There Are Just Two Types Of Women In The World

[Updated from the archives.]

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There are two types of women in this world: those I know and those I don’t.

Women I don’t know

In 2012 The Independent ran an article on the conditions women face around the world. Some of the news is horrible, of course, but some is startlingly upbeat.

Rwanda's Parliament Building (Wikimedia)

Rwanda’s Parliament Building
(Wikimedia)

The best place to be a woman in national politics is not the UK or the US, but Rwanda. Women hold 45 out of 80 seats in the Rwandan Parliament, while in the US there are only 95 women serving in the House and Senate (out of 535 members total in the two houses) and the UK Parliament is hardly better with only 21% women.

So Africa is a surprisingly good place to be a woman, right? Not elsewhere on the continent. For example, more women die in childbirth in South Sudan than anywhere else, a staggering 1 in 7 according to Médecins Sans Frontières. Contrast that with Greece, which The Independent labeled the best country for giving birth with only 1 death in 31,800 births.

For making a living, Norway and Sweden have the highest wages for women compared to men (about even) while Saudi Arabia ranks lowest where women make 20% of men’s average earnings. It’s not all bad in the Middle East, though. The highest ratio of women participating in higher education worldwide is in Qatar, where women outnumber men 6 to 1 in post-secondary schools. The lowest ratio of women to men is in Chad, where there are three times as many men as women in higher education.

A woman I do know

I’d like to think that my daughter is irrepressible, and that as she desires to follow God and use the talents he’s given her she will not be swayed by the world’s mores and judgments. But I know that the hopes and plans of even the strongest people, women and men alike, can be crushed by the words and actions of others. And I know that my strong, smart daughter is no exception.

South African kids playing with our Daughter and her co-leader Shun  (More on her ministry)

South African kids playing with our daughter and her co-leader Shun
(More on her ministry)

This wonderful young woman (I practically gag at being forced to face the fact that my wonderful girl is now a wonderful woman) has plans, plans that she hopes to honor God with. She just graduated from university and is preparing to leave for a year to serve in a developing nation where she will reach out to women who are not only underserved but oppressed by their culture. This is a logical next step in her walk with God, following summers of leading teams to South Africa and serving on teams in the Middle East and eastern Europe, dating back to her Junior year of High School.

What God says, and what we can do

So have I successfully brought the two types of women together – women I do know and women I don’t – through my daughter’s ambitions and the world’s needs? I think so, but perhaps in a way that you may not expect.

Early in his ministry, Jesus summed up his purpose on earth:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has 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.” (Luke 4:18-19.)

That’s freedom for me and you and my daughter and the pregnant mothers in South Sudan, isn’t it?

Of course, Jesus was talking ultimately about spiritual freedom. But he also backed this up with physical manifestations of this freedom. In fact, Jesus himself identified how people could be assured that he was the promised Messiah. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5.) Then he backed this talk with action. (Mark 5:25-35.)

Make no mistake: the way things are around the world, it’s men who are in a position to do a lot more for women than they’re doing right now. Yet how do we carry this out for women we know and for women we don’t?

I hate to sound faddish or cliché, but a lot of it has to do with knowledge and empowerment.

1)      Get informed. Stay open to learning about what is happening in the world just as you want to know what’s happening in your own family. Seek out and read articles like the one linked at the top of this post. Pray for opportunities to help and find a way to act on them, whether it means sending money, writing to Congress, or anything else God puts on your heart.

2)      Take advantage of the opportunities God gives you with the people around you. Does your sister or girlfriend or wife or daughter or mother need something you can give? Give it. Does the harried mother in the checkout line behind you need to get through before you so she can load her groceries and her children in the car and get home? Offer a smile and a kind word, and let her go ahead of you even if you are only buying a quart of milk and a candy bar.

3)      Fill in your own blanks here. You know what you can do, and you probably already know someone you can do it for.

A job worth doing

But why is supporting women so important? As much as I’d like to say it’s because young women with as much promise as my daughter deserve to be supported and empowered, that’s not the real reason. Neither is it because there are women around the world who face tragedy daily, hourly, even by the minute.

