This is Grief


I looked outside his window and saw the sky light up with hues of pink. The sun was setting, and I couldn’t help but bask in the irony of it all. The sunset that evening was breathtaking.  I was in awe. The world outside of his hospice room was filling with such radiant beauty.  But inside… these four walls contained just darkness.  A tangible darkness, if you will; one you could feel weighing on your chest. I sat at his bedside holding his lifeless hand in mine.  Tears were falling down my face as I realized that I was already mourning the loss of my dad, though his heart still beat. His body lay present, but his personhood–the dad I grew up knowing–the dad that I loved… he was gone.  I watched as his chest would rise and fall, and I listened as that deep rumble would leave his body with each breath. It was mechanical at this point; as if no intention were left in his soul. 

I squeezed his hand, and kissed his cheek for one last time.  I leaned over him, and whispered my final goodbyes.  “I’ll see you in the mountains, Daddy,” I remember saying. 

Growing up you assume that you will outlive your parents. You assume that one day you will have to lay your parents to rest.  But not now; not like this.  I always thought he would be older. Hell, I thought I would be older.  I thought it would be of old age, and that it would be this quiet and peaceful thing.  Isn’t that what we all long for?

I watched as cancer fiercely ripped my father’s life away from me.  I watched as he lay in anguish, because the drugs could not touch his pain. True Hell on Earth.  Countless nights were spent tossing and turning with my phone volume on high.  I was in this perpetual state of waiting.  Waiting for what the morning would hold.  What would my father’s new normal be?  What freedom would he lose tonight? What part of his body would give way to the turmoil the cancer was inflicting upon it? But just as ferociously as the cancer came, it so too went.  November 20th came with a great sense of relief for my dad, because he was finally free.  But that day also left behind such bitterness and anger in me.

One thing I learned from all of this is that time stops for no one.  Life is given, and life is taken away.  And the days?  They carry on, as if nothing ever happened; as if every fiber of my being wasn’t rocked to its very core.

I was changed.  How could I not be?

After bearing witness to such suffering, somehow I was supposed to return home to my old life.  I had a tiny human growing inside of me, two beautiful souls to raise, and a spouse to love. But that person I was, the things I used to find joy in, the life that once gave me such purpose…. it was gone. 

“Less Than” is what I utter to myself in the mirror, because I am less than the person I was, and less than the person I ought to be. Even harsher is the reality that the life I’m living is less than the life my dad would have desired for me to live.  There are nights I’ll allow myself to sit in the darkness, in the grief, and I think how sad?  How truly sad my dad would be if he knew where I was at.

I am so humbly aware of the fact that who I once was, is not who I am today.  There is an underlying sadness that I carry with me now every single day, because my dad is not here.  There is a darkness that beckons me to come, sit, let the anguish overtake me. It is overwhelming and debilitating at times.

I’m sure some of you are reading this, and are now worried for my wellbeing.  You’re crying out through your computer screens for me to be strong, to think of my family, to think of the little ones who call me ‘mom’.  Some of you are probably asking where is my faith?  Where is my God? There may even be some of you contemplating picking up the phone….don’t.

This is grief.

It is multifaceted, it is cyclical, and it is ongoing.  It is darkness, but it is also light.  Within it, grief contains memories of joy, laughter, and love.  But yet it also contains the heavy memories of anguish and terror.  Grief can bring moments of peace as I watch my son drum along to his Papaw’s music.  But it can also bring moments of despair as I flip through pictures of my older kids being held by their Papaw for the first time, and then realize that there are no pictures of him with my youngest.

There are days where grief is a raging river that overcomes every bit of my soul, and I am left gasping for air. I can hear my dad asking when I am due with the new baby, and I can feel the silence filling up the room as we all realize he will never meet his new grandson.  I can see him hunched over in his favorite recliner, tears rolling down his face, as he whispers to us that he is done; that there is no more fight left in him.  I can see his restless body thrashing around begging for peace.  I am left treading in these violent memories, feeling my body grow weak, and begin sinking deeper in it.

But then there are days where it comes as a gentle mist from an ocean shore.  It is something I choose to bask in, and choose to wallow in the sweet memories that it brings forth. I can see my dad sitting with his guitar in hand.  I can see my kids gathered around him; taking turns with his pick. I can see his smile.  I can hear his laugh. I can hear the awful, yet beautiful music he is creating with his grandkids. His memory is so real that I can almost reach out and touch his skin.

This, all of this…. The good the bad, the sorrow the joy, the dark the light.  All of it…

This is Grief. 



Faith and Feminism: Rooted in the Spiritual




When you read this word, what picture comes to mind?

