Friday, May 31, 2013

Where's the Book for Me?

I got a very lovely surprise in the mail today from the North American Mission Board (NAMB). It contained a Visa card for $100, a drawstring backpack, and a book. I am very appreciative for the gifts, but even more grateful from the denominational organization that sent them. While I don't think there is any one perfect denomination and I certainly don't agree with Southern Baptist "customs" on some issues (e.g., role of women in the church, drinking alcohol), I do think that there are things that the Southern Baptist Convetntion (SBC) does with great excellence. These are the things that make me proud to be Southern Baptist. The way that the SBC equps, trains, and supports missionaries, ministers, and church planters through the NAMB and the International Mission Board is one of these many things. I might discuss that in more detail on a later post.

While I am thankful for the gifts I received today and I know that I am prayed for by people I have never even met, I flipped through the book and thought about how it pretty much doesn't apply to me, as a church planter's wife, at all. In fact, as I reflected on the "popular" Christian mommy-bloggers and speakers of the current time, I realized that they don't write books for me either. I'm talking about the Jen Hatmakers, Rachel Held-Evans, and Ann Voskamps. While I am often challenged, encouraged, inspired, frustrated, and even made to laugh or cry by their writing, they are all women who spend their time either a) in their homes being PWs, bloggers, writers, homeschoolers, and/or chaffeurs to public schoolers or b) out on the occasional speaking circuit. There aren't me and they aren't really writing for women like me. I work full-time outside of the home (and like it!) AND am married to a church planter/pastor.

I did spend many years as a stay-at-home mommy, which evolved into a work-at-home mommy, then to work part-time outside the home mommy, to my current status of full-time work outside the home mom. I had not worked full-time since our first son was born in 1994 until we moved to Wisconsin to plant a church in 2007. It was quite frankly, a shock to my system to start working outside the home. It was exhausting and exhiliarating and overwhelming and fun and chaotic and frustrating and a huge learning curve. And the reason I was working full-time? So that my husband COULD become a church planter!

Just when we started feeling a pull to church planting and moving somewhere (anywhere) out of the Bible belt, we realized that I would be finishing my Ph.D. I had no grand, elaborate plans for after my doctorate--just figured I would continue with my part-time job as a speech-language pathologist. I had always wanted to try teaching college though, so God showed us that He could use church planting and my new educational credentials to pave the way. The whole story is here. Basically, we were able to move over 1000 miles away from family, friends, and a life that we knew to plant a church in a city where we knew no one without financial devastation because of the fact that I would be working full-time. During our intensive weeklong church planting interview process, we were told time and time again that Robert needed to be able to devote all of his time to researching the community, developing and nurturing relationships, and church planting logistics/planning. Since our kids were in school full-time, in the 5th and 8th grades, and Robert would have a very flexible schedule, we mutually agreed that I would work so that we wouldn't have to stress over the significant financial risks that come with church planting. We both love what we are doing and it works well for us.

Ah, but here's the rub! The Church Planting Wife book doesn't address me. It is written for SAHMs and full-time PWs. In the chapter, "The Church Planting Wife's Job Description," (which thankfully states that there isn't one and shouldn't be one), Christine Hoover writes:
...I must proactively structure and plan my days in order to fulfill my calling. I am a disciple first, so God gets my early mornings. I am a wife second, so I must protect and plan evenings, weekends, and special retreats for Kyle and me to connect and rest. I am a mom third, which means my children have my undivided attention duing their nonschool hours. Finally, I maintain certain time slots each week that I can meet with other women or prepare for ministry events,, as well as give some evenings to hospitality or community groups.

If her calling is to be a church planter's wife, then that's great. However, my calling is to be a wife to Robert the man, not Robert, the church planter. He is called to church planting. I am called to be his helpmate. And for us, at this time, that means working outside the home...which is my calling. My vocation, for which I am fortunate enough to be paid, is my calling, my ministry, along with my calling as a wife and mother . I have so many opportunities to extend the love and hope of Christ to colleagues, students, and clients just in my daily interactions. I don't hand out tracts to them and preach. I just try to interact, as best I can, with others as I think Jesus would.

