About Charity

I enjoy all things beautiful, natural, whole and healthy. As a Quaker minister, mother of 3, and having been married 15 years, I know that life rarely reflects those virtues. (I experience my share of the ugly, plastic, broken and sick!) Still, I believe that love is the highest value, and strive in all that I do to love God and the people in my life to the fullest of my ability!

A Woman Who Serves

If there is one scripture most overlooked in the debate on women serving in the church it is this one: “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11, NASB). It is found in a list of qualifications for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3. Verse eleven, right between the requirement that deacons be beyond reproach and just before the stipulation that they be “husband of one wife.”

Like other passages that suggest women were among those serving as leaders in the first century church, this one has conflicting translations in various versions of the Bible. King James Version (KJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and even the modern New English Translation (NET) translate the word “women” as “their (deacon’s) wives.” Translation of the Greek word γυναῖκας can be complex since it can refer either to women or to wives. The grammatical distinction is made based on information within the word itself. When referring to wives, the word is typically in the genitive case, indicating possession. At other times the word is translated as wives due to context, such as a passage covering marriage. This translation is made deliberately, based on a theological perspective that women cannot serve in these roles, rather than based on context or grammar.

On the other side from forbidding women serving in the church (and hiding their requirements for service) there are interpretations that go all the way to creating a whole new category for women serving: Deaconesses. This has been done in the name of recognizing that women could serve in the church, but also to separate them as a distinct class or order. Some traditions recognize that women served, but would not elevate them to full participation in leadership, so they create a different category of limited service. While many women are mentioned and identified as deacons in the New Testament, there seems to be no biblical evidence for women serving in ways that differ from the men also called deacons.

The very position of their requirements for service within the general requirements of deacons indicates that women were not a distinct class, but were being specifically mentioned with the intention of inclusion. Translations such as the Common English Bible present the verse this way, “In the same way, women who are servants in the church should be dignified and not gossip. They should be sober and faithful in everything they do.” The translation adds English words for clarification, but opens the door for women to serve, not within their own distinct category but broadly and alongside their male counterparts.

When examined closely, it appears that women serving do not have different requirements from men also serving. Here are the lists side by side:

Requirements for Women Who Serve

While the listed requirements for women who serve is shorter, the terms are more comprehensive and include the general requirements in their scope. Both sets name dignity as important. The general list forbids being double-tongued, the woman-specific list forbids gossip. Both call for sobriety or temperance. While the general list specifies not seeking dishonest gain, it could hardly be argued that faithfulness in all things does not include this prohibition as well.

Much has been made of the phrase in verse twelve “husband of one wife” but recent scholarship notes that this phrase is not gender exclusive, rather a character quality of fidelity in marriage. The same phrase is used in 1 Timothy 5:9 to refer to widows who never remarried. It is clear that this idiom is not meant to call only men to faithfulness in marriage, but both men and women who are serving in the church.

The rest of the requirements of deacons apply to both men and women who are serving in this role and cover fidelity in marriage, managing households and children well. The passage is capped off with a blessing that those who do well in this capacity will gain good standing and boldness in their faith. A promise for both men and women who serve.

Taking another look at women who serve,
ReFreshing

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Bread from the Earth

“…And looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.”
Mark 6:41b

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Holidays surround us, and not just in the winter months! Summer brings Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and vacations that might as well be official holidays. As a good American, I typically plan to eat an enormous meal with gathered family members for which I will be truly thankful. Thinking about all the upcoming gluttony, I was pondering a food related topic that fits well with a theme of gratitude.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jesus is always blessing bread and breaking it. In the gospels, it seems like every time I turn the page there is a similar phrase about the bread. Jesus says he is the bread of life. At the last supper the bread he is breaking is his body. Jesus is recognized by the Emmaus two when he blesses the bread and breaks it. Since Jesus is said to give thanks for all of this bread, I went in search of information about the prayers he might have prayed. I am vaguely familiar with Jewish prayers and blessings, so I did a little digging. The blessing for the bread is the one I was looking for, and with it I found a whole treasure of bonus information.

Before I share further, I need to insert a disclaimer of sorts. Reading back into history a discussion from modern scholars isn’t always the way to go. Rabbis rarely agree unanimously on anything whether modern or ancient, although some common themes arise. The following information comes mainly from Chabad.org and myjewishlearning.org.

