Sunday, February 8, 2015

Yoga Pants? (Sigh) Yes, Yoga Pants



I know. I can't believe it either, but here I am feeling compelled to write about yoga pants. There has recently been "Yoga Pant-Gate" or the "Yoga Pantapocalypse" or whatever else you want to call the debate of where and how yoga pants figure into the modesty wars and the downfall of modern civilization.

A few weeks ago there was this blog post about "Why I Chose to No Longer Wear Leggings" in which the Christian female blogger stated that she no longer wore leggings or yoga pants because "when women wear them it creates a stronger attraction for a man to look at a woman’s body and may cause them to think lustful thoughts." For a (Christian) male perspective on the issue, there was this blog post. It is slow to load, but I read it the other day. The gist is that yeah, as a general rule, guys dig the way the female derriere looks in yoga pants, but it is the guy's choice and responsibility to decide whether or not to objectify a woman.

Then Christianity Today steps in with a balanced perspective stating, "Men remain exclusively responsible for their lust," but adding "Women are always called to consider their brothers in Christ...We're compelled to take the perspective of the other into account, because we're not rogue Christians… we’re in this together." (Note I did edit the quotes, while trying to keep the context and intent intact. Read the full article for complete context.)

So here's my take on the yoga pant debacle. I am a Christian woman. I wear yoga pants. I actually wear yoga pants to yoga, so I think that's totally legit. I also wear yoga-esque pants (stretchy, lycra capris) to run or do other exercise. Usually I work out and then change, but sometimes I do have to run by the store on my way home so there might be a slight chance that I am out in public in my yoga pants. I can assure you that I am not out to tempt men in my sweaty, disheveled, and happily married state. But...yikes...sometimes I am not wearing my wedding ring either since my fingers often swell when I exercise. That doesn't mean I am trying to make people think I am not married. I wear yoga pants because they are stretchy and have plenty of "give" when exercising and they are very comfortable. I am not trying to seduce unsuspecting, weak-willed men. Yoga pants are not as heavy as sweatpants and they stay put. I also don't have to worry about accidentally flashing someone as I do when I wear shorts. Whether shorter shorts or even longer, baggy shorts, when moving around and exercising it is easy to see up a leghole.


But here's where I get confused...and a little bit angry. In Modesty, Yoga Pants, and 5 Myths You Need to Know, a female blogger stated that her husband said,

"The more you cover up, the more [a Christian man] will want you. Men like mystery, and when you reveal that mystery walking down the street, there is no reason for them to pursue you. They’ve already gotten their reward."

So wearing yoga pants shows too much and makes a man lust and objectify you, but covering up makes men want you. I think it is clear that the "want" in the above quote is a sexual want. The problem with this is twofold threefold.

