Sister, Cheer Me On!

Posted by on Friday, Dec 29, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

For years they’ve gathered in this room to study the Bible, but recently they’ve had to disband due to civil unrest in their town. But word went out that a bible study would convene, and all women in the town were invited. I was asked to bring a message of hope and encouragement from God’s Word. It was my privilege. We started with the women sharing how life had been over the two-year conflict. They shared many stories of pain and shame. One gal’s parents had joined the rebel forces – shame. Another’s daughter was seized – shame. Another was barren – shame. Another woman shared how her husband had been killed, kids were scattered, and she returned home to find her house gone. She tried to rebuild it to no avail – such despair that she was on the verge of suicide. Until one of the women in the Bible study went to help her build her home. That act of kindness led to her joining the women’s Bible study, which she said, “kept her alive.” This past fall I taught a series, Sisterhood, on female relationships and how desperately we need our sisters. And here I was seeing that truth play out in every woman who sat in our circle. After listening to their stories I shared how crucial it is for us to “carry one another burdens.” (Galatians 6:2) Then we opened our Bibles to Luke 1 & 2 and looked to see that truth in two women’s lives in Biblical times. I marvel at Elizabeth. She was a wise older woman with status. Mary was not. Elizabeth longed for a child. Mary did not. God said Elizabeth’s son would be great but Mary’s would be greater. Elizabeth doesn’t let envy, judgment, or mothering (Think about it, what mother tells another mother, “Hey your son is going to be greater than mine!”) get in her way of ennobling Mary. Mary’s life wouldn’t be easy. The path God had chosen for her included much suffering. She would need a sister cheering her on to run her race and win the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 3:14) And Elizabeth did just that. She cheered Mary on, “Run, Mary, Run.” How many of us, as we’ve run our race, have been tripped up by other women rather than cheered on? That’s why I marvel at Elizabeth. I marvel at these women sitting in our circle. They have struggled and yet they hold onto Jesus – they hold onto hope. During our time of sharing several women shared how our Bible study materials and training had sustained them during this season of suffering. Now I was being cheered on! What a privilege...

Read More

I Wanted to Be An Elephant for Christmas

Posted by on Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

In the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent and basically act like a pack of badasses. They surround the mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first. When the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds. Scientists tell us this: They normally take this formation in only two cases – under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant. This is what we do, girls. When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover…we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each others’ backs. You want to mess with our sis? Come through us first. Good luck. And when delivery comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We raise our glasses and give thanks.” (Jen Hatmaker ) This is a #sheforshe community. Life is beautiful and hard. And it’s God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people who help live well in the hard. We need each other to remind each other of God’s story about who we are. I need you to help me see myself clearly. We need you. I need you. “Encourage each other and build each other up.” (1 Thess 5:11) This is about cheering, reminding, encouraging, and inspiring each other to continue to live and love like Jesus. Two women do this very well in Scripture. Elizabeth was an older woman and in her culture that meant highly respected, regarded, and sage-like. She was a prominent family and so was her husband. They lived in the suburbs of Jerusalem, the hippest spiritual town in Israel. As you know, Elizabeth was with child, a fact...

Read More

Will We Give Presence This Christmas?

Posted by on Friday, Dec 22, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament receives the Lord Jesus in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures. The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother [or sister].” Life Together, p.9. I experience this truth last week while I preached in Yei South Sudan. The rumor was a white American woman was going to preach, so they came. It mattered that I was a woman, it mattered that I was white, it mattered that I was an American. Everything about my bodily presence mattered. In fact, it was a sign of hope, of healing, of something new beginning. The body matters; being present matters. (Even if your feet can’t touch the ground while sitting in a seat.)  A quick history lesson for those of you who don’t know much about South Sudan: South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. This was the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war (over 50 years). Unfortunately, in 2013 the world’s newest nation broke out in civil war displacing 2.2 million people. Massive Internationally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps have sprouted in Uganda and Congo as a result of people having to flee their homes. My husband Steve has had his boots on the ground for decades. He’s walked hand-in-hand with his fellow brothers and sisters in South Sudan. It’s because of his bodily presence, over the long haul, staying in the game, that he was included in the Yei River State grassroots peace process. He was there when the generals and government officials met to figure out how they could bring peace to their state. He was there when the rebels came out of the bush and laid down their guns. He helped figure out aid to get them reestablished into society. That was three months ago, and now we were back on the ground.   What now Lord, what now? That’s why I found myself standing and preaching to war-torn men, women, and children in South Sudan. I taught on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Scripture declares her a blessed woman, favored by God. She even proclaimed “God did great things for her.” I’ve noodled on that concept for a while. I’ve struggled with how I view being blessed in light of Mary’s life. Mary suffered. Her...

