Tuesday, December 19, 2006

December 19, 1996


Ten years. A decade. A lot can happen in ten years.

College education. Masters education.

Two houses: a first house, a better house.

Two boys. They look like twins except they are 2 years and 9 months apart.

One ghost baby: miscarried at 10 weeks.

One person: job hopping through five jobs before settling in with the last for these past six years. Now a manager with incredible vision for the direction of the company.

Another person: struggling to find a place. Called by God and dissatisfied with anything less.

One Chinese man. One Southern, white girl.

How did this happen? Ten years ago.

An anniversary card from her parents. Written in it "Happy 10th. That is a long time."

Some days, it does seem like a long time. Today, it seems like yesterday.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Advent Friday Five

Here are five questions about Advent for this first of December:

1) Do you observe Advent in your church?

Yes, we light the wreath every Sunday. Growing up, however, was a different story. I didn't know what advent was until I went to college and attended a city church. I was raised a country baptist.

I like saying Happy New Year at the beginning of advent though.

2) How about at home?

No advent is observed at home with the exception of the hanging of my Salt of the Earth Christian Seasons Calender.

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn?

I enjoy the advent hymn originally written for Easter--Joy to the World the Lord has come.

4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.)

Poor old Mary in a stable surrounded by a bunch of men. The pink candle is for her.

5) What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen?

I have no idea. I haven't been looking for advent calendar, but I do think that I have seen a Dora the Explorer one in years past.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday Five

Here are my answers to this week's Friday Five (posted at RevGalBlogPals). They are about Black Friday.


1. Would you ever/have you ever stood in line for something--tickets, good deals on electronics, Tickle Me Elmo?

I have only stood in line to get my son into a neighborhood preschool. It was a first-come, first-served deal. It was a 28 degree January morning at 3:30 AM that I became second in line. And I was 5 months pregnant. But it worked: my son is in that preschool, and his brother will have a better chance of getting in because he is a sibling.

As I contemplated my decision to stand in line in the dark in front of the Lutheran preschool, I realized that I would do this for my kids. I would never do it for anything for myself.

I also realized the value of adult bladder control products.


2. Do you enjoy shopping as a recreational activity?

I hate shopping. I want to get into a store and get out as quickly as possible. Unless it is a bookstore....


3. Your favorite place to browse without necessarily buying anything.

A bookstore!


4. Gift cards: handy gifts for the loved one who has everything, or cold impersonal symbol of all that is wrong in our culture?

It depends on the person. My dh would rather have a Best Buy giftcard than anything else on Christmas. But I know others who would never appreciate a giftcard that much.


5. Discuss the spiritual and theological issues inherent in people coming to blows over a Playstation 3.

These people who fight over the PS3 need a little perspective. Why can't they wait just a few more weeks? However, sitting outside in the cold for days might at least help them with their perspective on the homeless population.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Who's Left?

Dear North Carolina Baptist State Convention,

I have just read about the new policy approved today. The quote from my news source says that it "means churches can't support, promote or bless homosexual behavior. If they do, they risk being banned from the Baptist State Convention."

Now that homosexuality has been addressed, I hope the convention will address other sins in our churches. Maybe, for example, the sins of sexual abuse, divorce, lying, or gluttony could be addressed. If you see those going on in a church, then you could kick them out of the convention, too. Oh, wait a minute...no church would be left in the convention if that were to happen.

But isn't it good to know that the speck of sawdust has been removed?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pregnancy Theology

One of the women in my mom's group is expecting her second child next month. She is in that last, long month of pregnancy. Here is what she said today:

"
It is obvious God is a man, no woman would decide we
actually needed nine months to make a baby."

I've been in that ninth month a couple of times myself. I can understand where this theology is coming from.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Youngest Son

I cannot help but compare my boys. Now that my youngest son is 15 months old, I remember that when my oldest son was 15 months, I was in the midst of selling my house. How did I ever keep it clean for all the realtors who came through?

My youngest is not talking yet. I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that he has three people in this house that talk for him. He points and grunts and cries whenever there is something he needs--and I expect that. But, just like his older brother when he was at this age, I am once again astounded by the fact that this 15 month old toddler knows what I am saying. He responds to my requests.

I tell the boy to pick up the toy and put it away. And he does.

I tell him to go and get his shoes. And he toddles off to bring them to me.

Tonight, I asked him where his mouth was, and he put his fingers in his mouth. I could say that was a teething issue since he is getting about six new teeth right now, but I don't think his response was related to the teeth tonight.

The best response is when I lean close to my son and say the word love. He leans in, sometimes letting his forehead touch mine, and makes a kissing sound.

It won't be long before this son of mine fills the rooms with his constant chatter. (He already fills it with his squeals.)

Oh, Time! How you march through my life!

God, help me be conscience of the fact that this boy knows what I say. Let him learn to love You through my actions and words. Amen.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sleep

I really should post something. But I'd rather sleep....

When the days get shorter and the weather turns cooler, I can think of no better place to be than in the bed asleep. Let the dreams come as I stay warm under my quilt.

Of course, having a 4 year old boy and a teething 15 month old makes me long for sleep, too. They are so active during the day--and I do my part trying to fill their days with trips to the zoo, state fair, the mall, etc.--that I want to sleep when they sleep.

So why am I still up?

I
am
going
to
bed.

Goodnight.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Paradise

It is heartbreaking to read about this latest school shooting in Pennsylvania. I read that the news reports come from a town called Paradise. It seems like such an oxymoron--definitely not a Paradise for the families living there.

Then I read this quote off of CNN.com:

Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives a few miles away from the shooting scene, said, "A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors."

Then I realize that the children who were killed are really in Paradise now--the real Paradise--where everything is more vivid and truer than here on earth.

And something about the Amish in that town also reminds me of a Paradise. Maybe it is about how Jesus taught us to love one another--enemies included. I guess it is the kingdom of God and all that. The Amish community is actually reaching out to the shooter's family. From a friend's post I read:

Two funds have been set up by Old Order Amish. They are both through the Coatesville Savings at 1028 Georgetown Road, Paradise, PA 17503. One fund is the "Nickles Mines Children's Fund." The other is the "Roberts Family Fund, for Children of the Roberts Family."

Wow. It is something to preach the kingdom of God. It is quite another to actually live it.

May God comfort these families as we continue to remember them in our prayers.


Note: I know that Sam Stoltzfus' quote encompassed more than I included here. There is an indication in the rest of the quote that these events were in God's will. That part of the quote is bad theology, in my opinion. I do not blame God for these events. However, I do believe that there is some value in recognizing that when life ends on earth, it is not the end. So thank you for your patience with my spiritual reflection as it is developing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Planting Verses

This morning, my 3 year old son was watching Curious George on our local PBS station. In the episode, George learns that an oak tree will grow when an acorn is planted. When the man in the yellow hat leaves George alone for a while (as he always seems to do at some point in the show), George wonders what else can be planted. He sees a rubber band and imagines it growing into an inner tube for him to use for floating in the pool. George sees a peacock feather and imagines that it will grow into a peacock. Soon, George is running around his house finding things to plant. He even takes a speech that the man with the yellow hat is working on and imagines how wonderful it will be when a complete speech grows from the few words that are on the paper. George plants the draft of the speech, and he gets in trouble for it.

The episode makes me wonder if I can plant a memory verse or a lectionary passage and have a complete sermon grow--a sermon full of wonderful illustrations, deep insight, and a spirit-filled message. Why, I wouldn't even have to go to the RevGalBlogPals' 11th-hour preacher party on Saturdays before I preach (except to brag that my sermon is finished).

