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What are you waiting for?

It’s Advent. The season of anticipation where we are all looking forward to the coming of our Savior. The time where even the most impatient Christian is expectantly seeking the promises of Jesus.  Yes, Advent is the happiest season of waiting in our spiritual year. All of the traditions point us toward being in countdown mode- Advent calendars, the lighting of the Advent candles, watching shipping updates on deliveries from Amazon-the symbolism of the season sets us up to wait. In this modern era, where we are irritated to wait more than a few minutes for our coffee, what does this season really teach us that can transform our lives?
Do we find ourselves magically more patient on Christmas Day or do we rush back into the fray of modern life on December 26th? I am not of the belief  that there is anything wrong with either of these scenarios. What I propose is that we don’t wait for Advent to experience the peace and spiritual growth that all of our devotionals encourage to prepare our hearts for Jesus.
Each day that we are granted is an opportunity to rejoice in the gift of Jesus. An opportunity to embrace and share our God given gifts. To show gratitude for God’s ever present love that directs our lives towards ultimate good. What I am suggesting, dear reader, is that we don’t wait until it’s time to cash out all of that PTO before we take a moment of spiritual pause to take time to celebrate why you were created. Luke 10:40 calls attention to this tendency towards imbalance. We’ve all heard the story of Martha who “was distracted by her many tasks and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand. The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things,but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Christian Standard Bible)
So readers, I am urging you to channel your Mary. Meditate on your Creator who possesses an incredible, generous and loving spirit. Bask in these blessings. Allow the light of them to strengthen and beautify your life experience, beyond the final gift being unwrapped. Pray bold prayers for all that is beyond your grasp and rejoice in thanksgiving that good will come to pass. It is my prayer that these words have served as a reflection on why Jesus is the reason for every season. It is his example that extends beyond the manger into the very fabric of how we live and serve as Christians today. 
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Book Review

Creed: What We Believe

Hey, hey, party people! Welcome back to our corner of the world, where ideas are free and love is fierce. 💓

I want to share my thoughts on Adam Hamilton’s Creed: What Christians Believe and Why in hopes that Christians who are on the fringe (new to faith, distancing self from faith, or somewhere in between) or are struggling with doctrinal red tape will reconnect with the origins of Christian faith and establish a stronger relationship to it based on the very basics.

Story: The book seeks to define Christianity through analysis of the Apostles’ Creed. The book is broken into 7 chapters- an introduction followed by 6 chapters focusing on the key elements of the Creed which include God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, The Church and the Communion of Saints, The Forgiveness of Sins, The Resurrection of the Body. Hamilton also includes an appendix which features various historical editions of the Creed, including some other key Christian influenced creeds, namely the Nicene, Athanasian and Chalcedonian Creeds.

PerspectiveWhile Hamilton and I belong to the same sect of Christianity, this book doesn’t come across through that lens, which I appreciate. Labels have the tendency to become convoluted and the essence of the Christian faith is not something that should be. Creed does a fine job of reminding us of this. Every chapter presents a balance of how each piece of the Creed relates to the Christian faith, both on the individual and corporate levels. Hamilton’s writing is accessible to those who have done some theological study and easily relatable to those who may still be trying to find their way as Christians. I must commend Hamilton for well placed usage of conversational tone, as it makes the text easier to connect with on the key points.

Style: Full disclosure: I was prepared not to jive with this oneI previously read Adam Hamilton’s Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say and had a difficult time connecting to his style, as it seemed very pedantic and mechanical. I was pleasantly surprised to find something different in Creed. Hamilton engages the reader by simplifying the themes and concepts of the Creed while weaving in historical perspective, language considerations and personal anecdotes that paint a clear picture of what Christianity is truly all about. Hamilton is also candid about many of the hang ups that people have with organized faith/religion. While I don’t use these terms interchangeably, people’s perspectives on one are often informed by the other which Creed illuminates in an objective manner that helps the reader to check bias in light of what is being presented in the text. Check out this except from the intro.

