The Moral Quality of Contempt: Wednesdays with Walter: Day 2

“You have heard that it was said to those of old,
‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council;
and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  
Jesus, Matthew 5:21-22

“The important point is that Jesus ranged hate and contempt
under the category of murder….  The horror which Jesus feels for such action
is an expression of his own respect for the worth of personality.”

— Walter Rauschenbusch, The Social Principles of Jesus

angry.pngI’ve grown weary of contempt.

I see it expressed by our national leaders and expressed towards our national leaders.

I’ve grown weary of contempt.

I see it on Facebook…  on Twitter…  on the radio…  on television…  in the papers…

I’ve grown weary of contempt.

I feel it from the “right” and the “left.”

I’VE GROWN WEARY OF CONTEMPT!

I just wish I could say it is because I am only a victim of contempt, but I know that my hands are stained red with the blood of those whom I have murdered with my own contempt.

And I realize now more than ever that my sins have found me out — that those whom I love the most see the stains on my hands.

I’ve grown weary of my own contempt and pray that God forgives me and gives me strength to change — to wash clean my murderous hands.

If we are to value life, we must pray that God gives us the strength to love the other — to overcome our contempt and anger towards the other — and even our enemy.

We CANNOT justify our actions of contempt and anger by saying we are fighting fire with fire.  We cannot say that acting virtuously won’t cut it in this day.

And I need to come to grips with the reality that this spirit of contempt isn’t new — Facebook, Twitter, etc. are only new weapons used to murder through contempt, but the problem of murderous contemptuous attitudes is as old as humanity.  Jesus fought it; Rauschenbusch fought it; and I pray for strength to do the same.

Will we recognize today that our actions of contempt and anger are killing us?

Will we share in the horror which Jesus feels for such action as an expression of his and our respect for the worth of personality?

Will we have the strength — not to agree with everyone — not to ignore sin — but to confront it with love instead of contempt — with life instead of murder?

How does contempt raise its ugly head on your FB feed?

How do you see contempt in your place of work?  …your home?  …your place of worship?

How will you challenge a growing culture of death and contempt for life with an abundant life of joy?

 

 

Wednesdays with Walter: Day 1

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 2.12.37 PM.pngI had hoped to post this as a video.  I even recorded about 30 minutes of video and tried to edit it — it was awful.  Not the quality of the video, but the quality of the content.

There is something tricky about presenting issues like social justice.  It’s tricky because we don’t listen to each other anymore.  We don’t spend anytime listening.  We might spend time with our mouths shut in a conversation, but too often we’re just preparing what we are going to say next when the idiot “across the aisle” finally shuts-up.

I guess that’s why I want to do “Wednesdays with Walter.”  I want to see if we can still listen….  I want to see if I can still listen to someone with whom I disagree.

Book cover.jpgIn the introduction to “The Social Principles of Jesus,” Walter says, “[This book] does not undertake to furnish predigested material, or to impose conclusions.  It spreads out the most important source passages for personal study, points out the connection between the principles of Jesus and modern social problems, and raises questions for discussion.”

Are we still capable of doing that — reading together, exploring connections between the source of our convictions and the real life problems in front of us, and engage in serious discussion about the most important questions facing us.

I hope we can.

I hope I can.

Walter breaks “The Social Principles of Jesus” into four sections.  The first of these four sections is “The Axiomatic Social Convictions of Jesus.”

If you’re not sure what “axiomatic” means, don’t sweat it — I had to look it up to make sure myself.  It means that these are self-evident — they are the “duh” principles of Jesus.  They are obvious by just looking at his life and ministry.  For Walter, he wants these to be axiomatic — self-evident — in the lives of followers of Jesus as well.

The first of these axiomatic social convictions of Jesus is the “Value of Life.  This is the first chapter of the first section.  Each chapter is broken down further into 7 daily readings and then some concluding thoughts by Walter.

Take a minute to read the first and second day readings for the first chapter:

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As I read these two Biblical stories in close proximity, I was convicted about the sacredness of human life in the story of the child and the story of the sick.  Walter raises questions for his own day, but his placing these stories in such close proximity raised questions in my mind about our own day and problems facing us within our own society.  And this is where it gets tricky.

Are you willing to listen?

