A Woman’s Prerogative in Christ

October 1987
Women's Retreat - Valley Vista Community Church

 In 1987, Dallas had the unique blessing of leading both the men’s retreat and the women’s retreat for Valley Vista Community Church, his home church. Both retreats were small and intimate, and it often seems like we’re listening in as a father or older brother talks with his family. This is very practical advice on living as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, including working on our plans for how we follow Christ with all the spiritual and the practical aspects of our lives.

During the women's retreat, Dallas gave very practical advice on living as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, including working on our plans for how we follow Christ with all the spiritual and the practical aspects of our lives. The sessions included:

  1. Does God Talk to Girls?
  2. Discussion: Does God Talk to Girls?
  3. No Bystanders in the Kingdom
  4. What is Your Relationship to God?
  5. Discussion: What is your Relationship to God?
  6. Accepting Change
  7. Discussion: Accepting Change

     

One of the retreat participants brought her new baby with her. Dallas told everyone not to worry about the coos and cries of the baby, and we encourage you to do the same.

The book Dallas asked the ladies to read prior to the retreat was The Blessing, by Gary Smalley and John Trent.

Resources

1: Does God Talk to Girls?

This title comes from a question a young girl asked her mother because all the people leading the worship service were men. Of course the answer is "yes!" Anything a man can do with God, a woman can do as well. The way women have been treated and controlled historically has not been what God originally intended for humanity.

3: No Bystanders in the Kingdom!

Dallas explores the transformative journey into the Kingdom of Heaven, emphasizing the liberation from self-rejection through the humility and trust exemplified by children. He invites listeners to discover their intrinsic worth in God's eyes, fostering a life of unconditional love and the joy of blessing others.

4: What is Your Relationship to God?

Dallas embarks on a thought-provoking exploration of living a life fully immersed in the Kingdom of God. He encourages us to live purposefully within the Kingdom of God, transforming mundane tasks into spiritual practices, and illustrating how small beginnings can grow into extraordinary expressions of faith.

5: Discussion of “What is Your Relationship to God?”

Engaging with his audience, Dallas examines the essence of our relationship with God, emphasizing the importance of seeking divine guidance at any stage of life. He challenges the listener to reconsider the notions of faith, action, and passivity, proposing that a true faith journey involves actively pursuing God's direction for our lives.

6: Accepting Change

Dallas embarks on a profound exploration of human nature, choices, and the redemptive power of grace through the lens of biblical wisdom. With an insightful look into the parable of the prodigal son, he challenges traditional narratives, offering a fresh perspective on prodigality, forgiveness, and the intricate dance of human relationships. This talk is a stirring invitation to reflect on our own journeys, urging us to embrace the unique path laid before us with courage, acceptance, and an open heart to the transformative grace of God. This is not just a discussion; it's a call to deeply consider our place in the grand narrative of faith and the beauty of life's changes.

7: Discussion of “Accepting Change”

Dallas and the participants of the women's retreat engage in profound conversation on the nuances of contentment, acceptance, and the pursuit of a life aligned with divine purpose. Through the lens of Apostle Paul's life and teachings, Dallas navigates the complexities of embracing life's circumstances while still striving for growth and meaningful achievements. The dialogue delves into the intricacies of personal and spiritual development, emphasizing the importance of understanding God's role in our lives and the distinction between being content with our lot and the continuous quest for betterment. As participants share their struggles and insights, the discussion illuminates the delicate balance between accepting God's acceptance and the ongoing journey towards a heart of goodness, laying a path for deep introspection and spiritual enlightenment.

Does God Talk to Girls?

The purpose of a retreat is to give an opportunity for a new start on something important. It’s called a retreat because you are getting away from the battle. At a retreat, you can catch up without having to defend yourself, without having to worry about all those feelings, and you can come to yourself (the way the prodigal son did).

Dallas uses “the woman at the well” (John 4), “the Proverbs 31 woman” (who he jokingly said is the most hated woman in the church) and 1 Corinthians 13 to talk about how we see ourselves and our place in the world as women. The Samaritan woman came to the well in the heat of the day because she was an outsider. Feelings like this tend to dominate our day-to-day existence, even to the point of creating addictions. What do we automatically say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to because of our place?

On Blessing and Being Blessed:

  • Rejection is the opposite of blessing. 
  • Women have received a lot of rejection through religion.

 

Men aren’t better than women. As humankind, men and women complete each other. Imagine the world with either only men or only women! But as individuals, we are not required to have a spouse to be complete. Our dependence on each other as seen in scripture was misused in biblical culture and religion throughout history. The way women have been treated and controlled historically is what God originally intended for humanity.

We find a progressive understanding* of God as we watch the men and women in the stories throughout the Bible. And if we want to understand God’s attitude toward women, just look at the way Jesus treated them. Dallas gives an example of the loving way Jesus interacted with Mary and Martha.