No, we can't plant a verse in the ground and expect the word of God to grow from it. But we can plant a verse in our hearts and minds. In fact, I think the Bible happens to say something about hiding God's word in our hearts. It makes me suspect that knowing God's word will grow a sermon in our own hearts. Of course, we must water that holy word with prayer, fellowship, love, etc. Maybe then we can even see the spiritual reflection that a kids' show on PBS can bring our way.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My New Blog

I have created a new blog for my sermons. This is because I have really enjoyed sharing the sermon I preached on Sunday, and I have received a lot of good feedback about it.

My new blog is Sermons From One Who is Longing for Home.

Tell me what you think.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kingdom of God ala Disney

This blog entry is from part of a sermon I preached on James 3:1-12.

You know, I think Jesus went about this earth trying to let people know what heaven was like. Something about the kingdom of God maybe. It actually reminds me of a movie. It is one that your teenagers and pre-teens know about. And even my three-year-old ds knows about this one. I have a dvd player in my car to keep my ds occupied—and boy, does it ever work. My ds’s favorite movie right now is High School Musical, and I have listened to it over and over as I drive him around town: to school, to soccer, to church. So if you happen to see me in my mini-van, driving around and singing (and maybe even dancing a little) please know that I am not possessed.

High School Musical is a made-for-tv movie whose main audience is teenagers and tweens (or pre-teens). It is a musical, so there is dancing and singing—and a message. You see, the movie is about Troy, the basketball star, and Gabriella, the science genius. They are from separate worlds, separate cliques, but they find a common bond in singing. Their classmates get more and more anxious about the blurring of lines and the threat to the status quo of the school. In the climax of the movie, Troy is confronted by his basketball team. They trick him into saying that Gabriella means nothing and the singing is just a way to keep his nerves down before the big championship game. And Gabriella’s science friends show her through streaming video what Troy has said. See how much trouble came from Troy’s tongue? Of course, it is a Disney movie, so the ending is a happy one. Troy asks for forgiveness, and Troy and Gabriella do sing in the audition. The whole school, from basketball jocks to science geeks, from skater dudes to drama queens—everyone realizes that they are a part of the school, and they are all in this world together.

And that is where something reminds me about the kingdom of God. Jesus came to a world full of cliques. The Pharisees thought they were the most devout. The Zealots thought they were the most passionate. The rich ruled over the poor. The Romans dwelled in the land. And in the face of it all, a carpenter walked among them and taught them about the kingdom of God. It is a place of unity for us. Paul told the Ephesians to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3 TNIV). That same unity will ensure that we have blessings instead of cursings, fresh water instead of salt water, love instead of hate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Faith Questions

The other thing that made me want to blog concerned something our guest speaker said.

The guest speaker on Sunday gave part of his testimony. He made sure to say that he had been brought up in church, but there was a moment that he knew that he was saved. He went on to say that we should examine our own lives to make sure that we could pinpoint the moment that we were saved.

I have a real problem with this idea.

I was brought up in the church. I publicly accepted Christ at age eight. I see my conversion experience as more of a spiritual journey than a Pauline conversion experience (remember the road to Damascus?). When I was about twelve years old, a revival speaker scared me so much with this idea of "knowing the exact moment or you are not saved" that I publicly accepted Christ for the second time and asked to be rebaptized. But that second baptism was a mistake.

An eight year old accepts as an eight year old knows how. And I am confident that I was saved at eight. The fear that the revival speaker placed in my heart was something else. It was meant for that person that was never saved. This idea of knowing the moment you are saved went hand in hand with something else that was said that night--you had to know without a doubt that you were saved. Now doesn't that notion make me laugh these days? There is no one who does not doubt at some point in their life. Even Mother Teresa had her doubts. A statement like that, to impressionable girls of twelve years (as my friend and I were that age), to girls who are trying to be the devout followers of Christ...let me just say that it was poison to our souls.

Who is able to analyze our faith and decide if it is genuine?

And so, I had some disagreements with what happened in our worship service last Sunday. As I prepare and deliver the sermon this coming Sunday (our pastor is on vacation), let me be conscience of my words and true to the message of Christ.

Separation of Church and State

There were two things that happened at church on Sunday that made me want to blog. The first of these things has to do with a baptist principle that I hold dear.

Because it was the Sunday before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the special that the choir sang was called "Song for the Unsung Hero". During part of the song, the worship leader asked the congregation to stand and sing "America the Beautiful". I did not stand; I did not sing. I do not sing patriotic songs during worship service. It is because I discovered an historic baptist principle called Separation of Church and State.

I don't think anyone took notice of my protest. I was sitting in the back, and my son had crawled up in my lap. But it was the principle of the thing that made me remain seated and silent.

When I was in divinity school, the idea behind separation of church and state finally made sense to me. It was because I was studying baptist principles. Growing up, I would have not had a problem with singing a patriotic song during worship. Our Vacation Bible Schools always included the pledge of allegiance to the flag. However, the feeling I get singing patriotic music is similar to the feeling I get when worshiping God. It is just a little too similar.

Lo and behold, come to find out, baptists are the reason that Thomas Jefferson wrote the letter that contained the phrase "separation of church and state." Looking at the history of countries in Europe during and after the Reformation, there is a real sense why things seem so much better when church and state are in separate spheres. I believe that there is a great thing when a country is not going to require you to worship a certain way or pay a special tax if you decide to do your own thing.

I do not force my beliefs on anyone. That doesn't mean that I don't try to evangelize--it just means that I want my actions to speak louder than any display of the Ten Commandments (and I can name them all, thank you). I want my Muslim friend to not be forced to pray a prayer that she does not believe. I want my sons to grow up in a country where they can have Christian beliefs written on their hearts--beliefs that are taught by the church, my husband, and myself.

There is a lot to this issue. But for myself, I am not going to sing patriotic songs in church. Some things are just too sacred to be confused with nationalism.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

No one is really interested in where I was five years ago. My story is not particularly impressive, but I want to share it anyway as my way of remembering 9/11.

I was in divinity school, and I had class on that day. But first I had to go to a staff meeting at the church where I was doing my internship. When I got up and started to get ready, I was listening to the radio and heard that apparently there had been an airplane that crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. I was living with my in-laws at the time, and they do not own a television set. So in my mind's eye, I pictured a small plane that had made an error and flown into the building because the radio dj did not elaborate on anything at that point.

Once I got out of the shower a few minutes later, I heard about the second airplane, and I only thought of one word--terrorists. I was on my way to the church when I heard about the Pentagon. And I forget exactly where I was when the news about the Pennsylvania plane crash reached my ears.

During staff meeting, it was obvious that the pastor did not fully comprehend the magnitude of what had happened. He had not seen the images at that time. I hadn't either, but I knew that things were pretty scary anyway.

After staff meeting, our full-time organist and myself went to the youth room where there was a television. When the picture of the World Trade Center came on the screen, we noticed that there was only one building instead of two. It was absolutely incomprehensible. We could not imagine or even begin to imagine how many people would have been in that building when it collapsed. And as we watched, the other tower came down.

Those were the only images I had of the events of 9/11 until after I received my copy of Time later that week. No television at home, I had to rely on the radio that day. I never saw the constant replays of the events or even the footage of the plane hitting the second building.

I called my husband after I returned home. He was 200 miles away because we were living apart as I went to school and did my last semester of intenship. I really wished I could have been with him that day. I called his parents at the restaurant they owned, but they could not fully comprehend the events of that day no matter how my husband or myself told them. They would finally know the scope of 9/11 about three days later because that is when their Chinese language newspaper came in the mail.