While I would like to structure my days to fulfill my calling, the reality is that I too often don't spend time with Jesus in the morning or eat breakfast. Sometimes I have and ongoing mental Twitter conversation with God throughout the day and other times, I just manage to fall asleep praying in bed at night. I rush out the door, drop my son off at school, and work all day. I get home around 5ish most days and cook a meal from scratch 70% of the time. Other days, Robert or the boys cook, we eat leftovers, or we eat out. I sometimes skip small group on Wednesday because I have a community agency board meeting or am too behind in grading papers or writing a proposal. Since my marriage is a partnership, Robert and I both plan dates and time away--it is not my sole responsibility (although I do love playing travel agent). And my children usually get my divided attention as we run errands or prepare meals together. However, as I have discovered with teenage boys, busy hands create talkative mouths. They share much more when we are busy doing something. Oh! And I am way behind on reciprocal invitations for dinner ( we "owe" at least 4 couples), I am terrible about returning texts/calls on my cell, and I am not an event coordinator for our church. Is there a book out there that covers this? As my fellow full-time-working-to-support-a-church-planting-husband friend, Lea Ann said, "Maybe we should write one." Indeed.

So how do I support my husband in ministry? I pray for him, I listen to him vent, I create a safe place for him to be him. I also pick up college students for church each Sunday, I bake treat for the hospitality once a month, and I am starting nursery duty once a month. I don't do any more than any other church member. At the end of the day, I just want to make Jesus proud of me for how I have managed my home-life, my work-life and my relationships with others. Nothing more, nothing less.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Communion on the Free Throw Line

Through the day and evening, most of my Facebook friends have been posting family photos of everyone in their Easter finery. All of the photos have either been taken outside amidst blooming flowers, at church in a traditional sanctuary, or in front of a cross covered with flowers at church. I haven't posted any family photos today. This is for several reasons.

  1. We are minus a family member. Adam is away at college and it is our first Easter without him. I have missed him all day.
  2. There is no Easter garb at our house. Our church, Tapestry Church, is very casual. We don't really dress up. In Wisconsin, it is really not very wise to buy spring-y clothes to wear on Easter anyway because the weather this time of year is so unpredictable. We still have about 4 feet of snow at the end of our driveway. Although we've had some good snow melt the last few days, with temperatures up into the upper 40s, we also had a 15-minute snow storm today and it was 34 degrees when I was driving home from church. My Easter attire consisted of a bright green sweater shell worn as a vest over a long sleeved white blouse with khakis and a spring-weight outerwear coat. Robert wore a yellow tie and sport coat with his jeans. Noah wore jeans and a T-shirt. Everyone else was in similar attire.
  3. There are no blooming flowers as we are pretty much still covered in snow, as previously mentioned. Our yard is a wooded lot and we don't get a lot of sunlight so it is even slower to melt. On campus today I did see patches of grass and there are some sprouts of flowers coming up. Spring flowers will be here soon, but if we had taken photos outside we would have either been dripped on from the melting snow dripping from the eaves or we would have been standing in snow.
  4. Our church meets in an elementary school gym. We don't have a backdrop of polished organ pipes. Instead we have "Jump Rope for Heart" banners along the walls. We don't have a cross decorated with flowers...or a cross at all. We have a projector and a screen which shows different graphics.

So that's why we have no family Easter picture.


However, as we remembered GUILT--GRACE--GRATITUDE tonight, I look around at the faces of young couples who have been married in our church (as in the bride of Christ, not the school gym) in the past couple of years. I sat next to woman who came to know Jesus through out church and now she teaches me so much about the wonder and excitement of new life in Christ. I watched my youngest son present and share the elements of the Lord's Supper with others. The bread that was broken tonight in remembrance of Jesus was baked from scratch by one of our members. And...