Our most important beliefs, whether expressed in the Apostles’ Creed or in other ways, affect our understanding of what it means to be human and our convictions about values, morality and relationships. Ultimately our most deeply held beliefs or convictions shape our goals, ambitions, hopes and dreams. These kinds of convictions are seldom scientifically verifiable; nevertheless we should carefully consider and question them and should be able to make a compelling case for them.

My recommendation: I feel especially called to recommend this book to those who have questions about their faith. While this isn’t an encyclopedia of Christianity, I believe this text tackles many of the issues that Christians often grapple with. As someone who doesn’t have too many questions about where I stand in my faith, I was encouraged to learn more about the roots of where that faith came from and pleased to walk away with language that I can share with others that reflects the essence of the Christian faith, doctrinal commentary aside. There is a small group study video that can be used as a great tool to open discussions among friends or in your faith communities. My church used this resource and I enjoyed the additional perspectives that were shared on the DVD. The chapter on the Forgiveness of Sins was calling to my soul with every page. I hope that you will find similar, life giving wisdom in Creed.

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

 

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Conviction & Swimsuit Season

So, it’s that time of year again when all of the ads start selling the swimsuit body. By now, you’ve likely seen a zillion commercials for fitness programs, meal prep plans and pills that will (maybe) make you look like the ultra thin model they have chosen to promote their product. The barrage of these messages can wear on our nerves and our relationship to fitness, to the point that we find ourselves ignoring them. That is unless, we aren’t. No matter how “good” we’ve been throughout the holiday season, the ad market is constantly telling us we need what they are offering. We all need the impeccably chiseled bodies that prance across our screens. We all walk our own walk when it comes to body image and wellness and some of you may be further along in your fitness journey, rising high above the media influence. Kudos to you. For those of us who aren’t, this one’s for you.

As modern women, the pressure is higher than ever to look the part. Mothers are expected to present perfectly coiffed and polished children, complete with sparkling appliances and hip mom hair. Singles feel the pressure to always be flawlessly manicured, made up and pliant- because how else will you catch a spouse? The emphasis on physical appearance has become so important, that women are actually killing themselves to keep up. Young people between the ages of 15-24 with anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to peers, Journal of Eating Disorders, 2015. Even more disturbing, is the other end of the age spectrum. From 1999- 2009, hospitalizations involving eating disorders increased for all age groups, with those aged 45-65 increasing the most, accounting for 25% of all hospitalizations, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, 2011. So where do we stand as Christian women in addressing this oppression? Are we circulating scriptures to help with weight loss (read: THOUSANDS of pins on Pinterest) or are we looking at ourselves with the love of our Creator?

Reader, hear me: I am by no means claiming to have mastered this. I love my pedicures and balyage as much as the next Kardashian and am in no way trying to shame subscription to current beauty norms. What I do know is that the standards perpetuated by our culture that lead 7 in 10 women and girls to report a decline in body confidence and increase in beauty & appearance anxiety (Dove Global Beauty & Confidence Report, 2016), which they say is driven by the pressure for perfection from media are pervasive and REAL. What I want to discuss is our confidence and the source that it stems from.

In Hebrews 11, we are reminded of all the Old Testament stories of those who exhibited great faith and were blessed and/or honored God with their acts. The Message translation spells it out nicely.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2

Let’s unpack: If faith in God is the source that makes life worth living, what place do dissatisfaction, imperfection or comparison have in our lives? If we believe that God is all powerful, good and loves us more than we could ever comprehend, how could we possibly allow a commercial to debunk these truths? How could we see ourselves as anything less than divinely beautiful? Dear reader, I know you may be thinking “Get real, Tonia. We live in the 21st century. Appearance matters and last time I checked, God isn’t following me around breathing heavenly dust over me to make me a 10 to everyone I meet, nor is He whispering sweet nothings to me when I roll out of bed looking electrified.” And while I’m not trying to start a fight with you, I would argue that He is.

In Hebrews 11:3, we learn that the world is called into existence by God’s word-what we see is created by what we don’t see. That means you and me and People’s Sexiest are all created in the same spirit of light and love, and regardless of our waistbands or teeth whiteness, we are all perfectly and divinely created. God’s word says we are wanted, chosen, beautiful and more precious than rubies, so who are we to doubt this? So what if those jeans from last year don’t fit. Why does it matter that your contouring technique isn’t perfect? Would you really let the fact that you went to work with eye boogers contradict the overwhelming love that God has for us, flaws and all? NO! As, Christian women, we know better. We know that we serve a God who made us in an image of strength and love. My challenge to you is to live in it.

