Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Editor, Researcher

Who supported Jesus out of their own means?

Soon afterwards [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources (Luke 8:1-3, NRSV).

One of the arguments that complementarians make for women staying at home is that it is God’s plan for men to work and financially support the family. As long as I’ve been on the other side of the argument, pointing out that women have always worked and supported their families monetarily, it was only last week when it hit me what these verses were saying. I’ve used these verses to show that women were disciples and followed Jesus in his travels just as the 12 did. But last week it hit me between the eyes: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna plus other women “provided for them out of their resources.” The Greek word translated as resources can mean property, possessions, resources, or means. These women financially supported Jesus and his ministry from their own finances.

I’m sure some would say that what they gave Jesus was really the money their husbands made. This could be true for Joanna, but she is the only one with a husband in this passage. Mary Magdalene had no husband, and Susanna is not paired with a husband in these verses. This means their money was theirs. We don’t know how they had these resources. Maybe they were business women like Lydia and Priscilla. Maybe they were widows. But neither woman, nor her resources, is tied to a husband.

It’s a little thing. A little thing that can be easily overlooked. But I think that we should pay attention to this little thing. Women who weren’t tied to a husband, and a married woman who isn’t tied to her home, are following Jesus all over the countryside and supporting him. These little things start adding up to show that roles women played in the Bible are much broader than mother and wife. It also shows the freedom Jesus allowed women to have in his own ministry. He didn’t tell these women to go back home and take care of their husbands and children (and he didn’t tell them to go home, get married, and start having kids). He welcomed them and accepted their support.

These three verses in Luke give us a glimpse of the broader role of women in Jesus’ ministry beyond the home.

Originally posted at The Scroll, April 22, 2010.

Does It Really Mean "Helpmate"?

I had just started working on my thesis in seminary. Tired of being asked if I was going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife, I decided to write a biblical theology of single women in ministry, showing that Godde’s calling for a woman was not dependent on her marital state. My thesis advisor, Dr. Joseph Coleson (professor of Old Testament Studies at Nazarene Theological Seminary), looked at my outline and thesis proposal and told me that I needed to add a chapter addressing the Creation Story in Genesis 1:1–2:25. He thought that I needed to deal with the second creation account found in Gen. 2:5-25, where woman is created to be an ezer cenegdo to the man. If the Hebrew phrase simply meant, “helper” then could a woman hold a leadership position in the church, let alone a single woman? But if that isn’t what ezer cenegdo meant, then that would open up the vistas I needed to write and successfully defend my thesis. Defend, not in front of the professors at seminary, but to defend against those who say woman was created to be a wife and mother, and only a helpmate for her husband. Dr. Coleson said the translators who translated our Bibles into English know that “helpmate” is a gross mistranslation of the Hebrew phrase, and he did not see how they could look themselves in the mirror day-to-day keeping that misintepretation in the Bible. It is the only time I saw him angry. So what does this little Hebrew phrase mean?

(more…)

The Power of Story

In stories, the subconscious mind gives voice to some of its most deeply cherished longings. In myths and legends, men and women make desperate attempts to tell one another who they are, why they are here, where they are going, and what they are meant to do. –Jim Ware, God of the Fairy Tale: Finding Truth in the Land of Make-Believe*

I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that utlimately love is stronger than hate. If love is stronger than hate, then war is not all there is. I wrote, and I illustrated my stories. At bedtime, my mother told me more stories. And so story helped me to learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully. –Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Wheaton Literary Series)*

Stories have always been important to me, to who I am. I have read stories since I learned to read, and before that my mother told me stories. One of the first stories I remember writing was in the second grade. The only thing I remember is that it was set on Venus–we were studying the solar system in science.

I think the reason I prefer fiction to nonfiction is you can say things in a story that is harder to say in an article. You can challenge the status quo and confront issues from the side instead of head on. I think story carries more power and truth than an article based on fact. We have confused fact and truth: they are not the same thing, and they cannot always be equated. Facts and datum are just one part of truth–one facet. Not everything can be quantified and qualified by scientific method. I think that is the main reason that literalist Christians who have to prove the Bible as fact irritate me. Godde and her acts in this world cannot be reduced to mere facts and datum. And that does not make Godde or her actions any less true.

