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Preparing to Defend

IMG_0879My journey through the DMiss program has been a long, winding, and wonderful road. To be honest, I can’t quite believe I’m at (or very near) the end. More than once lately, I’ve been feeling nostalgic; when it’s over, I think I’m going to actually be sad, in addition to like 75 other emotions.

What’s ahead? The defense. Sounds sort of ominous, right? When I think of defending something, it doesn’t take long before the imagery gets life or death. And while I trust that my upcoming dissertation defense won’t be some sort of missiological Alamo, it is in fact a big deal, one worth preparing for. Here’s what I’m doing to get ready.

First, I’m reading. I’ve spent the last two days reading peer dissertations, but today and tomorrow I’m going to read my own. I want to be as familiar as possible with my project before a bunch of scholars ask me incisive questions about it! To celebrate the occasion, I even printed it out, the first time I’ve done so since I started writing.

Second, I’m critiquing. What’s that cliche? “The best defense is a good offense?” I’m going to try that out, and so as I’m reading, I’m critiquing. I’m going to create a list of the toughest questions I can muster, and then try to answer them. Then, for fun, I’ll see how many of my questions actually get asked during the defense.

Third, I’m gathering. In one sense, I’ll be the one standing up at the podium defending this dissertation. But in another sense, I see myself as a part of a community of folks who are interested in my research, who have participated in my research, and who give a rip about the topic of flourishing male/female ministry partnerships. So I’m plotting email updates and Facebook posts all week. Also, it’s going to be great to have advocates in the room with me; thanks in advance to Amy, my folks, and to my cohort for your support.

Finally, I’m praying. Sure, this has been an academic program, but for me the DMiss has also been a deeply spiritual endeavor for me. The other day I was reflecting on how God has met me over the last four years, and I made quite a list. I’ll be sharing a portion of that list as a part of my defense intro.

If you’re the praying type, I’d love to have you onboard. I defend this coming Thursday morning, from 10:45-12:15, at Fuller.

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Me, in a Meme

One of my staff made me into a meme. This should give you a window into how they view me:

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In Print

I like blogging, but there’s nothing like seeing something you created in print. In print!

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Thanks to the good folks at Christians for Biblical Equality, I’m back in print in this quarter’s issue of Mutuality Magazine, where I reflected on five ways to be a father who promotes gender equality.

You can find the piece here on the Mutuality website, but, then again…

…if you join CBE, you can get it in print as well!

Fueling the Fire

img_8835We have curious kids.

I mean, they are off-the-charts inquisitive. I have no idea if it’s normal or not for kids to be this curious, but I can testify that it’s wildly normal in our house. Woe to the parent to tries to communicate in hushed tones, only to be treated to a chorus of “what was that?”s.

The other day, I was running some errands with our 10 year old daughter Gracie as my copilot. And, at a stoplight, she stopped me short with this little zinger:

“Dad, why are you so passionate about men and women being equal?”

As I affirmed the heck out of her question, I considered my answer. And, truth be told, I could think of like 7 ways to respond to her question. There are lots of things that fuel my fire, many of which I’ve talked about on this blog over the years.

But instead of going through my laundry list, I told her this story:

When I was a young(er) campus minister, I was pastoring a large community of students at our alma mater, Cal Poly SLO. And one of the characteristics of our fellowship was that we were decidedly egalitarian. That is, our conviction was that men and women were both gifted and called to serve in the Kingdom in any and all capacities.

One year, my wife Amy was leading a small group with a male student, and it was a mentoring arrangement. The idea was to develop this student by having him apprentice with a staff worker, and Amy got the call to lead.

And she did a great job. Want proof? At the end of the year, as they debriefed their time together, this student said to Amy, “I’ve grown more this year under your leadership than any other year in my life as a Christian. Thank you.”

Pretty cool, yes?

Of course, you’re waiting for the “but,” and here it comes. The next fall, so maybe two months later, this student joined a group at a local church that advocated a strong complementarian theology. In other words, this student began to hear that the Bible restricts the leadership roles available to women to more supportive functions.

Over some time, this student came to embrace and own this more conservative theological perspective. And when that happened, he naturally began to feel dissonant being a leader in a community that affirmed women preaching, discipling men, leading teams, etc, etc.

And that dissonance eventually resulted in a meeting with me, the campus director. Over the course of an hour, we talked about his new-found approach to the Scriptures, and we talked about the impossibility of him holding that theology with integrity, while serving within a community whose practice communicated the opposite conviction.

Finally, I popped the question I’d been holding since the meeting began. Here’s what I asked him:

“So I know what you told Amy at the end of last year, that you had grown more under her leadership than ever before in your life as a Christian. In light of how you are holding the Scriptures now, how are you thinking about that statement?

You ready?

Here’s what he said:

“That was God using Amy in spite of her disobedience.”

……..and so I punched him in the face.

Just kidding.

(but I really wanted to)

What fuels my fire? Lots of things. I honestly believe that fidelity to Scripture calls us to gender equality. Personally, I have benefitted from the leadership of women time and again. And I genuinely believe that the mission of God will advance more effectively if we can figure out a way for women and men to function as equal and reconciled partners in mission. And I could go on.

But here’s another reason:

My wife is a gifted minister of the Gospel, and how dare anyone call her disobedient for obeying God’s call in her life?!?

So what fuels me? The drive to do everything I can to create a church where all women, including today’s curious little girls and their mothers, are invited to use their all of their gifts to advance the Kingdom of God.

