My mom, part 2 – The Reverend

Last week ended up being too full to get this part 2 post wrapped up and sent out, but I didn’t forget about it! If you missed Part 1, check it out here – it’s a few snapshots of my relationship with my mom and is a great setup for today’s post.

I’ve been a pastor’s kid my whole life. Someone once asked me if it was strange that it was my dad up on the platform preaching, and my response was, “No, because it’s always been that way. It feels more strange when it’s NOT him.” When I moved away from home and those conversations came up about who we were and where we came from, I almost always answered that my parents were pastors. Many would exclaim, oh really?! They’re BOTH pastors?! And I would correct them and say, “well, technically, my dad is the pastor, but they’re both so integral to the running of the church that I see them as a unit, pastoring the church.”

IMG_8396This past week, my mom made it official – she is now an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God. In addition to her decades of real-life ministry experience, she took classes at night and over weekends to fulfill the requirements: classes on theology, biblical history, and leadership. She did this in addition to her full-time job and her role as worship leader at our church, all while still showing up as a wife, mother, and grandmother. My dad gave her the pulpit several Sundays to give her time to practice preaching and teaching and finding her own voice. Watching her pursue this goal and watching my dad support her in it has been life-giving to me as their daughter in innumerable ways.

I may write something a little later that fleshes out my thoughts in a more general manner regarding credentials and ordination of women and what it all means. There are interesting conversations happening around this subject, and I may dive in sometime.

But today – it’s really about my mom and my daughters. I’ve heard it said that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” It occurred to me last Monday that my daughters are seeing a woman step up into roles of leadership and pastoral authority and to them, it feels obvious. It is the next step. They won’t think it’s odd to hear their grandmother preach – they’re growing up with it. We adults all felt the gravity of the moment. There were tears through the smiles. In these days, in this society, with our history, my mom’s ordination MEANS something.

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Family row at the service – forgive the lighting

I tried to explain a little bit of the significance to my daughters but truly it was foreign to them that some would (and will continue to…) find this step offensive. They really didn’t get it – and for that I’m thankful. While I do want them to understand the history that we stand on, I’m grateful that this moment was one of simple celebration for them.

It was such a pleasure going to the ordination service. There were about 30 other people getting ordained that night and watching the diversity of age, gender, and race walk up to the podium was very meaningful. There were at least two married couples who had gone through the process together and were being ordained together. It is our network’s 100th year anniversary this year, so the service was extra special and drew national leaders to the stage. These new leaders were charged with some excellent (and challenging!) remarks by our General Superintendent Dr. George Wood. IMG_8390

As a participant in the service, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful for the future of at least our small corner of the church world. There is so much pain and brokenness going on in the church. Last week’s service didn’t change that and won’t heal the wounds overnight. But I couldn’t help but begin to see a rising tide of sound, strong leaders taking their place.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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Proud granddaughters. My little one wouldn’t stop hugging her! #allthefeelings

 

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The women who’ve helped me love Jesus more, a #WCW post inspired by the IF: Gathering

I didn’t have time last week to get out a #WCW post.  (See all the others here) I had planned initially to spend last week’s #WCW on the IF: Gathering team. The IF:Gathering is an event/movement that has really influenced my spiritual journey for the past couple of years. I admire the whole team and I think I will at some point write more about them and how their obedience to God has shifted much in my own life.

But for today – I’m shifting the focus a bit. You see, at this year’s gathering, discipleship was a huge focus. And by discipleship, I refer mainly to this process  – show people how to love Jesus more so they’ll love Jesus more and teach others to love Jesus more and on and on. We were encouraged at the end of the weekend to use a tile and write some names on it. On the back side of the tile we were supposed to write the names of people who had helped us love Jesus more. On the front side we were supposed to write down names of people we wanted to mentor/disciple/teach to love Jesus more.

So, I wrote down a few names, and today I’d like to tell you about them. All of these women probably deserve their own #WCW post; and that will probably happen too one of these days. For now – the small highlights of a long journey of faith.

My mom – Brenda Burns

My mom has been showing me how to love Jesus since the beginning. There are numerous stories to share of her faithfulness, but one conversation sticks out to me. I was in a frustrating season of not knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up (even though I was kinda already grown up, having been married for about 6 years and having two small children…) I asked her – do you ever feel like you’re there? Like you’re doing that thing you’re supposed to be doing for forever? And she surprised me by saying, “No!” But she didn’t stop there – she explained how she’d learned what a gift God has given us as women and mothers to continually be able to change our goals due to the very practical and logistical realities that we have in our lives as moms of young children. Her saying that and me remembering all the twists and turns her life had taken showed me what it means to trust God with it all.  She also showed us that loving Jesus is FUN – I have so many fond memories of being silly while singing songs about Jesus, or giggling at the funny pronunciations of hard to say Bible names or scripture verses. She made it clear that loving Jesus wasn’t restricted to formal sitting in the pew times, but that it infected every part of her life.