Are you willing to hear the voice of the other?

Are you willing to see the axiomatic social convictions of Jesus and allow them to challenge you regardless of where you stand — theologically or politically?

If Jesus saw “something heavenly in children, a breath of the Kingdom of God,” then what should our response be to the 600,000+ unborn children who are aborted in the United States each year?  How should we respond in the ballot box as well as in the pew?

Some have probably stopped listening.

Others may be saying “amen” and asking for more, but the more that Walter provides — the more that is part of the undeniable, axiomatic social conviction of Jesus — asks us to consider the care for the sick — especially the sick among the unwanted.

If Jesus is so moved by the humanity of the leper that he stretches out to touch him, what should our response be to those in most desperate need of health care in our country — the uninsured, those with pre-existing conditions, and even those here illegally?  We may be tempted to say that this is the role of the church and the individual.  But if we truly live in a country where the government is of the people, then shouldn’t the government be an extension of our convictions of care for the least of these?  How does this affect our view of the current debate over health care?

It surprised me that in two very short pages, Walter Rauschenbusch is able to confront and convict me from the “right” and the “left.”  Basically offend everyone!  Is this the offense of the Gospel of which Scripture speaks?

I hope that you will continue to join me for more Wednesdays with Walter.

I hope that you will leave comments and join the conversation.

I hope that we will be able to listen to one another as we explore together the social principles of Jesus.

 

Check out my website for more about Kerry Bender — www.KerryLBender.com

 

 

What I Deserve

…of whom the world was not worthy…
Hebrews 11:38a

I have actually started typing this post seven or eight times, and I’ve begun it in my head countless times.  It is hard to write.  Not because I don’t know what to say.  But rather because there is so much left to say.

There remain countless women who were teachers, mentors, family members, friends, colleagues who remain unmentioned but who have a lasting impact on my life.  

I would have loved to write a post this month celebrating…

  • …my childhood Sunday School teachers.   These faithful women who were the first outside of my home to tell me of God’s great love and help me fall in love with the stories of the Bible.
  • …Flannery O’Conner, whose short stories inspire me to be a better story teller, a better preacher, but  most importantly a better person because a good man is hard to find.
  • Perpetua and Felicity.  If you are a Christian and don’t know their stories…  Well, then shame on all of us; stop reading this blog and google their names or click on their names above to at least read their Wikipedia page (After you’re done reading about them, please come back and finish reading this post, follow my site, and share on your social media).
  • …Mary the mother of Jesus, who was favored by God.  In a world where our daughters need positive role models, why are we NOT celebrating Mary in our evangelical protestant churches!  

The list of possible posts, goes on and on!  We need more than a month!  Of course, that’s the point, right?

Until we realize that far too often the roles of women have been forgotten, overlooked, minimized; until we realize the unbelievable impact that they have had on Christianity and the world; until we realize that they are listed alongside the men of old of whom the world was not worthy; until we realize that these women are truly a gift from God; well until then, we need a day, a month, a reminder, that we don’t deserve them either.

Of all the things — and believe me when I tell you that they are too numerous to count — of all the things that I have learned from my wife, Stace, the most important is that I don’t deserve the best things that I have in my life.  She, like the rest of the best, is a gift from God.

I am privileged to walk through life with her — I wouldn’t want to walk it without her.  I am privileged for the women (and men) who have gone before us on this road.  And I am excited to see those who are coming behind us with their own adventures.

Me and Stace walking awayAs this series concludes, my hope for myself and all who read it is that it will simply serve as an ongoing reminder that we, like the rest of the world, are not worthy of their faithfulness, their strength, or their inspiration.  And because we don’t deserve it, we will remain forever grateful. 

 

The Fiction of Peace

Stace HawaiiAbout today’s author:
Stacy Bender derives her earthly joy from three earthly areas: her family, her friends, and her work.  Though she could probably have hobbies, she would rather connect other people to what makes them tick.  Her current claim to fame is living in a 1965 airstream trailer at least part of the last year. For a couple of years, Stacy blogged daily (click here to read all about her racing mind).  In the past few years, she has blogged once every so often. 

You can read more about how Stacy has influenced Kerry’s life as his wife and friend, and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading tomorrow’s final post in the series “Celebrating Women.”

