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Seasons of Death, Life, and Growth

Spring has officially arrived in the Midwest and new life is blossoming all around, from the cacophony of bird songs in the air to the flowers on the trees and in gardens. If you’re like me, the arrival of spring is met with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Spring comes just at the moment when you are most sick of the cold and deadness of winter. It erupts in beauty and color and finally gives a break in the weather that will allow you to leave the house without 75 layers of clothing. The days begin to lengthen and you’re more likely to see sunshine during your day. The apprehension comes from knowing everything that spring brings with it–allergies and insects to start with. With more time comes the need to do more work–more yard work, more cleaning, more organizing, more gardening. Spring is beautiful, but it sure is hard work.

As I look ahead to summer, I think about the people who live in year-round warm climates. The people who don’t experience winter, not the icicles-on-your-eyebrows, foot-of-snow-and-more-forecasted kind of winter. As often as I have wished to live in one of these warmer climates, more often I am grateful for living in a temperate climate, where I get my fill every year of the hot, sultry days of summer as well as the cold, frozen days of winter. Most of all, I love the in-betweens: spring and fall.

In between the hot deadness of summer and the frozen deadness of winter is the blaze of life and color that come with spring and fall. In spring we celebrate new life, new growth, colorful blossoms filling the trees even before the leaves grow. As the world thaws, everything comes back to life in full force. In fall we celebrate the culmination of life with harvests of pumpkins and apples, and garish displays of plenty at our Thanksgiving feasts. The trees blaze with glorious color even as we are reminded that the leaves are dying. This is what I love about the Midwest and why I can suffer through 30 below windchills year after year. There’s a saying you often hear in the Midwest “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” I would change this to “If you don’t like the season, wait 3 months.”

God promised that as long as the earth endures, we will have seasons. Which is good news if you like spring.

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C. S. Lewis gives the best explanation for seasons in his book The Screwtape Letters:

Since they need change, the Enemy [God] has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual year; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.

God has designed us for change, for seasons, and like the seasons in nature, we each experience seasons in our lives. Lewis talks about these seasons earlier in The Screwtape Letters, in the character of Screwtape, a senior demon giving advice to a younger demon about tempting humans using what he calls the law of Undulation. “Their nearest approach to constancy is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.” He goes on to explain to his underling that troughs, or periods of dryness, are God’s way of producing growth in his followers. “It is during the trough periods, much more than the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.”

It is the long, cold, dead winter that makes way for spring.

There’s an interesting phenomena about tree roots. They don’t grow during the winter, but they are always ready to grow. At the first hint of spring, long before anything above ground has had any sort of growth, the tree roots do the most growing. . It’s not a slow, steady growth, it’s a burst of growth, right at the end of winter. Just when the tree looks deadest, it experiences the greatest growth. Winter is necessary for spring. Growth happens when the old has a chance to die.

Sometimes in our understanding of theology we refuse to let old thoughts and old systems die. We understand growth in theology. Yes, it’s important to keep learning, keep studying, keep thinking. But we have a hard time giving up the old ways of thinking. Admitting that the old way of thinking is ready to die is perhaps admitting that we believed something false or taught something wrong. So, instead of learning and growing, we instead work even harder to prove that our old way of thinking still works. Imagine a tree fighting to keep its leaves through the winter while still attempting to grow new leaves for the next season. It’s impossible.

Just as a parent must explain to a small child that their baby teeth have to fall out to make room for their adult teeth. So, in our belief structures, the immature beliefs have to die to make room for the mature beliefs. God desires growth and growth becomes impossible when we refuse to let the old die.

Winter doesn’t kill the tree, it kills the leaves. The tree remains and when new leaves grow in the spring, the tree is even more beautiful, mature, solid than before. Maybe it’s time to find out what is the tree and what are the leaves of your theology. Let the leaves die.

What are some old beliefs that you’ve had to let die? What did you discover that hasn’t changed?

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at*one*ment Feminist Approach

Continuing our series on atonement theories, instead of looking at one particular theory, our guest blogger Leslie takes a look at how the atonement has been understood and taught by women and feminist theologians throughout history.

 

“In order to be able to understand the symbol of the cross as a sign of injustice, we need to tell its story differently. We need to abandon the story-frame of blood atonement and tell the Jesus story in terms of struggles for justice. We must not cut the cross and resurrection out of the Jesus story but tell this story differently” –Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

 

It was during my research on feminist theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza when my spark of curiosity towards feminist theology turned into a flame of love, where I became absorbed into the realm of atonement from the feminist perspective. Feminist theology is challenging, it requires balances between objectivity and subjectivity, tradition and experience, absolutism and relativism, as most meaningful things in life do. My goal is not to suggest these particular understandings of atonement as “right,” but instead, my hope is to provide some alternative perspectives. In thinking about atonement in light of women’s oppression, suffering, and marginalization, hopefully our eyes will be widened and hearts a bit more open. Perhaps we will be able to acknowledge that “a story is named and told differently depending on the audience to whom it is told. Different theoretical frameworks and social locations shape a story in different ways” (Fiorenza, Sharing Her Word, 23).

A significant view of feminist theology emerged in the 1960s, when theologians Valerie Saiving and Judith Plaskow began to question prominent and contemporary male theologians Anders Nygren and Reinhold Niebuhr and their male-dominated theological doctrines. Saiving and Plaskow noticed that these historically accepted theological doctrines, specifically harmatiology, failed to acknowledge women’s experience. The idea of sin was that it is rooted in a separateness and anxiety, and is equated to self-assertion and love with selflessness. Saiving, however, argued that such a doctrine comes from merely the male perspective, whereby sin in females may be more along the lines of neglecting self-identification, or self sacrifice in the service of others (Saiving, “The Human Situation,” 1960). Regardless of one’s position on harmatiology, Saiving and Plaskow worked to bring the voices and experiences of women into the theological arena.

