On our way to worship with the church in Hermiston, Oregon, we explored in Baker City the ruts made by many of the 53,000 people who travelled about 2,200 miles around 178 years ago to live where I was born. Everything that the pioneers went through to live where I happened to be born has always helped me never to take Oregon for granted. I find their courage, strength and endurance, especially among the female pioneers exceptionally inspiring. That the pioneer spirit that causes you to “just keep going” is amazing and is humbling when I think about the advances that have made 28,000 miles of travel this year so comfortable.
Hikers often have “trail names”. We call Mark “Codega” which is someone that was hired to walk in front of people with a lantern to light dark paths and to scare off danger. I figured that would be the perfect trail name for him on the Nomad Quest because unless I ask repeatedly, his happy place is always 30 feet in front of me. At least he’s keeping me safe. Sort of. My trail name is “Peregrina” which in Spanish means “female pilgrim.” I may not have the endurance of these strong women of the Oregon trail, but what a happy traveler I am. After almost a year of travel I love it more than ever and feel as long as God gives us strength, I could live on the road forever. Indeed, "Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." Psalm 84:5
After exploring the Oregon Trail in Baker City, we drove to Sumpter to stay the night at Mark’s cousin Linda’s house. Linda is Mark’s father's (Willis) sister's (Margaret) daughter. In the course of our visit, we learned about another female traveler, Mark's paternal grandmother who had come from England in the early 1880s and decided to go back to England with her parents to visit relatives. Of the White Star Steamship Line options they had to choose from, they decided against boarding a new ship in the line called “The Titanic”, in favor of an alternative vessel for the return voyage. Mark's father was born by this grandmother three years after the Titanic sank, and 26 years later barely survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. My husband was born 17 years after his Dad was awarded his Purple Heart and we have among our belongings a piece of the Japanese airplane that Mark’s father helped shoot down at Kaneohe, Hawaii. I'm thankful for all the near misses God made possible for my husband to have life, as well as the daughter he fathered.
The next day we drove through the lovely wheat fields toward Heppner, Oregon because there was a special couple there that worshipped with us at Beaverton in the mid-nineties. It has been about 25 years since Mark met with Jeff and Christine Bailey, to study the word of God together. Christine was already a Christian and over time Jeff too was overwhelmed by the wisdom and logic of the scriptures and was moved to also give his life to Christ through faith in the blood of Christ, turning from his sin and being immersed in water --- the point at which God says we are “born again”. Over time Jeff was promoted in his career and moved to Heppner, Oregon to take a position as President of a Bank there.
When we arrived in Heppner, it was so good to see them again after so long and to exchange news and reminisce over a wonderful home cooked meal. Their son Justin was such an encouragement, as was his sweet girlfriend who often drives up from Prineville, to worship with the Baileys in Hermiston. Their continued faithfulness, in a part of the country where churches are few and far between, was inspiring. After dinner Christine took a nice long walk up around the hill to a cemetery at the top, passing a vast view down below of the little town of Heppner. In our deep conversation, she talked about how much she is learning and growing from Gary Johnson who has been preaching for the congregation in Hermiston for about three years. Our lovely evening ended with a late-night chat among the four of us by their cozy little fire feature on the deck, with a view toward the east of a steep hill with a white cross that was lit up memorializing the Willow Creek flood victims.
The next morning we took the hour-long drive the Baileys have been faithfully taking all these years, to worship with the Christians in Hermiston. Mark preached both sermons, but Gary led the Bible class on the topic of what God says about male and female roles in the church. He did a good job on this very relevant topic and inspired me to also share some encouragement along the lines of keeping one’s “proper domain'' (Jude 6), primarily to my female readers. By “proper domain” I certainly don’t mean the kitchen. Ha! My husband does far more cooking and laundry than I do, and, honestly, conversations around domestic task distribution kinda bore me.