No. It’s because doing good to others – those within God’s kingdom and those without – is a calling we are all told to follow (Galatians 6:10), because all of us are made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27.)

So I’ll pose the question again: Why is it important to support women?

Because women are made in the image of God, and that’s reason enough for me.

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“The table was piled high with bacon” – a word game

See if you can come up with a conclusion to any or all of these sentences.

  • “The table was piled high with bacon, yet …”
  • “My left sock and my right sock weren’t speaking to one another, and …”
  • “When I left the station with my favorite kumquat, I …”
  • “It wasn’t the pounding headaches I missed so much as …”
  • “The best thing about discovering the incompatibility of coffee and motor oil is …”

The best entry wins 10,000 interwebz.* The second best wins 20,000 interwebz, the third best 30,000 and so on.

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*Interwebz are imaginary, fanciful, worthless and accepted nowhere as tender, legal or otherwise. Enjoy.

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The 911 Call That’s As Simple As 1-2-3

There are days when you know you love your job, and I bet that’s how this 911 operator felt after getting a phone call from a little boy in need of help:

Did you hear the part where the man asked “What kind of math”? It’s like he’s trying to decide, “Should I dispatch the Simple Arithmetic Unit or does this case call for the elite Quadratic Equation Squad? Quick, someone get me a calculator!”

Speaking as a person who flunked high school algebra, I’m just glad the kid reached someone who could actually help.

An Even Easier Call For Help

Did you know that 911 emergency telephone service originally started with 999 being the number to call? According to one article, it was first used in the United Kingdom back in 1937 with the number making its way to North America the next year at the direction of the Mayor of Winnipeg.

The idea of calling out for help goes back even farther, of course. King David called on God for help way back around 1000 BCE:

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6.)

This same help is available to us as well. In his last conversation with his friends, after dinner mere hours before his arrest and execution, Jesus said:

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16-17.)

Jesus said our help, the One who stands up for us, is with us now and forever? Yes. When we seek truth, we turn to him who is the Spirit of Truth himself. And we don’t need a cell phone or internet access. He is not only with us, but Jesus went on to say:

… he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17.)

So while that little boy found the help he needed at the other end of the telephone, God tells us to look to him who is always right here with us – the Holy Spirit – for the help we need to live in Jesus.

It’s better than 911, and easier than 1-2-3.

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Five Ways To Handle People You Disagree With

There are two types of people on the internet:

1) Those who agree with me.
2) Those who disagree with me.

harrumph-some-complete-stranger-on-the-internet-just-disagreed-with-me-again-629d2

Still, do they all need a response from me? Is it my job to set everyone else straight?

Engagement Without Enmity

I think there are ways to engage well with people who write blogs or comment on blogs. After all, most people write those things because they want to state their opinion and perhaps have an influence on others.

So here are my top five ideas for engaging people on the internet:

1) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20.)

2) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew5:9.)

3) “Many words mark the speech of a fool.” (Ecclesiastes 5:3.)

4) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14.)

5) A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1.)

Did I say those are my ideas? They’re not, of course, and many times I fail to live out the life of love evidenced in these verse. But these are the things I hope to keep in mind as I engage people whether on the Internet or in real life.

Because all those people who comment and blog? They’re all real people, just like you and me.

Here’s one more guideline, one that Jesus said sums up all the rules there have ever been or ever will be:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12.)

And that’s how you deal with people you disagree with.

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Bonus fun – Let’s see what our friends at Blimey Cow have to say about disagreeing with internet people:

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Meeting [im]Possible Standards – what it takes to make your case in court

This is how many people think it works in a courtroom: once judges hear all the evidence they must rule in favor of the person who deserves to win.

Not always.

Judges are also required to make sure that proper standards are met. You see, the laws passed by Congress and the state legislatures create a way to redress grievances, to resolve  disputes, and compensate for losses one person causes another. But to win you must not only be able to show you are right; you also have to meet the right standards.

