Scripture- Egalitarian from the start

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I grew up in a tradition where the idea of women in ministry is still an issue. My husband grew up in a tradition where women have been in ministry for as long as the denomination has existed. When we got together, I let him know I was called to ministry. Not to be the wife of a minister but for me to be in ministry. I took great pains to spell this out for him. I told him of my calling, my experience, my training, and I had scripture to back it all up. After my soliloquy, he smiled and said “OK”. My adrenaline was going, I was ready for a fight. I was ready to verbally assault him with my passion and wit and all I got was “OK”! For him, this conversation is passé. His life story it includes not only his mother as a pastor, but a grandmother and great grandmother, not to mention countless aunties. The conversation is so passé, it bores him. Not because he isn’t supportive of women, but precisely because he knows women should be in leadership in the church, have been in leadership in the church, and, at the end of the day, it was God’s idea from the start.

And so we start at the beginning. This will be difficult for some to hear but Genesis 1 is not the beginning I mean. It is not the earliest text we have. Genesis is the first in the story as put together in the cannon but Judges 5 is arguably the oldest text in scripture. It is in this, the oldest of text that we find our earliest models of leadership. (Judges 4 was actually written after 5 and it appears to offer a retelling of the poem filled out with prose.) And so we begin in one of the oldest stories we have with a story where a woman and a man are in leadership, partnership. It is this egalitarian model that leads the people to victory. It is a model where it is Deborah and Barak are serving together. Each in a distinct role. Each leading from position of strength that impact men and women.

This passage has much to teach beyond the obvious. With it being the earliest text, Deborah was among the earliest leaders. There is no quibbling in the text as to her role. There is no debate if she can emotionally handle this or if she should have authority over the men around her. It is a fact, not a point of argument. She is a judge. She is in authority. For those who would claim that this situation was somehow a less than ideal situation or that a woman should not have been in leadership at this moment of crisis, please note that the text offers no criticism of Deborah or of the reality of a woman in a leadership role.

Here is what I love about this passage. She speaks truly and clearly without emasculating or devaluing Barak. She is so secure in who she is that she doesn’t need to belittle him as he asks for help. I have heard sermons depicting Barak as weak, as an embarrassment to men everywhere for asking the help of a woman. That is not in the text. In fact, Barak clearly respects and values Deborah. He is not threatened by her nor does he infantalize her. The mutual respect is stunning. They are aware of the task at hand, they are aware of how it may be viewed by others and still, they do what is right.

Deborah goes on in Judges 5 with a poetic telling of the defeat of Sisera. She names and credits Jael for the tactical move, the hands on interaction which led to victory. In all too many instances, a woman can rise to positions of leadership only to make it even more difficult for other women around her. Deborah does not do this. Her model of leadership shows not only respect for men but for other capable women around her. She is secure in herself and does not feel threatened when another capable woman is present.

So why do we care if this is one of the earliest accounts in scripture? It is significant that Deborah appears in a leadership role in the Bible’s oldest passage because it demonstrates that those advocating for an egalitarian position are not merely bending to their surrounding culture. They have not caved to the pressure of society. The idea of women in leadership was established in the Bible’s oldest text. It was there from the beginning.

To focus on Deborah as an exemplar of women in leadership is to acknowledge that there was a time when women and men worked together in leadership long before the monarchy was established. It is a Biblical model of who and what we are to be that comes from who and what we have always been. Christians today are not jumping on the latest cultural bandwagon trying to keep up with an increasingly egalitarian culture. Christians are in fact actually reading their Bibles. And it matters.

Multiple Choice, please

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Last week I was sharing a lunch table with Amos & Alma Yong discussing disability, parenting, food, education, committees, and a variety of other topics. We were at the Theology: Disability and Ministry conference held at Fuller Seminary SW. A small group of us having been meeting since Winter and it was an amazing time! Dr. Yong was the keynote and it would be an entirely different post to mention all of the other great people involved.

Among many thoughts still marinating for me is this…Dr. Yong came to discuss his thoughts and writings on disability. He is know for writing on Pentecostal perspectives. He is currently blogging on the Holy Spirit. He had an article come out last week regarding evangelicals and heresy. His interests are wide. He has taken the time in a variety of areas to research, reflect, live, think, and formulate thoughts as well as articulating them for the rest of us. I am struck by how human this is.

