Freestyle Faith: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

freestyle faith

[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Ronel Sidney’s new book, Freestyle Faith: Around the Table. I feel so blessed to share this excerpt with you today. I think all women know that there are things that happen to women in this world that just aren’t right (understatement), and the more we speak up the more things will change. We can change things. P.S. military friends, this one is for you, too!]

Freestyle Faith: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

No glass ceiling was ever shattered by a whiner.”–Melanie Hope

Struggling and pushing to breakthrough to uncharted territory can be daunting and painful. Women have been treated as less capable and valuable than men for years, and yet many people do not want to discuss the topic. Much like avoiding talks of racism, people think if we pretend it does not exist then we can continue life without making any waves. The problem with this idea is that not talking or fighting to change the stigma keeps us stuck in the cycle of labeling, marginalizing and holding women back from reaching their full potential.

Recently I heard someone describe breaking the glass ceiling in a broader sense of the phrase. Breaking the glass ceiling is when you embark on pushing outside the box of what you were told was normal or acceptable in society or even in your family of origin. This description really intrigued me and gave me words to describe how I had been feeling for years. Guilt, shame and striving for acceptance kept me from speaking out or even breaking out of the “box” I was told was good enough for me and my life.

It began in my last year of high school, when my father and brother sat down with a military recruiter and it was as if I did not exist. The whole conversation was about what the military could do for my brother. There was no mention of what it could provide me and my future. The stigma of women in the military has been fought for years before me; however, women are still fighting to gain recognition and acceptance among their male counterparts. I have been “voted out” of offices, told I could not attend school, and even told by my own recruiter that I would do fine in the Navy because I was “decent” looking. I am sure you can imagine my surprise at these words.

The way we treat woman in the military and society in general keeps them stuck and often silenced about the wrongdoing that occurs aboard ships, during deployments and in the world environment. It is much like when you leave home and realize the way you were raised was not exactly conducive for the reality of the outside world.

We all come to a point of fight or flight. In some ways, I wish I could run from the glass ceiling, and yet, I have been able to break through it enough times to know the pain is worth the reward. Dealing with the intangible barriers within society and the military was expected; however, the barriers I faced within the church and my family took me by surprise.  Fighting for a position or school in the military was much easier than fighting for a place at the table in the church. Being told I could attend classes with men at church but could only perform some of the duties because I am a woman infuriates me to no end. I tried to stay and wait patiently for change, but why do we do this to women?

Why do we tell women they aren’t equal to men or they are incapable of doing what a man can do in ministry?

Acceptance is easy. Fighting to break the mold can be depleting. While attending seminary, I realized the truth was that we allowed men to keep us from being equal in order to make them feel okay with our presence. How crazy is that? We are minimized because of their insecurities and inability to accept us as equals in work, home, life and ministry? Seems a bit old school.

I have come to accept that we have two choices. We can stay within whatever system minimizes us, or we can choose to do things differently. In the military, I had no choice but to fight. In ministry and the church, I decided not to fight and instead begin a new journey outside the Sunday morning meeting and the building we call church. Within my family of origin, I have also decided to reject the “rules” of acceptance in order to embark on a journey of healing and self-discovery.

The choice is yours. You get to navigate this life with God, and He will give you the power to make changes in whatever situation you face in life. I believe the hardest part of breaking the glass ceiling is choosing not to whine and instead to be a part of changing the way women are perceived in the world. Yes, there will be women who make choices we may not agree with. However, standing together and fighting for equality is a must for the next generation.

I do not have a daughter, but I pray my nieces have less of a fight ahead of them because of the battles I decided to fight. I pray they have more opportunities because of other women who choose to fight and stand up to the stigmas of our culture. Mostly, I pray that we as women can begin to see our worth and value together and not in competition with one another.

Excerpt from Freestyle Faith: Around the Table by Ronel Sidney 

freestyle faith around the table

ronel sidneyRonel Sidney was born and raised in Northern California but, has made San Diego home with her husband and son. She has a business degree and works as a contractor for the United States Navy. As the National Director of Praise and Coffee she has a passion for encouraging women to share life and faith outside religious obligation.

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You are a Vineyard Waiting to Happen

Bobbie Houston

[This is an excerpt from Bobbie Houston’s (of Hillsong notoriety) beautiful book Stay The Path. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I loved Stay The Path, and highly recommend it, especially if you are in ministry. It is truly beautifully written. I chose this section of the book because I thought it could apply to so many of us, and was so true!]

You are a Vineyard Waiting to Happen

You are a vineyard with endless vines within your sphere.

If you are facing challenges within the “vineyard of marriage,” an ocean of good people exist who can speak into your life and give you solid biblical keys to go forward.

If you are banging your head against the wall with issues relating to teenagers or small children, there are pathways to better parenting.

If you’ve dug yourself into a financial hole, or little foxes have come in and created havoc, there is godly wisdom available on how to climb your way back – and if you are in the vineyard of ministry, feeling isolated or stuck in your responsibility toward a congregation or community of people, then take heart from one minister to another. I’m here to to tell you that there is always a way forward, and God has good people along this pathway who can help.

Again, if you are living in the free world, you have the ability to “plant or replant” yourself in to the wisdom and ways of God that yield the right fruit in our lives.

I say this because that is what God is asking (and declaring) in Isaiah:

“Can you think of anything I could have done to my vineyard that I didn’t do?”