Offering up a blessing for the bread is obviously a long-standing tradition, but who really knows how long the Hebrew prayer giving thanks to God for bringing bread from the earth has been said at the family table.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

You may notice that the bread is not what is being blessed in this prayer. Read it again. God is the one receiving the blessing. It is a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God for providing bread for us to eat. On special occasions, this prayer is very solemn and can be preceded by a moment of silence.

According to some rabbinic thought, when blessing the bread no one is actually referring to the bread in their hands. This intrigued me. Why bless the bread if you aren’t actually blessing the bread? For some, the bread referred to is the manna God provided in the wilderness. For others it is a reference to bread that God provided in the Edenic past and will provide again in the Messianic future. My head was spinning at these revelations and I had to sit with them for a while.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

If Jesus was blessing God for providing bread in the past, whether the manna or bread that sprang effortlessly from the ground in paradise, and if there was any thought of looking forward to the messianic future when bread would once again be provided without the toil of human beings, then it puts a whole new spin on the feeding of the 5,000. I had to ask, could Jesus have been proclaiming himself Messiah to those gathered on that hillside by first giving thanks for the bread and then multiplying it to meet their needs?

After this initial thought about this miracle I recalled all the different and various ways that Jesus literally and figuratively claimed to be ushering in the reign of God on earth. I’ve studied these declarations, written papers and sermons about them. I never imagined that Jesus could also have been proclaiming himself Messiah in this small way, at every meal, at each Passover, and on the night when he shared a final meal with his disciples.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

As we prepare in the coming weeks to eat our feasts, gathered around a table or by a grill, could we conceive of a way to usher in the Messiah’s kingdom in radical and mundane ways? By breaking bread, and blessing God? By daily committing to follow this Jewish Messiah while continuing to look forward to a day when we will break bread at a feast none of us toiled for? A banquet of grace, mercy and love? A table open and welcoming to all of God’s children?

Thank you, God, for grace we do not earn, for provision in the distant past, and for the confidence that you will yet provide justice in the age to come.

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

ReFreshing

*This post originally appeared in the November 19th edition of The Banquet, a subscription service hosted through www.Kerryconnelly.com

My Purse Was Stolen! Here’s my response.

On a day where my world was spinning especially fast, with way too much to do and not enough time and energy to do it all, I was handed one more challenge. My daughter needed some things for camp, including a new swimsuit. I don’t know about you, but I am not a big fan of swimsuit shopping for myself, let alone my 11 year old daughter! So we trudged to the supercenter to check every box on the list.

Toiletries X
Bug Repellent X
Flip Flops X
Swimming Suit ___

We perused the selections, and they were terrible. No one-pieces that didn’t have cutouts in inappropriate places for church camp. Not many tankini options, either. We grabbed a few of the more conservative ones and headed for the dressing room. I sent my daughter in to try things on, staying out with the cart and exchanging texts with my husband about groceries that I could pick up while we were out and about.

My daughter called me into the dressing room and I helped her adjust a few things before saying, “I need to go back out to the cart, my purse is out there.” She tried on the last suit and it miraculously was everything it needed to be, Praise Jesus! When I came back from that check-in with her, I looked at my cart. It was one of those little half carts that I love so much to push around and pretend they will keep me from buying things I don’t need.

There was an empty spot where my purse had been.

I hate to admit that even though I knew exactly where it had been and there really aren’t many places in those tiny carts for a purse to hide, and even though there were a total of 6 items in the cart to begin with, I walked completely around the cart and looked it all over before accepting the reality that it was truly gone.

“My purse is gone.” I said it to the lady monitoring the dressing rooms. She just looked at me with a blank expression. I repeated myself at least three times before she called the security guard to come and assist me. I couldn’t believe that I had just said to my daughter that I needed to stay with my purse!

I had my phone in my hand. Everything else was in my purse. I could not pay for the things in my cart. I could not drive my car home–the keys were in my purse. I have a major trip coming up and now I had no car key, no wallet, no driver’s license, no credit cards, nothing! I began to feel the adrenaline rush through my body as I tried with a shaky voice to tell the security guard where I had been in the store and my suspicion that it had been grabbed when I was standing 3 feet away at the dressing room door.

He went to check the areas I had visited to see if my purse had been accidentally left behind.

Can I say that those little carts have no easy way for a small purse to fall out of them? There are no annoying baby leg holes. The sides of the top part of the cart are high. This was not an accident. My purse had been lifted.