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If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
-Romans 12:18 (ESV)

Biff and Momsiah and momIf you look at my public Facebook feed, you will see a lot of smiles on it.  The biggest smiles most recently have been in some live videos with my daughter (who authored the post a couple of days ago) and with my son after the closing of his recent on stage performance of The Amish Project at Baylor University.

I do not smile all of the time.  

In fact, every year that goes by shows more wrinkles on my forehead from the “Stacy Scowl” that often contorts my face to represent the ugliness that resides in my heart.  I harbor resentments, I want to be right – or at least seen as someone who can find out what is right, and I lack trust in others to watch out for me.

Who knows where this comes from?

Research could probably point to a number of different “risk factors” in my life, but I want to be clear that, given how many people seem to have risk factors,  I see it more as “normal dysfunction” in my life: a lot of fun stories, a few laughs, and a lot of tears.  Side note: I like the concept of “normal dysfunction.” I just coined it; maybe there is other research out there that has already coined it, but it’s the first time I have written it in a published work .

Of course, research has its place.  We could measure my cortisol (stress hormone) level to see how it differs when I am with people I trust versus those who have hurt me in the past.  We could create charts, graphs, and pretty images to depict how everyone else is responsible for my feelings.

And that could feel good – giving everyone else the responsibility and weight of my feelings.  

In the words from a recurring line in The Amish Project, “Am I right?”

Of course, I’m right.  You responsible for me takes away the responsibility from me for me…and for you…and for anything.  I can blame you for all of my problems, I can feel better, I can avoid you, and I can talk about you in counseling office, in prayer concern time at Bible study, and in passive-aggressive story-telling at a favorite coffee shop.  Everyone will sympathize with me, they all will feel better about unloading their stories, and they probably will feel fine talking about me when I’m not there.

“Am I right?”

Sarcasm.

All of this is sarcasm.

And it makes us feel better.  We internalize it.  We believe it.  We live it.

Until it doesn’t feel good at all.  

Until I have to look at myself in the mirror and realize that the broken relationships in my life have one common denominator – me.

The fiction of peace is that you can give it to me or that I can give it to you.  

We do this thing in liturgical churches – we extend the peace to one another.  But it only works if I extend peace to you while you are extending peace to me.  You cannot give me peace while I hold onto peace and not extend it to you.  You can extend it, I can extend it, but – without a recipient – there is only a fiction.  Peace hangs in between us and begs us to accept from one another as we extend it to one another.

And actually – isn’t that the truth?  That peace hangs…or at least hung…on a cross…

Romans 12:16 is not a stand-alone verse.  We come to this verse after a lengthy discussion of what sacrifice is and what love is.  The bottom line is that love and peace and sacrifice are not concepts but rather a person.  When God sent Jesus, heaven came to earth.  Jesus brought peace in the form of a living breathing person who because a dying sacrifice who conquered death – an our lack of peacefulness – in the day of Easter.

The fiction of peace is that we are extending something to each other.

When we share the peace with one another in a liturgical church setting, we are not extending our peace with one another.  We extend the peace of Christ – God himself – to one another.  This becomes less about us and all about what God has done and is doing in the world.  Romans 12:3-15 describe what it looks like to be the church in action  – to be Christ’s peace to one another.

I am not saying that allow ourselves to be doormats.  Boundaries are healthy.  Toxic relationships should be handled with care.  We should make wise choices about how we relate to those who have deeply hurt us.

More often than not, though, we use this as an excuse to harbor resentment, to put up walls in relationships where bridges should be built, and to create havoc in the lives of others because of our choice to withhold peace from them

Kerry asked me to write about “being a wife” and what that means.  Being a wife means to be someone who is willing to live at peace to the extent that it depends on me by relying on the One who is peace to be the peace I bring to my relationships. To be clear: I have not perfected this concept of peace in all of my relationships.  There is still plenty of work to be done.

So…let’s get to work, shall we? Together.  Let’s all be peacemakers in our hearts, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our country, and in our world.

ps: You can bring this concept to your Facebook feed…smile!Stace Waterfalls

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Women Through the Ages

me and beth zoo
Beth and Me at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, ND, (I picked the picture!)