As I waited in line to receive the bread and juice I looked down and smiled. I was taking communion on the free throw line.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Suck as an Apologist: The Problem with Easy Faith

Faith is very easy for me. I don't know why this is and it is actually very ironic since I am a skeptic in most things. In issues related to science, education, technology, speech therapy, etc. my stance is usually "prove it to me." However, in matters of my Christian faith, the cheesy and over-used slogan "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it" rings pretty true. Even before I made a conscious decision to make Jesus the Lord of my life in sixth grade, I regularly prayed, read my Bible, and believed it with a childlike faith.

As I got older, faith was still easy for me. I wouldn't say I had blind faith. I do question things. At times, I have doubts about God. However, they are fleeting and usually pretty easily resolved for me. I don't understand the whole Bible. While I do believe that it is the holy, inerrant, and inspired word of God, there are some things in it that confuse me. As a general rule, I think the Bible proves the Bible and it is an incredibly consistent book, but there are some things occasionally that throw me for a loop, like Pilate's role in the sentencing of Jesus. For the most part though I get that the Old Testament is all about Jesus (foreshadowing, if you will) and that all of the law of the OT was done away with when Jesus entered the scene. Even though there are plenty of Christians who believe that some parts of the OT are parables, such as Eden and Noah's Ark, I actually believe quite literally in those. I can buy it. It works for me. And the parts I don't understand...I am comfortable with the mystery. God's ways are not man's ways and I am completely fine with knowing there are parts of my spiritual journey, the character and nature of God, and the content of the Bible that I don't and can't understand. To me that's what faith is. It is believing...anyway. Believing in spite of doubts.

Apologetics (Merriam-Webster) 
1: systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine)2: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity 

So how does this fit into being a terrible apologist? It is hard for me to provide a good objective defense of or support for my faith because I just have it. I didn't have to wrestle intellectual doubts to arrive at the feet of Jesus. I just believed and came. I do understand how people can have doubts and want proof. Really, I can. In fact, I think my "easy faith" is an outlier, not the norm. But because faith comes easily (not cheaply) to me, I don't have any good theological, philosophical, or other types of defense or proof. I believe and I know. As a Christian with over 30 years of intimate experience with Jesus, much of my faith comes from the journey. I can tell you my story. I can tell you of times I have experienced the power of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I can describe how Jesus has empowered me to do things that I am incapable of doing on my own. I can share miracles that I have seen or experienced--not parting water kinds of miracles, but more personal and intimate, never the less as powerful. Just like I can't prove to you my love for my husband, other than the outward evidence that we have been married 22+ years, but I can share the story and the journey. The same goes for my faith. Therefore, I am not a good apologist. But if you want to be an innocent, wide-eyed believer, I totally "get" you and I'll cheer you on. If you have doubts and want validation, I can be an empathetic listener and affirm your doubts (and remind you that it is okay to have them).  However, if you need proof, talk to Robert. He's got the degrees in it :-)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Right Now (How God Woke Me Up from a Nap)

Right now, talking to You seems like a chore.
It's more of an oughta
than a wanna.

"Pray for me!," she asks.
And I do.
I pray to a God she doesn't believe in...on her behalf.
It feels heavy, as if I have to have enough belief for the both of us.
I suspect she thinks of prayer in the same way that people bury saints upside in their yards to sell houses, or kiss a blarney stone for luck, and blow out birthday candles to make a wish.
A superstition. A good luck charm. A magic word.
And what does she really want me to pray?
That the elderly man will be healed of the cancer that riddles his body?
However, he's lived a full life and he's likely tired of pitting the good cells against the bad ones.
Maybe he wants to be done.
Should I pray that she gets to say good-bye?
Or perhaps that she can grieve openly and well,,, surrounded by loved ones.
Or maybe, just maybe, this will be the first time she encounters You.
In her grief.
In the prayer that didn't work.

"Pray for me," he mentions.
And I mean to.
I really do.
But I forget.
Sometimes I can barely manage my own prayers and it seems too much to take on anyone else's.
But You want me to.
It's community. A bigger picture. A bearing of burdens.
So I tentatively put my head into the yoke, which still feels heavy, but You make light.
You always do.
You work best in paradox.

Servant leader.
Baby king.
God man.
Death into life.
Last, now first.
Suffering to joy.
Lions and lambs.