In the last several months I have read and been drawn into a few conversations with people who are singularly focused. I have even had conversations with publishers who ask/say things like “what is the ONE thing you are known for? That is the only area where you should be trying to write.” I am realizing that while there is something to say for having focus and knowing something well but, there is a danger too. It seems to be bringing out the worst in a host of people. There is an arrogance and a blind, mean spiritedness that is present. There is a further sense of who is in and who is out. There is a stifling of the beautiful complexity of humanity and simply being interested in more than one thing. There is a building up of walls around racism, sexism, ableism, violence, abuse, youth, ministry, music, and well…you name it.

I have long said that when it comes to identity, our identity in Christ, we must stop pathologizing particularities. We can celebrate diversity and name it as important and needed. It keeps us humble. It opens conversation. And quite frankly, it makes us much more interesting. My hope is that as we move forward, writers, teachers, pastors, bloggers, and all of us are afforded the space to be more holistic. To not feel the squeeze to be “that” person who has opinions on only one topic.

I’m grateful for that one lunch; For a quick introduction to someone whose writings on disability I already admired, but who as a person I appreciate more. I am encouraged that my discussion with the publisher was off… I don’t have to find my ONE thing. May we all learn that sooner than later. It’s how we can connect and learn instead of building camps that refuse to speak because your thing is not my thing. Maybe it’s because as a theologian, a mom, a teacher, a wife, a minister, and a writer I am always multitasking. Or maybe because I am finally settling into my own skin and understanding what it means to be human that I am rejecting the singular expectations from others.

Hook up apps

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I’ve spent the last week and a half in a class on crisis issues in youth ministry discussing abuse. We’ve talked about physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse. We’ve talked about mandated reporting, impact on families and communities, and what is the role of a youth worker. I’ve been teaching this same class for nearly two decades and it never gets easier.

So what is the role of a youth worker? Dean Borgman in Hear My Story asks is this “Do we need to work together to stop the dangers young people experience — and to heal their hurts?” When asked this, my class offered a resounding YES! And then stared blankly, sitting silently. As they began to open up, they struggled to say how hard they thought this task would be. The finally said while they felt like we should do something, they felt helpless. Then came the conversation of perhaps not being as helpless now as they were a few weeks ago. The conversation that maybe they need to learn more so they may speak out more.

I tell my students that long after they graduate they need to continue reading. With that, check out this link on apps for hooking up. For many of us, we are settled in life and this is not even on our radar. The recent rise in STD’s and young people finding themselves in dangerous situations however says that we need to be aware of what is our of our typical worlds. Whether you agree with the conclusion of the article or not, it’s worth the read! As you read ask yourself, “Do we need to work together to stop the dangers young people experience?”

 

 

 

Talk about discrimination

lestinnocentbloodJust because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I talk with youth workers all the time about inclusion. Inclusion is woven into our very jargon when we speak of the gospel being for everyone. What we say officially however does not always match functionally.

As Ferguson has permeated the news, conversations of racism have risen again. A tragic reason, and long overdue, but the conversations are needed. What I am hearing from many young (african american, asian, hispanic, native american and white) leaders is that they know racism exists but that it is not their battle or that they just don’t see it. I couldn’t make this up. As I proceed to name a few places where I see it with them, it is as if a veil is being lifted. And then the floodgate is opened. Frustration or anger often follows. They begin to realize that they had be so socialized to see something as “normal” that they didn’t even see it as discrimination.

I hear this same comment when I bring up including people with disabilities. “Oh, yes, that is important but we don’t have anyone with a disability in our youth group / church / school / community”.

I hear this same comment when talking about including women in leadership. “Oh, we don’t have any women who are interested / qualified / called”.

And again when I talk about the gospel and those with different gender or sex orientations. “Oh yes, that is a huge issue in The church, but not my church. We don’t have anyone identifying / struggling / living with any of those issues.”

Inclusion demands that we talk, openly about all of these possibilities. Inclusion demands that we talk long before we know someone with a disability or can identify racism. You will do it imperfectly, do it anyway. You will make mistakes, do it anyway. You will receive pushback, do it anyway.

