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:
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:”
For those of you who can’t read Lily, here are the 7 things I did well:
- Talking, which she labeled “very wise.” I’ll take it.
- Family photo, on the flash drive.
- Lesson men and women in partnership. This was her way of saying that she approved of my main point. Phew.
- Photo slide show. Basically, she liked seeing herself on the big screen.
- They know what he’s talking about. Good to know I was being clear!
- You’re happy and funny; you’re not strict. That’s right, I’m the fun teacher!
- You give them breaks. And, to be clear, on each of those breaks Lily got into the candy…
And, now, the bad news:
Here you go, the “Bad Notes on Daddy:”
- How you show emotions. She thinks I could show more emotion when I teach and train. #fairpoint
- Call on people if they have a question. Evidently, I missed a hand at one point…
- 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!
- Let people say their opinion. Whoops. OK, maybe I’m NOT the fun teacher…
- Don’t push them for questions.
- Tell them about your experience. Stories. More stories!
- 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
This 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.
Tears for Fears (and Hopes)
Last week, I had the opportunity to teach on the topic of women in leadership to a roomful of saints at a church in Portland, OR. For me it is always a joyful privilege to challenge Christians to embrace an egalitarian understanding of the Scriptures.
It’s also a deeply personal experience, and I mean that in a couple of ways. On one hand, I’m on this journey of understanding both my male privilege and how men and women are meant to partner together in ministry. And teaching or training on that presses into what God is doing in and through me.
On the other hand, engaging around this topic hits me as a dad of three little girls. As I told the crowd last week, it matters to me a great deal what kind of a church these girls will eventually enter into. Will it be a church that is open to the gifts that God has sovereignly hard-wired into them, or will they face limits and barriers by virtue of their gender?
And so I’m desperate to help the church become the former.
A few years ago, our oldest daughter, Lucy, qualified for the fourth grade district finals in cross-country. It meant that she would compete against 120+ other girls in the big district race. As a runner, I was so excited for her to compete!
On the day of the race, I dropped her off at the start line and then went out to find a place to cheer her on, about halfway along the course. When I got to the perfect spot, I looked back toward the starting line, with my little girl somewhere in the masses, and…
Or, more to the point, I bawled. Like uncontrollable sobbing. It caught me by complete surprise, and so I started to ask myself why I was in tears. I had two conflicting emotions going on inside of me that day.
First, I knew Lucy was about to suffer. I’ve done enough racing in my day to understand the pain you have to endure if you want to be successful in a running race. And so there was this empathetic, fatherly thing at work in me. No matter the context, it’s hard for this old “feeler” to watch our kids struggle, and I knew Lucy was destined for about 4 minutes of suffering.
Second, I had this fierce belief in Lucy welling up within me. It’s sort of hard to explain the emotion, but it felt like this intense conviction that Lucy could do this. Maybe it was some sort of vicarious or surrogate emotion, since I know she was full of self-doubt as she toed the start line.
When I think about our girls engaging a church context that I fear will be all too hostile to them using their leadership gifts, I feel these same two things. Simultaneously, I feel hope (“they can overcome!”) and fear (“they are going to suffer”).
And that’s one big reason why this stuff is personal for me.
Want to know the end of the story? Lucy finished 22nd that day, good enough to earn a district ribbon. Me?
I was crying the entire time.
State of Equality
Yesterday I had the pleasure of driving across the great state of Wyoming. If you’re a fan of endless miles of grasslands, punctuated intermittently with rivers, hills, and lovely rock outcroppings, that drive is for you.
Come to think of it, the 80 MPH speed limit helps too.
And then there’s the sky. It was glorious all day. Here’s a shot from out my window:
See? Amazing. And I know Wyoming’s neighbor to the north is nicknamed “Big Sky Country,” but clearly Montana doesn’t corner the market on that kind of beauty.
On the other hand, Wyoming has a pretty good nickname of its own. Turns out Wyoming is known as the “Equality State.” From the official state website:
Wyoming is also known as the “Equality State” because of the rights women have traditionally enjoyed here. Wyoming women were the first in the nation to vote, serve on juries and hold public office.
In 1869, Wyoming’s territorial legislature became the first government in the world to grant “female suffrage” by enacting a bill granting Wyoming women the right to vote. The act was signed into law on December 10 of that year by Governor A.J. Campbell.
Less than three months after the signing of that act, on February 17, 1870, the “Mother of Women Suffrage in Wyoming”-Ester Hobart Morris of South Pass City-became the first woman ever to be appointed a justice of the peace. Laramie was also the site for the first equal suffrage vote cast in the nation by a woman-Mrs. Louisa Swain on September 6, 1870.
