Malankara World Journal Special Edition: Women in Church
Volume 3 No. 121 January 21, 2013
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Table of Contents
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Foreword and Introduction
The Role of Women in
The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
Women In The Bible
How Jesus Ministered To Women
Portrait of Women
Women In The Orthodox Church
The Role of Women in The Orthodox Church
Women in The
Women in The
Women in Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church
Keynote: Women in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
Women as Covered and
Featured Malankara Women
Ammai - My Hero
Mummy, a Lydia for Our Times
Inviting Nominations for The Malankara World Woman of The Year
The Christian Family Life
Why Do We Need
Ten Things to Pray
for Your Wife
The Honeymoon Life
The Husband of a Happy Wife
The Profile of a
Godly Mother: The Example of Hannah
Mothers Say 'Yes' to God
My Mother, My
Managing Career and Family
Twenty Strategies for Busy Christian Women
Leading a Low-Stress Life by Living Right
Myth: True Success Means Always Reaching for
The Next Rung on The Corporate Ladder
Simple Tips for Mom: How Working Moms Can Make Guilt-Free Choices
At The Dawn of 2013
Death of India Rape Victim Stirs Anger, Promises of Action
Making the Church Rape Free
Much Beyond Rape . . .
There are certain foods that aging boomer women (and men for that matter) should eat on a very regular basis (like every day) that literally pack the body's cells with powerful nutrients. Here are some of the superfoods that build health and happiness. ...
Recipe: Scrambled Eggs with Variations
A Year Free From Regret
The Pie Lady
Foreword and Introduction
On behalf of all the unsung women leaders of our church, I dedicate this special issue of Malankara World Journal to my wife, Dr. Shila Mathew, MD who has stood by me in all these years hosting clergies, arranging refreshments after church services, organizing lunches, and, most of all, offering her support and assistance in my efforts to start Malankara World.
Perhaps Rev. Fr. Mathew Karuthalackal of St. Mary's Jacobite Church, Chicago said it best during the church day celebrations of St. Mary's Church in Chicago: "You really should appreciate doctor aunty. Here is a Board Certified Psychiatrist, who wraps a bib around her sari and then works in church: cooking, serving, cleaning, etc. She is worth emulating." Frankly till achen said that, I did not pay much attention to all the activities Shila did in the church. Very often she will be seeing patients till 3 PM or go to hospital to see in-patients and then rush home and do all the cooking before achen comes. In many instances, she ends up staying up all night cooking for the church service on the following day.
Shila deserves the full credit for raising our daughter and son to where they are today. Although there were no Orthodox Churches in the places they studied, we encouraged them to attend regular church services every Sunday in any church available. Shila had a major role and influence in the spiritual development of our children from their childhood. She has been a model wife, mother and spiritual mentor in our family.
Our daughter, Dr. Seena Mathew who teaches neuroscience at The University of Texas at Austin wrote recently about her mother:
My Mother Is Special
by Dr. Seena Mathew
As a mother, Shila fills in several roles. Here is what our son, Madhu, wrote about his mom:
by Capt. Dr. Jacob Mathew, Jr.
There are not many children who are lucky enough to have a mother:
And finally, a mother that no matter how much I screwed up or upset her, still loved me no matter what. I love you momma, thanks for always being here for me.
Yes, mothers are very special. They fill in several roles. They adapt to the needs of their children. God picks them for doing special tasks.
I had been reading Stormie Omartian's book, 'The Power of a Praying Wife.' The foreword to this book was written by her husband Michael. He begins it with:
When I read this passage, I was surprised how perfectly it described the relationship between Shila and me, 'pray for each other and bear one another's burdens'. I am sure this also describes the relationship of most of the couples in our church. Shila never misses a day without praying for all. In fact, after we got married, we spent the first week (of two weeks I had left before returning to the US) going for spiritual pilgrimages to all of our important churches such as Parumala, Manarcad, Kothamangalam, Mulanthuruthy, and Parur. In the US, newlyweds may go to Niagara Falls or Hawaii for their honeymoon; in Kerala, a traditional Syriac Christian couple may, instead, go to our churches for blessings in lieu of a honeymoon. Is there any wonder why our marriages last (until death do us part) as all these saints are keeping an eye on us?
I am sure there are several such unsung heroes like Shila in our church. So, on behalf of all of them, I hereby dedicate this issue of Malankara World Journal to Shila on her birthday.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Managing Editor, Malankara World
'The Role of Women in Syriac Orthodox Church' is a subject that is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. We read a portion of St. Paul's writing out of context and feel that it is how the church treats women. Is it true?
This was the question we want answered when we started working on a special edition of Malankara World Journal on women. As we delved into this issue further, it was clear that people's belief system is based on what they have experienced and, not necessarily based on the church's position on it. The individual priest or bishop may have their own ideas of how this "should be" as opposed to how the teaching of the church is. Very often, it is cultural prejudices that are behind the ill treatment of women, not what the Bible advocates.
Orthodox church gives a very exalted position to women. The most respected person born of a human being is St. Mary who is respected as Theotokos, the Mother of God. St. Mary has the highest position in Orthodox Church below the Trinity. Everyone else, including all the saints fall below Theotokos. When God wanted the assistance of a human being to execute his plan for the redemption of mankind, He selected St. Mary for this critical task. Similarly, when the first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection was to a female, Mary Magdalene, not a man. These examples show that God placed an important role for women. Orthodox Church, in turn, places an important position to women.
Orthodox theologians say that protestant churches find it hard to grasp the importance placed by Orthodox Church for women because of the way they (the protestant church) looks at St. Mary. They consider Mary was just a person who was "used" by God for giving the human form to Jesus; she was "released" after Jesus became an adult. She continued normal wedded life with Joseph and had other children. So, she was not given any more importance than anyone else. Of course, Orthodox Church do not agree to this view.
The article by the HH Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas describes the important position given to women in Syriac Orthodox Church.
Pope John Paul II explained the importance of St. Mary and the role of women in Catholic church, thus:
The pope continued explaining the Catholic Church's position of women,
One question asked by the protestant faithful about why Orthodox Church and Catholic church do not allow women to be ordained as priests. They say this clearly shows the discrimination against women. I saw a good answer to that question from the Eastern Orthodox Catholic faith:
This was best described by Beth Hanson:
Beth Hanson, 'The Role of Women in the Catholic Church'
We hope that this special issue of Malankara World Journal will give you an insight into the important role played by Women in Syriac Orthodox Church. We have also examined the multiple roles played by women today and provides tips to handle them. We examine a current problem facing women at large, viz., sexual assault, and provides resources to manage it. General articles on health, recipes, family, etc. compliments the issue.
Malankara World Editorial Team
Rev. Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu
PS: We acknowledge the assistance of Commander Philip Jacob, a member of the Malankara World Board, in proof reading several articles and for providing valuable feedback.
by Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas
The Role of Women is a topic of importance today in our Syriac Orthodox Church which is a deeply rooted traditional apostolic church.” In our presentation, we shall depend upon the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, namely the teachings of the Apostles which have not been recorded in the Scriptures. We also shall depend on the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils and general and local synods, as well as on liturgical practices and the teachings of our Holy Church Fathers, which have all been passed down to us from our predecessors. Depending on the Holy Bible, the Syriac Orthodox Church considers women equal to men in rights and duties. According to the Holy Scriptures, God created man in His image; "in the image of God created him; male and female He created them." Consequently, men and women are equal before God because God's ideal plan for marriage is one man for one woman and one woman for one man. In reference to their union in matrimony, the Holy Scripture says: "And they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24, Mt. 19:5, Mk. 10:8, and Eph. 5:31). This is Adam, the first man from whom God took a rib and created Eve to be a helper for him. "And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man;' (Gen. 2:23). They were both created in the image and likeness of God; the image of God which is the soul God gave to man when he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul. Hence, the living soul gave Adam life through union with the dust.
The image of God in man is also the image of mind and conscience, the power of creativity and dominance over other creatures. God endowed man with this power when He created him as holy, granting him dominance over the living creatures. Man was one, "male and female He created them" and dominance was granted to both of them, but when they both sinned they lost the grace of holiness. Jesus Christ, however, redeemed us by His atoning death, restoring the image of holiness equally to both men and women. God Almighty spoke equally of men and women in the Old Testament, saying in the fifth Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother" (Ex. 20:12) and in the Book of Proverbs, Solomon said: "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thy heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goes, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou wakest, it shall talk with thee" (Prov. 6:20).
It is the Hebrew Fathers who distorted the concept of God's Commandments by their teachings which were so alien to the divine law. The Lord Jesus addressed Jews in this context, saying unto them: "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, "Honor thy Father and Mother: and He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother. It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Mt. 15:3-6).
2.0 The Virgin Mary, The New Eve
Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ held women in high esteem in the person of the Virgin Mary, for He chose her to be His Mother because of her chastity and godliness so that she deserved that the Holy Spirit descend on her, purify her, absolve her from sin and sanctify her. Through the descent of the Holy Spirit, she conceived in her womb the Divine Fire, thus giving birth to the Divine Son, the Lord Incarnate. We call her Theotokos (Yoldath Aloho), which means the Mother of God who gave birth to God Incarnate.
Although the Virgin Mary restored the early status of Eve, which she had lost after her fall, she never obtained the grace of priesthood. She ranked, however, high above prophets, clergy, martyrs, confessors, apostles and evangelists; for she was the one who informed the Apostles of what had happened to her since Gabriel's annunciation of the divine conception. The Virgin Mary was the first to evangelize the Good News of Christ and to believe in His divine power. We consider her to be above the prophets. She prophesied about herself, saying: "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His Name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation" (Lk. 1:48-50).
Jesus Christ honored his mother, the Virgin Mary while He was a child, and took care of her, providing for her sustenance in His adulthood after the death of Joseph who was betrothed to her. He also honored women in general, having sympathized with the sinful Samaritan woman who was demeaned by her people. Jesus talked to her when Hebrew rabbis abstained from talking to a woman in the street, albeit she was next of kin to them. The Lord Jesus sympathized also with the sinful woman whom the Pharisees wanted to stone to death and He absolved her. Jesus Christ did this at a time when Jews looked down upon women. When we read about the miracle of feeding five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish, recorded by Apostle Matthew in the Holy Gospel, saying: "And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children" (Mt. 14:21), we do gather from the terminology used among Jews at that time that it was man who was important, whereas women and children were equally demeaned in status.
3.0 Women and 'The Jesus'
The Lord Jesus, however, showed His divine care for women. Some women walked with Him, serving Him and His disciples. Jesus was the friend of Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus (John 11:5). It is noteworthy to mention here that women were loyal to Jesus Christ. They followed Him on His way to Golgotha. They bewailed and lamented Him. They grieved when they beheld Him crucified, suffering and in agony. They heard Him commend His mother, the Virgin Mary, to the care of His beloved disciple, thus teaching every human being to honor their mothers and take care of them. Women also followed Him to the new sepulcher where His Holy body was buried. They were the first to come early to the grave to embalm His Body. They were the first to see Him after the resurrection, and the first to profess his resurrection and proclaim it.
4.0 Women and The Apostles
Women helped the Apostles and Evangelists in preaching the Good Tidings. And in the Acts of the Apostles, we read about the four daughters of Philip who were virgins and who did prophesy (Acts 21:9). Philip, the Evangelist, was one of the seven deacons. We also read Apostle Paul's denouncement of the thoughts of those who protested against his accompanying a woman on his evangelical tours, saying: "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas" (I Cor 9:5)?
Furthermore, women play a significant role in the establishment of a family and in taking care of it, raising children and bringing them up. In relevance to this, the Apostle Paul says: "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing (I Tim 2:15)." By giving birth, he means both physical birth and the spiritual one from above. We can also see that this woman, who was ready to give a spiritual birth from above, was herself born from heaven. God Almighty created man as male and female, and made them equal in rights and duties, but He also recreated them anew from above at the time of redemption when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost in the Upper Room where there were 120 men and women. When Luke recorded this incident, he counted them all and not only men; therefore, he did not say apart from women when the Holy Spirit rested on all, on the Apostles, the disciples and on women simultaneously. The Virgin Mary, the Mother of God Incarnate, was in the lead among women who were there and they all, male and female, equally obtained the gifts of the sublime Holy Spirit.
5.0 Women in the Early Church
Prior to the descent of the Holy Spirit, women were participating in the prayer with men in the Upper Room. They were all waiting expectantly for the coming of power from without, and the Holy Spirit rested upon women as He did upon the Apostles and all the disciples with no discrimination whatsoever between men and women. The Evangelist Luke describes this divine incident in the Acts of the Apostles, saying: "the number of names together were about a hundred and twenty And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:15 and 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit prepared them all for proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to the world. He preserved them from erring, reminding them of all that had been said by the Lord Jesus, so they adhered to His heavenly teachings and preached them to the world.
At this point we are undoubtedly bound to mention women believers who used to serve in the palaces of kings, great men, chiefs and noblemen; and to preach the Holy Gospel in word and indeed, especially through raising children and living a life of righteousness. Through these women, the Holy Gospel spread powerfully and gradually the way leaven produces fermentation in dough.
So peacefully, the Holy Gospel broke into strongholds of misleading and misled paganism and those of Judaism which perverted God's laws. Hence multitudes of both faiths believed in the Holy Gospel during the very early days of Christianity.
We, as a church, who have adhered to the Holy Gospel and the ecclesiastic and apostolic tradition, shall have to admit that God has bequeathed on some women the gifts of sublime spiritual leadership, which were clearly manifested in their lives throughout the ages.
It goes without saying that the history of the Syriac Orthodox Church abounds with the lives of such women. In the Syriac Church women enjoy great dignity due to the active role they have played in their service of the Church.
Helen, the Christian queen, who was the daughter of a Syriac priest, who lived near Edessa and brought up her son Constantine in a righteous way, vowed that if her son converted to Christianity, she would go to Jerusalem in search of the wood of the Cross. A vow she certainly kept.
5.1 Empress Theodora
It is mandatory that we mention Empress Theodora, the woman who symbolizes the glory of the Syriac Church and who rules over our hearts, coming second to the Virgin Mary in status, dignity and honor. She was the wife of Emperor Justinian in the sixth century AD. This miraculous woman was the daughter of a Syriac priest of Mabbug in Syria.
We respect and honor Empress Theodora and bless her because she offered comfort to her spiritual fathers, the highly esteemed pontiffs of the Church, whom she highly respected and served at difficult and crucial times when the Byzantine Government used to persecute, displace, exile and kill them. The toll of this persecution was thousands of martyrs. Those who survived persecutions went through agonies and Theodora used to comfort and protect them. However, she could never bring this persecution, launched against them by Byzantium, to an end without paying a dear price.
It was Theodora who was behind sending a mission to illuminate Ethiopia with the light of the Holy Gospel. And we shall never forget the nuns who took vows of celibacy, chastity, voluntary poverty and obedience, dedicating themselves to the service of the Holy Gospel throughout the ages.
This is what we gather from the patrimony of our Fathers, their traditions and honorable history. Indeed, the aforementioned women are not the only ones in the history of our Syriac Orthodox Church. So many were the women who were well known for their wisdom, scrutiny and courage in professing their faith. Many of them obtained the laurels of martyrdom for the sake of Christ, and many others underwent persecutions and agonies and were listed among the confessors. Many women had an inborn wit like the Edessan woman whom St. Ephrem met along the banks of the Disan River in Edessa. The story goes that this woman kept glancing at him so he became angry and rebuked her, saying: "Woman, keep your eyes downward and look at the ground." To which she answered: “I am entitled to look at you, oh man, because I was taken from you and you should look down to the earth as it was from earth you were created.” St. Ephrem admired this woman's wisdom and said: “If this is the wisdom of the women of Edessa, what kind of wisdom would that of men be? (1)
6.0 Women and Saint Ephrem
In Edessa, where St. Ephrem came to settle after leaving Nisibis in 363 upon its occupation by the Persians, he sometimes lived an ascetic life on the Holy Mount of Edessa and other times taught in its famous school. He was interested in liturgical life, to which he introduced the special melodies of his rhymed hymns. He also started a church choir, including young Edessan girls to sing his meloldies and other spiritual poems and beautiful hymns which he adapted to teach the doctrines and faith of orthodoxy.
It is clear that St. Ephrem's establishment of a choir of young virgins exalted the status of women and has practically proved that when St. Paul wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (14:34) "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak", he did so solely as a temporary organizational measure, not a doctrine of faith that should never be amended or changed, in order to prevent talkative women from prattling at a time others wished to pray piously before the Divine Glory.
St. Ephrem is doubtlessly considered a pioneer in having started a choir in Christianity. He attested that women like men have an equal right to praise God in public prayer. St. Paul, however, spoke of men and women as equals in the self-same Epistle to the Corinthians, saying: "Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (I Cor 11:11).
The influence of St. Ephrem is clear in his education of women in Edessa by helping them understand the teachings of the of the Holy Gospel, adhere to Christian doctrine and endure persecution courageously for the sake of faith. All this is manifested in the incident of the woman from Edessa during the persecution launched by Wallis the Arian at the end of the fourth century, precisely in the year 373. Wallis had appointed an Arian bishop in Edessa, but this prelate was rejected by the faithful who consequently began to pray outside the city.
One early Sunday morning all the faithful flocked to the outskirts of the city where soldiers started arresting them and throwing them into prisons. The governor of the city met one of the faithful while she was running to join the others, carrying her newborn baby. The governor stood in her way and stopped her, reminding her of the authorities' orders and the severe punishment awaiting whoever might violate these orders. She expressed her willingness to endure agony for the sake of adhering to the Christian doctrine of faith. He went on and asked her: "We have come to know that you have left the door of your house wide open and you are running so fast carrying your newborn too. Why have you done this?" To which she answered: "As for the house, I am sure I am not returning to it. Concerning my newborn, it is because of my great love for him that I want him to share with me the honor of martyrdom and to be joyfully with me in paradise, thus saving him from the condemnation which is the result of your perversity.
We can therefore gather that a faithful woman is worthy of every honor bestowed upon her. Our Syrian Church is fully aware of women's credits and virtues and does highly acknowledge their true worth and dignity.
7.0 Syriac Woman, A Deaconess and a Presbytera
One of the practices inherited from our Fathers is the restriction of women from entering the sanctuary. Even baby girls are not allowed to enter the sanctuary after having been blessed by the sacrament of Holy Baptism. A baby girl is not allowed to be carried in a procession inside the sanctuary as is a little boy. One of the reasons behind this practice might be the tendency to preserve the good reputation of Christianity which it was accused of during the early days of its history of being an erotic religion.
Another reason for such a practice might be the fear of falling in sin as a result of having the two sexes within the sanctuary, especially as pagan priestesses used to sell their bodies with the aim of raising money for their pagan temple.
Allocation of two separate places in the church for men and women, separated by a wooden partition, was an established practice inherited from church tradition. Reference to this practice can be inferred from one of the Homilies of John Chrysostom (+407). The impact of this practice was apparent in some of our ancient churches.
St. Jacob of Sarug (+521), the saintly scholar of our Church, justifies the non-admittance of women to the sanctuary in one of his verses (memres) in which he says through the mouth of Adam in teaching his children:, I would not send weeded wheat (2) as an offering to the Lord with the hands of Eve lest she might offer it to her advisor (Satan); and I shall never give sacrifice to the Lord because I am not pure; for never shall the expelled priest have the right to do that. The foot that headed willingly towards the tree of life shall have no right to tread the site dedicated to pontiffs (and priests), and the hand that picked the forbidden fruit in Eden shall have no right to flutter over the Divine Eucharist."
Even though the Church has prevented women from entering the sanctuary, it has allowed the wife of the priest, who was consecrated as a presbytera (Qashishto), and the widow, who was consecrated as a deaconess, to enter the sanctuary occasionally in the event of the absence of a priest or a deacon or any male.
It is useful as well to mention here that we, Syrians, have a rite for the
consecration of presbyteras and another for the consecration of deaconesses. In
his work, Nomocanon, the great scholar Mar Gregorios Abu Alfaraj Al Malati,
Catholicos of the East, better known as Bar ‘Ebroyo (+1286) (Sec. 7, Chap. 7),
states that deaconesses were usually chosen from among pious widows who had
certain qualifications such as having been married only once, and having been
committed to the service of the
8.0 The Ministry of the Deaconess
After being consecrated, the ministry of the deaconess is limited to helping the priest and deacon outside the sanctuary in the service of baptizing women and mature girls and anointing them with holey chrism. This ministry also includes visiting sick female faithful specially in homes inhabited solely by women. In this case the bishop does not send a deacon to visit them lest any doubts might arise among the unbelievers, but rather a deaconess to take care of the female faithful.
In the event a widow consecrated as a deaconess remarries, she shall be excommunicated together with the one who marries her. Certain canon laws limit the age of the widow candidate to be consecrated as a deaconess to forty years; whereas other canons do not recommend the consecration of a deaconess before the age of sixty.
St. Severios the Great (+538) states that in the sixth century the ordination of abbesses as deaconesses was in practice in the Orient (under the jurisdiction of the Antiochean See). In the event of the unavailability of a priest or a deacon, each one of those consecrated was entitled to distribute Holy Communion to the sisters who were under their authority. They do not, however, do this service in the case of the presence of either one. The deaconess wears a stole (uroro) hanging down from the shoulder in the manner of an archdeacon. In the event of the unavailability of a priest or a deacon in the convent, a deaconess is entitled to enter the sanctuary (Beth Qudsheh), provided that she is not having her menstrual period and that she is only with her sisters where she may give them the Communion. She may not do so for males, even to little boys who are five years of age or older.