More than likely, some of you have pictured an aggressive, angry woman standing beside a raging fire of bras with her fists clenched.  She is also covered in hair: hair on her legs, hair in her armpits–just loads and loads of hair.  There is probably a sign next to her proclaiming the inferiority of the male gender.  Gasp!

You may laugh at this extreme portrayal, but unfortunately this is a common perception of a feminist.

When I talk to others about feminism, many cannot see past this extreme image.  I tell them about my belief in the interconnection of faith and feminism, and they immediately are up-in-arms about it.

“A woman of faith should not find a friend in feminism,” some would say.

What I find to be so ironic about this statement is that many of the founding mothers of feminism were also great women of faith.  Their activism was simply an outpouring of the Divine at work inside of them.

These women did not find their belief in feminism and their faith at odds because their understanding of God propelled them into the realm of social justice.  (And just as a side note, these women were not “man-haters”.  The Abolitionist Feminists, as they were known, were fighting for the equality of both genders; they believed in the freedom for the male just as much for the female.  The Declaration of Sentiments, which many of these Abolitionist Feminists took part in creating, proudly states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal).

One of the greatest Abolitionist Feminists was Lucretia Mott.

Through her study of scripture, she found that part of Jesus’s identity was found in his actions; through meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people around him.  Jesus sought to bring freedom to the oppressed, to bring good news to the poor, to recover the sight of the blind, and so forth.

Mott saw how God’s kingdom was brought to earth in Jesus‘ time through said actions, and acknowledged that we are vessels called to continue this good work in our own day and age:

In the same way that Jesus proclaimed the in-breaking of the reign of God to be possible and real in his time, Mott expected evidence of it in her time. Mott’s reference to proclaiming liberty to the captive was a repetition of the Gospel of Luke’s words describing Jesus’ mission. “. . . The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, . . . he hath sent me to . . . preach deliverance to the captives, . . .” (Luke 4:18ab KJV, in turn a quotation from Isaiah 61) By referring to this passage Mott implies that “we ourselves” may be the ones upon whom the Spirit of the Lord is. Those engaged in reform movements were to be as active as Jesus in ushering in the kingdom of God,” (Eppinger, Messiahs of Every Age: A theological Basis of Nineteenth-century Social Reform).

Lucretia Mott was known for making statements such as, “Let us not hesitate to aspire to be the Messiah’s of our age.”  At surface level, some may view this as heretical, but this is more of a call to action to all believers.  Through her own encounter and understanding of the person of Jesus, Mott realized that she must participate in lived actions just like Jesus.  And we must do the same if we call ourselves Christians.

Mott’s activism was a direct result of her faith.  Reflecting on Mott’s work, Helen LaKelly Hunt states:

We can infer that her sense of justice comes from her understanding of what kind of Creator is bestowing the gifts of creation.  In other words, her politics and her feminism stem from her faith in God-given equality, (73, Faith and Feminism). 

The stereotypical image of the man-hating, bra-burning, angry woman has somehow become the face of the “equality” movement, and therefore many persons of faith cannot connect their faith with feminism.  Historically though, feminism’s roots are grounded in the spiritual.  Women like Lucretia Mott were not a rare commodity. Many of the early feminists found a friend in the equality movement because of their understanding of their God.

For me, feminism is about the equality of and for all.  As I continue to gain a deeper understanding of the person of Jesus Christ and what it means to be Christian, I can’t help but feel myself propelled into this realm of social justice.

So as I pray and ask God for His kingdom to come to earth, and as I reflect on the actions of the Messiah to bring God’s kingdom to mankind, I find myself compelled to tangibly partake in lived actions, so that what I pray for may become a reality.


Guest Post- Women: Jesus’ Forgotten Disciples


by Justin Rose


James, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple.

Phillip, Thomas, and Andrew.

Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot.


These, and other names, comprise the men whose chief role in Christian memory is the recollection of intimacy with Jesus of Nazareth.  They are the faithful disciples who refuse to abandon Jesus (until his betrayal and arrest), the founding primates of the Church, and the martyrs who face the sword, the cross, the beasts, and the fire on account of their faithful witness.  These so-called Twelve make up the totality of Jesus’ closest circle of students and followers.

Any attention to the gospel and the epistolary texts, however, reveal that Jesus’ company throughout his ministry was not exclusively male.

The scant attention to Jesus’ childhood is overtly characterized by the presence of his mother, Mary. The gospels make significantly more space for his friendship with the women in the sibling group of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  There is also the anointing at Bethany, the exorcism of the Syro-phoenician woman’s daughter, and the woman Jesus meets at the well.  Then, of course, there is the initial revelation of Jesus’ resurrection to the women at the tomb, which depict Jesus’ unusual affirmation of women and their proximity to his movement in first-century Palestine.