Then comes my prayer, but my lips are silent and my heart feels empty.
Seems I'm mumbling to the ceiling again.

With my head and with my heart I do KNOW that you are there.
Sometimes I need to feel it too.
But I know that feelings come and go, even though you remain.
Prayer is work sometimes.
And just like marriage, it doesn't rely on feelings...rather commitment.

Throughout the day I sometimes toss out Twitter-prayers
140 characters or less
"Hey God! Thanks for the snow on the trees. You're quite an artist."
"Help me be...patient, strong, organized, brave, compassionate."
"Be near."
It's constant contact throughout the day and that's something, right?
But You never re-tweet or favorite.

Then You remind always do,
That prayer is a conversation.
Not a one-way list of demands or thanks.
You invite me to crawl into Your lap as You wrap Your maternal God-wings around me.
You tell me to whisper in Your ear.
To nestle in and hear the beat of Your heart.
To sense Your presence and Your love.
To stop the busy. Stop the demands.
Be still and listen.

You work best in paradox.
The created speaks to the Creator.
God knows and loves man.
You empower me to approach You with intimacy, but trembling and fear,
In awe of Your holy friendliness.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Closer to God?

This week, a friend of mine caught up with me and said, "Can I ask you something?" Her tone let me know that she was going to ask me a personal question, so I prepared myself. As her eyes welled up with tears, she asked if Robert could pray for a particular situation. At first this caught me off guard because he is just an acquaintance of hers. I was a bit perplexed that she was requesting prayer from Robert and not me. However, as she continued to describe the situation, a lightbulb went off in my head. She then went on to state what I was thinking...She wanted Robert to pray because he had an "in" with God. I told her that we didn't agree that he was any closer to God than anyone else, but we would both be glad to pray for the situation.

On one hand, I was glad that this person, a non-practicing and non-church attending Catholic, felt comfortable approaching me about a personal and spiritual matter. However, it also made me very sad. It broke my heart to think that she thought that she couldn't directly approach God and that she needed a pastor to be an intermediary. As a Baptist, I (we) hold strongly to the concept of "priesthood of the believer." On the Southern Baptist Convention website states this, "We affirm the priesthood of all believers. Laypersons have the same right as ordained ministers to communicate with God, interpret Scripture, and minister in Christ's name."

So I will pray and Robert will pray, both with equal authority to do so before God. I wish she knew that she could do so too.

Shaking The Dust from My Sandals

My husband graduated from Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas in December of 1994. The president of the seminary when he started was Russell Dilday, whom Robert admired and respected. Dr. Dilday was ousted from the seminary in a coup of sorts when the largely fundamentalist board of trustees voted him out the day that labor was induced for our first son. Robert was very upset and the big headline announcing the Dilday had been "overthrown" was the front page headline of the Adam's souvenir birthday copy of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Next they brought in Kenneth Hemphill as president, a more conservative choice. He wasn't terrible and it didn't have much impact on the remaining few months of Robert's time at seminary. He remained at SWBTS for 9 years and then Paige Patterson was voted in a president, a big move far to the right and nestled right in the bosom of fundamentalism.

As an alumnus, Robert gets a quarterly issue of the Southwestern News, which has human interest stories about happenings at the seminary, accomplishments of alumni, etc. He never reads it, but I thumb through it periodically. It usually makes me so angry and/or nauseous that I avoid it. However, I picked it up and scanned the major articles tonight while cooking dinner and now I need medication for high blood pressure.