When a consecrated deaconess burns incense, she may not recite the special prayer usually recited by the priest, but inwardly recites the prayer of repentance.
She may, after obtaining permission from the bishop, mix wine and water in the chalice; and in the event of her illness, she may allow one of the sisters to enter the sanctuary in order to clean it and light the sanctuary candles.
A deaconess shall never be blamed if she reads the Holy Scriptures, even the Holy Gospel, in a public gathering of sisters on holy days.
According to the teachings of Jacob of Edessa (+708), " The deaconess may never enter the sanctuary except to clean it or light candles. In the event of unavailability of a priest or a deacon in the convent, she may take the Communion, which is usually placed in the Beth Qurbono, a recess usually made in the eastern wall behind the altar. She may not, however, come close to the altar. She may also give Communion to the sisters and only to little boys below the age of five. She may help the priest in the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism of mature women by anointing them with holy chrism and may visit sick women."
It was the wife of the priest who was called a presbytera, following her consecration as such. She was also called a daughter of the covenant. The rite of her consecration is usually carried out by the bishop at the end of the Holy Liturgy. During the service, the wife of the priest kneels down, bowing before the sanctuary while the bishop makes intercessions to God to exhort the faithful, to become like the five wise virgins who took their lamps filled with the oil of good deeds of vigilance and watch, while waiting for the second coming of the Heavenly Groom in order to go with Him to the joyous wedding and to glorify Him.
8.1 Consecration of the Deaconess
During the rite of consecration, prayers, and petitions are said for both the repentance of the one called upon for this ministry, as well as for endowment with wisdom.
Prayers center upon the parable of the virgins (Mt 25:1-13), as well as the parable of the invitation to the banquet, obliging people to enter the house of the host and share in the meal (Mt 22: 1-14). The bishop then commands that the curtain be drawn to hide the one to be consecrated. Meanwhile, she takes off her bracelets and her outer garments and wears a wide blue skirt, hanging down from the waist to the toes, and puts on a black girdle. She is also dressed in a black or blue coat hanging over her shoulders. Afterwards, the bishop holds a black scarf upon which he makes a triple sign of the cross, tightly on her head like a cap while reciting the following prayer: "May the Lord protect you and shield you with His divine right hand, saving you from the temptations of the soul and body so you may obtain His bliss for ever. Amen."
Later someone reads a chapter from the Book of Acts about Peter restoring life to Tabitha (Act 9:36-42), and a selection from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-17) commencing with: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, and beloved, bowls of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another as Christ forgave you."
Then the bishop reads Chapter ten of the Gospel of Luke, starting from verse 38 up to 42 about Martha and Mary where the Lord says to Martha: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful; and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:41-42).
At this point, the bishop makes the sign of the cross on her forehead three times, saying: "(Name of consecrated) shall be sealed, stamped and perfected, that is consecrated as an actual presbytera for the service of the children of the Holy Church. Afterwards, the archdeacon says in a loud voice: (Barekhmor) which means "Bless, O Lord" to which the bishop adds, saying: "In the Name of the Father +", and the deacon responds, saying: "Amen." The bishop continues, saying: "and of the Son +" to which the deacon responds, saying: "Amen." Then the bishop says: "and of the Holy Spirit forever." The deacon then responds, saying: "Amen."
Afterwards, the bishop reads a silent prayer of thanksgiving and then recites a prayer for the consecrated presbytera publicly, followed by the prayer of "Oh Lord, have mercy on us" and the Lord's Prayer.
We gather from the procedures of the rite of consecration, canon laws and the powers granted to the one to be consecrated as a presbytera that the consecration of a presbytera is neither an ordination nor an office but a mere consecration appointment and dedication.
We do not know for certain the date of the discontinuance of this rite of consecration. Although we now call the wife of every priest (Bath Qyomo), meaning a daughter of the covenant, the same name is given solely to the consecrated individual.
It is noteworthy to mention here that nowadays the wife of the priest, though not consecrated, can help her husband with the baptism of adult females if any.
The consecration of deaconesses has been recently restored and we have started consecrating some of them as choirgirls, calling them deaconesses.
8.2 The Deaconesses Today
The name of deaconess given to a choirgirl is a nominal one. During the rite of consecration, the bishop says that (name of person) is being consecrated as a deaconess in the choir. This deaconess shall not be subject to the laws that used to bind the deaconesses in the past. Neither shall she be entitled to the same rights, privileges or duties the deaconess used to previously enjoy. She is just a singer in the church. Most often she serves in religious education centers. Just like other women, she may get married, yet remain consecrated as a deaconess, serving as a singer in the choir, a teacher or a Sunday school advisor. This might be a step forward towards resumption of consecrating widows as deaconesses in the church as previously practiced.
There is a possibility of having a second thought about church tradition in relation to the rights and duties of those called deaconesses or presbyteraes in terms of the services they offer to women and little children, and in relation to cleaning the sanctuary and lighting candles. In this age, those activities that might take place in the church when needed and may add to the enrichment of souls and to the progress and prosperity of the Church.
Definitely, ordination of presbyteraes, having the power of a clergy to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, as practiced by some traditional non-apostolic churches, would never be permitted in our apostolic Syrian Orthodox Church. This is due to the fact that such an act is not based on the Scriptures. For when the Lord Jesus chose twelve apostles and seventy missionaries, He never selected any of those women who were serving Him. Likewise, a presbytera in our Church has never been ordained in the office of clergy with the power to absolve from sin and celebrate the Bloodless Holy Eucharist and other sacraments of the Church.
Syriac women today occupy high positions in all domains, social, cultural and religious.
Women have become physicians, lawyers, judges, engineers, teachers and members of Parliament, and in the Church Council of Trustees as well as being members in charitable societies. They are choir singers and Sunday school teachers. In all these endeavors, women are equal to men in rights, duties and dignity.
(1). Biography of St. Ephrem, the Syrian by the author. Damascus, 1984.
(2). Bleelo which means weeded wheat connoting the Holy Eucharist (consecrated bread) is misspelt in Syriac as Kleelo.
Source: Speech delivered by His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at St. Ephrem Monastery in Saydnaya at the conclusion of the meeting of Orthodox women held in Damascus from October 4-10, 1996, under the theme of Discerning the Signs of the Time and published in the Patriarchal Magazine, Nos. 157, 158, 159 of September, October and November 1996.
Courtesy of FESTSCHRIFT, 2005 and www.SyrianChurch.org
Women In The Bible
Proverbs 31:10-31 is a poem written honoring as well as extolling the virtues of a virtuous (or capable or industrious) wife. It is written in the form of an alphabetic acrostic in Hebrew. There are twenty-two verses, each beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. The psalms have other examples of this style of writing, the best example is Psalm 119.
Because of the need to confine the verses to the order of the Hebrew alphabet, sometimes the order and priorities may look a little strange or disoriented. But, as whole, this is an excellent summary of a spiritual wife. A summary of this poem is given in New Testament in 1 Tim. 2:9, 10; 1 Pet. 3:1-6. Practical (economic) value is emphasized while the value of her physical charms are depreciated in the lifespan. The wisdom is that an young man must be practical even in the affairs of the heart if he is to succeed in life and live a long happy life. A good wife brings respect to her husband; she teaches values to her children so that they learn to respect their parents. She shows kindness to the poor as God commanded. She has control of her tongue. These are gems that remain true in spite of passage of time.
Hymn to a Good Wife
Proverbs 31:10-31 (The Message)
A good woman is hard to find,
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
She looks over a field and buys it,
She senses the worth of her work,
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
She makes her own clothing,
She designs gowns and sells them,
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
Her children respect and bless her;
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
If we were asked to name great Biblical historical figures we would probably come up with some of the same names. Abraham. Moses. Noah. David. John the Baptist. Jesus. And no one would be wrong as the world would not be the same without these men. But just as there are countless more men that played a role in Biblical history, so, too, are there numerous women.
There are over one hundred sixty women mentioned in the Bible. Although not all of their names were written down, their deeds were, thus showing us the part they, too, played in history. If we were asked to name women who played a role in Bible history, again, we would probably repeat many of the same names. Sarah. Ruth. Mary. Elizabeth. Mary Magdalene. But here we will look at a select few that are less well known to many of us, but were important figures in Biblical events.
In an Old Testament filled with rebuke towards women for being superstitious and wishy-washy, we find Deborah given a place of honor. She was a ruler, a judge of the Israelite people, a prophetess and a poet (Judges 4 & 5). Deborah led an army of 10,000 troops into battle along with a man named Barak. Even though she prophesied that the Lord would deliver the enemy up, Barak refused to go unless she went with him. Deborah's answer can be found in Judges 4:9 "And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh."
This prophecy by Deborah brings us to our next important woman. Jael. It was Jael that Deborah was referring to in her prophecy. Although Deborah and the Israelite troops defeated Sisera's troops, he, himself escaped. As he was fleeing, Jael approached him and convinced him to hide in her tent. While Sisera was sleeping, Jael took a tent peg and a hammer and drove it through his temple into the ground. It was the bravery of Deborah along with the boldness and craftiness of Jael that led the Israelites to overcome the Canaanites and have peace in the land for forty years (Judges 5:31).
Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho when the Israelites were getting ready to invade the land. She had heard the stories of how the Israelites' God had delivered them out of Egypt, and of the things that happened to the people who opposed Israel. Rahab thought of her survival, and when the Israelite spies came to her door she hid them from her own king. She made a deal with them. She would hide them and help them escape Jericho in exchange for her life and the lives of her family. The deal was made and so was history. The Israelites did invade Jericho and Rahab and her family were spared.
The significance of Rahab's courage lies not only with the fact that the Israelites were able to invade Jericho, but the fact that her life was spared and she goes on to become part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. In the genealogy listing of Jesus (Matthew 1) only four women are actually named, one of which was Rahab.
It is important to look at women in the New Testament also. All through the New Testament we see women with important roles in aiding the spread of Christianity. It was women who were first given the word that Jesus was risen from the dead (Luke 24: 1-12). An industrious business woman, Lydia, is recorded as the first convert to Christianity in Europe (Acts 16:14) and opened her home up to the apostle Paul.
Tabitha was an extremely kind woman who knew no limits with her acts of kindness and charity (Acts 9:36). When she died, those who loved her heard Jesus' disciple Peter was near and sent for him. Peter sent everyone out of the room and took Tabitha's hand and raised her from the dead. What is so impressive about Tabitha? The brief mention of her exemplary life. She was a woman sorely missed by all which is why Peter was sent for in the first place, and it was her being raised from the dead that led many people to Christianity.
All through the New Testament women are credited with helping the disciples and apostles. Paul takes care to always mention Priscilla, wife of Aquila, who risked her life for his (Romans 16:9). Even though many women are mentioned only briefly, and some are not even given a name, like the poor widow who gave all that she had (Mark 12: 41-44), just the brief account we are given of them gives us a great deal of insight. Do you think the poor widow knew she was being watched, only to be immortalized forever in the greatest book of all time?
The actions of these women teach us what character really is, and how the toughest, or even simplest decisions made everyday could possibly change the world.
- Author Unknown
by Gregg Cantelmo
The most striking thing about the role of women in the life and teaching of Jesus is the simple fact that they are there. 31 He ministered to women and treated each one as a person. 32
With great insight Dorothy Sayers said about Jesus: "They [women] had never known a man like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized…who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for the, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious." 33 Both in his teaching and in his activities, Jesus reached out to women as persons who were equally worthy as men in his saving activity.
We see in the gospels that Jesus treated women with incredible respect. A classic passage in this regard is Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman. 34 This is a remarkable exchange, since Jesus was not only interacting with a Samaritan, a member of a race that was despised by Jews, 35 but also a woman. And Jesus' conversation with this woman is probably the most profound discussion of theology in the gospels. Women were not encouraged to have interaction with male strangers. 36
But Jesus went beyond the cultural ethnic and gender barriers and treated her as a person who was worth his offer of the living water of eternal life. 37 He didn't treat her in reference to what others said about her, her accomplishments or possessions, and he didn't deal with her based on her appearance. He establishes through this woman that whoever accepts his offer of living water, that person will receive it. The woman saw the barrier as ethnic, 38 whereas the disciples returned and made an issue of gender. 39 But for Jesus, gender and ethnicity are irrelevant in his offer of salvation.
She comes to the well at noonday, the hottest hour of the day, which whispers a rumor of her reputation. The other women come at dusk, a cooler, more comfortable hour. They come not only to draw water, but to take off their veils and slip out from under the thumb of a male-dominated society. They come for companionship, to talk, to laugh, and to barter gossip - much of which centers around this woman. So shunned by these women, she braves the sun's scorn. Accusing thoughts are her only companions as she ponders the futile road her life has traveled. She's looked for love in all the wrong places, going from one dead-end relationship to another. For her, marriage has been a retreating mirage. Again and again she has returned to the matrimonial well, hoping to draw from it something to quench her thirst for love and happiness. But again and again, she has left that well disappointed.
And so, under the weight of such thoughts she comes to Jacob's well, her empty water jar a telling symbol of her life. As her eyes meet the Savior's, he sees within her a cavernous aching, a cistern in her soul that will forever remain empty unless he fills it. And there she meets Jesus. 40
This encounter shows to all women that regardless of past mistakes, hurts, pain, and failures Jesus wants to fill women with his love because women are people intrinsically whom he values. Every woman is created in his image, a daughter of Eve, and he offers the greatest ministry ever; cleansing, forgiveness, hope, meaning, significance, and a life of power and purpose.
During another encounter with a woman, Jesus made a radical statement of value to the hypocritical religious leaders that were standing around. Luke recounts a narrative in which, in a synagogue one Sabbath, Jesus heals a woman crippled for eighteen years by a demonic spirit. 41 The head of the synagogue protests Jesus' performance of a healing on the Sabbath, but neither the woman's presence in the synagogue nor her subsequent praise of God in response to her cure evokes any comment. Jesus showed his regard for her by calling her a "daughter of Abraham," a term which is paralleled to Zacchaeus, who later will be called a "son of Abraham." 42 Both are God's chosen people and heirs of the promises to Abraham, so both equally deserve the spiritual status and salvation guaranteed Abraham's descendants. As Jesus offered salvation and healing to the people, women were equally worthy of his full-orbed ministry.
It has already been expressed that as people we have a need to belong, to feel worthy and to feel competent. 43 Observe how these needs are satisfied in the manner in which Jesus dealt with women in the New Testament. 44
1. Jesus Appreciated Women's Spiritual Capabilities
He engaged in spiritual conversation. He talked to women about God, reality, and issues that count for eternity. To the woman at the well Jesus gives the most profound discourse in Scripture on the subject of worship. That God is spirit and that worship is not an approach of the body to a church, but an approach of the soul to the spirit of God. That was a cutting revelation to one who has lived so much of her life in the realm of the physical rather than the spiritual. In their spiritual conversation this stranger (Jesus) was first simply "a Jew"…then "Sir"…then "a prophet." Finally she sees him for who he really is - "Messiah." And in that moment of spiritual perception, she lives to tell his good news to the city that has both shared her and shunned her.
When Jesus was teaching about discipleship Matthew recalls, "And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, he said, "Behold, my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother." 45 Women are here included as disciples. Obedience to the will of the Father was the hallmark of Jesus' disciples, whatever the gender. Women are granted the status of being active full-fledged followers of Christ. 46
In the Judaism of Jesus' day, discipleship was oriented toward acquiring particular skills in the religious arena and therefore was primarily restricted to men. 47 But Jesus' form of discipleship is instead oriented toward transformation of the person's life to be like him.
We also see Jesus' appreciation of women's spiritual capabilities in that it was a women (Mary Magdalene) who was first to receive news of His resurrection and then she was given the honored position of telling the disciples. 48 She is a woman who was once possessed by demons and at the empty tomb she finds herself in the presence of angels. She is despondent and she tells them the reason for her tears. Then, from behind, another voice reaches out to her. Maybe the morning is foggy; maybe tears blur her eyes. Maybe Jesus is the last person she expects to see. Whatever the case, she doesn't recognize him. That is, until he says, "Mary!" She blinks away the tears and can hardly believe her eyes. She had been there when he suffered at the cross; now he is there when she is suffering. She had stood by him in his darkest hour; now he is standing by her in hers. He had seen her tears; now he is there to wipe them all away. 49
Jesus interrupts the embrace to send her on a great commission - to tell the disciples the good news. In his triumph, Jesus could have paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. He could have knocked on Pilate's door. He could have confronted the high priest. But the first person our resurrected lord appears to is a woman without hope and he gives her a ministry.
2. Jesus Appreciated Women's Intellectual Capabilities.
While there were conflicting attitudes about the education of women among the rabbis, 50 there was no confusion with Jesus. We've already seen Him instructing the woman at the well about spiritual truth. Not only did Jesus talk with women, he also taught them. She was the first person to whom he revealed he was the Messiah.
As Jesus and the Twelve disciples were traveling, they were invited into the home of Mary and Martha. While Martha was busy with the preparations for the guests, Mary was "listening to the Lord's word, seated at his feet." 51 Three times in Scripture, when we observe Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus) she is sitting at the feet of Jesus. 52 This is the traditional posture of a learner, a student, and a disciple. 53 What is of critical importance is the fact that Jesus would be willing to sit in conversation with women in such a manner, or that he might have instructed them privately as a rabbi might instruct a promising student. Jesus valued her enough to teach her and her physical posture reflects the posture of her heart -- humble, reverent, and teachable -- all the qualities of a good disciple. What Martha was cooking in the kitchen will be gone in a meal, but what's being prepared in the other room with Mary is eternal and will go on forever. 54 Jesus doesn't want food, he wants fellowship. Jesus desires that all believers think, grow, learn and He is an equal opportunity teacher to both men and women. It is interesting to observe that often in his teaching Jesus would use a pairing of men and women and of illustrations from both a man's world and a woman's world to communicate the truth being taught. 55
3. Jesus Appreciated Women's Abilities to Serve.
Women participated in the ministry of Jesus, accompanying him in his travels. Luke mentions a number of women by name that were part of the entourage which followed Jesus. 56 On a number of occasions they gave public testimony to Jesus' ministry. A woman who needed healing from a bleeding hemorrhage touched his garment and was healed, and Jesus paid attention to her and Scripture says, "…she came trembling and fell down before him, and declared in the presence of all the people the why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed." 57
In Luke 7:36-50 and John 12:1-11 Jesus was anointed by women which means he received worship and adoration from them. There is no greater service to Jesus than worship,58 and they served him through their worship.
We see Jesus appreciate one woman's act of service at the end of a weeklong prelude to His last Passover. He had road into town to the crowd singing hosanna and everything had gone downhill from there. After a lot of confrontation, Jesus was able to lose himself in the holiday crowd and he finds a quiet place on a bench opposite the temple treasury. For a change, all eyes are not on him. Instead, they are on the 12 trumpet-shaped coffers where people are filing by to deposit their offerings. Standing among them is a woman who is a widow. 59 There is a place for widows in the ancient Jewish world, but it is not a place of importance, like the priest's. It is not a place of influence, like the merchant's. It is a place with orphans and transients. 60 A dependent place with little income and barely surviving. The place she's at now is the treasury, where she's standing in line with the little she has left palmed in her hand; two copper coins. The smallest offering the temple allowed. And there she waits, quietly, patiently, until it is her time to give.
Jesus sees her standing there and he waves over his disciples so they can see her, too. The coins in her hand are so small and thin that when she drops them in the coffers, they don't even clink. Heaven heard the sound, but on earth it fell on deaf ears…even the disciples, but this day Jesus makes sure they hear. And 2000 years later the service of this poor widow is still being talked about in lessons, lectures and literature. 61 What a remarkable thing! Jesus stopped and noticed this act of service. He took such pleasure in so small a gesture. She served by giving. All that she had she gave. Her gift may not have meant a lot to the ministry of the temple, but it meant a lot to God. That is why the Savior, on his way to the costliest of sacrifices, stopped to honor this woman's sacrificial act of service.
Whenever ministry is spoken of in the New Testament as being rendered directly to Jesus, it is the ministry of either angels or women. In the earthly life of Jesus we see women who glorified Jesus through their domestic responsibilities with which they ministered to him. 62 The key word in "ministry" is "service." And again Jesus is the supreme example. Jesus' entire redemptive purpose for coming to earth is encapsulated in Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
The question we began with was, "How does Jesus minister to women?" The answer is, "really good!" He came to serve. We see his service to women through talk, through teaching, through touch, and through thankful praise for their faith. As we all have a need to belong, feel worthy, and feel competent, we see that Jesus brings dignity, value, and worth to women and their roles of service as "daughters of God."
For the full article including detailed bibliography and references go to
by John MacArthur, Grace to You
The Bible is, and has always been, a revolutionary book. It stands like a coastal rock cliff to resist the surging, crashing waves of cultural change. And there may be no clearer demonstration of the Bible's immutable word than what it teaches about genuine femininity.
The Bible rightly exalts women against cultures that distort, degrade, and debase them. Many in our society tout the sexual and reproductive liberation of women against the supposed oppressive, outmoded strictures of the Bible. I have to ask, "In what way are women truly free? In what way does our culture honor them?" Sure they can vote; sure they have opportunities to compete in the marketplace. But are they really free? Is their dignity and honor intact?
I contend that women are used and abused more today than at any time in history. Pornography turns women into objects and victims of dirty, cowardly Peeping Toms who leer at them with greedy eyes. Throughout the world, women are traded like animals for sexual slavery. In more "civilized" places, men routinely use women for no-consequence, no-commitment sex only to leave them pregnant, without care and support. Abortion rights groups aid and abet male selfishness and irresponsibility, and they "free" women to murder their unborn children. Women are left alone, emotionally scarred, financially destitute, and experientially guilty, ashamed, and abandoned. Where's the freedom, dignity, and honor in that?