About today’s author:  Elizabeth Bender is a junior at Baylor University studying Medical Humanities and Child and Family Studies.  She hopes to become a certified Child Life Specialist after graduation. She enjoys reading, watching movies, sleeping, and spending time with friends. Previously, her writing has been featured in Wherever” – a devotional book published by Village Creek Bible Camp and on a church Lenten blog.  You can read that post by clicking on “Fasting from Fear.”

You can read more about how Elizabeth has influenced Kerry’s life as his daughter and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “My Daughter Taught me to Speak.

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I appreciate that I grew up with parents who encouraged me to seek out knowledge. They encouraged my passions as well as my random interests. The academic program I am a part of at Baylor University also encourages its students to take a wide range of classes both inside and outside their area of study.

During my fall semester of 2015, I had the opportunity to take Christian Heritage with Dr. Rosalie Beck, a required course. While it was a requirement, I enjoyed taking this course and learning more about the history of my faith tradition. I believe this course enriched my faith as well as my understanding of Christian history. I loved the way Dr. Beck set up the course and her obvious passion for the topic. Therefore, the following fall semester, I registered for Dr. Beck’s course “Women in Christian History.”

I registered for this course not just because of how much I enjoyed Dr. Beck’s other course but because the topic interested me. The course focused on the role of women throughout Christian history. It explored Christianity’s view towards women and how that view has morphed over time.

For the majority of history, women’s sphere of influence was limited to the home. Women, however, maintained control and heavy impact within their sphere. They were took on the role of spiritual heads of their families. Throughout history, mothers instructed their children and often their husbands as well in spiritual matters. Women held spiritual well-being of a family upon their shoulders. With the growth of Christianity in the early centuries, women continued to wield significant spiritual influence in families.

There are countless men (i.e. St. Augustine, Basil of Caesarea; John and Charles Wesley; etc.) whose lives and impact on Christianity are owed to the influence of their mothers, sisters, and female friends.

Christian women used their sphere of influence, whatever it was, to impact the course of Christianity and the world. Later, as women’s sphere broadened, they continued to influence their families and considered their community an extension of families. Later still, women impacted the culture at large and gained respect to be recognized for their influence.

Here are my three takeaways from the overall course:

1. Women have taken both background and prominent roles throughout Christian history; whether in the background or the forefront, women ALWAYS worked with passion and conviction! Some were culturally respected in their call for change and others approached change counter-culturally courageously speaking in the face of opposition.  And sometimes, just like today, women stood on opposite sides of issues. Regardless of how women approached their role, the current state of Christianity, and the world as a whole, today would be different if those that spoke out had chosen to remain silent. May we listen to the women around us and integrate their voices into our discussions and approaches to change, and may we as women have the courage to speak.

2. Women fighting for equal rights within society often set their desires aside to assist in making change in respect to other issues. Specific examples of this within the United States include women’s involvement in the Temperance Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Women chose to fight not only for their own rights but for other inequalities and injustices, at times sacrificing their own rights in doing so.

3. Whenever you define or characterize one group, you automatically define or characterize the other group. Specifically in this course we discussed whenever you define woman, you also define man. Likewise whenever you define man, you define woman. I am not arguing that this is negative, but I am arguing that we can not be passive “definers.” These definitions, either explicit or implicit, can have the unintended consequence of limiting or restricting someone.  May we recognize that our words have greater meaning and power than we know. May we make space for the ‘other’ to define themselves. May we use our voices to characterize the voiceless with justice and with love.

In addition throughout the course, I learned about a variety of women.  Some of my favorites you may want to investigate include:

  • St. Teresa of Avila (I also read her book The Interior Castle and I highly recommend.) 
  • Phoebe Palmer
  • Katharina von Bora
  • Sarah Grimke
  • Perpetua and Felicitas
  • And many others!

I enjoyed hearing their stories and the impact they had on Christianity during their time and into the future. I am thankful to those whose stories are told and recognize that there are countless stories of women who remain hidden in history; I am thankful for their providing me examples of strong women.

I hope you take some time to investigate for yourself women in Christian history who have changed the course of history.  I hope that you will take some time to consider the women that have changed your own story, your own history. 

I hope you consider what type of Christian woman you want to be and what type of Christian woman you want your daughters, wives, and friends to be. What impact can you have on the church’s view of women and how can you shape the world’s view of women?

