What is the Book of Womanhood?

Written by Associate Professor of Theology and Bible at Nyack College, Dr. Amy Davis-Abdallah

View More: http://andresvalenzuela.pass.us/woman2014When Wanda Velez, Wanda Walborn, and I met in the fall of 2010 to plan a rite of passage for spring, 2011, I didn’t even dream that Woman would grow to be a year-long process, produce two journal articles and The Book of Womanhood (soon to be published by Cascade Books), and form a strong community of 20 mentors, 58 alumnae, and 26 current participants.

We started small! Women that I know and respect from varied backgrounds (ethnicity, age, marital status, etc.) gathered in my attic apartment to brainstorm what a Christian woman is, and those words created our intake survey. Ten participants completed the online survey, participated in a personal interview, and chose a mentor.

woman-138And the spring semester began with our first initiation ceremony! I was very nervous because I was sharing ideas and a process extremely close to my heart, only hoping that it would be life-changing for the participants.

We only met twice between the initiation and the final crossing over ceremony. But when I saw the women in their evening attire and heard them explain their projects that defined womanhood, I was floored by their transformation. I wrote “Development and Efficacy of a Rite of Passage for Women” and it was published in Religious Education in October 2012.

View More: http://andresvalenzuelaphoto.pass.us/woman_2014-2015And so it began. The next year, the process grew from ten participants to eighteen and from four meetings total to six. They still read Lisa Mcminn’s Growing Strong Daughters, but in addition to developing their relationship with self (body image, voice, and confidence), we also discussed relationship with God and with others. We studied the actions and character of biblical women, interviewed women we respect about womanhood, and made goals for moving toward interdependent relationships. That year, I wrote another article, “A Rite of Passage: Helping Daughters Reach Their Godly Potential,” published in Priscilla Papers winter, 2013.

 

 

View More: http://andresvalenzuela.pass.us/woman2014The third year of Woman was much like the first two, with one more meeting added as well as several activities that developed each woman’s relationship to creation. The fourth year (2013-2014), however, was pivotal for several reasons. Previously, the participants had included undergraduates and graduates, but this year, the lone graduate student asked for special permission to participate. And throughout the year, the women received chapters of the Book of Womanhood as I wrote it in the four sections that comprise our identity: relationship with God, with self, with others, and with creation.

 

View More: http://andresvalenzuela.pass.us/woman_2013-2014When we initiated the fifth class of Woman in October of 2014, I looked out into a sea of eager faces—with 26 participants, it is our biggest class yet! As part of the initiation, the leaders, now Wanda Velez, Christina Wolfe (an alumna), and myself, always tell the story of when we “owned” the name, “woman.” This year, we invited the mentors that are Woman alumnae to tell their story, too, and their testimonies of transformation because of Woman were fulfilling for me and exciting for all witnesses. They told the new participants that being a woman is a journey that is never completed, and that Woman would grow their voice and confidence. One even stated that she wouldn’t have the career she now enjoys if it weren’t for Woman. We look forward to more testimonies of transformation this year as we continue to meet!

Don’t Search for Cool, Search for Jesus.

photo (3)The past three months of my life have been spent working in a church. One of the most interesting things about this experience has been seeing how the church operates during the week– what makes Sunday morning happen. I have also found that, in most cases, churches are trying to attract new people, and unfortunately, struggling to keep a hold of current attendants. Most church workers will tell you that each week is a constant battle of planning, formatting, and details that constantly have to be done and re-done in an effort to please everybody.
In my ‘church shopping’ while at college, I have found that most churches are either trying to be too hip, or too traditional. Many churches, whether their members realize it or not, struggle to find a happy medium that will attract new members while keeping a hold of current ones.

An article I read recently called How to Keep Millennials in the Church? Let’s Keep Church un-cool. (linked here), conjured up a lot of thoughts in my mind of what I want from the church. Now, I’m not saying I agree with all the points in this article, but there are a lot of good ones. Above all, I believe that the church can bend and change with culture– it has to in order to stay relatable. BUT, I also believe that the gospel never changes, and though it is always relatable, it is also a bit uncomfortable.

I think there is a problem with college students today concerning church. Many people my age stop attending church claiming they just can’t find a church they like. We look for a “cool” church, not a “deep” one. We look for a church with a young pastor and a cafe, rather than one that teaches the word of God in a real and authentic way.

My boss always says he wants his sermons to make the audience “squirm in their seats”. Bottom line: he wants them to be uncomfortable. Not because of the word pictures he uses or because he gets carried away on stage, but because the Holy Spirit spoke through him and convicted the hearts of the people listening.

