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Entries in Women' Ministries (37)


Being busy is not necessarily a virtue

This morning David Murray shared a link from The True Woman site which describes something familiar to me. It's about young girls drowning in busyness. When I was a young woman, I wasn't drowning in busyness in the way described in the article, but I was when I was in my early 30s. I think busy women begin as busy girls. 

I began homeschooling my children in 2000, and during that year I was also involved in other things. I was working with the kids' club for grades 1-6, teaching Sunday school along with four other teachers to the teens, sharing teaching responsibilities at a ladies' bible study, and to top it all off, finishing the last credit for my degree. Oh, and I was a mother and a wife with a home to care for. Wonder woman? No, Stupid Woman.

I remember sitting in the quiet darkness one spring morning, early, as I read my bible and prayed. And I remember reading the words, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." The words from Psalm 90:12, "number our days" rang through my head for the remainder of the day. I don't know what it was about those words, but they got me thinking.

At that time, despite being in the Word regularly, and serving my family and local church, I felt spiritually dry. I didn't feel joyful; I felt worn out. Managing the schedule, completing the tasks, finishing the lessons, and handing in the essays was getting done. The kids were being fed, and they were growing. But what about my heart before the Lord? My heart was not being fed deeply enough. Some changes were made. I pared down my schedule, and it was only then that I began to see just how busy I had been and how unwise it had been.

When our kids were all teenagers we began facing some hard challenges. I was not prepared. Looking back now, I realize I had a lot of quick answers and stock platitudes, but not a lot of depth. I didn't have the answers my teens needed. When a teen asks you how you know the Bible is the true Word of God, telling him Jesus loves him is nice, but it doesn't give him what he needs. Maybe instead of juggling two or three teaching gigs, I should have been studying more myself.

I thought being busy was doing good works, but I was neglecting the best work in my own heart: knowing God more through studying His word. Quite simply, it is not more virtuous to be busy. There is nothing wrong with having half an hour (or maybe even a whole hour!) with nothing to do but sit before His word. If young moms have time to scrapbook, have girlfriend time, shop, or play those weird games on Facebook, there is time for the Word.

There are days when I wish I knew my bible better. There are things I wish came more automatically to me. There are time when I look back and think, "I wish I hadn't been so busy back then." Some of those things I did weren't really of benefit to my children, either. But that's a whole other issue I won't even go into.

Right now, my life is full but not busy, and that's by design. I've purposely committed to fewer things so that I can do each to the fullest rather than do a whole host of things in a hurried, mediocre fashion. Some day, Lord willing, I'll have grandchildren. Some day, I will have parents and in-laws who need my help. I'll be busier then. In the meantime, I'm going to use this time of relative calm to study and think, and occasionally take walks and think some more. I guess I'm beginning to learn how to number my days.


Get thee to another blog!

No blogging for me this morning, which may be a relief for some.

This week, I've read and benefitted from posts written by Paul Tautges about friendship. I don't think he's geared these words to female friendships, specifically, but I have learned quite a bit from them.

The first one is called The Indispensable Need for Biblical Friends.

The second is called Four Marks of a Biblical Friend.

Today's is Forging and Cultivating Biblical Frirendships.

I have never found being friends with women an easy thing. This is probably due to my own shortcomings. Either that, or being the only girl in the family of four children, and lack of girliness forever influened what kind of female friend I am, i.e. a bad one. Truly, my husband is my best friend. Men are often so much easier than women to be friends with even when they do frustrate us. 

And yet, I know that I need female friends. I think it is worth the effort to have them, although I know I fail at this. Recently, I have had quite a few struggles in this area, and that has made from some self-examination.

I am sure you will learn a lot from these posts.


Temperance and the vote aren't enough

I've been reading a biography of Nellie McClung. This is a recent one, by Charlotte Gray, a popular Canadian historian. 

Much of the content of the book thus far is about McClung's vigorous work toward to the attainment of female suffrage. She was famous for her "mock parliament" performances where her wit and humour were utilized to poke holes in the arguments of those who thought politics wasn't for nice ladies. In 1916, the women of Manitoba were given the vote in provincial elections.

Another one of Nellie's pet causes was the temperance movement. It was her belief that alcohol was the social evil that kept people from flourishing, and which ruined socieites. She was so against it that, as a member of the legislative assembly in Alberta during the first World War, she questioned the exporting of grain to England because she feared it would be used for whisky production. At a time when food was probably an issue on the front, she was more worried about the production of whiskey.

Also at the root of Nellie's way of thinking was the notion that women were somehow morally superior to men, and it was for this reason that they needed to be more involved in public life. She assumed that if women had been governing Germany, there never would have been any war. I found this a little amusing, consisdering that history has its share of women who could not be considered morally superior to anyone.

Gray suggests that McClung is the strongest voice for first-wave feminism in Canadian history. Her book In Times Like These is considered by Gray evidence of that. What I find interesting, though, is that McClung was believed to be a Christian. Her mother was Presbyterian and her father a Methodist. She married the son of a Methodist minister. It was her mother-in-law who really seemed to have been the example for a woman taking active participation in society. For someone who was in church all of her life, Neillie missed the most crucial lesson: the depravity of man. And yes, that included women. Anyone with a solid understanding of Scripture would know that prohibition and getting the vote for women was not the solution to society's ills. The solution is the transformation of individuals in the society in question. 

McClung's desire for women to have the vote and to be more involved in public life was rooted in them simply being women, not because they were skilled or qualified or even desirous. In fact, she was very harsh toward those women who were not nearly as committed to the cause as she, and who preferred to remain in the home caring for their families. It seems that to McClung, a woman's gender is what gave her value, not the reality of being created in the image of God.  I think her view is common even today. 