Resist the urge to compare yourself to the woman in the next fitting room. When you have days of doubt and self loathing, lose yourself in the Word. Open your heart to receiving the loving Spirit of our creator, day in and day out. I promise you 10 minutes of Pinterest spiraling on love/beauty scriptures will change your attitude (DO IT). If all of this seems too fluffy and sunshine-y to break down the spirits of dissatisfaction and insecurity that have been speaking over you, I invite you to sing a new song.

Consider that your identity is essential to the world. You are more than eye candy. God created you for a specific role in His Kingdom, to reflect the light and love that our Creator has for each of us. Any force that contradicts these truths is an enemy to all that God has planned for you, which is greater than you can imagine. Still not convinced? Meditate on this:

We already are what we want to become. We don’t have to become someone else. All we have to do is be ourselves, fully and authentically. We don’t have to run after anything. We already contain the whole cosmos. We simply return to ourselves through mindfulness and touch the peace and joy that are already present within us and all around us. I have arrived. I am already home. There is nothing to do. -Thich Nhat Hanh

You are perfect. You are loved. You are divine. Seek confidence in our Creator. His supply is endless and He gives it freely and without judgement.

wj

My heroes, Wendi & Jessee who love Jesus, themselves and fabulous swimwear

Blog Updates

We’ll Be Back

Hello to all of you readers out there, we know it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us, and we’re sorry that we disappeared quietly.

It wasn’t intentional, we promise. It’s just as most of you know, life sometimes has a way of sneaking up on you, and not always in the kindest of ways.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes a break creeps up on you when you actually needed it? But sometimes that break also comes at a time where you really should have been pushing into your community even more? We had one of those times happen, except looking back on it, we probably needed our community and sisterhood more than ever. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of pushing away when you really need to be pressing in.

That’s why, when we decided that G&F was important to us, and doing important work, but we also realized that a few of us as contributors really need our community and sisterhood right now, before we’re able to pour out into all of you.

So, we’re doing two things: one, we’re looking for more contributors and an editor, and if that seems like something you’d be interested in, keep reading. Two, we’ve decided that since we’re introducing new sisters into the fold, we want to take the time to grow together as contributors and be accountable to each other. Real life is hard and messy, and in order for us to feel okay about sharing that with all of you in a very real way, we need to be more cohesive as a unit. We work on something called “consensus-based decision making”, so once we find who we believe God is calling us to work with on this collective, we want to grow as a unit and decide together when the Lord has called us to start writing again.

We’ll be back, we can promise you that. We haven’t abandoned you, and we’re excited for what 2018 brings. We can’t wait to walk through this life with all of you together again. In the meantime, we’re going to seek the Lord, and you’ll see us again when He has spoken to all of us (those of us you know, and those of us that are joining us).


For those of you interested in joining us as a contributor or an editor, here’s the information you need:

We’re a Christian Feminist Millennial blog, and we’ve decided going into the new year that we really want to build a sisterhood among the writers first before continuing to write.

Does this sisterhood appeal to you? Would you be willing to be your honest, whole self in blog posts in the year to come? We want to hear from you. We’re not pressed for time. Let’s all get comfortable with each other and decide as a consensus when to start again.

To be a contributor we ask that you identify as a millennial Christian feminist, but to edit we just ask you identify as a Christian feminist.

If you’re interested, please email graceandfeminism@gmail.com for more information. We operate on a consensus-based model, and we would love to hear from you.

 

Lamenting

Eight Months

I should have been gone for eight months now.

By gone, I don’t mean dead, I mean on the trip of a lifetime. I was going to be on the World Race, with this tiny little squad that had become family. We were going to be working as missionaries through 12 countries in 11 months, seeking God and letting him guide our steps.Training Camp had been a real doozy, but we were stronger, and I was committed to working on myself more so that I would be my best self when I went. The only thing was, I still had to raise $5,000 more to reach my pre-launch goal.

