Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

Throughout Christian history there have been stories of great heroes of the faith.  These heroes ranged from those who conquered social and systemic injustice and oppression, those who preached the Gospel courageously, those who taught children, and those who wrote theological tomes.  But what truly made these individuals heroes?  Aside from the fact that God greatly blessed these women and men and allowed them the opportunity to shine, the main reason these people changed the world, is because they lived into the calling and giftings that God assigned for them.

There are two main lists in the Bible looking at Spiritual gifts.  These are Romans 12:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.  Although there may be many additional gifts that didn’t exist in Biblical times (such as an uncanny use of social media and promotions for church work), the basics have stayed the same millenia later.  To give an idea of the various gifts which one  can possess, there are gifts of EDIFICATION (including: prophesy, teaching, exhortation, and encouragement), COMPASSION AND SERVICE (practical service, generosity, hospitality, mercy), and LEADERSHIP (apostleship, teaching, preaching, and evangelism).

Now in the church, the majority of gifts are not debated.  For example, both men and women can be able administrators, both can be encourage, and both can be generous with time, talents and treasures.  Yet, the issue arises when it comes to matters of leadership.  In some churches both men and women are able to accept roles such as deacon, elder, pastor or bishop, but in many others these roles belong solely to men.  Does that mean then that women were somehow bypassed when it came to giving out the spiritual gifts or does it mean that women are somehow inferior and therefore not eligible for these roles?

This has been a question that has long since plagued me.  Many churches which do not permit a women to enter into these various “male only” roles would still make the claim that women are equal and of the same standing as a man, but then suddenly their voices are silenced and their opinions not sought out.  What kind of message does that send?

In my own research throughout the years on the topic, I have spent time on both sides of the fence.  There have been times when I thought maybe women shouldn’t be leading a church, there have been many other times when I thought they should.  I am trying to be careful here not too give too much of my own opinion in a way that detracts from the essence of this question.  Yet, regardless of what one can say on the point, there are three things that I firmly believe:

1) Women have been used historically.  In many churches where women are not permitted to lead, the argument is given that if God wanted women to be pastors, there would have been a female minister in the Bible.  But as it stands, there was never once a female minister.  To me, this depends on your understanding of the word  “minister.”  It is very true that women did not get the same opportunities as men in that time period and that when Jesus selected the 12 they were all men.  The Bible consistently does use male language especially on matters of prominent leadership.  However, that being said, there were many women whom God did use in various ways to get His message across (there were prophetesses like Miriam, Anna, and Philip’s 4 daughters – who by the way were also celibate!), there was church workers (like Priscilia, Junia, and Phoebe), and there were even women of political persuasion who changed the world in the male dominated sphere they found themselves in (such as Deborah and Esther).  In fact, when reading Romans 16, nearly half of the names mentioned belong to women who aided Paul greatly in his missionary endeavours.  Therefore, it is both impossible and irresponsible to eradicate or downplay the ways that God has consistently used women throughout Scripture and even throughout history.  In fact, I have a devotional book I would highly recommend called “Her-Story” (Diana Lynn Severance) which speaks of one faith filled woman daily ranging from the 1st Century up until the 21st Century with such figures as Ruth Bell Graham, Corrie Ten Boom, Joni Erikson Tada and Fanny Crosby.  These women all served God in the various places they found themselves in – sometimes even having a massive impact on our theology through the written and sung word!

2) The Spirit is Gender-Blind in the Distribution of Gifts 

Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, it is important to note that there are still women who have gifts of leadership, evangelism and pastoring and there are men who very clearly do not have these same gifts.  The way and form that these shapes take may very well differ, but that doesn’t mean they are done away with altogether.  Think, for example, of the many women who have made huge strides and contributions to missionary work – Lottie Moon, Helen Roseveare, Amy Carmichael, and Elizabeth Elliot to name just a few.  These women taught and proclaimed the Gospel fearlessly, helping convert the masses to Christ.  There are many other women who have made a great impact in women’s ministry through teaching and disciplining younger and newer Christians in the faith.  There are those as well who have been amazing teachers of children and youth, who have helped lead effective small groups, and who have even been teachers on a one-to-one mentoring basis.  Sometimes, in fact, it is the women who do their work quietly and without acclaim whom God will bless the most in heaven for their work and contributions within their own families as wives and mothers or as friendly neighbours.  Never underestimate the ministry and impact one can have even within their own immediate family!

3) If God Calls You to Something, Well Then, You Better Go Do It

In our increasingly consumeristic, fast-paced and unjust world, there is a need for many to go out, proclaim and show an alternative lifestyle.  There is a need for Godly men to step up, to be leaders, and to do their duty.  There is also a need for Godly women to step up, be leaders, and to do their duty.  If God calls a woman to pastoral ministry, it shouldn’t just be because there is no man interested or available.  It shouldn’t be just a time-filler until a Godly man can be trained to lead.  If God calls a woman to pastoral ministry it should be because she has a genuine burden on her heart, because she is being affirmed by community, and because she is a vessel God can use to reach out and touch the broken.  Women have so many opportunities to minister and pierce the dark in ways that men typically cannot enter into in the same way – some of these include areas such as counselling other women who have been abused, gone through sexual assault or domestic violence, women who are fleeing from abusive marriages, women who have just given birth or are learning to be mothers for the first time, and women who are escaping the sex trade.  Women pastors can give voice to young women who struggle with body image, sexual identity, and the career-marriage tension.  Conversely, there are many opportunities for men to minister and pierce into the dark in ways that women typically may struggle with – such as reaching out to male perpetrators of violence, men who have been abused, men caught in sexual addiction and pornography, and men battling with the career-marriage tension.  There are, of course, those rare few who have the gift which can bridge the gender divide, but there are, in my opinion, situations where it is generally more appropriate for women to talk to women and men to men.

One does not need to compromise or do away with any form of Scripture when discussing or debating the proper and correct use of men and women in the church, as long as they remember a few key points: 1) God calls both men and women to various tasks just as He has done throughout Scripture and church history, 2) The Spirit is not gender-blind in the giving and receiving of spiritual gifts and 3) When we are called to something (whether we are a man or woman) it is our duty to go and do so.  As individuals, it can be so easy to get worked up and preoccupied with the differences between the genders, but God calls us to first and foremost follow Him.  When we follow the leadership of Christ, our own leadership becomes clearer to us.  Not all are called to be leaders, not all are called to be pastors and elders, not all are called to teach, but all are called to the best gifts, and love is the greatest of these.