Workshopping!

For the last several years, as I’ve waded into the world of gender equality through this blog and in other contexts, I’ve been inspired by the ministry of a group called Christians for Biblical Equality. The good folks at CBE published my gender reconciliation article last year, and I had the joy of attending the 2015 CBE Conference in Los Angeles.

And so it’s with a great deal of affection and gratitude that I can share that I’ll be participating in the 2017 CBE Conference in Orlando…as a presenter!

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I’m honored to contribute to the conference theme, “Mutual By Design: Building God’s Church Together” by leading a workshop entitled “The Blessed Alliance at Work: Women and Men Partnering Together to Advance the Mission of God.”

Sounds good, yes? I’ll be sharing the model I have been developing over the last three years in my doctoral program, and we’ll think together about how to develop flourishing partnerships in greater measure in our contexts. I’m eager to take my research out for a spin with this great group of folks.

So, here’s the question…who’s coming to Orlando with me?!?

You Asked For It…

Last week, I got the opportunity to train a church staff team on the topic of flourishing partnerships between women and men. It was a big moment for me, so I decided I’d bring along my secret weapon:

Lily.

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That’s right, this little 8 year old charmer was the best wing-girl a dad could ask for. And as we were heading to the church that morning, we talked about what she would do to pass the time during the three hour training. At one point, I said, “heck, maybe you should take notes on what Daddy does well and what could use some work.”

Be careful what you wish for!

I meant it as a throwaway comment, but she took me up on it. First, here’s her “Good Notes on Daddy:”

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For those of you who can’t read Lily, here are the 7 things I did well:

  1. Talking, which she labeled “very wise.” I’ll take it.
  2. Family photo, on the flash drive.
  3. Lesson men and women in partnership. This was her way of saying that she approved of my main point. Phew.
  4. Photo slide show. Basically, she liked seeing herself on the big screen.
  5. They know what he’s talking about. Good to know I was being clear!
  6. You’re happy and funny; you’re not strict. That’s right, I’m the fun teacher!
  7. You give them breaks. And, to be clear, on each of those breaks Lily got into the candy…

And, now, the bad news:

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Here you go, the “Bad Notes on Daddy:”

  1. How you show emotions. She thinks I could show more emotion when I teach and train. #fairpoint
  2. Call on people if they have a question. Evidently, I missed a hand at one point…
  3. Show a picture of me and Hannah. Huge mistake. I had showed a slide with three pictures of “Daddy Adventures” I had gone on with my three older kids. Missing? The picture from the day before where Lily had hung out with her 2 year old friend Hannah. My bad Lily!
  4. Let people say their opinion. Whoops. OK, maybe I’m NOT the fun teacher…
  5. Don’t push them for questions.
  6. Tell them about your experience. Stories. More stories!
  7. Tell them how you feel about a question.

All in all, I think this is some pretty good feedback. In particular, it interests me that she picked up on a lack of emotion in my presentation. Duly noted!

Thanks, Lily. You are a wonderful partner!

A “Falling Off the Horse” Kind of Day

mtrg10qThis morning, my wife Amy labeled yesterday a “falling off the horse” kind of day.

She’s right. And I wish that comment was only about our daughter’s failed soccer tryout…

In this election cycle, the Dixon house was a pro-Clinton house. No candidate is perfect, but we were for Hillary for lots of reasons, including her qualifications, her temperament and the historic nature of her candidacy.

Ironically enough, for those very same reasons we were united against Trump.

And so as the election returns came in and state after state went red, dread started to fall on our little house. Our youngest daughter said, “I’m scared.” Of what? Of the “meanie” that was going to be living in the White House. Our middle daughter, she of the “Girls Rule” T-shirt collection, burst into tears, her dream of a woman achieving the highest office in our land shattered. And our oldest daughter decided she’d join me in what we hoped would be a tension-relieving lap around the neighborhood; the “Walk of Angst” we called it.

Toward the end of the evening, our son walked by on his way to bed. He’s a teenager and, as such, he squarely inhabits his own little world. So I was pleasantly surprised when he stopped to offer what he intended to be words of comfort:

“Don’t worry, Dad. Life will go on. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”

I started to mumble back something like “thanks, Son, good night,” when it occurred to me:

This is the time to talk about privilege.

So, more or less, here’s what I told him:

“Buddy, you’re right. For our family, I don’t think much will change with Donald Trump as our President. After all, we’re a white, evangelical, middle-class family. On top of that, you and I are men, and, as always, that will work in our favor as well.

But here’s the thing…it is our privilege to not have to worry so much about an America led by Donald Trump. Millions of Americans, including many of our friends, have a lot to worry about in Donald Trump’s America, from losing health care to deportation to just knowing that the President of our country has mean feelings in his heart about who they are as people.

So, yes, we’ll be fine, but it’s important to know and then do something about the reality that many more won’t be.”

Really, who knows how much a 14 year old can grasp about the toxic realities of privilege in our world? Seems like our son’s brain is full of high school, video games, and trying to consume as much milk as possible.

All I know is this: it is my sacred task to help our kids understand. And lament. And work for change. It is my duty as a Jesus-following father to call out and decry racism, sexism, xenophobia, and every other way that our world does violence to the image of God in people.

Sadly, it looks like the next four years will provide me with lots of opportunities to teach my kids about privilege.

God help us.