Story has the power to make you admit you are not the person you want to be. In story we can admit to what we really want and what we’re really looking for. It’s a safe haven, a sanctuary. There we can admit what our wildest longings and passions are, and it’s okay. I have learned more about God and life through story than I ever have through facts thrown at me about how God exists, and here’s the time line (or insert another chart) to prove it. I have learned more about who I am and who I want to be through story than through any other means. There is a reason why 60% of the Bible is narrative or story. We live in our stories. Life does not happen in one set of equations to another set of facts to another set of definitions. Life happens in living with each other, our stories overlapping, and growing into new and different stories.

I like to write nonfiction, but there is a reason why I write creative nonfiction: I need a story. But truth be told, I will always be  more at home in fiction than nonfiction, and fiction will always be my first choice when it comes to writing. (Hmmm may be I really do need to balance working on fiction and nonfiction more. May be I would write more of both if I wrote my first love along with the second. Is it possible to work on both a novel and nonfiction book at the same time?)

Here’s the last of my storytelling rambling: Nothing beats a good story…except for writing a good story.

(Originally posted on July 22, 2006. Sometimes you need to read back over old blog posts to remind yourself what you’re really supposed be to doing.)

*Affiliate links

A painting of what I want my sovereign self to be

Last week I visited the The Art Institute of Chicago. I wanted to see the Victorian Photocollage collection on disply before it left January 3. After wandering through the incredible art work of Victorian women, I decided to go see Carrevegio’s The Supper at Emmaus that is on loan to the institute to the end of this month. Then I wandered around the European Art section, and that’s when I saw her. She was looking straight at me with a raised sword in her hand, nude, a man’s head at her hip. I wondered which goddess this was, and I did think she was one of the Greek or Roman goddesses: she was sensual and powerful, a warrior goddess. I walked over to see who this warrior woman was, and I gasped, thought “Oh there’s  no way that’s her,” then read the panel again. It didn’t say Artemis, or Diane, or even Ishtar. This painting was of Judith, the apocryphal heroine of the inter-testament times. The Aprocrapha are the books in between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. They were written in Greek (not Hebrew), and Judaism and most Protestant religions don’t consider them Scriptures; Roman Catholics and the Orthodox churches do. Follow me after the break to see the painting that I have been obsessed with since I saw it, and why I was so surprised to see this was a painting of Judith.

(If you don’t like naked or nudity, then please do not continue. Any comments or emails along the lines of “If you were a real Christian you wouldn’t post that smut” will be deleted, period.)

Come, see my sovereign vision for this year…

(more…)

Company Girl Coffee: Twas the Week Before Christmas

Company Girl logoHappy Friday Company Girls! The coffee is on and hot!

Dreaming in the New Year

If it wasn’t for Home Sanctuary I don’t know how neglected this poor little blog would be. But the reason I haven’t written much is that I’m thinking and dreaming and planning for the upcoming year. I’m dreaming what I want my business to become and who My Right People are and how much I want to help the people who come to me. So in the busyness of the week of getting to head out to see my family in Oklahoma, I’ve been dreaming and planning and spinning possible futures in the back of my head. What are Right People? It’s a concept Havi at The Fluent Self (shes @havi on Twitter) came up with (and I will let her explain):

Thought 2: Your stuff doesn’t have to be helpful for everyone.

It doesn’t.

It just needs to be helpful for the people who need it in that form in that moment.

Those are your Right People. The ones who need your voice.

Anyone who doesn’t find it helpful? Probably not one of your Right People. Or not ready yet.

That person can go. Be there for the ones who do need what you have to say.

That’s what I really want to focus in on this year: My Right People instead of throwing stuff all over the wall and seeing what sticks. I want to envision My Right People and help them and make this a safe place for them. So that’s whay I’ve been doing business wise. You can find out more about Right people here and here.

We Loved Our Presents!