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

My Daughter Taught me to Speak

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  
–1 Corinthians 13:1

Family
Our Family in 2000 (Beth is the mature one with her tongue sticking out!)

Elizabeth Kathleen Bender was born on January 24, 1996, four weeks to the day before she was due and years before her mother and I had planned.

She continues to be one of the greatest joys of my life!

Even in her arrival, Beth was teaching me.  Her first lesson for me was that God’s timing is always more perfect than our own.

It’s almost impossible for me to believe that she is 21 years old now, and she continues to teach me in ways that I never imagined.

Of all the lessons that my daughter has taught me, however, it is her generosity that challenges, inspires, and teaches me the most. 

Though she struggles with a medical condition that saps her of strength and energy, she does not hesitate to help others or even to avoid burdening them with the details of her struggles.  In so many ways, she often is putting the needs of others before hers.

It is in the application of her convictions, however, that I am most challenged by her generosity.  Beth has strong Biblical convictions. The types of convictions that often place people at odds with one another.

But even those that would disagree with Beth most vehemently cannot argue or rail against her sincere compassion, against her generous orthodoxy, against a love that comes from her faith in One that taught us to love by laying down His life for her, for me, for you.

It always surprises me that in many ways Beth’s convictions are as strong and even stronger than mine – yet Beth is not interested in winning fights, or arguments, or debates. She is interested in winning friends, colleagues, and hearts.  She does this without compromise or surrender; she does it with a language shown to us by God, expounded by Paul, and lived – not just spoken – by any who would follow Christ.

Too often my own convictions are like a clanging cymbal – an annoyance not a comfort.  It seems that we live in a world where this is true of a growing number of people. But Beth continues to speak into this cacophony of noise with actions of love and generosity; she continues to teach me how to speak with the language of God.  Thank you, Biffer!

I’ve asked Beth to write tomorrow’s post concerning a class that she took at Baylor University last semester.  I trust that you will be blessed by her words.  But it will be in meeting her, if you ever have the privilege to do so, that you will learn the most from her and be the most blessed by the woman God has made her to be.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Church Yesterday

Jesus-Feminist-insta
image from Sarah Bessey’s site, “instagram credit @kenberd”

I had the privilege of hearing Sarah Bessey preach yesterday at UBC (University Baptist Church) in Waco, TX.  As of yesterday, I didn’t know about Sarah, but since the message yesterday, I have read several of her blog posts and am looking forward to reading her book, Jesus Feminist.

It’s pretty clear that Sarah and I wouldn’t agree about everything; that being said, isn’t that true about everyone?

After hearing her preach and reading several of her blog posts, I wanted to include her in this series “Celebrating Women” for International Women’s Month (only 4 more days after today!).

The main reason I want to include her is because I have been trying to put words to a thought that has been stuck in my head.  I have been wanting to describe:

  • that one can be both authentically Christian and a feminist (whether you are a man or a woman),
  • that you don’t have to be a feminist inspite of your Christian convictions, but that you should be a feminist because of your Christian convictions,
  • that some who proclaim the themselves mostly loudly as Christians and feminists do things that embarrass me as a Christian and feminist, and
  • that I feel both of these terms, Christian and feminist, have been hijacked, but that I am unwilling to give either of them up!

In Sarah, I found someone that for years has been putting words to feelings and thoughts that I have been having for years.  Therefore, today’s post simply points to a blog post that she wrote earlier this year.  I hope you enjoy it, I hope it challenges you, and I hope to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Even though I have only known about Sarah for a short time, she is one of the women for whom I am thankful.   Who deserves to be celebrated whether you are a Christian or feminist — or if you have the good fortune of realizing that you are both.

Here is the post:  “On Being a Christian and a Feminist:  And Belonging Nowhere.”

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Second Mothers

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JoAnne and Heidi
About today’s author:
Heidi is a pastor’s wife, mother of two, music educator, and school counselor.  She is passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of others through music, counseling, and living a life that exemplifies her faith in Christ.  She teaches at Harvey Public School in Harvey, ND. 