Modern technological advances have enabled the culture to mainstream the degradation of women like never before; but ancient cultures were no better. Women in pagan societies during biblical times were often treated with little more dignity than animals. Some of the best-known Greek philosophers - considered the brightest minds of their era - taught that women are inferior creatures by nature. Even in the Roman Empire (perhaps the very pinnacle of pre-Christian civilization) women were usually regarded as mere chattel - personal possessions of their husbands or fathers, with hardly any better standing than household slaves. That was vastly different from the Hebrew (and biblical) concepts of marriage as a joint inheritance, and parenthood as a partnership where both father and mother are to be revered and obeyed by the children (Leviticus 19:3).
Pagan religion tended to fuel and encourage the devaluation of women even more. Of course, Greek and Roman mythology had its goddesses (such as Diana and Aphrodite). But don't imagine for a moment that goddess-worship in any way raised the status of women in society. The opposite was true. Most temples devoted to goddesses were served by sacred prostitutes-priestesses who sold themselves for money, supposing they were performing a religious sacrament. Both the mythology and the practice of pagan religion have usually been overtly demeaning to women. Male pagan deities were capricious and sometimes wantonly misogynistic. Religious ceremonies were often blatantly obscene - including such things as erotic fertility rites, drunken temple orgies, perverted homosexual practices, and in the very worst cases, even human sacrifices.
Contrast all of that, ancient and contemporary, with the Bible. From cover to cover, the Bible exalts women. In fact, it often seems to go out of the way to pay homage to them, to ennoble their roles in society and family, to acknowledge the importance of their influence, and to exalt the virtues of women who were particularly godly examples.
From the very first chapter of the Bible, we are taught that women, like men, bear the stamp of God's own image (Genesis 1:27; 5:1-2) - men and women were created equal. Women play prominent roles in many key biblical narratives. Wives are seen as venerated partners and cherished companions to their husbands, not merely slaves or pieces of household furniture (Genesis 2:20-24; Proverbs 19:14; Ecclesiastes 9:9). At Sinai, God commanded children to honor both father and mother (Exodus 20:12).
Of course, the Bible teaches divinely ordained role distinctions between men and women - many of which are perfectly evident from the circumstances of creation alone. For example, women have a unique and vital role in childbearing and the nurture of little ones. Women themselves also have a particular need for support and protection, because physically, they are "weaker vessels" (1 Peter 3:7 NKJV). Scripture establishes the proper order in the family and in the church accordingly, assigning the duties of headship and protection in the home to husbands (Ephesians 5:23) and appointing men in the church to the teaching and leadership roles (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
Yet women are by no means marginalized or relegated to any second-class status. The Bible teaches women are not only equals with men (Galatians 3:28), but are also set apart for special honor (1 Peter 3:7). Husbands are commanded to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ loves the church - even, if necessary, at the cost of their own lives (Ephesians 5:25-31). The Bible acknowledges and celebrates the priceless value of a virtuous woman (Proverbs 12:4; 31:10; 1 Corinthians 11:7).
Christianity, born at the intersection of East and West, elevated the status of women to an unprecedented height. Jesus' disciples included several women (Luke 8:1-3), a practice almost unheard of among the rabbis of His day. Not only that, He encouraged their discipleship by portraying it as something more needful than domestic service (Luke 10:38-42). In fact, Christ's first recorded, explicit disclosure of His own identity as the true Messiah was made to a Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26). He always treated women with the utmost dignity - even women who might otherwise be regarded as outcasts (Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 7:37-50; John 4:7-27). He blessed their children (Luke 18:15-16), raised their dead (Luke 7:12-15), forgave their sin (Luke 7:44-48), and restored their virtue and honor (John 8:4-11). Thus He exalted the position of womanhood itself.
It is no surprise therefore that women became prominent in the ministry of the early church (Acts 12:12-15; 1 Corinthians 11:11-15). On the day of Pentecost, when the New Testament church was born, women were there with the chief disciples, praying (Acts 1:12-14). Some were renowned for their good deeds (Acts 9:36); others for their hospitality (Acts 12:12; 16:14-15); still others for their understanding of sound doctrine and their spiritual giftedness (Acts 18:26; 21:8-9). John's second epistle was addressed to a prominent woman in one of the churches under his oversight. Even the apostle Paul, sometimes falsely caricatured by critics of Scripture as a male chauvinist, regularly ministered alongside women (Philippians 4:3). He recognized and applauded their faithfulness and their giftedness (Romans 16:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:5).
Naturally, as Christianity began to influence Western society, the status of women was dramatically improved. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, wrote a work titled On the Apparel of Women,sometime near the end of the second century. He said pagan women who wore elaborate hair ornaments, immodest clothing, and body decorations had actually been forced by society and fashion to abandon the superior splendor of true femininity. He noted by way of contrast that as the church had grown and the gospel had borne fruit, one of the visible results was the rise of a trend toward modesty in women's dress and a corresponding elevation of the status of women. He acknowledged that pagan men commonly complained, "Ever since she became a Christian, she walks in poorer garb!" Christian women even became known as "modesty's priestesses." But, Tertullian said, as believers who lived under the lordship of Christ, women were spiritually wealthier, more pure, and thus more glorious than the most extravagant women in pagan society. Clothed "with the silk of uprightness, the fine linen of holiness, the purple of modesty," they elevated feminine virtue to an unprecedented height.
Even the pagans recognized that. Chrysostom, perhaps the most eloquent preacher of the fourth century, recorded that one of his teachers, a pagan philosopher named Libanius, once said: "Heavens! What women you Christians have!" What prompted Libanius's outburst was hearing how Chrysostom's mother had remained chaste for more than two decades since becoming a widow at age twenty. As the influence of Christianity was felt more and more, women were less and less vilified or mistreated as objects for the amusement of men. Instead, women began to be honored for their virtue and faith.
In fact, Christian women converted out of pagan society were automatically freed from a host of demeaning practices. Emancipated from the public debauchery of temples and theaters (where women were systematically dishonored and devalued), they rose to prominence in home and church, where they were honored and admired for feminine virtues like hospitality, ministry to the sick, the care and nurture of their own families, and the loving labor of their hands (Acts 9:39).
That's always been the trend. Wherever the gospel has spread, the social, legal, and spiritual status of women has, as a rule, been elevated. When the gospel has been eclipsed (whether by repression, false religion, secularism, humanistic philosophy, or spiritual decay within the church), the status of women has declined accordingly.
Even when secular movements have arisen claiming to be concerned with women's rights, their efforts have generally been detrimental to the status of women. The feminist movement of our generation, for example, is a case in point. Feminism has devalued and defamed femininity. Natural gender distinctions are usually downplayed, dismissed, despised, or denied. As a result, women are now being sent into combat situations, subjected to grueling physical labor once reserved for men, exposed to all kinds of indignities in the workplace, and otherwise encouraged to act and talk like men. Meanwhile, modern feminists heap scorn on women who want family and household to be their first priorities; in so doing they disparage the role of motherhood, the one calling that is most uniquely and exclusively feminine. The whole message of feminist egalitarianism is that there is really nothing extraordinary about women. That is certainly not the message of Scripture. Scripture honors women as women, and it encourages them to seek honor in a uniquely feminine way (Proverbs 31:10-30).
Scripture never discounts the female intellect, downplays the talents and abilities of women, or discourages the right use of women's spiritual gifts. But whenever the Bible expressly talks about the marks of an excellent woman, the stress is always on feminine virtue. The most significant women in Scripture were influential not because of their careers, but because of their character. The message these women collectively give is not about "gender equality"; it's about true feminine excellence. And that is always exemplified in moral and spiritual qualities rather than by social standing, wealth, or physical appearance.
And that's setting the record straight. Far from denigrating women, the Bible promotes feminine freedom, dignity, and honor. Scripture paints for every culture the portrait of a truly beautiful woman. True feminine beauty is not about external adornment, "arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel"; real beauty is manifest instead in "the hidden person of the heart...the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4 NKJV).
Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women
Women In The Orthodox Church
by Metropolitan Seraphim of Johannesburg and Pretoria
First and foremost, women must accept Christ as their own Lord and Savior. Women who acknowledges Christ, through baptism, accept the mandate of Christ's love. She partakes in the Liturgical Life of the church. Though Holy Communion our Lord enters the soul of a woman and she becomes part of Him. She is instructed to listen to Holy Scriptures and to apply their Teachings in her daily life. She must become the light of the world, enlightening those allowed her, through good example, in the Christian way of life. She devotes her self out of love, to the service of Christ in all aspects of her personal, family and community life. Most of all, she puts on her love for Christ through her fellow man, and brings to God all those within her own family.
Her first priority is to fulfil God's Divine Within her own family, her husband and her children. This then widens to the extended family: to her neighbour, to her parish community and then to the whole world. A Christian woman is today's society, whether she works outside the home or not, is instrumental in nurturing her children. Even if she is not yet married, or has not chosen the way, a woman often serves in the society in the capacity of helping others, as a teacher, as a nurse, as doctor, as a wife, as a mother. As a wife, she cares for her husband and her children. She brings a reality of church into her home and guides her home to the church. Within her heart she understands the meaning.
by Karissa Sorrell
Though there were many beautiful and theologically correct things that brought me to Orthodoxy, one challenge for me was that women are not allowed to be priests. I had come from a denomination that ordains women and allows women to hold many leadership positions in the church. The idea of an all-male priesthood and the fact that women were never allowed behind the altar chafed against my conscience. I also hated the thought of my daughter never being able to be an acolyte. The fact that the early church had deaconesses only added to my chagrin. Deaconesses administered the sacraments to women and girls since back then men couldn't touch women.
My best friend from college, who is an ordained (female) minister in the Nazarene church, asked me over and over: "How can you be part of a church that doesn't ordain women?"
I tried to explain to her that I'd found a church that engaged in right worship, was built on historical Church tradition, and offered a community of saints. Spirituality was a practice, not an emotional experience. If I do feel moved emotionally in an Orthodox liturgy, I am certain that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the effect of singing Just As I Am or Lord I Lift Your Name On High twenty times. "Maybe all that is more important than women being ordained," I said.
My bestie wasn't convinced. I don't think I was, either.
My friend and former Orthodox priest, Paul Finley, once told me, "The reason why gender equality is such an issue in Protestant churches is because they have taken Mary out of the picture." In a way, it's true: in the OC, Christ is the head of the church, but His Mother is right by his side. Though we don't worship her, she holds a place of high honor as the ultimate Christian; she brought God into the world. Protestants, however, focus on the fatherly figure of Jesus, but often overlook Mary and her importance in the story of salvation. My friend Paul was suggesting that Protestant denominations are in fact more male-centered then the OC, so there is not a major push for women to be clergy because Orthodox women don't feel disenfranchised by a male-centered faith.
While I see this opinion as having some merit, as a woman I still witness the practical side of things every week. At my church, the women are in the kitchen, teaching the children, or decorating the church. The men are teaching adult Sunday School (we've never even had a woman fill in for the teacher when he's out for a week!) and reading the epistle and, of course, serving at the altar. Orthodoxy claims not to change with culture, but part of me feels like the OC adapted to the culture of the 1950s and stayed there. (For the record, I'm a working mom and do not apologize for it.) I admit I'm being a bit trite, and I realize that there are deeper theological implications at work.
My church believes in apostolic succession; the individuals in that succession have always been male. God chose to reveal Himself as a man; therefore, priests, who are icons of Christ in our midst, must be male. If you read all the prayers that the clergy pray as they are preparing for liturgy, you will see that confession and humility are a huge part of being a priest. Even when putting on their vestments, the clergy ask for God's blessing. As they prepare the elements, they ask for forgiveness. The priesthood certainly takes men away from the cultural expectation to be strong and proud and places them in the humble, servant footsteps of Christ.
This helps me a little. I also think that Christ taught his followers to respect women. When you look at the way He interacted with women during His earthly life, Jesus obviously cared deeply about recognizing women as people with value. In an article on www.antiochian.org, Fr. Alister Anderson says, "Through St. Mary Jesus has raised the status of all women everywhere and for all time. They were no longer to be regarded as chattel but to be treated as being equally precious as men in the eyes of God. Christ hallowed the state of marriage which was much abused in those days to the detriment of women." All of this means that male clergy should respect and value women. Great! But what about the stereotypical gender roles that remain in the church? What does valuing women look like in a 2012 Orthodox Church? I don't think we've found the answer yet.
In the book Praying with Icons, Jim Forest quotes Orthodox priest and theologian Alexander Schmemann:
Oh, how I love this quote! It is my hope that one day Orthodoxy will open itself to an honest discussion about this "profound revelation." Until then, I continue to love my church, struggles and all, and I pray for Mary's help as I walk this journey.
Source: David J Dunn Blog
The Orthodox faith teaches that as souls before God women and men stand equal.
Women are not 'second class citizens' in the Kingdom of God. They can and should
take an active role in the life of the Church; indeed the Church's life would be
immeasurably impoverished without their contribution. We do not however, confuse
equality before God with 'equality' or sameness of earthly roles. We believe in
the headship of the male and accept the traditional teaching of the Church that
reserves the Priesthood to men. (Part of mission statement of Handmaiden
magazine published quarterly by Conciliar Press/Ss. Peter & Paul Orthodox
Church, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese)
The following are extracts from an article by Juliana Schmemann entitled 'How can Orthodox women respond to Christ today?'
We are Orthodox, we are women, and we belong to the world of today-not yesterday, not tomorrow. We are to be helped and guided by the accumulated wisdom of that tradition, but still be fully a part of the world today.
Equality a false ideal. The Church rejects the man's self-sufficiency, strength, self-assurance, and says to the man 'strength (of Christ) is made perfect in weakness' 2Cor.12:9. The Church also rejects the woman's fight for equality and anger at lack of recognition.
The human being as the image and likeness of God is the man and the woman. This is the way the man and the woman were created-the original beauty of their creation.
This dualism of man and woman is not rooted in comparison or equality. Equality is an invention of our time, not a true Godlike idea. The principles of comparison are anti-Christian, false, and demonic. Any comparison leads to the experience and the knowledge of inequality and therefore to envy, protest, anger, rebellion and division. Equality is affirmed as the annihilation of distinctions, and since distinctions do exist, it leads to a fight against distinctions, to forced egalitarianism, and what is worse to the negation of the very essence of life. This is the work of the devil. (The essence of life is the distinction between men and women)
Love is unity between those who are different. In unity, the distinction between male and female is not discarded, but becomes life, creativity, and community. This is the essence of the family.
Our contemporary culture resists the family, turns away from it, and eventually destroys it, because the family uncovers the falseness of this kind of equality. Nothing destroys love as quickly as insistence on equality. Our culture replaces love with fighting, because this culture imposes on us equality as the ultimate goal.
Responding to Christ in Freedom. How are Orthodox women to respond to Christ today? A general answer would be; follow the gospel, pray, do unto others what you would want others to do to you-that is the road to sainthood.
Women are also called to think, to learn, to know, to move-to be alive, to be free. Free to love and follow Christ. Free from the clichés of what a woman should become. Free from fear of giving in to humility, free from concepts that having a vision for serving others and serving Christ might compromise our rights and resort to weakness. Free to adhere to the Spirit in figuring out our response, our role and our choices.
A woman's role in the Church, place in the Church, response to Christ, must be determined by and for each individual woman, without stereotypes, free to be whatever the Lord has created her to be. Not comparing, not seeking for herself but giving of herself. To each her own. There are millions of things to do, according to one's talents. Talents must be given back to the Lord, multiplied tenfold. Talents may involve sharing in the needs of others through teaching, caring, counseling, writing, evangelizing, and caring for family or children or the sick also beautifying her environment. Or a woman might have the talent of Mary of Bethany-the talent of sitting at Christ's feet and listening to His word. The ability to accept grief and suffering is also a gift.
Celebration: The woman is the one who has the tools to celebrate. We celebrate the feasts, Pascha, special days, Sundays when we take part in the banquet of immortality. Her particular role is to transform the ordinary, to recreate to inspire gratitude for the creation. This is total, joyful living.
Our mission as women is to bring whatever talents are ours to serve rather than to be served. We should avoid the politics of hate and comparison but instead, propagate a set of values based on freedom from prejudices and total gratitude and celebration of the beauty of creation. Our response to Christ should be one of trust, to say to Christ "here I am: I cannot but you can-help me"
The role model we have, as women, in the Theotokos is important e.g. the sanctity of motherhood and the humble, submissive attitude to God etc.
When considering the headship of man, in marriage, it is important to remember that this is supposed to be in the context of sacrificial love on the part of the husband. (Ephesians 5)
Source: Good Shepherd, Australian Orthodox Mission, Monash University
Women in Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church
Keynote: Women in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
by Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu, Malankara World Board Member
Human beings do several things to belong and to get a sense of belonging. They get together, love, help and become one to sense this belonging. The creation event was an event when God in the wonderful commune of the trinity reached out to human beings to create community. This belongingness started with the creation of man and woman. The sense of belongingness continues in how creation was planned and executed. The incompleteness in the creation of man was sensed and woman was thus created so that community was formed and will continue through them. The church celebrates the creation story as the beginning of man and woman on earth. The story of Adam and Eve continues to bring forth the formation and creation of community on earth. Keeping this in mind, one should look at the changes that have happened.
The creation story looks at Adam and Eve as two sides of the same coin. Both of them make up community and belongingness. Without one, it is not complete. But the interpretation among several in the church is that woman is an extension of man, woman is from the rib of man and therefore inferior to man, the woman leads the man to temptation and sin and woman is not perfect creation but an after-thought of God. All this makes us think that man and woman are not the same. But is this true or is this part of a skewed patriarchal understanding in society about men and women? What have been the factors which have helped in contributing to this understanding?
Women are perceived to be weaker than men biologically. So they are allowed to do only certain kinds of work and are not encouraged to do what are termed as manly and physical work. But this is undergoing change now with women coming forward to do several work which were ear marked for men. They include riding and driving bikes, autos, cars, trucks and buses, flying helicopters and planes, heading teams, living alone, working for long hours and late into the night, travelling by themselves, doing well in academics, conducting complicated and long surgeries, taking care of big business houses and hotels, and foraying into everything that were considered to be bastions of men. We also see women who cannot be ruled out in doing something because they are weak. What we thought was impossible for a woman is being done by them and in certain cases done better.
Societal and Cultural Factors
There are several factors which make women how they are. Women are expected to fulfill certain social norms. They are told not to express themselves, speak when men are around and speak when they see injustice. Certain societal norms keep and justify this. They start right from childhood. Girls are supposed to start helping in the kitchen while boys are kept away, girls are supposed to take care of babies while boys watch movies, girls are supposed to uphold the honour of the family while boys can throw it away, girls are expected to dress modestly while boys have no such regulation and girls should always sacrifice and forgive while boys don't. These cultural moorings make sure that boys and girls follow a certain way of life. Girls who don't fit into this are labeled as different, rebellious and bad. What happens before and after marriage is that money is paid and women go to the house of the man cutting off all connections with their own home. Even though the system of dowry is not legal it has not been done away with completely. This culture means that women who have been brought up in the Jacobite church will then be uprooted and planted in a new denomination and environment. This leads to a shaking of foundations and the need for re-adjustment.
Religious scripture act as a deterrent for gender equality and sensitivity. Certain portions of scripture are cited to show that women are weak and subordinate. Alternate texts in the scripture are conveniently ignored. What this does is that it ignores the aspirations and legitimate needs of women. Religious factors also go beyond this by preventing women from involving themselves actively by citing purity issues. Scriptural citations encourage views like women should cover their heads, women are from men and husband is the head of the wife, to name a few. Different forms of oppression of women in the church can be seen in various stages of life of women. During birth the baby girl is not taken into the holy of holies and made to kiss the altar. The life of a woman has several restrictions in church. As mentioned above they are a mix of several factors. But the church definitely follows several of those in places where the church has visibility and control.
The restrictions suggest that women are not treated equally in the church. Is it only a cultural problem or is it much beyond that and how far is the church responsible for the present plight of women? The life of a woman in church thus is restricted from the beginning. Women are not represented well and, in some cases, not represented at all in church committees. They are expected to follow a certain dress code which reflects their modesty, cannot read scripture and assist the priest, lead the choir (there are some exceptions), have to wait their turn after men, are only expected to contribute in terms of cooking food and not in terms of articulation and idea sharing, cannot attend church at certain times of the year depending on their bodies and look after babies and children and, in the process, missing out on church services. (There may be slight differences depending on the place where the church is situated). The main thing to be noted is that the church does not challenge biological, societal and cultural norms and thus ends up supporting and following the same in church as well.
Survival of Women in the Church
One will be perplexed as to how women then survive in a church which is so unfavourable to them. This is where the survival instinct of women and the underlying support system of the church come into play. Many women continue to come to church and be a part of the church despite the unfavourable conditions. Women are seen standing and crying in church and letting out all their frustrations by this act of total pouring out. This is not seen in men whereas women come to terms with their emotions by this.
The Future of Women in the Church
How can the church become more women friendly and support women? What could be some of the things that the church can do to make sure that women feel part and parcel of the church? Here are some of the suggestions which can be brought through.
Positive masculinity is something which is being discussed as a way to be more understanding to women in society. The traditional masculinity as we know it is very macho, strong, hard, and violent and seeks to dominate women. Positive masculinity seeks to challenge this notion and looks at men as vulnerable, soft, understanding, and loving. Society puts pressure on men to conform to a masculinity which is supposed to be strong and over powering. But positive masculinity tries to support an environment where we can be who we want to be.