One of my very favorite books is “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed” by Philip Hallie. It is the story of a small village named Le Chambon in France during the Holocaust. In this village, conversations of peace making, of the gospel’s inclusion for all had been taking place for 400 years. Long before they knew that they would be put to the test, long before they dreamed they may have a chance to extend life to anyone…Jewish refugees and Nazi soldiers…they talked about inclusion. It will blow your mind to see what a difference their deep seeded beliefs made when faced with a real life situation.

We are late to the party. We don’t have the luxury of 400 years of history shaping us to push hard for inclusion of all, to work for peace, to fight discrimination for a variety of people. To be imitators of Jesus inviting all to the table with welcoming arms.

Late to the party however still means that the party is going on. It’s not over and indeed, in this case I would argue better late than never.

What we do have is a choice of how to respond today. Our junior high and high school students see issues of discrimination every day. It is a part of the fabric of their lives. It’s time we adults figure out how to better model what God actually intended. It is time we learn to navigate the waters of discrimination on a variety of fronts so that all may know Jesus actually brought good news for everyone.

 

Faith Feminism: on being a theotokos, insults and football

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It all began when the only bad mark on my annual review was that I was spending too much time with students instead of going to lunch with my colleagues every day. The irony is that I did go to lunch with them once a week. And once a week I sat at a table, politely welcomed with an opening hello before the conversation quickly turned to football. I’m not anti-football. I just can’t talk about it every week for a solid year! This idea of collegiality was not what I expected. I had a rather romantic notion that when one was on a theological faculty with others who are considered both brilliant and godly that at least once in while we would discuss theology, ministry, the Bible…anything that had to do with our fields. I was very naive.

My time with students was much more interesting. Not only were they fascinated by what they were reading, studying, and living, but they wanted community. They wanted to wrestle with hard questions and talk about what it meant to live an abundant life! They were curious about things that did not fit neatly into the curriculum of any particular course but mattered for them as people of faith and ministerial leaders in particular. They pushed me to think and rethink what I held dear. I was sharpened as iron sharpens iron not because they didn’t respect me, rather precisely because they did. In turn I respected them and wanted only to offer the best of what I could. This meant a great deal of work on my part. Not only was I prepping for the actual courses I was teaching, I was constantly looking at theological concepts, church history, and practical theology shaping my own faith. I also had to think through how to share this with others in ways where they may not have the same vocabulary or stamina for really long dry books that seminary students and professors have. These times with students turned to meals, ice cream social, and game nights at my house. We developed a blend of constant theological conversation with a lot of prayer, laughter, food and community was built.

Ultimately, this was part of my undoing. I have been told by faculty members on more than one occasion that students are not who should receive the lion’s share of my attention. It is not politically expedient. It is not going to get me ahead in the traditional sense. I was told I was being too maternal by going to such lengths in investing in my students. I thought I was trying to bring about something bigger than myself.

The faculty’s critique became a compliment to me. Last time I checked, this is exactly what God calls us to do. (And just to be clear, I am not talking about the mistake too of us women make in never being able to take credit for anything. This is wrong and is a post for another day!)

God calls us to be a theotokos. Female and male, we are all called to bear Christ to the world. Mary bore Jesus, literally as an infant, bringing God into the world. Her calling was not any easy one; it was painful and cost her a lot. What she was able to do, however, changed the world! For some of us, we know what childbirth is actually like. For others it is a metaphorical reality. For all, the theotokos or model of bearing God over and over and over again in the world is exactly who we are to be. We are to bear God to those whom no one else sees. We are to bear God to those who wonder if God is real. We go through the pains of carrying truth within us and labor that others may know that God is real, that God loves them, that God demands justice, that God longs for relationship, in short…that God matters in this world.

As a professor and theologian, being labeled as too maternal was intended as an insult. It was intended to tell me that I don’t fit in. It was intended to harm.

On bad days, I want to scream screw you at those who have been so ivory-towered-arrogant. But on good days, I remember that I, too, have been in that ivory tower. And what they intended for insult, God meant for good. I’ll take too maternal any day over football!

Surviving Christians-2

The very person who extended an invitation for a call to ministry was the first to tell me God does not call women to ministry. He was my first youth pastor. He was charismatic, dynamic and made it seem like almost anything in life was possible.