I think people, especially college students, need to look for “real” not “cool”. Here’s why: Churches run by people 60+ aren’t “cool” and aren’t ever going to be unless 20 somethings get involved and bring a fresh perspective to the never-changing gospel message. I believe a church should welcome people in and make visitors feel comfortable, but that’s where the comfort stops. The worship and message should be so deep, and real that the presence of the all-perfect God becomes blinding in the midst of our tragically imperfect selves.

Don’t look for cool, look for Jesus.

 

 

Don’t Just Speak Love; Do Love

Playing 'More Than Words'I’m not a big fan of cliches, but a few of them hold true and timeless. My favorite cliche is “Actions speak louder than words;” the best way to get a point across is to act out the message you want to convey. On the other hand, there is no cliche more overused and under-done than “I love you;” many people use this phrase loosely and conditionally. I believe that by combining the two cliches, both will be more meaningful and valuable in every relationship, whether it be between a family member, friend, or significant other. Acting out love means much more than expressing it with words. Don’t just speak love; do love.

One of my favorite songs to play on guitar is “More Than Words” by Extreme. It is not only a fun song to play, but its message is very insightful. In the first verse it says “It’s not that I want you not to say [I love you], but if you only knew how easy it would be to show me how you feel.” There are two truths in this line: there is nothing wrong with speaking love, but it is simple and necessary to show your love as well. Acting out love can be as easy as remaining present in someone’s life during their times of need to listen to their problems and offer advice. The song goes wrong, though, by failing to mention that CTA button for Blog UGdoing love with more than words can be difficult at times. It can mean denying your own wants and needs in order to cater to the needs of someone else. The times when doing love is most difficult are the times when your love means the most and comes across the clearest.

1 Corinthians 13 is more or less the instruction manual for how to love. The first verse of this chapter says “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” As is clear in Scripture, love is about much more than what is said; it is about doing and having the actions and qualities listed in the rest of the chapter. Having patience and kindness; lacking enviousness, boastfulness, arrogance, and rudeness; not insisting on your own way, being irritable and resentful, or rejoicing with wrongdoing; and rejoicing with the truth are the things necessary to act out love. Doing love means bearing all things, believing all things, hoping in all things, and enduring all things.

Serving Side By Side: This is the Body of Christ

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Technically, I spent this past week at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference in Harvey Cedars, NJ. But I would say I spent this past week in a small slice of heaven. Even though I hardly got any sleep all week, it left me feeling energized and closer with both Jesus and my students. Upon arriving at HCBC, my group of teens found themselves surrounded by hundreds of teens from other churches and almost immediately began to initiate conversation and participate in activities together. IMG_0792

As a leader, I found myself in a slightly more exclusive group. Each morning, I attended  leaders’ meetings and was surrounded by people who I felt were much more qualified for my job than I was. As the week went on, however, I became more confident and felt very close with my fellow leaders even though I had only known them for a matter of days.

CTA button for Blog UGI soon found myself wondering how I connected with these people so quickly. Then, I realized that it had nothing to do with how much time we spent together or how many laughs we shared, but rather, it had everything to do with Jesus. Never in my life have I experienced a better example of the body of Christ and the church outside of the building. It was a powerful thing to be surrounded by people who both loved Jesus, and were dedicated to teaching teens about Him.
IMG_6267At one point during the week, emotions were running high and several of my students came face to face with their struggles in a very real way. Many were asking for prayer, and help, and advice, and it was extremely overwhelming. One night, I approached a young leader from another church and just asked if we could pray together. All I knew about this leader was his name but we laid hands on each other and prayed for strength, energy, and wisdom. I am confident that this connection was Jesus at work. As young leaders, we were both seeking wisdom and guidance in an attempt to serve our students in the most effective way possible.
I believe heaven will be much like this week, consisting of  fellowship with believers and constant worshiping of God. The only difference is that God will physically be there with us to audibly join in the conversation. I will never forget that night I prayed fervently alongside a brother in Christ, because serving God side by side– this is the body of Christ.

Abraham: Man of Faith

Abraham is often referred to as the ‘father of faith’, but was his faith always so strong? Like every person bad or good they are all flawed. Even Abraham, The father of all nations had highs and lows of the faith journey. We are able to learn so much from the examples of Abraham and ultimately find that though we mess up and doubt at times, God can and will still use us for his plan.

God promises Abraham that he will begin a great nation and all the people of the world will be blessed because of him and his family, but Abraham had no sons to continue his family line. Abraham had many times of doubt that God would provide for him. First of all his wife could not bear children also they were both very old and still had no children. Even when God sent a messenger to Abraham to tell him Sarah would have a son she laughs at the thought.