There are several men who are close to their mother but who end up being like their father. If they reflect their mother more, they are made fun of and asked to conform to the traditional model prevalent in society. A framework of positive masculinity seeks to change this. Men can do what interests them instead of doing what they are told to do. There may be men who cook, clean, and are interested in what we term as lady things. Such masculinity should be encouraged in the church as it leads to an equal space for women and less violence against women. It also brings out the total persona of a man and woman not putting pressure on both to be like what society wants them to be.
Re-reading and Correct Reading of the Bible
The bible, as scripture, has been used for very long as a framework to tell women that they have to follow a certain way of living. But it would be helpful to note two things.
One, that many verses quoted are done in isolation instead of being seen in totality.
Two, the verses should be read knowing that they have been written with a patriarchal anti-woman approach and therefore texts and sub texts in the verses should be looked at while reading them.
Our perspective will ensure what message comes out of our reading. It is important to note what perspective we have.
Women in the Bible
Despite a hostile environment of writers towards them, women have indeed found their own place in the bible. Several women in the bible like Ruth, Esther, Mary the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene and a host of others are an inspiration to women by what they accomplished. These characters should be celebrated more often in church. The problem the church has is also that St. Mary is venerated and celebrated in festivals but no other woman saint is by and large remembered. (There may be exceptions in one or two places)
St. Mary as a Huge Potential for Expression
St. Mary is a very popular icon among women in the church. So much so that they see her as the one to turn to for all their problems. One cannot escape the image of women crying in front of an icon of St. Mary in church as she offers to them a solace and comfort which is un-paralleled. The church would benefit along with women if this could be developed further to bring it to the level of how women can use this expression more creatively. One also needs to interpret how Mother Mary can be more: not just for women but also for the men in church.
Women as Co-creation and Equal Partners
God has created man and woman as equal partners and it is reflected in the verse that God created human beings, male and female God created them and in God's image and likeness God created them. The problem in ascribing a male face to God limits God in God's self. God goes much beyond a particular gender. The totality of God's creation is in the essence of creation of male and female. Creation is incomplete without either of the one. This is the beauty of God's creation which has been tampered with. The challenge lies in rectifying this.
Women as the Present and not the Future
Many in the church are willing to accept that women are the future of the church. But in a church like ours this is not enough as it puts away the work to be done now to tomorrow. Women are the present and the today of the church. Without this the church will not be sustainable. Women form an equal and even more part of the church now and this means that the church has to cater to this very important equal part of the church. Without this, the policy decisions of the church will not find support from the members.
Women as Peace Makers
Women in the church should be represented in church committee meetings and in other activities of the church for a reason. The reason is that they offer hope to the world. Men have for ages lead from the front and yet there is conflict within and outside the church. This could undergo a sea change if women are given a chance in leadership roles. The world is reeling under various kinds of conflict. More women have made a difference as they have different solutions to offer. The church would immensely benefit from having a female touch to it. This will make it more humane, loving, sacrificing and caring as women mainly possess such qualities.
One needs to look at the issue of women in the church seriously. It is not a question of being politically correct, legal, or experimental. It is rather a call for the church to do what is correct. Women have suffered and yet continue to be resilient. They continue to be part of the church despite all oppression.
This article identifies a few issues about why women are treated like they are. But it does not follow a negative approach but rather looks at how the church can benefit from including women in the scheme of things and ensuring the real nature of the church. The church is always self critical but it also looks beyond and towards the present and future. This definitely could augur well for the church. Women are definitely also the church just as men are. Isn't it time for men like me to accept that? I hope this special issue of Malankara World Journal will initiate this process of reconciling to what the truth really is.
About the Author:
Rev. Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu is the Lecturer and Chairperson in the Department of Communication, United Theological College, Bangalore. He also serves as the Associate Vicar of the St. Mary's JSO Cathedral, Queen's Road, Bangalore. Jerry achen (as he is commonly known) hosts a very vibrant blog 'Jerry Achen's World' that examines the contemporary problems facing our church. Achen is a member of the Editorial Committee and the Board of Malankara World.
by Christiane Zidek, Researcher in Religions, Bangalore
A Sunday morning, she hurriedly pulls her shawl or the end of her sari over her head. Then, she enters the church. There, she takes her place among the large crowd of other women worshippers. Women attendance as in all churches is higher than male attendance. Therefore, on the side reserved for women the space is always more cramped. Covered and confined she stands.
I cannot help but finding this a striking reflection of the actual role of women in the church. Though their attendance is always good, their active participation is rather limited.
God is beyond male and female. The incarnation as the male figure Jesus is random. Jesus need not be turned into a woman. But that the actual interaction with God has to go through a male channel exclusively feels alienating. All religious rituals to enact the relationship between God and human beings are officiated by men only. A woman is left at the steps of the altar, depending on men to access God. Always kept a step away from God!
Of course, for the common worshipper, male or female, the participation in Qurbana, as such, is not different. But the difference shows in the perspective altogether. Every baptism is a reminder of this distinction. While the baby boy is taken up to kiss the corners of the altar, again a baby girl remains at the entrance of the altar. For men potentially the way to the altar is open.
As a small consolation, it is refreshing to see women taking active part in choir singing in many churches. Therefore, at least they engage in a supporting role in the act of worship. Another instance of a sense of women taking an active lead in their worship is the time of prayers for intercession by St. Mary. Not that the actual lead has shifted from the altar but there seems a sense of a different self understanding of women in this part of worship. The reminder that in this part of worship St. Mary and not God is the addressee of pleas is left here just as an annotation and food for further thought.
So far the focus was on matters of worship. Though those definitely call for discussion and reflection, it is admissible to say that they involve the need for discourse on theology and tradition. Therefore, this could require an extensive process in order to reach a revised practice. Though this is a burning issue, which concerns at least 50% of the church, take your time. But do not take this as an excuse to leave things at the status quo for eternity.
And anyway, there is no theological reason for priests to reprimand women at occasions of weddings etc. on covering their heads. Women are women, but adults. Treating them like school children denies women the dignity of being an equal part in God's creation and society.
More than that, the life of a congregation beyond Qurbana definitely does not come under the sphere of theological matters of ecclesiology. Yet, the picture, which is seen during worship, just continues in every other aspect of congregational life as well. Women are seen in Sunday School teaching. But the majority of church committees and other decision making bodies consists of men. If there is called for any meeting involving decisions to be taken, there is only male presentation apart from a few token appearances of women. At a time, when women take active part in all areas of society, it is very disturbing to know that with all probability even a senior (female) leader of a company with expertise in different areas would not get any space in her church unlike a similarly positioned male church member. It is not only injustice to women but also a waste of resources.
Having touched on several aspects of women's role in the church, a question arises: Why? Why do these different areas of church life remain unchanged? It is a question, which both men and women have to be asked. Do men see the church as the last exclusive male bastion in society and therefore cling to it? Do men remain in comfortable indifference? Have women given up trying to change the church? Have they agreed on all other spheres of public life except church in societal negotiations?
Answers do not seem readily at hand. But a ray of hope radiates from incidents like this. A family takes a visitor to a church. While the adults engage in meditative silence, suddenly the two small girls of the family innocently make their way up to the altar. Of course or rather unfortunately, the father calls back the girls immediately, with a slight feeling of embarrassment that his girls crossed the traditionally laid boundaries. Nevertheless, initial steps are taken by two small girls to change the role of women in the church.
Featured Malankara Women
by Betcy Thotakat PMP, Malankara World Board Member
If you ask me who my most favorite unsung hero is, without any doubt I would say "ammai". To my Dad she was like his own mother who was his uncle's wife. She adopted her sister-in-law's son when the parents met with untimely death and she was just a new bride. She gave birth to two boys. But when someone asked her how many kids she had, without a second thought she used to say - three and never mentioned about the adoption. The first child used to call her ammai. Her own children followed that. My Dad lost his mother at the age of two. She took her brother-in-law's children too under her wings - my dad and his four siblings. Ammai was a very loving and dedicated wife and mother. She kept a spotless house. She cooked every day, each meal flavored with extra love. She spent hours each day taking care of her home, washing the clothes for her children to wear, cooking family meals, and attending to various other household duties as well as taking time to form character in her children. While homemaking took up much of her time, Ammai found ways to express her creativity in sewing, weaving, and a variety of other hobbies. Though her husband amply provided for her family, to supply for their increasing needs, Ammai had an entrepreneurial spirit, often turning her creative energy into extra income. She was creative, bright, energetic, kind, spiritual, persistent, funny, and gracious.
From the earliest days she would take my Dad and three brothers and sister along with her own boys behind her to church and Sunday School. She let them know that they always had a friend in Jesus. They learned that no matter what, however bad the situation they were facing, they should never be too proud to look to God, humble themselves and to seek His face. She always pointed her children to goodness, kindness, humility, caring and compassion. At the same time she also suggested how to get along with people who didn't have their interest at heart.
As her family grew into young adulthood, her role began to change. After she saw her children married and was no longer a mother of a young family herself, she poured her life into her grandchildren. In her old age she became "valiammai" a beloved character who has a smile and a pleasant word for everybody. It seems to me that her sweet and graceful manners would disarm envy itself and conciliate even enemies. Though the daughter-in-laws may not get along well with each other, they all competed to be her favorite one. She remained as their counselor, confidante, friend and treasurer. She was their guide and spiritual compass. She directed them to the things that she thought mattered most, and tried to steer them away from hurt, harm and danger.
She visited each one of her son's house on a regular basis. However, never caught gossiping. During each visit she took herself a project and magically succeeded in getting the support of the rest of the household in working towards it and bringing it to completion. The projects could be as small as finishing up the tasks after the harvest to constructing a shed for the animals. If there is a wedding plan in progress she was a constant presence in that particular house busy in preparing sweets and snacks for the anticipated guests. Through her love, fortitude and dedication, she not only kept the family together but was the foundation for a lineage that continues to create good natured humans. She was the magnet and center that kept her extended family strongly connected. She was the epitome of generosity and loving care for all whose lives she has touched. She did things her way, not for the recognition or other considerations but because it was the right thing to do. She was a role model "mom" not only to her family, but to the friends of her children.
I wonder if she missed any single advice from St. Paul (Titus 2:3-6):
Ammai had a quiet, uncomplaining endurance, persevering and remaining diligent in her quest to support her family. While it isn't always easy to persevere, the results of such diligence can be seen, as demonstrated in the life of this great mother. My Dad and his siblings had a sincere and eternal gratitude for dear ammai. I think she triumphed over any hardship because of her courage, intelligence and determination to do the right and humane thing. She had immense energy, selflessness, moral authority, intelligent mind and patient heart. She never missed any Opportunities to give and serve. She helped so many people even when she didn't have much herself. She was truly a human spirit, walked in the Light of God's purpose to help, motivate, inspire, encourage. The characteristic that makes her an "Unsung Hero", however, was her patience. She richly deserved of her contributions being acknowledged and of her praises being SUNG!
We enjoy beautiful things in life. Much time and attention goes into creating a lovely garden - first faithfully feeding and tilling and watering it in the cool early-morning stillness. As the garden grows the gardener has to begin a painstaking routine of cutting away unruly growth, pruning off unnecessary shoots and removing dead blossoms. There are pleasant tasks and bright moments but there is also plain old hard work - when we fulfill them sincerely we earn God's blessings. People enjoy the beauty in our life, our family and our heart when we work in the same diligent and deliberate way of such a gardener. A wife and mother who loves her family is a lady who prays, plans, prepares, pleases, protects and positively responds. When a wife and mother take her assignment from God seriously, He blesses her obedience, submission and hard work and the resulting growth is astounding. The effect of such special blessings last for generations. The off-springs from such families become the trophies that are credited to a simple lady and the award ceremony goes eternal.
In marriage and in the church God has assigned man with the responsibility of reflecting the headship of Jesus Christ over the church. To the woman God has assigned the role of demonstrating the submission of the church to her Head, Jesus Christ. Godly women like my beloved ammai, makes vital contribution to the kingdom of Christ on earth. They do so with steadfast prayer (Acts 1:14), doing good works and almsdeeds (Acts 9:36), showing hospitality (Acts 12:12; 16:14; 1 Timothy 5:10), teaching the word in harmony with divine authority (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3, 4), being good wives (Proverbs 31:10-31), rearing godly children (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15), and accomplishing various other commendable tasks.
These were the same reasons for which early church valued the contributions of ladies, thanked for their services and commended them highly. There was Tabitha, who was raised from the dead by Peter, concerning whom we read that she "was full of good works and almsdeeds," Acts 9:36. The first convert of the Apostle Paul at Philippi was Lydia, the seller of purple. Paul remembered the unfeigned faith of young Timothy, which dwelt first in his grand-mother Lois and in his mother Eunice. From these godly women, Timothy had first learned the Scriptures, II Tim. 1:1-5. Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, was of great help to the Apostle Paul in his missionary labors.
Christianity is all about service and unconditional love. With her life, our Ammai, our hero, taught us this valuable lesson.Hats off to all those who traveled through similar track while they lived or continues to live on this earth.
by Melanie Jacob RD
Dr. Susan Jacob, MD is a faithful wife, a loving mother, and a devoted grandmother to the family. She is an excellent physician and a friend to many in the community and others. She has served in the church in leadership positions, continues to speak to women, youth and the church community about Bible and Christian life. She is a mentor to the youth and many of them call her for advice when they are faced with some difficult predicaments. She is my husband's mother and we, in the family, call her Mummy. For clarity, I will refer her as Dr. Susan Jacob in my writing below. When I think about her I am struck by the similarity between this marvelous woman and the biblical character Lydia described in the Acts of the Apostles 16:14-15, 40.
Like Lydia, a successful business woman, Dr. Susan Jacob is a woman of influence and she has attributes similar to Lydia. She developed these attributes in her from childhood through the influence of various sources including family, church, and the communities in which she moved. I believe her education in Vellore Christian Medical College contributed much in developing in her the Christian perspectives most of us profess but seldom put into practice.
One of my earliest memories of Dr. Susan Jacob was talking to her about my life and realizing what an honor I felt to be joining the Jacob family. I quickly learned that this mother's love for her children is extremely focused on making sure they are well taken care of in all facets including spirituality. She wants the best for all her children. I am inspired and convicted by my husband's commitment to pray everyday early in the morning. It is a habit and pattern that was taught, and modeled daily by his family.
Soon I was privileged to be involved in the deep fellowship and special conversations centering around intimate discussions and concerns over her children, grandchildren and the youth in the church. With her expert training at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, she became a well trained physician with a unique approach to medicine. She knows her mission as a doctor is to serve others. During the day, as a physician, she takes her time to listen, care, counsel and sometimes scold her patients. In the evening and weekends she is often doing the same for her children, nephews and, now, her grandchildren. This is not limited to her children. Three of her nephews lived with the family for several years while pursuing higher studies in Houston, TX, whom she also tended to with loving care. With a watchful eye, she is concerned and wants whatever is the best for her loved ones. She eagerly gives advice on any matter that we need input on.
Many of the youth and young adults in Houston-Austin-Dallas area recall how Dr. Susan took care of them when they were babies as their attending pediatrician. At many of the social functions, her "babies" - some of them now married - flock around her reliving the old days. She is known to be a compassionate physician worth emulating. Just like she listens to her children, she is open and always willing to lend an ear to their problems.
Family Influence and Childhood
Dr. Jacob’s family had considerable influence on her from her childhood. Her mother and her father hailed from aristocratic families known for their deep faith. They, for generations, served the church by providing several bishops and priests. Under their loving guidance, Dr. Susan Jacob excelled in religious studies. Serving in church, reading the Bible, and cultivating a commitment to serve others became an integral part of her. She eagerly delved into the scriptures. She was given distinction in her course work on comparison of the four gospels for her Senior Cambridge examination evaluated in Cambridge, England. Her specific passion has been to work with the youth. She realized, from her own experience, how important the early years are for the youth in molding their character and helping them mature into well rounded human beings ready to help and take leadership roles where it was needed in whatever form it takes.
Dr. Susan Jacob enjoys meeting the many needs of the youth. I remember during one Christmas, she made sure that all the youth at the church received a Christmas present with a personal card. She wanted the youth to feel special and succeed. She feels quite disappointed that our children in America do not have the right Christ focus and the church is not using its resources to develop programs suitable to lead these children. I have heard her challenging visiting bishops and priests about issues confronting today's youth. Everybody seems to understand the problem, but there is nobody to tackle it.
It kindled in her mind that, with the current technology, it should be possible to form a network of the youth who would have access to information disseminated through e-mail. She selected St. Mathew as the first gospel to study. She approached Mathai Puthukunnath Achen, Mor Aphrem Thirumeni, Mor Coorilose Thirumeni and Mor Theethose Thirumeni of the Jacobite church to take their turn to review the text prepared by the deacons under her direction and to answer the questions that generated on each chapter as the study progressed. The study progressed up to the 14th chapter of St. Mathew and then it was stopped because of reasons beyond her control. However it shows the vision she had and the ability to organize and get it executed to produce results.
Dr. Susan Jacob is very glad that the Malankara World and Dr. Jacob Mathew, in particular, has taken a glorious stand in this respect, propagating the tenets of Christianity we often lack to hear in our day to day sermons, and preaching or teaching in our system. She hopes our people will take full advantage of the Malankara World publication.
Dr. Susan Jacob realizes that unless a concerted effort is put forward by parents, priests and the hierarchy with means and measures, the chance to achieve the goal is very slim. She had told me that one of the learned priests familiar with the youth here did predict that at this rate our church will be devoid of youngsters in a few years. Dr. Susan Jacob agrees with this prediction just because statistically it can be proved that most of our first generation children born in America in the 1970s and 1980s no longer attend our church.
Prayer and Worship
Like Lydia, Dr. Susan Jacob placed a very high importance to praising and worshipping God. Dr. Susan Jacob was a key-note speaker at the Syrian Orthodox Family Conference in 2008. The Theme of the Conference was 'Praise and Worship'. It was a very well conceived presentation. Based on the number of appreciation calls she was getting at home, I understand that the women of the Syrian Orthodox Church felt empowered not only because a woman was allowed to be a key-note speaker but also because the presentation and the contents were well arranged to be systematic and illustrative.
Dr. Susan Jacob believed that certain facets of the mind like prayer are to be taught by example rather than by words alone. The habit and discipline of prayer has to be passed on to your children from their childhood and then it would become part of their life.
Habit and Discipline
Where does a busy woman like Dr. Susan find the time and energy to do so much? She is typically found sitting up early in the day finding the peaceful moments to pray and meditate. This is how she raised her children and influenced her grandchildren. She led them before God persuading and asking Him for his guidance, protection and blessing.
Dr. Susan Jacob loves reading books. Reading spiritual books and the Bible often led her to have challenging discussions and debates. This is typically a breath of fresh air for most or a challenge to help stir your heart and mind to think about deep spiritual issues. Her interests goes beyond Christianity as she has learned about many other religions. Dr. Jacob Mathew, Executive Editor of Malankara World, recalled how Dr. Susan Jacob inspired him to study the Bible more. Dr. Mathew said,
Dr. Susan Jacob has several accolades to her name. She was the first woman ever to deliver one of the key note addresses in the MASOC family conference. Till then, it was only the priests or deacons who were considered worthy to speak at the conference. She was invited several times after that to speak in the family conferences, to the women's groups, and in youth ministry. She takes these occasions very seriously. When she prepares for her speech she pours over the Bible, read other relevant books and prays for guidance. Despite her maturity, wisdom and faith she seeks advice and wants input from others including her priest, husband, children and daughter-in-law. This is a powerful example of humility. Dr. Seena Mathew, her niece, recalls how 'Susan Ammachy' practiced her keynote address before her. She was so impressed by the presentation that she immediately called her dad (Dr. Jacob Mathew) and urged him to attend the family conference so that he could listen to Susan Ammachy.
Dr. Susan Jacob was one of the first women to serve in the Church Board of Trustees, long considered a male bastion. During the tenure of her husband, Commander Philip Jacob, in the MASOC Diocesan Council, she has recommended several areas of improvements through him and through direct communication with Archbishop Mor Titus Yeldho, many of which had been implemented.
In most of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox churches in USA, the constitution is written in such a way that a family of two (2) adults has only one vote which usually is controlled by the husband. Dr. Susan Jacob wanted to remove this injustice and took the matter to our current Patriarch, HH Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, when HH visited Houston in late 70s along with Diocesan Bishop H. E. Mor Athanasius Y. Samuel. To her surprise, the Patriarch immediately agreed and stated that there should be no discrimination. Women are allowed to read the Gospels and they may serve and vote on the administrative boards. He ordered H. E. Mor Athanasius Samuel to give a Kalpana (bull) authorizing women to vote. This historical action enabled both husbands and wives to vote separately in our church.
Dr. Susan Jacob and her husband, Commander Philip Jacob, are well known for their hospitality.
Like Lydia, she opens her home to others. Over the years a week would rarely go by without someone coming over for tea, coffee, a meal or even a special church meeting. They have hosted many bishops, visiting clergy and laity, sometimes for several weeks. She is ready and willing to offer hospitality to not only her church, but her friends, family and staff as well.
It is my understanding that the first few services of St. Mary’s Church, Houston was conducted in their house, just like the disciples did in the first century.
Dr. Susan Jacob has been a leader in the community. She was President of the Malayalee Association in the early years of its formation in the 70s.
She was the first woman President of India Culture Center (ICC), Houston. ICC is the umbrella organization covering several of the regional associations.
Dr. Susan Jacob has the excellent quality required of a good teacher. In fact the Baylor medical students adjudged her to be an excellent teacher. When she was on the full time faculty of Baylor College of Medicine, she served on various committees for medical students and residents. In addition, she has also served on the Board of American Lung Association.