Too Little, Too Late

Let’s say the case is about a car accident. One car ran into another and hurt the people inside, so those people sued the first driver.

And then their case got tossed out of court.

Legally.

There are a couple of reasons this could happen. One is that the people might not have had enough evidence that the first driver was at fault because they couldn’t find any witnesses to the accident. Another reason is they might have waited too long to bring the lawsuit; once a statute of limitations (the time limit to sue somebody) has run out it’s usually too late to file a case in court.

And sometimes people lose their case because they just don’t know what they’re doing. They not only don’t meet the standards (whether it’s having enough evidence or filing on time), they don’t even know what the standards are. They haven’t done the research necessary to pursue their claim in court.

It’s not that all of this is impossible for people. I’ve had plenty of people represent themselves in my courtroom and succeed. The standards for a court case might be exacting and at times quite technical, but they are not impossible to meet.

Meeting Impossible Standards

Jesus told us God’s standards are high, higher than we could ever reach.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48.)

Perfection.

Impossible.

An unreasonable expectation.

Perfection.

And yet it is not unattainable. It is a gift: attained for us, credited to us, and ours for eternity.

God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:24-25.)

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30.)

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19.)

Impossible standards? Yes, for me on my own, completely impossible.

But for Jesus on my behalf? Completely doable.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27.)

Get ready for the impossible.

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African Activists Generate Warmth for Needy Norwegians

[From the archives]

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Have you seen this parody of music fundraiser videos? It’s funny and clever and wise all at once:

Brrr, Norway!

We are called to comfort others with compassion, to coming alongside others as God comes alongside us. (2 Cor. 1:3-4.) As that parody shows, though, it’s not always easy to discern what real compassion (to suffer with others, literally) looks like.

Red Cross (Wikimedia)

Red Cross (Wikimedia)

NPR has reported on the problems of sending thousands of toys and stuffed animals to a community after a disaster. It’s happened with Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, Super-storm Sandy, the Connecticut shooting. One Red Cross worker said they once had to divert a cargo plane full of medical supplies to an airport miles away because the small airstrip in the country she was in was already piled high with worthless items sent by people who thought they were helping.

The Radi-Aid video also points out that cultural differences are another obstacle to understanding each other’s needs, which reminds me of an old Archie comic book I had. Archie and Betty were boxing up some items to donate to charity when Veronica stopped by and asked why they bothered to help poor people.

Archie (Wikimedia)
Archie and his helping hand
(Wikimedia)

They told her that some people just weren’t as well off as she was and need a helping hand. After much explaining, Veronica finally started to get it, then jumped up and said she wanted to help too. So she packed some caviar and foie gras, got in her sports car and drove over to another rich friend’s house, saying she’d heard that they had to sell one of their Rolls Royces because money got a little tight. The friend broke down in tears at Veronica’s generous and thoughtful act of compassion. Betty looked at Archie and said, “Well, at least it’s a start!”

People know that others need help, but they don’t always know how to go about helping the right way. Prayer, seeking guidance and advice from people who know more about the needs, these are key, all the while trusting God to guide us in delivering compassion as he has had compassion on us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

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Don’t You Dare Tell Me You’re Too Old

My Dad last-minute subbed for Sunday School last weekend.

He taught on Ruth – from memory.

There were twelve kids, ages 5-6.

My Dad is 90 years old.

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Answering Ken Ham – When a Creationist Misunderstands Creation Doctrine

Ken Ham (Wikipedia)

Ken Ham
(Wikipedia)

Ken Ham believes God created everything. I’m with him on that.

He also thinks it unlikely there is life on other planets. We’ll wait and see, I suppose, but nothing in that vein would surprise me one way or the other.

Here’s where he and I definitely part company though, and it has nothing to do with conjecture about whether there is life on other planets. No, it has to do with the eternal destiny of God’s creation: Mr. Ham thinks that in the unlikely event there is intelligent life on other planets it is guaranteed to spend eternity doomed to hell. In an article at The Raw Story he is quoted saying:

“You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation,” he explained. “Jesus did not become the ‘GodKlingon’ or the ‘GodMartian’! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the ‘Godman’ as our Savior.”