My initial response to this situation was anything but charitable. I did not think good thoughts about the person who did this. I immediately jumped to the worst case scenario. I left my daughter at the dressing rooms to run out and make sure my car was still in the parking lot. When I came back in, they had called my name to the service desk.

The lady at the service desk smiled and said that a helpful young man had just turned in my purse that he had found in the lady’s department. I unzipped the main and inner pockets, all my cash was gone. I don’t usually have cash, but I just came back from one trip and was preparing for another. Still, only $75 give or take a few, it wasn’t a major loss.

I cried anyway. I filed a police report anyway. I left shaking anyway.

It wasn’t about the money. If someone had asked, presenting me with a need, I would have given them the cash. $75 is a loss, but it won’t break our budget. There have been times when it would have been devastating.

But this came on a day when I had to prepare to leave town, get my daughter packed for camp that she would leave to attend before I return, get all my ducks in a row for scholarships to seminary, turn down one offer of acceptance and accept another offer to attend an MDiv program, get a sermon started for Sunday, and set my kids in a routine for the summer that will balance their need for activity and my need to work. I am sure there are other things on my list, but for the life of me this adrenaline will not let me think straight!

I’m grateful they returned the purse. I’m grateful that I didn’t have my entire paycheck in cash in an envelope. I am grateful that my husband could come to my rescue to pay for the things I had gathered and his insistence on taking some of the things on my plate for his own. I am grateful to have my car. I am grateful that I will still be able to go on this trip for work. There are so many things that could be worse right now!

If I ever meet the person who took my purse, wrecked an hour of my life, and stole my travel money; I would want them to know that they are worth more than lifting cash out of other people’s wallets. I would want them to know that there are so many better ways to use their cleverness. I would want them to know that I forgive them.

Not because I am a super-human mercy machine, but because I believe that it is the path to healing for myself and a potential path to restoration for them.

Having such a clear opportunity to practice what I preach,
(Someday I’ll find it) ReFreshing

39 & Counting

On the occasion of my thirty-ninth birthday I am pausing to take inventory of the life I hold so dear. Thirty-nine is a year that teeters on the balance. Not-yet-forty. Definitely almost twenty years away from twenty. I find myself on this day so full of gratitude and sorrow, joy and pain, anxiety and hope for the future.

I could arrange this post as a list:
1- the man I love and with whom I will soon celebrate 20 years of marriage.
2- my parents, still living. Divorced but cordial.
2b- my siblings, who along with their spouses and children fill up my heart.
3- the children grown and birthed from my womb, lights in my life.
4- more months until I begin seminary.
5- months since my first book was published.

Numbers can paint a picture real enough to touch, but they can also be played to show only the side I wish to display. I could list the 15 years I’ve spent in ministry, or the 11 years at my current church, yet lack the numbers to quantify the pain that comes when ministry wounds. I mentioned above my 3 beautiful children, but leave unmentioned the 3 pregnancies that did not last. We tend to tout our accomplishments and find space under the proverbial rug for the rest.

Taking inventory is more than numbers to me as I grieve the loss of so many over the years. People I love whose faces I see and laughter I can still hear, whose embrace my arms recall. Nineteen connected to the church I serve now. I’d rather talk about the 5 couples I’ve walked with into marriage, and that joy was very strong. The empty seats in emptying pews, though, make themselves known far more often.

I wish sometimes life was only the roses. I would love to dwell on the 8 families I have served as they brought new life into the world. That or maybe the 100 poems I have written in the past two years. Better yet, the 550+ sermons I’ve delivered, or the 1 that won a national prize.

I am immensely thankful for the life I have been given. I celebrate the gift of people who shine their lights brightly into my dark nights. I grieve the losses, I do not run from the pain. Thirty-nine years have taught me that to mourn is to acknowledge the value of what was lost. In that way, each tear becomes a treasure.

This post is getting rambly, and I should wrap it up by saying that I have hope for the future, years I hope to live to their fullest. I anticipate new adventures. I long for days of rest (never too early to think about retirement). Mostly, I hope that in all the years I have before me that I can continue to pour out grace on those who most need to be blessed.

Taking stock of life.
ReFreshing

The Cynical Posts I Don’t Publish

I often start a blog post ranting about what I am seeing in the world around me. Those posts lie neglected in my drafts folder unfinished and unposted. I ignore and scroll past the reminders of their presence. I am not particularly fond of public ranting, it doesn’t seem to do much except clear the air for the ranter.