You can read more about how Kerry knows Heidi and his deep appreciation for her by reading a post earlier in this series by clicking on “Legacy of Childhood Friendships.”  Heidi wrote an earlier post as well, “The Power of Childhood Friends,” but she was asked to write this post concerning “Second Mothers” because of the impact that her mother, JoAnne Tschetter, had on Kerry’s life; JoAnne passed away in 2000.  You can read more about Kerry’s deep appreciation for JoAnne by reading yesterday’s post “My Other Mother.” 

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​I was not particularly close to my mother as I was growing up. As I look back now, I see clearly the time and creativity and love she poured into me, even as I held her at arm’s length as a surly teenage girl. I remember one of my Sunday School teachers having a great spiritual impact on my life during this period. Kerry’s mom, Sadie, was a woman of great character and wisdom. I couldn’t wait for each new lesson, because she spoke with such knowledge and confidence in God’s love for me. To this day, she is a woman I respect and admire because of her deep and abiding faith and her example of Godly character. She influenced my journey of faith and my spiritual walk more than any other woman, aside from my own mom. ​

My mother died at the age of 50, just as I was beginning to truly appreciate her for her wisdom and strength and for her role in my life. As a young woman who was newly married and expecting my first baby, I felt her absence acutely during moments when I desperately needed advice and guidance. I have been so blessed by several women who have graciously and unobtrusively stepped in to my life to fill the gaping hole left by my mother’s early death.

​My mother-in-law Laura offered to stay with me after both of my girls were born. This began a process of transformation in our relationship. Although she is a woman of deep faith and of great love, I did not fully appreciate her close involvement in our lives at the beginning of our marriage. However, as the days went by and she quietly and graciously helped whenever and wherever she could, I began to feel my walls of resistance crumbling. We began to bond over shared struggles, and what was once an obligatory relationship became a friendship of choice. I now seek her advice and counsel often, and I truly love her as a mother.

​My step-mom has also been a tremendous source of advice and strength in my life. When my dad got remarried, Karla did not in any way try to replace my mother. She has simply become my friend, and in the process another mother figure in my life, offering advice, support and unconditional love.  

​What strikes me about all of these women is their faithful prayer support. I know that on a daily basis I was and am being covered in prayer. While each of them has been concerned about my physical and emotional well-being, I know that they seek God’s best for me first and foremost.  

​As a mom, a pastor’s wife, a teacher and a school counselor, I have many opportunities to speak into the lives of young men and women. Now more than ever, there are children who need a praying and listening adult who will come alongside them and help them navigate the difficult waters of growing up. May I be a blessing to them, as many have been to me.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

My Other Mother

motherI have had the privilege of having some amazing women influence my life.  One of them I had the privilege to call “mother” because she gave birth to me and raised me.  She introduced me to God and was the first to demonstrate what a strong devotional life should look like.  To read more about her you can click on the following post title and read “God’s Voice Sounds Like My Mother” from this series.  She continues to be an example of a woman who spends time with her Lord daily.

I also had the privilege of calling Von Schreier “mother.”  She was my mother through marriage.  Though she passed away over a decade ago, her life and words continue to form who I am.  To read a piece that I wrote in honor of her for this series click on the following title, “My Barnabas Was a Woman.”  I had learned so much from her and in many ways she was the original “blogger” long before blogging was a thing.  She had a list of over a hundred names that she would email with words of encouragement.  Because she is no longer with us, however, I asked my wife Stacy to write a post last week about something both she and I learned from her mom; you can read that post by clicking “Seeking Stillness.”

Both of these women had and have a tremendous influence on my life.  There is, however, another mother that was a mother to me.  A woman not related to me by blood or marriage — JoAnne Tschetter.

JoAnne was “the pastor’s wife” when I was growing up, and she did that well, but she was SO MUCH MORE!  To me, she was the director of Vacation Bible School, she was the story teller, she was the infectious laugh in the room, she was a source of never ending encouragement, she was a second mother to me.

In Romans 16, Paul has a list of people that he thanks and sends special greetings to in the church of Rome.  This is more than just a list and you can read a post that I wrote about this by clicking “More Than a List” which introduced the series “Celebrating Women.”  In this list Paul names numerous women, and one of them he addresses as “mother.”