I finished up my reading reflection for that day's class. I took my mom out to lunch because her birthday had been the day before, and we often went to lunch on Tuesdays that semester.

At school, people crowded around the television in the lounge. Discussions about the response to the day's events took up all the time in my seminar class. I told my classmates to make sure they at least wrote a journal entry for that day. But what I remember the most is the absolutely perfect weather that we had. It was one of those days in September in North Carolina where the weather remembers that autumn is not too far away. The humidity is low, and the sky is so incredibly blue. And as I looked up, I knew it would stay blue--no airplanes in that sky. It was ironic to think that such a sky was actually threatening to America on that day.

That night, as I lay alone in bed, I listened to the radio. Such unity I had never heard in the response of Congress and other people who were interviewed. I knew that one day I would be telling my own children about that day.

One of my greatest concerns was about my friends. When I realized that terrorists had targeted the United States that morning, my first prayer was for it not to be anyone Chinese. I knew the fallout would be great against whatever race of people that was involved, and I did not want my own family to suffer persecution. After the race of people was determined to be middle eastern, I feared for my friends. One of my friends--a Palastinian Christian--was harrassed that day. She feared for her life. Another friend of Moroccan origin, was afraid too (and even after these five years, she is afraid to admit that she is from Morocco). It was heartbreaking to hear of the violent response that some people committed because of their fear in the days following 9/11.

On Wednesday night, at prayer meeting, our pastor had fully grasped the events of the preceding day. He sang a song for us.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

"Be Still, My Soul"
by Katharina A. von Schlegel
trans. Jane L. Borthwick

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fairly Simple Friday Five

Name five things you have enjoyed this week.

1. I attended the first worship service for a new church that started on Sunday.

2. On Thursday, both of my kids took naps and were not in cranky moods by the evening. That left me with a peaceful evening (in which I did not have to resort to tears myself).

3. Wonderful comments have been left for my blog postings. I like comments.

4. My oldest son takes his lunch to preschool this year, and he eats all the food I pack. It has been good to get him back on a school routine this week.

5. My youngest son started Kindermusik again today. It is great to have that one-on-one time with him.

Bonus: A good thing coming up this weekend is my SIL is returning from a medical trip to Nicaragua. I always enjoy seeing her, and I get to see her when she comes home late Saturday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Happy Meal Toys


According to some people, putting Hummers in Happy Meal toys is a bad idea. I think it is worse to make the parent choose between the boy Happy Meal and girl Happy Meal. My son never wants the boy Happy Meal anyway. As we go through the drive-thru and order, he pitches a fit from the back seat, screaming, "I want the girl toy!!" So we didn't end up with any of the Hummers. Instead, both my sons have been playing with the Polly Pocket Happy Meals. I liked them better, too.

Of course, the Hummer/Polly Pockets Happy Meals were last month. Now the Happy Meals feature Super Mario.

(I'm waiting for Neopets to be in the Happy Meal again because I am such a Neopets addict.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Church

On Sunday, I attended a brand new church. One of the members of my church has been led to start a church in another section of our county. She heard my testimony and asked me to share my story. So I went to that first service.

We met on a corner of a basketball court in a community center. There were about 20 there. And God was there, too.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Five: life in the fast lane

1. Driving: an enjoyable way to clear the mind? a means to an end? a chance to be quiet with one's thoughts? a necessary evil? the downfall of our planet and its fossil fuels? Discuss.

Driving is enjoyable when the kids are not screaming in the backseat. This usually means that my youngest is asleep, and my oldest has the headphones on and is watching a dvd.

2. Do you drive the speed limit? A little faster? Slower? Have you ever gotten a ticket?

I rarely drive over the speed limit; and if I do, it is only 5 mph over. I have never gotten a ticket in my 13 years of driving. *knock on wood*

3. Do you take public transportation? When? What's your opinion of the experience?

I don't live near a busline. And since I don't have a job, I don't need to commute just yet. I do remember taking the bus to the mall when I was in college. I went with a bunch of international students, and we were Christmas shopping. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, and we didn't have to worry about parking.

4. Complete this sentence: _____________ has the worst drivers I've ever experienced.

Egypt. They pay no attention to where the lanes are. It is a free-for-all. Also, Taiwan--you ought to see them make left turns.

In the US, I would say Philadelphia.


5. According to the Census Bureau, reverendmother's fair city has the 6th longest average commute in the United States at 29 minutes each way. How does your personal commute rate?

No job equals no commute. My dh's commute is about 25 minutes one way if he leaves early. It can stretch out to 45 minutes one way if he leaves a little too late.

Bonus for the brutally honest: It has been said, and the MythBusters have confirmed, that cell phones can impede driving ability almost as much as drinking. Do you talk on a cell phone while driving?

I have talked on a cellphone while driving, but not very often. I usually look for a place to pull over if I get a call though. My van came equipped with a hands-free phone to use, but I have not put any minutes on it to use it.

A couple of months ago, I was talking on my cellphone and driving on the interstate when a car didn't check before pulling into my lane. I immediately dropped the cell into my lap while I dealt with the very rude and obnoxious person's mistake. (Thankfully, we did not get into a wreck--I've never had one of those either. *knock on wood again*)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

My Testimony

This morning, I gave the mission moment at our church. The sermon was on one of the shared values of our church. This value states that, "We believe in the freedom of the local church under the authority of Jesus Christ to shape its own life and mission, call its own leadership, and ordain whom it perceives as gifted for ministry, male or female." I gave the story of my call to ministry. I have reposted that testimony here--changing names of entities and people to protect the innocent and to help maintain a little bit of privacy.

During the service, as our pastor firmly asserted that women can be called to ministry (sermon title was "Of Course You Can"), a couple got up and stomped out of our sanctuary. The church is located in the same town as a prominent, conservative, baptist seminary. No doubt that there will be some issue with our church because of what was said today.



My Testimony

Throughout my life, I have been strongly aware of and in tune with spiritual things. From the time I was a baby until I went away to college, I went to a rural, baptist church at least three times a week. My mother made sure that I went to church and participated fully in the activities there. So when I tell people of how I became a Christian, I have to admit that it was a gradual occurrence. There was not a specific moment where I know I accepted Christ, but rather it was a growing realization that led me to commit my life to Christ. I did this at a baptist camp when I was eight years old.

Having been active in Mission Friends, GAs, and Acteens (all baptist mission education programs), I have always been aware of the need for evangelizing lost peoples. By age 12, I had come to the awareness that I would like to be involved in some type of vocational ministry to win the lost to Christ. Like my conversion, it was a gradual calling to ministry. As I went through my high school years, I thought I would become a missionary. The summer before I was a senior in high school, I attended the Youth Theology Institute sponsored by Candler School of Theology. While there, one of the areas of ministry we focused on was ministry within our communities, and I realized that God could use me as a missionary in any community in which I was placed. I no longer focused on becoming a missionary; instead, I started to think of becoming a minister.

Even before I was accepted to college for my undergraduate degree, I knew that I would attend the School of Divinity at G___. The divinity school was just getting started, and my dad had heard this about the school. He knew that I felt called to ministry, and he mentioned it to me. I had a sense that I would attend divinity school at G___ from that day. After receiving my BA in religion, I applied to the divinity school and was accepted. I received my Masters of Divinity in May 2002.

While at G___, there were certain classes that were required by every divinity student, and one of those classes was on preaching and worship. Each person in the class had to prepare a sermon and deliver it. I really struggled with this task. Writing the sermon was not that difficult using the preaching professor's method that we followed, but the actual delivery of it was what seemed difficult to me. I knew that I was not a public speaker, and it caused me a great deal of stress in the days leading up to my delivery day. However, once I got up to deliver my sermon, I felt such a presence of the Holy Spirit that I became calm. There is something about realizing that a sermon is God-directed. To feel the Holy Spirit work through me in the sermon helped me to realize the next step in my call to ministry.

