Week of Silence

'1996 Jocassee Quiet Solitude' photo (c) 2007, anoldent - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

"Silence is the language God speaks. Everything else is a bad translation." 
- Thomas Keating

It’s hard to believe that I’m nearing my final month of the biblical womanhood project. I've already decided that the first thing I’m going to do on October 1 is find a hair salon and cut off some of this excess “glory”! (Twelve months is way too long for someone like me to go without a haircut. I look like a character from Willow…or, more precisely, someone whose head is getting eaten by a character from Willow.)  

As I’ve mentioned before, each month of the project I focus on a different theme that is associated with “biblical womanhood,” and the theme for August is silence.  

This is a tricky one because many of the biblical passages associated with silence have been used for centuries to suppress women’s voices and to keep women from assuming leadership positions in the church and society. Also, it is a tragic reality that women across the world are being silenced every day through injustices like sex trafficking, honor killings, religious oppression, poverty, and lack of educational opportunities. This sort of  silence is deeply troubling and worthy of our attention, so I plan to devote much of this chapter to reexamining 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 in light of the context in which they were written and the context in which we find ourselves now. 

However, as I’ve contemplated silence, I’ve also come to realize that it is one thing to be silenced and quite another to deliberately silence oneself.

Some of the most powerful female voices in Christian history—Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisiex—found their inspiration in the quietness of the monastic life and the stillness of contemplative prayer. 

…Which brings me to my week of silence. 

Tomorrow I’m headed to Cullman, Alabama for a three-day visit to St. Bernard Abbey(Yes, they have monasteries in Alabama!) I’ll be participating in fixed hour prayer with the monks, eating in silence, and soaking in some much-needed quiet time on the beautiful grounds there. I’ll continue practicing fixed-hour prayer and lectio divina throughout the week, which will conclude with a visit to a Quaker congregation in Knoxville on Sunday. 

I've already suspended speaking engagements for the month, but in order to totally silence myself, I’ve also decided to take a weeklong break from the blog, twitter, and Facebook—which comes as both a frightening proposition (my stats will bottom-out!) and a welcome relief (I need a break!). Lately I’ve felt a little lost in the daily ups and downs of online media, so I suspect pulling the plug will be a welcome relief for myself, for my family, and even for you. 

In Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle said, “I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking beingtime; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”

I need some being time, and I’m grateful that the project has forced me into taking some this week. 

In the midst of back-to-school shopping, disaster recovery, or whatever challenges are headed your way this week, I hope you find a little being time too. 

Grace to you, and peace.

See you next week! 

***

Note: When I return next week, look for responses to your questions for “Ask and An Evolutionary Creationist” and “Ask a Calvinist,” as well as introduction for “Ask a Gay Christian.”

So what do you like to do when you need “being” time? 

When was the last time you totally unplugged from the online world? What did you learn?

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Saturday Superlatives: 8/27/11

'Hurricane Irene August 26th [hd video]' photo (c) 2011, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Note: I’m sharing  this week’s superlatives today to make room for a post about my “week of silence” tomorrow.

Around the Blogosphere…

Best Dialog: 
Nicole Unice and Natasha Robinson talking about race, friendship, and The HelpPart 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4

Best Commentary:
James Garland at The Chronicle with “The Value of Humility in Academe (No Kidding)
“Humility is an important educational goal because it is the bedrock of a liberal education. It is the quality that keeps us from overvaluing our own opinions and discounting the opinions of those who know more than we do.”

 Best Satire:
Matthew Paul Turner with “How To Find God in Natural Disasters
“Okay, East Coast, it’s official: God’s put you on his geographical poop list. Now, don’t fret about this; it happens to most geographical locations at one point or another. Now, there’s no exact science to figuring out which areas of the world God hates the most—though you’re not quite at Toledo’s level yet—however, I do think that Tuesday’s earthquake suggests that God’s current hatred for you—as in, the Northeast corridor between Richmond and Boston—is slightly greater than his hatred for say, whatever current spot of ground Vladimir Putin is standing on. And trust me, God has never liked Putin’s current location.'

Best Argument: 
Laura Ziesal with “Are Christians Called to Culture War?
“Above and beyond the feminism debate, I want to address the issue of being "called" to be counter cultural. Opposing “the culture of the day” is often something I have heard we should do as Christians. So, let’s examine what that means.”