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10 Things Christian Women Are Tired of Hearing

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I still remember my first experience of being told I couldn’t do something I wanted to do.  I was only four years old and my Sunday School teacher asked us to go around the room and share what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Without any hesitation I blurted out “I want to be a pastor.”  My teacher, who was warm and friendly, stooped down, put her arm around my shoulders and said “honey, women can’t be pastors.”  I remember being utterly confused.  I had always enjoyed lining my teddy bears up after church on the steps of my house, singing Bible songs, and pretending to preach sermons.  This is something I liked doing and that my parents always encouraged in their own ways.  Obviously, four was too young to understand the theological implications of such a bold statement – there was no possible way I could have known at the time that this has been a grey area debated over the centuries with Bible believing Christians on both sides of the fence.  All I knew was that I was being told I couldn’t do something that in my very core I felt I wanted to do, that I was called to do, that I was meant to do.

Since then, I have occasionally faced discouragement as a woman in other areas and I know that I am not alone.  Thus, when I was asked to write this blog for PCPJ, I opened up my Facebook by posting an open question: “To all my Christian Women friends, what are you tired of hearing?”  The results poured in and surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) nearly everyone said the same things but in different ways.  I also took this offline by asking Christian and non-Christian women alike what they were tired of hearing, and I discovered that these very same issues often permeate into the lives of even those who are not religious.  That is to say, culture and tradition, often overshadow the truth and sometimes churches lose sight of what is Biblical and historically accurate in favour of what has simply been passed down to them or what they have been taught without further investigation.

Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some of the most common themes that women addressed when asked this question:

  1. A Women’s Primary Role is that of Wife/Mother

Last year, I was looking for a new devotional to start my year right.  I went into a Christian bookstore and then began perusing the women’s section.  To my dismay, all the books were geared towards wives and mothers.  As I am neither one of these things, I decided to reach out, again on Facebook, asking my friends if they had suggestions for a women’s devotion not geared towards this.  Sadly, they all responded with no, that many of them were in the same boat.  Women’s devotionals often are geared towards family life and maternal instincts, and those which aren’t are often written at a juvenile teenage level and are not intellectually stimulating.

This is a topic that I believe has been ingrained in many of us since childhood.  It is assumed in most Christian settings that a woman would want to be a wife and then shortly thereafter to be a mother.  It, of course, must always be in that order – not the other way around.  The sooner a woman marries the better, and, of course, since divorce is not acceptable, she must be careful with her choice.  Women who choose to pursue other avenues such as educational opportunities, travel, or focusing on careers, are perhaps not seen as less than, but still considered “wandering” or “filling time” until the occasion arises.  Sermons are geared towards marriage and family life, small groups often focus on these areas (young adults being more for those in their early 20s creating a rift for those in their late 20s or into their 30s who are still single), and women’s ministries and retreats often also focus on these core aspects.

It is assumed that because the majority of people want this, that we may as well cater to the majority.  Sadly, it is difficult to find many completely happy single women ministering who are so grounded in God and in themselves that they can minister both to those who are married and those who aren’t.   In fact, one of the most hurtful things a church ever said to me about a year into serving in children’s ministry was that “they would have preferred a married women with kids.”  They knew that I was single when they hired me, but for them to say this out loud during an appraisal was like an arrow piercing the heart.  They were viewing a mother of kids as someone who could automatically grow their ministry, they were not realizing that being single was the very reason why I was able to give so much of myself and my time even above and beyond my job description.

I am not saying, of course, that women shouldn’t desire family life.  For many women, this is precisely their dream.  Of course, marriage and children does add a very special dynamic and a unique way to serve God, just as singleness also adds a special dynamic and unique way to serve God.  However, marriage and family life should not be an ideal that is imposed on people.  The Bible itself talks about how some are called to pursue celibacy and we all are called to serve God in whatever season we find ourselves (whether married or single).  Unfortunately, time and again, singles are the ones who are often ignored or forgotten.  We have all heard stories of that awkward moment at a family gathering where the question was asked “so, have you found romance?  Maybe you should try online.”  We also have heard well meaning family members and friends ask a newly married couple or even a couple married several years when they will start their family, and this adds shame and frustration for couples who have chosen not to have children or otherwise are unable to conceive and struggling with infertility.

To sum up:  Both marriage and singlehood have their various opportunities to serve and give to the church. Both are special gifts – marriage is not heaven and singleness is not hell.  Marriage is not the ultimate prize and singleness is not a consolation prize.  Christian women are tired of hearing that “they should be” at a certain place in their life by a certain age.  We all have different life priorities and we can serve God within those priorities.  Christian women would appreciate the church at large recognizing this and the unique blessings and challenges that each life stage brings.

2, Christian Women are always “nice” and “submissive” 

A few years ago I read an absolutely brilliant book called “No More Christian Nice Girl” By: Paul Coughlin.  The point of the book was that “being nice instead of good hurts you and your family.”  And it’s true.  Christian women have been conditioned to be ladylike, even tempered, not prone to anger, never raising their voices, and in general, being willing to put everyone’s needs in front of their own.  Consequently, this can cause them to stuff their own emotions and suddenly blow up at someone one day or else have a serious case of burn-out.

Although there is a Biblical discussion to be had on the topic of submission, I believe the root of the issue here is that women are basically taught that they must do as they are told without question.  This is not true.  Rather, true submission, must come from a place of trust, respect, and honour, rather than out of fear.

Women can be agitators.  Women can and do stand up and fight against oppression, against evil, against systemic injustice and violence.  Women can be trailblazers in their respective fields – whether championing for human rights, environmental protection, or lobbying various unjust policies and politics.  Women can be leaders in various capacities.  When a woman has a gift for leadership, for ministry, for teaching, or for courage, this should be applauded and encouraged rather than shut down.  Even today in the 21st century, there are many places (both inside and outside) of the church where a woman’s voice is not being heard especially in areas dominated by men.  This is not a cause for women to berate men or becoming so overpowering that they will not listen to a man.  This does not need to be extreme feminism on steroids or the pushing out of men from all forms of leadership or church governance.  However, this is a call for gender equality and inclusion.  Both men and women are needed to compliment one another and to work together.  In order for this to happen, women must choose to be good over simply being nice.