When I enrolled in divinity school, I did not have a specific area of ministry in mind. I chose to take a variety of courses while in divinity school to see what area I liked best, and I felt that area would be my focus. After taking the preaching course, I reflected on the experience of writing a sermon. Given all the struggles that I had with delivering the sermon, I came to realize that writing—and, yes!—delivering the sermon had been an enjoyable experience. We teach our children to do something they enjoy for their vocation, and suddenly I realized what I enjoyed doing. Through my personal reflection of this class, I began to suspect that I was called to preach.

Since I knew of the struggles of baptist women preachers, I prayed for over a year about this call to preach. Throughout that time, I really listened for God. It seems like every sermon I heard affirmed this call (and some of those preachers I heard would not support a woman preacher). After about a year, I began telling a few close friends that I felt called to preach.

I truly believe that I can be a minister wherever I am. As a child of God, I am called to minister everyday. I have committed myself to that goal, whether paid or not.

Today, it is easy to get discouraged. I have a stack of rejection letters if anyone is interested in seeing them. Women who are called to preach in all Protestant denominations still struggle. (If you don’t believe me, check out the next blog entry where I posted an article about this topic from yesterday’s New York Times.) When dh and I moved to this area two years ago, I began looking for a church congregation by emailing pastors. In my email, I was most interested in knowing if the congregation supported women who find themselves called to ministry, even called to preach. And here I am. I have found encouragement in this church called H____ Baptist Church, and for that I am grateful.

I am proud to be a member of a church that will not send my son mixed messages about gender and the call to ministry. I am proud to be part of a church that encourages every member to be a minister to those around them. I am proud to be part of a community of faith where I am allowed to use my gifts. There is no limit to what God can do.

When I was asked to preach at a church six weeks ago, I sat my ds down a few days before Sunday and told him that Daddy would take him to Sunday School and church because I would be attending a different church. He looked at me for a moment and asked why (a very common question for ds nowadays). I told him it was because I was going to preach at another church. Then, after a pause, I said, “I am a preacher.” When I say that to adults, I have to explain myself a lot—especially if they know I am Baptist or they are Baptist themselves. So I forgot that I was dealing with a 3 year old in this case. DS looked at me for a moment. No look of shock on his face. No questions of how could it be that I am a preacher. He didn’t try to argue that I couldn’t be a preacher because I was just a mom. There was just one statement: I want to be a preacher, too.

Article Worth Reading

So I'm not alone in feeling rejected by churches and in struggling to find a place of ministry. Here is an article I ran across today about women in ministry.

Clergywomen Find Hard Path to Bigger Pulpit

Oh, Lord, help me not to grow bitter. Amen.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Grief and the Internet

One of my friends recently passed away. The strange thing is that I have never met this friend--at least, not in real life. She was someone who I only knew through our messages to one another over the internet. I don't know what her voice sounded like. I don't know how she hugged. I don't know what her mannerisms were.

But I do know that she was an encourager. When I felt like my call to ministry was not worth it, she was the first to send me messages of support. She even told me about this new webring of women in ministry (and supporters of women in ministry). I started blogging because of this woman.

Now I wonder: how does society adapt to greiving over someone you have never physically met? How is internet grief handled? Has anyone written a book about this yet? How do we express condolences?

Just some questions floating around in my mind, I guess. Along with some grief.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Not Going to Happen

How do you blog when you have a little boy who has reached the apex of separation anxiety? He is also in pain from tooth number eight, and he is dropping a nap from his schedule.

"Mama, pick me up!!!"

I have lots of thoughts that I could blog about--job interview, end-times, etc. But it isn't going to happen right now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I Want to be a Preacher, Too

Tonight, I have told my 3 year old son that I will not be going to church with him on Sunday. Daddy will have to take him. I am going to another church to preach for a pastor who is on vacation. The last time I preached it was November 2004, and it was for my church; so my son doesn’t quite realize that I will be working on Sunday.

My son has always asked me where people worked. He will go through the whole family, and I will tell them the name of the company where said family member works. When he asks where mama works, I tell him “home.” So now he is confused by this new work I will be doing this weekend.

I also said the words aloud to him—I am a preacher. My son looked at me. He didn’t get confused, but he didn’t say anything. I told him that boys and girls can be preachers when they grow up. He understands what a preacher is because of his church experience. Suddenly, he knows that mommy may have another role in life. I told him that I went to school to learn to be a preacher. I hope he knows I can be a mommy, too. He doesn’t say much about this new role. I think he is trying to understand how it affects him.

After about five minutes, my son says, “I want to be a preacher, too.”

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Those Rowdy Kids

Ever wonder about those rowdy kids in your congregation? Think they will grow up to be no good? When you tell them to behave, do you think that it is all they will remember about you 20 years later?

My grandmother died on Christmas Eve. After the service at the gravesite, one of the godly matriarchs of the church approached me. This church is the one in which I grew up: Baptist, conservative, rural, and small. This woman was concerned that the only image I had of her was of the time I was twisting up the curtains in a Sunday School classroom, and she sternly told me to stop. I was a bit taken aback. I had to search my memory a long time to even remember the incident; indeed, my recollection may be entirely lost now. Yet it has been a worry of this woman for 25 years.

Let me tell you what I remember about this woman.

She is the one that was always in charge of the mission groups at our church. Our focus on missions at Christmas and Easter were led by her. She encouraged me to do mission action projects. Even after interest among my peers had waned, she was the one who encouraged me to do another level of Acteens (a mission group for teenage girls in which you complete levels of service). This woman was truly one of the saints in that church when I was younger.

But I wonder if the only way she remembers me is as that little girl twisting up the curtains. After six months of wondering, I am beginning to believe that I will write her a letter and tell her that there is so much more that I remember.

Because of her, I took a special interest in missions. Because of that interest in missions, I felt called to the ministry. Because of that call, I went to divinity school for my Masters of Divinity. Because I went to divinity school, I had to take a preaching class. Because of that preaching class, I found out that I love to preach. Should this little, curtain-twisting girl dare to call herself a pastor?


For what it is worth, even the little children in our churches have a perception of older members. They learn through our actions and our teachings. They may not remember a one-time scolding 25 years later; but hopefully, we can plant a seed in their hearts that helps lead them to God.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Small Town Newspaper Articles

I was perusing a daily newspaper from one county over from my hometown. There are a couple of articles about women in ministry.

Here is the first: Balancing Ministry and Family.

And the second one: Women and the Church. I went to Gardner-Webb Divinity School, and Beverly was in some of my classes while we were both getting our M.Div degrees. It is a thrill to see her as the first female D.Min. to graduate from that divinity school.

Monday, June 26, 2006

State of Women in Baptist Life 2005

Baptist Women in Ministry has a paper that was presented last week entitled "Assessing the State of Women in Baptist Life". The link to the paper is on their website: Baptist Women in Ministry.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday Five Ice Cream Discussion

The RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is about ice cream this week. Here is my response.

1. Ice cream: for warm weather only or a year-round food?

Ice cream is a year-round, everyday food. I prefer to eat it in the winter particularily on the coldest day of the year (no joke).

2. Favorite flavor(s)

My favorite is actually frozen custard bought from Goodberry’s here in NC. They have a flavored custard, and you can mix in a concrete. My favorite is vanilla with peanut butter fudge mixed in (although I have been getting marshmallows mixed in of late). My favorite store-bought ice cream is Breyer’s Brownie Mud Pie.