Despite these examples of the centrality of women in Christian origins, patriarchal  institutions have acted through the centuries to suppress the memory of these women. Even in the text itself, we witness the creeping in of anonymity and belittlement of the women who Jesus most likely counted as close to him, as he did the Twelve.

In the biblical narrative (Mark 14), a woman enters the house where Jesus is dining with Simon the Leper and anoints his head with a jar of alabaster. Though she is scolded for this expensive display of honor, Jesus rebukes her male critics and declares that whenever the good news is proclaimed in the world, her story would be told in remembrance of her. From the very mouth of Jesus comes the spiritual and ecclesial promotion of this woman.

This sign-action the woman performs is a priestly and prophetic gesture; signaling the suffering, death, and burial of Jesus. It is also an allusion to the Hebrew Bible’s tradition of the anointing of kings of Israel, thus making the sign-action a foreshadowing of Jesus’ vindication by God and ascendancy to his future as Christ the King.

In Luke’s gospel, however, the woman who anoints Jesus is remembered not as a friend of Jesus, but as a sinner. This, it should be noted, is not an uncommon tendency in the zeitgeist of patriarchal narrativity. That is, patriarchy consistently seeks to demonize or “other” women whose narrative function deconstructs or alters “traditional” roles of women, especially in antiquity. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza points out in her book, In Memory of Her, that while Jesus, the head of the Church, champions the behavior and the memory of the woman who anoints him, her name is lost to us forever.

Another woman whose courageous engagement with Jesus in their patriarchal Greco-Roman context is relegated to anonymity is the woman with the daughter possessed by an unclean spirit.  She is also known as the Syro-phoenician woman.  (This biblical narrative is found in Mark 7:25-30 and paralleled in Matthew 15:21-28).

In this particular case, Jesus proffers a controversial response to her request that he deliver her daughter of this evil. “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus says. While at first blush this might not seem the most compassionate of responses, it is in keeping with his earlier command that pearls not be cast before swine (Matthew 7:6). Jesus in the gospel texts, though radically inclusive, does caution his followers not to share the precious gospel so unguardedly with those who would have no use for it and thus corrupt it.  Mark and Matthew provide this story perhaps as a warning for those early Jewish Christians who might take such advice as justification for their exclusion of the uncircumcised, the Gentiles.

In any case, the woman demonstrates remarkable sophistication as a student of the great teacher and, as any lover of pedagogy will note, does not simply accept Jesus’ rejection as correct. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

With this retort, the woman transcends the seeming daftness of the Markan male disciples and embodies the Matthean comparison of a Jesus follower to a faithful scribe. She is engaged with the divine teaching, wrestling with it, and allowing it to evolve into a helpful, nuanced part of Christian identity. This person, who exists outside the Torah sanctioned boundaries of inclusion, widens the table to make room for other Gentiles in the early Jesus movement. Her daughter is delivered of the unclean spirit and thus the work of liberation, which characterizes Christianity, is made universal.

At the heart of the Christian creed is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Here is precisely where the agency and leadership of Jesus’ women disciples comes into play.  At this heart, we witness the timidity, the denial, the betrayal, and the failure of belief in Jesus’ closest male disciples. Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus. The twelve cannot remain awake during his agonizing vigil in the garden. Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, denies his messiah three times. Most of them flee before his execution. And finally, upon his resurrection, many are hesitant to believe the good news he had foretold.  But, there is no account of abandonment by his women disciples. No betrayal. No denial.

Mary of Magdala and “the other Mary” were the first to learn of his resurrection, the first to witness his resurrected estate, and in Luke, the first to communicate the good news to the male disciples. In fact, in Luke’s redactional transmission of the account, a wealthy woman, Joanna, is added to the initial witnesses. His redaction is in keeping with Luke’s curious interest in powerful women, which probably says a great deal about the role of women in Christian origins.

So, what is the responsibility of the Christian who calls herself or himself a feminist when it comes to this problem of memory and of anonymity?  Can our biblical texts be reclaimed so that the agency and leadership of early Christian women might take their places at the table?

Surely, the radical example of inclusion and table sharing in the life of Jesus and the call to participation in God’s proclamation that all things are being made new are sufficient validation for this endeavor.  The observations that have been made here are merely at the surface of what is a massive reclamation and indeed reconstruction of Christian origins, which prioritizes the lived experiences of early Christian women in the beginnings, development, and missionary activity of the Church.

A Christian feminist has an obligation to the Church, to women, and to those at the margins of society in general, to “excavate” these anonymous disciples’ biographies.