To Sum Up:  Being “nice” does not mean running yourself down by always putting others’ needs above your own.  If you want to do ministry well, you must practice the pause.  You must rest and practice self-care.  It is more important to be “good” – to stand for what is right and true, than to adopt a submissive attitude that stands back and says “it is not my place to enter in.”  Christian women should be encouraged in many different areas with the focus being more on gifting and less on gender.

3. The world is a scary place/women must be protected 

The Bible describes women as the “weaker sex” (1 Peter 3:7), but what exactly does this mean and is it still true today?

It is true that the world is a scary place – both for men and women.  Sexual abuse and sexual violence (in a large part targeted towards women) is as high as it ever has been.  Misogyny and paternalistic worldviews can sometimes lead down the path of viewing women as nothing more than childbearers or there for a man’s pleasure.  So, in a way, it is true that women should take care to ensure their own safety and that men also should be careful in how they interact with a woman.

However, this does not mean that women should be tied up in bubble wrap, never attempting to leave the house and never having a life outside of her immediate family. This is a further continuance of thought #2: if a woman feels a calling towards something, she shouldn’t be treated as a child.

To Sum Up: Women are not fragile China dolls.  Men and women are meant to share equal roles and responsibilities both within a marriage and outside of it.  Thus, remember a woman is fully capable and fully responsible for her own decisions and actions (whether good or bad) – see it more as empowering and enabling and less about protecting and sheltering.

4. Women shouldn’t preach/lead/have authority 

This one here is a huge debate, but as it is a topic that repeatedly came up when I asked this question, I would be remiss if I didn’t include it.  I have been labelled a heretic before for championing that women who truly do have an anointing and calling from God towards preaching and pastoral ministry should take part.  However, the point of this article is not to enter into this debate and “theological grey area.”

Instead I will say this: the Spirit is gender-blind in assigning gifts.  There are women who do have gifts of leadership and pastoral ministry, and there are men who do not.  However, depending on church and cultural tradition, the way these gifts may take form and shape may differ (this will be addressed in another upcoming blog).

Going back to the situation I opened this blog with of me being told as a young child I could not preach or be a pastor due to gender, I can understand now why this was told to me.  I do believe women can preach, but I have many friends on the other side who disagree with this theologically and I have come to understand that regardless we can still have a close friendship.  I also do respect churches which do not agree with female ministers.  Nevertheless, I do believe that the situation could have been handled differently.  Perhaps in these settings where women were not permitted to preach, the conversation (especially at such a young age) could have been diverted and rerouted.  Perhaps instead I could have been told “that’s absolutely wonderful that you have a strong desire to serve God.  Maybe in the future God will use you to bring about His message on the mission field or in teaching.  You’re still so young and there are so many ways that God can use you for His glory and I can’t wait to see that unfold.”  This would have ended the conversation on a positive note rather than in theological confusion.

To Sum Up: The Spirit is gender-blind when assigning various spiritual gifts (including those of leadership, pastoring, preaching, and teaching).  To quote author Malcolm Webber (himself a complementarian) in his book “Women in Leadership” “If God calls a woman to be a minister, well then, she better go do it!”  Women in pastoral ministry is a grey area, and this is not the place to further engage in this debate, yet, God knows what He is doing, and who He is calling. Who are we to stand in His way?

5. Working women are the demise of the family 

Again, this leads back to the first point: a women’ primary role should be that of wife/mother.  So, if a woman wants to be a career woman instead of staying home with her children, is that ok?  My answer is: yes.  It depends on the woman.  Personally, I have always strove to be a homeschooling mother, yet, even I will admit it is not for everyone.  When choosing the homeschooling route, a certain temperament must be present. It is also vital that in that situation both partners fully agree and concede.  If only one partner fully wants it, it will flop.

That’s why I believe it is so important for couples to discuss these types of issues and find a solution that works for them.  Some women dream of staying at home to raise a family, others view this as isolating.  Some women crave more family time, others crave a life outside – other friends and other hobbies.  Both scenarios can work well depending on the support and financial structures already in place as well as taking their spouse’s views into consideration and coming to an agreeable solution.

To Sum Up: This is a personal matter to be discussed privately between both partners.  It is not a sin to stay home nor is it a sin to work.  It is also to a family’s benefit if extended family and friends support either decision as the one which works best for that couple.

6. Women’s bodies cause men to sin

This is an interesting one that has perplexed me through the years.  From as young as I can remember, I was taught that men are visual creatures and we shouldn’t add to this temptation by dressing immodestly.  It did, however, seem to be quite a double standard as men could more or less wear whatever they wanted.  I was discussing this recently with my pastor and the conclusion we reached is that this is not just a disservice to women, but also to men.  To essentially say that a man is nothing more than a sleazy bag of raging hormones who cares nothing less than to oogle a woman’s body is to really discredit him.  Men and women are alike in that while we cannot ignore our natural penchant for physical beauty, the majority of us are more taken and drawn in by personality and by character.

To Sum Up: This viewpoint that women should dress modestly so as not to cause a brother to stumble is outdated.  Men and women are both responsible for how they dress, how they show themselves to the world, and how choose to react to temptations.  Women are not asexual, men are not exclusively driven by sexual energy.  A man who lusts after a woman or goes further is responsible for this regardless of how a woman dresses.  Nevertheless, women can also show some discretion in what they are wearing and when as well as asking themselves why they may be drawn to more revealing clothing and their motivations behind it.

7. Anything about Eve or original sin

Down through the centuries, Eve has been used as a scapegoat towards the mistreatment of women.  Eve was the one who gave into Satan’s wiles, thus she is the weaker sex, the one more likely to be deceived, the one given to emotional wiles, and the one who needs someone to look after her and protect her.  Yet, society often forgets that Adam also played a part.  In the garden, he did not take his natural leadership to rebuke Eve, but rather he also took part and then proceeded to blame her for everything.  This is how the natural human “blame game” was born.  Throughout the centuries then, we have always shied away from responsibility, not wanting anything to be “our fault” or the result of our own in-actions.  Sadly, women have usually gotten the short end of this stick.

What I am hearing from women is that they are tired of being part of this perpetual blame-game for something one woman did thousands of years ago.  Sin entered the world not because of Eve, but because the general human condition of both men and women is to rebel.  Our hearts are bent towards evil continually.  We are always out to destroy the balance of the universe, the shalom which God entrusted to us.  We always think we know better.  This is why some men deny women their rights and this is why some women take it too far by discounting and discrediting all men and trying to overly exert and assert themselves.