In 1894, Estelle Reel (Mrs. Cort F. Meyer) became one of the first women in the United States elected to a state office, that of Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In 1924, Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first elected woman governor to take office in the United States. She took office on January 5, 1925, 20 days before “Ma” Ferguson of Texas (elected on the same day) took office. Mrs. Ross went on to become the first woman to be appointed Director of the United States Mint-a position she held for 20 years, from 1933 to 1953. In 1991, women held three of the state’s five top elective positions and a total of 23 women hold seats in the Wyoming Legislature, three in the Senate and 20 in the House.
Good for you Wyoming. That’s a history to be proud of. Keep on challenging Tertullian, Equality State!
Many years ago, as a young InterVarsity staff worker, I got a short article published in a now defunct magazine called Student Leadership Journal.
Actually, truth be told, “short article” is probably a bit strong; it was more “blurb” than anything else. We had created a new ministry outreach, I noted it in my prayer update, someone at SLJ noticed, and…voila!
But though it was just a blurb, it was my blurb. Something I had written had been printed in ink, in a magazine that someone, somewhere could read, presumably forever.
These days, stuff gets published all the time. In fact, in about 13 hours, I’ll publish this blog post. Truly, one of the great breakthroughs of the internet era is that content can get to more people, more quickly.
Still, if I’m honest, publishing a blog post, be it on my blog or someone else’s, doesn’t feel quite the same as publishing something in print, which is why I am honored to share an article that is appearing in the Spring 2016 edition of Mutuality Magazine, published by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE).
There you go, in case you need some light beach reading…
The article is a written version of a talk I’ve been giving for the past three years here in Fresno to a group of urban ministry folks, and the focus is on gender reconciliation. Using a narrative approach, my aims are to identify three barriers that keep women and men from being reconciled, and to offer solutions in the form of new, better, and live-able stories.
Thanks to the folks at CBE, both for publishing the piece, and for making the article available for free online here. Enjoy!
Let Them Watch!
When people ask about sports in our family, I always tell them we’re a soccer family. And it’s true. Last Fall, for instance, every Saturday we had 3 kids playing on 3 different teams, and 3 of us were coaching 2 of those teams. And if that sentence confuses you, imagine living it, especially that one Saturday morning when all 3 games coincided…at 8am.
But the truth is that we are a sports family more broadly. And right now it’s volleyball season. Two of our kids are on teams at the moment, so the talk at our dinner table is about sideouts, platforms, sets and spikes.
And, clearly, the volleyball gene in our family comes from my wife. She the one that comes from a family of volleyball geniuses.
And, thankfully, they don’t hail from Iran. A couple of weeks ago, I came across this article, about a pending FIVB (that’s International Volleyball Federation) volleyball tournament being held on an island off the southern coast of Iran.
As the article makes clear, volleyball is big in Iran. Who knew?!? And the men’s team is one of the world’s best. Hence FIVB’s decision to award international tournaments to the country.
So what’s the rub?
Evidently, Tertullian plays outside hitter. Or, perhaps more to the point, Tertullian is running the Iranian sports ministry.
According to the article:
The upcoming men’s beach volleyball tournament could be a celebratory occasion not just on the volleyball courts but also for equality in Iran — if authorities reverse the discriminatory ban keeping women out of matches.
The irony is that volleyball was once an established public space for women, who could attend men’s matches in Iran until 2012, when the decision was made to ban them, without any clear explanation. Since then, gathering online and outside stadiums during the volleyball matches, Iranian women have tried to reverse this ban. Their efforts led to harassment and even arrest.
In 2014, Iranian authorities arrested Ghoncheh Ghavami and some 20 others when they sought to attend a Volleyball World League match at Tehran’s Azadi (“Freedom”) Stadium complex. They were released soon afterward, but Ghavami was rearrested and charged with “propaganda against the state.” She was held in the city’s notorious Evin Prison, including a stretch in solitary confinement, for nearly five months.
To sum up, if you happen to live in Iran and are a woman, you are not allowed to watch a volleyball match. And the penalty for doing so can be solitary confinement.
It turns out that FIVB’s own charter, along with the Olympic Constitution, prohibits discrimination of just this kind. And so the article ends with the following exhortation:
Now is the time for the FIVB to tell Iran watching volleyball is no crime for women, and insist on a formal overturning of the ban. The Kish Island Open should not be closed to women.
The above picture is of our daughter Lucy, serving at a recent tournament. Not pictured? Her mom and two sisters, watching from the stands behind her.
As it should be.
“Top of the Notch”
Two weeks back, I mentioned that I was working on a seminar for Urbana 15 entitled “Women in World Mission: The Untold Story.”
Now I can report that the story has been told, at least my version of it.
If you have an hour and are curious, you can find the audio here. The first 40 minutes are me presenting my seminar and the last 20 capture our time of Q & A.