3. Cake cone, sugar cone, waffle cone, cup?

All of the above. I usually get a cup because I know if I get a cone, my 3 year old will want one, too—and that would be a mess for me to clean up.

4. Childhood ice-cream memory

Eating Breyer’s vanilla ice cream and softening it up in the microwave for 5 seconds because we wanted it more like soft serve.

5. Banana splits: discuss.

We used to get banana split parties in grade school for making the honor roll. Banana splits have usually been out of my price range at the ice cream shop; however, my husband wants to investigate this Jr. Banana Split that is available for 99 cents at Sonic. That might be my weekend goal.

Bonus Question: What are the ingredients/steps for making an ice cream soda?

I have no idea how to make an ice cream soda. I would eat the ice cream and drink the soda separately.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Enthusiasm

I was very angry with myself on Monday night. It has nothing to do with ministry. It has every thing to do with the Stanley Cup Final game that was played on that night.

I knew when I woke up on Monday that I had to watch the game. It was Raleigh's big chance to shine. It would be great for the city to have a professional championship to claim (at least for the year). I had already invested time through watching the playoffs to see if the Hurricanes could go all the way. I had faith in them, and I was psyched up for game seven--the big one--on Monday.

And I missed it.

Somewhere on Monday, I ended up having to deal with a ravenous three-year-old (who is certainly going through a growth spurt as he eats SO much for a preschooler), and I also had to deal with an eleven-month-old (who is getting tooth number eight). And my husband worked late. By the time the hubby came home, I was sprinting toward the finish line and putting the kids to bed. It had been a long day. And then the younger one wanted to stay up a little. The game had already started. Finally, I was able to nurse him to sleep…and then I fell asleep, too.

Ahhhhhhh! I woke up at 11:30 PM--after the game had finished and the trophy was presented. I could not help but fall asleep, but why didn't my husband wake me? I am angry at myself for sleeping, and yet I don't know what else I could have done. I had been exhausted all day--taking the kids to the pool (by myself), following the younger son time and time again as he practices climbing the stairs, listening to the older one talk non-stop about everything that goes on in his day.

I cried over missing the game. I had so much invested by watching the previous games. It felt like it was time wasted. I could read about what happened in the game. I could see the highlights from the game. I could watch the parade and celebration the day after. But something doesn’t feel right. I have lost the enthusiasm. How much better it would have been to have actually watched the game!

And it makes me wonder if the people who actually saw Jesus—saw his miracles, listened to his radical teachings, followed him—had so much more enthusiasm than I have for Jesus. Sure, they may not have known everything about Jesus because all was being revealed during that time. They didn’t know the final score of the big game, but they were there to watch it. I suspect that I could have a lot more enthusiasm for what God is doing in my own life. I have the written account of God’s dealings with man. I can see the evidence of the church in my world. Could there be more enthusiasm? I bet so.

It is time to marvel at this gift of salvation. It is our undeserved trophy. For like the people of Raleigh who claim the Stanley Cup this year (but the team actually earned it), we didn’t actually earn salvation ourselves (it is the gift from God through Christ). Yet it is with enthusiasm that we proclaim our team number one. May it also be that way when Christians claim Christ as our number one.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

RevGalBlogPals Friday FiveZzzz (about sleep)

1. In what kind of environment do you sleep best? (e.g. amount of light and noise, temperature, number of pillows, breathe-right strip, sleeping in the buff, etc.)

I sleep whenever I am still. It takes me less than five minutes to fall asleep. If I awaken, I go back to sleep. With two kids, I have learned to sleep whenever I can. I can sleep with the light on. I can sleep with my kids playing in the room. I can sleep when it is cool or warm. I usually use a pillow, but I do not requre one.

2. How much sleep do you need to feel consistently well-rested?
How much can you get by on?
What are the consequences when you don't get enough?

To be well-rested, I think nine hours is best. However, I cannot say when the last time was that I got nine hours (before kids for sure). I can get by on three or four hours. When I don't get enough sleep, my oldest kid knows that mommy is grumpy that day and may fall asleep while watching television at some point in the late morning or early afternoon.

3. Night owl or morning person?

I am definitely a night owl--why else would I be typing this at 12:48 AM?!? I have always been a night owl.

4. Favorite cure for insomnia

What insomnia??

5. To snooze or not to snooze? Why or why not?

I never snooze. I have kids who wake me up in the morning and makes enough noise until mommy is up.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Time Capsule

I recently found my KJV Bible that I had in college. It was the one that my rural, Southern Baptist church gave me when I graduated from high school in 1994. I used it all through college, and I put a lot of stuff in it. Usually it was things that I wanted to keep, and looking through it the other night is like opening a time capsule in a way. I am such a different person now. Here is what I found.

A copy of St. Francis of Assisi’s “A Prayer of Christlike Service.”

Some gift tags from my wedding presents ten years ago. It makes me wonder if I ever sent the thank you notes for them.

A card from a Presbyterian church that I attended when I studied for a semester in Colorado. It has the message from the church on one side and the plan of salvation on the other.

A newspaper clipping of one of the times I made the Dean’s List (and I made the Dean’s List every semester—I am such a nerd).

One of my brother’s name cards that was in his high school graduation invitation from 1997.

A recipe for a breakfast casserole

Notes that I took during a Focus on the Family broadcast on September 28, 1995. From the looks of things, the broadcast was on how to be a good wife. A sample: always pay attention to the way you look: neat—never sloppy. And men resent women taking on masculine qualities. (Whatever. I am a totally different person now from the one who took those notes, and I know now not to believe everything that comes out of a FOTF broadcast.)

Ticket stub from an Amy Grant concert on August 18, 1995. My husband-to-be got two tickets: for him and a friend—but he didn’t know I would be free to go that evening, too. He went back and got me a ticket; and since he ordered one, he got me a better seat. I sat by myself in the better seat, too!

An offering envelope for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions.

Sermon notes I took about worship.

A letter from my “might have been” guy that I met the summer before my senior year of high school. He wrote me this letter the year before I got married, and it contains general news about his life. It doesn’t have a date or a postmark (for some odd reason), but I know it is addressed to the dorm I lived in during the 1995-96 school year.

Two fortunes from cookies that my husband and I opened on the morning after we were married. Mine said, “The current year will bring you much happiness.” My husband’s said, “Stop searching forever, happiness is just next to you.”

School pictures of my husband’s sister and her then boyfriend.

A bookmark. Oh, yeah, I used to keep them in the Bible, too.

Half of an index card.

Article clipping from the Women’s Missionary Union magazine Royal Service from February 1995. It is entitled, “Year of Prayer for the Muslim Peoples.” My mother clipped it out for me because I got a roommate in January 1995 (my first roommate left me mid-year perhaps because I snore) who was from Morocco. She was a great roommate and is still a good friend.

Newspaper clipping about me being inducted to the Kappa Nu Sigma honor society in spring 1997. As I have mentioned already, I am a nerd.

An offering envelope for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for Home Missions. (Did I not give, or did I pick up extra envelopes?)

A post-it note with John 13:34-35 written on it. Also the words, “You are Loved!” are on it. I don’t remember who gave me this, but I know that I am loved.

A list of Bible verses that I included in a letter to my friend after the dorm caught fire. This occurred when I was studying in Colorado that semester. They had a hurricane and a fire that fall.