Dr. Susan Jacob was appointed to the Board of St. Ephrem Syrian Orthodox Medical Mission of our church by Patriarch HH Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. SESOMM has a vision of serving the needy in all parts of the world as an arm of our church like Red Cross or Doctors without Borders.
My mummy (Dr. Susan Jacob) is a special woman. It is difficult to find someone who is blessed with the talents she has and uses them to the full extent for the service of God. Her family had been influenced greatly by her faith and courage. She also is looked upon as an example to emulate. She has touched and made a difference to the families, church and communities who has came in contact with her. Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, "The greatest among you will be your servant." From that perspective Dr. Susan Jacob has made God, her heavenly father, proud.
(Commander Philip Jacob and Sangeetha Jacob also contributed to this article.)
Our church offers many paths for recognition of men. For laity, we have honors
such as Chevaliar, Commander, Captain, etc.
For clergy, we have vicar, corepiscopa, arch corepiscopa, etc.
Unfortunately, there are no such avenues, we are aware of, for our women of church, either laity or clergy spouses (baskeyomo).
Most of us, who are active in Church affairs, know that women are the backbone of the church. They have a great influence on the spirituality of their children, spiritual direction of the family etc. They delicately balance their career, with managing their family and spiritual lives.
Malankara World would like to highlight outstanding examples of such women so that rest of us can learn from them as to how they manage it.
We invite you to submit nominations of outstanding women you know who deserve such recognition.
Out of all the entries received, we will select one finalist from the laity and one from the spouse of clergy (baskeyomo).
The winners (and a runner up) will be featured in a future special issue of Malankara World Journal and on the Malankara World website. In addition, winners will be presented with a certificate achievement, a plaque and a gift in a public event. Winners also will be announced in the local media.
Anyone from the Malankara Diaspora is eligible for consideration irrespective of where they are located.
Please submit your nominations to email@example.com
Your email should list the name of the person you are nominating, why you feel the person deserves such recognition and contact details of you as well as the person you are nominating. Please submit your nominations by March 15, 2013.
The Christian Family Life
by Mother Magdalena, Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA
A frequent question we hear is "Why do we need the Church?" People want to know why they must go to a particular church, attend services they may not understand, obey rules that feel constricting to their lifestyle, and spend time with others they do not know or want to know. They say it is enough to talk to God in their own way, where and when they are in the mood to do so. They have lost the vision that our Lord's purpose for incarnating as a human being was not simply to establish places to gather for rituals and coffee hour.
"Church" is far more than buildings, rites and rules.
Why do we need church? - so that we can know, experience and live within God, here on earth as well as in eternity. How can we possibly make such an incredible claim? On the one hand this life with God is difficult to describe in words, in the same way it is difficult to explain falling in love. On the other hand, Scripture is very clear that knowing God is precisely what He has in mind - and to know God is to live in Him. He created each and every one of us deliberately, on purpose, for the sole aim of living with us and in us throughout all of eternity.
This teaching is found throughout the entire Scripture. The Old Testament is one long story of God searching for His people - because they were always running away from Him by falling back into idolatry. When He actually came to dwell among us in the flesh, knowing Christ was not a question for the Apostles. They were blessed to actually experience the God-man with their five senses. St. John describes this most clearly: "That which we have looked upon and touched with our hands…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you" (1 Jn.1:3).
However, the strongest language in Scripture about knowing Jesus as both God and man comes directly from our Lord Himself. He says such words as these: "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and My own know Me" (Jn. 10:9). "Abide in Me, and I in you" (Jn.15:4). "And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent" (Jn. 17:3).
How do we come to know Jesus? He Himself tells us that He will send His Holy Spirit to teach us all we need to know, including how to pray to Him. And the Spirit will not only reveal Jesus to us but will actually live within us: "the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you" (Jn. 14:17). This teaching about knowing God is not just for early Christians, an opportunity somehow not fully available in our own time. St. Silouan, who reposed just seventy years ago, witnesses to this:
"The Father so loves us that He gave us His Son: but such was the will of the Son, too, and He became incarnate and lived among us on earth. And the holy Apostles and a multitude of people beheld the Lord in the flesh, but not all knew Him as the Lord; yet it has been given to me, a poor sinner, through the Holy Spirit to know that Jesus Christ is Lord…the soul suddenly sees the Lord, and knows that it is He…The Lord in His boundless mercy accorded this grace to me, a sinner, that others might come to know God and turn to Him…The Lord is my witness" (St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, SVS Press, 1999).
When our Lord chose to create us, He gave us everything to make us His own, worthy of eternal life with Him. He grafted us into His very Body, which on earth is manifested as the Church. Elder Porphyrios says, "With the worship of God you live in Paradise. If you know and love Christ, you live in Paradise...The Church is paradise on earth, exactly the same as paradise in heaven" (Wounded by Love, D. Harvey Publisher, 2000, p.90).
When we look at the Church on earth we sometimes only see buildings, lots of rules that are not always comfortable, and some pretty high expectations in terms of our behavior and the choices we make in life. The Church seeks to get involved in our lives in all sorts of ways - we are expected to go to services, fast, give alms, read Scripture, receive the sacraments, and pray regularly at home and in all places. The Church tells us how to behave, how to dress, how to relate to each other and the world around us. This can all start to feel pretty heavy and constricting. This sense of burden was not God's intention! Everything concerning the Church has one purpose and one purpose only: to bring us into closer communion with our Lord, to prepare us for eternity. This is where knowing God and living in His Church comes together. Fr. Zacharias, a priest-monk from England, describes it this way:
The Church is not just an earthly institution that seeks to control us by rules and limit our worship to stale rites. It is a living, breathing being - literally the Body of Christ. This means that our life in Christ can only be lived within the life of the Church - His Body. All aspects of this life nurture and form and protect our spirit. The boundaries set by the Church are not there to restrict us but to give us freedom. Within these walls, our spirits can soar. When we stay within the embrace of our mother the Church, we can know that we are with our Lord. We can fully open ourselves to Christ's love, to the blossoming of our spiritual lives in limitless joy and peace.
About The Author:
Mother Magdalena is with the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA. The monastery is founded by a Romanian princess turned nun! She became the founder of the Monastery under the name Mother Alexandria.
Note: Special thanks to Sunitha Flowerhill, Editorial and Board member of Malankara World, for her persistent efforts to seek and obtain an exclusive article for Malankara World from Mother Magdalena.
by Jonathan Parnell
Our hunger for God will not be confined to our closets. As we know him and delight in all that he is for us in Jesus, our joy in him reaches beyond personal experience on a quest to be reproduced in others. One of the simplest ways we realize this is by taking serious how we pray - by wanting and asking for others the same things we want and ask for ourselves.
It is a beautiful thing - a miracle - when we become as invested in the sanctification of others as we are in our own. And, of course, the best place to start is with our spouses.
So men, here are ten things to want from God (and ask from him) for your wife:
1. God, be her God - her all-satisfying treasure and all. Make her jealous for your exclusive supremacy over all her affections (Psalm 73:24–25).
2. Increase her faith - give her a rock-solid confidence that your incomparable power is only always wielded for her absolute good in Christ (Romans 8:28–30).
3. Intensify her joy - a joy in you that abandons all to the riches of your grace in Jesus and that says firmly, clearly, gladly: "I'll go anywhere and do anything if you are there" (Exodus 33:14–15).
4. Soften her heart - rescue her from cynicism and make her tender to your presence in the most complicated details of dirty diapers and a multitude of other needs you've called her to meet (Hebrews 1:3).
5. Make her cherish your church - build relationships into her life that challenge and encourage her to walk in step with the truth of the gospel, and cause her to love corporate gatherings, the Lord's Table, and the everyday life of the body (Mark 3:35).
6. Give her wisdom - make her see dimensions of reality that I would overlook and accompany her vision with a gentle, quiet spirit that feels safe and celebrated (1 Peter 3:4).
7. Sustain her health - continue to speak your gift of health and keep us from presumption; it is by blood-bought grace (Psalm 139:14).
8. Multiply her influence - encourage and deepen the impact she has on our children. Give her sweet glimpses of it. Pour her out in love for our neighbors and spark creative ways to engage them for Jesus' sake (John 12:24).
9. Make her hear your voice - to read the Bible and accept it as it really is, your word... your very word to her where she lives, full of grace and power and everything she needs pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
10. Overcome her with Jesus - that she is united to him, that she is a new creature in him, that she is your daughter in him. . . No longer in Adam and dead to sin; now in Christ and alive to you, forever (Romans 6:11).
And then a thousand other things. Amen.
About The Author:
Jonathan Parnell is a content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their three children: Elizabeth, Hannah, and Micah.
Source: DesiringGod.org © 2013 Desiring God Foundation Used by Permission
by Sharon Glasgow
My heart sank as she told me the tragic end to her love story. When she and her husband married, they couldn't afford a nice honeymoon. Kids came and the money to do something special together just never seemed to be there. Her husband worked all the time, so for years she dreamed and planned for the trip she longed for with him - the perfect honeymoon.
When their last child was leaving for college, they finally set up their honeymoon trip. But something awful happened right before they were ready to leave. Her husband was tragically killed in a car accident. Her dreams were shattered.
With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I stood by her feeling helpless to offer the right words. All I could say was, "I'm so sorry."
Her story affected me deeply. Although my husband was still alive, I didn't have the honeymoon of my dreams either. On our wedding night we stayed at a state park. For years I too dreamed of the day I would have a "real" honeymoon. After hearing her story, I changed my thinking and made a new plan.
I didn't want to pin my hopes on a fancy trip. On that day I decided to live every day as if it were my honeymoon.
Rather than a honeymoon trip, I wanted a honeymoon life.
Hearing her story made me worry. What if my husband died too? What if I didn't have the chance to show him how important he was to me every day?
I went before the Lord and committed, "My husband is Yours. I don't know how long my days will be with him. But, I trust You to teach me how to spend our time wisely. I trust You that when our days are done, I will have no regrets. Teach me now how to be a lover of You first. And by loving You, I will know how to love my husband fully every day, especially when the days are hard, the storms rage, and the sun sets at the close of our life."
On that day the Lord gave me a peace that flooded my entire being. A scripture from the Bible came to my mind after I prayed. It was Proverbs 31:25, "Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come."
I knew God was telling me to not be afraid of what tomorrow might bring. He would give me the strength to live the honeymoon life successfully. That truth helped me rejoice at my future knowing that I would live married life to the fullest.
Just a few weeks later my husband and I celebrated our anniversary. We couldn't afford a special trip, but that didn't discourage me. This was the start of a new way of looking at my marriage ... of celebrating a honeymoon life every day. I packed a simple picnic of his favorite foods and the two of us enjoyed it, and each other, in the middle of our field.
No trip around the world, no lavish hotel, nor any gourmet dish could have competed with that field, the picnic dinner, and the way God changed my perspective.
From that day on, I chose the honeymoon life. Not just dreaming of it but living it every day. I've set my heart to cherish the simple things, like making my husband's favorite foods and eating together by candlelight, going to bed at the same time, reading and praying together. Even mundane trips to the store together.
We've been living the honeymoon life for 16 years now and have been married for 31. With God's help, I've been able to see every day as an opportunity to love my husband in a special way. We may never go on that honeymoon trip, but I'll take a picnic in a field with the one I love any day.
Dear Lord, give me the ability to live the honeymoon life with my husband. Help me to stop focusing on the what if's of the future and to start focusing on loving to the fullest today. Help me not to have any regrets of how I've lived out my married life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
It isn't anniversary trips, diamonds or flowers that make our marriage. It's how we live married life every day that makes it romantic and priceless.
What are some things you could do for your husband that would jumpstart the honeymoon life today?
Proverbs 31:10-11, "Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain." (NKJV)
Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works." (NKJV)
© 2012 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved. Source: Encouragement for Today
by Dr. Stephen Felker
Scripture: Ephesians 5:25-33
I believe that marriages should last for a lifetime, and get better and better every year. We should find significant personal fulfillment in our marriages. But so often, marriage falls short of meeting expectations. And I believe there are several reasons for that. One is that the marriage relationship was complicated by the curse associated with the fall of Man into sin. The curse announced by God in Genesis stated that there would be conflicting desires, with the woman wanting to rule over the man, and the man usually having the power to rule over the woman, as history has demonstrated. Man would be forced to work long, hard hours to make a living. Working long hours will put stress on any marriage.
And then Satan has always been attacking the home. He knows that if he can destroy our homes, he can do much spiritual damage to the next generation. And so he has been offering men and women alternatives to God's original plan such as cohabitation, adultery, homosexuality, polygamy, incest, and so forth.
And society has corrupt teachings about the home and the marriage relationship. Such teaching of the so-called experts is constantly changing and adapting. And it keeps changing because nothing that they suggest ever works for long.
And what really makes the marriage relationship difficult is the basic self-centered nature of man. It's difficult to maintain a good, lasting relationship with a person when you are selfish instead of loving.
So as you can see, a lasting, good marriage is not going to just happen. There is too much working against it. And so you have to work on your marriage relationship. A lasting, good marriage does not depend simply upon finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, but by being Mr. or Mrs. Right by living right according to God's teaching on marriage & the home.
This morning I want to talk mainly with the husbands and future husbands that are here today. I want to talk with you about the greatest thing you can do to make your relationship with your wife a lasting and joyful relationship. In fact, I want to tell you how to have a happy wife! Paul has much more to say in this passage to the men than he does to the ladies. That is because the husband is the key to a good home life. If you do your part, your wife will usually respond in a positive way, and you will most likely have a good marriage.
So husbands, what is your responsibility in the marriage relationship? First of all:
I. YOU SHOULD OBEY THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMAND FOR HUSBANDS
Pastor Ed Young was speaking to a 32-year old single woman. He started talking to her about her hopes regarding marriage. Then he asked, "What are some of the characteristics you'd like to find in this person who will be your mate?" Her first answer was, "I want someone who loves me." [Young, 10]. So we should not be surprised that the most important command given to husbands is found in v.25, "Husbands, love your wives." This is a command. To fail here is not only a sin against your wife, it is a sin against God. I would also point out that in v.33 Paul makes sure that this command to love applies to each and every husband. He says, "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself…." No one is exempt, regardless of who you are married to. Both husband and wife are commanded to love each other, but it should be pointed out that while the wife is commanded to love her husband (philadros) once in the New Testament (Tit. 2:4), the husband is commanded to love his wife at least 3 times here in this passage, as well as one more time in Col. 3:19. Perhaps one reason that men need this command more than women do is because women seem to have a greater natural inclination to love. But besides that, why would Paul make this command the most important command for husbands to follow?
A. Love is Her Most Basic Personal Need
Christian psychologists tell us that the two most important psychological needs we all have is to be secure in knowing that we are loved, and to have a sense of significance, to feel our lives are worthwhile. Which of the two is most important to the average woman? It is to be loved. Now we all know that historically, men have been the main providers for the home. Most husbands acknowledge that they should provide for the physical needs of their wives and children. And too many husbands seem to think that to make a woman happy, all you need to do is give her things like diamonds, a nice house, nice clothes, and so forth. Yet some men, who are good providers, are surprised to find out that their wives are not satisfied with materialism. The reason is we are not animals. We are not machines. We are persons. And we not only have physical needs, but we also have personal needs. And the greatest personal need of a woman is the security of being loved. And so men, nice possessions should not substitute for your love, not for your wife, nor for your children.
There is another reason you should focus your attention on loving your wife:
B. Love is the Fulfillment of all Relationship Laws
Gal. 5:13b-14 says that love is the fulfillment of the law. Love will cause you to refrain from saying or doing anything that will hurt your wife. Love will cause you to do positive good toward your wife. Husbands, you may not need to go and buy some book on marriage, if you would just follow this commandment concerning love.
Next, I want to talk to you about:
II. HOW WE OBEY THIS IMPORTANT COMMAND
Husbands, the first thing you need to do is:
A. Understand the Meaning of Love
When Paul uses the word "love," he is not talking about sexual love (eros), though there is a place for that in marriage. He is not talking about friendship love (philos), though you should love as friends. Rather, he uses an uncommon word which became common in the New Testament. He uses the Greek word agape in its verb form (agapao). Now to understand this kind of love, we first need to understand what it is not. We often confuse physical attraction, infatuation, lust, and personal desire with love. For example, a person may say, "I love pizza." This kind of love has nothing to do with caring and devotion and giving. What we mean is, "I like the good feeling I get and the satisfaction I get when I eat pizza." That is about the level of love most people seem to have when they get married. It goes something like this, "I love the feeling I get when I am around Sam." This kind of love is really a self-centered kind of love. That is certainly not the kind of love that Paul has in mind here.
So what is agape love?
1. It is a love that is unselfish, that seeks not its own. That is one characteristic of love given by Paul in 1 Cor. 13:5. This kind of love is thoughtful and considerate. Such love gives and sacrifices.
2. It is unconditional. Agape love does not depend upon the loveliness or performance of the person loved. This is the Greek word that is used of God's love for us. Rom. 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Therefore, it is not an emotion that requires that your wife always deserve your love. Now wives do enjoy it when their husbands are head over heals in love with them because of their character, appearance, personality, and accomplishments. But they also need the security of knowing that their husbands will love them even when they mess up, or aren't looking great, or when they are in a bad mood.
3. Finally, this kind of love seeks to meet the needs of the person that we are showing love to. That doesn't mean fulfilling her every desire, but it certainly does mean fulfilling her needs. I have already stated that one of her greatest needs is to feel loved. This involves telling her that you love her with words, hugs, gifts, etc. Husbands, you show your love by spending time with you wife and doing things together, and talking with each other. Show your love by giving her focused attention.
So in order to obey this command to love, you need to understand what kind of love you are commanded to give your wife. I hope you have a better understanding of the goal you are seeking to attain. But what I've shared with you is still a bit abstract. So Paul gives an illustration of the kind of love you are to have for your wife. So the next thing you need to do is:
B. Love Your Wife as Christ Loved the Church
In v.25 Paul said, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church…." The love of Christ for the Church is the pattern we are to follow in expressing love for our wives. Obviously, we cannot love our wives as much as Christ loved the Church, but we can love our wives with the same kind of love. In other words, we may not have the ocean, but we can have little of it in our bucket. So what kind of love did Christ have for us, His Church? He teaches us to have:
1. Sacrificial, Giving Love
Notice in the last of v.25 that Christ so loved the Church that He "gave Himself for her." Christ loved us enough to leave heaven, to come to earth, to take on a human form, to be spit on and mocked, to be abused, to be crowned with a crown of thorns, to be nailed to a cross, and to have a spear thrust into His side. No sacrifice was too great for Christ to make on behalf of His bride, the Church. And the fact that His love is seen primarily in His sacrificial death for our salvation is seen in the tense of the verb here. Note that Paul did not say, "as Christ loves the church," but "as Christ loved the church." He is just using the past tense because he is thinking about the past great act of love: His sacrificial death.
So we should follow the example of Christ and love our wives sacrificially. Do you have this kind of love for your wife? When is the last time you made a sacrifice for your wife? Do you work hard to provide for your wife? Do you ever sacrifice your time? Occasionally giving up a game of golf to go shopping with your wife is a sacrifice! Would you be willing to die for your wife?
Furthermore, Christ teaches us to have a:
2. Purifying Love
In v.26 we read, "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word." Christ loved the Church so much; He wanted to cleanse us and purify us. Sin was condemning us and destroying us, and so for our good He came to save us from sin by forgiving us in bearing our sins upon the cross. That was our greatest need. He is also in the process of cleansing sin from our lives.
Now how does this relate to the kind of love you should have for your spouse? You see, love seeks the well-being of the object of our love. Men, if you love a woman, you will do everything in you power to maintain her holiness, her virtue, her righteousness, and her purity. In fact, v.27 says that Christ wanted us to "be holy and without blemish." You will not lead her to sin, or into a situation where she would likely sin. And positively, you would help her to become more Christ-like.
The last of v.26 implies the means of helping your wife spiritually, and that's by the Word of God. Husband, you need to learn the Word of God; share the Word of God with your wife, and live out the teachings of the Word of God as an example to her. You should want your wife to come to church and hear the Word of God.
There is one other characteristic of the love of Christ for us, the Church. It is:
3. A Communicating Love
This is not specifically stated in this text, but Christ clearly communicated His love for us. Paul does say here that He demonstrated His love for us by sacrifice. Jesus also communicated His love by His words. For example, He said in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you…."
So tell your wife that you love her, and do it often. One husband contributed the following true story to Reader's Digest: "One day I walked up behind my wife of 19 years and whispered into her ear, ‘I love you.'" Without saying a word, she went over and marked it on the calendar."1 Men, we need to say it more than once in a great while!
C. Love Your Wife as Your Own Body
In v.28 Paul says, "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies…." Likewise, Paul says in v.33, "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself." Such self-love is not wrong. It is the natural law of life. One point that Paul is making is that you should love your wife at least as much as yourself. You should love your wife as you love your own body.
Paul is not just giving a pattern of love to follow. He's not simply saying that we should love our wives as we love ourselves. Rather, Paul also says that we are to love our wives because they are a part of us. He says in the last of v.28, "he who loves his wife loves himself." Why is that? Well in v.31 he quotes from Genesis 2:24, which says that in marriage, "the two shall become one flesh." A man should love his wife because she is part of his body. Husband, your wife is one with you. She is an extension of your own body in a real sense. The same thing is true spiritually in the relationship between the Church and Christ. Paul says in v.30, "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones." That echoes Gen. 2:23.
