material riches, text messages represented social support, and nutritious food represented physical wellness.

Laying out these facts should make giving to the poor a no-nonsense, easy-to-make decision.

Yet, when I’m confronted with such situations, I question the ethics of giving to the poor rather than accept the simplicity of handing a few dollars to a beggar.

Am I perpetuating poverty?
Am I encouraging a lack of work ethic?
Am I creating dependency?

It saddens me deeply that the foundation of such questions is rooted in the influence of the Christian teaching of my youth.

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So many of the champions of faith I looked up to as a child were strongly opposed to giving to the homeless and the needy.

I specifically remember working with a church one summer as a youth intern. Every day on my way to the office, I passed a soup kitchen sponsored by different churches in the area. The names of the churches involved in the ministry spilled down the sign out front.

Just a block up from the soup kitchen, I walked into the office where I was working and finally asked the question that had been bugging me all summer.

Why doesn’t our church help out with the soup kitchen down the street?

Well, we believe that rather than giving a man a fish, it’s much more important to teach a man to fish, I was told.

Of course I understood the proverb, and could even get behind its instruction. There was still a major disconnect for me.

Will someone be able to focus on your teaching if their belly is growling? And will they be willing to hear your teaching if they don’t first know you’re concerned about their immediate needs?

And, who exactly are you teaching to fish, anyway?

I wanted to start back with these protests, but I decided to hold my tongue that day.

Now, I don’t want to hold my tongue anymore.

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There has been a seriously unbiblical frame of thought circulated around the American church. In a predominately white, middle-class, religious society, the disconnect between Christianity and poverty has continued to grow.

Christians have been more easily defined by what we aren’t than what we are. 

We aren’t:
drug addicts,
homeless,
divorcees,
welfare recipients.

So, one can simply assume that in order to be grafted into the fellowship of faith, it’s a requirement to be chaste, successful, self-dependent, and part of a loving family.

When did we walk away from Scripture and choose for ourselves who was worthy of the Gospel? When did we forget what we are? 

We are:
sinners,
redeemed,
forgiven,
unworthy.

For too long we have considered the problems of the needy a result of their own poor choices rather than a result of our embarrassing effort to assist.

And we have come up with all kinds of eloquent reasons why helping the poor could really be hurting them worse.

If we give to beggars, we are encouraging laziness. We are only creating dependency and promoting generational poverty. We are supporting the bad habits that put them into that place.

Christians are to be good stewards of their wealth, and that does not include giving money to people who will then go buy cigarettes and alcohol.

This is our justification. And then we top if all off with a nice Bible verse:

“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

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This issue is one that has plagued me for years. It’s the reason I went to graduate school to study development. It’s the reason I’ve read articles about giving well and books about aid distribution.

So I can’t write this post without linking to great resources about the corruption involved with child begging trafficking rings in India or the ineffectiveness of short-term mission trips.

But even with the sociological complexity of the issue and the layers of theological baggage so many of us carry, I’m still left sitting in a café with children staring through the window in front of me.

As I looked past them this morning, I saw their grandmother with another baby on her hip. There was no questioning the right thing to do in that particular circumstance.

It’s taken a lot of discipline to see an immediate need, suppress the voices of nay-sayers, and believe the best about the person with his hand outstretched.

Sometimes the issue of giving to beggars is a lot simpler than our biblical defenses or development degrees.

Perhaps we were made to coexist so that we could understand the power of community that much more.

I’ve come to believe that I need the poor just as much as the poor need me.

We depend on one another—those who live with and those who live without.

The beautiful brokenness of the world’s poor mends the tattered pieces of my pride and selfishness.

Every opportunity a beggar may have to ask me for something is an opportunity for me to remember how needy I am at the foot of the Throne.

Use discernment, yes. Be educated, yes.

But there’s something about the song of the poor that falls into rhythm with my own life’s tune.

I continue to give to beggars because they remind me of my humanity. I continue to give to beggars because they remind me that I, too, am needy.

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For a thought-provoking video, watch below.