Shortly after Saiving’s work, Mary Daly wrote Beyond God the Father (1973), pointing out the importance in discussing sin, the cross, and salvation. Here is where I think women’s experience on the theory of atonement is chiefly considered. Daly writes, “The qualities that Christianity idealizes, especially for women, are also those of the victim: sacrificial love, passive acceptance of suffering, humility, meekness, etc. Since these are the qualities idealized in Jesus ‘who died for our sins,’ his functioning as a model reinforces the scapegoat syndrome for women.” This is clearly an experiential take on atonement, supporting women’s experiences over a fixed or “objective” doctrinal belief.

Following a similar trajectory as Daly, Rita Nakashima Brock suggests that Christianity has traditionally considered the highest form of love as self-sacrifice. Brock alternatively argues that the highest form of love needs to be redirected towards that of intimacy. This is because humanity at our core is relational and sin does not require punishment, but instead, healing (Brock, Journeys by Heart). Brock rightly recognizes that the doctrine of atonement emphasizes God’s grace and forgiveness for all. However, it is insufficient because God’s grace and forgiveness is contingent upon the suffering of one perfect child.

The notion of atonement as “divine child abuse,” depicted by Rita Nakashima Brock, is fairly well-known in the feminist theology world. Joanne Carlson Brown and Rebecca Parker also consider this to be problematic, boldly asserting that Christianity has been a primary force in shaping Christianity’s acceptance of abuse. Brown and Parker write, “The central image of Christ on the cross as the savior of the world, communicates the message that suffering is redemptive. […] The child who suffers without even raising a voice is loaded with the hope of the world” (Christianity, Patriarchy, and Abuse: A Feminist Critique, 1989). It is clear to see Daly, Brock, Brown, and Parker’s opposition to particular atonement traditions such as Christus victor, satisfaction or Anselmian, and moral influence. Likewise, all these women are Christians attempting to make sense of Jesus’s death in light of personal experiences.

Rosemary Radford Ruether is another acclaimed feminist theologian who offers a critique of traditional views of atonement theory. Ruether poses the problem of the maleness of Christ, wondering if the limitations of Christ as a male must lead to the conclusion that he cannot represent redemptive humanity for women. Ruether’s primary question is, “Will women need to emancipate themselves from Jesus as redeemer and seek a new redemptive disclosure of God in female form?” (Sexism and God-Talk). Ruether begins to solve this problem by looking at the gospels, where Jesus renews the prophetic vision by proclaiming a reversal of the system of religious status. Linda Peacore explains Ruether’s understanding saying, “the Gospels are directed at sociological realities in which maleness and femaleness in part make up the definition of social status. Jesus is the liberator who calls for the dissolution of these status relationship” (The Role of Women’s Experience in Feminist Theologies of Atonement, 2010). Therefore, for Ruether, it is not that Jesus’s significance rest in his maleness, but instead, his renouncing of systems of domination.

Lastly, I’ll do my best to highlight womanist and Asian feminist views on atonement. Womanist theologian Delores Williams focuses on atonement as it is understood in the ministerial vision of righting relations between body, mind, and spirit. Williams is arguing on behalf of black women, who have historic experience of surrogacy, which requires the need to reconstruct a Christian understanding of redemption. According to Williams, Jesus conquered sin, not in death, but in life. She claims that there is nothing divine in the blood of the cross. Again, this is a rejection of blood sacrifice imagery in common atonement theories. Williams says, “The womanist theologian must show that redemption of humans can have nothing to do with any kind of surrogate or substitute role Jesus was reputed to have played in a bloody act that supposedly gained victory over sin and/or evil” (Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 164).

Linda Peacore also provides a sound analysis of atonement theory as seen through the eyes of Asian women. Peacore says, “The subject of suffering is ambiguous for Asian women because it can either be seen as the seed of liberation or the impetus for oppression of women” (118). Moreover, Peacore notes Filipino Lydia Lascano’s view that Jesus is understood as a compassionate man who identified himself with the oppressed, arguing that Filipino women understand Jesus neither as “a masochist who enjoys suffering nor as a father’s boy who does blindly what he is told to do” (118). Peacore quotes Chung Hyun Kyung who, “proposes that as Asian women suffer they meet God who discloses to them their value as creatures made in the divine image. ‘To know the self is to know God for Christian Asian women’” (119).

Now, what are we to make of these theories? As we have read, the feminist approach to atonement generally opposes suffering, they reject theories that emphasize the passivity of Jesus’s death on the cross. However, the exclusion of Jesus’s suffering and the violence involved could cause some disconnect, failing to preserve the entirety of the story of Jesus’s life, work, death, resurrection, and ascension. Fuerthermore, they are quite subjective. They are necessarily relative to gender, race, location, and personal experiences. Such relativity makes the feminist perspective of atonement relational, but we must be careful not to reject objectivity completely and fall into a reactive theology. Moreover, what place does tradition have in the theory of atonement? While I think it is easy follow the feminist’s stream of thought, and often helpful, it is imperative we remember the significance behind atonement theory, which extends beyond humanity’s knowledge. Yes, we should be critically thinking about who has developed these theories and how the notion of sacrificial love and acceptance of suffering can be, and often is, detrimental to women’s experience. Though, we must ask ourselves if, by focusing on the life of Jesus opposed to his death, we limit the uniqueness of Jesus as entirely human and divine. Peacore suggests another potential problem with feminist models of atonement theory, suggesting they “provide a view of redemption that is only partial and sporadic in the sense that we human beings can participate in profound moments of liberation, but never bring about the sort of transformation of relationships between God, each other, and the world necessary for true salvation” (197).

