What I Deserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Fiction of Peace

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

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

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

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

I do not smile all of the time.  

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

Who knows where this comes from?

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

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

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

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

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

“Am I right?”

Sarcasm.

All of this is sarcasm.

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

Until it doesn’t feel good at all.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women Through the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my three takeaways from the overall course:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Daughter Taught me to Speak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church Yesterday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

You are the writer today!

thank youWe have reached close to the midpoint of this series “Celebrating Women” during  International Women’s Month.  It is a series where I have written about some of the women who have influenced and formed me, but more importantly, it’s been an opportunity to hear from these women themselves.  I hope you have enjoyed it so far, and there are some great blogs to come from some of the guest bloggers.

If you came here today to read something, I want to say thank you and I am sorry.

I am not going to write anything today.  Instead, I would like you to take the next 3-5 minutes, the amount of time it would have taken you to read a blog post, and — instead of reading — call or write a note to a woman who deserves your thanks today.

Thanks again for reading this series.  Please take the time to follow my blog.

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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 Story of a Christian/Muslim Friendship

Marilyn R. Gardner is an adult third culture kid who grew up in Pakistan and then lived as an adult in Pakistan and Egypt. She birthed 5 kids on 3 continents and went on to raise them in Pakistan and Egypt before moving to the United States. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, just 15 minutes from the international terminal where she flies to the Middle East & Pakistan as often as possible. She is the author of Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging, and her newest memoir, Passages Through Pakistan: An American Girl’s Journey of Faith (click on the titles to check out the books at Amazon). Because of her passion for the Middle East, 50% of all royalties for any purchase of Passages goes towards refugee work there. She is also a prolific blogger at Communicating Across Boundaries (click on the blog title to check out Marilyn’s blog).

You can read more about how Kerry knows Marilyn and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Loving the ‘Other.’

marilyn

Every September, when cool breezes off the Nile River replaced the sweltering heat of summer, the expatriate community in Cairo, Egypt would reunite. Most employers planned a variety of activities to introduce any newcomers to Egypt in general, and the gigantic city of Cairo in particular.

Our employer, the American University of Cairo, put together an orientation week full of events and talks all designed to ease these overwhelmed rookies into life in both the city and the university. It was during orientation week that I met Lubna for the first time.

On the first day, I noticed Lubna standing alone at the break. I ignored my conscience and left her alone. On the second day, the internal nudge was too strong to ignore. I felt compelled to go and speak with her. I was nervous. Lubna was fully veiled. She wore both the abbaya (long black coat) and a niqab, the veil that covered all but her eyes. While I was used to communicating with women in the hijab (head covering), I had no friends who wore the full veil and I felt my discomfort acutely. I stumbled a bit as I asked her how long she had been in Cairo.

After seconds, we were engrossed in a dynamic conversation and within minutes found significant commonalities. Raised in Canada by an Egyptian family, she had married a Tunisian man who had immigrated to Canada just a few years before. She had one child, a baby girl.

A couple of weeks later, Lubna invited me to her home. Until this time, I had only seen her at outside events and I looked forward to being able to sit with her over tea and get to know her better. I arrived at her apartment around 10 minutes late – a little early for a Middle Eastern visit. I knocked on the door and a beautiful woman with long, dark hair that curled around her face answered the door. With exquisite make up and a chic outfit, she was lovely. I stared at her and in a halting voice explained that I was there to visit with Lubna. Was she available? The woman burst into laughter. “It’s me, Marilyn!” She laughed. “I can’t believe you didn’t recognize me!”

I had already seen Lubna numerous times, fully veiled with only her eyes showing. I was stunned at the contrast. As we laughed, she vowed she would never let me forget this first reaction.

Lubna and her husband were conservative Muslims. The niqab was the visual evidence of this, but this was really only one piece of the whole. Islam was a way of life, not just a religion of words. Lubna and her husband ordered their lives according to Islam, from the Call of Prayer (azzan) at the first light of dawn to the last echo heard across the city before bed, this was who they were.

Our commonalities were significant, our interactions over everything from faith to family were rich and interesting. But as our friendship developed, a curious side effect emerged. I experienced a crisis of faith. I had always imagined my faith to be far deeper and stronger than those who did not adhere to my truth claims. While I could acknowledge the faith of another, in my mind their faith was not as strong, not as binding.

As I grew to know and love Lubna, I entered into a new understanding of faith. Her faith was zealous and sure, providing her with a cement foundation not easily moved. I struggled as I watched her. How could her faith be just as strong as mine? As a Christian didn’t I have a market on faith?