Best Interview:
Rachel Stone at Her.Meneutics interviews William Webb about egalitarianism
"Webb: I think this question betrays two incorrect assumptions. First, it wrongly assumes that hierarchicalists or patriarchalists do not have their own cultural and subcultural prejudices that impact their reading of Scripture. Second, it wrongly assumes that Scripture itself has not been impacted in its own formation with cultural components and a fallen-world context that shapes its social ethics. One would do well to read Mark Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis to see how communities dominate how we read Scripture (many preachers used Scripture to defend slavery). Did ancient culture impact the biblical ethics of slavery but not that of women? “

Weirdest: 
The Washington Post with “Zoo Mystery: How did apes and birds know the quake was coming?

Sweetest (nominated by Janet Oberholtzer):
Shawn Smucker with “The Best Friday Night This Dad Has Ever Had

Truest:
Don Miller with “Being Less Biblical and More Like the Bible
“As a writer who does not like the word 'biblical' though, I love the Bible. In my opinion, it is a rich tapestry of egoless narratives, poems and letters. Most of the writers were not chosen for their skill, I don’t believe, but each of them has an uncanny ability to remove pretense from their work."

Most Intriguing: 
Fresh Air speaks with Tom Perrotta whose latest novel features a rapturelike event in which millions of people around the globe disappear into thin air.

Most Relatable: 
Preston Yancey with “In Which I May Be The Very Worst Theologian” 
“I am always in flux, learning new things, seeing new angles, writing new stories.”

Most  Provocative (nominated by Hannah C.)
Elizabeth Esther with “The Pornification ofMarriage

Biggest Reality Check:
Mason Slater with “This Is Why I Care – Historical Adam
“We cannot ignore it as if it were unimportant, or turn our heads and hope it goes away on its own. If we do, this Calvin story is going to be repeated time and again.”

Fullest of Faith: 
Micha Hohorst with “To Lose Faith is to Stop Looking
“There are some decisions that shape the course of what you are, where you’ll walk this earth. Mine was love. I boldly offered Jesus my love. My head has been crammed ever since. For every certain experience of God’s presence, for every answered prayer, there a sure and present nag, a crusty whisper that what I’ve seen is not enough, that what I’ve counted as God’s love has been simply privilege.”

Best Storytelling: (nominated by Sarah Styles Bessey):
Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, at POTSC with “You’d Be Surprised
“But that moment in front of the SurfWind motel came back in a flood of understanding a year later, when my friend said he needed to talk and I found him lying on the floor, just a pile of tears and snot, and I heard his confession through his sobs. As it turns out, he was that guy, the kind that uses hookers.”

Best Imagery (nominated by Shawn Smucker): 
David Nilsen with “Red Rover Red Rover

Most Likely to Both Convict and Inspire (nominated by Joy Bennett): 
Alece Ronzino at Deeper Story with “Grace Runs
“No, Jesus didn’t avoid the appearance of evil. He sought it out. He pursued it. And as a result, He quite often appeared evil.”

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor…

Jomana Karadsheh
Journalist
Fluent in Arabic and English
Won Gadhafi gunman over to free journalists held against their will in a Libyan hotel

On the Nightstand…

Most Inspiring: 
“Poets are immersed in process, and I mean process not as an amorphous blur but as a discipline. The hard work of writing has taught me that in matters of the heart, such as writing, or faith, there is no right or wrong way to do it, but only the way of your life. Just paying attention will teach you what bears fruit and what doesn’t. But it will be necessary to revise—to doodle, scratch out, erase, even make a mess of things—in order to make it come out right.” – Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

Most Random: 
[Regarding Song of Solomon 5:4] “In the present passage KJ rendered “and my bowels were moved for him,” which would not now be considered felicitous, although the Rev. Dr. Sibs in 1648 for his sermons on Chapters 4-6 took his title, “Bowels Opened,” from the passages.” – The Anchor Bible, Commentary on Song of Solomon

On the blog…

Most Popular Post:
We’re Civil as Heck (But We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore)

