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. 

 

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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.”

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.”

Seeing God’s Work in Others

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
–Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

I remember the first tentative conversations I had after I sensed my call into full-time vocational ministry.  They were awkward at best.  One of them, however, changed the tone of all the conversations that would follow.

After struggling with this sense of call over the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I went to the house of Gary and Myra Watts.  Gary was one of my professors at Jamestown College, and his wife, Myra, was a friend and mentor.  She was the director of the Learning Advisement Center at Jamestown College.  In that capacity she coordinated tutors, made sure students were connected to advisors, but for me (and my future wife, Stacy) she was a non-judgmental ear that provided guidance without projecting a sense of obligation to follow the advice.

I arrived at the Watts’ house that day, and the kids were running around and playing — I think their son was playing a video game.  I sat down with Gary first and told him that I thought I sensed God’s call into ministry.  Gary said that if I hadn’t figured that out by the end of the summer that he and Dr. Edwards were going to bring me into one of their offices and throw me against the walls until I figured it out.

Myra’s words were similar but gentler.  I don’t remember what she said word for word, but in general, she told me that sometimes our paths are seen more clearly by others walking alongside of us.  That she, and others, could sense God working in my life, and that she had been confident that it would become clear to me.

I had never really considered God working in my life — that God had started something in me, and that if I trusted in Him, He would complete it.

I knew that God did things.  I knew that God worked in people’s lives. I knew that God was active.  I just never considered that His work was active in my life or that others could see this activity.

Myra taught me that day to look for God in the lives of others — to look for His activity in the lives of those who didn’t even see it themselves.  My life has been richer because of it.  I have seen God more in the lives of others, and I have sensed His presence more clearly in my own because of her.

Tomorrow you will be able to hear from Myra in her own words from where the power to see the potential of others comes.  I know you will be blessed by it as I have been blessed by her.

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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.”

The Ultimate Co-Worker

About today’s author:
Jen and her husband Todd live in the Twin Cities. They will soon have a child in elementary, middle, and high school as their oldest enters 9th grade in the fall. Jen works in the church office at Faith Baptist Church and volunteers in a variety of Christia
n Education roles including as chair of the Children’s Ministry Team. She has a passion for learning and teaching more about God’s work in and through His people across time. In the last few years, she has had the opportunity to help author VBS curriculum focused on Church History as well as contribute to devotional projects (to check out and possibly buy one of these devotional projects click “Anchored” and “Wherever“).

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

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I love working with people on projects. I like brainstorming, discussing ideas, figuring out how to implement, even evaluation. But sometimes, working with people can be annoying too – mostly because they don’t do things my way.

Just the other day my husband and I had a “discussion” about something we needed to do. It was such a small thing. We just needed to send a quick email about a trip. But it turned into a “discussion” because I thought we should do it one way while he had another in mind. And of course, I thought my way was better. If I’m really being honest with myself, most of the time, my way isn’t better; it’s just different. My husband and I do things differently and approach things differently because we are different.

This isn’t just true in marriage; it’s true in the church too. God gives each one of us different gifts and skills that enable us to do the things He has called us to. Those gifts aren’t meant to put us at odds with one another, or better one another, but rather to accomplish God’s purposes and plan. The church in Corinth was struggling with this issue of different gifts and “ways of doing” when Paul chastised them saying,

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”    –1 Corinthians 3:5-7

What I believe Paul is getting at is that we are co-workers. God has called us to serve. He hasn’t called us to serve alone. The Bible is clear in so many places that he has given each of us different gifts, experiences, and skills that uniquely prepare us for the specific work He is calling us too. We are co-workers with the people in our church, our families, our communities…to accomplish His purposes. God doesn’t just work through me. He works through those around me too. I need to value the gifts God has given to those laboring beside me. In doing so, I’m recognizing God’s work in, and through, their lives.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. As I consider what He has called me to do, his next words are something I need to hear often. The results are not my responsibility. And they aren’t the responsibility of another person either, they are God’s responsibility. We are co-workers with those around us, and we should seek to work with them in harmony, but ultimately, God has invited us to be His co-worker in the work He is doing in the world. Let that sink in for a minute. The God of the universe has called me, and you, to join Him in His redeeming work in this world.

I’m learning more each day that I need to be willing to rely on the co-workers God has placed in my life and their gifts and skills—not just my own. BUT even more than that, I need to trust God as my ultimate co-worker. The outcomes are His…not mine. Not easy words. But true ones.

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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’s Work

As a child, I hated group projects in school.  My grade?  Dependent on someone else’s lack of motivation?  NO THANK YOU!