But if we all just got back to the basics, we would realize that in God’s Kingdom, men and women were (and are) meant to help and support one another.  We were always meant to be mutual encouragers and mutual transformers.

To Sum Up: Eve was not the one who made sin enter the world.  Sin entered because the inclination of our hearts was bent on evil and rebelliousness.  Women are tired of hearing that they are at fault for something Eve did.  Both men and women sin daily and are responsible for their own sins and misdeeds.

8. Well educated women scare off men 

This one presented an interesting problem to me. I was 23 and in my last year of my master’s degree and taking a moment to pause.  What next?  I was still unmarried and still childless.  I was thinking of a PhD but I was being told by men that if I did want to find a life partner this would scare him away.  That men didn’t like when their woman was way more educated than them.  In fact, in some churches, women are discouraged from pursuing any form of higher education at all because it is seen as worldly and detracting from her primary purpose – which of course is simply to be a wife and mother.

In my own experience, though, this is nothing less than a farce.  I have dated men of very conservative cultures and all of them have encouraged my educational growth and supported my desire to take it further.  A true man will be impressed and love that his woman is educated and intelligent.  An insecure man will want to prove that he is the one with all the skills and abilities.

To Sum Up: The viewpoint that women shouldn’t pour themselves into higher education is backwards.  Any reasonable man will applaud this in his wife, support her and be happy for her.

9. A woman is under her father then her husband’s authority (women are non-entities)

I admit that this is a concept I never fully understood.  While I do believe that as children we are to honour and obey our mother and father, and I do believe Biblically that a man should lead his family, I never understood the concept of a grown woman being under her father’s authority.  Does that mean a grown man is under his mother’s authority?  It seems in a way as if a woman is then being treated as a non-entity or as a non-person.  When a woman leaves home to pursue an adult life, she becomes responsible for her own decisions.  The Bible says that children should not be responsible for their parents’ sins nor parents responsible for their children’s sins.  Of course, some consideration should be taken for example when considering a life-partner.  I believe that it is so important the family can accept a potential life partner or else it creates ripples right from the beginning, but the ultimate decision always belongs to the couple themselves.

To Sum Up: Personally, I have never understood this philosophy – how can a grown woman still be under her father’s authority?

10. Women should take part in children’s ministry 

This last point is one that I have wrestled with as I have been on both sides of the fence – I have been the one who was asked to take part and I have also been the one who asked others to take part.

First, looking at when I was asked to take part.  It seems that women are a natural target for being conscripted to help out in Sunday school and other children’s programming.  It is thought that because women should be naturally maternal this is exactly what they would like to do and that all women are gifted in this area.  As a result, I have served in children’s ministry for over 10 years.  The problem is, that I was never particularly gifted in this area nor did I ever really have a real interest.

I have also been on the other side of the equation – being the one asking people to help out, and I also fell prey to asking teen girls and mothers primarily as they were the most likely to say yes even when they didn’t want to (again because Christian women are taught to be “nice” and not say no).

Yet, this all goes back to the original idea that women have different skill sets and abilities.  It isn’t right to assume that based on someone’s gender they may want to do something or not do something.  It is better to ask and include those who truly do have gifts and interests  in these areas.

To Sum Up:  Not all women want to be in children’s ministry, not all men want to be in property maintenance.  Look for a calling and ministry fit based on natural gifting and interest rather than gender.

Looking back over the last few weeks when I was conducting this project, I have really learned a lot about how old gender stereotypes and roles still play a huge part in our churches and society.  Although there were several different points raised to me, most of them all pointed towards the exact same thing – women want to be seen as individual people with unique skills and interests, not just as a gender construct.  Women want to embrace a certain freedom to serve God as they have been called, rather than for the church and society to make assumptions about them.  Lastly, women want the opportunity to embrace whatever stage of life they are in without undue amounts of pressure or hurtful remarks.  It is not that women want to run the church and erase men, rather it is simply that they are calling out for the church to remember them and not erase their personhood.  Sometimes this calling is loud, sometimes it is a quiet whisper, but always it is there – right below the surface.


10 Questions to Ask Instead of “How Was Your Trip?”

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Recently I got back from visiting another L’Arche community in Warsaw Poland.  It was an amazing experience (which I will write about in another blog).  Although this was likely not totally a “mission trip” in some ways I feel it was, and it reminded me of being in university in a youth ministry course where we were taught the worst question to ask a teen coming back from a short-term missions trip is “how was your trip?”  The teen has too many ideas in their mind and they aren’t even sure where to begin, so it either ends in a short “awesome” or a long deluge of too-much-information.

Thus, I have been giving some thought to this issue and have come up with 10 alternative questions you can ask someone after a mission’s trip rather than simply how it was:

1) How did you sense the presence of God when you were away?

2) How did this trip help grow and deepen your own spirituality?

3) Is there anything you saw, did or experienced that you would like to try here (or that would benefit us – as a church, parachurch organization, family, etc)

4) What surprised you the most?

5) Is there anything that you were unprepared for?

 6) How has this trip grown your awareness of poverty, social justice, inclusion, etc?

7) Say something about the culture/local people of whom you were apart/who you spent time with?

8) Has this trip ignited any new passions?  Do you feel it will somehow influence your future direction and goals? (eg. if the youth is sensing a call to missions and wants to try out a short term opportunity before committing longer term.  Or if the youth felt a call to a specific country – did actually going there open or close any doors?)

9) How do you plan to share this experience? (Eg. give a testimony at church, write a blog, share experiences on social media, etc)

10) Is there anything you need from us (as a church/parachurch) organization to help you process your experience more fully?

What I Wish I Would Have Known (Exposing Marriage Idolatry For What It Is)

marriage Believe it or not, when I was 22 I co-authored my first book.  It was an anthology exploring various Christian and theological topics, and I chose to write a section on celibacy.

Why celibacy?  At that time in my life I truly believed being single was just as special as being married.  I saw no major rush to be in a relationship, let alone to be married with kids.  At that time in my life, I honestly did not even know whether I ever wanted to be a wife and mother.  I loved travelling, my education, and the independent life.  However, within two years, everything all changed.

At 24 I moved to the city of Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was my first time living abroad, and like most, I took as many opportunities as I could to have an exotic life.  When I wasn’t learning to drive on the other side of the road using manual, I was off trying to check off as many sights as I could on my ever growing list.  I tried haggis and deep fried Mars bars, I drank a pint of Irn Bru (and decided I hated it), and I began cooking my famous salmon recipe (fresh from the sea).  Somewhere in all of this I decided it might be fun to try to find myself a Scotsman and get married to a kilted boy.  This never happened, but I did meet an Indian man.

