Story Notes Update

Just a quick note that I’m putting this series on pause for the foreseeable future. While I am continuing the reading, I realized that in blogging about it, I have inadvertently given myself a new, daily homework assignment that is both a) taking up a bunch of time that I had been devoting to another project that was humming along and that I haven’t worked on since I started doing this, and b) making me dread reading because then I have to do homework on it.

The point of reading the Bible for Story was to relax in and enjoy reading the Bible, which it was doing until I started blogging about it. So, that was a bit counterproductive. Oops. Anyway, if you want to start this reading project yourself, I do highly recommend the following books as starting places:


ESV Reader’s Bible:

(If you aren’t into ESV, which usually I’m not, I think there are other translations now that have Reader’s Bibles out. I bought mine a few years ago, and the pickings were on the slim side at that time.)


Anyway, that’s what’s going on here. Maybe one of these days I’ll circle back around to writing about this (one for the Someday pile, I guess).


Story Notes on Genesis 26-30: Isaac & Jacob

Story Notes for Genesis 26-30: Isaac & Jacob | RachelShubin.com

Notes to the Reader: After starting a book called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (yes, that is an affiliate link as is everything else I can possibly get one for. Please buy it!!), which talks about how there is a reason that the Bible is a a collection of books written by different authors in different times to different peoples in different places, I began re-reading the Bible straight through specifically to appreciate the story and see what pops out at me when I’m reading it.

I’ve been reading through using the ESV Readers’s Bible, which is designed with no verse notations or section headings or footnotes and which is laid out like an actual hardback book (I highly recommend this! It’s much less distracting to read). I’m reading in five-chapter blocks (for the most part) and writing down what sticks out at me here. Feel free to follow along

Genesis 26-30

  • Ch. 26 – Isaac does the same “She’s my sister” trick with Rebekah as Abraham did with Sarah! And it’s Abimelech again who is like “Hey, she’s not you sister she’s your wife!” I feel kind of bad for Abimelech here. Why would he believe anything the men of this family say about how they are related to the women with them??
  • Ch. 27 – Rebekah says to Jacob, “Let your curse be on me.” Only two other people in the Bible take another’s curse upon themselves: Paul and Jesus.
  • Ch. 27 – All the blessing stuff is wrapped up with offspring and inheritance and birthrights and all that. It’s so foreign to how we think about it today! Now we’d just change the name on the will, and poof! problem solved. When Isaac blesses Jacob instead of Esau, though, that’s irrevocable. Esau’s reaction is immediate despair followed by plans for revenge, and Isaac is equally horrified at what he’s unknowingly done.
  • Ch. 28 – When Rebekah complains that Esau’s Hittite wives are driving her nuts and sends Jacob away to her brother to go find himself a wife, Esau tries to solve the problem by going to Isaac’s brother Ishmael and taking one of his daughters as a new wife for himself.
  • Ch. 28 – Jacob marks the place where he dreams of the ladder with the angels on it and calls it Bethel, the house of the Lord, the gate of heaven. This place eventually becomes Bethlehem (right? I think so). Appropriate imagery to associate with the birthplace of Christ.
  • Ch. 29 – Jacob kisses Rachel and cries the very first time he meets her. I love how emotional these guys are. Laban calls Jacob his bone and his flesh.
  • Ch. 29 – Did Jacob and Leah not talk at all that first night? How do you spend your entire wedding night with someone and then wake up in the morning and discover she’s the wrong girl? Was he blindfolded all night and was she not allowed to speak to him during that time??
  • Ch. 29 – When Leah deliver her first three children, her reaction is “Now my husband will love me,” but after the last one she says, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
  • Ch. 30 – “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” – Wow!
  • Ch. 30 – Laban learns by divination that the Lord has blessed him because of Jacob.
  • So far, God seems to favor those who are not the firstborn less frequently than he does the firstborn: Abel (2nd), Seth (3rd), Noah (1st), Shem (1st), Abraham (1st), Isaac (2nd), Jacob (2nd), Judah (4th), Joseph (11th). Kind of makes that argument about men being in authority over their wives because they were created first seem a little suspect. Birth order doesn’t really seem to be of prime interest to God. Also, this must’ve been very encouraging to those who were not born first in a time where your placement in that order determined nearly everything.

Today I am Thankful For:

  • Health and a sound bodythat usually works how it’s supposed to.

Story Notes on Genesis 21-25 – Abraham: Family Struggles

Story Notes on Genesis 21-25: Abraham's Family Struggles | RachelShubin.com

Notes to the Reader: After starting a book called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (yes, that is an affiliate link as is everything else I can possibly get one for. Please buy it!!), which talks about how there is a reason that the Bible is a a collection of books written by different authors in different times to different peoples in different places, I began re-reading the Bible straight through specifically to appreciate the story and see what pops out at me when I’m reading it.