Part of our tradition held to the weekly three part invitation, 1) for salvation 2) for rededication 3) for ministry. As a young teenager, I heard the invitation every single week asking if God was calling me to ministry. It penetrated deep into my bones. It was a question that became part of the very fibre of my being. We were encouraged to think about this as a real viable option. This particular youth pastor moved to another state but his influence in my life was huge. Fast forward a few years and I did accept that call to ministry.

The summer before I began seminary, I ran into that youth pastor. I was with the teenagers with whom I was volunteering. We saw each other, hugged and did all of the obligatory “how are you?” “you look so good!” “I miss you!” I was so excited to tell him that I had listened all those years earlier and I thanked him for the invitation to ministry. He just stared for a moment and had the most peculiar look on his face. I asked what was wrong and he said “well…I am just surprised. I don’t think women can be in ministry. I never expected any of the ‘girls’ in the youth group to take me up on that. I still think you are great! It’s nothing personal, God just doesn’t allow you to be in ministry.”

I just walked away. I said nothing. I was so stunned.

Looking back I wish I had said something! I wish I had told him that he was wrong. That even if he didn’t realize it, God was working through him! I have so gotten over the notion that God does not call women.

God has, God does and God will continue to call women into ministry.

It took a long time for me to be able to say that with confidence. It took my finally realizing that it was more important to please God than to please any leader before me, regardless of how much I respected him or her or how much she or he had taught me. Sometimes surviving is listening and realizing others are a work in process as well and not everyone is right just because they say it with conviction and attach a verse or two as proof.

ps. I am looking for stories of those who have survived Christians in a variety of ways. The stories need to be told. Not to air dirty laundry but to tell others “you are not alone” and that surviving is a real possibility!! Feel free to contact me via comments or e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you!

Surviving Christians

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Like a lot of Christians, I have lived through a number of rotten situations. Like a slightly smaller set of Christians, most of the rotten situations I have lived through were caused by other Christians. They have caused me to question my identity, my faith, and my calling. And because so many of the rotten things that have occurred in my life took place in the context of the church, I thought I had no choice but to tough it out. That became harder and harder to do.

The first time I heard that it was not only OK to leave a toxic situation but was actually described in scripture was after I was accused of heresy, of being a lesbian, and of being a troublemaker… The healthy scriptural advice I needed is found in Matthew 10:14, Luke 9:5 and Mark 6:11. Before I tell you how I began to survive, I need to share one situation I needed to survive. Well, one story, at least. And this story is less tragic for me than it was for several other participants in the narrative. You’ll see what I mean.

The downward spiral began when I received a call being told that one of the girls in the youth group where I served had just been “inappropriately touched” by a friend of her parents, who also happened to be a deacon at my church and the head of the finance committee. I went with her to tell her parents. Her father was understandably angry. Her mother was as well, but not in the way you might imagine. She looked straight at her daughter and said “I thought I raised you better than this! Don’t you know his wife is my best friend? How do you think she is going to feel? What good is telling anyone going to do? You should be able to handle your own business not drag others in to rescue you. You better not mess up my friendship.” I was floored.

I went with her to another family’s house that night. They listened, talked, and prayed with her. It was now my job to report the incident in order to protect her and others.

Our pastor had just retired so I went to our chair of deacons the next day to let him know I had to report the incident. I was after all a mandated reporter. He very gently told me that it was hearsay. It should be handled in-house. I asked to let the deacons know first. He told me that, as a female, I could not attend the deacon meeting but I could send a male representative. Unfortunately, as I was not married at the time, any male I told would constitute gossip so I could not tell anyone. Matter closed…for him.

I did call the police and made my report, but the young woman who was groped and fondled up her skirt recanted. She said I was making something out of nothing. It went down as an incident report and I was vilified by the finance chair and a few others in power at the church. What I found out in this process was that many girls and women had been groped by this man over the years, but all thought it was too disruptive to the community to call him out. He contributed a great deal financially and personally to the church so his indiscretions were overlooked. I was even pulled aside by a well meaning Sunday School teacher and told, “Everyone knows to avoid him, he has always groped women. Just walk on the other side of the sidewalk and you don’t get touched.” Somehow this was acceptable in this church. But not with me. Turns out he also gave porn to boys but no one seemed concerned about that either. Oh…and a year later I learned he had been molesting his own daughter for years. At the age of 13 she was stoned more often than not in order to hide the pain. Still, no one seemed willing to stand up to him.

