I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

12 October 2012

The Girl Effect, part 1

Today, I have a job for you dear readers. Print this post, or grab a notebook and pen. Watch this video and do the exercise below. 

 Think about this video, and watch it again. Let the words, the voices and the feelings behind it really sink in to your mind, your heart, and your soul. Forget about all your first world problems to empathise, sympathise and really feel the heart of the issue here.

While women are suffering in second and third world nations, we are more concerned with our first world problems than donating our extra clothes and shoes we don't wear, or send those extra bucks we might spend on something truly frivolous like our mani-pedi, cosmetics budget, Starbucks, or trip out with our best friends. 

We talk about it when it is in the forefront. We talk about it when it is on the news. But, like yesteryear's fashion or the Smith's new baby, or the Joneses new pet  - we forget about it when the novelty wears off.  We're more concerned with matching the color on our nails, or getting that new pair of shoes, or ensuring baby has a wonderful college fund.

These are not  bad things. But, thought about alone, without a focus on the poor, the homeless, the fatherless and the widow - we have forgotten a good deal of the commandments that G-d has given us to fulfill while we are living on this earth. Even Y'shua told us that we will always have the poor with us.

"You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." - Matthew 26, John 12
"You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me." -Mark 14

And another verse that sticks out is from the book of James, chapter 1.
"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

This echoes Isaiah chapter 1, verse 17:

"Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows."

Which echoes Exodus 22:

21 “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
22 “You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. 23 If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will blaze against you, and I will kill you with the sword. Then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.
25 “If you lend money to any of my people who are in need, do not charge interest as a money lender would. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as security for a loan, you must return it before sunset. 27 This coat may be the only blanket your neighbor has. How can a person sleep without it? If you do not return it and your neighbor cries out to me for help, then I will hear, for I am merciful.

Granted, this is a commandment given at Sinai, to the people of Israel. But think about it. Was it ever overturned by Y'shua? The 12 apostles? Paul?   It's an awesome guideline to live by, even if not intended directly for you.

Now, think about all the wonderful things that G-d has done for women and through women in the Bible. Think of all the women named in the Bible. Think of the various things that they accomplished, and the men who looked up to them, supported them and secured their places in leadership, and ensured their stories were recorded.

Did G-d ever say that these wonderful, blessed women were sinful, ungodly, "ugly", Jezebels, usurpers of authority? 

 Did the men of G-d say these things about them? If so (either way), where is it recorded? What did they say?

Check this video out and think about what she has to say.

Now that you have done all of that, rewind your mind and think about your local faith community. 
 This could be your local church, Messianic Synagogue, faith center, home church or your local ladies craft group. 

Think about all these women and girls that you know. Their names, ages, lifestyles, children, health situations and husbands, or reasons why they had to leave their husbands.  

Think about all the wonderful opportunities that these women have had because they live life in a first world area. Shift your thinking just a little bit, and think about the economic factors that have played out in these women's lives. Did they grow up rich? Middle Class? In Poverty? Are they immigrants? Children of Immigrants?   What things have they overcome in their lives that stick out in your mind?

Pause that thought.

Think about these same women again. Line them up in your mind however you need to, but think about them individually. All these women in the faith community, or communities that you live and work in. Tall, short, banana shaped, pear shaped, hour glass shaped, health concerns, no health concerns - however it works best in your mind.

What are the gifts and talents that G-d has given them?

How can these gifts and talents be used in their faith community?  

Pause again.

If G-d called these same women you were just thinking about, to become a missionary (No, not that kind. No, not there, or there... or there either),  in her own backyard, out of her own home - would her faith community leaders support her?

If she was called to start working with the homeless in some capacity, would her pastor, elders/deacon board, and/or Sunday School class support her?

If she was called to get further education to help children or disadvantaged women, or begin working in a domestic violence shelter - would she be supported?

If she was called to work with an NGO, would she be told to wait for a man to step up first?

If she chose to open her home and begin to host women for discussions, book club, or just to get to know them all one on one - would she be supported?

If she applied for a position in her community as an elder, deaconess, pastor/minister, or as a teacher of children over 12 (as a teacher within the faith community) - would she be allowed, and would she be supported?

If she wanted to take up with her local English as a Second Language group, would it be encouraged?

If she wished to interpret or speak languages to further the Gospel, would she be allowed to?

OR:  Would these women be told that it is an "unfeminine", "unladylike", "Jezebel", "ugly", "sinful", "hateful", "usurping" spirit that is driving her to want these things? Would she be driven out of her community if she failed to give up these ideas and submit to her faith community's leadership? Would she be told to ask her husband at home and remain silent/let him do it instead?

OR: Would she be fully supported in all of these ventures?

Think about this really hard.  The Bible calls women, just as much as men; to serve G-d in many, varied capacities to bring the light of the Gospel to the nations.  We are all made very unique individuals, with varied and beautiful talents and gifts. We have all faced adversity. We have all faced health issues, the death of friends or family members at some point in our life. We have probably also experienced a major life changing event, a special calling that G-d has laid upon our heart. And we have wrestled with it terribly, asked about it or discussed it with our husband, taken it to the leaders of our faith communities - and gotten an answer to that thing G-d has laid on our heart... What we do next, is what will shape the rest of our lives forever.

Pause again.

What does all this thinking about women in our faith community have to do with The Girl Effect?

Depending on the faith community that you are involved with - you, as a woman, are just as limited in what you are allowed to do, live as, say, think, wear, and what missions you are allowed to dabble into as someone supported by your faith community. You, just like these other women far and away in these other countries are limited in what you are able to say or do when it regards your human sexuality. You may be limited in getting out of an abusive household situation as a child, or as a wife and mother. You may be condemned if you do leave this situation.

Depending which first world country you live in, your life may also be heavily dictated by very patriarchal viewpoints that will dictate what you, as a woman, are allowed to aspire to, or how far you are allowed to follow your G-d given talent.  Solely because you are a woman and men in positions of religious authority have falsely interpreted the Bible, and held you down by their standards. Many women will also try and hold you back, hold you down, and tell you how ungodly you are for doing something that they deem to be something that is only allowed to men to do.

These detractors will speak ill of emancipated, well-educated women that are outside of their faith community. Or, they may go so far as to speak ill of another faith community, solely because their women are more emancipated than they are; even if that emancipation is sorely limited.

I have many questions for you.

Is this what G-d designed for us women to live like? Is there truly a "gender war", or is this some trumped up charge leveled by faith communities that have a very short-sighted view of the Bible? Are we so petty that we cannot think for ourselves? Are we so lock-step that we do not question our authority and find out if they are held accountable? Are we letting others think for us? Or, are we being like the Bereans, checking to see if everything taught to us is in line with the whole of Scripture?

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the ...Synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.
- Acts 17

Put your click-y top or twisty bottom pens away now.

My plan from here on out, is to begin discussing books and organisations with you, that I pray will open up your lives in better service to G-d.

Like the video above, I want you to internalise it. Analyse it. become one with the idea that it is not just far away, but in your own back yard. That video might not be about someone else. It might be about YOU.  There doesn't have to be an NGO, or some ABC charity out there helping these girls and women. You may be the one called to do just that. Or, you may be one of the girls or women helped by the very things discussed in this blog and in that video.

Until next time, Adieu.

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