Here are just a few of the reasons I don’t often post those ranty essays:
-So many other people are ranting these days, I’m not sure if my rant would even be heard.
-What we definitely need is more negativity in the world…
-I am prone to opinions and I hate to turn people off because I state them too loudly. (AKA I’m a people-pleaser)
-I really do want this blog to be a refreshing place that brings encouragement when the rest of the world is yelling at the top of their voices.

But I have to tell you:

I’m tired. No really, I don’t mean I didn’t sleep last night. I mean I am exhausted. I’m beat. And I have so little left in my tank I’d like to lay on the floor.

Maybe it’s just me, but intuition tells me I’m not alone. I’m tired of all the fighting. I’m tired of winning being the biggest goal. I’m tired of teams and sides beating each other down. I’m tired of the only solution being the least bad option. I’m tired of ignoring things that don’t fit with one side’s rhetoric while punching hard on issues of the other faction.

Sometimes there just are no words to adequately express the internal turmoil over current events. I can’t tell you how disturbing it is to see people who should know better say and do things that are destructive, wrong, and just plain evil.

It is even more disturbing when leaders from a faith tradition, my faith tradition, stand up to say “We don’t like it, but what can you do?” or worse, “We don’t like it, but look what they can do for us if we ignore this one little thing.”

In times like these, whether there are words or not, I simply must respond.

I’m an independent. I have no party, no ideological loyalty to protect. Taking sides with one or the other just seems like a waste of my brain power. It would mean denying very real parts of my identity and values.

I am pro-life. I know I just lost some people with that statement, but hold on I may be about to lose more. What pro-life means for me is that I think abortion is a tragedy, including every factor that contributes to a person making that choice. I think lack of health care is a tragedy. I believe the death penalty is wrong. I think war is hell. I believe mass public shootings are preventable. I believe old people should be respected for their wisdom and experience. I believe in the value of every human being as a Divine image-bearer regardless of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and how they identify themselves in any number of categories that would cause someone somewhere to say they don’t count.

Please tell me where I fit? What happened to the middle ground? Is there any common sense out there? Is there still a place in the world to converse, compromise, and come to a conclusion that is best for our neighbors and not just our sponsors?

When I get in this frame of mind, I feel so frustrated. Like I don’t fit. Like I don’t have a voice. That there isn’t any hope. And I know those are lies.

Here’s how I get up in the morning when these thoughts are the first ones on my mind:
I choose to believe that I am not alone. I choose to believe that there are people out there still interested in conversation and human connection. I choose to believe that by stating my position, I may give others permission to do the same. I choose to believe that someday there will be enough of a trend of those tired like me that things will change for the better.

Maybe I’m deluding myself. On the other hand, maybe the division is the delusion, a lie we’ve all been sold so that others can profit while we are caught up fighting amongst ourselves.

Hope for change and renewed unity.
It’s my ReFreshing thought of the day.

 

Doula Certification Approved!

I am so excited to share with you that my certification as a Birth Doula through DONA International has been approved!

Timelines vary, but for me this process took almost two years. I attended a training in January of 2016 and checked off my childbirth class as well as the breastfeeding class. I also served the first client whose labor would count toward my certification. Over the following months I read seven books and supported five more births. Finally, this past fall I felt ready to compile my certification packet and send it in.

This has been an amazing and beautiful addition to my life. In total I have served seven laboring women, and have another scheduled for March. I have experienced labor in three different hospitals with Midwives, OBs, and Family Physicians attending. I’ve seen mothers dig deep to find strength and endurance they couldn’t imagine was there and I have witnessed women making brave choices to ensure their best birth possible.

Empowering women to make their own decisions and to be their own advocates is the reason why I entered this line of work, and I am proud to be a part of supporting these heroes as they take on the challenge of bringing life into the world!

ReFreshing!

Charity Sandstrom CD(DONA)

New Year, New Adventures (aka I published a book!)

I am so excited about the release of my new book, Quaker Queries for All Seasons!


In the book you will find 60 spiritual questions to guide us through a new year of seeking to grow in our Christ-centered faith. It is available in both paperback as well as Kindle ebook.

If you’d like to process these queries with others in community, come join our discussion group on Facebook: Query Discussion Group-Quaker Queries for All Seasons

I hope to see you there!

 

New Adventures in a New Year,
ReFreshing!

https://www.amazon.com/author/charitysandstrom