To be honest, it was sort of weird to listen to myself. And, sure, my inner critic found plenty to fret over. For example, why was I saying “right?” so often? Do I really do that?!? Or, I cringed over little misspeaks, such as when I said “summer missions” instead of “world missions,” or when I somehow morphed the idiom “top notch” to “top of the notch.” And why oh why did I choose to spell out P-A-T-R-I-A-R-C-H-Y?!?
That said, I’m mostly satisfied with my work. I mean if you’re looking for a 40 minute lecture that surveys 2,000 years of missions history with an eye to how the bane of patriarchy has conspired to suppress the stories of faithful women, I can help with that.
As for the Q & A, I’ll grade myself with a “B.” On one hand, I don’t think I said anything heretical as I tried to answer some tough and deep questions. On the other hand, I think I would say some things differently if I had it to do over again.
In the end, it was an honor to present at Urbana. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
And thanks to those of you who were praying for me as I prepared!
PS…I was honored to appear again this week on The Junia Project (here). Turns out my post about gender-based humor in the pulpit has been viewed 36,000 times!
Getting the Message
Well, I’m back from Researchville! On Friday, I took a deep breath and hit “submit” on my final paper for year 2 of my doctoral program. And then I celebrated with nachos. While the research process this year was a total joy for me, I’m pretty glad for a break.
Now let’s see if that break translates into more regular blogging or not…
On the Monday of Thanksgiving week, I had the opportunity to exposit Galatians 3:26-29 for a room full of Cal Poly Mustangs. I talked about how the text calls for both salvific and social implications. Indeed, according to the passage, God has no gender bias in salvation, and God’s dream is for there to be gender equality in the Kingdom community.
In other words, gender equality is designed to be good news, both eternally and currently.
In terms of application, I challenged the community to do three things: check their hearts for gender bias, search the Scriptures on the topic of gender equality as a community, and work to build healthy male/female ministry partnerships.
I hope the students engaged the message, and I hope their community is changed as a result of it. Since I’m not there in the aftermath, I don’t totally know what the results might be.
What I do know is the impact on my kids. Because it was Thanksgiving break, the Dixon family made the trip together, and the kids came to hear Dad speak.
And as much as I care about college students engaging the message of gender equality, I’m more eager to have my kids embrace it. If you’ve read my blog over the years, you know it’s been a work in progress, but it seemed like this trip was a helpful deposit.
How do I know?
While I was speaking, the kids got some chalk and graffitied the back chalkboard. How’s this for some tagging, Galatians 3 style?!?
Don’t See that Everyday!
So there we were, walking down the hallway of a public High School, on our way to a volleyball game, when I looked up at a TV monitor and saw this:
I’m no expert on all things feminism, and I know there’s plenty to debate about the term, but I do know this:
If feminism is about the things on this screen, and particularly the fourth thing on the list:
I’M A FEMINIST.
(and, if I may, you should be too!)
Thoughts on Sowing…
So I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus recently.
In part, chalk it up to a lot of work on my doctoral program. Turns out interviewing folks is the easy part; it’s the synthesizing work that comes after that’s the challenge!
And, of course, it’s the fall. Which means the Dixon machine has cranked up again in earnest. Between work, school sports, soccer mania and training for this, it’s been tough for this blogger to find time for blogging!
But that doesn’t mean I’ve been silent. Far from it.
I won’t give you specifics, because each of these situations are ongoing and they involve people that I care about, but three times lately I’ve had the opportunity to offer a word of gentle (I hope!) correction in the area of gender.
What am I talking about? Subtle things, like someone using gender exclusive language when an inclusive term would be a better fit. Or calling out someone on social media for their clear bias toward men when the topic should be universal.
All of this comes in my attempt to be prophetic. In other words, I want to use my voice (verbal and otherwise) to correct our Tertullianized culture, particularly in the church.
But here’s the thing…I can only control my part of the equation. The response? Well, that’s about the person or people I am engaging with.
And on that account it’s been a mixed bag. Of my three recent situations, one went without any response at all. Like, crickets.
A second one involved a hearty back-and-forth, one that resulted in greater understanding but was ultimately less than satisfying for me.
And then the third one was, in a word, perfect. This person graciously received my input and asked for my help in generating a solution.
So, one out of three. Batting .333 I guess.
All of this reminds me of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. You know the story. A farmer goes out to scatter the seed, and tosses it indiscriminately across the ground.
And some of it hits the path, where it’s picked clean by birds. Other seed falls into the rocks, where there’s shallow soil. And though something grows, it quickly dies. Then there’s the seed that falls into the thorns. Again, initial growth followed by the plants getting choked out.
And then there’s the fourth soil, the stuff the produces the harvest. According to Mark’s account, it’s the really good stuff, producing a crop that ends up “growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
To me this parable captures the plight of the prophet. You can’t control the results. Some folks will respond well and others won’t.
All you can control is heart towards God, your willingness to speak, and the words you use to deliver the message.
The rest is up to the hearer.