I’ve been reading through using the ESV Readers’s Bible, which is designed with no verse notations or section headings or footnotes and which is laid out like an actual hardback book (I highly recommend this! It’s much less distracting to read). I’m reading in five-chapter blocks (for the most part) and writing down what sticks out at me here. Feel free to follow along


Genesis 21-25

  • Ch. 21 – Right. Hagar’s getting thrown out is essentially a death sentence, which would be why she saw the Lord telling her to return in yesterday’s reading as a kindness.
  • Ch. 21 – Hagar chooses an Egyptian wife for Ishmael, which makes sense since she herself was Egyptian.
  • Ch. 22 – Such a weird chapter. Yes, it’s a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice, except the major player here is Abraham sacrificing his son, whereas the focus with Jesus is that he sacrifices himself. But in a literary level, this reads so much more like one of the crazy Grimm’s Fairy Tales where people throw their children to the forest or trade them to tiny sprites or whatever than it does like literal behavior that we expect to see from a loving God. This seems more like something up Zeus’s alley (except he wouldn’t provide the ram to swap out for Isaac and there would be more sex with impossible creatures involved). Does the answer even matter? If all of Scripture is useful for instruction and encouragement, etc., then clearly the point of the story isn’t the historical accuracy of the event itself but the fact that God provides and hears our pleas, right? That’s what Abraham says, “The Lord will provide.”Hmmm. Now that I think about it, as a historical account, this story would possibly have been comforting to the people it was given to at the time. Human sacrifices weren’t uncommon in surrounding areas at the time, and as we’ve seen with Lot, life in general seemed to have a rather low value. In that case, asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac would have felt familiar, just like how the other gods at the time operated. Certainly neither Abraham nor Isaac seems overly surprised as the request and both take it rather blandly. The surprising thing, then, would have been God providing an alternative and showing that, unlike the other gods of the era, what is important to Him is obedience and human life as opposed to obedience and sacrifices. I bet this story would have made complete sense to the Mayans and, being a culture that practiced human sacrifice, would have shown God’s character to them very well.
  • Ch. 23 – Abraham buys a burial ground for Sarah for 400 shekels of silver. That’s the second 400 in Abraham’s story: God told him a few chapters ago that his descendants would be captives for 400 years (that must have been fun news to receive).
  • Ch. 24 – Out of Abraham and his two brothers, Haran and Nahor, only Abraham doesn’t live in a place that bears his name. Since this seemee to be a popular naming scheme for place names at the time, I wonder why he doesn’t have his own town called Abraham.
  • Ch. 25 – Abraham married again and had six more kids after Sarah died. Pretty busy for a dude who was “well-advanced in years.”
  • Ch. 25 – For all the chatter about raising “Future Men” and making sure they are the most manliest, sportsified, rugged whatevers, Esau was the hunterly man’s man while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling tents. Also, Esau was a bit of a meathead.

Today I am Thankful For:

  • Quiet mornings
  • Eggs Benedict and Anika who makes it for me.

Story Notes: Genesis 16-20 – Hagar, Lot, and Sarah

Story Notes on Genesis 16-20: Hagar, Lot, & Sarah | RachelShubin.com

Notes to the Reader: After starting a book called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (yes, that is an affiliate link as is everything else I can possibly get one for. Please buy it!!), which talks about how there is a reason that the Bible is a a collection of books written by different authors in different times to different peoples in different places, I began re-reading the Bible straight through specifically to appreciate the story and see what pops out at me when I’m reading it.

I’ve been reading through using the ESV Readers’s Bible, which is designed with no verse notations or section headings or footnotes and which is laid out like an actual hardback book (I highly recommend this! It’s much less distracting to read). I’m reading in five-chapter blocks (for the most part) and writing down what sticks out at me here. Feel free to follow along