This Indian man, was very kind at first.  He listened intently as I told him stories, he took me on long hikes and loved being my photographer for the day.  He was an excellent chef, and we used to get together to watch sermons on Youtube.  However, it only took about a month before discovering his true character.  When we were out with other people he often was kind, compassionate, and well-spoken.  But when we were alone, he belittled me, was a cheater, and wanted to keep everything secretive claiming he was simply a “very private person.”  I was quite inexperienced in the dating realm (having only been in 2 previous relationships – one when I was in high school which honestly shouldn’t even count, and the second when I was 21 but which only lasted 3.5 months).  However, even with my limited knowledge of dating, I knew enough to say, “this doesn’t feel right.”  The worst part of it all was his constant pressure for us to get married.  He claimed that in India where there were arranged marriages, people already knew the first time they saw someone.  He was adamant that we would get married, the sooner the better.  I weakly suggested 6 months, which then became 3 due to the constant pressure.  Eventually we broke up, him claiming that the “relationship was dead.”  There was no point to go bowling, to the cinema, or even just to hang out unless we were meeting together to plan all the details of our wedding.

After I broke up with this man, I remember going on a trip four hours away to Inverness.  It was here that God told me that He had someone special planned for me, but that it was not the right time to introduce me to this person.  I was at peace with this and even came to enjoy the single life because I had so many other friends who were single.  I was just loving life way too much.  Why should it matter that I was 25 and still unhitched?

I came home to Canada, keeping this same resolve and attitude for exactly three months, until marriage soon began creeping in and its idolatrous forces literally began eroding and destroying my life.  I was constantly unhappy, comparing myself to everyone I knew around me who was married.  Their lives seemed perfect and flawless.  I envisioned getting married to have all those same perks – status from the church, those special secret hang-outs that only double-dates seem to be invited to, planning a future and a life together, and those long and sappy Facebook posts complete with pictures.  Jealousy and envy reared its ugly head as I began a route of self-pity asking myself what I was doing wrong and if there was something inherently wrong with me.  I counted up my qualities – I had an education, lots of friends, a good family or origin, what I thought was a strong faith – were these not good enough for a man?  The hardest part of it all was seeing friends get hitched who went on to say that marriage to them was simply a piece of paper.  They were doing it for reasons of convenience or insurance.  Why did God want them to be married when marriage meant nothing to them, but not me to be married when marriage meant everything to me?  This idolatry crept into my life – invading every waking and sleeping moment.  Soon, I couldn’t watch TV, go to the theatre, or go on a walk without the thoughts beating against my brain.  Soon, every conversation I had with friends somehow ended up revolving around my unhappiness at being single.  I viewed singlehood as a punishment and the worst thing imaginable.  I do not doubt that this caused a strain on quite a few close friendships.  Thankfully, many friends stuck by me even in this mental torture, but I do know that it often did irritate and frustrate them.

The Bible describes idolatry as placing anything before God or giving anything God’s rightful place as number one in our lives.  Many of us view idolatry as images made of wood and stone, like in the ancient times, but the Bible is clear that idolatry literally can be anything – thoughts, emotions, ideas…that make our mind run astray instead of focussing on the truth of Christ. Even seemingly good things can become idolatrous if we have an unhealthy and obsessive view towards it.  For example, food is good and necessary to physical health.  We cannot survive without food, and it can be quite enjoyable for us to take great care in decorating and presenting the food in a special way.  However, if we over-indulge with food to the point that it makes us ill or we starve ourselves for fear of getting fat, we therefore have created an unhealthy and obsessive view towards food and thus food has become an idol (or as some may say, an addiction).

It is the same with marriage.  From the beginning for the Bible, God created humans with a need for a social network (primarily in marriage).  God said that this design of men and women needing each other was good.  It is not bad or wrong for a Christian woman to dream of and desire marriage, however, it is unhealthy and idolatrous when it is all she thinks of  and allows it to make her unhappy and miserable.

I made some mistakes while I was trying to figure it all out.  In my first 3 months in Scotland (the second year abroad), I went on 9 dates with 5 different men.  I don’t regret this because we did not cross any lines or barriers and always kept it in public locations, however, looking back, I do realize how incredibly foolish that was.  Thankfully, all these men were Christians so nothing happened, but it easily could have.  A young, single girl in a foreign country going on dates with random guys from the internet she’s only spoken to over text once or twice could easily have become a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, God rescued me from all of this.  What I mean is that God had other plans.  It hasn’t always been easy to keep my focus on Him, and sometimes I still drift way too far into the future, but little by little, God was preparing me for something far greater than what my finite human mind could comprehend.  God actually did have someone in mind for me, someone who is far better than anything I would have wished for myself.  Someone who meets all my criteria – even before he even knew my list existed.  I wasted precious time which could have been spent enjoying the company of friends, travelling, and investing into my work, being obsessed and worried that I would be the only single person on the face of the planet left.  What a lack of faith and trust in God!

It isn’t easy being single and it can be lonely sometimes.  But here are some things I wish to share with any of my brothers or sisters who are still struggling in their singlehood.  I won’t pretend to have all the answers (or even all of the questions!) but I still hope it encourages you nonetheless:

* When I look back on the way God orchestrated my life and the emergence of my relationship, I am in awe.  God knows what He is doing and His timing is immaculate.  I actually knew this guy for years and we have been friends so long that I considered him as a brother.  When we finally came together, I remember us both asking, “Why now?”  What if God would have introduced us in this particular and special way earlier?  God alone knows, but I believe it was for a reason.  Maybe we were not ready back then and maybe we are different people today.  When I look at all the opportunities that have shaped me and all I have gone through (positively and negatively) I can honestly say on my part that if it had been even one year sooner, we might not have come together in such a glorious way as we now have.  I do wish, it would have been 24 or 26, but God was working in my life in ways that I didn’t even know about to prepare me to be the woman I am now.  It can be discouraging when people younger than you are getting hitched, but we are all growing and learning lessons at different rates.  What is monumental for one person might not be for another person and vice versa.  My singleness allowed me my two years or life abroad which prepared me for the challenges a cross-cultural relationship can bring.  My singleness also permitted me time to focus exclusively on my studies.  Sometimes people who get married young are given the blessing of having a family right away (which is awesome), but many times they miss out on these other opportunities like travel and school.  We don’t need to worry about our biological clock when we serve the author of time!