Let me preface this section by saying that The Hubby and I always travel at Christmas to see family. This year we’re heading to Oklahoma to see mine. Before we go we have our own Christmas and open our presents. So we always open our presents from each other early. They all came in this week and were wrapped, so we opened them Wednesday. Actually the really, really cool present I got My Hubby came in that day, and I couldn’t wait to see what he thought of it! I bought him this beautiful singing bowl from Fabeku Fatunmise at Sankofa Song whom I met on Twitter (he’s @fabeku). The Hubby loved it! And the bowl sings so beautifully! Tracy really got the hang of it last night and all of these gorgeous tones were washing over me. So glad I met Fabeku and learned about his sound healing ministry! He also included his CD, which I am going to have to wrestle out of The Hubby’s hands so I can listen it. He also loved his other gifts: Buckley Balls from Think Geek, and a space-age pen that writes underwater and in zero gravity. This pen has been going up with the astronauts since 1965. I love My Geek.

I will preface my gifts with I LOVE TO COOK. When you’re a person who LOVES TO COOK, pots and pans that are on their last leg and about to give up the ghost are very depressing. So I’d dropped a hint or two about new pots and pans. You should see them Company Girls. They are beautiful: triply, with one of the triplies being stainless steel. The triply insures they heat evenly and hold the heat. They are bright and shiny; they are begging to be cooked in. I finally have a 5 quart Dutch Oven! (My previous set claimed a Dutch Oven but….um…..no.)  Squeee! I am so in love. I also adore my other gift. After we first married, Tracy would leave little red bows hidden all over the place for me to find. Mainly around coffee stuff so he knew I would find it. 🙂 But then the red bows start collecting up and you don’t know what to do with them. My Honey came up with a solution; my second gift: The Red Bow Tree. It’s a beauitful fall resin tree with a little snow on the branches. So now when red bows start appearing in expected and unexpected places I have a place to put them. I always thought I never had a sappy romantic bone in my body, then My Hubby came along. Aah, the sap that man has turned me into. But it’s okay because he buys me kitchen stuff. 🙂

Getting ready to leave

I’ve ran errands most of the week to get ready to leave: bank, Target, The UPS Store, library, etc. I need to go to the grocery store today to pick up a couple of items we’ll need over the weekend and clean house. I don’t want the cat sitter to be walking into a mess. We take off to OK next week, and I won’t have internet connection, but that’s okay because I will have a boatload of holiday baking to do. My Mom doesn’t like to bake that much, but I love to, and since we’re coming in early, I am going to do all the Christmas baking! Whoo-hoo! Then there’s all the eating, opening presents, eating, catching up with everybody, eating: you know how it goes.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Reflections on Leaving Ordained Life

I recently finished reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. I’m so glad I read it. Although we left ordination for different reasons, our experience of leaving overlaps in a lot of places: The slamming realization that you can’t go on. The shame and guilt of not being able to suck it up and go on. The disorientation of what do I do now? Who am I? All those years for what? What will people think? What do I say?

The painful and brutal wilderness after making the decision. The loss of purpose. To her the loss of the institutional power and her collar and the identity it gave her. For both of us the loss of what to do now that we aren’t “chosen.” Handling being one of the masses instead of The Pastor and The Priest. Both of us have religious educations we can’t do much with outside of the church.

I was so excited when I read this in the wee hours a couple of weeks ago:

There was no sense of seeking another position at another church if my problem was with the institution, and besides, I did not want to move. How and where I lived had become more important to me than what I did for a living (emphasis mine).

Yes! That’s me! I have no desire to leave Chicago. I love the South Loop. I love the people. I love my view of Lake Michigan and watching the sailboats on the lake. I love that Grant Park in one block away. I love our condo and our life. To continue to be a Nazarene pastor, I would have had to move. I have felt guilty for that. But I have found someone else who felt the same way. “How and where I lived had become more important to me than what I did for a living.” Yes. For me too.

I also feel called to minister, right here, in the South Loop. This is where I am called to be. This is where I am called to live, to walk, to shop. This where I am called to pastor, to minister, and to worship. I always said flippantly that if The Church of the Nazarene wouldn’t let me do what God called me to do, I would leave. I just didn’t realize how hard, painful, and disorienting it would be. Like Barbara, I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in being “a pastor.” I didn’t realize how angry and bitter I would be to realize I spent 13 years working my ass of to be ordained, only to be ordained for four years. Were those wasted years? May be not. It’s nice to know I’m not the only who has felt these things and wondered the same thoughts.