So, does God talk to girls? Yes! Anything a man can do with God, and woman can do as well.

*Dallas points out that he is not getting into “progressive revelation” theology here.
 

Discussion of "Does God Talk to Girls?"

Continuing themes from session one…

Understanding Our Place

  • Women in heaven – There’s no marriage in heaven. Our identity won’t be related to marital status or gender.
  • The place of women in culture, then and now.

 

Interpreting Scripture

  • When you read the Bible, keep in mind that these are people just like we are.
  • Remember how much the culture of the time plays into the stories
  • Women have as much access to ministry gifts as men do.

 

Rejection and the Curse of Idealism

  • Paul said all things work out for the good, but we read that as the best.
  • Missing out on good things because you’re waiting for the best. 
  • I’m not good because I’m not best. We have to be #1.
  • What is in us that causes this? Pride and domination.
  • Everything becomes a competition. 
  • This competitive attitude is one of the worst things about the American education system. It creates a matrix for rejection because we can’t all be the best student or athlete. “The main effect of education is to make you aware of all the things you are not and can’t be.”
  • In our culture, “pursuit of happiness” means getting ahead of everyone else. (As seen in the bumper sticker: “I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you.”
  • How we define personal beauty

 

Dealing with Time Limitations

  • Accept that we can’t control everything
  • This is why God gave us the sabbath

No Bystanders in the Kingdom!

This talk offers profound insights into the Christian life, emphasizing the transformative power of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Dallas begins by discussing the concept of the Kingdom of God, suggesting that true entry into this kingdom involves shedding the burdens of rejection and self-acceptance. He underscores Jesus's use of a little child as an example of the humility and trust required to truly belong to God's Kingdom, highlighting the innocence and presumptive nature of children as a model for Christian living. This presumption, according to Willard, is not arrogance but a natural, unburdened approach to life that adults lose upon encountering rejection and the need for self-justification.

Dallas further explores the idea of presumption in the context of self-esteem and the inherent worth of individuals. He critiques the modern approach to self-esteem that suggests it can be self-generated, arguing instead that true self-worth must be conferred by others, ultimately derived from God's valuation of us. This valuation is not based on achievements or social roles but on the intrinsic value of being loved by God. He uses the example of pets, which offer unconditional love, to illustrate how beings can offer a sense of worth and acceptance, highlighting the importance of being valued for one's existence rather than accomplishments.

The talk concludes with an examination of the implications of living in the knowledge of God's unconditional love and acceptance. Dallas suggests that understanding our value in God's eyes allows us to overcome the fear of rejection and live freely, blessing others from the abundance of God's love within us. He emphasizes that our ability to bless others is contingent upon our own experience of being blessed by God, urging listeners to seek a personal, transformative encounter with God's love. Through this encounter, believers can attain a child-like presumption in their worth and existence, enabling them to navigate life with confidence in their intrinsic value and extend blessings to others from a place of abundance rather than lack.

What is Your Relationship to God?

Dallas delves into the practical aspects of deepening one's relationship with God and living a life blessed by and in blessing to others. He emphasizes the Kingdom of God as central to our lives, not as a distant or abstract concept, but as a present and active reality that influences how we live, work, and interact with the world around us. Listeners are encouraged to reconsider their perceptions of the Kingdom of God, comparing it to a mustard seed—a small beginning that grows into something significant, illustrating that the Kingdom's power and presence in our lives might start small but has the potential to grow immensely.

Dallas emphasizes the importance of inviting God into every aspect of our lives, not by seeking new vocations or tasks, but by integrating God's presence into our current activities and responsibilities. He challenges the notion that religious life is separate from everyday life, arguing that God is interested in and wants to be involved in all aspects, including our professions, hobbies, and mundane tasks. This integration of faith into every aspect of life is presented as a way to live out the Kingdom of God here and now, transforming how we view and undertake our daily duties.

Towards the end, the focus shifts to the practical implications of living a life in the Kingdom of God, touching upon topics like setting spiritual goals, the role of prayer, and the importance of planning for both spiritual growth and material needs. Dallas emphasizes the need for Christians to take responsibility for their lives, including their spiritual development, financial stability, and overall well-being, suggesting that planning and goal-setting are not contrary to faith but are aspects of living wisely and fruitfully in God's Kingdom.
 

The book Dallas asked the ladies to read prior to the retreat was The Blessing, by Gary Smalley and John Trent.

Discussion of “What is Your Relationship to God?”