What does this mean? We spend a lot of time on our bodies. Some of you jog & exercise to keep your body in good shape. I hope you are eating the right kind of foods. You keep your body warm in winter, and cool is summer. Furthermore, you protect your bodies from harm, don't you? When your body has needs, you do whatever it takes to meet those needs. Even so, you need to meet the needs of your wife. Furthermore, a man may have a body which does not altogether suit him. He may wish it were handsomer, healthier, stronger, or more active. He may wish that his head had more hair! Still it is his body, and he will take care of it at least to some degree. Even so, we are to love our wives unconditionally.
So if this fact has been grasped, that the wife is part of the husband's body, then the husband will indeed love his wife. To not do so is to bring harm on ourselves. Destroying your marriage is destroying part of yourself. Men, if you abuse your body, and fail to meet the needs of your body, the quality of your life will be affected. And if you fail to meet the needs of your wife, the quality of your life will certainly be affected. As they always say, "If momma isn't happy, nobody is happy." So for your sake, as well as her sake, love your wife!
How, then, should we love our wives? Well, love your wife the way you love your own body. Even so, Paul tells us in v.29 two specific ways we are to love our wives, "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." So we should love our wives:
1. By Nourishing Her
This word (ektrepho) means to nourish or feed. It was primarily used of nourishing and bringing up children (6:4). When a man is hungry, he will feed his flesh. Amen? A good feeling follows the act of nourishing. And Paul is not thinking only of supplying the body with barely enough food, clothing and shelter to enable it to eek out a mere existence; he refers instead to the bounteous, elaborate, unremitting, and sympathetic care we bestow on our bodies.
Even so, a man should nourish his wife. He is to provide for her physical needs, and do for her at least as much as he does for himself. Make sure her physical needs are fully met. She really likes it when you take her out to eat!
2. By Cherishing Her
Here again, this word (thalpo) was used primarily of a parent/child relationship. It means to warm and to cherish as a mother does an infant in her bosom (1 Th. 2:7).
Even so, husbands are to cherish our wives. Make sure her emotional needs are met. We should give our wives a lot of hugging and affection. Dr. Willard Harley, in his excellent book, His Needs Her Needs, outlines the top five needs in marriage for husbands and wives. Based on his research, he lists affection as the #1 need of a wife. So cherish your wife as you do your own body. Now our love for our own bodies illustrates one more truth about the kind of love we are to have for our wives:
3. By Commitment to Her
I have pointed out that in v.31 Paul quotes from Genesis, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Because you are one with your wife, you should do as the Old Testament Scripture says, and that is cleave to your wife with a commitment to permanence. This arm is part of my body. I want to keep my arm because it is a vital part of my body. I will do everything I can to keep it an active part of my body. Men, your wife is to be as much a part of you as your arm is a part of you. Just as you will do all you can to keep your arm, you should do all you can to keep your wife. There is great security in the love of Christ for His Church. We are a part of His body, and nothing, according to Romans 8:35-39, shall separate us from the love of Christ. Your wife needs the security of knowing that nothing will separate her from your love.
A nurse shared this story of faithful commitment: It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 a.m., when an elderly gentleman, in his 80's, arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 a.m. She took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. She saw him looking at his watch and decided, since she was not busy with another patient, she would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so she talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.
While taking care of his wound, they began to engage in conversation. She asked him if he had another doctor's appointment that morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told her no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. She then inquired as to her health. He told her that his wife had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer Disease. As they talked, she asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. She was surprised, and asked him. "And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?" He smiled as he patted her hand and said. "She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is." 2
Men, I have set before you the kind of love you are to have for your wives. We are to have agape love, a love that is unselfish, that meets needs. We are to love our wives like Christ loved the Church, with a sacrificial, purifying love. What an example! And we are to love our wives as our own bodies. That means that we will nourish and cherish our wives. We will have an unconditional commitment to keep our wives, as we keep the members of our own bodies. You say, "How can I love like that?" This kind of love comes from God. 1 Jn. 4:7 says, "... Love [agape] is of God...." The Holy Spirit gives the Christian the ability to express this kind of love (Rom. 5:5). So if you are going to succeed in fulfilling the command of v.25, you must first obey the command of v.18! You need the filling of the Holy Spirit, and you will manifest the fruits of the Spirit, which includes love (Gal. 5:22). So a good and right relationship with the Lord is essential for you to be able to express this kind of love.
But many husbands are not even indwelt by the Spirit. In such cases, the first step to improving your marriage would be to trust in Christ as your Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. If you need to be saved, will you trust Christ as your Savior today? If you are already a Christian, will you trust in the Lord to grant you the filling of the Holy Spirit? Will you make a commitment today to love your wife as Christ love the Church?
1 Contributed to Reader's Digest by Steven J. Orendorff.
2 From Mikey's Funnies in Preaching Now, 2/8/05.
Francis Foulkes, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963);
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Galatians and Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967);
Jim Henry (notes from his topical sermon based on this text);
Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (New York: Robert Carter and Bros., 1860);
Tim Lahaye, How To Be Happy Though Married (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1968);
Lightner-Laing, Success In Family Living (Denver, CO: B/P Publications, 1977);
John Macarthur, Jr., Family Feuding: How to End It: Study Notes on Ephesians 5:21-6:4 (Panaroma City, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1981);
Larry Pierce, Online Bible [CD-ROM] (Ontario: Timnathserah Inc., 1996);
Charles R. Swindoll, Strike the Original Match (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1974);
Lehman Strauss, Galatians and Ephesians (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1957);
Curtis Vaughan, A Study Guide Commentary: Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977); Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Rich: Ephesians (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1977);
Norman Williams, The Christian Home (Chicago: Moody Press, 1952);
Kenneth S. Wuest's Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953);
Ed Young, Romancing the Home: How to have a Marriage that Sizzles (Nashville: Broadman & Hollman, 1994).
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).
© Dr. Stephen Felker, Swift Creek Baptist Church
by John MacArthur
I once came across an interesting article on motherhood by a man named W. L. Caldwell written back in 1928. Here's what he said:
Caldwell went on to say, "The pride of America is its mothers. There are wicked mothers like Jezebel of old. There are unnatural mothers who sell their children into sin. There are sin cursed rum soaked and abandoned mothers to whom their motherhood is the exposure of their shame. I am glad to believe, however, that there are comparatively few in this class."
Is that true? Are there merely a few unfaithful mothers? Maybe that was the case in 1928, but it's sadly not so today. High rates of illegitimacy and divorce reveal the contemporary abandonment of marriage - motherhood's foundation. Annual abortions number in the millions, which shows the heart of many mothers has grown cold.
Millions of children whose mothers allow them to see the light of day cower in fear under angry abuse. And countless are the mothers who ignore, neglect, or abandon their children in pursuit of self-centered "fulfillment" - motherhood is an inconvenient interruption to their lifestyle.
For better or worse, mothers are the makers of men; they are the architects of the next generation. That's why the goal of becoming a godly mother is the highest and most noble pursuit of womanhood. God has specially equipped women for that very purpose, and in Christ, women can experience profound satisfaction in that divinely ordained pursuit. They can be who God created them to be.
Ladies, please pay attention. There are so many who would capture your interests today, to tear you away from God's high calling on your life. "Focus on your career," "Buy more stuff," "Pamper yourself" - you've heard it all, I'm sure. Don't buy what they’re selling - it's all a lie.
With that in mind, I want to encourage you this Mother's Day to consider one biblical example of motherhood. It's Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, an emblem of the grace of womanhood. You can read all about her in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.
Hannah became a mother by faith. In the opening verses of 1 Samuel, she is introduced as a childless woman. But God granted her a precious gift and she became the mother of one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth. As you follow this account, you'll see the profile of a godly mother.
Devoted to Her Husband
Contrary to popular opinion, the most important characteristic of a godly mother is her relationship, not with her children, but with her husband. What you communicate to your children through your marital relationship will stay with them for the rest of their lives. By watching you and your husband, they are learning the most fundamental lessons of life - love, self-sacrifice, integrity, virtue, sin, sympathy, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Whatever you teach them about those things, right or wrong, is planted deep within their hearts.
That emphasis on marriage was very evident between Elkanah and Hannah. They were dedicated to the faithful worship of God (1:3), and they were dedicated to loving one another (1:4-8). Their situation - being unable to have children together - was like an open wound. But it was an experience that drew out of Elkanah tender expressions of love for his wife.
At a particularly low point in Hannah's discouragement, Elkanah comforted his wife with these words: "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?" (1:8). That may not seem like a tremendous comfort to you, but he was appealing to the satisfaction they enjoyed in their marriage. Notice the effect: Hannah was encouraged - she started to eat and drink again (1:9), and she went to the temple to seek the Lord (1:9-11).
That's the kind of marriage to which a godly mother is devoted - dedication to loving God, dedication to loving one another. That's the soil where godly mothers grow and flourish.
Devoted to Her God
Hannah struggled through acute pain and adversity. She was barren, she had to share her husband with another woman - one who could produce children, and she had to endure the pain of that woman's cruelty (1:6-7). And though Hannah was tempted to despair (1:8), she received the encouragement of her husband, turned to the Lord, and poured out her heart to Him in humble devotion (1:9-18).
Like many women today, Hannah struggled with the pain of infertility. She wanted God's best, to be a mother. In her sadness, Hannah didn't complain to her husband - there was nothing he could do about it - and she didn't fight back when Peninnah tormented her. Instead, Hannah trusted God through prayer.
That's a beautiful characteristic. She understood that God was the source of children, that God alone could alter her sterility. Her distinctive virtue was her constant faith. 1 Samuel 1:12 says, "It came about as she continued praying before the Lord". Her prayers were constant. She stayed there praying with a broken heart, pouring out tearful prayers. Hannah knew where to go with her problems.
Hannah was quite different from many today who long for children; she wasn't seeking a child for her own fulfillment. Childless parents today spend millions on infertility treatments - medications, special diets, egg-harvesting, even in-vitro fertilization. They worry and fret and sin in their continued anxiety.
Not Hannah. Hannah was willing from the start to give the child back to God, for life (1:11). It wasn't about her. It wasn't about getting what she wanted. It was about self-sacrifice, giving herself to that little life to give him back to the Lord. After coming to that place in her heart, after expressing her desires to the Lord in prayer, she experienced the peace of humble devotion to God. She "went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad." (1:18)
Devoted to Her Home
According to His perfect will, God gave Hannah a son-Samuel.
And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked him of the Lord." (1:19-20)
Hannah named her son in remembrance of God's goodness, and she devoted herself to her motherly responsibilities - she was fully committed to her home. The time came for one of the annual trips to Shiloh, and Elkanah came to Hannah to prepare her for the trip.
Then the man Elkanah went up with all his household to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, "I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord and stay there forever."
When God gave the child, Hannah dedicated herself to raising him. She would be devoted to that task for several years, knowing her time with him was short. That's so different from what you see today, isn't it? Women have babies, and a couple of months later they slam the baby in some day care center and take off for the job.
Not Hannah. She was totally committed to stay in the home until that little life was trained. She had important work to do - nursing, loving cherishing, instructing. Hannah understood how vital those early years are, when 90 percent of personality is formed. She prepared him in those formative years for a lifetime of service to God - such a high calling.
Don't mistake her devotion to raising Samuel for the modern tendency to make the child the center of the universe. Hannah discharged her responsibility as a steward - one day she had to give Samuel back. It wasn't about fulfilling her deepest needs through her child. It was about fulfilling her oath to God. It was about being faithful to her calling to be a godly mother.
For those of you who are mothers, think about Hannah this Mother's Day. Be devoted to your husband; be devoted to your God; and be devoted to your home in the fear of the Lord. That's your high calling and your greatest joy.
For those of you whose mothers are still living, recognize your mother this Mother's Day for the things she did well. Look in love beyond any of her shortcomings and honor the one who introduced you to life.
Adapted from "Hannah: A Godly Mother", © 1987 Grace to You. All rights reserved.
by Sidney Callahan
Mothers make the world go round, and once a year on Mother's Day the world recognizes this fact. In truth, nothing is quite so important for the well-being of an individual or a population as highly effective maternal nurturance. Essential caretaking starts with the physical protection and provisioning of the unborn in the womb. After birth, a child requires years of extended support and nurturing until he or she matures.
With new research findings it is now recognized that a mother's actions from the beginning of conception will affect her child's short- and long-term development. What a woman eats, drinks and ingests during her pregnancy affects her unborn offspring's health, even in later adult years.
Secret of Good Mothering
More obviously, psychological and social flourishing of children is rooted in the quality of a mother's personal and emotional interactions with them. The bonds of love and attachment with children enable a child to learn and engage in the child's "love affair with the world." Human beings are innately equipped with awesome capacities for language, reasoning and emotional responsiveness, but good mothering allows the seeds to flourish and bloom. From peek-a-boo to mutual eye gaze, babies are inducted into the human family. You first learn how to "be in relationship" with others in your mother's arms.
The secret of good mothering lies in attending to and empathizing with a child, and responding with whatever needs to be done to fulfill the child's needs. The more love, energy and intelligence a mother expends, the more successfully the child can increase in wisdom and grace. To be loved and affirmed, to be enjoyed, talked to and gently guided, starts a young life out well.
The mother-child dance creates new social persons. Families are well described as the first school of life which transmits morality, faith and cultural traditions. A mother's attitudes and emotions are contagious; children become moral and good by living with beloved good adults. Children desire to be like their parents and receive the implicit and explicit messages of the family. Civilization 101 is a home-based course that is continually in session, with Mother as chief instructor.
As all teachers and parents know, learning and growing up with others is always a two-way street. To give is to receive, and this law of life allows every mother to be called "blessed" - despite the sorrows that inevitably come. Altruism and sacrifice are made lighter when mothering love is present.
The Staying Power of Kinship
Love can be identified as the fusion of interest and joy. It appears early in infancy and lasts a lifetime. Mothers and their children can become loving friends and fellow pilgrims on their transforming journey.
Admittedly, familiar friends and lovers often share rough patches during their common journey. The stress on modern mothers increases as they know more, play more roles in the society and hold themselves to higher standards. Occasional collapses and failures take place. Of course, since Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, conflicts have emerged in every family, but the staying power of kinship ties is remarkable. Forgiveness of prodigal children and tolerance of parental failures are the way wounds are healed.
Giving and forgiving mother love is one of the most convincing indications we have of what God's unconditional love for us is like. Mothers are like Jesus Christ: they open a door to us which no one can close. The faithful now understand why God is more frequently being addressed as "Our Mother" and why mystics speak of Christ as the mother who tenderly and steadfastly feeds and nourishes us. Christian faith has been understood as our "Yes, to a Yes." A mother's "yes" to God's "yes" deserves to be honored - and more often than on one day a year.
Mothers complaint: The children don't respect me!
Children imitate the way their mothers respect their husband. Its likely your own fault the children don't respect you. Children respect the mother the way the mother respects her husband.
A wife should never raise her voice and yell at her husband, even when he is wrong: 1 Peter 3:4 A wife must never address her husbands above a "quiet, respectful, submissive, whisper", at any time. If you do this, your children will imitate this and address you, their head in exactly the same way.
Children respect the mother the way the mother respects her husband. Want your children to respect your headship over them? Then respect your husband's headship over you!
If your children are yelling at you, perhaps they learned this from you yelling at their father! Children know he is head, even if you won't let him be such. You have trained them by your example, to disrespect headship. Your insubordination to your husband has trained your own children to treat you the same way!
While it is true that the husband can contribute to the problem by not disciplining the children when they disrespect their mother, the problem usually is the mother's fault. You see, even if the father does a perfect job of disciplining the children for talking back to their mother, the children will still "trash" the mother, if they see her "trashing" her husband.
Children learn submission from the mother, not the father. Children learn headship from the father, not the mother. Therefore the key point for children, who must first learn to submit, is to imitate the submission style of the mother to her husband. If she shows an example of insubordination to her head, then the children learn this from their mother and treat her the same way. After all, the children think that is the normal way you submit to authority. They are merely doing what the mother taught them.
The Bible is clear:
How one wife finally put her husband in his place!!!
A Sunday school teacher went over to visit one of her new pupils named Katrine, one summer's afternoon. The family had immigrated only five years earlier from the "home country". The mother was warm and friendly, even her house exuded hospitality. What was most impressive though was the woman's constant references to her husband. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation a little 4 year old boy would ask, "Is it almost time for papa to come home?"
Later, the other children came in from school, greeted me politely and went to their chores. The oldest daughter said, "I'm going to start some of Papa's favorite muffins for supper," as she headed for the kitchen. As the teacher got up to leave, Katrine asked, "Can't you wait a small moment and meet papa?" By this time the teacher was very curious about this remarkable man who commanded such love and respect from all his family.
The shock of meeting Papa was almost too much for the teacher. Instead of a well-dressed man of brilliant speech, a small man, twisting nervously at his mustache and talking in the broken accent of his native tongue, greeted "the teacher of his "leetle Katrina." For some time the teacher pondered the mystery of this man's place in his home. Suddenly it dawned on her. It's not who or what the father is personally, but the mother's attitude toward him that makes all the difference. A husband can only take their proper place at the head of the house when wives respect and honor their wishes, thereby giving our children the desire to do likewise.
Children respect the mother the way the mother respects her husband. Want your children to respect your headship over them? Then respect your husband's headship over you!
"Do It Yourself husband!"
In Gen 18:6 Abraham said to Sarah, "Make ready quickly, three measures of fine meal, knead it and make cakes." Can you imagine Sarah answering, "Do it yourself"? This attitude would have been out of character for her because "Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord." 1 Pet 3:6 A wife's big test of faith is if she will submit to her husband when he is unreasonable and selfish, or when she knows she is being wronged by his attitude. Jesus never asks us to do anything He has not already done Himself! Bible subjection never implies inferiority but rather strength!
by Temple Bailey, 1933
The young mother set her foot on the path of life.
"Is this the long way?" asked the young mother as she set her foot on the path of life. And the Guide said:
"Yes, and the way is hard, and you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning."
The young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years. So she played with her children, she fed them and bathed them, taught them how to tie their shoes and ride a bike, and reminded them to feed the dog and do their homework and brush their teeth. The sun shone on them and the young mother cried,
"Nothing will ever be lovelier than this."
Then the nights came, and the storms, and the path was sometimes dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her arms. The children said,
"Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come."
And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary. But at all times she said to the children,
"A little patience and we are there."
So the children climbed and as they climbed they learned to weather the storms. And with this, she gave them strength to face the world. Year after year she showed them compassion, understanding, hope, but most of all unconditional love. And when they reached the top they said,
"Mother, we could not have done it without you."
The days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years. The mother grew old and she became little and bent. But her children were tall and strong, and walked with courage. And the mother, when she lay down at night, looked up at the stars and said:
"This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned so much and are now passing these traits on to their children."
And when the way became rough for her, they lifted her, and gave her strength, just as she had given them hers. One day they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And Mother said,
"I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk with dignity and pride, with their heads held high, and so can their children after them." And the children said,
"You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates."
And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said,
"We cannot see her, but she is with us still."
A mother is more than a memory. She is a living presence. Your Mother is always with you. She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick and perfume that she wore, she’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold winters day.
She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is your birthday morning. Your Mother lives inside your laughter. And she’s crystallized in every tear drop.
A mother shows through in every emotion - happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, love, hate, anger, helplessness, excitement, joy, sorrow - and all the while hoping and praying you will only know the good feelings in life.
She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you.
Not time, not space - not even death!
Source: Good Housekeeping Magazine, 1933
Managing Career and Family
by Marianne Neifert, M.D., M.T.S., F.A.A.P. (Dr. Mom®)
1. Identify what you value most in life, your highest ideals, and most burning desires. (Luke 10: 27, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.") Write an inspiring mission statement or mission prayer to guide you in prioritizing your daily actions and help you live more intentionally and in sync with your values. Then, deliberately choose to say "no" to some good things in order to open a space in your life to be able to say "yes" to your best thing. (Luke 10:42: "Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.")
2. Keep your relationships paramount. Our deepest needs are satisfied by our relationships, not by our accomplishments or experiences. Recall the e.e. cummings quote: "Be of love a little more careful than of anything." Acknowledge the toll chronic role overload takes on your cherished relationships. Regularly schedule time with your partner, children, extended family, and friends, and maintain at least one volunteer commitment. (Matthew 25:40, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.")
3. Distinguish the "urgent" from the "important," and do something important every day. Many seemingly urgent things aren't very important, and the important things that characterize our lives often don't have a timetable. Don't wait for a space to open on your calendar to spend quality time with the people you love the most, make a service commitment, or pursue a long-term goal or life passion. Don't let daily "urgent" tasks crowd out the "important" things that give meaning and purpose to your life.
4. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Focus on the many blessings and positive aspects of your life. Remember that "happiness is being content with what you have." Make fewer judgments about the events in your life, and look for the possibilities in every circumstance. Each morning and evening, name 10 things for which you are grateful. (Lamentations 3:22-23, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.")
5. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier each morning to allow an intimate encounter with God before starting the day. Just as we savor spending time with the people we love, God longs for intimate fellowship with us. Read a Scripture passage and/or a daily devotion, pray and meditate, before setting your priorities for the day. When we strengthen our relationship and intimacy with God, we grow more confident in God's steadfast love, providential care, and empowering spirit. Ask God for discernment in structuring your time and experiencing peace of mind as you go about your work.
6. Reject the burden of perfectionism. Adopt the acceptable, totally respectable, standard of "adequate." Repeat the mantras…"Better done than perfect" or "The perfect is the enemy of the good." View most tasks as "pass/fail" assignments.
7. Try "re-framing" a task or commitment to fit within your mission, so it feels less like a "have to do" and more like a privilege and a choice that resonates with your sense of purpose. For example, tell yourself, "Watching my granddaughter feeds my spirit and makes my heart soar. This is exactly how I want to be a blessing today. The items on my "to do" list will get done in time."