It is time to move on. Like her I love the idea of being part of the priesthood of all believers and the freedom that gives me. And I need to stop being scared of that freedom.

Related posts

A Year of Loss and New Beginnings

(There are affliate links in the post.)

A Year of Loss and New Beginnings

As many of you know last year I resigned my ordination credentials and left my former denomination, The Church of the Nazarene. But I never really told you why. The official reason was theological differences, which is true enough. There were also many general leadership decisions made in the previous three years that I did not agree with. I had thought about leaving before but stuck around. Last year was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I started a home church in January of last year. I had been talking about this with the district superintendent and others since October 2007. In December I found out that they were creating a “mother” church for the Chicago area that would meet at the newly rented city district office. The main district office is in Bourbannais. Most of the denominational activity that happens in The Church of the Nazarene in northern Illinois happens in Bourbannais, Kankanee, and Joliet. My church plant would be a satellite of this “mother” church. It would have been nice to know about this a little sooner than 3 weeks before my church plant started. Then a time and day had to be set up for services. I had set my church plant to meet on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. The mother church decided to meet on Sunday at 10:00 a.m., which meant I could not make it to anything. This was the week before my plant started. So I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me to begin with.

Then emails went unanswered. Then there was a pastor training event. My husband was ill, and we spent the night before wondering if we were going to the ER for the pain he was in. We didn’t get much sleep. The morning of the training, I left a message on the answering machine telling them I wouldn’t be there and why. In fact, we were still wondering if we would be going to the ER. No one called or checked in on us. No one called to see if we needed any help. No one checked to see if my husband was in the hospital. Silence.

The silence became deafening in May of last year. My husband was very ill and looking at major surgery. I sent out an email to my district superintendent and my “mother” church. I was met by silence again. No one called to see if we needed any help. “Do you need help with meals?” “Can I run some errands for you?” “Do you need help cleaning?” Nothing. I didn’t even hear from the district superintendent, who was supposed to be my pastor (although he was quick enough to call when he received my resignation letter and credentials).

But the help and support I needed did come. The year before I had become friends with the priest at Grace Episcopal Church, Ted Curtis. I had worshiped a few times at their Wednesday Bible study and communion service. After sending out an email to the Nazarenes in Chicago, I sent an email to other friends in Chicago. Unlike the deafening silence of the Nazarene church, Ted told me to come to Wednesday service and during prayer they would pray for me. They did. They gathered around me, laid their hands on me and prayed. I cannot describe the peace and comfort of that time. After the service Ted told me that if we needed anything, to call him. He would get people organized to help us with meals, errands, whatever we needed. I was not a member of Ted’s church or a member of his denomination, but Grace Episcopal was there for me.

That is when I made my decision. It just wasn’t worth it. On top of the problems I was having with general church leadership and major theological disconnects, I had no community. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when I told my husband, “I think about resigning my credentials, and it no longer bothers me. In fact, it’s a relief.” (My husband is fine. His doctors decided against the surgery and became more aggressive with drug therapy. He has been healthy for eight months now. Whoo-hoo!) I was okay with having no financial support. No biggie, I can live with that. I couldn’t live with not having any pastoral, emotional, or familial support. I decided that I wanted to be a part of the church that doesn’t just talk about loving and serving people. I wanted to be a part of a church that actually lived loving and serving, not only “other” people, but it’s own people. I mailed my resignation and credentials to the district office the end of May 2008. I even gave a two weeks notice: As of June I was no longer an ordained minister, nor a member of The Church of the Nazarene. I felt such peace. I knew it was the right thing to do.

Last October I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church, and I am now a member of Grace Episcopal Church. I can do all the things God called me to do there without being ordained: teach, preach, and write. My first time to preach will be on Pentecost, May 31. It seems very fitting that my first time to preach at Grace, my new church, will be the birthday of the Church.

You Gotta Love Serendipity

I just read something I really, really needed from Havi Brooks’ awesome site The Fluent Self (If you don’t read her, go subscribe. Now.) Her latest post is “Avoidance! Oh, and getting out of it”:

You’re avoiding the thing that’s holding all your dreams? Good grief! Of course you are! That symbolic weight? It’s that much potential for hurt and disappointment.