And then I did it. With 3 days before my money being due, I hit that $10,000 mark, and I’ve never felt my faith so strongly in the Lord. He delivered! Just like He said He would. I hit every deadline before it was due, this is what faith in Him looks like.

Until the very next day, when it was all taken from me. I got a phone call from one of my coaches that the leadership team had decided I would not be launching in January. They would not allow me to launch with another squad even, I was essentially, cut. I could, however, attempt to go at another time, but there was no guarantee that this wouldn’t happen again. Three weeks from when I was supposed to be leaving. I had nowhere to live, and my job at a startup was unable to afford employees any longer. I was homeless, and jobless, with everything all set for me to leave the country for a year.

The person who told me made me promise them that I would call them back the next day when I’d “calmed down”.

I didn’t keep that promise.

Continue reading “Eight Months”

Blog Updates

Further Up and Further In!

We’re deviating from your regularly scheduled programming today to introduce some really exciting new things happening here at Grace and Feminism. When we all got together in mid-June to start planning, eagerly texting each other and building our community, we had no idea where this blog would end up.

We’ve been up and running for just over three weeks and we are astounded at the work God has done. The comments we have received on our blog posts and on social media are both heartbreaking and encouraging. While we hate knowing that our sisters have suffered from discrimination and oppression in many forms, we are encouraged to keep this project alive. We see that this work, the writings and explorations of imperfect Jesus feminists, is needed. As we start to think ahead to the long-term future of this blog, we know that this ministry is needed more than we ever could have thought.

Continue reading “Further Up and Further In!”

Freedom

Say His Name

Every Friday, Grace and Feminism publishes a series of posts under a monthly theme. The theme for July is ‘Freedom.’

Sybrina Fulton starts her book with a Bible verse:

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17 (ESV)

And all I can think about is how so many of us failed her.

The name Sybrina Fulton might not sound familiar to you, but I bet the name Trayvon Martin does. For those of you who are unfamiliar with his story, Trayvon was a seventeen-year-old boy who, while wearing a hoodie, walked to the local convenience store to grab some Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles. On his way back to his father’s townhouse, a man by the name of George Zimmerman decided he was a threat, pursued him, and eventually shot him, despite being told by 911 phone operators not to. Right before shooting him, he said, “These assholes always get away.” Last week was the anniversary of George Zimmerman’s acquittal, and he was able to walk free after murdering a child.

Sybrina Fulton? That’s Trayvon’s mother. And the one thing she clung to throughout this entire travesty was the Lord and her faith. You’d think because of this the Christian community would have rallied around her. Supported her pursuit of justice. Listened to our black brothers and sisters as they shouted “I am Trayvon!” in the streets. But so much of the mainstream Christian community did not. What did they do instead?

We used the freedom that the Lord gave us, the freedom from shame and fear that Jesus himself gives us every day, to bury our heads in the sand. To combat the phrase “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” while actively supporting refugee bans from other countries. Put simply, white Christians abused the freedom they’ve been given to refuse to rock the status quo. Do you know who was all about rocking the status quo? Jesus. That savior, king of kings who gave us all this freedom.

Continue reading “Say His Name”

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A Home for Your Heart

I remember the day I decided that the Fourth of July was my favorite holiday.

I’m a third generation Arizonian, which means the majority of my Fourths were spent in the sweltering Phoenix heat. This could be a variety of things actually: anything from sitting on the porch of our two story house heat, watching fireworks, attempting to sit on the porch as the monsoon rain came down meaning we had no idea IF we would even get fireworks, there was even a year when we went to visit my cousins in Peoria and there was a Fourth of July accident—the house of the man who was going to light off the fireworks house exploded in the early afternoon meaning no fireworks at night—or it was like this night. Hot, sweaty people packed into a park, blankets to cover the grass that made me itch, and me debating on whether I actually wanted to be there.

I can’t tell you how old I was, or what grade I was in, or when any of this happened, but I remember the moment. The moment I realized why I loved fireworks.

Continue reading “A Home for Your Heart”