  1. First of all, it implies a damned if you do, damned if you don't mindset. If I wear yoga pants, or a bikini, or a plunging neckline, then I am a stumbling block leading men down a sinful path. Let's just go ahead and put to rest the notion that women CAUSE men to lust. Men get to be in control of their own thoughts. In fact, it's a fruit of the spirit called self--control and it's one of the biggies. On the flip side though, I should dress more modestly and demurely because not showing all of the goods will entice men to want me more. Why is the desire of men the end-all anyway. How does that make sense? Now that we are all covered up are we just inviting men to undress us in their minds? I do think that women shouldn't intentionally dress provocatively in public (more on that later this week), but there is something very wrong with the notion that women should dress modestly so that men will want them more. By the same token, I am most attracted physically by a man's eyes and hands...therefore, should all men who interact with me wear sunglasses and gloves? Oh, I am also really attracted to a good sense of humor, compassion, and intelligence, so please don't say anything funny around me or show kindness. It might lead to rampant swooning. Seems that a lot of these modesty edicts are either written by men who have no clue that women also have sexual thoughts or by women who don't acknowledge their sexuality.
  2. The "men will want you" ridiculousness aside, here is the most alarming thing about the above quote: "...When you reveal that mystery...there is no reason for them to pursue you." How horrific! How damaging! How demeaning and misogynistic! The implied meaning in those words is that the ONLY reason a man would "pursue" (oh, how I hate that word in this context too!) a woman is sexual. Apparently men are interested on only one thing (sex) and not a woman's kindness, intellect, sense of humor, personality, or soul. Although the author of the blog says she is writing to a Christian audience, that is a very unbiblical comment that she wrote, quoting her husband. All people are created in the image of God and aren't to be viewed as a potential sexual conquest period...regardless of how they are clothed. I would be VERY concerned if my husband said, in all essence, that the men who see a woman dressed immodestly have "already gotten their reward" meaning that sexual fantasies are all women are good for. Yikes!
  3. And then, finally, at the end of the day I am not dressing for men. Part of this whole discussion assumes that I am outwardly focused in what I choose to wear; that I am dressing for the approval or admiration of men. With the exception of when I am going out on a date with my husband and I am dressing, in part, for him, my daily attire is not based on what men will think of me. I only care about what three men think of me and those three men are my husband and our two sons. I don't want to ever embarrass them with how I dress. I also consider my clothing in regard to the setting. I want to dress professionally and deliberately for the workplace. I might wear something to a social event that I wouldn't wear to work, but that is more an issue of social appropriateness of context. When I get dressed for the day I want to wear clothes that make me feel confident, put-together, and professional. And because I want to project competence and would prefer that people focus on my skillset and not my appearance, I would never intentionally wear anything that shows cleavage or is too short, tight, etc. to work either.


So I will continue to wear yoga pants to yoga and I will dress professionally for work and I will do so in the confidence that I am appropriate to the situation. Oh! And men can be responsible for their own thoughts concerning how they choose to view women.

And finally, how about we spend our time and energy getting mad about things more important than yoga pants, 'kay? Here's 10 of them.




Saturday, January 31, 2015

Marvin & Lou and Joe & Sue


It seems that my whole life I have had some older adult who was not related to me with whom I somehow ended up having a formative relationship. When I was in elementary school, it was Mrs. Gwaltney. She lived across the street from me and she was a first grade teacher, although never my first grade teacher. Her back door was a Dutch door and there was a rolled pad of paper hanging by it, so if she wasn't there when I dropped by I could always leave a note. When she was there, she welcomed me and the other neighborhood kids over. Sometimes we just talked with her. Sometimes she led us in little craft projects. She never judged or lectured or punished like teachers at school or parents. She just listened and accepted and all of the children in the neighborhood loved her for it.


There was also Mr. Julian at my grandmother's church. When I would go to church with her, he would always joke around with me. I remember being in a Sunday school class with him and there were some books written in Braille. I have no idea why. Anyway, he would run his fingers along the Braille and "read" the stories to me. It took me a few years to realize that he wasn't magical, but that he was just making them up along the way.


Older adults (ages older than my parents and approaching my grandparents ages) have come in and out of my life all along the way. When I was a teenage hospital volunteer I struck up some friendships with the senior adult volunteers. In college, there were some senior adults who invested in college students and I came to know and love them.


When Robert was in seminary, we moved from Ft. Worth to a tiny little town about 40 miles south called Covington, TX, pop. 254. Robert was the youth minister at First Baptist, Covington which was a small church with an average attendance of about 60. We had a parsonage there (affectionately referred to as the Little Shack on the Prairie) and we commuted every day to Ft. Worth; Robert to seminary and me to my job at various nursing homes. It was at FBC, Covington that we met Joe and Sue. Joe was a retired Air Force Colonel and Sue did a little bit of everything. They lived on a small farm and had grown children a little bit older than us, who lived in various cities out of town. Joe and Sue often had us over for dinner and checked up on us. Joe has a big smile and a slow drawl. He defies every military stereotype with his warm and winsome personality. Sue is gracious and no-nonsense. There is nothing she can't do. She canned vegetables, caned chairs, sewed, did farmwork, and gave Joe a run for his money. There were funny and welcoming. I will never forget the time that they had us over for dinner and in a confessional tone told us that they were really liking that "new show, Seinfeld."