(Mr. Ham wrote an article at Answers in Genesis presenting his views in more detail.)

Where Mr. Ham Goes Wrong

Just because all creation is tainted by sin does not therefore mean that intelligent life must be earth-originated-human (“Adam’s descendants”) in order to be saved through Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite: all creation will be renewed through the redemption found in Jesus.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21.)

The phrase “subjected to frustration” is the reference to sin affecting all creation (as Mr. Ham said, “the whole universe), but the bit about being “liberated from bondage” also applies to the whole universe. The passage is clear that creation – all of it, from what I can tell, meaning the entire universe – will share “the freedom and glory” of God’s people.

A few of the galaxies visible from the Hubble telescope

A few of the galaxies visible from the Hubble telescope

Jesus explicitly tells us that this liberation not just for humans, but for all creation:

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5.)

Those words translated “all things” in that verse mean just that in the original Greek: all things. Likewise, the word “new” really is from the Greek word meaning new. Everything is being made new, not just people but all creation. So if there is intelligent life on other planets, they will be part of the liberation promised in Romans 8 and the renewal Jesus declared in Revelation 21.

I find this comforting. There is no part of God’s creation he doesn’t care for, whether it’s a person here on earth or whoever might be found across the universe.

But perhaps all of this is an alien concept to Mr. Ham?

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Clones for Christ

Jesus doesn’t need clones.

Jesus doesn’t call us to be like other Christians, and he doesn’t call other Christians to try to mold us in their images. Yet sometimes I read articles by someone famous and it sounds an awful lot like “If you would only live the Christian life exactly how I tell you to, the way that I tell you I live mine, then you’ll be the person God wants you to be.”

Those leaders appear to want to operate a disciple machine like this:

From the funny folks at Leadership Journal

From the funny folks at Leadership Journal

That’s not what really happens in God’s family, though. In fact, the family aspect of belonging to God is the first clue that we are not to be clones, but rather individuals. When you look at a family you don’t see people who are indistinguishable from one another. Sure there are similarities and family traits, but families do not consist of absolute identical beings.

Consider the people Jesus drew alongside him. The twelve disciples who were closest to him included fishermen, a tax collector, a political/religious activist, and more. After spending three years by Jesus’ side they continued in their individuality. Even after the Holy Spirit came on Jesus’ followers following his resurrection, they still showed remarkable diversity in the way they lived out their faith.

Peter and John preached together for a while but eventually split up and Peter settled on the coast, while John traveled far to the north to reach out to people completely unlike the neighbors he grew up with on the shores of Galilee. John’s brother James, on the other hand, stayed in Jerusalem, the big city also so unlike their home town, to lead the infant fellowship of believers. It got him killed. The government didn’t like this new movement of faith and went right to the top to stop it by getting rid of the person who seemed to be in charge. James was dead, yet the church continued to grow even without his leadership.

That’s the thing about belonging to Jesus. No one is really in charge, and no one really has a say in how everyone else is supposed to behave. Any time I see a new church or movement claiming to be Christian, I figure I should wait to see if it can survive the removal or death of its founder. One thing I’ve discovered is that if there is a leadership crisis and the church closes up shop or the movement folds, then it was probably more about the leader trying to make people do things his way (and usually it was a man in charge) rather than pointing people to Jesus.

Christianity survived the death of James – and Peter, and John, and Paul, and Timothy, and Barnabas and all the other people we read of in the Bible – because our faith is about Christ and not about them. It continues to survive despite what some leaders today are trying to do in making their followers in their own images. Their movements might fall, but the church will stand.

And as people who belong to Jesus’ family, as the people who each make up the body of Christ, as the church universal that stands for eternity in God’s kingdom, we also will not fall but forever remain with God.

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Cowboy and the Preacher Shake Hands

My hand was cold and clammy and I couldn’t help it but the preacher wanted to shake it anyway.