Laura Belcher – College IV staff

Laura was my InterVarsity staff worker while I was in college. We had some very fun and sweet times together. One particular time stands out.  In the spring of my last year, it was time for us as the IV student leadership team to meet together and pray about the next year’s team.  This process was very very tough on me. Most of the people involved in the application process were my closest friends and while no one was maligned or disparaged in any way, we did have difficult conversations about their weaknesses and strengths. After that very intense day, I just could not go back to my dorm room. So, even though Laura had had a long day herself hosting 6 college students in her home all day, she drove me to blockbuster (yes.) and we rented a Disney movie. Because sometimes what you need is a fun movie and yummy popcorn to know that Jesus loves you! Thank you Laura for being there for me!

Danine Klinner

Danine showed up in my life shortly after my husband and I moved to Germany. Danine showed me the real meaning of hospitality and real friendship. She let me in to her life and showed up for me and Tom in such a deep way. She was there for me when I had my first baby and again when I had my second baby. She was the big sister I never had growing up and sometimes a surrogate mom while I was on the other side of the world from my own.  She’s the one who told me everything would be fine when I was first-time mothering and freaking out about everything Becca did (or didn’t do).  She showed me that loving Jesus meant giving generously without ever asking for anything in return. It meant showing up, even if you didn’t have anything but your presence to offer. It meant never leaving someone to go it alone even if they pretended everything was ok. Danine, your love for Jesus has had so many ripples in my family. Thank you.

These women (and many others too) have had a dramatic impact on my life and the way I follow Jesus and I’m so, so thankful.

 

Thoughts on Ezra and God’s provision

 

I’m reading the book of Ezra right now. This description of him reminded me of the ladies of IF:Gathering and his story I think has many applications for what is happening now with the IF movement. I hope to keep this fairly short, but I believe it’s a word some of you might need. Especially Jennie Allen, Amy Brown, and the whole Austin Staff team.

Ezra was part of the remnant of Jews still in exile in Babylon. At some point during the reign of Artaxerxes (after a group had already returned to build the temple and after the events recorded in the book of Esther), Ezra is called by God to go back to Jerusalem to serve in the temple. It appears that he asks the king for permission to go and for the resources he and the volunteers who go with him will need for the journey and for their service in the temple. (See Ezra 7: 6)

The king responds incredibly generously, providing the equivalent of millions of dollars of resources.  The group going with Ezra ends up numbering almost 2,000. (See Ezra 7:12-23, 8:1-20).  It occurred to me while reading this that it’s possible Ezra had no idea just how BIG this call was going to end up being. I imagine that he was grateful for the incredible generosity of the King, but also somewhat daunted by the complications of such overwhelming generosity.

I know Jennie has talked about God’s call on her life to ‘disciple a generation’ and how ridiculous and big and undoable that seems. It seems that Ezra had a similar call. In verse 25 of chapter 7, we see that Ezra’s call is to teach the law of God to “any who do not know them.” Hmm, that sounds familiar!

In chapter 7, verse 10,  he is described this way: “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” All of these words are just reminding me so much of the mission and descriptions of the goals of the IF:Gathering. He was a devoted student of scripture.  But here’s the main word I feel like some of you need to hear. Over and over and over again in this book, Ezra says of himself and his group that the gracious hand of God is on them. Because of his assurance that God’s hand is on him, he says he took courage, gathered his people, and went on his way walking towards the call God gave him. And in the end, those 2,000 plus people, plus the TONS of treasure made the dangerous 900-mile journey with ZERO losses. Our speaker said it this way – God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s supply.  (I wanted to stand up and shout Amen! but it’s a pretty calm Bible study…)

Anyhow, I could not stop thinking about all the pieces of the IF:Gathering in Austin and all the IF: Locals. Here’s my prayer for all of you this weekend: Lord God, may your gracious hand of favor rest on each person leading this weekend. May your favor show up in incredibly overwhelming ways so that we see that it is not by our own strengths that your work is done but by your vast well of grace. May we lead with courage, armed with the knowledge of your word and that you go before us and that you are with us. May we arrive to our destinations with everything accounted for. We believe you are able to provide the resources, the leadership, the wisdom, and the courage we need. You have given us everything we need and we believe you for your protection over our families and our hearts as we step into your calling. AMEN.

Who am I?