A perfect example of how they invested in Robert and me in our early years of marriage and when we became parents, is our last day in Covington. Robert had just graduated from seminary and gotten his first full-time ministry position. We were moving ourselves in a U-Haul from Covington, TX to Carthage, MO and we had a 9 month old baby. Sue volunteered to babysit Adam at her house all day. Joe came over and helped load the U-Haul. Sue brought us over lunch. Everything took much longer than expected due to thunderstorms and people who promised to help us load that didn't show up. Our U-Haul ended up getting stuck in the mud and had to be towed out. We were exhausted beyond belief. Sue had been caring for Adam for about 10 hours. We had expected to leave that afternoon, but it was close to 9 pm when we pulled out. Before we left, Sue cooked us a delicious and filling sit-down dinner at their house. We couldn't have prepared to move without them.


Joe and Sue are now 83 years old. We get a hand written Christmas card from them every single year without fail. Sue also updates us on their family news and I don't think that they have yet to slow down. I am well aware that there will be an upcoming Christmas in which there's no card with Sue's microscopic handwriting and Texas postmark. I am so thankful to have them as mentors and friends even now.


When we moved to Missouri, Marvin and Lou became our new Joe and Sue. We stayed with them during part of the interview process and then remained friends throughout our time there. Marvin was on the search committee and chair of the deacons when Robert was hired. Lou was a first grade teacher and became state president of the State Education Association as well. Like Sue, she was a strong, empowered woman. We get a handwritten Christmas card from Lou every year as well. This year, actually it was a belated New Year's card. Again, Marvin and Lou had us over for dinner, watched as we added baby number 2 to our family, and served as mentors, guides, and friends. Here are two excerpts from her last letter just this past week.


First, she recalls sweet memories of Adam and Noah:


And then, to show she knows us and is currently invested in our lives, there's this:


Robert and I laughed out loud for 2 reasons. First of all, Belts is an ice cream place that is a favorite landmark and iconic event/place in Stevens Point. Everyone goes to Belts for ice cream. I also love her sense of humor talking about Leviticus here. Marvin and Lou are now in their mid-70s and she still teaches over twenty first grade BOYS in Sunday school every week and works with the 4 year olds in nursery at Bible Study Fellowship. She and Marvin are retired, but on the go with their volunteering, ministry, and traveling.

Marvin and Lou and Joe and Sue have been deep abiding friends. They have been in that grey area of ages between our parents and grandparents and have served as surrogates of sorts for us when we lived far away from our own families. They took us in and loved us...uncondtionally. They showed us gracious hospitality. As a young mother, Sue and Lou helped me see how not to sweat the small stuff. They have been strong female role models for me and both couples have shown Robert and I what a solid marriage built on faith, love, mutual respect, and hard work looks like. I am so thankful to have these wonderful older adults take the time to invest in me and my family. When I grow up, I want to be just like them. And I hope you find your own Marvin, Lou, Joe, and Sue.






Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Cocoon of Selfishness


Noah didn't go to church today, so I had the rare opportunity to drive to church alone. As is typically the case when I am by myself, I got lost in my head. Ironically, in a very "meta" moment I started thinking about what it is that I typically think about. Ouch! That was a bit revealing and rather uncomfortable, because what I usually think about Not me as a person. I'm not going through a mental list of my attributes or my liabilities. Rather, I am constantly thinking about what I need to do, what I want to do, what I have to do, and when I am going to do it.

I...I...I...that is the prevailing pronoun in the soundtrack of my mind.

Now thinking about my responsibilities, obligations, wants, and needs is not a bad thing in and of itself. If I don't plan for things at work and home, then they won't get done. However, if I spend so much time focusing on MY stuff, then there is no room left to thing about anything, or more importantly, anyONE else.