* Be open-minded.  God may work in ways you never thought were possible.  For example, lots of people I know are simply not willing to try to go online.  But what if your future husband is waiting there?  Some women worry about dating someone they have known so long, isn’t he a “brother” and hasn’t he been “friend-zoned?”  Maybe so, but then again, things might have shifted.  Obviously, I am not suggested that you do anything that it totally out of your element or that you might feel uncomfortable with, but if we are truly opening ourselves up to the Lord’s Will, then we need to be willing to take a few safe and calculated risks from time to time.  If you only go to the places that you usually go to, chances are you aren’t going to meet anything you don’t already know.  But let’s say, you’re willing to try a different church or join a different small group or even to approach a woman at a coffee shop or bus station.  It’s a risk, but you never know what can happen.  I even know of a real story where a woman met her husband while at the train station.  They got on the same train, began talking and three hours later when they reached their destination  and exchanged numbers.  Less then one year later they were married.

* Have faith.  I thought for a long time that I was having a problem with surrender.  I could not allow myself to give up the chance of meeting someone.  I didn’t know what would happen if I gave God this type of permission in my life only for Him to turn around and say, “actually you’re one of those I’ve called to be single forever.”  Looking back now, I realize it was not a problem with surrender, but with trust.  I honestly could not totally abandon myself to God trusting that everything would work out and that He actually did have someone in mind.  God promised me 4 years before I started dating that He had someone for me, but I tortured myself for 4 years by not believing it and condemning myself to a life of celibacy.  Today, I know how important it is to speak words of faith and affirmation over our lives.  If you constantly say negative words to yourself like “no one likes me.  I am unattractive.  I don’t have anything to offer.  I will be single forever.”  It will likely happen.  If you turn it on its head and declare truths of Scripture, a massive transformation can begin to unfold in the way you view yourself and the world around you.

* Don’t lower your standards.  Don’t allow desperation to permit you to go out with a man who doesn’t treat you right or a woman who is catty and emotionally abusive.  Don’t allow fear of being older permit you to go out with anyone who does not place Christ first in their life.  Don’t paint the red flags white.  Trust and believe that you are worth it.  Don’t settle for anyone less than the one God has for you.  Age is no reason to panic.

* Here’s the downer part, contrary to many other Christians, I actually don’t believe there is someone for everyone.  I don’t see this anywhere in Scripture. Instead I see that there are some who were born eunuchs, some who were made eunuchs by men, and others who became eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. That being said, I do believe that people who are legitimately called to celibacy often know they have this gift.  God is not trying to torture us by keeping us single forever, if that’s not our gift.  One of my closest friends really summed it up by saying “Some people prefer the single life and do well, some could care less and for others it’s sheer torture.”  When I was single, it did feel like torture, but today I know that it was God moulding and shaping me and He had a bright future ahead of me.  Once when I was really struggling with singleness, I was listening to the Bible on my phone and it came upon this famous verse,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-35)

If you truly give your heart to the Lord and seek first how you can be of maximum benefit to Him and to others and how you can best minister for the sake of the Kingdom. He will provide everything else.  God knows that we need a spouse.  God knows we need that constant companionship and partnership.  But if we are seeking marriage first as a way of idolatry, it won’t be a solid foundation.  If, however, we are seeking the Kingdom first believing that our marriage will provide even more force for evangelism and witness and using our marriage as a model of Christ’s love towards the church, then God will help to establish it.

Marriage is not meant to be a selfish means to a selfish end.  It shouldn’t just be about status, prestige, or cutesy pictures on Instagram.  It should primarily be a means of raising a Godly family and standing up in a culture that is not based in purity and in trust.  Christians are called to higher standards than the rest of the world.  Christians can model Christ’s holiness and love by the way they treat their spouse and family, by remaining pure before and within the marriage context, and also by avoiding any appearance of evil which might lead to misunderstanding among non-believers (even when that isn’t the case).

Both marriage and singleness have their unique blessings and challenges.  One is not better or worse than the other.  One is not harder or easier than the other.  Both can be incredibly hard, difficult and painful in different ways, and both can be amazing, and a blessing in different ways.  If you are someone waiting for the one God has in mind for you, please don’t give up.  I know from previous experience how detrimental vain wishing can be.  How destructive marriage idolatry can be both for your own soul and for the friendships you have around you.  But I also know from my own experience how waiting on God’s timing and trusting His process over our lives while continuing to serve Him in whatever capacity we find ourselves in is the most beautiful thing imaginable.  I pray that you may find this same result in your life as you seek first the Kingdom of God and allow marriage and family and all these other things to be given to you, as well.


To What Extent Do We Control Our Life?

controlChristians often talk about “God’s timing” and His divine will and providence over our lives.  If something is meant to happen, it will happen just when God has directed it to.  This general mind-set is helpful in easing anxiety and allowing us to realize the plans are orchestrated beyond our control, but it also begs the question “to what extent does free will play a role?”

I have to admit, I am a huge control freak.  The worst part is, I didn’t even realize this until a year ago.  I have always tried to control what I was going to do and when.  I would make plans about where to study, what job to get, and where to travel to.  In my mind, everything had a start and finish date and I became obsessed with pursing my goals.  This was good in the sense that nearly every goal I have ever set out to seriously conquer has now been achieve.  It is bad in the sense that I likely went through most of life on auto-pilot not allowing the Holy Spirit to move.

I was recently doing some “pub theology” with a new friend when we began discussing this topic.  Non-Christians might call it “fate”, Christians tend to stick with terms such as “pre-destination”, but in reality, it’s kind of all the same thing.  Yes, I believe that there are many choices I’ve been able to make in my own life – we are not puppets and God allows us freedom to move around and to make bad choices which then have detrimental consequences.  But I also believe that there are certain life events that just happen upon us which we did not choose for ourselves, and yet which truly end up having a life lesson attached to them after the fact.  And then I believe that there are some things which I truly find very difficult to reconcile in terms of whether or not there truly was a point in it at all.