During this back-and-forth with his audience, Dallas emphasizes the importance of actively seeking God's guidance throughout our lives, regardless of age, to make our time count and fulfill our responsibilities towards God. He challenges the common misconception that drift or passivity equates to faith, arguing instead that faith is demonstrated through action and a willingness to ask God for direction in life's endeavors. Dallas shares personal reflections on his own career, noting that while he never planned to become a university professor or author, he believes his path was shaped by a series of "graceful accidents" and a desire to present the gospel effectively. He admits to wondering if a more deliberate approach to his career could have made him more useful to others, highlighting the importance of being open to God's guidance even when it leads in unexpected directions.

Dallas further discusses the nuances of interpreting God's will and the effectiveness of prayer, emphasizing that a correlation between prayer and outcomes over time can strengthen faith in prayer's power. He advises keeping a prayer diary to track and reflect on answered prayers, suggesting that this practice can reveal the unexpected ways in which God responds to our requests. This part of the discussion underscores the complexity of discerning and following God's guidance, illustrating that while not all desires or prayers are answered in the way one might hope, the act of prayer itself is a form of faith and submission to God's will.

The conversation transitions into a discussion on prosperity, where Dallas distinguishes between the right to prosper and the responsibility to do so. He critiques the prosperity gospel for its focus on personal wealth and comfort, arguing instead for a perspective of stewardship and responsibility towards God's creation. He suggests that prosperity should be viewed not as an entitlement but as a means to further God's kingdom, challenging listeners to consider how they can use their resources, talents, and time for the glory of God. This portion of the talk invites reflection on the moral and spiritual implications of wealth, encouraging a mindset of service and humility in the pursuit of prosperity.

Accepting Change

In this talk, Dallas looks into the complexities of human life, decision-making, and the quest for meaning through the lens of Christian spirituality, drawing heavily on biblical narratives, particularly the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15 and 16. He explores the idea of prodigality beyond the traditional male-centric narrative, suggesting that women, too, can experience a form of spiritual and existential prodigality. He proposes that their return to a sense of home or self might manifest differently, often through introspection about life choices concerning marriage, career, and personal growth. This gender-inclusive approach invites a broader contemplation of what it means to stray and return in the context of personal faith and life choices.

Dallas further examines the character of the older brother in the parable, suggesting that his story is as instructive as that of the prodigal son. The older brother's bitterness and sense of injustice at his younger sibling's return and their father's joyful acceptance thereof highlights a critical spiritual lesson about entitlement, grace, and the nature of God's love. He suggests that the older brother's inability to rejoice in his brother's return reveals a lack of understanding of grace, a theme he argues is central to Christian teaching. Through this narrative, we are invited to reflect on our own attitudes towards forgiveness, grace, and the complex dynamics of familial and spiritual relationships.

The talk culminates in a powerful call to self-acceptance and the embrace of one's life as a unique and unrepeatable journey with God. Life is not a rehearsal but a precious opportunity to live fully in the presence of God, making choices that reflect a deep engagement with one's values and beliefs. We are encouraged to see our lives as arenas for spiritual growth and fulfillment, rather than as a series of missed opportunities or regrets. Through this message, Dallas offers a perspective on change that is both challenging and comforting, rooted in a deep trust in God's goodness and the transformative power of grace.

Discussion of “Accepting Change”

In this energetic back-and-forth between Dallas and the audience, the central theme revolves around the concept of acceptance, contentment, and the challenge of embracing change while maintaining personal growth and fulfillment in one's spiritual journey. Dallas initiates the conversation by questioning the comfortable life versus the contented life, using Apostle Paul's life as an example to illustrate the difference between mere satisfaction in circumstances and the deeper contentment found in faith and purpose, even amidst adversity. He encourages the audience to contemplate whether contentment and acceptance are merely the end goals or if there's something beyond these states that believers should strive for, emphasizing the importance of balance between acceptance and the pursuit of goodness.

Dallas further explores the nuanced understanding of contentment, distinguishing between being content with one's circumstances and being content with one's achievements and purpose. He emphasizes that contentment with one's lot, as assigned by God, does not preclude the desire to accomplish meaningful goals. This part of the discussion underscores the complexity of reconciling contentment and acceptance with the drive to make a difference, challenging the audience to consider how they can achieve both without compromising their faith or sense of purpose. Through examples of Paul's life and teachings, Dallas illustrates the dynamic between being satisfied with where God has placed one while still striving towards fulfilling one's calling.

The conversation evolves into a more interactive session, with Dallas addressing personal stories and concerns from the audience, reflecting on the struggles of dealing with illness, pain, and the feeling of wasted time. He stresses the importance of discerning the lessons God intends for individuals through their experiences, emphasizing that the journey of faith involves both accepting one's circumstances and actively seeking to learn and grow from them. The dialogue culminates in a broader reflection on the role of pain and suffering in spiritual growth, urging the attendees to see these experiences as opportunities for learning rather than obstacles to happiness. Willard's message aims to inspire a shift in perspective, encouraging a deeper reliance on God's guidance and a reevaluation of personal values and priorities in light of Christian faith.