Many, many years ago, when Robert was a youth minister, he preached about "My Favorite Sin." This doesn't mean a sin that we enjoy the most, but the one that becomes "favored" just because it is our default sin; the one we revisit again and again. I have several favorites unfortunately, but selfishness is definitely in the top three and most likely holds the uncoveted #1 spot if I am honest.

I think (hope!) that most people wouldn't describe me as selfish. I try to act non-selfish at worst and selfless at best. I feel I am generally successful at being unselfish in my actions. However, there is constant argument and back-and-forth in my mind. I am having to wage war against my innate desire and thought processes of selfishness. I very much understand and commiserate with what Paul writes in Romans 7: 15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." So, is with the grace of God, I have been moderately success at behaving in an unselfish matter, the next step (or first step?) is to get my head in the game. If my brain is full of "I" and "me" then it can't also be full of "you" and "them." I talk in class often about cognitive resources and working memory. Our brains, as wonderful and complex as they are, can only do so much at one time. I need to open up some synapses and neural pathways to focus more on others in my head, which should naturally result in increased actions as well.

So, all of that had been whirling through my gray matter just on the brief drive to church. Then Robert's sermon focused on this passage (emphasis mine):

1 Peter 4:7-11New International Version (NIV)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

To me, on this date, with my current frame of mind...BOOM! That hit me right where I needed it. To me this passage is all about getting out of my head (so that I may pray) which will lead to loving others deeply. In turn, that results in offering hospitality without grumbling, without thinking about how doing so interferes with my plan and agenda or how it upsets my mental schedule of what should be. To serve others unselfishly isn't about me pulling myself up by my bootstraps, but relying on the strength that God provides. Always. Every time.

That's mind-blowing. That's life-changing. That's empowering. It's also really, really hard. Something about that "dying to self" part really makes the whole thing difficult. However, things worth doing don't usually come easily.

Instead, I'll try to set the "me" aside, roll up my sleeves, and get to God's strength.

P.S., Ironically, hospitality is my spiritual gift---the one I "have received to serve others"--and I haven't been too faithful to flex that muscle either, but more on that later.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Theology of Coffee Cups


These are the coffee cups after church this morning. When I saw them, the used, dirty, with rings of coffee in the bottom mugs, I thought of the story that they tell. There is a definite theology in these coffee cups.

You see, when we first began preparing for the church plant, we met with a small group of four people, in addition to our family of four. Our pre-launch, core group gatherings occurred in our home around a table and around a meal. We read through the book of Acts (the founding of the Church), ate, prayed, dreamed, and planned. One thing that became very important was the notion of hospitality and sharing of food. Therefore, we decided as we planted Tapestry Church that homemade treats and coffee would be a part of every worship gathering. And so it has been.

We started out with styrofoam and waxed coated paper coffee cups. However, it only took a couple of weeks to realize that these cups were thrown away and that was wasteful, both in terms of money and in matters of stewardship of the earth (especially styrofoam!). Not only did we want to manage our resources well, but we desired to be relevant to the community. Our community is VERY green. There are recycling bins and compost bins everywhere. Community gardens, buying local, using reusable bags, eating local, biking and walking, etc. are the very lifeblood of Stevens Point. Therefore, we decided to use real coffee mugs. We thought about buying some with our church name and logo on them, but that seemed wasteful and unnecessary. Instead, we bought a few inexpensive mugs, but mostly just cleaned out our collective cabinets. This resulted in our eclectic, mismatched, make-do assortment of mugs.



The Parkview mug is from our former church and we even have a couple of Lutheran mugs from a visit to a local ELCA church when we first moved to town. Some people don't care what mug they get, but some people have a favorite that they try to grab each week. As they have been used week in and week out, they have taken a few dings. Notice the minor chips on these below.