Our gracious God has done all He can do. He gave His Son and purchased our redemption (allow that resonate; it will shoot faith-adrenaline into your soul). He gave us His Spirit, pour out to lead and teach us with those glorious “wind words” already spoken of. He gave us His timeless and infallible Word, full and overflowing with knowledge, understanding and wisdom. The Psalms and Proverbs alone are lifetime seminar, if you have a heart to seek them out. And He gave us His church. Now, I agree that not every church is perfect, yet when any local church seeks to be healthy and Christ-centered (and is doing her honest best), then God will cause that local church environment to become the family and community perfect for your journey.

You are a stunning vineyard waiting to happen.

Don’t negate these words because you feel unworthy. Don’t reduce this truth because of what your life may look like now. Condemnation and hopelessness are the work of the enemy. So resist, and believe me when I say you are capable of a vintage crop – a vintage crop of a fulfilling, fun, meaningful (and sexy) marriage; a vintage crop of kids who grow up and become fabulous human beings and citizens of planet Earth; a vintage crop of perfectly matured and executed dreams and aspirations. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (see Ps. 37:4).

Have you ever seen a vineyard at the height of splendor? Lush, green, mature, with succulent ripe grapes that when pressed bring forth the finest juice? I dare you to believe that you can be such a vine. For years I’ve wanted to do a photo shoot for my Colour girls in the vineyards of the world, simply because of the canvas it would paint.

I find the imagery of a rich rolling landscape, flouring under His care, irresistible. Regardless of what season the vine is in (summer, winter, spring, fall), there is confidence that every season has its design and purpose. And even if the vine has been spoiled in some way, don’t ever forget that God is the one who can restore what the invasive worm has stolen (see Joel 2:25). He’s the God who can turn any situation around. The Old Testament is basically a long historical account of the Father’s endless devotion and ability to turn the bleak, barren, assailed (and often even rebellious) vineyard of His people back to their potential.

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Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To

tired of apologizing for a church i don't belong to by lillian daniel

tired of apologizing for a church i don't belong to by lillian daniel

Tired of Apologizing

[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To by Lillian Daniel. I received a copy from the publisher so that I could choose a section to excerpt and give my thoughts. I really enjoyed this, and enjoyed her new ideas  I get Lillian’s frustration with “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) and being tired of apologizing!]

Is it legitimate to pursue faith rigorously and still land on “it’s a mystery” as a conclusion now and then? It seems to me that if God wanted humans to understand everything, we’d be God.

But we’re not God.

God did not leave us with a cosmic library full of concrete answers. We didn’t even get left with the same collection, for crying out loud. We all got different books, transmitted orally, written down late and rife with human error. Of course it’s mysterious.

Why didn’t God leave us the answers, and a practical collection of titles? God could have left us a big yellow paperback called Divine Knowledge for Dummies.

Some will argue that those who accept mystery are just self-justifying and self-involved. I think they are realistic and evolved. But that’s because I accept mystery, so I have a vested interest in seeing that as a very good quality. Which points to the fact that I might be self-justifying and self-involved, too. Oh no.

Religion at its best at least makes you think about this stuff. And mystery is humbling. It implies we don’t know. That message rubs like sandpaper against our self-involved, narcissistic culture. We don’t have all the answers. And no, we can’t make this stuff up.

Atheists will say, “Yes, I can make this stuff up, and you made it up, too; all of religion and spirituality is made up.”

Okay, then, let’s leave it at that. You can think it’s all made up. I can think it’s a mystery. And we can both be mad at the people who are certain about things. Because if there’s one thing I am certain of, it is that certainty is wrong.

All those points of view can be contained in the world’s religions: certainty, doubt, belief, unbelief, ego, and argument. There’s always been a healthy flow within the generations, the reformers, the purists, and the pursuers of mystery. I don’t have to cover all that territory myself or even in my lifetime because religious traditions created over time are bigger than anything you could do by yourself.

We pick and choose within those traditions. I love the maddening marvel that all my questions have been asked before. People have thought about these things. We are not the first generation of geniuses.

We could make it up for ourselves but that’s not as interesting or rigorous. It’s easy to play by the rules of a religion in which you write your own script. It’s actually much harder to find meaning in the words of a book we did not write for ourselves, from a very different time. It’s easy to create God in your own image and then follow her. Much harder to work with the God who created you, the same God who did not tell you everything you’d like to know and did not even ask for your instructions.

So why bother?
A religion of my own making wouldn’t be rigorous. It might be fun, though. I could replace communion with pasta in front of the TV. During Lent, I could preach at length to myself about how wrong everyone else is, and tell other people what they should give up. I could make my weekly offering in the shoe department at Nordstrom’s, because where you heart is, there shall your treasure be also.

But the church calls me out of idolatry, as fun as that might be. It calls me out of worshipping my every opinion and thought, and into the company of others. Left to my own devices, I would be left to all my own vices.

These days it is countercultural to suggest that any one might benefit from the company of others in the life of faith, particularly others who have gone before us, in ancient traditions. It’s much easier to point out the blind spots of our ancestors in the faith, their missteps around women, sexuality, and things. But we can still learn from the cloud of witnesses who went before us.

We can say they lived in a different world, and that they were wrong about many things, but perhaps still right about the God thing.

So when we hear complaints about Christianity, and the media, critics, atheists, and SBNRs paint it with a broad and bigoted brush, why don’t we object?

Why don’t we tell them a different story? Of a progressive church where your questions are welcomed but where we learn from a tradition older than we are. Where we worship a God who invented us and not the other way around. Where we gather in church not to entrap God but to take God seriously in the company of other people.

Generally these folks are working off an old definition of one narrow sliver of Christianity, and they expect me to apologize to them for it. Sorry, but no thanks. I am tired of apologizing for a church I am not a member of. Their bigoted description of church as a box full of backward Christians has worn thin for me. These days, I take these people on with rigor.

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