We can also see the positive aspects of these approaches. Feminist theologians continue to remind us that theology is more than the binaries we often ascribe it to. There is significance in not maintaining a fixed concept of the atonement theory. By listening to people’s stories of how certain traditional theories of atonement have been harmful, we are hopefully challenged out of the comfort of Western, dualistic thoughts, and into mutuality with humanity who struggles to find meaning in atonement on a daily basis. Therefore, would it be too bold to propose that we should start challenging each other out of comfort? Perhaps we don’t ascribe to “either/or” methodologies that maintain atonement as either an objective, historical story that has one perspective or a subjective theory that has no meaning beyond one’s social-context. Instead, maybe we start by bringing together diverse voices, listening to each other’s stories, and believing in the unique perspective each person provides the Church. Let us understand the theory of atonement in light of women’s perspective, but not limited to it. In consideration of Jesus’s death, but beyond it, towards Christ’s story as a whole, in the midst of the paradoxical “already and not yet.”

Leslie is a student at Azusa Pacific University, finishing her B.A. with a double major in Theology and Biblical Studies. She will go on to work on her M.Div./M.S.W. at Princeton Theological Seminary beginning this fall.

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at*one*ment: Recapitulation Theory

“Through man’s disobedience the process of the evolution of the human race went wrong, and the course of its wrongness could neither be halted nor reversed by any human means. But in Jesus Christ the whole course of human evolution was perfectly carried out and realized in obedience to the purpose of God.” –William Barclay

 

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” How often have you heard that sentiment? People love to see history as patterns. We make connections from the present to the past, as we understand family, work, strife, and wars. After all our advances and inventions, we really aren’t much different from our ancestors. Humanity still struggles with the same basic problems, and, deep down, we all still have the same basic needs—love and acceptance. This is what makes the Recapitulation Theory of Atonement attractive. Jesus’ life reflected Adam’s life. History repeats itself, but with a whole new ending.

What is it?

The Recapitulation Theory of Atonement sees the atonement of Christ as reversing the effects of the sin of Adam. Humanity moves from disobedience to obedience, from Curse to Christ. The theory was first formulated by Irenaeus in the second century. It is based on a Greek word in Ephesians 1:10, anakephalaiosasthai, which means to sum up or recapitulate. Paul says that God’s will in Christ is “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”

Jesus got right what Adam got wrong. Adam disobeyed God’s command concerning the tree. Jesus obeyed God, to the point of death on a tree.

One of the strengths of the Recapitulation Theory is that it expands the understanding of atonement from Christ’s death to his entire life. Many atonement theories focus on the death of Christ and see his birth, life, and teachings and mere counterparts, the part of the story only necessary to get us to the cross. But Recapitulation sees Christ’s death within the larger picture of God’s entire saving work: restoring human nature.

Another strength of this theory is the reminder that we are all connected to each other as part of the human race. While we understand salvation for individuals, and the importance of making your own individual faith commitment, it is also essential to remember that everything we do affects other people. Recapitulation emphasizes Christ’s atonement of humanity as a whole.

Scripture Support

Christ is compared to Adam in these passages:

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Romans 5:19 “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (See also the entire chapter for more comparison.)

The incarnation as essential to atonement:

Philippians 2:7-8 “[Jesus] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The far-reaching scope of redemption:

Romans 8:19-21 “ For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Potential Problems

While searching the internet for information about this theory I came across one website that condemned it as heresy because Jesus never sinned. However, the theory never says Jesus sinned, so their condemnation is based on misinformation.

Although a fascinating look at the interplay of incarnation and atonement, this theory isn’t quite enough to fully explain atonement. It seems like something that needs to be understood alongside another theory of atonement. Gavin Ortlund does just that is his blog. He understands Recapitulation and Satisfaction theories as compatible.

 

For further study, check out these websites:

http://www.theopedia.com/Recapitulation_theory_of_atonement#note-0

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory_of_atonement

http://ancientevangelicalfuture.blogspot.com/2007/10/whats-fuss-about-recapitulation.html

Body-Image

Cut the BS (Body Shaming)

I was born with a lazy eye which required surgery within a year of birth. For the first several years of my life my parents had to put a patch over my good eye to force the weak eye to strengthen. As a baby they had to put socks on my hands to keep me from peeling the patch off, and they had to safety pin the socks to my sleeves to keep me from pulling them off my hands. Wearing the patch over my eye continued until I was in Kindergarten. I have a clear memory of wearing the patch one summer at VBS. All day I had to explain to curious children why I was wearing it. Then the next day I had to explain to all the same children why I wasn’t wearing the patch this time. My vision, with corrective lenses, is now normal. But to this day, if I take off my glasses, or if I’m very tired, you can still see my right eye wandering off, which, I’m told, is quite creepy to witness.

I’m no stranger to body shaming. I was the awkward, chubby kid with glasses, a bad haircut, and crooked teeth. Never part of the “in” crowd, I was often ostracized and teased. Kids always made fun of the way I looked. Even as an adult, the body judging continues, but instead of teasing it’s pitying looks and a list of reasons I should lose weight. They tell me to lose weight for health, for looks, for a swimsuit, and even so I could get more dates. When I reach for dessert after dinner and get that judgmental glance, I feel like I’m 5 years old all over again explaining to a nosy kid why I have a patch over my eye.

But what I’ve found about body shaming as I’ve become an adult is that most of the shame comes from me. Yes, I’ve had my share of other people telling me how I should change my body, and to some degree I can even blame our beauty-obsessed society, but when it comes right down to it, I’m my biggest critic. I can stare at the mirror for hours pointing out everything wrong with my body. And maybe you can relate.

I don’t want to minimize the pain of body shaming you’ve had to endure from others. I don’t know your story, or what others have said to you about your body. But maybe, like me, you’ve discovered that most of your body shaming comes from yourself.