They aren't in perfect condition, but they are still useful and still serve their purpose. I think there is a beautiful message of redemption and how God uses us just in the picture of chipped, but purposeful coffee cups. There is a story in the mismatched patterns and sizes of these mugs that combine for one corporate and communal purpose. There is beauty in the diversity.

But the story doesn't end there. In a world that relishes the quick, easy way and embraces things that can be consumed and disposed of, these mugs need care. They have to be washed and packed away each week. Most of the people at church probably don't give a thought to that. Not that they are uncaring, but they probably just take for granted that the various mugs will be clean and set out on the hospitality table each week. When we first started using real cups, I would pack them up, take them home and wash them, and bring them back each week. Somehow, over time, Robin began to take on the responsibility. However, she washes them at the school where we meet.

She washes them in the teachers' lounge, which has no hot water. She has developed a system of using the leftover hot water that we provide for those who want tea. She fills the lounge sink with the hot water, washes, dries, and repacks the coffee cups. Sometimes Robin has another person or two to help her, but most of the time she just quietly slips away to wash the cups alone. Every. Single. Sunday.

She goes about a quiet, simple ministry with no fuss or fanfare. She is not up front leading music or standing at the door greeting people. Robin just meets an important need in a consistent and reliable way. There's some theology in that too.




Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Day My Blog Blew Up: A Follow-Up


Pull up a chair and get yourself comfy, my few and loyal blog readers. This one's gonna be long-winded, which is why I have put off writing it for months and months. It's also fueled by some significant emotion. I don't feel angry or sad or embarrassed. Mostly I feel a bit resigned, a bit disheartened, and a bit frustrated.

You see, it all started with this little blog post about Beth Moore. That one post has been by far my most popular blog post ever on this blog. Currently it is at 1300 views total and has been viewed over 10 times in the past hour, here 14 months after I first published it. When I pressed the "publish blog" button I did so with a deep sigh and braced myself for the flack that would follow. I was not...umm...err...dissappointed? As you can see from the screenshot above, there are over 61 comments that are still "awaiting moderation." That means that I haven't approved these comments, both positive and negative ones. I did approve many comments--ones that trashed me and ones that were supportive. However, after the comments kept coming and coming and coming, I decided that I would no longer accept any more comments period--good, bad, or otherwise and I posted a final comment to that effect. However, just this past week I have received two lovely emails in response. I do appreciate those.

As I am writing now, with full knowledge that I am long-winded and have a lot ot say about this topic (which is why I have put this blog post off for so long), I think I will break this up into 2 separate posts. The "thesis" of this post will be to share some of the positive and negative comments, some approved and some not, and rebut them. Tomorrow or later this weekend, I'll delve into the more philosophical and spiritual issues at play, including judgment, hypocrisy, criticism, argument, and grace.

For starters, here's a comment that kind of sums up the firestorm:

WOW Pam, bless your heart, did you ever imagine when you were writing that post that so many would be the first to throw a stone.

Yes. Yes, I did. And that makes me kinda sad...that my instinct came to pass. That I anticipated that Christians would respond in judgment and hatred. I heard the term "Christian cannibal" today for the first time and it's unfortunately pretty darn accurate.

The Good

I'll start with excerpts from some of the more positive, or at least thoughtful, comments:

I stumbled across your blog and just had to read it because I have been a BM fan for a long time and now not so much. I haven't completely given up her studies, but I just find that I'm looking for something different sometimes as I'm growing spiritually. There's nothing wrong with Beth if that's what you like. She is long-winded sometimes when I just want a concise statement. I don't always complete the homework, but I do try to at least read it. I have found that I identify with some pastors better than others even though they are all preaching truth. Some preach with more depth, some with humor, some with other things and in different seasons of my life, different things appeal to me. Different strokes for different folks. Nothing wrong with expressing your opinion and quite frankly, no one's opinion is going to stop me from listening to someone I like. I just try to say the person doesn't appeal to me at this time so I won't get some of the comments you received. :-)

Overall, a balanced and kind comment, but how sad that she feels she can't truly state her opinion because she's afraid of the backlash.

