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.”

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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.”

Seeking Stillness

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Earlier this week, it would have been my mom’s 67th birthday.  I say “would have” because she passed away 14 years ago just as she and I had become adult friends.  She loved my husband, and we all had eased into being adults together well.

I was only 21 when our daughter was born.  My mom had raised me to be a woman who could do anything she pursued; however, her most important role in my life as I moved into mommy-hood was to ensure that I believed in myself as a mother.  She treated me as if I were the best mother she had ever met who had the best children she had ever met (even when my son had colic for several months and did his best to prove her wrong).  The four generation photo above is from the day when Kerry and I graduated from college;  she and I stand together while Grandma Lois holds my daughter.

Several years later, just eight months prior to her death, my husband (host of this blog series) took his first senior pastor position at Faith Baptist Church in North Minneapolis.  My mom was so proud!

Within two months of Kerry starting the position at FBC, my mom was diagnosed with a rare and terminal cancer.  Although she tried a brief course of a trial drug, it became clear quite quickly that she would not benefit from that treatment.  The last three month of her life were a quick decline from high energy woman to a woman who spoke nonsense because the pain medications interfered with clarity of thought.

My mom’s life had not been easy.  Various circumstances, choices made both by her and by others, and being self-employed created a bit of chaos.  She worked hard, loved intensely, and championed her children as they became adults, the spouses as we married, and our children as we had them.

As the pain medications slowed her thinking, a different kind of chaos began.  Decisions had to be made, her businesses need attention, and everyone she loved and whom she loved tried to understand what it meant for her to be dying.

In the midst of all of this chaos, my mom stood firmly on the promise that the chaos around her did not determine her destiny after her death, nor did it steal the assurance she knew she could find in the knowledge of who God was, His love for her, and His redemptive plan for her life and the world as a whole.

My mom’s favorite verse, Psalm 46:10, comes in the of a psalm in which David first describes the truth that God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble and then continues to discuss a whole lot of chaos.  Natural events like the ones in the psalm continue to cause fear for us: rising flood waters threaten much of North Dakota again this year, and several earthquakes have devastated entire cities recently.  These “forces of nature” cannot be stopped even with all of our modern technology.

In the midst of it all, the psalmist encourages us to be still and know that God is God.  He is with us in our fears and in the scary and unfortunate circumstances to which no one seems immune.

Through it all, God is with us.  Through it all, God is our refuge.

We can stop letting the chaos pull us toward feeling chaotic.  Our refuge – the Creator of all that is, that was, and that will be provides a peace that cannot be understand simply because He is peace.

During my mom’s last week alive, many people visited her.  Some came with offers to pray for her – healing, comfort, and strength.  Most people left her presence in awe of her assurance that she was not alone and that God had not abandoned her.

Though her death was clearly imminent, she would not allow others simply to minister to her.  She wanted to minister to them.  As she sought to live the mandate to be still and know that God is God, she encouraged others to reflect on their situations and to live in that truth as well.

It is hard to believe that she has been gone for nearly 14 years now.  Though I am not good about always putting this lesson into practice, I do count myself as one of those who benefited from her attitude as she was dying.  Once in a while, when I am in a chaotic time and wish that I could call her, I realize that she would tell me to step back, to get still, and to focus on the truth that God is God.

Regardless of the circumstances around me and the view I have of how those things will go, the truth is that there is no chaos to God.  He is God.  He is my refuge.  I can seek stillness and be reassured that He is with me. Because of that, chaos cannot consume me.

Yvonne “Von” Schreier could have founded the blogging movement.  Prior to her death in 2003, Von had devoted her life to God’s service, her family, and the pursuit of lifelong learning.  For several years, Von had written a daily devotional and emailed it to an ever-growing list of readers. Stacy Bender, Von’s daughter, is married with two adult children and is the online programming director for a small hybrid online school in Minnesota.  Inspired in part by her mom’s writings as well as the encouragement of mentors and friends, Stacy embarked on a daily blog project on August 1, 2011, and continues – though not always daily or even monthly – into the present.

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.

 

 

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!