The Power of Childhood Friends

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 her and his deep appreciation for her by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Legacy of Childhood Friendships.”

 

“Ghost, ghost, make a Goochi!” From somewhere in the house came the squeaky reply, “Goochi!”

Giggling, searching, finding, screaming, chasing. Repeat.

My sister Melissa, Paul (our neighbour from across the road), and I made up this hide-and-seek game (and numerous others) as we were growing up in a small village of just 40 residents. Paul was four years older than me, but because there was no one else around to play with, we became fast friends and partners in crime.

No matter how bad things may have been at school or how rejected I may have felt by my classmates, everything was better when I came home to play with Melissa and Paul. It was a safe zone. My opinion was valued. I was never left out. I was a vital part of every plan we made, and I knew I was accepted and loved without ever having to hear the words.

I rarely felt like I fit in at school. I was chubbier than the other girls, I lived out of town, and my dad was a pastor, which meant I was automatically not invited to movies, parties and dances. Thankfully we had a small youth group, of which Kerry was a part, in our church that was very active.

Even though we did not all attend the same school, we had many opportunities to interact and support each other. Our weekly meetings, along with our special outings strengthened my faith and gave me a place to belong. We spent time together on weekends, we attended retreats and camps together, and we stuck together and encouraged each other through peer pressure and tough times. As I look back on my younger self, I see so many character flaws in that girl. I am amazed by the patience and grace that those friends showed me on a consistent basis. They were truly a model of the love and grace of Jesus in my life.

Although we didn’t have cell phones and email, a small group of my camp friends formed a prayer chain during high school. We committed to praying for each other, and we shared our burdens and blessings with each other. To this day I continue to be blessed by those friendships that were formed so long ago.

James was six years older than I was. He became our Sunday school teacher and youth leader after he finished college and moved back to farm in the area. On Sunday nights when our congregation would go out in small groups to visit our elderly church members, James would load up his vehicle with our youth group and take us on a visitation adventure. We had excellent evenings learning from and encouraging those we visited. Then we would head to the ice cream shop or my house for more fellowship and laughter. Those moments of friendship, faith and fun that he fostered bolstered my faith, my self-esteem, and my courage to reach out to others.

The power of these positive childhood friends cannot be overstated. I will forever cherish the memories we created, and I know that a large part of who I am today is due to those friends who loved me unconditionally in a very conditional world.

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.”

Dare to be…

Not all of our heroes are people we have met.  Some of them lived long before us, lived in a place for away, died long before we were born.  We know about them through books, movies, or songs.  And though we did not know them personally, their stories have shaped us.

Growing up going to church, many of the stories that shaped my world were the biblical stories.  I heard my parents read them to me, I was taught them in church, and I remember singing about them in Sunday School.  I wanted to “Dare to Be a Daniel.”  I want a sling that went “round, and round, and round, and round” until that smooth stone released from my sling struck down Goliath.  I wanted to be one of the men that made a difference.

In 1979, I would have been five years old, and the movie “The Thirteenth Day: The Story of Esther” was broadcast on ABC.  I remember where I was sitting when I watched it.  We were at our neighbor’s home, Paul and Mary Schumacher.  I still remember that house, the pattern on the kitchen floor where I sat, my parents sitting in the dining room talking with Paul and Mary.

As my parents sat in the next room talking and laughing, I remember watching with horror as Haman plotted to kill the Jews.  I can still feel the overwhelming feeling that I can now identify as injustice at the possible genocide of whole people group.  I remember watching with anxiety as Esther, who was so afraid, bravely put into motion a plot that would save her people.  That night, I didn’t want to dare to be Daniel, or to slay Goliath, I wanted to be Esther.  I wanted to save my people.  I wanted to be made for such a time as this!

The power of story — of narrative — is tremendous.  The stories that we tell our children through books, movies, and songs shape their world.  It informs them of what is important and what type of people we hope them to be.  We can never be too careful in the powerful art of storytelling with our children — or for that matter in choosing the stories that continue to shape us.