I’m talking about something worlds deeper. I’m talking about roles within the house of GOD, the church. There are presently feminists within some churches that are seeking what the Pharisees sought in the first century --- to be first in the kingdom of heaven and to take seats of honor within the church (Luke 14), by disregarding what God says about women leading public worship (1 Timothy 2). I love to teach, but I’ll be content with the divine assignment of teaching ¾ of the population in the world, that is women, girls, and boys. In a spirit of love I’d like to warn anyone who disregards God’s holy instructions that men are to lead public worship and labels such “using one’s talent” to please take some advice from the angels in Jude 1:6 that did not keep their proper domain, but abandoned their proper abode. It didn’t go well for them, and I love you enough to warn you of a similar fate.
Not keeping one’s domain by honoring the Biblical roles of male headship within the church is rebellion. We must return to God’s way of doing life both in and outside the church, or perish. Instead of using the church to get human recognition, let’s be in our generation what God created the church to be: the pillar and support of the truth.
It’s wise to step back every now and again, and reflect on why we do what we do. To take inventory on the value of how we are spending our daily lives. There is a world of choices, after all, of which responsibilities, functions, activities, habits and positions women can choose to spend “…all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun.” (Eccl 9:9). For most God-loving individuals, the reasons we’ve embraced the roles we have been divinely assigned, have nothing to do with not having other options, or a forcing of an old school religious culture, or the suppression of opportunities to choose, or burying our dreams, or that we’re victims of misogyny, as some are disposed to imagine. The truth is, even when it’s a struggle, living out the role we were created to live, simply brings the most long term fulfillment for anyone whose heart is set on growing the gorgeous fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control, and the virtues of 2 Peter 1, like diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, perseverance, godliness. Fruit is like dessert, and a sweet life is found in these super, life-enhancing qualities.
When one examines the role God gave Adam’s “helper suitable”, and the oneness they were to enjoy (Gen. 2), and when one observes the activities of the ideal woman of Proverbs 31, as well as the instructions given in the New Testament to women about their responsibilities (Titus 2:3-5), it becomes apparent that almost everything revealed about the role of women relates either directly or indirectly to their relationships. The primary role of women is to plant, grow and enjoy relationships; anything a woman allows to distract her attention from fulfilling this role will eventually leave her with regret.
God, in His mercy, has freed women from the responsibilities of church leadership (1 Tim. 2:12, 3:2), and heading up the family (Eph. 5:23) and for that we should be grateful to still have immeasurable influence, without the pressures of having the final say in very consequential decisions in arenas. If you resent not being entrusted with a more visible position or role, you’re frankly underestimating the opportunities of a woman who chooses to live within Biblical bounds, and you are over-valuing our present day “seats of honor”. Look into the critical roles the women of the New Testament played during the ministry of Jesus, and the early church! Now that’s power, real power.
Listen. Women hold the key to keeping civilization intact. Even if all men wanted to be immoral, they could not ruin civilization without our cooperation. We have what they care most about, and if we uphold upright standards and expectations in order for them to obtain what they care most about, our culture stays afloat. One generation of women like this, and most social problems, including abortion, poverty, pornography, adultery, etc. are prevented because they essentially evaporate. That’s powerful. And upholding civilization-preserving standards fulfills the woman’s role to plant, grow, and enjoy relationships.
The source of my ability to water my relationships depends upon the strength of my own spiritual root system. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD... For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8) God has made it very clear how we build our relationship with Him--- intently listening to His written word and responding with heartfelt obedience (John 14:15), and with intimacy casting all our cares upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7)
When a woman has this strong root system, she is better able to help others plant, grow, and enjoy their relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:20). The social skills that come natural to many women give them a special advantage in this most important task. Even believing female executives would agree, sharing the power of the gospel and making an eternal difference in someone else’s life, trumps the power of climbing the corporate ladder any day.
When a woman finds creative ways to make her marriage all it can be, she is fulfilling her primary role to plant, grow and enjoy her relationships. Gary Smalley is right when he says that women often have a “built-in marriage manual.” Most women, he says, can tell you with accuracy on a scale of one to ten, how healthy their marriage relationship is, and can even tell you what it would take to make their relationship “a ten”. If you are female, use your built in marriage manual and decide what you can do today to make your relationship even better. If you’re a male, you might want to ask the Manual you are married to what it would take to bring your relationship up to a ten.