I have to admit that my view of group projects hasn’t improved much since becoming an adult.  There is always a slacker — or someone who has their own ideas — how annoying!

But Paul understood the importance of group projects, of working together, of fellow workers in Christ.

Because of this, Paul’s letters are filled with lists of group project members, requests for the presence and help of others, and praise for those who were fellow workers in Christ.

Phoebe is one of the women who makes Paul’s list of fellow workers — of a group project member.  As a matter of fact, Phoebe receives a special honor.  In Romans 16:1, she is described by Paul as a “sister” and as a “deacon” or “minister” in the church at Cenchreae.  This is a huge deal!  Paul, in the first century, a former Pharisee, coming out a patriarchal system, lists a woman as a minister or as an official office holder in the life of the Church!

Of course, Phoebe’s position as a deacon is passionately debated; if you don’t believe me, just Google it.  The word that Paul uses for “deacon,” the Greek of which is “diakonos,” is a word that can mean servant in general when translated.

The early Church adopts this general term and impregnates it with special meaning, so it can mean servant for the early Church.  However, it can also mean a specific office, the office of “deacon,” within the life of the Church.  Therefore, many english translations choose to translate this term as “servant” instead of “deacon” to describe Phoebe.  This would mean that she was not an office holder in the early Church but rather a simple servant of the Church.

But let me briefly put forward four quick arguments to see Phoebe as a deacon:

  1. Paul’s use of this Greek word is primarily, if not exclusively, tied to being a minister in the work of God, not a general servant.
  2. Paul ties this particular instance of this word to a local church — strengthening the argument that this is an office or at least a specific ministry.
  3. The early church (late 3rd/early 4th century) saw Phoebe as a “deacon” listing a woman named “Sophia” as a deacon and as a “second Phoebe” (for a full discussion of this see Elizabeth McCabe’s Society of Biblical Literature article, A Reexamination of Phoebe as “Diakonos” and “Prostatis”).
  4. If Phoebe had been a man, I wouldn’t have needed reasons 1-3.

I recognize that some readers may disagree with this position and that a quick Google search will provide enough ammunition to share in the comments; however, I think that Phoebe’s record — both by Paul’s own words and the view of the early Church — speaks for itself.

It’s tragic that the translators of many English translations consistently translate Paul’s use of “diakonos” as “deacon” or “minister,” but translate  the same Greek word in Romans 16:1, referring to Phoebe, as “servant.”  It is equally tragic when we “translate” or view the work of men and women with the same lenses within the Church today — valuing one as ministry and the other simply as service.  I realize that this is a nuance, but nuances are important!

This is not an argument for women to be pastors or elders, nor is it an argument opposed to that — that can be a topic for another day.  It is simply an argument that we should see the ministry of women, the work of women within the church, and the offices that they hold within the life of the Church with the same respect, honor, and appreciation that we have for the ministry and offices that men hold.

womens-equality-dayAt the end of the day, there is no “women’s work” or “men’s work;” there is only the work of Christ that must be done to demonstrate his love to the world!

I have had the privilege of working with some amazing women who are workers, servants, ministers, office holders, whatever you want to call them.  They are amazing people, and they have my utmost respect.  To try to list them all would be impossible — from the women that taught me Sunday School, to my college mentors, to professors at seminary, to the women that strived for the Kingdom of God with me in the churches at which I have had the privilege to work.

We worked on constitutions and bylaws together.

We cleaned the sanctuary together.

We wrote Sunday School curriculum for children and adults together.

We planned worshipped services together.

We folded bulletins together.

We prepared church meals together.

We went on mission trips together.

We served on teams, committees, and boards together.

The list could go on and on, and the benefit and knowledge that I have gained from the women with whom I had the privilege of serving alongside — well, that continues to go on and on as well.

For tomorrow, I have asked one of these women, Jen Woyke, to write a blog post about being a co-worker in Christ.  I had the privilege of working alongside Jen in numerous capacities, and I have had the opportunity to take a Church History Sunday School class from her that rivaled any class I took in college and seminary.  We served on boards together and went on a mission trip to Cameroon together.  Upon returning from that trip, she preached a Sunday morning sermon that I am not ashamed to say was one of the best sermons preached during my time at Faith Baptist Church.

Her hard work, commitment, and knowledge has benefited me and the Kingdom in countless ways.  And she is only one of scores of women that I have had the privilege to minister beside.  Any of them could have written tomorrow’s post, and those who read it would have benefited tremendously from it.  I hope that each of these women will sense my deep appreciation for them as they read this post and tomorrow’s post.

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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.”