8. Review your diverse responsibilities and consider whether you can delegate some duties (including the ownership for them), pay to have some things done (like housekeeping or yard work), do some things less well (like cooking simpler meals), or stop doing some things altogether (like giving up certain holiday traditions).
9. Practice saying "no," and notice the personal rewards that come from: acknowledging your human limits; realizing that other people are more self-sufficient that we give them credit for; and discovering that we continue to be valued and loved even when we can't always give everyone what they want.
10. Do not accept a new commitment when the request is first made. Explain that you need to think and pray about the opportunity and will get back to the person. Evaluate the request in terms of your faith, values, passions, talents, current stress level, and need for the approval of others. If you truly feel called to embrace the new endeavor, choose a present commitment to "put back into circulation" before accepting the new responsibility. However, if you decide the offer is not an ideal match for you, promptly contact the individual who made the request, thank them for their invitation, and firmly–without hesitation or equivocation–explain that you are unable to accept this new commitment. Wish them well with their worthwhile project.
11. Tackle the thing you dread the most. Do the "worst first." Worrying about "the dreaded task" saps your emotional energy. Stop the habit of "starting to plan to get ready to prepare to begin" and just do it. The longer you procrastinate, the better job you feel compelled to do in order to make up for the project being late. "She who has made a beginning is already half way there."
12. Don't allow guilt to push you into overload. Recognize that women's pervasive guilt–that so often motivates us to assume disproportionate family responsibility–largely is based on our need for control. If I interpret a negative event as "my fault," I can take comfort in the false notion that, if I had only done something different, I could have ensured a better outcome. Many women prefer feeling guilty, which fuels our perception of control, over feeling anxious about our inability to always protect our loved ones from harm or to make everyone happy.
13. Avoid trying to make an abrupt transition from one set of skills, pressures, mindset, and demands as you walk through the door of your home after work and assume daunting family responsibilities. Instead, determine what you need in order to be able to shift gears gently upon your return home: perhaps playing an audio book in the car, stopping for coffee/tea with a friend, requesting 20 minutes of alone time after arriving home before you are available to others, preparing a healthy snack, or playing your favorite music.
14. Recognize that your thoughts, feelings, opinions, wants, and needs are legitimate and valid. Don't expect your loved ones or colleagues to notice what you need or want or to take care of you. And don't be a martyr! Instead, recognize that self-care is not selfish. Self love and self-care are the foundation for love of others and all social responsibility. We are good and grateful stewards when we value ourselves enough to care for ourselves physically, emotionally, nutritionally, financially, relationally, and spiritually. Share your feelings, express your opinions, and don't hesitate to ask for what you need and want.
15. Schedule down time on your day planner. Don't wait for a space to open in your calendar to play golf or tennis, go to lunch with a friend, read a good book, or take a "free day." Instead, block out time for a manicure, massage, movie, or date night. Since "work fills the time available," everything essential will get done in the remaining time. Workaholics actually are less efficient than those who take necessary breaks and leave work on time.
16. Make a habit of taking regular Sabbath time, in order to deliberately turn from productive activity and quietly celebrate the fundamental goodness of life. Plan and practice intentional, consecrated periods of relaxation and reflection to let your mind rest and your body heal from the violence of busyness. (Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God!") If you can't take a traditional Jewish Sabbath, practice taking a Sabbath nap, savoring a Sabbath meal, enjoying a Sabbath walk, or soaking in a Sabbath bubble bath.
17. Downscale and simplify your life. Donate some of your material possessions, resign some of your commitments, move closer to work or to a smaller home, cut back on structured children's activities, simplify your wardrobe or hairstyle, watch less television, scale down your holiday traditions, work part-time instead of full-time, take a leave of absence, get more sleep, and fix simpler meals.
18. Identify some specific spiritual practices that serve to renew your energy and enthusiasm for joyful service. Do you experience an authentic encounter with God by attending a worship service, hearing a dynamic sermon, singing in the choir, partaking of the Sacrament of Communion, reading Scripture, listening to Gospel music, participating in a Bible Study, teaching children's Sunday School, going on a mission trip, or reading a book by a Christian author? Use all these Means of Grace to nourish your soul and keep you grounded to the Source of Life.
19. Adopt a humor perspective. Laughter diffuses tension, lights up your face, relaxes you muscles, restores your perspective, shrinks your problems, buoys your spirits, aids healing, and helps the immune system. Learn to find the humor in everyday life, to laugh at the absurdity of your circumstances, and to see the world from a child's perspective.
20. Choose life-giving coping mechanisms - healthy practices that improve your emotional awareness, strengthen your relationships with others, enhance your self-esteem and make you feel more connected to others.
Examples of life-giving coping mechanisms include talking with a therapist or with friends, reading, exercising, experiencing nature, cooking healthy foods, deep breathing, pampering (such as a manicure or bubble bath), using symbols of your faith (devotions, meditation, prayer, hymns), volunteering, getting adequate sleep, or enjoying hobbies, music, movies, or pets. Stop using life-depleting coping mechanisms, or destructive practices that numb or suppress difficult feelings.
Life-depleting coping strategies includes angry outbursts (anger masks fear, anxiety, and vulnerable feelings), drugs and alcohol, workaholism, isolation and withdrawal, compulsions like shopping, gambling, television viewing, computer games, or eating disorders. These maladaptive coping methods are based on deceit and shame, harm our relationships by preventing emotional intimacy, and lower our self-esteem.
Copyright © 2011 Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS www.dr-mom.com
What You Can Control
You cannot control what others do or say, but you can control how you respond to it. This can make a huge difference in how you look at - and interact with - the world. And as a result, it can take you from stressed-out to chilled-out and feeling better about life. Robert Ringer gives you more details today.
Craig Ballantyne, ETR
"Everybody in your situation has the same choice: you can rue your situation or you can dedicate yourself to changing it." - Mark Ford
Leading a Low-Stress Life by Living Right
By Robert Ringer
The foundation for handling sadness and misfortune, and thus for leading a low-stress life, is what I like to refer to as "living right." What I mean by that is consistently being conscious of, and vigilant about, trying to make good choices.
We all desire love, understanding, and recognition, but those things aren't foundational to serenity. The antidote to stress can't be found through alcohol, pills, sexual pleasure, fame, or wealth either. Millions have tried without conquering their stress, and all too many have lived unnecessarily short lives as a result.
The real key to conquering stress is self-examination - continual, honest self-examination.
Inner conflict causes stress. By contrast, leading a concentric life (i.e., one in which what you do matches up closely with what you believe in and what you say) brings harmony into your world. Harmony is directly related to how often you follow through and do what you know is right. Likewise, harmony is related to how often you demonstrate the self-discipline to refrain from doing that which you know is wrong.
Here are some things to think about that will help you develop the mindset to overcome the stress in your life:
Don't try to make the world bend to your will.
Trying to get everyone to do things your way goes beyond stress. It's a frustrating, hopeless exercise that can drive a person mad. I know one wealthy individual, in particular, who long ago lost his ability to think rationally because of his frustration over not being able to force everyone around him to conform to his wishes.
One of the rules of being a good delegator is to tell people precisely what you want them to do, then let them do it their way. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that a good executive is someone who, when handed a letter that he knows he could have written better, signs it anyway.
This is an area where you have to be careful, even when dealing with your own children. While it's the parents' responsibility to teach and guide their children, wise parents learn early on that their children cannot and will not do everything exactly as their parents want them to. The reality is that your children are different human beings than you are, so it would be unnatural for them to mirror you 100 percent of the time.
Recognize that for every negative, there's an offsetting positive.
I often refer to a principle that I call the Natural Law of Balance. In pointing out that the universe is in balance, I use such examples as electrons and protons, night and day, male and female, hot and cold, and life and death. The reality is that for every positive, there's an offsetting negative, and for every negative, there's an offsetting positive. Balance is the natural order of the universe.
The nice thing about it is that when you understand and believe in universal balance, you automatically look for the offsetting positive in every negative situation. Put another way, think of every negative occurrence as nothing more than an illusion hiding something of value to you. As Richard Bach so eloquently put it in his book Illusions, "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly."
Control anger and bitterness.
It's worth repeating Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous words: "For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness." The late Jim Blanchard was a great teacher for me in this respect. Jim was one of the most remarkable people I've ever known. A paraplegic from the age of 18, he not only built a fortune while working from a wheelchair, he traveled the world extensively and did almost everything "normal" people do - and more.
Jim once told me about a guy who had shafted him out of a lot of money. I asked how he could be so calm about it, and I'll never forget his response: "I've found that it's disarming to just smile, be polite, and act as though nothing is wrong. Not only do you avoid making enemies by handling things in this manner, you also save yourself a ton of aggravation. All you need to do is avoid having business dealings with that person in the future. And to the extent you are cordial, he'll probably even sing your praises to everyone - which means you win all the way around."
I admit that Jim was special when it came to handling people, but his words help me to this day. Whenever I become angry, I give myself time to cool off before saying or doing something I might later regret. For example, if I impulsively write a quick letter in a heated state of mind, I let it sit for a day or two before mailing it. It's amazing how much of the angry edge you can take off a letter by editing it a couple of days after you wrote it.
One last thing worth thinking about when it comes to achieving peace of mind. In his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra says that worrying about stress is more damaging than stress itself. Which brings me back to something I said in my last ETR article on this subject: It is not events that shape your world. It is your thought processes.
When you learn to control your thoughts, you establish the boundaries of negative influences upon your life. Remember, no matter how long a list of stress inhibitors you compile, your mental state will always be the most important factor when it comes to achieving peace of mind.
[About The Author:
Robert Ringer is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and host of the highly acclaimed Liberty Education Interview Series, which features interviews with top political, economic, and social leaders. He has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business, The Tonight Show, Today, The Dennis Miller Show, Good Morning America, The Lars Larson Show, ABC Nightline, and The Charlie Rose Show, and has been the subject of feature articles in numerous major publications. ]
Source: Early To Rise, Copyright © 2012 Early to Rise, LLC.
by Gregg Easterbrook
Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:6-7
The refutation of this myth is not based on the premise that something is inherently wrong with a woman who's climbing the corporate ladder. Look at Miriam, who was a significant leader in the book of Exodus. It's worth celebrating that we live in an era where women have executive-level positions in many Fortune 500 companies. It wasn't always that way.
Rather, the idea that women should always reach for that next rung is dangerously misleading. Some women feel that in today's era of liberation they are somehow letting down their gender if they decide to step down from high-ranking corporate positions. They feel enormous pressure to stay.
Most women will agree that to continue enjoying the perks of a top-level position requires tradeoffs when family needs are involved. Early hours and late nights. Travel. Missed baseball games and dance recitals. Broken promises. These are inevitable components of the often-stressful juggle of career and family—for both women and men, though the price is often higher for women. At some point, we must ask ourselves, "Are these the tradeoffs that I'm willing to make?"
God has a specific plan for you that will maximize your talents and gifts, bring maximum glory to himself and provide for your maximum good. Ask yourself:
Is God able to carry out that plan where I am now?
Women in the workforce must take a good hard look at the price of corporate success. They have at least two valid choices. Some may decide that career advancement is not worth the price. They may continue to work and contribute but without the pressure of climbing the ladder. Other Christian women may feel called to rise higher in the corporate world, and they equally deserve our support so that they can represent Christ in spheres of great influence (see 2 Corinthians 5:20).
"No matter how much they make, most Americans believe twice as much income is required to 'live well' … Americans seem programmed to deny that they are well-off, which only detracts from our ability to appreciate what's going well in our lives …. If there was ever doubt, modern American life proves that money cannot buy happiness."
- Gregg Easterbrook
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the
world, and we can take nothing out of it."
Matthew 16:26; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 6:8–10
Source: NIV Devotions for Women; Bible Gateway
NIV Women's Devotional Bible by Zondervan
True Identity: The Bible for Women by Zondervan
by W. Granville Brown
As a professional life coach, I'm privileged to have some very successful career women as clients. I've discovered that many of them face challenges quite different than those encountered by men. For example, consider the deep feelings of guilt many working mothers experience. They feel as if they are being split in half and would gladly sacrifice a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes for more hours in the day. When we are dealing with a female who is voluntarily willing to give up her high-end shoes, you know we have a serious issue. Just as serious is the confusion between making a decision and making a choice. Many of these educated women suffer from the consequences of their choices and struggle with making better choices they can live with and feel good about.
Humbly speaking, I believe a process and a skill set are associated with decision and choice making. In order to recognize the difference - as well as the need to learn or improve upon the skill set - a person must be open to personal growth. Each new client has discovered that something is "off" in that individual's life, and he/she wants to turn it back on. Often the issues are related to the choices made, which, in turn, have led the client to seek my assistance.
Oftentimes the two words (decision and choice) are used interchangeably, when, in fact, they have complete and separate meanings. Let's start with decision, which means "to reach a conclusion or pass judgment on an issue." A choice is defined as "a selection from a number of options." To simplify: you make a decision to have dessert after dinner, and then you choose between ice cream, cake, or pie--keeping in mind that a moment on the lips is like an inch to the hips. Oh please, I'm a man who loves hips; go with the cake. I do digress.
My helpful guide, "5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path," (sorry, shameless plug) illustrates five simple, but powerfully impactive, steps to making wiser choices. Once applied to our daily lives, these steps have proven quite effective in their simplicity.
1. Think it out:
That should be a logical process, but a lot of times in life, we merely react based on experience, the past, emotions, or a myriad of other reasons, without giving much prior thought to making a choice.
2. Willingness to deal with the consequences through ownership:
Yes, we have to own our choices. We can't point fingers of blame at others when things don't work out and only take credit for the good. We must own all of our choices.
3. Accept responsibility:
Whether you like it or not, choices mean responsibility. Now you're getting into deeper waters. When we step up and claim responsibility, we are indeed stepping up.
4. Be accountable:
When you hold yourself accountable, the message is, "This is on me." And that truly takes strength of character.
5. Be honest:
This is admittedly the hardest step for a lot of people. Some of us simply find it too difficult to look into the reflected image of truth, which can hurt. The tendency to develop safety mechanisms, in an attempt to protect one's heart, can be too great. Unfortunately, not being honest with yourself in your daily choices can only delay the inevitable, as well as make matters worse. Here's the good news: by practicing the art of honesty, telling the truth becomes easier.
It's never too late in life to do better, be better, and become better. Take a walk to the water's edge, and look out. For as far as the eyes can see and beyond, endless possibilities exist, and they all start with your choices. Choices are a birthright that each of us possesses without purchase; they're absolutely free.
[About The Author:
After serving in the U.S. Army and earning his degree in business administration, W. Granville Brown embarked on a successful career in the insurance industry spanning two decades. He later became committed to improving the lives of others by encouraging inward reflection, and became a bestselling, self-published author. As a certified life coach, Brown has helped many clients transform their lives for the better by using real-world methods. His new guide, 5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path, is available on www.wgranvillebrown.com. ]
by Sao Tunyi Kohima, Nagaland, India
These days, no one wants to be ordinary. Everyone wants to rise above the crowd and be celebrated. We don't want to be normal. We want to be special. The world doesn't bother what means we use to become famous. It doesn't matter if we have to sell our dignity, our self-respect, our very soul for it. To become popular has become the ultimate goal.
Online social media like facebook provides platform for every ordinary person a kind of podium or a world audience. The stage is all yours. We have come to live as though our life itself is a show and we are the main star. We manage how we should be perceived with our facebook status updates and our profile information. On such flimsy grounds, we derive our dignity and self worth.
We are made to believe that we can be the next slumdog millionaire. In the talent search shows, it is shown again and again that ordinary people like you and me can become the next great sensation. The show anchor points finger at you through the TV screen and say, 'you can be the next great star'. And you believe that somehow, somewhere, you have it in you to sweep the world off its feet.
How stressful!!! How stressful it would be to keep up with such make-believe image that we try to project day in and day out. It's a recipe to fall into a 'celebrity mental breakdown' if you like. Behind the images of happy-go-lucky, on-top-of-the-world lives that we see onscreen, so many celebs suffer mental depression, drug addiction, and disintegration of private lives. It is when accolades get into their heads and they can't cope with the realities of life.
The antidote to the pursuit of fame is to choose and celebrate the ordinary life. Let's face it. There are millions of people all over the world who are as good as you and me. Chances are that with all the moves and tricks you pull to impress (gather as many Likes, to use facebook lingo), you might just not make the cut. To the restless wannabes, wise men say that in the rush to the top, it is told that there's nothing up there. In the rat race, there is no reward at the finish line. The best things in life are in the ordinary everyday stuffs.
Marilyn Thomsen says, 'And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary'. To go to work and come home on a usual day is a blessing. To find joy in the company of a friend over a cup of ordinary tea; to mind one's own business and to work with our hands, as the Good Book says - These are precious gifts that we so often ignore. We remember heroes and great people. We draw inspiration from such people and their extraordinary acts. But they are few and far in between when we count all the days that pass us by.But the more important thing is to live the ordinary days well. 'The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs' (George Elliot). If you don't have as much oomph factor, set-the-stage-on-fire stuff in you, or Nobel Prize-worthy piece of work, don't bother. Just live on. Life itself is amazing.
Source: Adapted from Thatched House Blog
by Sraman Mitra
We are coping with the death of a dearly loved.
America is coping with Newtown.
India is coping with Damini.
Syria with Civil War.
Whether it is personal or universal, suffering seems ubiquitous. The augmented reality of social media makes it all even more intense, dominating our consciousness.
As Spielberg reminded us recently with Lincoln, we have come a long, long way. Slavery has been abolished. Women can vote.
Life is messy. Change takes time. But it eventually does come. Civilization does move forward.
Meanwhile, wonderful, inspiring events continue to happen. Nature offers itself quietly to those who pay attention.
Here's a piece of verse from Tagore (Golden Raft):
By Ross Colvin and Kevin Lim
A woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India died from her injuries on Saturday, prompting promises of action from a government that has struggled to respond to public outrage.
The unidentified 23-year-old medical student suffered a brain injury and massive internal damage in the attack on December 16 and died in hospital in Singapore where she had been taken for treatment.
The six suspects held in connection with the attack on the student on a New Delhi bus were charged with murder following her death, police said. The maximum penalty for murder is death.
Most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists who say that successive governments have done little to ensure the safety of women.
Political leaders vowed steps to correct "shameful social attitudes" towards women in the world's biggest democracy.
"The need of the hour is a dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes," the prime minister said in a statement.
The woman, beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday.
She and her male friend were returning home from the cinema, media reports say, when six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. Media said a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. The friend survived.
"She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome," Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer of the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore said in a statement announcing her death from multiple organ failure.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the northern Indian city of Lucknow. In Hyderabad, in southern India, a group of women marched to demand severe punishment for the rapists. Protests were also held in the cities of Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.
"For some reason, and I don't really know why, she got through to us," well-known columnist Nilanjana Roy wrote in a blog on Saturday.
"Our words shriveled in the face of what she'd been subjected to by the six men travelling on that bus, who spent an hour torturing and raping her, savagely beating up her male friend."
The attack has put gender issues centre stage in Indian politics. Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide have rarely entered mainstream political discourse.
Commentators and sociologists say the rape has tapped into a deep well of frustration many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social issues.
A global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery.
New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011.
Excerpted from an article from Reuters. (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012.
(Cry of a Rape Victim)
I still remember mom when once you and dad asked me what I need to do in my life I replied you I will reduce the pain of other's people and I became a physiotherapist so that I can try my level best to reduce the pain of others.
But today I am not able to resist my own pain.
Doctors are slashing my body parts for the fifth time like they were never the parts of my body…it is paining a lot mom I am not able to breathe properly and they attached me with oxygen cap. please tell the doctors not to give me the anesthesia mom.
I am scared I don't want to close my eyes. If I close my eyes it takes me to that scary phase of my life where I was being cut into pieces I was just bunch of flesh which was being continuously chopped by those animals. Those faces were very scary mom they were like those hungry animals who were biting at every parts of my body.
I don't have courage to look myself in the mirror.
Mom please break all the mirrors nearby me. Please take me to bath. I want to bathe. I want to sit under the shower for years mom so that I can wash those inhuman touch which has made me hate my own body.
I tried to go towards bathroom but my stomach pain didn't allow me to move myself. I can't raise my head to see you standing outside through door glass.
When someone enter in my room I feel very scared mom. my heartbeats gets faster my eyes searches for you. please be around me. I don't want to be alone.
Mom these medical instrument beeps are haunting in my brain. they sound like those unhelping traffic sounds which muted my cry and pleads which I was doing that time mom. The silence of this room reminds me of that silence when I was thrown on deserted road. I don't know what happened but I was feeling very much cold the same way like a person shivering with very high temperature. Mom do you remember once when dad slapped me in childhood how much you fought with him until dad didn't bring my favorite chocolate…Where is dad, mom?
I can't see him...is he ok mom ???
Please don't let him cry mom. Do you remember once how dad got angry on you when you used to shout on me for anything?
They have beaten me and my dearest friend with some metal. It was paining a lot mom. I saw how he was bleeding to save me but they were coward rascals. They kept on beating him together till he didn't collapse and then they scratched every parts of my body repeatedly mom.
You always taught me to fight with the difficult situations but I am very weak in this situation. please hold my hand.
I want to sleep please put my head in your lap.
Please wash my body.
Give me some pain killer my stomach is paining.
Please tell doctor not to cut more parts of my body. its paining a lot.