Take the first instance – free will.  We all have made choices in our lives which have ended up wonderfully or tragically.  Perhaps you knew that spending time with a certain friend was not beneficial for you, but you continued to do it anyways.  This friend then led you down a bad path which ended up affecting other aspects of your life.  This was not fate.  This was a poor choice.  Suppose you chose to eat only doughnuts and to fill yourself up with sugary sweets giving into every conceivable craving and you developed diabetes or other health conditions and became overweight.  Yes, God may have a lesson to teach you in your health struggle – and that lesson probably is to take better care of yourself and change your bad habits!  Or suppose you had the option of going to church on a Sunday or sleeping in and you chose church.  You then heard a sermon that really impacted you and changed the course of your life.  Was it free will or fate?  Likely a bit of both.  It was free will which enabled you to hear that timely message, but it was also likely predestined that you heard that message at the exact moment in time in which you would be readily able to accept it.  Perhaps if you heard that same message 1 year or even 1 week ago, you might have let it pass through you without giving it much thought.  Perhaps if you heard that same sermon one year later your life would be on a different path and so it would no longer be as relevant, but for today, it’s exactly what you needed to hear.  God used your free will decision to bring a special blessing out of it.

The second instance – Life Events Which Take Place.  We all have experienced these in our lives.  We’ve met someone that we never would have crossed paths with before and they have ended up blessing our lives tremendously.  We’ve found ourselves in a new location or in a new job that we didn’t know we would be in.  Or take one of the most common examples of all – marriage.  My own parents met 10 years before they began dating.  I know of another woman at church who could have met her husband 20 years beforehand, but due to a series of unforeseen circumstances it just never happened.  Why not?  If God knew the two partners were meant to be together, why not just speed things up?  There could be several reasons: maybe God was preparing one or both of them, maybe one or both of them were not yet ready, maybe there were still lessons to learn or ways to serve as single people which needed to happen first, and maybe there was a small element of spiritual warfare involved.  The old expression says, “Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.”

When I look at my own life, I can often see how even the most difficult and painful seasons have played a role in propelling me forward towards being more of the person Christ desires for me to be.  I remember being in university and applying for a transfer.  I had all my credits lined up and had spoken extensively to the dean at the new school.  At the last minute, I felt in my heart it wasn’t the right choice and so I stayed.  Was it God’s will?  I don’t know for sure, but I do know the people I then proceeded to meet who are now some of my closest friends whose paths I wouldn’t have crossed if I would have left.  I suppose the argument could then be made that I would have made other friends, but who knows?  I had a somewhat difficult time in my first year of seminary, and left to pursue a year at L’Arche before going back to my old Alma Mater to finish up.  Was that first year worth it even if it didn’t end the way I had hoped?  Yes, because it was in that year that I developed my passion and interest in disability theology.  If I had never have gone to that other seminary, who knows if I would now be doing what I am today.  I begged God to let me go back to Edinburgh after my first year there and the door was shut.  It took nearly 2 years to arrive back in Scotland, and sometimes I wonder why.  Yet, I think of all the lessons I learned in Canada (there were many), friendships strengthened, and a new identity forged.  I still don’t entirely know the reason why it took 2 years, but I believe that there might have been an element of God’s protection.  Who knows what might have happened had I been back earlier.  Possibly nothing, but then again, maybe something could have occurred which thankfully didn’t because God was keeping me safe in my home country.

And then there are those moments which seem to be utterly pointless.  I have to admit, I find a lot of tragedies difficult to explain away why they happened.  Yes, there are those who have risen victoriously and are now ministering to the hurt and broken as a result of their own pain, but then there are just some life events I cannot fathom the true meaning for.  And perhaps I never will this side of heaven.  Maybe the glory is in the fact that we simply don’t know and all will be revealed to us in time.  Perhaps the whole point is to live in that tension of shame, doubt, and confusion, urging us to trust in the One who does have all power and control.

I have learned that as much as I enjoy having full control over my life, my life goes better when I give that control up to Someone else.  I may make my own plans for the future, but God determines my steps.  Like the Psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, you labour in vain who make it.” (Psalm 127:1).  We potentially may have SOME control over our own life’s destiny.  We may choose to place ourselves in a position that brings us more of what we want or to position ourselves to achieve our goals at a younger age, but we cannot force the greatest mysteries of life to happen to us outside of the realm of God’s control.  When we surrender to His leading, we find that great events come to pass for us and countless others.  This is the great fact for us.

Templeton Revisited: A Salvation Case Study

billy-graham-charles-templeton-full-v2 Canada – a country known for its multiculturalism, liberalism, open-mindedness, tolerance, and etiquette.  A country large in land mass, but small in population which prides itself on apologizing, friendliness, and warmth.  Yet despite these stereotypical clichés of the Canadian mindset, this country once held one of the world’s most influential evangelists – Charles Templeton.

Templeton was born in 1915 and as a young man became a prominent evangelist and the forerunner (and mentor) to the late Billy Graham.  He was an avid preacher, evangelist, and revivalist.  It was often said that he was a man whom God had anointed and placed His hand upon.  Through Templeton’s charisma and passion, church attendance in North America skyrocketed and thousands came to an understanding of salvation found only in Christ.

Yet, something drastic happened.  In 1957 at the age of 42 (and less than 20 years after he entered the ministry), Templeton chose to renounce everything he once stood for.  He said that he no longer believed in the infallibility of Scripture – in fact he did not believe in Scripture at all.  It is almost entirely normal for every believer to have a moment of doubt at least once in their faith journey, but for Templeton this moment was ongoing.  It was not just a few days or even months full of pondering and questions, it was not a year full of disillusionment and bewilderment in which he eventually saw God’s Hand coming through, it was a complete reorientation of his life, his theology, his philosophy, and his passion.  The water of evangelism had completely dried up from Templeton’s soul, the fire that once burned so brightly smothered from a slow flame into ashes.  Eventually, Templeton wrote a book that now has been widely circulated entitled “Farewell to God.”  Templeton, a scholar and very well-educated, reasoned out his viewpoints academically and rigorously.  He blamed his newfound lack of faith on science and religion not being compatible.  He had serious issues with many questionable Bible verses.  But was his intellect alone what truly led him to abandon the God he once loved and aimed to serve?  Or was there a deeper reason that never really became public knowledge and which he never allowed to surface?

The story of Templeton has often been used as a wonderful case study among theologians debating the possibility of predestination.  Myriad questions abound from his life, ministry, and then gradual departure from the faith.  Questions such as: Was Templeton really saved?  Did he lose his salvation?  And what then happens to those who were saved under his ministry?