Guest Post: God as Mother


“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate (wombish), just as your Father is compassionate (wombish).     – Luke 6:35,36 NLT

Words often fail me.  This is quite the problem, as my vocation demands my use of them. I am a pastor and a religion professor and thus I am tasked daily with communicating God to my church family and to my students in ways that are both relevant and truthful.   I fail all too often.  I console myself with the fact that to speak of God is an utterly impossible task.  To borrow the words of Augustine, “If you can grasp it, it isn’t God. Let us rather make a devout confession of ignorance, instead of a brash profession of knowledge. Certainly it is great bliss to have a little touch or taste of God with the mind; but completely to grasp God, to comprehend God, is utterly impossible.”

This confession of inadequacy did little to comfort me, however, when my friend Hannah walked into my office a year ago and confronted me with the following statement, “Nothing said from the pulpit applies to me.  Everything is couched in masculine language. What are you going to do about it?” Although initially taken aback by her bluntness, I had to admit that her claim was all too true and that I would do my best to ensure that we would be more intentional and inclusive with our language in the future.

In the weeks and months that followed, I would find myself reflecting on my discussion with Hannah and imagining how our faith community might actively explore the feminine aspects of God. This reflection prompted my sharing of the following in a talk entitled, “Jesus the Compassionate,” on this past Mother’s Day:

  • The church tends to think of God in masculine terms because the scriptures were penned in a patriarchal context and because of Jesus’ oft-employed image of God as Father.  (To name only two factors).
  • God is, however, neither male nor female but is instead beyond gender.  (See Alister McGrath’s discussion of this in his text, Theology the Basics).
  • Jesus emphasized that compassion was the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life lived unto God.  We see this in Luke 6:36.  It is also important to note that the word translated as compassion, “rachmin,” stems from the word “rechmen” which means “womb.” Therefore, Jesus is stating that if we want to be like our Father then we must be wombish like our Father is wombish.  (Thanks to Marcus Borg for introducing me to this concept in his book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time).
  • To be wombish is to be life giving, nourishing, protective and embracing. Again, this is how Jesus sees God.  God is not only Father, but also Mother! (See Jeremiah 31:20 and Exodus 34:6).
  • I believe Luke 6:36 is superior to its corresponding passage in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” as it is more in keeping with the overall tenor of Jesus’ teachings and ministry.  (Again, see above for Borg’s discussion on these two motifs as it relates to Jesus’ attack on the purity system of his day).

I understand that this language might be hard for some to accept, but I believe that it is necessary for the church to begin to employ metaphors and models that highlight the feminine aspects of God as well as the masculine. In doing so, we might better avoid the incomplete and often chauvinistic image of God that is portrayed in so many of our congregations.

Faith and Feminism: The “F” Word





Speak this word in a crowd of conservatives and you will instantly feel the tension rise.  You will see faces suddenly distort, and grown men shift uncomfortably in their chairs. I’ve never understood how a word I found to be so liberating and inspiring could cause such anger and discomfort among others.

If you read my recent post, “My Husband, My Companion,” you noticed that I identify myself as a Christian feminist.  For years I was told these two labels are a contradiction, and that if I tried to identify with these two labels, I would find my faith and my activism at odds with one another.

In my first couple of years as a Christian, I encountered some individuals who claimed women were subordinate to their male counterparts; implying that the differences in our sexual organs sets forth a hierarchal framework that I am to adhere to.

Then, as I began to explore the realm of feminism, I found some who felt religion had no place within the movement.  Because of the patriarch history, many feminists feel that this masculine side of faith disqualified the interconnection of the two.

After learning these cases against faith and feminism, I did find my faith and my activism at odds with one another.  The extremists for both sides were communicating for the entirety of each movement, claiming that there was no such label as a Christian feminist.

So then, who am I?

I was left asking myself this very question.  Instead of accepting the extremist perceptions of each movement and divorcing these two labels, I chose to search for further understanding.  I have found that many individuals who claim that Christianity and feminism are at complete odds with one another seem to have an incredible misunderstanding of themselves and each other.  I believe Dr. Helen Hunt stated it perfectly when she wrote:

“The more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that religion and feminism are different expressions of the same impulse toward making life more just and whole.  When we cut the connection between spiritual values and values of social justice, we weaken both our vision and our power,” (Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance, xxiii).

I believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice if we try to sever our activism from our faith.  For me, faith and feminism are so interconnected that one simply cannot exist without the other.  Each movement propels me towards a further understanding of humanity.

If you have found yourself identifying with either of the extremes that I touched on, I invite you to join me as we further cover this interconnection of faith and feminism.  Many voices will be present, both male and female, covering topics such as historical Christian feminists, relevance of feminism in faith, Jesus the feminist, as well as personal testimonies of this interconnection.

My desire is that you, dear reader, will find further understanding of the two labels, Christian and feminist.  If, at the end of this series, you still believe in the separation of the two, my hope is that you will at least bestow grace upon those who believe in this “holy alliance.”