One day in college, I discovered something in a magazine my church publishes for youth that would change my perspective about body shaming and condemning. Next to an article about self-esteem was an inset titled “The truth about your body.” I cut it out and taped it on the wall next to my bed and read it over and over. When I moved home after college, I took the magazine clipping with me. Every time moved, I kept the clipping and taped it to a mirror or a cupboard or a wall where I could see it and be reminded regularly of what God thinks of my body.

The truth about your body

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” –1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” –Proverbs 31:30

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” –1 Peter 3:3-4

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” –1 Timothy 4:8

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7b

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:14

Coming to peace with my body didn’t mean losing weight or obtaining 20/20 vision. It meant loving my body as God’s magnificent creation. I marvel at God’s amazing design, the complex web of nerves, the sturdy frame of bones and skeleton, the strong muscles that carry my body wherever I walk, the circulatory system that delivers the oxygen from a simple breath all the way down to the tips of my toes. God created us each with such amazing bodies. And he also allowed for diversity we see in color of skin, hair, or eyes, number of freckles and moles. He gave diversity in size, shape, build, and height. Even the diversity of our personalities can be seen on our bodies in the clothing we wear, the haircut we choose, the nail polish, make-up, accessories, or jewelry we wear or don’t wear. And diversity is a beautiful thing. We are all uniquely made and designed.

The truth about your body is that God created it. When you criticize God’s creative work, you criticize him. When you shame your body you’re saying that God did something wrong, or that he doesn’t measure up.

Last week Deb’s post reminded us to cut the BS about others’ bodies, to stop nitpicking and fault finding with each other and instead love and accept each other. This week, I want to go one step further and tell you to cut the BS about your own body. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your self-worth and beauty don’t come from your body. Your worth comes from your Creator and that’s something we can all celebrate no matter the size, color, style, or shape of your body.

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Like a Boss

The last year of my life has been a whirlwind of changes and moves and new responsibilities. As I stumbled through my first four months as the pastor/administrator in charge by myself, I learned quite a lot. Here are just a few of those lessons.

How to count – Many people must be worried that I’ve forgotten basic arithmetic because they’re constantly reminding me “You’re only one person.” Hm, one plus none is…one. Got it. I understand that you are usually trying to reassure me that it’s okay to not be superman, that you understand if I happen to do less around here than the two people before me. But sometimes I feel a little like you’re pitying me. I’m okay with being only one person. I’m still learning my limits, but I am learning them.

Power is sexy – I have the title “boss.” I’m responsible for what goes on around here. With that position comes an ego boost. I know I have the potential to directly impact someone’s job, and the employees know it, too. So when I walk in the room, they pay attention. This is something new for me. Growing up as one of six kids, I’m used to anonymity. I was never the rich kid, the beautiful kid, or the talkative kid. And as an associate pastor, I’ve always felt like my job was to help the other pastors wherever they needed me. Even in a position of authority I was the wallflower of the leadership team. For someone who’s spent most of her life not quite being noticed, to now have the attention of the entire staff when I walk in the building, well, some days I can feel like some pretty hot stuff.boss3

My position is humbling – So much power comes with the position of being in charge that I often feel inadequate. I look around the table at a staff meeting and think to myself, “You are older than me, have more education than me, and have more experience than me. Why am I leading this meeting? Or this organization?” Employees, church members, volunteers, and community leaders come to me with the problems they see in the organization and expect me to know how to fix them. I smile and nod and think to myself, “I’m not cut out for this.”

It’s lonely – As an associate pastor, I was a peer to the other pastors. Now I serve without a peer. As an associate, I had a camaraderie with the staff, because I wasn’t their direct boss. They knew I didn’t have the real power, so they could be chummy with me. But now I’m in charge and I have a different dynamic with the staff. I still have peers, but I don’t work directly with them. I’m not complaining, I have a whole network of peers and others who can share my joys and frustrations or answer questions I have. What I miss is the quick moment of eye contact and a sympathetic glance that says, “I’m sorry that person was an idiot. They don’t understand your job, but I do.”

I can’t do it all – Being in charge has been a blow to my pride. As much as I want to hold it together and convince you that I’m just fine out here, if I told you that I would be lying. I can paste on a smile, but my work quality isn’t as good, my ‘to-do’ list is always twice as long as my ‘done’ list, and something always falls through the cracks. So I’ve learned to transition from doing my job with great certainty to managing damage control on all the projects that crash and burn.

Important things get glossed over in favor of urgent things – Because I can’t do it all, I end up having to choose which projects get my time and which ones get rushed. Turns out the important responsibilities don’t always get priority because urgent things demand my attention first. So, yes, I finally got a chance to prepare for the quick meeting tomorrow—but now I don’t have the time I had set aside to prepare for the important meeting next week. Oh well, I’ll just throw something together when I get a chance.

I can’t keep up with emails – They’re like a plague with no cure and no end in sight. They just keep coming all the time. And now I have them on my phone, so I’m expected to read and respond more quickly, but in reality, I just have another device where they can taunt me.

Figuring out who I can count on – With a leadership team, finding the right support meant a lot of trial and error. Being alone means I have to trust my support more, making it much faster to figure out who’s eager to help and who’s unreliable.

I’m stronger than I thought I was – Just as my responsibilities have highlighted my failures and shortcomings, they’ve also shown me my strengths. This position has forced me to do things and take on responsibilities I never thought I was capable of. I have a whole new understanding of Paul’s words in Philippians, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13). I can’t do everything the way I think it should be done, or the way my supervisors think it should be done. But I can come into a leadership role and succeed the way Christ wants me to. It doesn’t eliminate the frustrations I have with this position, but it sure helps me rejoice in my accomplishments.