Read More

This Christmas Season She’s Teaching Me

Posted by on Sunday, Dec 17, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

It’s Christmas season and the three weeks of Advent, the week we speak of the spirit of joy. I think many of us struggle with rejoicing during this holiday season. There’s beauty in life but there’s also hard. And sometimes we wonder what’s the point. I think it’s fitting that it’s now we talk about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary’s life was not easy and yet she trusted, she rejoiced. To trust means to have faith when you can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1) She trusted what was unusual in her life, the difficult journey of her life, and that through her life God was bringing hope, healing, and life to the world. We heard Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1. Mary had no Bible training, yet she’s the first one in Luke’s Gospel to interpret Scripture. She quoted Scriptures from Gen 17:19, Deut 10:17-18, Psalms 24:7, Hab. 3:18, etc. In the Magnificat, she declared the Good News that God was breaking in and establishing his kingdom on earth. King Jesus was coming. Caesar was out; Jesus was in. If Caesar heard her, she’d be killed. If King Herod heard her, she’d be killed. The Magnificat is a subversive fighter’s song. In the 1980s the government of Guatemala banned any public reciting of it because it was deemed politically subversive. She goes on to say she’s blessed to be a part of God’s plan to change the world. Luke uses Mary as the prototype for what it means to follow Jesus. Later in Luke 5, Peter’s response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him reflected Mary’s response to the angel Gabrielle. Don’t miss it – this Good News Mary speaks of – she says she’s blessed because she’s a part of it. Favored, blessed. God is with her, and she said he has done great things for her. When we hear someone is blessed or God is with them or they are favored, we tend to think that means they are in good health, have financial stability, a good job, their relationships are good, or they are safe in their space. But when we look at Mary’s life, we’re challenged to reconsider what it means to be favored, to be blessed. Mary is young, most likely between the ages of 13-16. She lived in a “no nothing” town, and she was a woman of lowly status with no family pedigree; notice Luke mentions Joseph is from the line of King David but nothing about Mary. (Luke 1:27) He’s someone; she’s no one – a nobody from nowhere. Yet God used this young woman to give birth to the Son of the Most High, the savior of the world. Most women rejoice when...

Read More

Powerful Men Using Power…

Posted by on Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve ended up doing things I never imagined. Like living in Dallas. Being a mother. Becoming a Christian. Or a writer and preacher. I surely never thought I’d be standing before a group of powerful men encouraging them to use their power to empower those without power. But that’s what occurred on December 3rd. I’m mindful of how so many of us want to lead like James and John. To simply exchange power for power, but Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) In Matthew 20 there’s a story of their mom jockeying for position for her sons. She asked Jesus, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”(Matthews 20:21) Mama and her boys were expecting a switcheroo, a “divine reversal where God obliterated the mighty and powerful [so] the lowly could achieve the positions of honor and privilege to which they previously had no access.” Their vision of Jesus’ kingdom was one of the same as it already was but with one minor change – now they are the ones with status, power, and prestige. However Jesus didn’t come to reorganize; rather he came to make all things new. Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, (John 18:36) meaning it’s not going to operate like you think it is. It isn’t a society of scarcity where one’s gain is another person’s loss, where one moves ahead and the other moves back in the line. In the world’s view, James and John were “back of the line” people, no bodies from nowhere. Except in Jesus’ kingdom society they were his inner circle, they walked with God in the flesh, and they are going to be commissioned with carrying forth Jesus’ redemptive mission for the world – kind of a big deal. But instead of seeing this incredible privilege, high position, and unlimited power, they focused on two seats. They set their eyes on the smaller things; the things the world said brought status, power, and position. I resemble them more than I’d like to admit. I too forgot that I am an image bearer, and in my own shade of color I am God’s redemptive agent in this world. This is what Peter means when he says of you and me, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Later on in the story the disciples...

Read More