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God does come through on his promise though and they have a son and name him Isaac. God was faithful, but now it was Abraham’s turn to prove himself as faithful to God above all else. In Genesis 22 God told Abraham to give a burnt offering to him and that he needed to offer Isaac to him. Believing that God would come through for him Abraham set up the offering and was about to kill Isaac when God spoke to him and said he had proven his faith and did not need to kill his son. This is the climax of the story of Abraham’s great faith in God. We see a great maturation in Abraham as we see him go from the man who doubts to the man with great faith in an almighty God.

Even with his downfalls Abraham is still listed in the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11. In this chapter of the Bible all the greatest warriors of the faith are listed and Abraham is listed amongst them. It is incredible how God can change a man of such great doubt into a man of such great faith, so much faith that he is written about as this man of faith so many years later. Abraham’s journey goes to show that God can and will use anyone, regardless of there faults, to do his will

Much can be learned from the life of Abraham about how God can use imperfect people for great portrayals of faith. Everyone has times in their life when they doubt that God is powerful enough to come through for them and provide for them. But, God uses imperfect people to do extraordinary things. Like Abraham, even if you have screwed up time and time again in life, God can and will use you to do amazing things for Him and His kingdom.

I’m the Teacher, Yet They’re Teaching Me

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“People brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” –Matthew 19:13-14

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When you hear people talk about children, it’s not usually in the context of them being responsible, highly accomplished, or wealthy. Usually, people talk about the cute things kids do, or the earnest things they say. Children are known for being honest beings, and I believe that is exactly why Jesus entrusts his kingdom to them.

As I have said before, this summer I have an internship with a youth pastor. Part of my job is to rebuild the youth group worship team that has been falling apart recently. I have been in several worship teams over the years in various capacities, and as I like to tell my students, “I have a lot of worship team wisdom to impart”. Though that is true, I have been learning as much, if not more, from these teens as they have been learning from me.

During the school year, I had a post-it by my door that said “WORSHIP HONESTLY”. This was advice given to me by my pastor, and now boss, Justin. We were having a conversation about feeling God’s presence and being self conscious while worshiping, when he told me that the most important thing was to worship from where you are– worship honestly.

CTA button for Blog UGI have never seen a better example of honest worship than these teens. They all have different talents, backgrounds, and skill levels, yet all have one thing in common: they’re all excited to worship Jesus. I tell them that it’s important to have a true and honest heart while worshiping, because their audience will see that and follow suit. This true and honest worship is no problem for these students. I see them get up on stage, and while it may not be the best musical performance Broadway has ever seen, it’s real, and it’s honest.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would rather be led in worship by this somewhat rag-tag group of enthusiastic students than a put together church worship team. Because as Jimmy Needham says in his song Clear the Stage, “You can sing all you want to, and still get it wrong. Worship is more than a song.”

To Be a True Worshiper

Christian Faith Fellowship Family ChurchMusic has always been a large of my church experience and my interaction with God, especially as a musician, but it has taken me a long time and a lot of teaching to fully understand that true worship goes far beyond singing songs. Hymns and praises are significant and meaningful as corporate expressions of our love for and devotion to God, but they make up only a portion of what it means to be a true worshiper. My pastor, Pastor Joe McKelvey of Christian Faith Fellowship Family Church in Middletown, New York, articulated well what it really means to worship, drawing on two key texts, John 4:23 and Numbers 16. He says, and I agree, that true worship results from knowing God and following his ways; it does not consist of empty ceremony.

The sixteenth chapter of Numbers tells the story of Korah, who tried to exalt himself above Moses and Aaron as leaders of the Israelites. Korah and his followers tried to bring an offering of incense to the Lord, but their offering was not sincere and they did not truly know God. This empty offering did not please God but made Him angry, and this resulted in the deaths of Korah and his followers. What we can learn from this story is that the motions of worship; the songs, the dances, the half-raised hands; are not what gives God glory. There must be more to worship than the motions that it involves.

John chapter 4 recounts Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. When Jesus says that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (verse 6, ESV), he is dispelling the notion that God can only be truly worshiped in Jerusalem by the Jews. He is making clear that everyone has the ability and opportunity to worship God, no matter where they are located. Many people believe that worship can only be done in the church when the band is playing. This is far from the truth. Whenever we evangelize, pray, fellowship, or do anything in obedience to God, we are in the act of worship. Our every-day lives can and should continually bring Him glory.

Worship is far too vast to fit neatly into a musical number. It is a mindset, a state of being, and a lifestyle. We should not limit our worship to lyrics and chords; we need to live lives that honor God and give him glory. That is how to be a true worshiper.

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