When a mother “finds herself” by finding ways to love and serve her family, giving her children and those she loves best --- the best of herself in time and energy, she is fulfilling her primary role to plant, grow and enjoy her relationships. Motherhood is an opportunity to serve in humbleness with no regard as to how our service might lead to self- promotion. How powerful the influence of women whose schedules truly reflect what they claim to care about the most!
Within a congregation, a God-loving woman does not waste her powerful influence in the realms of gossip, strife, envy or complaining, but instead loses herself in her primary role to plant, grow and enjoy her relationships. She, like George Bailey of It’s a Wonderful Life, may be unaware of all the differences for good her life is impacting theirs. Who in your congregation most needs your encouragement today?
Even a woman’s relationship with her community fulfills her primary role. She uses her influence when she helps the candidate with the highest moral standard get elected, when she volunteers for disaster relief, writes editorials or her congressman, and gets involved in pro-life or other vital causes. I know a mom, who with her children wrote their local grocery store suggesting “family friendly” isles free of indecent magazine covers. The whole chain has now adopted the idea. She’s using her power, and the power of a woman’s influence is priceless.
Your relationships are what you’d care about most if you knew the limit of your time on earth — not how much you earned, but how much you loved. Let’s love well. Here’s some practical ideas of what that might look like. It’s not a to-do list, but rather inspiration to live well and love well.
A Woman Whose Confidence Is The Lord...
Has quiet strength, but not a spirit of timidity.
Introduces herself to visitors after worship
Volunteers in the classrooms at school to “keep an eye on things”
Never lets fear prevent her from doing what she can.
Writes an editorial to the newspaper about moral issues
States when she’s morally outraged
Is not afraid to discipline her children for fear of losing their friendship.
Forwards the posts that make a difference to the morality of the country.
Meets with the elders to discuss ideas, questions, or concerns.
Brings up the hard issues.
Doesn’t feel a need to show skin to feel pretty.
Asks one who has gotten themselves in trouble, what she can do to help.
Hugs people in pain.
Encourages her congressman to vote in favor of godly legislation.
Learns to teach a new age level Bible class.
Admits her failures and weaknesses.
Talks to strangers.
Attends social functions even when her husband cannot.
Looks fear in the face.
Tackles what she’s been dreading.
Feels secure “Anywhere with Jesus”.
Admits verbally when she disagrees.
Submits her mettle to her husband’s authority to the glory of God.
Confronts when necessary, in a humble, meek, and quiet spirit.
She says what needs to be said, without being boisterous or coarse.
She is not afraid to give her heart away.
Is not afraid to not smile at the dirty joke.
Is not afraid to laugh at the clean joke until the mascara is gone.
Her sense of duty is stronger than her desire for self-gratification.
Admits gently to her neighbor that she differs with her spiritual ideas.
Takes needed goods to the Women’s Crisis Center.
Votes her moral conscience.
Laughs at her mistakes.
Contacts authority when she is certain a child is being abused.
Makes all decisions based on conscience, not on fear.
Manages: Time, family, finances….
Tries new things to improve herself.
Doesn’t compromise scripture to keep peace in her relationships.
Talks to the people that everyone else is afraid to approach.
Is not intimidated, nor overly impressed by the rich, powerful, or beautiful.
She wears her faith on her sleeve: t-shirts, social media, decor, and character
Makes the hard phone calls.
Some of the things on that inspiring list are hard, but isn't everything that is worthwhile? After this first year on the road, I can tell you there are women in the church today that I’ve met who are as hearty as the women walking next to the wagons that created the ruts I touched in Baker City. Some of these modern women drive two hours round trip for 25 years in order to be an encouragement to their church family and bring their children up in the Lord. Some of them do things 100 times harder than that. Faithfulness is hard but along the road of faith it’s also beautiful. It’s even as beautiful as the sunsets between Hermiston and Hepner, Oregon that shine beams straight through the grasses until they light up, somehow turn the hills at a distance purple, and then bathes everything in between with a golden glow reminiscent of God’s own glory.
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