Most Popular Comment:
In response to “We’re Civil as Heck…", Mike Clawson wrote, “I think you're right that anger is often counter-productive to producing real change and I really like your list of constructive responses. At the same time, anger is also often a necessary step in the process of uncovering the wounds of sexism and helping women (and men) identify the sources of their oppression and begin to heal from them. I think we need to be careful not to expect people to "get past" their anger too quickly. Doing so runs the risk of minimizing and silencing their very real hurts. Not to mention that being told to sit quietly, submissively, and above all, not to show your anger, is one of the major ways that women have been pushed down and marginalized in our culture (which, I would suggest, is a strong contributing factor to the kind of feedback you have been receiving for your recent posts - you were far nicer to Mark or Donald or whoever than many of us guys have been to them over the years, and yet you seemed to receive far more criticism for speaking up - i.e. not just for what you said, but for the very fact that you said anything at all - than we would have). That being the case, sometimes letting themselves get angry is exactly what many women need in order to overcome this false message that nice girls don't rock the boat.” 

What caught your eye this week? What's happening on your blog?

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Guest Post: A Visitor Among Friends

'Quaker Meeting House, Coanwood' photo (c) 2009, Akuppa John Wigham - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m moving things around this weekend in preparation for next week’s “week of silence,” (more on that later), which means today I get to introduce you to my friend Tim McGeary

I actually had the pleasure of meeting Tim over fried chicken and shoe-fly pie when Dan and I were in Amish Country back in March. Tim, (who is not Amish by the way), is a contributor for the Burnside Writers Collective through the "Purpose-Driven Centrist" column, as well as an occasional blogger.  

Professionally, Tim leads the Library Technology team at Lehigh University, is on the editorial board for theCode4Lib Journal and has published seven articles and given over 20 national and regional presentations on library technology topics.  He lives in Bethlehem, PA, with his wife Andrea and two adorable children. (I know. I’ve seen pictures.) 

When Tim emailed me to tell me about his recent visit to a Quaker meeting, I asked him to turn his message into a guest post. I’m planning to attend a gathering of Friends next Sunday and am working on scheduling an “Ask a Quaker…” interview for September, so I figured we could all be inspired by Tim’s fascinating encounter with The Religious Society of Friends. 

Enjoy!

 ***

A Visitor Among Friends
by Tim McGeary

Last year our family joined a small group that focuses on sharing real life together, while being intentionally vague in defining the spiritual nature of our gatherings.  This allows room to get to know one another for who we are, not for the answers we give to carefully crafted study guides. It is a safe environment to question openly, to ask honestly, and to share freely.  My soul has been longing for something new, and the fundamentalist Christian world I came from ceased having all the answers.  I’ve soaked up many books aiming new ideas on faith, doubt, and searching for God.  So a friend from this small group suggested we visit a Quaker meeting together. 

I am a prototypical extrovert.  I draw energy from activity and people.  I struggle to focus on any singular item, am always fidgety, and rarely quiet.  While I’ve learned a lot about introspection from my wife, I was intimidated by a communal hour of intentional silence in expectation of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

An hour of quiet reflection sounded peaceful, but would I get anything out of this?

When we arrived a handful of people were sitting quietly in the meeting room, setup squarely with long benches.  After sitting, I closed my eyes to pray, as more people quietly entered.  Nothing came into focus.  I looked around the room, noticing the intentional blandness of it, clearly to avoid distractions I was looking for.  I bowed my head and still nothing.  I looked around the room and counted people, calculating the male to female ratio, then down to the floor.

A woman stood up and shared a short, simple message.  I expected this. A Quaker website said persons may be “moved to offer a message.”  I avoided facing her, as suggested by the website.  

With her message not resonating, I went back to looking at the floor. 

Another woman stood up and spoke about peace, and how hard peacemaking is.  She talked about her work, how fulfilling it is and the abundance of such projects, but she has no peace.  Her dad was moving to hospice, and peace was disrupted for her father, for her family, and for herself.  She affirmed that we all long for peace, but we rarely reflect on how hard peacemaking is, the sacrifice required, and the burdens we still have to carry.

This message hit me to the core.

It shocked my soul with memories of watching my grandfather’s health deteriorate such that when he told me “I can’t wait until Thanksgiving to see you,” he meant it.  When I got the call of another stroke only weeks later, it was for peace that I drove 10 hours round trip to see my grandfather one last time.  And it was peace I received when I laid with him on his bed, after hearing him weep when told I had arrived.

I thought about what peace means in my home with two preschool-aged children.  As our daughter approaches kindergarten, she pushes against all boundaries, and, as parents, we struggle to push back appropriately.  Our son, almost three, bounces between copying his sister and antagonizing her, not understanding the line between fun and fight.