Because of this, I fear that we do a tremendous disservice at times within our churches and our homes.  I don’t remember singing about Esther, or Ruth, or Rahab, or even Mary for that matter.  I don’t remember celebrating the stories of the women in the Bible– yes, Sunday School talked about these women from time to time, but we didn’t celebrate them through songs, we too often saw them simply as supporting characters in the stories of men.

I fear that this is a disservice not only to our daughters, but to our sons as well.  They — we need to know of the tremendous influence and power that women have had throughout the history of God’s people.  That without them the Gospel often would have fell on deaf years.  That without them the people of God could have faced annihilation.  That without them the stories of our lives would not be as rich or as full as they can be.

God has blessed me with a son and a daughter.  My daughter, Elizabeth, will be writing one of the posts for this series, and I am so looking forward to it.  I want her to dare to be Daniel.  I want her to have the courage to slay the giants in her life.  But I want her and her brother, Josiah, to be Esther.  To be people of unbelievable to courage in the face of unbelievable fear.  I want them to be people that are made for such a time as this!

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.”

God’s Voice Sounds Like My Mother

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, and 3) that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life.

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My mom, Sadie, with my daughter, Elizabeth.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.”  Proverbs 22:6

It seems appropriate to start this series, which thanks the women who have influenced me, by saying thank you to my mother, Sadie Bender; after all, I’ve known her my whole life.

She wouldn’t want to write this herself, and to be honest, when one of her friends shows her this, I am going to be in trouble.  She would prefer not to draw attention to herself, but I need to begin this series with the woman who began it all for me.

Mom is an amazing woman.  There is much that I could say about her.  She is unbelievably generous, a model of hospitality, and devoted to her family.  Her care for our father during his “long good-bye” with Alzheimer’s was truly heroic.

But for me her lasting legacy, is that she spoke to, and at least in my case, for God on a regular basis.

Mom read her Bible and prayed daily.  She demonstrated that time with God was not a drudgery to be accomplished but an opportunity, a  privilege, a joy. Because she listened to God, she became, at least for me, the clear voice of God in my youth and continues today.

I still recall the proverbs — some from scripture and others she had heard from preachers or clipped from Christian magazines — she would repeat to me and my brother.   Her voice of correction and encouragement was quick to respond to our transgressions, our disappointments, and our successes.

But where Mother spoke most clearly into my life was her “shrewd management.”

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 16:1-13 of a shrewd manager.  A man who knows his time with his employer is coming to an end shortly, so he goes out and makes ridiculous bargains with others — seemingly against he own best interests at least for the short run.  He does this in order that after his termination he will have a benefit, a dividend, a reward.  And so he does.

It’s a strange parable; one that we can get hung-up asking the wrong questions or trying to get it to say things it doesn’t.  The point, however, is one that my mother understands well, one that she tried to teach, one that continues to speak God’s voice into my own life.

Time is short on this earth — our employment here is quickly coming to a close, so invest wisely — so wisely that it looks ridiculous by the world’s standards.

My mom invested and continues to do so in ridiculous ways.  Through her generosity and hospitality I hear the voice of God reminding me to care for the other, the poor, the less fortunate.

For me, however, the height of her ridiculous investment comes down to a $0.50 wager.  Mom was our Sunday School Superintendent when I was in elementary school.  If you are unfamiliar  with the term Sunday School Superintendent, she was responsible to lineup teachers for all the children’s programming on Sunday morning at our church.  Before, we would break into age appropriate classes, the superintendent would conduct opening ceremonies — we would sing, celebrate birthdays, and take an offering.

As part of opening ceremonies one day, my mother made a wager if you will — anyone who would memorize the books of the Bible would get $0.50 cents.  For me, that was real money!  At Tesky’s Gas Station, that would still get you a bottle of Pepsi and a frozen Snickers bar!  And so began my knowledge and love for the Bible.

A ridiculous investment.

$0.50

A life changing moment!

Thanks, Mom, for that $0.50.  For investing in ridiculous ways.  For being the women that first spoke God’s love into my life and continues to do so to this day.