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How do you respond to tragedy?

I made a promise to myself that I would never allow my vehicle to become a giant trash can. In nine years of having my own vehicle, this is the first time I’ve broken that promise. It’s seriously filthy. My sink is full of dirty dishes. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty clothes that I can’t wash because my washing machine is broken, not that it would do much good anyway seeing how all my clothes are getting too tight due to constant stress eating. Some days I feel like I’ve been beat up emotionally. On top of this I’m sick, I’m sleep-deprived, I’m falling behind in important responsibilities, and I’m lonely.

This is my first Christmas in this position as pastor/administrator on my own. Am I doing it right?

I don’t want to sound like all I do is complain. Honestly, I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love the ministry I have and I’m so grateful for everything God has provided. There’s so much to be celebrated. And Christmas is a time of celebration. We gather with family, loved ones, we exchange gifts, we all paste on joyful smiles as we share the Christmas spirit. We put up decorations, we bake and cook, we plan parties, send cards. What’s not to love? It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

But today, I don’t feel like celebrating. I’m weary. Worn out. At the breaking point.

And that’s why we need the story of Christmas. It’s the incarnation. God becoming human. Flesh and blood, bones and organs. God wrapped himself in the weariness and brokenness and became part of my story. And if there was anyone who knew this, it was Mary.

In my church we’ve been celebrating Advent by looking at the songs of Christmas. Songs sung by people like Isaiah and the angels, songs full of blessing, and praise to God, songs that overflowed from the genuine joy of the characters involved. And today we looked at the song of Mary, the Magnificat. Recorded in Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s song praises the work of God, and celebrates the God who changes fortunes.

What’s striking about Mary’s song is that she sings these praises in response to what could be the most devastating news. An angel has just told her that she is pregnant. A young, unmarried woman in first century Israel does not want the news that she is pregnant. She could lose everything: her fiancé, her future security, her social status. And yet her immediate response is “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Lately I’ve been watching a show on the CW called Jane the Virgin. It’s the story of a devout Catholic girl committed to remaining a virgin until marriage who gets accidentally artificially inseminated and consequently pregnant. There’s a particularly poignant scene shortly after Jane discovers she’s pregnant. Naturally, she is angry that after doing everything “right” she still faces an unwanted pregnancy and the prospect of single motherhood. She, too, faces the possibility of losing her fiancé. She’s given the option to terminate the pregnancy and while she considers her options, she talks to her grandmother. Her grandmother tells her this pregnancy is an opportunity for a blessing. Her grandmother admits that, years ago, when she first heard her daughter was pregnant she wanted her daughter to end the pregnancy, but because her daughter refused, she now had Jane in her life. And now Jane had a choice. How would she respond to an unplanned pregnancy?

Spoiler alert: Jane does decide to continue the pregnancy and, yes, that affects everything in her life.

I feel like Mary may have faced the same choice: view this pregnancy as an interruption to her plans, as a terrible thing she would now have to endure, or view it as a blessing from God despite its disruption of her life. Mary chose to praise God in the midst of her trial, and even because of her trial.

Maybe there’s a lesson from Mary here.

My house and car are still a mess. My responsibilities are still overwhelming me. I still feel weariness. But how will I respond? This morning I discovered the silent young man who had been attending my church for the last few weeks is a church member in my denomination and wants to be involved more. This afternoon I visited a nursing home and had the chance to bring a smile to a resident’s face. I had a chance to spend time with a family from church as we ministered together.

Yesterday I was a wreck. I was ready to drop from exhaustion, both physically and spiritually. But today, despite the difficulties, I’m ready to say with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” I’m ready to see this messy life as opportunities for blessing and ministry.

How will you respond?

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The Books I’m Thankful for and Why

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” -Oscar Wilde

I love to read. I have loved reading for just about as long as I’ve been able to read. My earliest companions were the Boxcar Children and the Babysitter’s Club. I was Laura’s best friend as I journeyed with her in the Little House on the Prairie books. I experienced alien worlds through Bruce Coville’s novels. I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. And I trekked down the rabbit hole with Alice. I’ve always found books to be a place where I could escape to exciting adventures. As I’ve grown older my love for books has not diminished. But instead of escaping into another world, I now find that books shed more light on this world. They can surprise me, excite me, anger me, and inspire me. Here is a sample of the books I’m thankful for–books that have inspired me to change what I do or believe or think.

 

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“You are a generation of hip, resourceful, creative DIY warriors: Bored by the traditional T-shirt, you want something with personalized pizzazz.” –Megan Nicolay, Generation T

“Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” -Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

“One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very, very obvious.” -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I’m thankful for books that inspire my quirky habits. I had no idea that running could actually be a fun activity until I read Born to Run and was inspired to try running with my shoes off. Now when I run, I’m always barefoot or in minimalist shoes. Generation T introduced me to T-shirt reconstruction, giving me a fun way to personalize my fashion, and so many excuses to pick up more T-shirts at thrift stores. Douglas Adams introduced me to nerd culture. Long before I ever watched a Doctor Who episode, I was reading about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (42, if you haven’t read the book), the dolphins’ final message (So long and thanks for all the fish) and the hitchhiker’s most important travel resource (a towel).

 

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“If God is the God of all pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.” -Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood

“I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature. If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I love you.” -Wim. Paul Young, The Shack

“Sexual orientation involves much more than just sexual attraction. For both gay and straight people, it also encompasses our capacity to channel our physical attractions into a lifelong covenant with another person.” -Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian

I’m thankful for books that have revolutionized my understanding of gender, patriarchy, and God. Growing up in an evangelical setting, I learned early on that there were certain ideas about gender, gender roles, sexuality, and God that were never to be questioned because they were “Biblical.” So it was with great delight that I read Rachel Held Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, where she set out to prove the ridiculous demands of living “biblically” by demonstrating just how many things women of the Bible did because of culture. She helped me to explore what it really means not to be a Biblical woman, but rather a godly woman. Matthew Vines explores a similar idea in his book about understanding what the Bible actually has to say about sexual orientation and marriage. While I’m aware that God is not male, reading The Shack forced me to examine this by casting God as an African American woman. My perceptions on many subjects have changed as I grow in my faith.