Genesis 16-20

  • Ch. 16 – Hagar was Egyptian. Presumably she returned with them when they left Egypt? Did Pharaoh give her to them?
    Hagar and Sarai quarrel over offspring. Everything was about land and/or heirs.
  • Ch. 16 – These days, we would discourage someone from returning to abuse (which Hagar was encountering from Sarai, it seems), but Hagar sees the Lord’s words to her as his looking after her. Presumably at that time and place, returning was safer and afforded her more protection than the exposure she would have had wandering around pregnant, clanless, homeless, and alone.
  • Ch. 17 – What a weird thing to pick as a covenant sign. I wonder if marking of the flesh in some way was a common way of dilinieating between people groups or religious groups at that time, sort of like how the Maori have really recognizable tattoo patterns or the blue Celtic woading.
  • Ch. 18 – The way of the Lord is righteousness and justice.
  • Ch. 18 – The Lord would have spared Sodom if ten righteous people has been found there. How does this comport with the later wiping out of Canaan when the Israelites return? Was this why God waited 400 years until the iniquity of the Amorites was complete like it said in yesterday’s reading? Was *eveeyone* in the entire land heinously barbaric and wicked? Maybe they had all turned into Reavers?
  • Ch. 19 – The behavior of the inhabitants of Sodom certainly screams “crazy dangerous neighborhood.” I think middle-class America has trouble identifying with this level of chaos and destruction and do we gloss over a pot of it, but this sounds comparable to the extreme levels of danger and violence that you find in war zones and places where governance has either completely broken down or has been so corrupt that it looks the other way.
  • Ch. 19 – After Sodom was destroyed, why did Lot go live in a cave instead of going to Abraham, who surely would have set him and his daughters up?
  • Ch. 19 – The daughters’ getting Lot (their dad) drunk so they can have sex with him (again, specifically so they can get offspring) seems super weird until you recall that at the beginning of the chapter Lot the daughters to the men of the down for some rapin’ if they’ll just leave his house guests alone. None of these people seem over-much concerned with each other’s care. Interesting family dynamics. Actually, not inconsistent with family abuse dynamics that we see today, now that I think about it. The purposes are different (the girls want offspring), but the ambivalence about sex and viewing it as a tool is a common outcome. Of course, no one in the entire city of Sodom seems too concerned about anyone else’s welfare. And… that’s why they ended up in cinders.
  • Ch. 20 – Does this take place after the events of Chapter 18 & 19 because if so, either Sarah must have been a pretty spectacular-looking woman in her old age or Abimelech just liked grabbing every single woman who wandered by regardless of age. Weird. Also, in the end of the chapter, it sounds like Abraham and Sarah pulled the “She’s my sister” bit everywhere they went. If they all ended the same way they did here and in Egypt, that would account for Abraham’s large and increasing wealth. God specifically goes to Abimelech here and tells him to give Sarah back, which Abimelech does with lots of interest and extra stuff. What an odd way for God to deliver wealth to Abraham.
  • Ch. 20 – Sarah is Abraham’s half-sister. I can’t remember if infertility rates are higher for near relations. That could account for their no children together without divine intervention.

Today I am Thankful For:

  • Adventure

Story Notes: Genesis 11-15, Abraham’s Early Years


Story Notes on Genesis 11-15: Abraham, The Early Years | RachelShubin.com

Notes to the Reader: After starting a book called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (yes, that is an affiliate link as is everything else I can possibly get one for. Please buy it!!), which talks about how there is a reason that the Bible is a a collection of books written by different authors in different times to different peoples in different places, I began re-reading the Bible straight through specifically to appreciate the story and see what pops out at me when I’m reading it.

I’ve been reading through using the ESV Readers’s Bible, which is designed with no verse notations or section headings or footnotes and which is laid out like an actual hardback book (I highly recommend this! It’s much less distracting to read). I’m reading in five-chapter blocks (for the most part) and writing down what sticks out at me here. Feel free to follow along


Genesis 11-15

  • Ch. 11 – One language! They say that language changes the way that you think and see the world because we don’t actually see or recognize or feel things we have no words to express. Part of the magic of learning another language is the seeping in of the culture and ethos of the people from whom the language came (this is what the movie Arrival was about. It’s excellent!). So, did the proto-language encompass all the words and ideas that eventually splintered out, or was it less rich than it’s descendants? In genetics, you can tell when you’ve found an origin of a specific species because it has a much richer genetic diversity than the groups that have been relocated elsewhere and then only had themselves to breed with. For instance, potatoes come from the Andes mountains, and there are hundreds of types in a really small area. Everywhere else in the world only grows a handful of types because those are the types that were carted back home by explorers. I’m betting the first language and first people who spoke it had a much more encompassing view of probably everything than we do.
  • Land. Everything in this story is about land and kinsmen. Abraham goes out from his father’s house to the land the Lord shows him. Abraham heads out to Egypt where he tricks the Pharaoh into thinking Abram’s wife isn’t his wife (Pharaoh then grabs her for his own wife), and then Abram gets rich when Pharaoh pays him off to clear out and take his wife with him. He is a sojourner in Egypt, though. No land of his own.
  • When he leaves, he moves into Canaan and God gives him a huge wad of land. After his nephew Lot gets himself POWed, Abraham goes out and gets him right back. The king of Sodom, where Lot lives, is so thankful that Abraham retrieved not just Lot but everything else the enemy kings carted off that he offers him all kinds of stuff, which Abraham refuses.
  • Abram then complains to God that what good would a reward of stuff be when he has no heir to leave it to, at which point God promises him both offspring a-plenty and gobs of land, but first there would be four hundred years of hardship (that Abraham will miss because he’ll be dead before then).
  • The other thing God says is that the reason for the 400 year delay is that the Amorites who live there now haven’t made it all the way to the bottom of their spiral into horribleness yet. Huh. After the flood God says he will never again curse the ground or wipe all men from the earth because the intention of man is evil from his youth (“intention” is an interesting word. Man himself isn’t evil; God calls man and woman very good. Man’s intentions and how he executes them are). He recognizes the penchant man has for Hitler-ing it up and Nazifying everyone as many people nearby as possible, but even so He waits as long as possible before taking care of it. Presumably this is to give as many opportunities as possible for them to repent and change (I’m thinking about Jonah and Nineveh type of things here)?