Notes that I took after reading a book about the end times. It was fiction, but well before the Left Behind series. I took the book rather seriously, I guess. I had never heard anything in my life but dispensationalism when I was growing up. I was well into divinity school before I even knew about other eschatological views. I consider it a type of psychological abuse by my church to only have been exposed to dispensationalism as a child and teenager. Now I am firmly amillennial because I am reacting to my upbringing.

A notecard listing the things that I value:
1. honesty
2. faithfulness in all my relationships
3. obedience to God
4. trust in God
5. patience and wise judgment in my decision-making

And there you have it. Anyone looking through that Bible would learn things about me, but I can say that I am a much different person today. I do not carry around so much spiritual baggage anymore. I don’t even read the King James Version anymore. I have the TNIV instead, but I don’t have anything stashed away in that one.

It also makes me wonder who I’ll be in another twelve years.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Never Assume

Advertised in the Classifieds:
_______ Baptist Church seeks a full-time pastor, preferably with a seminary/divinity degree with some experience. We are a relatively small church with approximately 100 resident members. We are on a "Pursuing Vital Ministry" journey. A mission-minded fellowship, we believe in the autonomy of the church, the priesthood of the believer and ordain women deacons.

My email to the search committee:
I have a question regarding the classified advertisement in the _______. It says that you ordain women deacons. Does the inclusion of this statement mean that the church will accept and seriously consider a woman to be pastor? If so, I will send my resume.

The response I get today:
We would like to thank you for your interest in ______; however, the Pastor Search Committee feels that the congregation would not be in agreement regarding a woman serving as our senior pastor.
Jeremiah 29:11

At least they told me up front. I would have assumed that ordaining women as deacons would make them at least consider a woman in the role of pastor. Never assume....

Monday, May 29, 2006

Middle Ground

At church on Sunday, I listened for God to speak to me in the sermon. My own struggles in the past few weeks (see next post) have made me yearn to hear a sermon. Ironically, I almost thought I would miss the sermon because the nursery workers didn't show up, and I thought I'd be asked to stay in there. But I really felt that I needed a sermon, so I am glad when someone was found to watch my son (and the others).

So, the sermon was from Esther. When situations arise, usually we are left with two choices: remain comfortable or get angry. Esther did not simply remain comfortable in Xerxes court, and she did not get angry. Esther formed a middle ground that was proactive and most godly. She made a personal sacrifice.

I have been both comfortable and angry in the past months: comfortable hiding behind my children and not seeking a ministry position. And angry that there is so little support in Baptist churches for women pastors (at least where I am at in the southern US). I have explained the comfort part of that in previous posts, so let me explore the anger.

In the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, there is a support of women being ordained for the most part. That group was formed as a reaction to the SBC, so it is no surprise. The surprise comes when just how many of those CBF churches have called women to pastor. Pam Durso, a Baptist historian, has done some research in this area. She told us at the North Carolina CBF meeting this year that there are 86 pastors or co-pastors in CBF churches. That number sounds good until it is realized that there are 1,800 churches in the CBF. That is 4 percent that are led by women!

As I listened to the sermon about Esther on Sunday, I thought about how to make that personal sacrifice like Esther. Where is the middle ground in this case? Sacrifice in my situation has always meant the sacrifice I am making now to stay at home with my children—at least up until the past few months. For a moment, I wondered if I was hearing God tell me to stay at home even amid all my discontent. Then that thought went away when we sang the closing hymn: “I Love to Tell the Story.”

In my heart, I am no closer to finding a solution to my internal dilemma. But I am clear that I do love to tell the story. Now I will be holding that hymn in my heart for everything it says to me about my call and my future.

I am so glad that I got to participate in worship on Sunday. I am so glad that God finds a way to speak to me. Now if God could only tell me how to find the middle ground in my situation.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Idolatry

Since I started this blog earlier this year, I have been struggling with my dissatisfaction with being a stay-at-home mom. I know I am called to ministry, and I have not been looking for God's direction in that area in the past three to four years. Even my husband has picked up on my dissatisfaction and is gently pushing me to find work--even though it is difficult for me to find a position with the zero experience that I have. At least I do have a degree.

To put it bluntly, I have come to see these last few years as the ones where I have been living an idolatrous life. I have made my comfortable, predictable staying at home as my idol. It is not God that I have been following. Too comfortable, I am now trapped in my own inertia of not seeking a ministry position. I have no idea of where to start.

I am frank when people ask me if I enjoy staying at home with my boys. I tell them no. They are shocked, so I usually use the excuse that it is too much hard work (and it is). I cannot tell them that my domesticity has become my idol.

Wouldn't my sons be better served by seeing their mother follow God? If they know of my calling and see that I didn't follow it, will that not speak to them and give them a negative impression of Christian service? I am doing no one any favors by staying at home.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Remembrance

Two years ago today, I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were in the process of moving. The movers were coming the next morning, and there I was with the positive pregnancy test--so I didn't tell him. The only person I told was my then 19 month old son. I knew he wouldn't tell anyone.

According to my mother-in-law, there is a Chinese superstition that pregnant women shouldn't be around construction or be allowed to help with moving because it will harm the baby. And there I was two years ago, moving into a newly constructed house. So I kept my secret.

We had to move into an extended-stay hotel for about 5 weeks before our house was completed. During that time, I scheduled an appointment with my OB for early June. The doctor was excited because it was the first time he had written the due date with the year 2005 in it. The baby was estimated to be born around January 19, 2005. Then he did the vaginal ultrasound, and the visions of my baby-to-be began to evaporate.

The ultrasounds revealed no semblance of an embryo. No heartbeat. Recheck dates—maybe it is too early. Draw blood. Wait a very long weekend to draw blood again. Hcg levels have dropped. Morning sickness has mysteriously disappeared. Tell my husband that I was pregnant and now I am not. Tell my 19 month old why mommy is crying all afternoon. Call the doctor to arrange a D&E because we are moving into our house, and I cannot wait for the blood to start. A quick outpatient procedure and I (literally) move on with my life with little time left to grieve. Time passed very quickly that summer.

The irony of it all is the reason I did not grieve last year—I was pregnant with my last baby. Eight and a half months pregnant, full of life and hope. Yet in my mind, that missing ghost baby persists. Some days I don’t think of him/her, but my life has been shaped from that experience. However, if I would have known that baby, I would not know the 10 month old that is in my house today. I was already four months pregnant with him when that January due date came around. Yet I am still haunted, and I wonder.

I think that I grieve the date I found out I was pregnant (rather than the due date or the date I went to the hospital for surgery) because it was a day that I was full of hope and innocence, full of joy and promise.

When I was pregnant with my last baby, I kept it a secret for quite a while, fearful of loss. When my friend announced she was pregnant with her first baby due this fall, I held my breath. It is so common to have a miscarriage, yet good news does deserve to be told. How much I have changed since I announced my first pregnancy!

So this day carries with it promise and disappointment, joy and grief, innocence and experience. Sounds a lot like what life is all about.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Risk

My youngest son is 10 months old. He has been pulling up on the furniture and cruising everywhere for the past few months. I think he is about to let go of the furniture very soon and take his first step. I can see it in his eyes. But for now, he takes one hand away--and there it is. For a second, he thinks about not holding on to that anchor, and then both of the hands go back to the couch. He eases to the floor and crawls to that toy or the remote control. My son just won't take that risk.

It is so hard to step out into the unknown. It is so much easier to stay comfortable. I love being comfortable. I like routine. I like counting on getting a little "me" time at the end of the day. I like knowing that my oldest son will be in preschool for a few hours a week so that errands can be completed. I like being able to call my mom on certain nights to check in with her and find out about the rest of my extended family.