It was through Lubna that I learned I didn’t and I don’t have a market on faith. It was through Lubna I learned that I could hold fast to my truth claims, yet still develop a deep friendship with another – not compromising, not betraying what I believe, but connecting within relationship. The orthodoxy of our faith defined our truth claims and the goal was not that we would agree – the goal was that we would communicate, that we would become friends without strings attached.

It’s been many years since Lubna and I shared tea and life together, but many others like her have come into my life; others who have taught me valuable lessons on connecting and offering friendship without compromising on truth claims. With each of them I have remembered what Lubna taught me about listening and loving, learning and enjoying. And I remember that this isn’t about forcing a faith, it’s about forging a friendship.

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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.”

 

 

Loving The “Other”

Ernst_Barlach_Barmherziger_Samariter
“Good Samaritan” by Ernst Barlach
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Click here to read the rest of the parable.

 

Growing up I thought “scandal” and “Scandinavian” came from the same root word because of the scandal it was when a Scandinavian entered our predominately German American culture.

Ok, that isn’t exactly true, but what is true is that my parents spoke exclusively German as young children and didn’t learn English until starting school even though they were both second or third generation American citizens.  In addition, everyone in my church, my school, and among my friend group all looked pretty much the same.  Because when you grow up in south-central North Dakota, everybody looks pretty much the same.

The “other” — except for the occasional stray Scandinavian — was a distant concept for me, and because of this I didn’t have to think about my personal response to those who had a different skin color, or had a different religion, or spoke a different language.  I was ignorant to the struggles and difficulties as well as the hopes and joys of those who were different from me.

And though my circumstances changed after I left the farm for college and there was greater diversity around me, I never gave much thought to my changing surroundings.

Without my knowing, I turned in my ignorance for apathy.

I fear that this progression, at least for me, would have been from ignorance to apathy and then onto animosity.  It seems to me that this progression gets played out too often throughout human history.  I was fortunate, however, in that this progression was halted (or at least put in check on my best days) because of the influence of people who challenged me through their words and their lives.

There are a number of people who come to mind when I think about those who have helped me consider the “other.”  There is one in particular to whom I want to say “thank you” as I thank the women who have influenced me in this series.

Marilyn Gardner, along with her husband Cliff, led a college ministry along with my wife, myself, and a few other people while I was attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the late 90s.  Marilyn was and continues to be a passionate and compassionate person.  Evident in her life was a deep love for international students and the “other” whoever they were or from wherever they came.  As I had the privilege of ministering alongside of her to college students, she ministered to me — not just her words to me or her hospitality to our entire family — she ministered to me as I learned from her strength and compassion.  Her Christianity and love — at least in my eyes — was not hindered by the ignorance or apathy that I had towards the “other.”  In my eyes, she balanced a family (she had five lovely young children at the time — they are all grown now) and work outside of the home all the while demonstrating God’s love for the “other” without appearing frantic.  I am sure there were frantic moments — with five children I can imagine there were more than Marilyn would care to admit.  The point, however, is that to those of us to whom she ministered, she didn’t seem frantic or too busy.  She never “crossed to the other side of the road” or “hurried along her way” but rather stooped down to the one in need, bound up their “wounds,” and cared for the “other.”

She is one of those people that years later — after you have moved far away — you think to yourself, “Self, you should have been more intentional about learning from that person!”

Fortunately, at least in the case of Marilyn, that wish has been granted.  I continue to learn from her through her blog, Communicating Across Boundaries (click on the title to read her blog).  And I am looking forward to reading her most recently published book Passages through Pakistan (click on the title to read an excerpt).

She continues to minister to me; she continues to challenge my apathy towards the “other.”  Most importantly ,she reminds me in her writings  that I am the “other” more often than I think.

“Other” can often be seen as pejorative.  Every time I wrote it in this post, I cringed a bit — I hope you cringed a bit reading it.  But God sent Christ for the “other.”  Christ died for the “other.”  And God commands us to care for the “other.”

Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook a quote that anyone who doesn’t learn English should be sent back to their country of origin — I think learning English is a good thing, something we should with compassion help others to do.  I did not get the sense, however, that this was the tone of the post.

This post reminded me once again that my parents were the “other” in this country.  My friend’s post would suggest that my family should have been sent back to the persecution from which they fled Russia (my heritage is Germans from Russia an interesting history and a blog post for another day).

I am thankful that my family was able to stay in a country where they were once the “other.”  More importantly I am thankful that Christ came for me, the “other.”  And I am thankful to the many marvelous people, especially Marilyn, who remind me of my call to love, care, and minister to the “other.”

Tomorrow’s post will be written by Marilyn Gardner!  Thanks, Marilyn.

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 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.”