Today I am Thankful For:

  • Breakfast with friends
  • Morning sun peeking through floating clouds



Story Notes: Genesis 1-10, Creation & Flood

Story Notes: Genesis 1-10, Creation & Flood | RachelShubin.com

Last week I started reading a book called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (yes, that is an affiliate link. Please buy it!!), and it’s been talking about how there is a reason that the Bible is a a collection of books written by different authors in different times to different peoples in different places.

I’m not going to try to explain the entire book here in two paragraphs, but due to the book I’ve been thinking again about the idea of reading the Bible straight through, not to parse each tense and cross-reference everything to death, but to read the book for the story.

A couple of years ago I bought the ESV Readers’s Bible, which is designed with no verse notations or section headings or footnotes and which is laid out like an actual hardback book. It’s been sitting around waiting for me to get my act together, and this week I finally did. Four chapters a day will get you through the whole Bible in a year, but I’m starting a bit late, so I’m just doing a round five.

This is great! After two days I’ve noticed that I keep thinking of stuff I want to scribble down, so I’m just going to park my blippets here. Nothing big; not mountains of research. I’m practicing relaxing into the Word and noticing what pops up as opposed to going into full research mode. Looking forward to seeing where it goes!

So, here’s what stuck out on Day 1 and Day 2. Don’t bother asking me what verses this stuff is from. The Bible I’m reading it from doesn’t have verse markings, so I have no idea. I do have chapter markings, though, so if I feel like it I might mention those.


Genesis 1-5

  • The dominion mandate was given to both Adam and Eve.
  • When the curses get handed out, they go like this:
    • Snake > God curses the snake to be on his belly and have the woman’s seed crush his head. The snake himself was cursed.
    • Adam > God doesn’t curse Adam, he curses the ground because of Adam.
    • Eve (not named Eve yet) > God uses no curse language with Eve. He says she’ll have pain in childbirth and she’ll desire her husband who will rule over her. While God specifically curses the snake and curses the ground because of Adam, he doesn’t say this with Eve. Oddly, part of the snake’s curse involves a colossal promise to Eve regarding her offspring and. In the rest of the Bible this would be covenant language, right? This is the first promise made in the Bible regarding future generations, and it’s made regarding Eve‘s offspring, not Adam’s. This promise was fulfilled through Jesus by way of Mary.
  • Adam has a major attitude shift in how he responds to Eve after the fall. Before the fall he’s all like the ancient version of “You complete me” and afterwards it’s “Let’s call you Eve: baby machine.”
  • Mealtime was all plants before the fall. Does this mean we should all aspire to be vegetarians? Because bacon = good. No bacon = no good.
  • Eve loses both of her first two children. Her second-born dies and her first-born is exiled for murdering his brother. Adam and Eve lose both their sons at the same time. For every parent who has lost a child to death or insurmountable rift or rebellion, you are in the company of the very first people ever created. Such grief stretches back through history all the way back to the beginning of time. You are not alone.
  • In Chapter 5 Lamech (Methuselah’s kid) says about his son Noah that “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” So, ummm, what? Noah got all maritime and all, but did he bring relief from the work and toil of the curse? I guess he wasn’t doing a lot of gardening while he was on the boat. Were the weeds way worse before the flood than they were after? Weird.


Genesis 6-10

  • Ch. 6 – “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” Interesting way of putting it. Usually we think of a person being comprised of body, spirit, soul; but do we usually think of the Spirit of God, the very breath of God, living in every human, giving them life? Drat. Now I want to go look it up in the Hebrew and cross-reference and all that. See how I’m not doing any of that because I’m just reading and seeing what sticks out? Yes. Good.
  • Ch. 8 – “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” – The curse on the ground shows up a lot in the first few chapters.
  • Ch. 9 – “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.” – Does God really need a reminder? Seems unlikely. Maybe we just need reassurance that He remembers.
  • Ch. 10 – Egypt was the son of Ham. That kingdom managed to be the longest-contiguous one in history. Not too shabby.


Okay, well that’s it for today. We’ll see what the next section brings.


Oh! I forgot I was going to start ending these with what I’m thankful for today. You know, mindfulness, gratefulness, blah, blah, blah {insert some other pop phrase here}. So here’s today’s:

Today I am Thankful For:

  • Espresso
  • Vanilla Candles
  • Costco Meatballs



Training on Domestic Abuse in Churches: Seminar, Thursday 9/28/17.

PDX Domestic Abuse Seminar, 9/28/17 | RachelShubin.com

The Problem

For the last year and half I’ve kept a short list of resources for domestic abuse victims, and this spring I started working on revising the list to include more churches and faith-based resources. Frequently the church response to abuse situations is so poor that for a victim, leaving an abusive home very often means leaving or being excommunicated from her (or his) church home as well.