Of course, if I were to stay comfortably in my routines, I would miss out on vacation time. I would not know that I can compose a very thoughtful prayer for Easter. I would not have gotten to know my neighbor. I would never have read that controversial, yet thought-provoking book. There are so many reasons to take risks, and so many rewards to be reaped.

My husband refuses to get comfortable, especially with his job. He transfers to new departments within his company, takes on new leadership roles, and continues to accept more and more responsibility. He rejects the idea that comfortable is good saying, "there is no growth; no chance to learn" when we are comfortable.

I really want to take more risks with my own life. But it is so easy to get stuck in a rut. Perhaps it is better to pray for strength to get through the day sometimes (like when your child comes down with a fever and you worry all night long about it). I struggle with where my life should go. I want to catch the vision God has for me. But I know that to do so would be taking a risk. So I find other things to take my time: does this floor need sweeping? Do the children need a bath before bed? Do I have enough time to browse around my favorite websites before bed? What in the world am I going to cook for dinner? What distractions!

At the end of the day, I am a ten month old with one hand on the couch. I think about taking the risk. Then I put both hands back on the couch and lower myself comfortably to the floor.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

American Dream

Here is something I wrote a couple of months ago. At the time, I didn't know that illegal immigration would be the hot-button issue it is now. But my experience with this family has a lot to do with why I support immigration.

I know of some former illegal immigrants. A family came from Taiwan in 1986 on tourist visas and overstayed. They thought that the husband and father in the family had been promised a job by a friend, but that person took the advance money for the business and disappeared. So the family traveled to North Carolina and found a friend formerly from Taiwan who helped them.

The two children went to public school. Their parents worked in a Chinese restaurant, and later bought out the Chinese restaurant. They saved money, paid taxes, and later sent their kids to a private college because they didn't qualify for in-state tuition even though they had lived in that state for over 9 years.

When they finally applied for green cards after being in the US for 10 years, the oldest son was too old to be included on his parents' application. That son married and obtained his green card through his wife. The daughter and the parents got their green cards in 1999--13 years after coming to America.

The son was sworn in as an US citizen in the summer of 2002. The daughter was sworn in as a citizen in January 2005. The father in summer of 2005, and the mother was sworn in on February 8, 2006.

I have asked the father if it was worth it to come to America and live in fear of being discovered and deported. I know that if he had remained in Taiwan, he would have made more money--possibly even been an executive in his uncle's business. He would not be a cook in a Chinese restaurant and work 15-hour days as he does now. That man told me that it was worth it. There is freedom of speech in America that did not exist in the Taiwan he left in the mid-80s. There are opportunities for his children. I guess it must be that American dream that so many immigrants seek.

I can tell you that his family values their US citizenship probably more than I will ever understand or value mine. This father saw his grandchildren become US citizens before he was sworn in. And now, they are all part of the American dream.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Prayer

I was the lay leader for the 11 AM Easter Service. This is the opening prayer I composed.

Our Father,

We come to you on Resurrection Sunday aware of the promise of new life.

It is Jesus, our Risen Savior and Lord, who brings this great hope of new life.

As we gather for worship this morning, let our hearts receive joy in the Risen Christ.

May we draw near to the mystery and marvel of incarnation.

Send your Spirit to stir our hearts to receive your message through our worship so we may proclaim:

He is Risen; yes, He is Risen, indeed.

Amen.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Teach Me, Little Child

A first grader at my church taught me about the Bible on Tuesday night. Our church has mid-week activities on Tuesday night. One of the classes did not meet, so this first-grader came in the preschool room with us. I allowed the class to talk me into watching a DVD about baby Moses. As we watched it, the first grader said that Pharaoh didn't like the Hebrew baby boys because he wanted the Hebrew girls to marry the Egyptians. I had never heard that before.

I have studied the first chapters of Exodus in divinity school. In fact, it was the first passages of Exodus that I struggled to translate in Hebrew II. In that class, we discussed how Moses' mother probably knew exactly what she was doing as she put that basket near where Pharaoh's daughter would bathe. I marvel that this three month old Moses was not already trying to turn over and that the basket was made so sturdy. And yet I seemed to have missed an element of the story.

Throughout my childhood, I know that I have heard the story of baby Moses at least once a year in Sunday School. I also remember reading about it in a Little Golden Book Old Testament Stories. Pharaoh was afraid of a rebellion because of the number of Hebrews in Egypt. He was right to fear a rebellion because the Hebrews were slaves. I have always seen the slaughter of the baby boys as a way to keep the girls from marrying, period. Yet here is the alternative that I didn't consider--it was to encourage intermarriage with the Egyptians.

When Exodus was written, the Jews were in Babylon. Intermarriage was real to them. It makes perfect sense to read this passage in light of their experience in exile. I had just never seen it that way myself, so I guess a first grader taught me something the other night.

It is exciting to know that old, old stories that I have known for years can still teach me a thing or two. And it is exciting to have a child direct my thoughts about the Bible for a change.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Self-reflection on the Topic of Race (part two)

In the summer of 1993, as I was a rising 12th grader, I attended the Youth Theology Institute (now called Youth Theology Initiative) at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. That is the place where my ideas about race were challenged. It was the first year of YTI, and I really did not know what to expect except I was looking for a challenge in that month-long experience.

I knew I had been called to vocational ministry around the age of 12. I had always thought that I would be a missionary or something. I was attracted to the religious aspect of YTI. And my time there lit the spark for many of the things I stand for today.

The course that I chose to take at YTI was about liberation theology. I had never heard that term before that time. That was one thing I learned about. Another was our trip to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth house and the Center for Nonviolent Social Change. I first heard of the Koinonia community, and their struggle for civil rights. I attended various churches of all denominations. But most importantly, I met other students, the same age as I was, who were passionate about serving God and changing the world. Of course, I don't think I was so focused on changing the world at that point, but my worldview did change during that month.

I remember sitting in my home church after my experience in Atlanta. I wondered why we couldn't let a woman preach. I wondered how many members in that congregation had ever been to a black church for worship. And I realized my own life had been changed. Things started to bother me with our "ordinary" worship. Suddenly, it was not a foreign mission field that needed my attention but the mission field that was my own local community.

And, by the way, my future husband started writing me letters when I was in Atlanta that summer. I do not think that we would have started dating if I had not gone there. It wasn't the letters. He was Chinese. My own views about race had changed. I could look beyond skin color and see him as a child of God.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Self-reflection on the Topic of Race (part one)

Wake County, North Carolina libraries chose the book Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson as their reading book for this year. I didn't read it in time to attend any of the book discussions (and I doubt I would have found time to do so); however, I am very glad that I chose to read this book.

The book details the authors' experience of small town life in Oxford, NC. When he was 11, a black man was shot in Oxford by a white man. The black man allegedly made comments about a white woman. This happened in 1970. There were riots. The man accused was found not guilty. This was 1970. The book challenges the reader to think about where ideas about race come from. It tells the reader about the struggle for civil rights that continues even to this day.

In my mind, 1970 wasn't all that long ago. Initially, I felt that I live in a different place and time in the South. But I have been challenged by things in my past as well. I was born in 1976, and 1970 doesn't seem that long ago.

When I married my husband ten years ago, my mother was very concerned. My husband is a first generation Taiwanese immigrant, and therefore, Chinese. His race is what caused my mother some concern. She worried about how our kids would be perceived. His race did not matter to me, and I really couldn't understand where she was coming from. However, 1970 wasn't that long ago.

Chinese and white are different from black and white. Are they? It is two different races when you start to think about it. When I was in high school and had just started dating this man who would become my husband, one of my friends came up to me with the gossip that such and such white acquaintance was dating a black guy. The secretive whisper was there. The accusation that some sin was being committed was there. Yet I immediately wondered why this friend was telling me. I was dating someone of another race--wouldn't she think that I would be offended by her whispers? Why was she telling me this?

