Sunday, 11 July 2010

Daughters of the King

Some years ago I was asked to speak to a woman's group. Now, I didn't often "do" women's meetings, but God from time to time has put me on the spot. This particular group was made up of women from several different churches, of various ages, backgrounds, experience of life and of God himself. So I asked God for something that we all had in common that I could speak in to and He said "daughters". Wow! That was so obvious, how did I miss it? Whether we were single, married, previously married, child-less or parent, we were all someone's daughter. So I took that theme and developed it a bit, looking at what it meant to be a daughter of God.

Sometimes we can think of Old Testament culture as being male orientated, but it struck me as I was preparing how often God's promises, instructions and warnings were given to "sons and daughters" (inclusive, yet distinctly separate from each other). It was also refeshing to realise that the Hebrew word for daughter in the Old Testament (bath) is associated with value, not just position in a family. Jesus, too, gave equal value to women, completely counter to the culture of his day, and in so doing upset the religious people.

Apparently, as they grown up, girls, more so than boys, take a great deal of their sense of worth from the quality of the relationship they have had with their fathers, and if we ourselves have not have had a particularly good experience of parenting, we may find it difficult to understand the concept of being valued as a daughter, but God is willing and able to teach us, if we are willing to let Him.

At the end of my talk, we spent some time connecting with God, thinking in particular about Him as our heavenly Father and asking Him to speak to us individually about being His daughter, the apple of His eye, someone who is so special to Him.

Of course, as well as being Father God, He is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, so we can be be called "Daughters of the King".   Awesome.    It has sometimes been taught that as women we are of secondary importance in the Kingdom of God (i.e somewhere lower than men), but I believe that we are just as special to God, and we share the same priviledges and responsibilities, not because of who we are, but because of who our Father is!    

Now that is good news, don't you think, girls?

Why The Rib?

Sometimes in churches the impression can be given that, since woman was created after man, women are somehow secondary in God's purposes, but I prefer to look at it differently. I believe that God knew that man needed someone to stand alongside him and so He himself took a bone from man's side and created woman from it. I find it interesting that He took a rib - not a little finger or a toe or any other bit, but a rib.

Ribs are very interesting things.... they are not insignificant afterthoughts, but crucial to man's well being (just like woman is!) Firstly, ribs offer protection for the major organs of the body, and this is parallelled in a woman's natural desire to protect, not usually by outward aggression etc. but by wrapping around in a caring way. Another thing about ribs is that they are flexible, allowing our lungs to expand, and enabling us to move. My experience is that in general women tend to be more flexible than men, adapting to new situations more easily etc. and often more open to new ideas. Finally, as anyone knows who has damaged theirs, ribs are also sensitive. This means that although they can be easily hurt, women also are often more able to recognise and identify with others who are hurting. This sensitivity is often related to spiritual things too.

God took a bone from Adam's side to create Eve, not from his head, or his foot etc., and I believe this is a picture of God's intention - that men and women stand side by side, complimenting one another and supporting and being supported as each has need. In this context it's not about dominance or authority and submission - that's a whole other subject - this is about a basic creation principle: we are all created in God's image and stand equal before Him as Lord and Creator. Let's acknowledge and even celebrate our different qualities, roles and functions. They are God given, after all, and He only gives good gifts to His children, doesn't He?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

What's in a Name?

When my parents named me, so they told me, they wanted a name which could not be shortened, and they settled on Anne (very importantly, with the "e") like the Princess (Royal), rather than the more traditional Scottish spelling without the "e". As I grew older and learned about meanings behind names, I found out that my name meant "grace". This was a bit ironic, as, having been born with dislocated hips, my gait is anything but graceful!

It was not until I became a Christian at the age of 17 that I came across the biblical concept of grace. This has been explained variously as God's kindness/God's mercy/unmerited favour and God's Riches At Christ's Expense". Whilst these definitions certainly helped my initial understanding of grace, it took many years for me to get hold of the reality of what grace was intended to mean for my own life.

The best way I can describe it right now (as my understanding of what it is continues to expand) is as an unending supply of whatever I need, to do whatever I need to do. It is the resource that enables, empowers and equips my everyday walk through life. It keeps me in peace through testing times, it keeps me well, it cushions me from the stresses of everyday life.

And how do I get it? I can't earn it, work it up, or get it from any other person. I get it by receiving it as a gift from my heavenly Father, paid for by Jesus's death on the cross. How mind-blowing is that? It is no wonder that when John Bunyan experienced it for himself he penned the song "Amazing Grace" because that is exactly what it is!

I am very grateful that my parents gave me this name, but I am much more grateful for my wonderful Lord who pours his grace out daily, not just on me, but on all his children.

What's your experience of grace?

Does your name's meaning have a particular relevance or significance to your life today?