Many domestic abuse survivors receive far more loving care and practical help from non-Christians that they don’t know than they do from people who have sat beside them in the pew for years. When that happens, it becomes extremely difficult to remember what the point of church is, and many people who leave never return to any church at all.

Portland is a sizable enough city. Churches that are welcoming to abuse victims and understand the particular struggles they face shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? Churches that have small groups geared toward domestic abuse recovery must be out there, yes? I mean, churches all over the place have resources for drug recovery or grief counseling or divorce. Helping the hurting is what churches are for, right?

Compiling a list of churches that are either up to speed on the unique struggles abuse victims face or that actively have groups geared specifically for them proved to be a far more discouraging endeavor than I anticipated, and the number of churches that actively provide for people in such situations is appallingly small. In the process of looking for churches, though, I came across Pastor Ron Clark of Agape Church of Christ in Downtown Portland. He has been actively working in this field for the past twenty years; teaches Pastoral Counseling and Advanced Pastoral Counseling classes at George Fox, both of which cover a variety of abuse and sexual and domestic violence related issues; and works with his wife Lori on a team that runs clergy trainings three times a year covering abuse, sexual assault, trafficking/prostitution, and pornography.

I emailed Ron and asked him if he knew of any local churches that fit one or both of the above criteria. He sent me short lists for each category (we’ll talk about why they were short in a minute), and we talked a little more about what it means to be a church where victims/survivors can feel safe and why churches that have programs for the abused still don’t always fit into that category. His explanation of the distinction between those two sets is very helpful.


From Ron

Churches where victims/survivors can feel safe: Meaning that misogyny is unwelcome, females are encouraged to be safe even at the expense of their marriage, and victims can feel heard. These communities also confront religious leaders who allow abuse to go on in their churches.

We have found that some churches have ministries to the abused but the following problems develop:

  1. Pastors are not trained to help, only a few female counselors.
  2. They have hosted our training but no clergy attend or work with further trainings.
  3. While there are ministries that work with survivors, the pastor either doesn’t preach about DV [RS: Domestic Violence] or still tends to insinuate that divorce is not acceptable to God without clarifying that abuse violates the covenant

This is just our thoughts and does not insinuate that survivors/victims do not receive help. We have had trainings at most mega churches in Portland but we continue to hear from members that they are encouraged to go back to their abuser. While this doesn’t represent the beliefs of all leadership, there still exists a climate that we list as “not safe for those in abuse.” While not threatening it does not tend to confront male privilege, misogyny, or women needing to be safe at all costs.

In an interview for SOJO.net, Ron was asked the following question:

What has surprised or challenged you as you teach this material?

“…our church has partnered with countless agencies and encouraged other churches to host our trainings and have witnessed 2000 people participate in them. However, most attendees are county advocates who want to learn more about working with faith-based clients. Only 5-7 percent have been clergy. I do have a group of ministers who faithfully attend and are now prepared to work with victims, but they are a small percentage of overall participants.”


My Thoughts

All of this frustrates me. When I read my Bible, I don’t see Jesus doing any of this. I see him comforting the grieving. Throughout the Bible I see standing up for the downtrodden as a recurring theme. I see the harshest of injunctions levied against violence in both speech (“revilers” in Biblical parlance) and act.

It frustrates me that when I talk to people, they say things like, “Well, I think a lot of times women claim abuse when they just don’t want to be married anymore” and “Well, he shouldn’t act like that towards his wife, but he’s right that her job is to submit to him and she still has to do her job whether he does his or not” and “Well, she’s pretty crazy. I don’t think he’s the problem.”

It frustrates me that people say this when I’ve sat with the wife (or sometimes, though less frequently, the husbands who end up in abusive situations) and talked with her and cried with her and know she has massive, specific, justifiable complaints that are either backed up by witnesses or by the husband’s own admissions or by both. It frustrates me that even when the wife’s complaints are of the type that if anyone other than the person who has promised to love her for the rest of her life were doing them to her, he would immediately be arrested, I can’t defend the wife in any specific way or tell that to the person sitting across from me without breaking the wife’s confidence.

It frustrates me when the complaints are of the type that are completely invisible unless you live with the person but where the domineering behavior is so severe that the wife’s health has spiraled into an entire constellation of stress-related illnesses and mental health struggles so bad that can barely think straight, yet because the results are visible and the cause is not, people see her as unstable instead of as crushed by another person.

It frustrates me when people become so blinded by their own vision of theological perfection that they snip out compassion.

I don’t talk about this stuff in person as much as I did when I first became involved because it makes me angry. I worry that I will end up yelling at someone I care about because I can’t figure out how to graciously tell people to stuff it when they make comments like that, and I don’t think yelling at people promotes any sort of healthy discussion or encourages people to think through things more deeply. Instead I write (often more personal communication than public blogging, but at least some of each), I listen, and I pray.