You have to do what you feel is best! Don't feel badly about it-everyone loves Beth Moore! I would not worry about it so much-by terming it "breaking up"-but I get the point. I must say that the following she encourages borders on the "cult-like"'s madness to be so attached to Beth! It is my opinion that it borders on being co-dependent. Jesus is who we need to fight for, to depend on and to attach ourselves to. I am sure Beth would agree. : )

I agree, that the attachment is often to Beth and that she herself wouldn't want that. I think this person makes some perceptive and valid comments about the cult-like, codependent issues that surround Beth Moore--that she hasn't created and I am sure, doesn't condone.

I came across this blog because lately I've begun to wonder if women are following Jesus or Beth Moore. Every time I turn around, I hear "Beth Moore" Bible Study. Yes, she may be a wonderful speaker; but this is about Jesus....not Beth Moore. I think the Christian community has made her an idol. Enough said. God gave us his word, let just see what he has to say.

Different version, same sentiment

I am saddened by the comments to Pam's personal blog. This is exactly why we need Pastors Wives Conferences. Obviously, pastors wives are still being held to a standard of perfection (which we are not) and aren't allowed to have opinions about anything. Pam simply wrote from her heart and then gets slandered for speaking what she has been struggling with. Women-before you seek to pass judgements on an issue that one woman has with a particular Bible study, ask yourself if you passed judgement or openly voiced your opinion on the men who set off the bombs at the Boston marathon, or a particular political party, or the person on the side of the street asking for money. We all do it, even I am guilty. We should be supportive, offer suggestions, and ask how we can pray for each other, not be a stumbling block.

I really appreciated this comment. Unfortunately, this poor soul had several other people ream her out for her support of me in reply comments, which I intentionally did not approve because they were so hateful and mean-spirited. I especially liked that she stated that since I am a PW that apparently can't have or express an opinion. She said that because many of the comments were to the effect of "I would expect more of you because you're a PW for crying out loud!" More on that in the next post.

Pam, It's good that you broke up with BM. Your reasoning should have been more along the lines of her lack of theology and improper exegesis of scripture. See

I also received several comments about Beth's lack of theology, taking passages out of context, and interpreting scripture through a historically inaccurate lens. Some people also commented on some of her spiritual practices such lectio divinia, which I personally have no problem with, but I can see why some evangelicals do. It's not a huge deal to me one way or the other though.

The Bad

If Beth Moore's studies and presentation do not appeal to you, just move on. Why do you feel the need to blog about your distaste for her style? It's really disappointing to hear a pastor's wife talking unkindly about someone else in ministry, especially in a public forum. You come across as petty and jealous. Instead of writing this blog maybe you could have spent time praying for all those who minister to women in this country and around the world.

Instead of writing this comment, maybe you could spend time praying for my petty and jealous soul? Yes, I am fully aware that I am responding with snarkiness. Seriously, this commenter is doing exactly what she is accusing me of doing, except with more direct, harsh, and negative words.

Well I love Beth Moore I have had a life like hers and get over yourselves .She has saved more people then you have so before anyone else says something clean up your own back yard before you cast your stones.

First off, this woman doesn't know anything about me. She is making some big assumptions about how many people I have "saved." Secondly, I haven't saved anyone. Neither has Beth Moore. God does the saving. True, He uses people in the process, but the theology in this comment is very incorrect. Also, the statement "I love Beth Moore and I have had a life like hers" is not a fact or an argument. It is an opinion.

"Love one another..." So what, Beth Moore is different than many of us? Let's be pro-active in lifting each other up instead of mimicking today's television shows and worldly attitudes that only tear down other people and point out their flaws. Maybe some pastors wife's should get out there and teach and give sound advice and better leadership examples as well instead of sitting home whining and criticizing those who do!!