 

“Hell is a state of mind–you never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” -C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

“Everything pleasurable we know about life on Earth we have experienced through our senses. So, when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alientates and even frightens us. Our misguided attempts to make Heaven ‘sound spiritual’ (i.e., non-physical) merely succeed in making Heaven sound unappealing.” -Randy Alcorn, Heaven

I’m thankful for books that paint a picture of Heaven. In seasons of grief, the words of these books have breathed hope into my very soul. I’ve known about Heaven since I was a child, but for a long time the only thing I knew was that it was a better alternative than Hell. Lewis and Alcorn stress the real and physical reality of Heaven. It will not be an existential experience, it will be a true and wonderful place where we will dwell with God, where we will experience all the joys of Earth without the curse of sin. Now, that’s something to look forward to.

 

“But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. With his bare foot he stomped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. ‘Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones….We’re just babies making up a game if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” -C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”  -Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

I’m thankful for books that encourage spiritual development. I love the kinds of books that teach important theological truth through story. Along with Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Little Pilgrim’s progress, Ted Dekker’s Circle trilogy, and A Wrinkle in Time are all books that weave spiritual truth into a story. I also include Brother Lawrence’s simple book on the Practice of Presence, as well as other books about spiritual disiplines and the Christian life.

 

“Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A Beauty Bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth–boxes of Crayolas. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.” -Robert Fulghum, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

“New socks. Two socks. Whose socks? Sue’s socks. Who sews whose socks? Sue sews Sue’s socks. Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir? You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir.” -Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks

I’m thankful for books that remind me to see the common with uncommon insight. I love Robert Fulghum’s words of wisdom, and what I like most is that he talks about everyday things and experiences, but his fresh perspective allows me to see the same objects with new eyes. He inspires me to think differently about the world around me. Dr. Seuss does the same thing in Fox in Socks–common objects are strung together into tongue twisters.

 

What books are you thankful for?

 

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The Countdown Has Begun

The glorious colors of autumn begin to fade with the chill of early winter. “Pumpkin spice” and “eggnog” flavors begin showing up everywhere. Family gathers, winter clothes are taken out of storage, snow shovels and ice scrapers appear in the stores, and salt is spread on the sidewalks. It’s November, and, oh yeah, the beginning of my most despised season of work. As the holidays approach, more and more responsibilities and expectations are piled on and the stress of completing everything becomes nearly overwhelming. It’s really the worst month of the year. December is not so bad. By the time December gets here, the extra holiday work is in full swing, I have somewhat settled into a rhythm, I can see the end in sight. But November? Ugh, in November everything is still looming in front of me. I really hate November.

In November I start counting down the days until Christmas. Not out of childlike anticipation, but with a desperation for Christmas to arrive and put an end to my misery of a holiday season. I set out to simply survive the month of November.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. We all have a season when work or life is not easy. If you’re a tax accountant, it might be March, if you’re a teacher it might be the last month of classes. Everyone has a season when there’s too much to do, not enough time to do it, and not enough motivation to care about quality on the job.

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There are times in life when you have to deal with unexpected troubles—the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. I get those times. I don’t like them, but I understand that they happen. You do your best to recover and move on. But it’s the times of expected stress that really burden me. You would assume the advantage lies with a trouble you can see coming. If I know that I’m heading into a chaotic month, I can plan ahead for it.  But not for me. It’s being able to see the workload coming that tends to paralyze me with fear. So instead of using the preceding time wisely, I spend it fretting and worrying and generally making the work about 10 times harder just by dreading it.

Well, that’s how I used to approach the season.

Then, one year in November I discovered something: if you wish your days away, you lose them. Forever. I was sitting in my office, dreading the days ahead, when I realized that stressing over my work does not ease the burden of the work. Jesus said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:27). The answer, of course, is no. But more unnerving is the realization that by worrying you can lose an hour of your life. You can lose a day or even a month of your time. Instead of living each day, enjoying the blessings and enduring the frustrations, I had been missing out on all the good things in those days.

Maybe this is nothing new to you. Maybe you got the message back in high school when your middle-aged teachers, full of life’s regrets, gave you the carpe diem speeches. I hated those speeches. It always felt like I was being told I had to enjoy every day of my life, and well, some days in adolescence are just plain torture. But that’s not the message. It’s not about smiling and pretending every day is awesome because you don’t want to waste your life. Seizing the day means a whole lot more for life.

Paul tells the Ephesian church “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Evil days? It sounds like he’s talking about November. Notice the message here isn’t despair or exuberance. He doesn’t say, this life is stressful so quit trying. He doesn’t say this life is amazing, try to love every minute. He says the days are evil (not life!), so make the most of the opportunities you have.

The thing I discovered that dark day in November when my aha moment came was this: November brings opportunities. There are moments to speak words of hope, life, encouragement, love into the lives of friends, strangers, children, elderly. There are moments of service, moments of quiet reflection with God. These opportunities are no different than the ones I have December through October, but for the first time I realized I was missing out on them for an entire month because I was spending so much time dreading the inevitable.

Maya Angelou said “We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.” Those words resonate with me. There’s so much life to be lived, no matter what season you are in. If the only thing you do is dread the days, you miss out on life.