And next Thursday, I am going to Ron Clark’s seminar on Addressing Intimate Partner Violence From a Faith-Based Perspective so that I can understand better how to recognize bad situations when they cross my path and learn better how to help. Lay people are encouraged to attend the training as well. If you would like to understand the issues and help make your church a welcoming home for those whose own homes are marked by confusion and terror, I hope you’ll come too. Here are the specs:


Addressing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) From a Faith Based Perspective

Sept 28 2017 9:00 AM- 3:00 PM

East County Church of Christ
24375 SE Stark St., Gresham, OR 97030



9:00 Registration and Welcome

9:15-10:15 Sessions 1: Basics of IPV (9:30-10:30)
Dr. Ron Clark, Agape Church of Christ

10:30-11:30 Session 2: Secondary Aggression and Ministry
Stacey Womack, ARMS (Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services)


11:30 Lunch available on your own


1:00-2:00 Session 3 Panel Discussion: Shame and IPV (1:30-2:30)
Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue Team

2:15-3:00 Session 4: Bridging the Gap Between IPV and Faith Leaders
Dr. Carlos Richard, Tabernacle Church


This event is sponsored by the Agape Church of Christ and is a free training. Due to limited seating they ask that all attendees pre-register. There is no charge for this workshop.




This is late notice on my part, to be sure, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner. If you can make it, please let them know asap, but you can still register at the door if you forget (but don’t forget; click that button now and be done with it). If you can’t make it this time but would like to know when the next one comes up, please click here to email the Agape Church of Christ office and ask to be put on the listserv for the next training.




P.S. I also often come across people who seem to think the scope of the problem is being exaggerated. The current data looks much more like it’s vastly underreported, and the stories that are starting to come out from all over have very distinct patterns. Here are a few places to begin further reading. These stories are all consistent with ones I have personally heard myself from Christian women who are or have been in abusive marriages or that I have read from court documentation and survivor stories from Christian women all over the country. 


Enough is Enough: Why the Church Has to Stop Enabling Abusive Men – Start here. Gary Thomas speaks at a long-standing Christian conference and is overwhelmed during the break by the quantity of women who come to him describing the horror they are enduring in their homes and asking what they should do. Right now there are 365 comments on this post, and huge numbers of them are from people pouring out their stories and asking for help as well. Take some time to read through them.

An Open Letter to the Church From an Abused Christian Wife – Anna Grace Wood is a Reformed Baptist homeschooling Mom who has been through all of this herself.

Survivor Story – This is a good example of why it often takes women so long to leave and why people who don’t see what happens behind the doors of the home in question respond as though the wife has gone crazy.

I’m Still Here: On Leaving Abuse and Being Ignored in the Grocery Store – What often happens after one does finally work up the courage to leave (also a reason people stay so long, hoping to avoid being completely ostracized).

#WhyIStayed – Short, personal tweets from women on the crushing ramifications of their finally deciding to leave, and why it took them so long to do so.

‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God – Very thorough ABC News report coming out of Australia, which is currently in the middle of a huge ongoing discussion about the issue of domestic abuse both in the wider culture as well as within the church itself.



Think Your Church is Safe from Sex Abuse? Think Again.

A Review of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide by Boz Tchividjian

As Protestants, we tend to think of sex abuse cases in church as a problem that doesn’t really happen in our congregations. It’s not our problem. Our people don’t do that or haven’t experienced that. That’s a problem the Catholics have. That’s a problem for those guys way over there. 

The Catholic Reaction

Not only is this not the case, but the cracks are starting to show. While the Catholic church is now entering its third decade of rethinking and reacting to the abuse cases and abusers in their ranks, the very point that hamstrung them initially – that of being a massive, top-down organization bent on protecting themselves – is now working in their favor. The prevention and response policies that they have developed over the years can be organized from the top and then filtered directly down the pole.

My younger two kids are going to a Catholic school this year, and wow! those guys are careful. To do anything at all from helping in the classroom to driving on field trips to volunteering basically anywhere near kids, you have to get a background check and then go to a three-hour training on child safety and protection that requires a refresher with further training every subsequent year your kids attend school. These policies for the school are implemented by the diocese.

In contrast, neither Christian school my kids have attended has required this level of volunteer preparation (or any preparation at all including background checks). Unlike the Catholic organizational system, Protestantism is a slivered mass of denominations and independent churches, none of whom are beholden to or cooperate with each other. When one group produces new policies, none of the other groups benefit, which makes our response time slow and increases the likelihood of abusers falling through the cracks by denomination- or church-hopping.

Help Figuring Out Best Practices

In the process of spending most of the 2015-2016 school year researching and reporting on two specific sex abuse cases in a church setting, which involved an inadvertent crash course in the miserable realities of abuse dynamics, I came across Boz Tchividjian’s organization, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Church Environment). GRACE is a two-pronged organization that both investigates organizations experiencing abuse complaints within their systems (investigations are at the organization’s request) and that provides training for churches on best practices for sexual abuse prevention and response.

