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.”

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.”

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.”