I still count down the days until Christmas (38 as of the date this is published), but my focus is completely different. Instead of a desperate countdown to end the frustrating, stressful season, I enter a time of anticipation. No, I don’t deceive myself into thinking it’s going to be easy or fun, and yes, I’m still relieved when the stressful season ends. But in the meantime, I count down the days of opportunity. I look for the blessing in the midst of the stress, and I thank God for all my joyful, sorrowful, stressful, sleep-deprived, wonderful, and amazing days in November, and all year long.

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Scary Costumes From the Bible

Our Top Picks for Your Bible-Themed Costume Party

Do you have a Halloween party, Fall Party, Harvest Festival, or some similar end-of-October party coming up? Have the organizers tried to tone it down and control the crowd by requiring all party-goers to dress as Bible characters? Have you been invited to wear a scary costume and you want to honor your strong Evangelical roots? Never fear, Project Priscilla is here to help you choose from among the scariest and most gruesome costumes in the Bible. Not only will you steal the spotlight with your creepy creativeness, you’ll also have a witnessing opportunity every time someone asks you to explain your costume.

Satan

Let’s start with an easy one, the most evil character in the Bible: Satan. But don’t mistake this for boring; there are a lot of options when it comes to a Satan costume. Of course you can always stick with the traditional red outfit with horns and a pitchfork, but for a new twist, try one of these Biblical varieties: serpent (Genesis 3:1), fallen star (Isaiah 14:12), shooting lightning (Luke 10:18), angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), dragon (Revelation 12:9), or roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). With a little creativity, you will stand out from all the other devils at the party.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus and itinerant wilderness preacher, was a formidable presence with his camel hair robe, leather belt, and unusual diet. However, the most gruesome version of this costume is the headless John the Baptist, post execution. Be sure to carry the severed head on a platter for the full effect. Matthew 3:1, 4; 14:10-11

 

Witch of Endor

Are black, pointy hats and long striped stockings more your style? Try dressing as the Witch of Endor. She may or may not have had a green face with a crooked nose and warts, but we do know she was skilled in her job and could hold a mean séance. 1 Samuel 28:7-8

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Ghost of Samuel

Ghosts are popular characters at costume parties. All you need is a white sheet and scissors for eye holes. However, to really embody the ghost of Samuel look, you’ll have to dig deep. You need white hair, a robe, and crazy eyes. His appearance in the Bible was enough to scare the stuffing out of the medium and the king! You’ll also want to adopt a “why are you bothering me” attitude toward all other party guests. 1 Samuel 28:12-14

Jezebel

Were you hoping for a costume where you could use your fake blood makeup? Then Jezebel is the right choice for you. She was a typical evil queen who plotted against righteous people, harassed and murdered prophets and religious leaders, and probably ripped the wings off helpless flies while she was alive. She met an untimely end, however, when two of her own servants threw her out the window. Be sure to add lots of blood to your face and a couple horse hoof prints on your back. 2 Kings 9:30-37

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Leper

If you like dressing comfortably, try this costume. All you need is tattered rags for clothes, something fit for a societal outcast, and messy hair. You’ll also need to cover your body with oozing, painful sores caused by an infectious skin disease. This is an especially good choice if you like keeping to yourself at parties. Just shout “Unclean!” every time someone comes near you. Leviticus 13:45-46

Goliath

“Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of an Israelite boy.” For this giant’s costume you’ll need a set of heavy bronze armor, a domineering swagger, and a mocking tone. You’ll also need a javelin, a spear, and a sword coated in blood. Oh yeah, this one’s also a decapitation, but with a beautiful bronze helmet on the severed head. 1 Samuel 17:5-7

Sisera

This daunting military commander and his ferocious cavalry were brought to end by the Israelite army under Deborah’s leadership. To assemble this costume you will need a cup of warm milk, a cozy blanket, and a giant ‘Property of Jael’ tent peg through the temples. Judges 4:19, 21

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Eglon

If you’re left handed, you are sure to be a fan of Ehud, Israel’s most famous left-handed judge. What better way to memorialize him than by dressing as his victim, the notorious and overweight King Eglon. You’ll need a crown, some royal robes, a left-handed sword barely visible in an enormous gut, and an adult diaper. Judges 3:21-22

Lazarus

Wrap yourself in strips of cloth for grave clothes and put a towel over your face for the Lazarus look. You’ll also need a perfume with a combination scent of spices and the ‘dead four days in the desert without an embalming’ smell. John 11:58-44

Prostitute

For those of you waiting for the slutty costume, this is it. There are several prostitutes in the Bible to choose from. Get a couple friends to join you, and you could represent all of them! There’s Rahab, the lady of the evening who saved the spies by hiding them on the roof while she distracted the guards below (Joshua 2:1). Then there’s Tamar, the jilted woman who went undercover to seduce her father-in-law (Genesis 38:24). We also have Gomer, the promiscuous woman that Hosea the prophet married as God instructed him (Hosea 1:3). But most impressive of all is the great harlot of Revelation 17. She was so terrible that commentators disagree to this day about exactly who she was or is.

Zombie

If the undead is your style, try dressing as reanimated corpse. You can choose the skeletal variety or the fleshy kind with tendons and skin. Ezekiel 37:7-8; Matthew 27:52

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Demoniac

For the daring, this costume is so simple you can literally put it together at the last minute: the naked demoniac. All you’ll need is…nothing. Just be sure to foam at the mouth and cross your eyes a lot. If you have some broken chains laying around, those can be added for a nice touch. Special thanks to Jeff for this idea. Luke 8:27

Let us know if we missed your favorite scary or grisly Bible character. Have a safe and fun Halloween/Fall/Harvest/end of October!