Review of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian (Sex Abuse Prevention) | RachelShubin.com

The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian & Shira Berkovits

Boz himself spent a decade prosecuting sex abuse crimes specifically in Florida and has amassed a board full of other Christian leaders in the field on both the legal and counseling/psychology ends. To aid church leaders in preparing protection policies for their congregations, GRACE has put out a new book called The Child Safeguarding Policy for Churches and Ministries.

I received a free review copy and have spent the last several days reading it. It’s extremely helpful and covers these and other topics:

—Protecting the children in a Christian environment from child abuse
—The warning signs of child abuse
—Crafting and implement a child protection policy
—Responding to abuse allegations
—Caring for victims of child abuse
—The legal implications and requirements for churches and Christian ministries

While it is easy to think that this material is solely the purview of the Children’s Pastor, that is not the case. Signs of child abuse can be alarmingly subtle, and if a child chooses you as the person they trust enough to disclose their abuse to, that conversation will likely not start off sounding like it’s about what has happened to them. It will start with slightly odd things that are the child’s way of testing whether or not you are a safe person for them to tell. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll miss it and that child will sink back into tortured silence for years or quite possibly the rest of his or her life (well over 90% of children don’t disclose, and of the ones who do, children who were abused by teachers or church leaders typically wait at least ten years before they ever say anything).

The Scope of the Sex Abuse Problem

What about scope? How many people are we talking about? Estimates by the Department of Justice are that 1 in 4  girls and 1 in 6 boys will be abused by the time they turn 18. So, yes. That’s 20% of your congregation since many of those kids are now adults dealing with the after-effects (which don’t look tidy either, by the way. The effects are often so severe that I’ve started thinking that in many cases the resultant mental illness would be more accurately described as mental or emotional injury). If your congregation has 200 people in it, that would be forty of them who have experienced some form of sexual abuse (and that’s probably low because it’s more common in church than even in the general population, and 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as religious. Abusers love churches. Churchgoers tend to want to believe the best about people, so they are very slow to believe someone could actually do such a thing, and are often overly quick to forgive even when abuse is discovered.).

What if 20% of your church was victim to a natural disaster or a targeted scam or industrial poisoning? What if the employment rate in your church was 20% or if 20% had cancer? Would that be discussed from the pulpit? Would we be talking about how to support those 20% and show them love and care? Would we be talking about Biblical responses and how Jesus loved, believed, and cared for the hurting and grieving? You bet! But we don’t do that with child abuse or really abuse of any kind at all. And so it goes unnoticed, unchecked, and the people suffering leave, unloved. The scope of the problem in the Protestant church is at least the size of the problem in the Catholic church (and no, celibacy for priests wasn’t the primary problem. 80% of abusers are married men. Contrary to popular belief, marriage does not provide a protective or curative effect). For the last five years in a row, sex abuse of minors was the top reason that churches were sued.

This is our problem. We are culpable. We are responsible both for our own turning away from victims in the past and for turning towards them in love now and in the future. We are responsible both for protecting children and the vulnerable and for handling abusers Biblically by turning them over to God-appointed authorities, which in the case of criminal activity means the police. We can do better. We have to do better. We shame the very Gospel when we don’t.

For further reading, start by clicking through all the links in this article and reading Anna Salter’s book Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders


Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission?

Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission? | RachelShubin.com

Photo Credit: © George G. Shubin (Rachel’s husband)

The other day my husband George burst into the room with his camera in hand and shooed me out to the neighboring field of tall grass. He’d been wanting try taking a golden hour shot using his umbrella flash modifier for fill light, and twilight shots are always a race against the setting sun.

After seeing the final image (to the left there), my Mom commented about me sneezing the rest of the night; but I’m not allergic to grass, and I’ve been taking meds extra faithfully this summer because pollen counts in our area are terrible and I am allergic to cottonwood. So, what if George had asked me to go stand in front of the cottonwood tree for a picture in May when it’s blowing its cotton? Would I have done it?

The Litmus Test

While this is an extremely mild example, this type of question comes up constantly when I talk to people about complementarian/egalitarian issues. When I say I think the Bible talks about husbands and wives each submitting to and loving one another as opposed to husbands leading and wives submitting, they often present a question like this: “If your husband asked you to do {insert some utterly ridiculous/offensive/painful/horrible/dangerous thing here}, would you do it?” I’m not talking about everyday things on the scale of standing in front of a tree; the hypothetical question always involves  some entirely unreasonable request that the inquirer assumes would get an automatic “no” under any other circumstances. The question is a ringer, a Catch-22, and the intent is to trap me into saying the expected “no” so they can then point out that I’m not for submitting after all, mutual or otherwise.