My time in this church, after all the lies, betrayal, slander, and general angst, ended with the youth group miraculously growing…numerically and spiritually. This is why I stayed. I was witnessing an amazing ministry and believed that if this much good was present, surely something would shift and redemption would come. I had fantastic volunteer youth leaders, wonderful parents, and teens longing to grow more in their faith and put it into action. The time with teens was precious and I really thought I could withstand anything with Christ. What I didn’t see, what I couldn’t see, was that I was losing a lot of weight and getting migraines with the stress of what was happening in church leadership. I was gaunt, sickly and struggling.

After a year, I was pulled aside in the parking lot one night after youth group and told roughly, “We would like to offer you a raise if you would be willing to drop all accusations with the police. If not, we will have to let you go and we will say it is for financial reasons. Sometimes you have to look the other way in order to preserve the unity of the body of Christ.” (emphasis mine). That last part in italics is a direct quote. As if seared into my mind, that phrase surfaces on all too many occasions when I hear horrific stories that have happened in the midst of Christian communities.

And yet here I am. Years later. I am still in ministry. I still love Jesus and the church. I am not the only one to have survived Christians. In the last 20 years I have experienced terrible things. I have walked through even more with countless people. At others times, I have been a listening ear for others to share with me what they have experienced. Sometimes years after the fact; sometimes sharing their story for the first time.

There is power in story and knowing you are not the only one. There is power in hearing how others coped. There is power in learning how to move beyond surviving into thriving. Bullies, predators, and liars all count on one thing: silence by the ones they have wronged.

I want to offer hope to those who are currently struggling. To those contemplating walking away from the church, their faith or worse, their own lives, know this: there is hope.

I was taught as a kid to expect non-Christians to behave like non-Christians. In other words, if they don’t know Jesus how could they imitate Jesus (Eph 5:1). But what happens when they do know Jesus? What happens when it is a Christian or group of Christians destroying the lives of other Christians? These are the things about which we are not supposed to talk. Rapes by fathers, abuse by mothers. Pastors cheating and lying. Professors who are verbally abusive and liars. Church leadership who uses people like pawns. Ministries who dismiss long time employees for fictitious reasons. It all comes down to some form of betrayal. That which was to keep us safe, those who were supposed to be above reproach and trustworthy are too often the ones who torpedo the lives of the next generation. We need to stop the cycle. I no longer expect non-Christians to not imitate Jesus. Many imitate Jesus quite well whether they know it or not. I do, however, call those of us who are professing to follow Jesus to align our lives in such a way as to imitate Jesus intentionally, even when it costs us. Otherwise, what is the point?

What I am looking for are stories from others. Stories of Survival, even if barely. How have you coped? Where did you find hope? I’d love for those in the midst of struggle to know they are not alone. Post your story in the comments. Send it to me directly if you are not comfortable with comments. Use a pseudonym if you need. But share your story. If you know of someone who has a story to share, pass this along to them. Pass it on anyway, you never know who does have a story of survival.

I need your help to get this out there. I will be posting on this topic again. There are many stories that need to be told. We need a repository of hope.

 

Don’t know how to rest?

This is a guest post by Joyce delRosario, executive director of New Creation Home Ministries, a ministry for young mothers ages 13-22. She also happens to be one of my ministerial heroes, friend and the person who speaks deeply into my life to cheerlead and tell me when I am off track. Her words carry weight. Let them sink in lest you miss what God is saying through her. 

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Who Do You Work For?

Driving to a baby shower, staring at the bridge I was crossing and the San Francisco Bay on either side, I found my mind on overdrive.  I picked up my phone to catch every thought:

-Siri, message Sheila ‘are we still on for Friday lunch?’

-Siri, set reminder to email Debra about tutoring opportunity

-Siri, listen to my messages

-Siri, set event for Thursday at 1pm ‘meet with Gail’.

-Siri, call Dan and set day for table host meeting at his house.