 

 

CELEBRATING WOMEN: Day 1, God as Mother Hen

Today is International Women’s Day!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the next 23 days in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  For the rest of March, 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 tings:  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, and 3) that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life.  

chicken
“How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing.”  Matthew 23:37b

Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus knew something that I fear we too often forget within certain camps of American Christianity.  This is particularly true of the branch of American Christianity in which I would be placed by most who know me — American Evangelicalism; a designation that seems to mean less and less and one that has become almost theologically unrecognizable to some of us who still find themselves identified within this camp (of course that is probably a blog for a different day; today is a day to celebrate women).

Within American Evangelicalism, however, we seem to have forgotten something that Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus knew about God — something that they knew about God’s nature.  And if someone tries to remind us of this thing to which Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus pointed, we are quick to “correct” them — to point out that they have strayed from one of the significant tenants of the faith.

You see Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus knew that God’s nature was too great, too complex, too divine to be described simply as male.

Because of this, the writers of scripture describe God not only as Father (which is a designation that we should not and must not lose — another blog for another day) but they also describe God using the imagery of a mother giving birth and nursing her young, a mother eagle, a woman comforting her young, and even a chicken gathering her wayward chicks home (Hosea, another writer of scripture, even describes God as a mother bear tearing asunder those who would separate her from her cubs).

God may be Father — but He is NOT male.  Male AND female are made in God’s image and both are needed to reflect God’s image and nature to a world that desperately needs to see and recognize God.

For me, the nature of God has been reflected to me in countless women.  God has spoken to me in the voices of countless women.  God has shaped me through the influence of countless women.

Mothers, friends, mentors, clergy, teachers, fellow workers in Christ.

To try to name them all would be impossible!  But on this day recognizing women, they all must be thanked.  THANK YOU!

For the rest of the month, I want to continue to celebrate the women who have reflected and continue to reflect the very best of God’s image into my life and the world around them.  I hope you will join me on this month of celebrating and learning from the women who have spoken life into my life, who have formed me, who have reflected the very best of Gods image to me, but more importantly, I hope you will take the time to say thank you, to celebrate, to recognize the women who have done this in your life.

More Than a List

I am strange.  Those of you who know me well won’t argue.  Part of my strangeness is that I really like listening to sermons!  One of my all-time favorite sermons is by a man named Fred Craddock who passed away in 2015.  He was a gifted preacher, a devoted professor, and a passionate and compassionate Christian.

The title of the sermon was “When the Roll is Called Down Here,” (you can read the sermon at “Preaching Today” by clicking on the title of the sermon). The text for his sermon was Romans 16.  It’s an unusual text for a sermon.  The text is basically a list of names.  A list of names of Paul’s ministry partners.  A list of fellow believers.  A list of those who made Paul who he was.

Craddock brings home the fact that this was more than a list — “Don’t call that a list.  It’s not a list.”  For Paul, this was more than a list of names.  For Paul, it was the Church.  For Paul, it was the fiber of who he was.

As I read this list again recently, I remembered the sermon with fondness, but I was surprised again by Paul’s list that is more than a list.  What surprised me was the number of women on Paul’s “list.”

He calls these women sisters, saints, and workers in the LORD, fellow prisoners; even one woman receives the title “mother.”  The affection, the respect, and the recognition of these women by Paul is obvious yet too often forgotten.

One can argue about Paul’s theology of women in ministry, but his practice is clear.  By his own words, his own admission, and his own list, Paul recognises that he couldn’t have done it without them.

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The Fabric of Who I Am

As I thought about Paul’s list again, I took Craddock’s sermon to heart once again and began to think about my own list.  That list is sprinkled liberally with women — peers, friends, mentors — a list that made me who I am, a list that influences me everyday, and a list that is more than a simply list.

Therefore, beginning on March 8th which is recognized as International Women’s Day, and continuing to the end of March.  I want to honor these women by sharing a few of them with anybody that reads this blog.  The series will consist of twenty-four daily posts — some posts written by me sharing the impact that these women have had on my life, but, more importantly, some of the posts will be written by these women themselves.

 

I hope that this month you will join me in remembering the women on your list, honoring the women in your life, and celebrating women!