Love – The True Counterpart to Marital Submission

Here’s the problem. That entire line of reasoning is predicated on the idea that the marital counterpart to submission is oppositional, interlocking authority. When I read, I don’t see that at all. When I look at Ephesians 5:22-24, it talks about the wife submitting to her husband in the way that a body is joined to its head. The usage of “head” throughout the entire passage is as a body part, not an authority. There is a Greek word for authority, but Paul doesn’t use it once in this passage, and when he talks to the wives he never refers to the husband as an authority but as a head. A head to a body.

In the verses immediately following, Ephesians 5:25-31, Paul switches from wives to husbands and talks about the husband loving his wife in the way that a head is joined to its body. Paul never once tells the husband to be the authority either or explains what that should look like. What he does tell the husband to do is to love his wife and what that should look like. When I read this passage and the others like it, what I see is not authority and submission as oppositional forces tied together, but love and submission as cooperative forces tied together. Love, not authority, is the Biblical counterpart to marital submission. When I think about how that would play out in real life, the two start looking extraordinarily close to the same.

Metaphorical Usage

Since the same “submit” word is used elsewhere in the New Testament in relation to governing authorities, many people lump that meaning in with marital passages (Rom. 13:1-6 uses the word for authority, not head, to describe the government) . In Ephesians, three verses are spent on wifely submission while the following seven are spent on husbandly love. Three verses comparing a husband to a body’s head and seven connecting a wife to that head’s body. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how your physical body should submit better to your head or how your head should love your body better? The overriding image seems to be one of unity, not hierarchy.

This extended metaphor doesn’t show up with passages on governmental structures, nor do those passages have counterpart exhortations in their sections for the government to love its subjects (although the parts of the Bible written to rulers definitely requires that in the forms of  justice and mercy); but Paul does use the same type of body metaphor in I Corinthians 12:15-27 to explain relationships within the church, and it is always recognized as a metaphor for unity there. The teaching of love (not authority) and submission being the operating structure within the body of Christ is everywhere in the New Testament (more on most of this here). With that backdrop in mind, the problem with the “If your husband asked you xxx?” becomes clearer.

Bad Presuppositions

“Would you do xxx?” is the wrong question. Not only is it the wrong question, but it is asked of the wrong person. If a wife comes into the pastor’s office or if she elsewhere complains that her husband is asking her to do things that are not loving toward her, the response should not be to ask her why she isn’t doing them. The question should be put to the husband asking why he would request or require such a thing of her in the first place.

When you see the marriage dichotomy as authority/submission, the “If your husband…” question makes sense because any refusal is a challenge to his perceived authority. When you see the marriage dichotomy as love/submission, the question makes no sense because love would never ask someone to do such things in the first place and it would certainly never require compliance if the question were posed. The questionee is not the problem; the questioner misunderstands both his own duty to love and how beneficial authority works in general and in what situations it applies.

My Answer to the Question

So, if George asked me stand in front of the cottonwood so he could take my picture, would I do it? The first and arguably the most important point is that he wouldn’t ask me to because George loves me. If he did ask me, I would say, “Umm, George, my eyes will swell up and I’ll be sneezing for days if I stand there.” At that point he would say, “Oh! Sorry, I forgot. Let’s do it in the field instead.” If later he still wanted a shot by the tree, he would just find someone else to use for the shot. No power struggle over who is not exercising their authority correctly or who isn’t submitting properly because the issue is not one of authority. It is an issue of love.


  • Final note: If George suddenly became other than who he is and insisted upon my standing in front of the allergy tree after I reminded him that it would make me sick, I would tell him “no.” For us, this would be a complete rarety; however, if your spouse (male or female) consistently asks you to do unreasonable things that put you in danger or show blatant disregard for your personhood in mind or body, please consider reading through a screening for abuse and getting help if necessary. 

Thoughts on Hymns

Our culture is obsessed with musical superstars. We see American Idols high and lifted up as the pinnacle of vocal prowess. The commercial music industry has furthered the idea that those who can truly sing should be rewarded with recording contracts, while others are better off sitting and being spectators. Those who love to sing but feel they are lacking in talent will relegate themselves to singing along with the radio, or only sharing their voices with an audience of shampoo and conditioner bottles.

~From Everyone Can Sing: How to Stop the Non-Singer Epidemic in Our Churches


Found this great article the other day that talks about one of the huge things I like hymns: they aren’t riffed or ad-libbed, which means everyone knows what they are supposed to be singing and when and are therefore able to more fully participate. Hymns are far less repetitive, and the lyrics are usually much more interesting and thoughtful to sing. Plus, the lyrics return to you in times of struggle or rejoicing, and you have a way to express through song thoughts or emotions that are often otherwise inexpressible or very difficult to articulate. Hymns gift you a beautifully complex language of worship.

Even in churches that only sing hymns occasionally, those seem to be the songs that get the most congregational (*not* audience) participation. Non-dirge, updated arrangements that still manage to retain the melody are showing up more and more, and the Gettys exist. I hope this means a church music renaissance is on the way.