In a nutshell, Paige Patterson is whack! The last time I read the Southwestern News, which resulted in an eye twitch, the news that vexed me before had an encore in this issue. Patterson is a big game hunter and he leads "Game Banquets" which serve the multi-faceted purposes of male bonding, gluttony (I suspect--it is a pet Baptist sin after all), evangelism, and extolling the virtues of "biblical manhood." What is biblical manhood? Well, as a woman I don't dare enter the male conclave, but I can speculate that it includes hunting/gathering, chest-thumping, and keeping the missus busy in the kitchen. Just to clarify, I am not dissing women in the kitchen...if that's where they want to be. While I am in feminist in that I believe I can be and do anything that a man can do (with the exception of anatomical constraints, like peeing while standing up), part of that feminism comes in the loose boundaries of previously compartmentalized gender roles. Men can cook and clean, if they want to, and women can do car repair and yardwork, if that's their yen. I will also state that I do tend to prefer some stereotypical gender roles. I do the bulk of the cooking for my family, but not because I have to. It's because I want to. We have a true partnership and take up the slack for each other depending on the season of life, busyness, and personal preferences. I suspect that doesn't happen in Patterson's house.

Furthermore, this whole concept of big game hunting gets me. This one article states, "He has also taken down some of the world's most dangerous game, including a lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, hippo, crocodile, and an Alaskan brown bear." Here's my question...WHY? While I am not a fan of hunting, I am not morally opposed to it, if the meat is going to be consumed. Hunting for pure sport though? Absolutely reprehensible! I firmly believe that God gave man dominion over animals and clearly indicated that we could use them for food. However, I believe that dominion includes good stewardship and care of animals. One of my friends, who happens to be a Nigerian Muslim, told me how he gloated when he first killed an antelope with a bow he had made. He put a notch in his bow to record his kill. He said that his grandfather took him to task for bragging and being proud of killing an animal and taught him to respect the life of the animal and express thanks for the gift of food that had been given. That's what hunting should be like. Unless you are about to be eaten by a lion or attacked by a crocodile, there is no reason to kill for sport and entertainment. And, by the way, an unarmed wild beast isn't "dangerous" compared to a man with a high powered rifle.

As I continued flipping through the alumni magazine I scanned another article about students evangelizing people waiting in line for the grand opening of a pizza restaurants. My feelings for this type of evangelism aside, here's what the article said:

The group shared the message of salvation with many, including Alex, a student at Texas Christian University; Jay, a lesbian; Todd, an employee of Toppers (Pizza); and Santiago, a 17-year-old high school student.

Everyone in this "cast of characters" is listed by vocation (or student status) except for "Jay, the lesbian." What the heck? First of all, how did they know Jay was a lesbian? Did she have a butch haircut (could have been growing out after chemo)? Was she wearing a shirt that read, "I <3 other chicks?" Did she have a rainbow bracelet on her wrist? Or does she just randomly announce her gender preference for sex to complete strangers? Even if the SWBTS students did actually somehow know for sure that Jay was a lesbian, why is she the only one singled out for her sexuality? Why not, "Alex, a heterosexual; Jay, a lesbian; Todd, a heterosexual open to exploring bisexuality, etc.?" When I pointed this out to Robert, he remarked that what jumped out at him was that there was a bland vocational-type modifier for every person except for Jay, who was labeled as a sinner. She just had a scarlet letter L slapped upon her chest. So if they were doing sin-assignment, maybe the list should have read, "Alex, the porn-addicted college student; Jay, the lesbian; Todd, the lying racist; and Santiago, the bully and luster." (For the record, I don't know Alex, Jay, Todd, or Santiago---just trying to make a point).

Aside from the inspiring articles, there was an advertisement for a women's conference...The Art of Homemaking. You too can be encouraged and uplifted by keynote speakers such as Michelle Duggar. (Back when we were in seminary, we were all kind of fans of birth control). This is because at a graduate seminary, you can get a degree in homemaking. There is a whole prototype house to practice those baking, sewing, greeting your husband, and fetching his slippers kind of skills. And if you are a woman who wants to get a Master of Divinity degree? (The same degree my husband earned there). You can earn that degree, but with a few feminine alterations. Instead of taking expository preaching, you have to take women's ministries in the local church and in lieu of advanced expository preaching you must take expository communication of biblical truth. Women can't preach, silly girl! But oh, since you won't be taking all of those hard-hitting preaching and theology courses, you get one more elective than the men do, so you could take fundamentals of clothing construction or the value of a child instead. I only wish I were kidding. And all of the female professors who were there when Robert was as student...professors who taught theology, ethics, philosophy, and missiology? Gone. There are a handful of female faculty who remain---to teach voice, piano, childhood education, and women's studies.