My hand wasn’t the only thing being shook. My whole body had the shakes. I’d never felt so cold in the middle of summer. The trail boss put me under a piece of canvas from the chuck wagon to get me out of the sun, but truth be told I’d’ve rather stayed out there in the heat. Except for when the chills left me and the fever took over.

The preacher was passing through, riding circuit from one town to some other town. I don’t know much about the towns hereabouts, just riding herd across the open range. The end of the trail was still a couple weeks north and here I was laid up bringing the cattle drive to a halt.

“Mind if I pray for you, son?”

“Nope, s’pose not. Just help me sit up first.”

“You should lie back and rest,” he said.

“But you said we’re going to pray.”

“You can pray there in your blanket just fine. God doesn’t mind.”

Seemed odd to pray on my back, but then the fever came on and I couldn’t do anything but stay down under my blanket anyway.

He went to where his horse was tied and pulled a Bible out of his bags. He sat next to me under the canvas strung between the branches of one of the scrawniest oak trees stuck out here in the middle of the range and read, “‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.‘”

“Now Lord,” he said, “this child of yours here is burning like a furnace with this fever, and he needs your healing so he can get back up with the strength of those frolicking calves your prophet Malachi is talking about here in your word. You’re the Almighty, so you can do it. Amen.”

Funny kind of prayer, I thought, but I couldn’t not say amen to it. So I did.

“Now here’s some water, take it slow.”

It was warm on my tongue, but felt good. “Do you think that prayer’s going to work?”

“Why do you ask?”

“The cook on the last cattle drive we were on, last summer, he got a fever. The trail boss prayed a lot for him, but he didn’t make it.”

“All I can tell you is that God answers every prayer every time. He just doesn’t always say yes.”

“So I might die too?

“Of course you’re going to die, son. We all are. What matters is what comes after that.”

“That’s what the trail boss said. Cookies’ parents told me they weren’t worried about him when I told ‘em he’d died. They were awfully sad about it, but they seemed kind of cheerful almost in their grief. Said he was with Jesus.”

“It sounds like Cookie and his parents knew the Lord.”

“Well, his Dad’d been a preacher, like you.”

“So they knew where Cookie was, even though he’d died.” He stood up and put his Bible back in his saddle bag. “What about you, son. Do you know the Lord?”

“Sometimes I talk to the trail boss about God. Maybe that’s why I wanted to ride with him again this year. Cookie’s mother gave me his Bible to keep for myself, so I try to read it and learn what I can about God.” I reached toward the canteen and he stooped down and brought it to my lips. “Can’t say that I think I know him, though, not like you and the trail boss do, or like Cookie did.”

“I think your friend Cookie still knows Jesus, and a lot better than I do,” he said.

“Preacher, I’m sorry to say it but I’m feeling awfully tuckered.”

“Sure, ‘course you are. You need to rest. I’ve got a feeling God’s not done with you.”

I was about out of strength to stay awake, but my question about his last comment must have shown on my face.

“I don’t think my passing by while you’re laid up here in camp was an accident. I don’t believe in accidents, not like this anyway. No, the Lord brought me across your trail today for a reason.” He stood up again. “Where’s that Bible Cookie’s mother gave you?”

I lifted my hand a couple inches and pointed at my saddle bags by my horse Pete, tied up next to his.

He got the Bible and opened to a place somewhere in the middle. “This is another one of God’s prophets,” he said, “a wise man named Isaiah, and he wrote ‘Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.’ That’s good advice.”

He folded down the corner of the page and placed the Bible next to the canteen. “You read that for yourself when you’re a bit stronger and keep seeking God.”

“Seeking?” I managed to croak out. “I don’t know … .”

“Oh you’ve been seeking him, son. But you’ve known that for a while. What you may not know is that means he’s been seeking you even longer.”

I closed my eyes, maybe from exhaustion, maybe just from thinking on what he just said. God seeking me? The trail boss said things like that too.

My head sank deeper into Pete’s saddle I was using for a pillow. I didn’t even hear the preacher ride off.

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[The Cowboy's story began in Counting Canyons and continued with his visit to Cookie's parents in Cold Canyon.]

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