What is ironic is that prohibition didn't last, didn't make any lasting changes, and some might say, contributed to alcohol-related crime. Prohibition did not stop the horror of war in Europe, a war where her son fought and returned home permanently scathed. Prohibition and women's suffrage were not a magic cure-all. They were not because they didn't address the issues of the heart, the issue of sin. This leaves me wondering what kind of Methodism Nellie experienced. That question can only be answered by looking at what those churches were like at the turn of the century. Another question for another day.


What kinds of good works?

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The apostle Paul makes sure that the reader knows the right relationship between faith and works. We are not saved by our works, but they are something in which we are to walk in light of being saved by grace through faith.

So, what are good works?

Rebecca recently looked at that term, in her weekly Theological Term of the Week series. Check it out.

Good works are something we do in the name of Christ, as evidence of our love for Him, in order to honour Him. It's a response that comes from a heart of gratitude for what's been done for us.

So, what does that include?

My first reaction to that is obedience to His word. What could be more good than obeying His word? We are not looking for rules, per se, but principles which nourish our hearts and shape our conduct every day, and with every choice we make.

Good works ought to point to God's glory. Does sharing the gospel (which we're commanded to do in Scripture) do that? Does worship (which we're also commanded to do) bring glory to God? Does helping the poor honour God? Does loving our neighbour as ourselves honour God? Of course they do.

The scope for what constitutes a "good work" is wide, indeed.

As a woman who was given a husband and children, evidence of my good works is serving them. The home is a wonderful place to do good works. But it doesn't stop there. While working in the home is mandated for Christian women (regardless of whether or not she's married and has children; single women live in homes, too), good works are not confined to caring for the home or acts of hospitality.

I believe it is a good work to teach ladies the Word of God. It is a good word to study the Scriptures diligently so that I understand them well enough to teach them. I believe it is a good work to probe theology as deeply as I can, so that I may not lead anyone astray. When my children were little, it was a good work for me to prepare lessons for them to learn the Scriptures. It was important that I make sure I taught them to the best of my ability. Now that my children are gone from home, I'm doing a good work by preparing weekly lessons for my students. 

What about writing? Is that a good work?  I believe that a woman who writes a book, blog post, or article which brings honour to God, and causes others to understand Him more is doing a good work. 

Is doing work in an office, hospital, or classroom a good work? I believe it can be. When a woman participates by supporting her family financially, that is a good work. Working in a way that reflects her faith in Christ is a good work. Shining a light in a dark place is a good work. 

Baking bread, knitting a sweater, canning and preserving, teaching our children: all good works.

Treating a co-worker with love and grace, helping a neighbour who has needs, and yes, learning solid hermeneutics: all good works.

As women, we occasionally get defensive about the ways we use our time. For every woman out there who thinks every woman ought to stay home with her children instead of working there is a woman who thinks that women should get out there and get busy in the workforce. It just depends on the circles you travel in. We don't need to defend our good works to other women. We just need to be accountable before God and if we're married, our husbands. Our motives need to be pure, and God's glory (not our own) be the focus.

So, let go ahead and bake our bread and homeschool our children. Let's get a job and work to the glory of God while we serve our families. By all means, let's have our priorities right, but let's not presume to tell others how they ought to work for God. It's called vocation, and everyone has her own. I know that for myself, when I'm concentrating more on what God has called me to do, I'm a lot less worried about what others are doing.


Women out of community

I love the movie Witness. One of my favourite scenes is the barn-raising. In that scene, the entire community comes together to build a barn for a young family. The men work on the barn, and the women put on a big spread of food to feed the hungry workers. 

Community help is not something restricted to the Amish. It used to be that all women were involved in community in similar ways. In a book I read recently, Making Ends Meet, one of the people who was interviewed by the author shared stories of women in the community getting together to make sausage. Whe I was about eight or nine, my aunt made sausage and she had some other women come together to combine their efforts and ingredients, dividing the spoils up at the end of the day. 

If you want to learn how to have a lovely home, how to organize your kitchen, how to budget your money, or how to get crayon off the wall, then there is a book for you. We actually don't need a community to teach us these things because we can just buy the latest Christian homemaker's manual. These books are helpful, but they cannot provide what we receive in community with other women: relationships.

I'm not going to burden you with yet another dissertation on Titus 2; it's a passage that's sufficiently discussed out there in blog land, or among your own local women's church groups. The point is, we are born again into a community of believers, men and women, and it's a beneficial thing to support and nurture in community, not just through a book with beautiful pictures and an appealing author. As Staci said yesterday, we need people.

I was the beneficiary of such a relationship with my aunt. She not only taught me how much flour and water to add to make the gravy, but also talked a lot about her struggles early in her married life, when they had little money, and how she coped with that. I learned to put a zipper in the back of a dress, but we also talked about learning to be content with what we have, and not wondering about "what if." We made jam and relish, but we also talked about how to budget money, and take advantage of sales at the grocery store, and having our own gardens. It wasn't even in the things she said directly to me, but rather the attitude she displayed: commitment to her husband and her family, and to the path set before her each day. Summer after summer, from the time I was fourteen, I literally followed her around her farm, not only helping and learning, but developing a relationship.

And where did she learn the things she taught me? She had a group of women who provided the teaching. Her own mother died when she was eight. Most of what she learned about domestic duties came from my grandmother and her community of women, sisters and friends, and people they went to church with.

Even though being friends with women can be difficult, I think women are the better for learning in community. It's natural, and it's not contrived. It's about a relationship, not just learning skills. Anyone can learn skills; it takes much more work to develop relationships. When I studied Titus 2 to teach to a group of women, I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg. He commented that the kind of teaching that was spoken of in that passage was the kind where a women learned in the ordinary course of events; sort of like what I received. Yes, homemaking manuals are good, but it's so much sweeter to learn from someone who cares about us.