You were a really great seminary at one point in time SWBTS and we have many fond memories. Seems like that all left with Dilday. And no, we won't be donating when you solicit from us.

Edited to add: Want a good book on homemaking that isn't so rigid, even though it was written decades ago? Try The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Beyonce Wars (Women, Sex Appeal, and Beauty)

Aside from the fight on the gridiron Sunday night at the Super Bowl, another war was being fought according to many...a war on women. Twitter was afire with the #notbuyingit as people were protesting the objectification of women in the ads. Go Daddy seemed to be the most opposed ad, with the passionate kiss between supermodel Bar Refaeli and computer nerd-guy (perpetuating 2 stereotypes). However, the beer commercials that relied on women being beer delivery systems (you know, bringing beer to the men) and being panned across various body parts and the car ads that relied on the whole "chicks dig men with cool cars" theme, it was true. Women were largely objectified.

This video explains a bit more and is well worth the 9 minutes it takes to watch, especially if you are a woman, have a daughter, have a sister, have a mother, or have ever loved a woman. In other words...everyone.

Then enter...


Aside from the fact that she apparently had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions too, Beyonce polarized the Christian community. Apparently there was a tweeting war between the "Beyonce is trashy" and "You are threatened by beautiful women" camp. Honestly, I was crocheting, eating, and talking with people throughout the Super Bowl and not paying a bit of attention to Twitter. However, this @ElizabethEsther popped up on my radar the next day and it was entertaining and a bit perplexing to read the "conversation" throughout her Twitter feed. Well, as much as you can have a conversation with people throwing out soundbites in 140 characters or less with no real discussion going on. See for yourself below. (Disclaimer: I had never heard of Elizabeth Esther before this nor do I follow her blog. You can find her and decide for yourself what to think, if you are so inclined.)

So, my thoughts on the Beyonce hoopla?

They're kind of all over the place.
  1.  I think Beyonce is gorgeous and I like the message about body image she conveys, in that she is not anorexic-looking. She has a beautiful curvy figure and she embraces it.
  2. I think she could have worn more clothes for her Super Bowl performance.
  3. I appreciated the fact that she didn't lip-sync.
  4. Beyonce is multi-talented as a singer, dancer, and performer.
  5. Many (most?) of her dance moves were overtly sexual. And I'm not the pastor's wife from Footloose. I love to dance. I just question sexual pelvic thrusts and the repeated opening and closing of one's legs in a suggestive way while wearing dominatrix-type clothes.
  6. Her songs are catchy.
  7. The chorus to All the Single Ladies isIf you liked it then you should have put a ring on it. If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it. Don't be mad once you see that he want it, if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it. What is IT? Is it sex? Or even it referring to herself, as a woman? As this song got stuck in my head and I found myself humming it, I realized that it is really objectifying.
And for the record, I am not the least bit threatened by Beyonce or her beauty. I am just a bit saddened that she's banking on her body as much or more so than her talent...or at least that seems like what she is advertising,

I'm on a bit of a feminist rant in my personal life, so this likely isn't the end of my pontificating. What say you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hate Your Show

Robert and I were talking at dinner tonight and he told me about another mutual pastor friend of ours. This guy had recently been in California and had attended some mega-church in L.A. As the band led the first five or so worship songs they were projected on screens. This guy started to notice that something was off. The lead vocalist turned his head away from the microphone and the intensity of his voice remained the same. There was a strong bass rhythm, but the bass player wasn't moving his hand.

...And the mouth movement didn't match the singing.

The worship band was lip-syncing! (Our pastor friend did say that the closing songs were live). I won't speculate as to why they didn't sing live, but I will say that this scripture immediately came to mind

Isaiah 1
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.

Jon Foreman sings about it here:

Ouch! I may not be lip-syncing, but how often are my lips singing along, but my mind is running through my list of things to do, planning my grocery list, or worse.

Oh, Lord...
Psalm 19: 14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.