I love how anonymous people have so many good opinions about better ways that I can live my life. Sidenote: when someone chooses to be anonymous, then his/her opinion ceases to be valid. You have to stand behind your argument.

Your opinion of Beth Moore is just that....your opinion. There is no need for you to spew your nasty venom and try to cast a negative light on her ministry. You of all people being a Pastors wife should welcome any one who is pointing the way to a stronger relationship with Jesus, not trying to put her down just because she has a southern accent! Beth is helping so so many women and I am sure men as well and what are you doing.....writting a blog about the homework, oh my gosh, how horribe! I am glad I came across this so I can at least say my peace about your hurtful words about a wonderful christian sister in Christ. Maybe you should use your time more wisely and be encouraging and uplifting instead oh tearing down the people God has annointed to do His will. I certainly hope and pray you don't discourage anyone from seeking God through Beths bible studies because of your shallow comments. She is a precious child of God and she has helped me and inspired me to seek God and trust.

Obviously this person misunderstood some of my blog. I'm pretty sure that I wasn't putting down Beth's southern accent, since I have a southern accent too. Again, I have a complete stranger telling me how I could be more wisely using my time. And aren't we all "anointed" to do God's will? I don't think that Beth Moore is more called than you or me. Finally, the whole bit about discouraging anyone from seek God through Beth's Bible studies...I just don't even know how to respond to that. That makes me so sad. Not that the person posted that, but that her view of God is such that she apparently thinks that God is so limited that if someone doesn't do a Beth Moore Bible study, she might miss God along the way. Again, the theology throughout this comment is broken.

The Ugly

Pam Terrel,we are all entitled to opinions, that is true. I heard about your personal blog through my mother-in-law, after I told her about Beth Moore. Mind you, my mother-in-law is someone who is struggling to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus, who has been through several abuses in her life and REALLY needs Jesus. I had told her that I've been going to a BM Bible study and I'm learning a lot, that she might want to join me. She was excited about what I told her and said she was coming with me. She decides to google Beth Moore and she stumbles upon your blog. Then she looks at me and says: "This pastor's wife is breaking up with Beth Moore because she's futile and only cares about superficial things. Beth Moore was in Africa and all she could think about was her curler, for God's sake! And if this lady is a pastor's wife, she knows what she is talking about." No need to say she didn't come with me today. Someone here defended you saying that we all expect a pastor wife to be perfect, but I don't think it's about perfection. I believe that a pastor and his family are role models, specially to non-believers. The Bible says "we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses" and I guarantee that when you wrote this article you'd never imagine that you'd push a woman in New Jersey further from God. And I don't know how many others. You are, indeed, entitled to break up with Beth Moore. You are, indeed, entitled to disagree with her. Women in Wisconsin are entitled to not agree with her. Beth Moore will NOT please and cover the needs of all women's on earth. For those women she is not able to help, God will send another vessel. And He'll keep working in His church.

Again, wow! Some of these women are giving me way too much credit and influence if they think my one little blog post, consisting of my one little opinion (that Beth Moore isn't very relevant to the Upper Midwest mindset) can actually push people further from God. God is so much bigger than me and my opinions. Instead I fear that the Christian cannibalism in the comments did more harm than my one simple blog post. But...more on that later.

P.S., Several people mentioned that they were mad that my blog post was one of the first that popped up when they did a Google search on "Beth Moore." As if I had any control of that...The funny thing is that the more they clicked on it and commented, the more they drove it up in Google analytics :-)

Oh! And I will accept and moderate comments on this post. Comments don't have to be positive for me to approve them, so feel free to disagree. However, they must be thoughtful and respectful.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Being Southern Baptist Up North


This past Thursday evening through Saturday morning, we attended our first Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention Pastors and Wives Retreat. Because I usually teach on Fridays, we have never been able to attend this annual event. However, due to a change in my schedule this year, we were finally able to go. The focus is on marriage and we think it is definitely good idea to go to a marriage retreat for a "tune up" every few years. Not only was it a marriage retreat, but also an opportunity to meet and network with other Southern Baptist pastoral couples serving in MN and WI. What an awesome experience it was!