For most of my life I have identified strongly with achievement – I always did well in school, scored high on tests, pushed myself to succeed in sports. It was an internal motivation and an external one as well. I remember clearly being chastised by my father in elementary school for not receiving perfect grades in Bible Class – after all, the pastor’s kid is supposed to at least receive perfect marks in Bible, right?!?

My parents’ expectations of perfection, or at least as close to perfection as possible, melded in to my own high achieving and highly able personality. Achievement has come naturally to me. I’ve worked hard, but not overly so, to achieve the high grades and to complete the tasks and goals that life has set before me after formal education. I’ve been confident in my ability to follow through, to be seen as a reliable friend and volunteer. I have taken pride in my work and my ability to get things done in a quick, professional manner.

All that has changed in the last few months. More than ever, I feel like a failure at most things. All the things I used to be able to do with ease (or relative ease) – manage my schedule and my kids’ schedules, volunteer for causes I believe in, plan and cook meals, keep up with basic household tasks, be engaged in my worship community, be attentive and patient with my husband and children, etc., etc., etc. are now really hard.  I feel lost in this world where I can’t just make things happen anymore. I’m realizing that I don’t know who I am without all these “achievements”. Almost daily for the past weeks and months, I have failed miserably in one arena or another (or multiple in one day! oh joy!) In the midst of every failure, setback, and mommy tantrum, I am trying to remember to call out to God. It isn’t usually eloquent – generally, just a “God!! Help! How in the world did You think I could do all this!?” He has been faithful to whisper back that He loves me and that He’s got me (and that I never could do “all of this” – that’s the whole point).

There’s a song He keeps bringing to mind – the chorus says, “You’re a good, good Father – it’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are, and I’m loved by You. It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” (

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These words have meant so much to me over the past few weeks and continue to embed themselves deeper in to my soul. While I may have been a good mom/wife/church member/daughter/community leader, those things never were my identity. That’s never who I was. So, now that I feel like a bad mom/wife/daughter/etc., it’s not who I am either. Good or bad day, good or bad attitudes and outcomes, who I am is only defined by the love of my God. He loves me. That’s it. Jesus loves me is the answer to every frustration I have. He sees me, He gets me, and He loves me.

Stupid faith

I posted a couple weeks ago about saying yes to bringing two foster kids in to our home. They’ve now been with us for almost a month and things are kind of settling in to a routine.  There are still plenty of moments though that just leave me shaking my head at just what we’ve dived in to. 

When people find out what we’re doing, they’ve said things like, “you’re a saint,” or “you’re so noble/good/brave to be doing this.” One friend said what she was actually thinking and said – “You’re CRAZY!” 🙂 Basically, I tend to agree with her! 

There was one week in particular when I felt neither good, nor noble, nor brave, but utterly and completely stupid.  What was I thinking to say yes to a toddler and a baby? Why did I think this was the good time to do this? Did I hear God correctly? Am I doing what He called me to do? Is it supposed to be THIS hard? I’m so so tired and at the end of my patience with everyone in my family; this doesn’t feel like faith, it feels like stupidity. 

In Bible study though, we were studying the love of God. It struck me how utterly insane His plan to rescue us really is/was. His love for us is an irrational, over the top kind of love.  He came for us when we didn’t know we needed Him and when we were actively working against Him. 

We discussed how it seems easy sometimes to say you love God, but much harder to follow the commands to love one another.  We wondered why that is and how the two are connected.  Through this crazy, stupid faith journey that I’m on, I see exactly how they’re related. We are pouring our love into these children’s lives with basically no expectation of it ever being returned or of their birth family ever showing appreciation or even the hope that they will remain in our family for a long time.  My husband, my daughters, and I are being asked to love unconditionally in a way that I’ve never experienced before. And when I witness one of my daughters or my husband manifesting real love towards this difficult two-year-old, it is truly like I’m seeing the love of God in the flesh. 

So, yes, it still feels foolish and ridiculous this life we’re living right now. But I also stand amazed by the now daily glimpses I get of God’s lavish love and grace.  

My word picture for the year

I had a mini revelation this last week about what it means to do things not in my own strength, but with God’s help and guidance. I’ve heard many Christianese sayings related to this idea: to rely on God’s strength and not our own, to wait on the Lord, etc. These have been very vague concepts for me that I’ve only grasped at and generally failed to hold on to for any length of time. However, the past couple of weeks I’ve felt brain-muddled, restless, derailed. Nothing really in my life has changed. There have been more snow days and sick days for my family, which throws off the schedule, but nothing to really explain my inability to focus on tasks or remember all I need to get done. I’m generally a pretty high-performer when it comes to checking things off my list and feeling prepared for my days. So I was just feeling a bit off and frustrated that it felt like I wasn’t pushing through my to do list very well.
Rewind about one month to January 2015. I desired greatly to have some sort of focus for the year – one word, one scripture, something – to guide me in my quiet times and show me the spots God wanted to work on in my character. Frustratingly, nothing was easily popping up. I had hoped for something by the end of the month, but February came up and I still didn’t have my “word”. I began looking over my journal writing and talking through some scripture passages with my life coach and finally an idea came through. First was the word abide, and then the picture of filling up my reservoir came to mind. I came across this picture in the writings of Alicia Britt Chole. In her booklet, “Ready, Set, Rest,” she quotes Bernard of Clairvauz who lived in the 1100s and wrote often on the love of God. Here is the section that began the work of this word picture:

