Friday, 28 October 2016

CEB Women's Bible - Review

Recently the publishers of the CEB Women's Bible approached RevGalBlogPals, suggesting that some of the women involved in this supportive community for women in ministry might review this new publication. 
I was delighted that they were prepared to ship a copy to Scotland so that I, too, could see what all the fuss was about.
Since it arrived, a couple of weeks ago, I have been drawn to this Bible time and again - checking out my favourite verses, looking for my favourite Biblical women and, generally, being both distracted and drawn in by the wealth of information and insight contained in this version of the text. Although the translation was prepared by both women and men, the reflections, portraits and articles that are scattered throughout the text were written by 80 women.
There are many women in the Bibile of whose stories we know so little. Some are named, others are referred to by insults - and others remain unnamed. How important it is to be named and, in the naming, to be recognised.
The CEB Women's Bible seeks to highlight those women who made all sorts of contributions to the story of God's people but who are rarely acknowledged for the difference they made. That feels just and appropriate.
Passages are interspersed with reflections on the text and with profiles of the women included in the stories as well as articles and portraits.
This is a great addition to the plethora of bibles I have - I like different versions for different tasks. This Women's Bible, as well as attempting to bridge those gaps of silence that surround the women in the text is excellent at drawing one in and stirring the urge to read on and find out more...and that has to be a good thing!
I am grateful for the endeavour and the vision behind this translation and thankful that I have been enabled to review it early in its publication.
I look forward to continuing to journey with this version of the word and to honouring those women whose names were not repeated, whose stories were overlooked and, without whom, the story of God's people through the ages would be sorely diminished.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Cultivating empowerment

For some time now, I've been pondering the difference between enabling and empowering. Often it seems as though these words are interchangeable.
This week, I may have discovered something of the fundamental difference between them.
In many ways it is easy to enable people, to make room for them to step into roles and be supported as they discover their particular gifts, even as they experiment to find their niche.
However, once that support is removed, for whatever reason, other forces come into play and, unless the one enabled has also been empowered, they will succumb to sabotage.
This is particularly pertinent in church settings, where there are often unhealthy behaviours at play. While ministers and/or leaders can mitigate the underlying sickness for a time, unless the root cause is addressed, once the leader moves on, people default to what they know best and, in a short space of time, good work can be demolished. Those enabled by a supportive leadership now feel disempowered and back down, deeming the struggle too much. And so the church loses out on those who have gifts to share but do not want to fight for their place in a corrupt system.
Ironically, those whose behaviour leads to division and strife are endlessly patient, largely content to wait in the wings until opportunities present themselves to assert (or re-assert) power and destroy any positive strides made. Often in the minority, they are nonetheless powerful in the tools they employ - undermining, disarming, spreading doubt and fear, insidious in their reach.
Empowering others involves addressing the systems and forces that seek to undermine. It involves setting in motion a cultural change that will withstand the temptation to default to previous unhealthy behaviours when a leader moves on, empowering folk to recognise and stand up to negative forces. Changing a culture takes time but empowering folk to recognise the signs and the forces at work will go some way to maintaining ground gained when leadership changes.
Regretfully, enabling is not enough without the work of empowerment.
A lesson learned the hard way.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Looking for one more sign?

Judges 6:39
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time; let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.”

We need one more sign
One more word of reassurance
One more affirmation
One more marker by which to gauge 
the evidence of God at work
It's not so much
that we are unconvinced
by the evidence all around.
Its not that we doubt the presence
and the leading of God.
But we question our own preparedness
our own competence
our own suitability
for the task that lies ahead.
We know that God is faithful.
The question is: are we?
Are we up to the task
of stepping into the unknown
And if, by some amazing quirk
others should journey with us,
can we keep our nerve,
remain resolute along the way?
Are we able 
to keep on discerning
and to follow the prompts revealed?
Are we able to bear the burden
of those who will grumble
when we cannot chart the territory
or the fear of those
who see no need to change direction
or the scorn of those for whom
the old ways are working just fine?
Do we have the resilience it will take
to weather the saboteurs
not least the doubts and fears within us
that whisper that we're not fit for the journey?
May the God of infinite wisdom and patience
give us one more sign
against all the odds
that we are called to this journey now
in faith
in hope
and in love.
We are called 
to step out
with the God of mission
who maps out a new path
and call us
to journey alongside
and who grounds and resources us
from the depths
showing us in ancient stories
the way
to God's promised future
one step, one sign at a time.

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