I thought about the spiritual peace my soul longs for.  For the first time in awhile, I felt regret for not reading the Bible, wishing I had a psalm or gospel parable to meditate upon.  

But within moments, a couples verses from Psalms and Matthew came to me. (AWANA may actually have had some positive influence on me, after all.)  No longer antsy, and with closed eyes, I focused on these areas of peace, and new angles to approach these conflicts.

A few others spoke, some shorter, some longer, but none were enlightening, nor disruptive to the quieting I felt.  I began to grasp what the Friends mean by being “visited by a spiritual presence … drawn from a deeper well... illuminated with a brighter light, [letting] those impressions dwell in you....” 

The meeting concluded once someone turned to a Friend, shook their hand, and said “Welcome.” All were asked to introduce themselves, and visitors were welcomed in unison with a warm, authentic “Welcome, Friend.”

I found this Quaker experience to be thrilling.  The most profound impact was my desire to prepare for the next meeting by reading the Bible.  I haven’t had that desire after leaving a worship service in a long while.  I also found no need to fret about doctrinal statements or a worship style, and had no fear of being recruited into ministry opportunities.  Instead, as a visitor among Friends, I found a community prepared to jointly and humbly seek an experience with the Holy Spirit through expectant waiting.

I left seeking more.  

 ***

When was the last time you were visited by a spiritual presence?

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Ask a Calvinist…

Transient

I’m giving Dennis Venema a few extra days to work on your questions for “Ask an Evolutionary Creationist.” (You asked some great ones!) Look for his response soon.

In the meantime, I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Justin Taylor as our next summer interview series guest. 

Justin is a popular blogger and leader in what many have called the neo-Reformed movement. The vice president of book publishing and an associate publisher at Crossway, he has edited and contributed to several books and served as the managing editor for The ESV Study Bible. (Prior to working at Crossway, he worked with John Piper’s ministry, Desiring God.)

Justin's blog is part of The Gospel Coalition, “a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scripture.” He serves as an elder at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. He and his wife live in Chicago with their three children.

Be sure to check out Justin’s blog—Between Two Worlds.

Now I know that conversations around the theological tenants of Calvinism can get heated at times. (See my previous posts on Calvinism.) But please remember the point of our interview series is not to debate or challenge, but to ask the sort of questions that will help us understand one another better.

So if you have a question for Justin about Calvinism, leave it in the comment section. At the end of the day, I’ll pick the top seven or eight questions and send them to Justin. Be sure to take advantage of the “like” feature so that we can get a sense of what questions are of most interest to readers.  

I’ll post his responses as soon as I return from next week’s “week of silence.” (More on that later!) 

Past interviews: 

Ask an Atheist 
Ask a Catholic 
Ask an Orthodox Jew 
Ask a Humanitarian 
Ask a Mormon 
Ask a Mennonite  
Ask an Evolutionary Creationist

Ask away…

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Influential Christian Women?

So earlier this week on twitter I asked, “Who are some female evangelical leaders you admire?”

I received so many responses that several of you asked for a complete list. Below are (most of) the names I received via tweets, but I’d certainly like to add more. 

I’d also like to get rid of the word “evangelical” since that seems to confuse a lot of people…(myself included). 

So my question for today is: Who are some influential Christian women you admire?

 Think contemporary. 

Let’s expand this list! 

Twitter Responses: 
Nancy Beech 
Nadia Bolz-Weber 
Christine Caine 
Dawn Carter 
Jenni Catron
Julie Clawson 
Pam Durso 
Elisabeth Elliot 
Kathy Escobar 
Margaret Feinberg 
Mimi Haddad 
Jen Hatmaker 
Bobbie Houston 
Carolyn Custis James 
Juliet Kilpin 
Anne Lamott 
Laura Lasky 
Anne Graham Lotz 
Elsie Anne McKee
Kathleen Norris 
Beth Moore 
Nancy Ortberg 
Christine Pohl 
Sarah Jackson Shelton 
Priscilla Shirer 
Angie Smith 
Elaine Storkey 
Barbara Brown Taylor 
Phyllis Tickle 
Pat Took 
Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen 
Ann Voskamp 
Lori Wilhite 
Brandi Wilson
Lauren Winner

(If I forgot your suggestion, I promise it wasn't on purpose! Feel free to add it again in the comment section.)

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