If you weren’t avoiding it on some level, I’d be worried about you. If you could do the thing easily and painlessly, without having to spend years and years working on your stuff to get there… I’d probably assume that it didn’t mean everything to you.

It’s not this: “Even though I thought this meant everything to me, I’m still avoiding it so clearly I don’t really care about it.”

It’s this: “Wow, this means everything to me… so of course I’m avoiding it.”

This is where I’ve been with my writing. It is my dream to write. My whole world is wrapped up in that. But lately I have been wondering at my own avoidance. Does it mean this is what I should be doing? Is this really not what I want to be doing? May be I should just be satisfied with writing as a hobby and get a “real job.”

Then I read this post. And Havi is absolutely right. The reason I am avoiding this is because it really is my heart’s dream. It’s huge. It’s monumental. Of course I’m scared to death. Of course I’m avoiding it. Because there is so “much potential for hurt and disappointment.” Of course there is reisitance and fear: this dream is everything to me.

Instead of beating myself up and berating myself, I need to continue to take Havi’s advice:

To say to yourself:

“Of course I’m afraid. It makes sense that I’m afraid. This fear is a temporary part of where I’m at right now. And even though I’d really like to not need to have it around anymore, this is where I am right now.

I am allowed to have this fear.

This is me noticing how much space my fear takes up. This is me reminding myself that my fear is only one part of who I am. It is not all of me. It is of me, but it is not me.”

Because so much space opens up right after you’ve softened the resistance and the fighting with yourself.

Every time I interrogate myself (”Why am I so tired? Why can’t I write this blog post? How come I don’t feel like doing yoga?”), my reaction is resistance.

Every time I notice what I’m feeling and give myself permission to feel it (”Wow, I guess I need some rest. I’m allowed not to always be in the zone”), I feel safe. Safe and comforted.

Invariably, I remember what it’s like to not be fighting with myself.

Instead of fight myself, I need create a safe space within myself for this fear. And in this space I will feel safe enough to create. I feel a lot better knowing what this fear and avoidance are about. It’s about this being my dream, and not that I’m wrong about what I should be doing. My “real job” is writing. It is exactly what I should be doing.

Ash Wednesday: The Freedom of Ritual

Today was not a good day. In fact, I’ve been out of sorts most of this month. Mainly because I have not been writing as this blog makes very obvious. I really did not want to go to the Ash Wednesday service. I feel enough guilt and shame. I know that I “have sinned by my own fault. . .by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.” Especially the what I have left undone. Do I really need an additional reminder about what I should be doing that I’m not? Really? But I had to go: I was bringing bread for the soup and bread dinner after the service, and I knew I needed to be there.

I’m very glad I went. As we were praying the Litany of Penitence, I felt a great peace come over me, and I acknowledged that I was a human and that means that I am going to fail, make mistakes, and even choose outright rebellion to what God has called me to do, which is to say, sin. It was not only a peaceful, but humbling thing, to admit that “From dust I have come and to dust I will return”; to confess my sins with my fellow brothers and sisters and accept God’s forgiveness. It was also a recognition that I am not the only one falling short of God’s calling. We, as a community, have fallen short. I could feel the forgiveness not just for myself, but for our community, as prayed. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I can say yes to God. Tomorrow we can obey God and better build God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

I have decided what my Lenten disciplines will be this year: I am going to practice centering prayer, and I’m going to write in this blog. My 40 days of Lent will be spent in quiet with God and talking to you.

Also stop by Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka where Mark shared his Ash Wednesday experience. (And yes, you will find the translation for his blog name if you go and read.)

For those interested in praying the Daily Office, the Episcopal nuns of Mission St. Clare have everything you need including karaoke versions of chants and hymns. I also post Vespers Monday–Friday at Street Prophets.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From The Book of Common Prayer.)

Related Posts:

Ash Wednesday Reflections
Lenten Disciplines: Fasting

Lenten Thoughts and Practices

"Writing the World Right" published in E-Quality

E-Quality published in article I wrote in their winter issue. You can find “Writing the World Right” in “Women and Writing,” Winter 2008 (This is a PDF file). My article starts on page 14, and make sure you read the other wonderul and informative articles too.