“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother,
who has been a mother to me as well.”
Romans 16:13

No one could ever replace my mom, and I cannot imagine having a more encouraging and godly mother-in-law than, Von.  There is something, however, that is amazing about having someone that invests in you like a mother when there is no “blood” or “marriage” responsibility to do so.  For me, that was JoAnne.

JoAnne died from ALS in 2000.  I remember visiting her fairly late in her battle against ALS.  She couldn’t walk and she struggled even with speech.  What I remember about that visit the most, however, is that she still encouraged, she still told stories, she still was the infectious laugh in the room.  She was an amazing woman, and the legacy of her encouragement, storytelling, devotion to God, and so much more lives on in the lives of her own two daughters and others of us to whom she was also mother.

Like Paul, I’ve had the privilege of some amazing women in my life.  And like Paul, I’ve been blessed by a woman “who has been a mother to me as well.”  I’ve asked one of JoAnne’s daughters to write tomorrow’s blog about the idea of “second mothers.”  If you’ve been following this blog, you have met her already she wrote “The Power of Childhood Friends.”  You will be blessed by her post tomorrow as many of you were by her previous post.

I would encourage each of you this weekend to thank the women who have been “mother” to you.  If they are no long living, continue their legacy of care and nurturing by reaching out to some else that needs encouragement.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

On Mentoring and Leadership

myraAbout today’s author:
Myra Watts and her husband Gary recently transplanted to Spokane, Washington, to be closer to family. Myra is currently working part-time in Adult Ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Spokane as well as adjunct teaching in the leadership program at Gonzaga University. Prior to their move, Myra was the Director of the Character in Leadership program and assistant professor in the Religion and Philosophy Department at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. Gary and Myra have three children and four grandchildren.

You can read more about how Kerry knows Myra and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Seeing God’s Work in Others.

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After being a prisoner in Auschwitz during World War II, the medical doctor/psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote the now famous book Man’s Search for Meaning.  Frankl was a gifted observer of his fellow prisoners, always curious as to the various responses of different individuals as they faced the dire circumstances of life in a concentration camp.  After all of his experience, Frankl concludes that love is the most powerful human force and the only way to truly know another person.  Here is what he says:

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.  No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.  By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized.”

My insight into mentoring—and indeed to leadership more broadly and to life entirely—is based on this same conclusion, that love is the most powerful human force.  It is the encapsulation of any worthy or notable theory regarding becoming a mentor or leader.  Love.  One simple word. And yet it seems to take a lifetime to engage the nuances and difficulties within the meaning of this word. 

In the framework of mentoring, love means seeing the potential of another person in a way that allows that person to call that potential forth into reality.  As I say this, I imagine the description of the creation of Narnia in C. S. Lewis’ book The Magician’s Nephew as Aslan sings the world into being.  Are we able to participate in the transformational process of another person and be part of “singing into being” that which is the other person’s best, though it may still hidden.

On a trip to Florence, Italy, I had the good fortune to visit the Academia Gallery where Michelangelo’s statue of David is housed.  There’s a fairly long and circuitous path one walks to get to the statue of David.  Along the way, there are many beautiful statues – so many, in fact, that they all start to look alike.  But when I arrived at the portico where the statue of David stands, everything changed.  As I stepped into the sunlit room, I came to a complete stop, overwhelmed with emotion.  The statue of David is a true masterpiece.  Fourteen feet of carved marble on a pedestal, it towers over everyone in the room.  The statue of David is a spectacular presence.

It is said of Michelangelo that when he looked at a piece of marble, he envisioned the statue within the block of stone.  Then he carved away everything that was not part of his vision.  In other words, Michelangelo distinguished the form of David within the marble and then “sang it into being” – using his sculpting tools of course.

The challenge of mentoring is to love another individual enough to actually see the “spectacular presence” of what lies within and then to inspire and coax it forth into reality.  

I want to be careful that I do not appear to suggest that I have mastered any of this.  I have not.  I never set out to be a mentor.  But I have experienced what it is to have various mentors in my life, to have others love me enough to see me not only for who I am but who I might become. And I have had the joyful privilege of helping to “sing into being” the hidden potential in others.

Mentoring and leadership are both about the power of love in the lives of other people.  To mentor another person is to desire the best for that person and to be willing to do all within one’s power to see that the person receives it.  That is also the definition of love.  

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”