And so on and so on.  My drive to the baby shower was full of commanding the lowest paid administrator in the world. Poor Siri. By the time I got to the shower I had given Siri…I mean me, a long list of commands that would take a week to accomplish.

Oh well, at least I can set work aside and be social right? As soon as I stepped in the door,  I was reacquainted with people who had come to my fundraising events from years past.  Sometimes we can’t take off our ministry hats even when we want to. Over finger food and cake pops, we chatted about kids and New Creation Home Ministries and all the usual topics.  Then the question came up, “When do you usually work?”  My answer, “I try to keep it Monday through Friday from 9 to 9.  But we’re a 24/7 ministry so that doesn’t always work.”

Their smiles turned to looks of concern. What?  I thought I was doing well by keeping it Monday through Friday.  I found myself trying to justify a failing argument, “It’s Silicon Valley. Everyone works a lot here…it’s in my DNA, my grandmother was in a hospital bed, working on her bookkeeping for the ministry she runs in the Philippines!  It’s in my blood!” I’ve justified my work habits in others ways too.  Remember Paul? I didn’t picture him resting much as he shared the Gospel to the world.  Plus, I’m single so I don’t have anyone pulling me to come home to.  What else do I have to do with my time?

And then there’s my Things To Do list.  This started in high school, when I used to carry a thick leather bound planner everywhere I went. Someone once challenged me that it was more important to me then the Bible. They were right and I did not change. Years later that leather bound planner is now neatly wrapped up in my phone and it goes by the name Siri. I use a calendar app and a reminder list to keep my thoughts straight.  I judge whether or not I have a good day based on how much I was able to accomplish.  When I wake up in the morning I give myself a set of goals to accomplish that day and if I miss anything on the list I have failed. Yup…failed.  The list is what drives me.  Every item I check off, my breath gets a little deeper and I am one step closer to putting my mind to rest.

The thing is, that list never ends. I drive to a baby shower and add 20 more items to tackle the next day.  If I’m honest, the list is everything.  My productivity is the way I judge myself, the way I value myself.  I realized that I am not working for the Lord.  I am working for myself.  What started out as a virtuous answer to God’s call on my life to be in ministry became a self -appointing, self-evaluating exercise in working to prove my worth. My busyness is the way people value me.  If I’m busy it looks like I’m changing the world right?  If I’m busy then at least that justifies why people donate to the ministry I’m a part of.  If I’m busy then I look more important somehow.  Important people are busy people. No one ever thought the dude taking a nap on the couch was important right?

But Jesus tells me, “Rest.”  No seriously.  In my quiet times just 2 days ago I heard God telling me to rest.  “My grace is sufficient for you”. And you know what I did? I retold that word from the Lord to my staff as I typed away on the computer in the office.

By this point you may be wondering what’s wrong with me.  Or you may be arm chair psychoanalyzing me.  That’s fine.  Leave your comments below and save me the therapy cost.

Yes I know the importance of Sabbath. Yes I know this is the expressway to burnout (I’ve been doing this same thing for over 20 years by the way).  And yes…yes I have burned out on several occasions.  And yes I do know that Jesus went away to pray.

Here’s the scary thing about this whole confession I’m doing; I have no idea how to rest. I mean it. I read books.  I watch tv and movies while laying on the couch. I go out with friends on occasion to dinner. I play volleyball on Sundays (Okay, not this year but I will soon).  I do quiet times with the Lord. I exercise on a regular basis.  I travel when I can.  The closest moments of refreshing, relaxing rest I have experienced are at the end of a yoga session when they have you just lay there still for a minute or two. But somehow none of this answers my true need for rest.

As I prayed about this problem on my way home from the baby shower I realized that my need to find rest is not about finding the right activity or inactivity to participate in.  It’s about working for the right person…and that person ain’t  me and I hate to tell you, it ain’t you either.  In order to truly find a proper rhythm of life and work I must understand and embrace the One I work for.