Shockingly, statistics show that even when Templeton himself departed from the faith, very few of those who were part of his evangelistic crusades recanted.  In fact, while perhaps a few of them were troubled, it did not seem to shake their general understanding and awareness of Scriptures in any major way.

This is a topic that I have often considered and then come back to.  I consider myself a Calvinist, but yet, I am not entirely in-line with the traditional views of predestination.  I have read many articles and books on this topic, but despite its general tendency to divide and disturb, I truly believe this is one area in which we will never fully receive an answer this side of heaven.   Yet, here is my best attempt at summarizing how I generally feel about the question of whether one can lose their salvation:
When I lived in Edinburgh, I attended an evangelical church that stated if one “lost their salvation” they were never truly a Christian to begin with.  In this case, Templeton was never really a believer.  Yes, he might have said all the right things and paid lip-service to God, but he never truly had Christ in his life.  If he did, he wouldn’t have walked away.

I don’t like this mindset because to me it is too clear cut and I don’t think salvation ever works that easily.  Firstly, we have no right to choose who is in and who’s out.  We don’t get to decide who truly is a believer and who isn’t – that’s only up to Christ.  My pastor recently told me that when she conducts funerals she will always refrain from saying “This person was such a Godly [wo]man”.  There may be some people out there who are living a “picture-perfect” life.  Their marriages, families, and professions seem to show that they are Godly examples, but we don’t know what they are doing behind closed doors.  We don’t know what kind of lives they are leading when no one is looking or what kind of secret addictions they may be harbouring.  On the other hand, someone could be seriously struggling in their faith, but trying to get by and do the best they can.  In the end of the day, we can’t tell someone’s moral and spiritual status simply by what we have in front of us.

Secondly, in Templeton’s case, the real reason for his departure to the Christian faith was a lot more personal.  Oftentimes, the arguments that people present have to do with intellect and knowledge.  They struggle with religion and science meshing together, they see inconsistencies, but in many cases, the real reason why someone departs from the faith is a lot deeper.  When I was in seminary one of my professors said that Templeton really lost his faith when his daughter passed away.  He found this extremely difficult to reconcile and this led to his anger and frustration.  There might have been lingering doubts prior to that, but this was the “jumping off place.”  We don’t really know what happened to Templeton when he made this bold declaration and didn’t back down, but I think my professor had a point.  Perhaps when Templeton gets to heaven, all of this will be worked out.  Perhaps when he meets Christ face-to-face his crisis of faith will be resolved.  We can only hope.

When meeting someone who has walked away from the faith due to personal or family crisis, our first reaction should not be to theologize about whether they were legitimately a Christian or not, it should be to show compassion.  Throughout Scripture, we meet characters like David (he was known as “a man after God’s own heart”) and yet he freely spoke about anger and injustice.  We meet men like Job who in the heat of fury challenge God, but then when God shows up, humbly submit to Him.  Life can throw some very difficult and challenging times at anyone and we should not forget that there are real people involved in real faith struggles.  Stories like Templeton should not just be used as case studies.  We should not strip these stories of the full weight and impact they had on the individual’s life.

So, is it possible to lose salvation?  No, but it is entirely possible to walk away from it.  Salvation is a gift that is offered to us and will never be revoked.  But we can choose how to honour that gift.  For example, if someone gives you a prized item for your birthday or Christmas, chances are they will not take it back.  But you can choose to use that gift on a daily basis so that it benefits you and brings joy to others around you, or you can simply hide it in a closet and forget all about it.  In either case, you will still have the gift, but in the first instance you will be able to get a lot more use out of it and it will be more meaningful.  Our sole aim in life should not be theorizing about others’ salvation, but working out our own with “fear and trembling.”  We can’t choose how others will use and accept the gift they’ve been given, but we can choose what to do with our gift.  Let’s tear the wrapping paper off, fling the box lid open, take out the gift, and show it off to all those we meet!

I first wrote an article about Templeton back in May 2016.  However, I recently decided to re-visit the issue and write a more up-dated version.  You can read the original here:

Finding Joy By: Morven-May MacCallum Book Review

43218836_10160845604505291_7721555727315107840_n Joyce (Joy) is a 16 year old high school student who likes parties, boys, and all the typical things teenagers enjoy.   She is living her life, doing well in school, and making plans for university, when suddenly her body and mind start revolting against her.  Joy is then thrown into a dizzying array of unexplainable symptoms which doctors do not seem to have any knowledge about.  Joy and her Aunt, Beth, visit numerous doctors throughout all of the UK and each one gives a different answer: moody teenager, depression, ME.  But nothing seems to make total sense, and nothing offers Joy that full relief.  As the days progress into months, Aunt Beth takes matters into her own hands.  She does some research and discovers that these symptoms align with Lyme’s Disease (a chronic illness caused by the bite of an infected tick).  It is not until Aunt Beth and Joy take the route of private medicine that this in finally uncovered and Joy is able to begin her journey back towards full health.

I met the author, Morven-May MacCallum this past summer at the Ness Book Fest in Inverness, Scotland.  The seminar she helped to lead was entitled “Writing and Health.”  The general theme being how writing can be a powerful tool towards bringing awareness to various health struggles and also can be therapeutic towards the one suffering the physical, emotional, and mental consequences of illness.

Truthfully, I did not know much about Lyme’s Disease before this seminar nor was I entirely particularly interested, but I was drawn to the general theme.  I am a writer myself and having suffered from an unexplainable illness for over a year, I do know how isolating it can be.  Writing can be a very powerful tool to make one feel like they are still connected to the larger world out there and to put on paper or on computer screen their deeper thoughts and feelings of when they are in and out of doctor’s rooms.

Although Morven’s book centres primarily around Lyme’s Disease and its co-infections, the general style of the book which addresses issues such as how someone feels to be ill for so long, how illness does not just affect the patient but their family and friends as well, and how to be more sensitive and compassionate to someone undergoing testing and treatment, can be helpful to anyone undergoing a serious illness.

Joy’s story is one that sadly all too many people of different ages and backgrounds are experiencing.  Not being totally taken seriously by medical professionals, being misunderstood as “lazy” or “unmotivated” when there is actually something physically wrong, and feeling helpless due to being so unwell.  This is a great book that is a wonderful play on words.  Finding Joy is about finding the true person whom disease and illness threatens to take away from us as well as finding joy even amidst the various trials and hardships we may face in life due to ill health.  This book is definitely worth a read if you are working in the health or disability sector.