I know where this friend was coming from--I had been there, too. There was within me something inbred. It instructed me in some myth about white superiority. I have reflected about this in the past few days, and I know it was present in my life at some time early on. Maybe it was the all-white elementary school I attended in the 1980s--all-white because there were no black families that would dare to drive through our community, let alone live there. Maybe it was the way the n-word was tossed around so casually--to describe the state of the yard, for example (though never to describe a black person, at least in our family).

How did I move myself away from this myth? How did God direct me to a place where I can know that my thoughts about race early in my childhood were wrong? These are questions I still ask myself. I marvel that I am at a place where I can face my past and realize that God has led me away from this sinful way of thinking.

I will be reflecting more on race and how my thinking has been shaped in future blogs. There is simply too much to say.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What day is it again?

I have the toughest time remembering what day it is.

My week starts out fine. I know it Sunday because I get my family ready to go to church. Sundays feel like Sundays. My job is to get my two boys and my husband up and out of the house in time for morning worship service. Sunday afternoons are lazy here. My husband carries a feeling of dread because Monday is coming. My boys like having him around on Sundays and try to lift him out of his mood.

Monday is a day that I usually have nothing special planned. Unless it is an appointment with a doctor, dentist, orthodontist, etc. Mondays feel like Mondays.

Tuesdays are a different matter. Tuesdays always feel like Wednesdays to me now. This is because my baptist church decided to have mid-week services on Tuesday instead of the more popular and traditional choice of Wednesday. So Tuesday evening is where I end up thinking it is one day later than it really is.

It means that I remembered "Pancake Day" late on Tuesday. I was already to Ash Wednesday before I realized I missed the pancake suppers of Shrove Tuesday. Not that I had time to go to one--I teach the preschoolers at my church on Tuesday (feels like Wednesday) night.

Then my Wednesday feels like Thursday. My Thursday feels like Friday. So as I type this late Thursday, I am thinking that tomorrow is Saturday--but I'm wrong, of course. I have another day in there.

Blame it all on my upbringing.

I went to church 3 times a week growing up: Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. My whole childhood revolved around those times. Sure I had school; but even in the summer, there was church creating the routine of my week. The only time I was confused then about the days was during our week-long revival.

It also means that when I didn't go to church regularly (even once a week) in college, my weeks were so long. I could never get to Sunday in my mind. Something about being revitalized, maybe? Perhaps it is to reconnect with believers or God? Whatever it is, I do know that it is vital to my life and week.

Have a great Satur-- I mean, Friday.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dancing

At church on Sunday, our pastor's sermon was entitled "Get the Rhythm." My son already had the rhythm before the sermon started because during the special music, he got up and danced. My husband tried to get him to sit down and be still, but it really tickled me to see him be moved to dance in church.

I do not dance. I am too self-conscience to dance. I have never been to a club and danced. I didn't dance at my wedding reception. I have square danced before, but it has been a long time ago--and I don't think I was all that good at it. However, there is one occasion that I am required to dance. Kindermusik.

My son has been going to Kindermusik since he was ten months old. He is almost 3 1/2 now. In the classes, a parent accompanies the child and participates in the activities. There is always a dance or two that we do every week. It is silly dancing: twirling, jumping, crawling, prancing, twisting, rocking. It brings a smile to my son's face. We listen to the CD that we receive in our materials, and we laugh and dance at home, too.

The sermon today focused on getting into the rhythm of dwelling in the Holy Spirit--serving with the Spirit, as well as, allowing the Holy Spirit to serve us. We are to allow God to take our offerings and bless them.

As I listened to the sermon and thought about how I only dance with my son, it occurred to me that I always look at his face when we dance. That smile, that glowing smile of total happiness, it attracts my attention and keeps me from being self-conscience.

God calls us to the dance, too. More focus on God is less focus on our own insecurities. Keeping our eyes on God helps us serve God better. It might even be a catchy rhythm.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What's this About Biblical Criticism?

In my last year of college, I was required to take a Senior seminar in my major. My major was religion, and we read and responded to a book on biblical criticism. I remember having to keep a journal about what I was reading. One of my responses was to question why anyone sitting in the pew was going to think critically about the Bible. I surmised that the average church attendee is more concerned with day-to-day life. And here I am.

On Sunday morning, I am more concerned with getting my two kids out of bed, dressed, and fed. I then must remind my husband about five times to get up and get ready instead of watching ESPN tucked warmly in the bed. My oldest son will want candy at some point before it is time to leave for church. And my youngest will have a dirty diaper just as everyone is ready to go out the door for the arduous process of getting car seats buckled properly.

We will arrive at church about 5 minutes before worship starts. My youngest will have to be placed in the care of the nursery workers, and my oldest will have to find a bag with crayons and paper in it that are placed near the sanctuary door. Then comes the task of trying to listen to the service and keep my oldest quiet by drawing various animals and tracing handprints while also keeping one ear listening for my youngest in the nursery who has just begun to feel the effects of separation anxiety. By the time my oldest leaves for children's church and the sermon begins, I am exhausted. So what was this about biblical criticism?

Seriously, I do listen to sermons. I love hearing sermons. I analyze sermons--oops, that is from having to grade my classmates' sermons in divinity school. It never fails to amaze me that among all the good and bad and wonderful and terrible sermons I have heard, I always manage to hear the Holy Spirit come to me with a message. Sometimes I even hear a message that I am sure the speaker is not intending me to hear like one time when I heard a very conservative pastor (one who is not supportive of those women preachers) and I heard an affirmation of my call to ministry (to preach!!).

When 11:30 on Sunday comes, my soul is hungry for that word from God. And even though I struggle with my very busy Sunday mornings, I want to be still and listen when that time comes. I would hope the average person in the pew would seek out that time and cherish it also, regardless of a knowledge of biblical criticism.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Stay-at-Home Mom

I stay at home with my kids. One is three years old, and the other one is seven months. And I have to say that I am not particularly fond of the task. Whenever I tell a group of stay-at-home mothers about my dislike of being one of them, I usually hear a gasp. They tell me to think of what I would miss if I was not at home.

And so I sit at home, watching my three year old run circles around the kitchen in the late evenings as he is prone to do as he gets tired. And I nurse my seven month old very carefully because he has three teeth and three more that are almost cut. But I am not satisfied with this life.

I wonder how no one can know me. I went to seminary; I traveled, even worked on an archaeological dig; I can preach, and I love doing that--yet I am so unfulfilled. To focus solely on my children would be a denial of a part of me: a part of me that will be here when my kids have flown the coop.

In the past four years since my last semester in seminary, I have applied to many ministry jobs. And I have been rejected. Most days I feel quite useless. Most days I can not even tell you where the time has gone. They fly away as quickly as they come. Too many dirty diapers, too many cups of apple juice, too many episodes of the Wiggles--time passes quickly. Yet I feel that my personal struggles to find a place in ministry have not changed.

The sermon that was preached at my church on Sunday was about prayer. I was confronted with the fact that my spiritual life needs more prayer. Some days it seems as though I cannot find time to pray. So I guess I will become a praying stay-at-home mom for now. It might be that my education has not been completed yet, or it may be that God would like to communicate more with me to set me on the way.

I do not think that I have to like staying at home to raise my kids. There are times when you have to do things you do not like. So I will pray and see and wait for the opportunity to come. If God has truly called me to be a minister on this earth, then I will trust that the door (or window) of opportunity will open in the future.