The man who is wise…will see his life more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal pours out as it receives. The reservoir retains the water until it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself..Today there are many in the Church who act like canals; the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the love of those through whom the streams of heavenly teaching flow to us that they wish to pour it forth before they have been filled. They are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know hot how to govern themselves.

I saw much of my own behavior as being very like a canal – reading scripture or hearing a song and immediately wanting to pass it on to someone else without letting it actually do its work on my own heart. In January as I was looking for THE thing that would propel me forward in to God’s work for my life, I came across many verses about seeking only God, setting my heart on his ways, trusting Him in the process. So, at the beginning of February I decided to make my focus abiding and filling up my reservoir.
So fast forward back to the present. It hit me yesterday morning that this malaise, this “derailed” feeling was directly related to the status of my reservoir – I hadn’t been able to (or hadn’t taken the time to) adjust my schedule to focus on the abiding in God. So my aha moment yesterday was that when people are talking about doing things in God’s strength, they’re not saying that God literally comes down and moves their arms and legs and makes them do things. It’s the inner strength you have to behave in a Godly manner towards your family and to do the things God has called you to do. It’s strength you only get by abiding in Him, meditating on His promises, having deep within you the knowledge and faith that He is good and He has good plans for you. May it be a long time until I need this reminder again.
Psalm 84:4-5
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Not My Job

The phrase, “it’s not my job” has gotten a pretty bad rap. It seems to have become synonymous with shirkers or blame-shifters who use the phrase to excuse their own laziness or incompetence. Lately, however, I’ve been using it a lot in my own head to redraw boundary lines around what I can and should be held accountable for.  I’m a classic over-achiever/perfectionist with a sense of responsibility so strong it has become a hindrance rather than a strength.  I often have a hard time delegating important tasks and allowing others to have time in the spotlight, not so much from a desire to always be IN the spotlight, as from a desire for others not to screw it up while they’re there. (Because, after all, I’m probably better at it anyway)

Yikes. 

I’ve been thinking about this sense or responsibility and my desire for correct boundaries in my life for quite a while. When faced with a daunting task or an important leadership role, this strong sense of responsibility is an asset to me. However, it has become one of the biggest stumbling blocks in my personal relationships and at times the way I view conflict in ministry. In an effort to take responsibility for, and fix, problems, I take on more of the burden than is truly mine to bear. That last sentence makes me sound rather self-sacrificing, but it truly is just another way I have tried to control my environment to fit my perfectionist outlook. It has made it very difficult for me to forgive others who have hurt me, to rightly understand others’ point of view, and to take on hurt where none was intended. 

Recently, I read this about forgiveness in Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s book, “Boundaries”: “To forgive someone means to let him off the hook, or to cancel a debt he owes you.  When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him forever.” I realized that while I understood at some level that forgiveness was more about my attitude than the person I needed to forgive, that I was still withholding forgiveness until I got something back from that person, keeping me tied to them (and to the hurt) with no end in sight.  What I want before I offer forgiveness is confession – the acknowledgement that they were wrong and that they know I am hurt.  Here’s where that phrase from above comes in. THAT’S NOT MY JOB! It’s NOT MY JOB to convict a person’s heart so they turn towards me with repentance. It’s NOT MY JOB to await confession so I can absolve a person of their sin. Not only is it NOT my job, it’s not even in my power.  The only person who has this power is Jesus, who freely extended his grace and forgiveness to me way before I asked for it and is even now working in my heart and every other person’s heart to soften it towards confession, repentance, and forgiveness. 

In the next paragraph of the Boundaries book, the authors say: “It is much better to receive grace from God, who has something to give, and to forgive those who have no money to pay their debt with. This ends your suffering, because it ends the wish for repayment that is never forthcoming and that makes your heart sick because your hope is deferred (Prov. 13:12)”

Until writing this out, I didn’t see how big my presumption and pride was. This, here, is my job – to let go of the pride of perfectionism, to drop the armor of control, to seek only after the good already laid out in advance for me. 

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33