I realized that need to work is a need to find security in my worth. And my need to find worth in my work is an area of restlessness that I have yet to turn over to the Lord.  When I can turn over my identity and self-worth to the Lord and allow God to define my day, value my worth and order my steps then I can operate in a shalom far greater than any checklist can offer.  I heard it right before, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of my checklist just yet or do away with any vision planning I have been working on. I am however ready to realign my org chart and work on remembering who should be directing my next step. It sounds easy and almost cliché to let Jesus take the wheel, but if we’re honest with ourselves it’s not.  Our sinful nature makes it difficult to easily let this happen.  I don’t want to wait till I have no other choice but to let Jesus take control.  Those instances always seem to be painful lessons.  Tomorrow is Thursday and I have every intention to rest in the One who calls me to work His way and not mine.

Labyrinths, parenting and ministry

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This past Saturday was World Labyrinth Day. I know…you might be shocked you didn’t know before. In all honesty, they need a little better PR and a lot more confidence. Their very web page invites you to join hundreds of others around the world. Assuming it is indeed worldwide, go for broke and at least say thousands. I digress.

In what has become my typical style of travel, I had a little person with me. In this case, my 11 month old. We had a little time before the morning board meeting was to begin and our lovely babysitter would occupy his time. He was fed, happy and snuggled into me for a morning rest. I walked to the labyrinth on property at Scarritt-Bennett. It was a holy moment of getting to walk with my son, heartbeat to heartbeat, my breath mingling with his. I prayed. I prayed for him and with him. I thanked God for these few holy moments appreciating all that he is to me. It was me, my son and God and it was precious. It was a long, lingering walk and I drank in every moment of it, cognizant he would only be able to be held like this for just a little while longer. I planned to sit and bask in the presence of God and intimacy with my son as we entered the center.

And then the baby exploded. The moment my cadence paused, something triggered in his tiny little body and there was no turning back. He was loud. Really loud, arched back screeching! I tried bouncing, rocking, singing and even thought for about half a second of just walking back out the labyrinth hoping to recreate the tender quiet we had when we entered. No such luck. I looked around and we were clearly disturbing the peace.

I broke the golden rule of the labyrinth. The one that says live the process. Slow your pace. Depart as intentionally as you entered. And most of all, under no circumstances are you to give into the temptation to short cut or skip a path. I did it. I boldy walked across every line and made it out alive. I had done the best I could and realized getting half way through was…my best.

One of the most common questions I get now is how to balance being a parent and in ministry. It is so easy to look at others, seemingly crowds of others able to give more and do more than I am with kids in tow. I recognize there are times when I am passed over due to the assumption that I will say no because of kids. I am also grateful for those who accept me offering the very best I can, even when it is less than I hoped as I try to take care of my children while being a steward of the calling God has placed in my life.

I think of Mark 12:41-44 [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Her gift was not the most spectacular, but it was all she could offer. My home is always a little messy, and always open to others. We host people weekly. If it is a choice between being really put together and getting somewhere, chances are we won’t be quite put together but we will be fully present. We travel as a family. We work to find ways for them, even in their most tender years to be included in a ministry of their own. Giving out of what they have. All of my children have been on a mission trip. Each has been to camp multiple times. My sweet children fall asleep in corners of rooms where I am teaching or preaching or they sit coloring in random coffee shops so that I may meet and pray with people. I definitely move a little slower and that is just fine. I miss out on late night hang out times when at conferences tucking babies in bed instead. Often I get interrupted and that is part of being community and including little people. If I don’t include them, who will? And how will they learn what it means to align your life, your whole life around Jesus if I never let them be with me while I serve?

Too often I hear of wonderful people giving up on friends, life and most of all ministry when children are added to the equation. Find the rhythm that works for you. If you can make it all the way through the labyrinth in a peaceful zen like manner, good for you. If you have to run away before you even make it to the center, or if you are just able to walk by the labyrinth and know one day you will re-enter, good for you too. Wherever you land on this spectrum, give yourself the same grace God has already extended. Jesus said it well, you give the most when you give all you have. Don’t worry if it’s not the same as others or even the same as what you used to be able to do.

Parenting is not the end of ministry. The path in the labyrinth just gets altered a little.

Women in Ministry- CYMT style

My friends at CYMT.org have done it again! Great reads on women in ministry and I was lucky enough to be one of the people asked to write. Check out the wisdom from women who have been there, survived, still love Jesus and the church. Each has a unique story, each will leave you thinking and encouraged. Enjoy!