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Minding Your Mind

Walk into any Christian bookstore and case the shelves of books on women's issues, family living, and patterns of leadership. You will be hard put to find little or anything written on the role of the mind or the importance of the intellect in developing and maintaining a sturdy, healthy faith in and walk with God. Go to any women's retreat or women's leadership conference. Speakers and seminars appealing to women's hearts and souls and talking about spiritual disciplines abound. Discussion of women's roles as mothers, daughters, single women, keepers of the home, and as home-schoolers dominates the teaching hours. But is there much or any focus on the importance of the mind, of the crucial role that good reading and responsible study play in its development? Is there much mention of becoming an intellectual as well as a spiritual disciple of Christ?

Sadly, many women are probably intimidated by the word intellect (I always define the word carefully when I use it), even though what it means is the power to know as distinguished from the power to feel and to will. Yet, every one of those women would agree, at least in theory, that we must know the word of God as well as feel it. Knowing involves the use of the intellect.

As an example, in the two or more decades I have been speaking at women's conferences and retreats, I have often chosen to address the importance of good reading and solid Bible study in the Christian life. Often, the leadership has been hesitant when they hear my choice of subject, wondering if perhaps something more practical, more mainstream (dare I say predictable) would be a better subject - something like how to have devotions or how to discern the will of God or how to pray more successfully and consistently.

Some women's ministries leaders have seen the significance of what I want to teach, but they have also understood that my seminars will have to be titled carefully to get numbers. In other words, I must artfully design a title that suggests something "more interesting," "more user-friendly" than thinking about the mind implies, something that, in a sense, cons the women into going to such a session. Somehow a consideration of Christian thinking seems so much less a priority and far less spiritual than subjects to do with Christian behaviors even though the mind is what processes what we feel and will and can lead to a more thoughtful and deliberate Christian lifestyle.

In an articulate book called When Life and Beliefs Collide, Carolyn Custis James argues that all women are called to be theologians - in other words, to have knowledge of God. She notes that the Bible, not to mention church history, "records the stories of countless women whose theology led them to make significant contributions at home, in the community, and in the church" (p. 19).

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