Pastors-Appreciation

7 Pastors Who Have Impacted My Ministry

 

Pastors have a very difficult job. It’s emotionally demanding, physically exhausting, and mentally draining. They’re on-call constantly, visiting congregation members in hospitals and homes, preparing Biblically sound, culturally relevant messages, performing weddings, dedications, and funerals, planning midweek programs and Bible studies, all while overseeing the business of their church and ministry. Through all the heartache and frustration and lack of pay, pastors continue to work because the reward a pastor gets isn’t the paycheck they take home. It isn’t the accolades from peers, or the advancement in career. Their reward is in seeing lives changed and renewed, which sometimes isn’t seen for years.

 

I’ve had the privilege of being under the ministry of many pastors in my lifetime. It would be impossible to list every pastor who has touched my life, so I narrowed it down to seven pastors who have had the most significant impact, not just on my life, but on my ministry.

 

Dad: the pastor who was my parent

My first pastor was my dad. He was the pastor of a church, but he was first and foremost the pastor of his family. He sat us down for family devotions every night, he played preaching as background noise for just about every activity we did, he demonstrated a love of Scripture and a personal walk with God, and if I ever woke early and ventured down to the living room I found my dad on his knees praying for his family. To this day, when I have a theological or biblical question, I can ask my dad. He taught me by example that the most important aspect of my ministry as a pastor is to cultivate my own relationship with God.

 

Jim and Dee: the pastors who lived their ministry

They were my pastors when I was a young child. I don’t remember a lot about their theology or their business practices or their program planning. What stands out to me is how much they genuinely cared about every member of their congregation. I was never treated like a kid who needed to be entertained and kept out of the way. I was simply a younger member of the congregation, another one of the people they felt so strongly the call to love. From my young perspective, ministry meant love, care, and laughter. Along with my immediate family, the church was also my family. I have many fond memories of church services and fellowship and long conversations between the grown-ups when I would listen in, alternately gleaning insights for my own life and being incredibly bored. I remember service projects where my pastors got to know me by working alongside me. There was always laughter when our church family gathered, because we all knew we were with pastors who loved. If there is one thing I gleaned for my own ministry from Jim and Dee, it was the value of loving the congregation, not through fancy preaching, but in the small moments of fellowship and service.

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Ellen: the pastor who instilled ownership in the congregation

Through the years I’ve witnessed many leadership styles, many decision-making methods, and many justifications for decisions. I’ve heard a lot of pastors who say “This is how we’ll do it” because, “I like it that way” or “I’ve done it before so I know what I’m talking about.” Ellen was different. She took the approach that the congregation needed to be involved in decisions because it was their church. She was able to look at the big picture, realized she would not be the pastor forever, and pushed the people to give their input. I remember her often saying “This is your church, not mine.” And that’s a lesson that has stuck with me all these years. There are a lot of drawbacks to serving in a denomination that transfers pastors, but one of the strengths is the reminder that the pastor does not own the church. Ellen’s ministry still sticks with me to this day as I lead my congregation. I hope that I, too, am not taking charge of the church as if I own it, but instead, leading the congregation to take ownership of their own church.

 

Shannon: the pastor who pushed me

When I was a teen I got a card from my pastor telling me how much leadership and teaching potential she saw in me. She also said she was praying that God would reveal his will to me, and she suggested, ever so subtly that his will might be for me to become a pastor. I tucked the card away, but was reminded of her sincere words when I did respond to God’s call to ministry only a few months later. That simple card, probably long forgotten, was significant because it reminds me of how she was constantly pushing me just a little past my comfort zone. Under her leadership I did just about everything on the bulletin, even preaching my first sermon. As I look at the members of my congregation and see the potential each member has for their own ministry, I hope I can have the same wisdom to push them past where they are, but not so hard that I push them away.

 

Greg and Poppy: the pastors who were my bosses

For three and a half summers while I worked at camp, they were my pastors. Also my boss. They were the first pastors I had outside the traditional church setting. They had a significant ministry and left a significant impact on my life. When I was upset, they counseled me. When I was excited, they celebrated with me. When I had questions about God’s call and a future in ministry, they shared honestly with me. I think about those pastors often as I look at my own ministry. Long ago I decided my ministry wasn’t limited to the people who fill the pews on Sunday morning. My congregation is the child who comes to the midweek children’s program, it’s the volunteer who comes to wash the windows, it’s the staff that works in my building every week day, it’s the woman who comes to Bible study, it’s the community members I see every week in my service club. I’m thankful to the first pastors who showed me the broad scope of ministry.

 

Wayne and Patricia: the pastors who opened their home

When I traveled across the country to California for college, I found a church in my new town and the pastors welcomed me in, gave me a home away from home and a free place to do laundry. They eased the homesickness that came from being hundreds of miles from my family. They were an encouragement through my transition to college life, and college schedules. They gave me a place of ministry and even an opportunity to preach. In my ministry, I seek to welcome and encourage my congregation in the same way.

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Heather: the pastor who was my peer

It was a cold Sunday afternoon in January when I got the phone call that shattered my world. It was a friend and colleague who had called to give me the devastating news that my infant nephew had passed away. I’ll never forget the days that followed as I joined my family in grief and funeral preparations. That same friend stood by my side as I said my final goodbyes to my nephew. Two years later when unexpected death once again took my family by surprise, my friend was at my side. When I look back to those dark days of grief, I can be thankful for a friend who looked past the traditional roles of friendship and took the time to minister to me in a pastoral role. Her ministry to me still resonates as I also find myself in situations where I am the one offering pastoral care to a friend in need.

 

I am thankful for the pastors God has brought into my life who have ministered to me, bringing wealth into my own ministry as I pastor my congregation. Which pastor impacted your life? Whose ministry still echoes in your ministry today?

October is pastor appreciation month. Take time to say thank you to your pastor. They work hard and sometimes don’t realize what kind of impact they have on you.