I am sorry mom. I can't fight anymore..!
by Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu, Malankara World Board Member
After a long struggle the symbol of hope for women has died down. We are told that India's daughter wanted to live and continued to struggle, wanting to come back. Her brutal rape is a reminder of how brutal men in India are. However much we justify our institutions, frameworks, our legislators and our law enforcers, we have fallen short by many a mile. Many people in India sincerely prayed for the recovery of our daughter and sister. But nothing could stop the brutality of the rape, not even the best medical care. Where do we go from now?
I am a theological teacher (facilitator) and a church worker. My area of influence is theological seminaries, students, churches, church women, church men, girls, boys and children. I can't help but wonder what my response to this highly despicable incident should be? After the strain and work of an academic term, after the joyful work of preaching and announcing Christ's arrival to church members and the world, I am left drained. Not because of both the things I mentioned above, but because I haven't been able to stop violence against women in the church and in society. I have been a failure amidst all the success I have enjoyed. And it is because of my silence, lack of pro-active involvement and status quo in the church and in seminaries that I feel this way. Every reluctance of standing for women has meant that I have been an accomplice in every rape.
What am I supposed to do? I am supposed to facilitate a thinking process in the minds of students from various parts of the country and various denominations. I am supposed to teach and practise a thinking process that women are not lesser than men, women have to be respected, women have feelings and the body of women belong to them. I am also supposed to preach and practise the same in church. But I am falling short time and again. Time and again women are not getting justice in church and I go along with the status quo. In all trueness I am not doing my job.
Every religion is supposed to be a protest, a movement asking for change. And yet we are far from it today. Can women wear what they want to in church without hearing a lewd comment in the background and being marked twisted? Can women speak in church without being labelled 'forward'? Can women file a complaint against a church leader/s for harassment, misrepresentation, misuse of authority, humiliation, staring, sexual overtures, and misquoting of scripture? Can women expect the church to support them in the case of domestic violence, marriage related violence, violence at work, violence during public transport, violence at public spaces and violence from the law and authorities? If the answer is no, isn't the church an accomplice to violence against women?
What am I going to accomplish by lighting a candle in church against the violence and brutal rape and murder of the 23 year old woman? Nothing much I suppose. There are several women in my own church who in all probability are exposed to violence in different places and the church remains silent to this. "Potte mole" (It is okay daughter, let it go daughter) is a constant reminder given to women to forgive and forget. Today has reminded us that we face a grim reality. Part of India has risen up against this. There are many others who have not got support and have been violated again and again. This is the time to fight for all women. No more potte mole. "Unaruvin and poruthuveen" (rise and fight) would be a better slogan for women and for those men and leaders including me who have some sense of guilt left in them.
by Jeevan Kuruvilla
There has been much written in the web and print media about the violence against women in our country after the very sad incident of a young lady being gang raped inside a moving bus in Delhi.
My take on this issue . . .
As many of us know very well, this is not an isolated incident. This article in 'The Hindu' has highlighted other such incidents. Even, the other day, it was not a difficult thing to spot out 3 incidents of violence against women including rape which was reported by our local newspaper. None of these hogs any limelight. The fact remains that women and the girl child occupy quite a lower rank in the social order. Time and again, I see this being emphasized by families during my clinical practice. It's many a time disgusting.
In addition, I know families where the son has been given all facilities to do his studies, whereas the girl remains uneducated and uncared.
When such an attitude prevails in the family, one need not search much to find out the sort of ideals which is instilled in the young men of the family. As they get out of the home environment, they look at women as objects to be used for satisfying their pleasures.
Not many a day is not passed where the woman is not undressed in their thoughts and minds. And the pleasure so attained graduates to lewd comments and eve-teasing. The media of our day complements such thoughts and actions. Molesting and rape is just the extreme methods of this mindset.
It seems that one requires to become an eunuch to be immune to such an attitude towards women. And any such protective attitude could end you in trouble as the two young men discovered last year.
Well, where do we start?
I believe that our learning starts at our homes where a daughter is as prized as the son. Our homes should be places where the husband will treat his wife with respect and kindness that the son would behave likewise with the women he meets in his life. Our daughters should not know what dowry means.
There should be as much joy in a home when a daughter is born as when a son is born. The women in the house eats along with the rest of the family . . .
I could go on and on.
The situation is so worse in many of the regions of the country that the attitude towards the girl child has resulted in a situation the young men have to go in search of brides to other places. I saw the terminology of gendercide in this article. I'm not sure of how correct the terminology is . . . but the fact is that we have a situation of genocide which is targeting the female gender.
What we see in the protests in Delhi is to quite a lot of extent, a mob response to this whole affair. I'm sure that there are quite a few aspiring leaders who would want to use this opportunity to make themselves heard.
Things need to go to a micro-level . . . homes, communities, social groups etc. . . if we want to see any change in this issue.
Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not
freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation,
violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.
Sexual assault affects millions of women, men, and children world-wide. Though its prevalence is difficult to determine exactly because of under-reporting, the statistics are still overwhelmingly high: One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes.
According to the Bureau of Justice, women sixteen to nineteen years old have the highest rate of sexual victimization of any age group. Statistics show that 15 percent of sexual assault victims are under age twelve, 29 percent are ages twelve to seventeen, and 80 percent are under age thirty. The highest risk years are ages twelve to thirty-four, and girls ages sixteen to nineteen are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.
Here are some free resources to help you understand the epidemic of sexual assault and care for victims.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Chapter 2 from the book 'Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault' by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Disgrace and Grace
Introduction and Chapter 1 from the book 'Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault' by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Sin, Violence, and Sexual Assault
Chapter 10 from the book 'Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault' by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Several more free chapters and excerpts from the book 'Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault' by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
On child sexual abuse: 5 Things You Should Know About Child Sexual Offenders
For pastors: Advice for Pastors in Caring for Victims of Sexual Assault (audio)
Myths and Misconceptions About Sexual Assault
Developing Effective Church Policies on Child Maltreatment
Source: Justin Holcomb is Theologian in Residence at Mars Hill Church, where he also serves as Executive Director of Resurgence and the Leadership Development department. He is also Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary.
There are certain foods that aging boomer women (and men for that matter) should eat on a very regular basis (like every day) that literally pack the body's cells with powerful nutrients.
Here are some of the superfoods that build health and happiness:
■ Avocados: Avocados contain wonderful amounts of potassium, magnesium, folate, protein, and vitamins B6, E, and K, as well as fiber. Additionally, heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in avocados can actually help you lose belly fat.
■ Greek Yogurt: One serving supplies nearly one-fourth of a woman's daily calcium needs, and the fat-free variety is packed with twice as much protein as regular yogurt. As an added bonus, Greek yogurt is loaded with probiotics.
■ Wild Alaskan Salmon: With two kinds of healthy omega-3 oils in this delicious fish (which I order from Vital Choice), women should eat several servings each week to see benefits in mood boosts.
■ Wild Blueberries: They're absolutely packed with antioxidants and what tastes better than a bowl of them with cream? Nothing I can think of!
■ Broccoli: Delivering vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A as well as fiber, folic acid, calcium, iron, and potassium, broccoli helps you feel full on less than 30 calories per serving. If you don't care for broccoli, try stir frying florets in a high quality olive oil. I could never enjoy broccoli (or cauliflower) until I started eating both this way.
■ Walnuts: Practically the King of Nuts, walnuts are full of healthy oil. They're an excellent remedy for insomnia, too.
■ Dark Chocolate: I saved the best for last. You see, dark chocolate is loaded with magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and phosphorus, all of which are critical for strong bones. Let Sally Fields pitch that nasty Boniva with its multitude of terrible side effects… you enjoy some dark chocolate instead.
Source: aging boomers blog
by Roy Walford and Lisa Walford
If you have been watching your cholesterol, you probably know about scrambled egg whites. You may not yet have tried scrambled tofu! The following recipes are a basic foundation for any number of vegetable combinations.
Olive oil cooking spray
Scrambled Egg Whites with Mushrooms
Olive oil cooking spray
Scrambled Tofu with Garlic and Red Peppers
Olive oil cooking spray
Directions for For all variations.
Spray a medium-size skillet with olive oil and place over low heat.
If using the egg whites and/or egg, beat lightly.
If using tofu, add to the vegetables along with the herbs and spices.
Yield: 4 servings
Calories per serving scrambled whole eggs (with added whites) : 117.
Calories per serving scrambled whites with mushrooms: 45.
Calories per serving scrambled tofu with garlic and red peppers: 102.
If you like moist muffins, you will love this recipe. Although lemon yogurt is
recommended, you can choose any flavor of your choice. So, be inventive. Also if
you are on a sugar watch, try stevia instead of honey. Good luck!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200 deg C).
2. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and grated lemon zest.
3. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients.
4. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full.
5. Bake for 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
Yield: Makes 12
Source: Adapted from: Muffins, Nutbreads and More by Barbara Kyte and Katherine Grerenberg (Bristol Publishing)
I thought you might like to tell your readers about the great beauty effects of olive oil. I use extra virgin olive oil to wash my face every night. I have found that it dries up my oily skin and hydrates my dry skin. I used to get dry patches that were embarrassing. I don't get them any more.
I have a friend whose son had bad acne. I told them about the olive oil and they tried it for two weeks. They are simply amazed. The redness is gone and his face is clearing up. I am a firm believer in this cheap miracle oil. Also once a week if they would add a little sugar, it is a great exfoliator.
Directions: Put a small amount in palm of your hands, rub hands together and rub all over face and neck. Take a warm rag and gently wash your face. May feel weird at first but after a few days you will notice when you don't use it. It has also helped with progression of my wrinkles they seem to be disappearing.
I thought if people tried it they would feel the difference and not spend so much money on doctors.
Editor's Note: Sesame oil and coconut oil are also good for the skin.
by Eric Sinoway
For most folks, January 1st was the day for both celebration and taking stock, for enjoying what we have and looking ahead to what the next year holds. But for my dear friend and mentor Howard Stevenson, that day was actually January 3rd - which he calls his second birthday. The occasion of his second birthday - a day six years ago that Howard died…and, remarkably, inexplicably, was given a second chance at life - is important for all of us.
The tale of how Howard escaped death by the slimmest possible margin - and the subsequent book that it inspired me to write, Howard's Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life's Work, - has seemingly captured the imagination of countless people around the world. From viewers of CNN to readers of Fortune Magazine and USA Today, it seems as if millions of men and women of all ages, in all lines of work, have discovered something that I have long known: like Bob Proctor himself, the wisdom from Howard Stevenson that I share in Howard's Gift has the power to change people's lives.
Howard's Gift begins with a scenario familiar to many of us: a question about health. For several weeks, Howard - the towering "father of entrepreneurship" at Harvard Business School - had sensed that something was wrong. He wasn't feeling quite himself. But the doctors he consulted - first, second, and third opinions - said he was fine. Then, as he walked across the Harvard campus on the afternoon of January 3rd, 2007, Howard's 66-year old heart … simply stopped and he crumpled to the ground. He had no heart-beat for four minutes. He'd died.
Ultimately, he returned to life through an extraordinary series of circumstances: a mobile defibrillator recently installed nearby and a colleague rushing with it to Howard's side; a friend (who'd received his CPR certification that day!) working tirelessly to resuscitate him; and an ambulance crew who happened to be carrying a special clot busting drug and were trained to inject it directly into the heart.
Nearly as extraordinary - for me, anyway - was a conversation he and I had during his recuperation. Ever the former student, I asked him if, looking back from what could have been the end of his life, he'd had any regrets.
"Nope, no regrets," he said.
With anything, I asked?
His simple, direct answer struck me with force. I certainly couldn't give the same response. And I challenge you to ask yourself if you could either.
That conversation led to lots of questions for me about my own life - and to many further discussions with him about how a person could live a life filled with satisfaction and no regrets.
Those talks and Howard's wisdom - really, his genius learned over decades of inspiring, coaching, and teaching scores of people of all ages - are presented in Howard's Gift so that you, too, may unlock your full potential and achieve a life of meaning, success, and inspiration. Howard and Bob share that rare ability - that "gift" - to help you unlock your full potential, take control of your life, and set yourself on a path to reach your personal and professional dreams.
Howard is just the kind of wise and experienced guide so many of us can use: someone who gently but firmly tests our assumptions, helps us navigate uncharted waters, and empowers us to make big decisions and take calculated risks. For many people, that jolt of inspiration and confidence comes at exactly the right time. January is the time for looking forward, setting objectives for the next year, and investing new energy in pursuing our career and life goals.
In fact, for a whole lot of folks, now is a hugely important time for looking forward. The time when the "hidden victims" of the long recession - people who may have kept their jobs but had to put their dreams and aspirations on hold - are now beginning to ask, "Is it finally time to go for it again?"
The answer for most of us is a clear and resounding YES. But, the answer to the appropriate next question - "Okay, how do I start?" - may not be so clear.
Howard has a very clear and practical answer: "Start at the end."
Here's what he means by this typically counter-intuitive advice: Think about what you want people to say about you at your funeral; how you'd want them to describe all the facets of your life, who you were, and what you'd accomplished.
Then turn that thinking into a concrete vision - a clear picture in your mind that draws together your most highly valued beliefs, desires, goals, and priorities into a holistic portrait of who you aspire to be.
This picture - this "Legacy Vision," as Howard calls it - will become your personal roadmap. It will be the reference point for all the myriad of personal and professional decisions you'll face as you pursue a satisfying and fulfilling life. As important, it will enable you to identify a series of concrete options for the next steps you take in pursuing your goals.
So here's my New Year's wish for you: That you resolve not to just "go for it" but to craft you own personal vision of what "it" means. That you pursue your vision with gusto - free from regret of things not done, dreams not pursued.
That resolution is the gift that Howard Stevenson has given me. A gift that comes wrapped in a renewed sense of life's opportunities - of the wonderful possibilities for creating your own inflection points in life.
It's a gift that I've tried to pass on to many other people through Howard's Gift. And I know that you will not regret seeking Howard's gift for yourself.
About The Author:
Eric Sinoway is president of Axcess Worldwide, a global partnership development firm based in New York and an author, with Merrill Meadow, of Howard's Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life's Work, recently published by St. Martin's Press.
by Sandra Abell
Karen is a gifted pastry chef who, I believe, makes the most delicious baked goods on the planet. Her creations include cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, and pastries. However, her favorite things to make are pies.
A couple years ago Karen wanted to show her appreciation to someone she admired, so she decided to bake her a pie. The lucky recipient was so pleased with the gift that Karen decided to take the giving a step further. She resolved to bake a pie a day for a year (that's 365 pies!), find a worthy person to give each to, and blog about it. Thus, the Pie a Day Giveaway was born! Her tag line was, 'Expressing gratitude to friends, family and the Universe with a year of pies.'
So, for the next year, every single day, Karen found a person to appreciate, and baked him/her a pie. She honored store clerks, non-profit agencies, service people of all kinds, strangers, friends and family. Anybody she came into contact with was a potential recipient. The beneficiaries had no idea they were on her 'pie list' until she showed up at their door, pie in hand.
Karen was so committed to this appreciation project that even when she was on vacation in Mexico, or on a motorcycle trip to the Oregon Coast, she managed to find ingredients and a kitchen and bake a pie. She then found a deserving local person to share it with. Her commitment and accountability to doing what she said she would regardless of the expense, inconvenience and organizational challenges was remarkable.
It seems to me that Karen's Pie a Day Giveaway is a metaphor for what the holiday season is about. She gave selflessly, with gratitude and appreciation, focusing on other people and how they would be positively affected by her actions. She shared her talents with the gift of love, generosity and fun. She carried the holiday spirit throughout the year.
For 12 months Karen showed this spirit with pies. However, what's more important is that Karen embodies that giving spirit all year long! She is a loving, caring soul, who makes the world a beautiful, happy place wherever she goes.
So this month I'm reflecting on how I can live up to Karen's example by being more loving, appreciative and generous, not only at Christmas, but all year long.
How about you?
About The Author:
Sandy is the author of 'Self-Esteem: An Inside Job and Moving Up To Management: Leadership and Management Skills for New Supervisors.' She is an educator, speaker and a Licensed Professional Counselor. She specializes in working with executives, business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs and people in transition. Please visit Sandy on her website at www.insidejobscoach.com
by Linda McLean
Frank's Diner was once an energized, thriving business, a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike in the scenic New England town of York Beach Maine. But when the economy hit a brick wall, Frank found it more and more difficult to hold onto his trademark, cheerful smile.
One day, Frank caught a glimpse in the mirror on the diner wall of a grumpy, scowling old man with frown lines embedded deeply in the corners of his mouth. He didn't recognize the man as himself. Looking around his desolate diner, he knew that it wasn't just the economy that had driven his customers away – it was his pessimistic attitude toward life. Frank had tried to remain optimistic but it seemed like the hits just kept coming, like a NorEaster pummeling the coastline. He often wondered what there was to look forward to each day.
His eyes met with a booth in the back corner of the diner where a frail elderly woman ate breakfast with a college age girl. Mrs. Sheridan and her caregiver Michelle had been coming in for breakfast every day for a couple of years. Frank would nod and force his face into a smile when they walked in the door each day. They were his best customers after all. Mrs. Sheridan would conclude each meal by scribbling something onto a diner napkin and placing the napkin in her purse with a contented smile.
One sunny fall day, even though the New England leaves painted a breathtaking landscape outside the diner windows, Frank was oblivious to the beauty that surrounded him. He was currently crouched under the counter, grumbling about how the dishwashers were always leaving spots on the coffee mugs. A feeble voice above interrupted his rant.
"Frank, I wonder if I could have a word with you."
Frank nearly smashed his head on the cash register as he jumped to his feet, looking at Mrs. Sheridan in surprise. Michelle held onto the old woman tight, obviously propping her up. All Frank could do was nod agreeably.
"I wanted to talk to you about these…"
She lifted her trembling arm, pointing toward the frown lines on Frank's face.
He opened his mouth to say something, to explain, to defend himself… but realized he had nothing to say, so Mrs. Sheridan continued.
"Young man, I learned a long time ago that life doesn't always go your way. Believe me, I have 90 plus years of my fair share of heartbreaks and challenges that I could easily carry around with me as baggage. Instead, I choose to carry these with me."
She reached into her purse and took out a stack of the napkins Frank had watched her scribble on every day. She had written things like: autumn leaves, Michelle's kindness, seashells from the beach, the beautiful sunrise today, another delicious breakfast at Frank's Diner.
"Frank I would like to challenge you to do the same; to stop carrying around your struggles and start carrying an attitude of gratitude instead."
After Mrs. Sheridan further described his daily "homework assignment," Frank didn't have the heart to refuse her request.
At first he did it to appease her. As she watched from her booth each day, Frank would dutifully take a napkin from a dispenser on the counter, scribble something he was grateful for on it and put it in his pocket. The process was mechanical in the beginning, mindless instead of mindful. But each time Mrs. Sheridan smiled over at him, wordlessly encouraging him to continue.
Frank barely noticed when things began to change, when the words of gratitude he jotted down on the napkin each morning began to sink into his thick, stubborn skull. The attitude of gratitude he had inadvertently adopted through the sheer routine of it, began to truly mean something. That was when Frank's life began to change…
A little over a month into his daily gratitude homework, Frank once again caught a glimpse of himself in the diner mirror. The reflection in the mirror was of a glowing, joyful man whom he hadn't seen for years. This man looked forward to each new day with hope and enthusiasm.
Still smiling almost uncontrollably at the realization of how much life had changed, Frank surveyed his now bustling business. Locals, staff, and tourists alike were cheerfully enjoying the revitalized space. Even though Frank hadn't made any physical renovations, the diner somehow looked brighter to him. His eyes automatically drifted to the corner, to share in the moment with Mrs. Sheridan. But for the first time in a few days, the booth was empty. Frank's heart sank…
A couple days later Michelle arrived and placed a box on the counter in front of Frank with a solemn smile, tears glistening in the young woman's eyes.
"Mrs. Sheridan wanted you to have these."
Looking at the floor so she couldn't see his own tearful eyes, Frank simply nodded his appreciation. He felt an overwhelming wave of gratitude wash over him that such a special lady had come into his life, and exactly when he needed her most.
By time the springtime leaves were blooming, Frank's Diner was more popular than ever in York Beach. There was one new feature in particular that was a huge customer draw. When a diner patron reached for a napkin from a dispenser, they also received a message of gratitude printed on it. Each message was word for word from Mrs. Sheridan's collection; along with a few from Frank's own personal stash. Beneath the message was the question – "What are you grateful for today?" with a blank line beneath. Frank would watch from the counter as customers of all ages and from all walks of life eagerly scribbled their answers on napkins, and almost always with a smile. Mrs. Sheridan's unwavering attitude of gratitude, it seemed, had transformed not only his own life, but the lives of those around him as well.
What steps will YOU take today and every day to adopt an attitude of gratitude in your life? Will you make the choice to focus on your burdens or your blessings? It is so easy to feel shortchanged when we focus on lack. But when we practice gratitude as a daily habit, life has a way of transforming positively around us. Whether you use something as simple as a napkin ora journal, when you write down the things you are grateful for each day you'll be changing your view of the world around you, just one day at a time.
About The Author:
Linda McLean, an International Best Selling Author and Certified Business and Life Coach, believes in the power of Gratitude and Planning. Linda has recently launched her new book "My Gratitude Journal – 7 Minutes Today Leads to an Abundant Life Tomorrow". It takes readers through a proven daily process of adopting an "attitude of gratitude" to produce big results in life. Please feel free to visit her website at www.McLeanInternational.com .
Two Difficult Things To
The one who succeeds in the first one is called a TEACHER.
And the Second is called a POLITICIAN.
The one who succeeds in both is called a WIFE.
The one who fails in both is called a HUSBAND !!!
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