First off, the retreat portion was good. The leaders for the weekend were a couple who teach via sketches and drama. It could have easily veered into cheesy territory, but it didn't. The sketches went from humorous to insightful and it was obvious that they really understood the unique stesses that church and ministry place on a marriage. After the sketches, there were topics for small group and table discussion. While we didn't necessarily learn anything new, we were reminded about what we do know and the things that we sometimes get to busy with. We were encouraged to think about how we communicate with each other and how powerful our words are. They can so easily build up or tear down. We were also reminded about how little interruptions can sneak in and how the domesticity of marriage can slowly overtake the friendship and love parts. And we took time to write out how our spouses bless us, something that can be improved, and spent time praying for each other. Those are all such important things they sometimes fall to the wayside in the busyness of life.

We also met a lot of really great couples. However, in talking with the other pastoral couples, I realized that there are some big differences about being a Southern Baptist up North versus one in the Bible Belt.

Previously, Robert had pastored churches only in the Bible Belt in Alabama, Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana, so this is a whole different ball game. The Upper Midwest is considered "frontier territory" for evangelical churches. Here are a few key differences:

  • Most of the churches are small, less than 100 members/regular attenders. I don't know the exact numbers, but I suspect that the greatest majority of churches are about 50-75 on a typical Sunday. Not very many SBC mega-churches here. In fact, a mega-church would probably be in the 200-300 range.
  • Because of the above fact, all but two pastors that I talked with were bivocational. Most of them worked full-time in addition to being the full-time lead pastor of their church.
  • Not only that, but every single wife I talked to also worked, typically full-time as well. This is a huge contrast to SBC wives in the Bible Belt. And we were the rarity in that we only have two kids. Most couples have 4+ children, plus both parents working full-time, plus full-time pastoring. You can see how that can be uber-stressful.
  • The amount of diversity amazed me. Such events down south would be mostly white folks, with a few African-Americans. I would guess that a full 1/3 of the 90-100 attendees were international--from China, Russia, Ukraine, Korea, Laos, Liberia, as well as other Latino, Asian, Eastern European, and African countries. They are planting international churches mostly in the Twin Cities, Madison, and Milwaukee areas.
  • In addition to the international population, another 1/3 of the pastors are from the south. The accents were scattered around the room and I kept trying to peg where each person was originally from. A lot more Southerners have come up, but don't embrace the winters and don't last. There tends to be a high turnover. My thoughts? If God calls you, He equips you, but that's probably a different post for another day.
  • Because of the limited finances of most pastoral couples in the frozen tundra and the limited resources from the MWBC, we depend on the graciousness of a partnership with Texas Baptists who funded the entire weekend, from the speakers to the lodging and the food. Thanks, Texas Baptists!

Because of the fact that we are in a largely unchurched and/or non-evangelical area, churches are small and often not even self-supporting for years. While our church is now self-supporting, it certainly can't pay Robert a living wage yet. We have to rely on my full-time salary and Robert's additional part-time job to make ends meet. So this is where we have renewed appreciation for the North American Mission Board and the Annie Armstrong offering. Almost every church, and certainly every church plant (which we were!), have been the beneficiary of financial support through NAMB.



Also, through the Texas WMU (Women's Missionary Union) all of the wives were given an awesome special gift through WorldCrafts. Here's my necklace made by a Muslim sheepherder in India. So beautiful and much cherished!

We had a wonderful weekend of renewing our marriage and spending some quality time alone together. It was also fun to meet lots of people who know, live, and understand the unique joys and stresses of church planting and pastoring in a frontier territory. And for those of you who read this and are Southern Baptists, thank you so much for supporting all the wonderful things that are happening in Minnesota and Wisconsin through your prayers, tithes, and offerings. I can assure that this fine group of folks is doing great things here for God's glory.



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.