The Grit and Grace of Grandma’s

Here I am holding my first born son, kneeling in front of the 6 of 7 grandmothers (2), great-grandmothers (3) and great-great-grandmother (1). Missing is Great Grandmother Wright who attending her 50th year class reunion!

My grandparents were about the age I am now (double nickels baby!) when they took my older brother (3 years old) and me (18 months old) in to live with them. They moved from our house “in town” to the house in the country with two toddlers in tow. We even helped her pack up and everything! (Every grandmother reading this knows how helpful that kind of help is…) 

We settled in the “country house” quite nicely. There was a garden big enough to feed us through the summer and provide canned goodness all throughout the winter months. My brother and I would play outside for hours. Freeze tag. Basketball. Baton twirling. Jump rope. I would “drive” the tractor and act like I was going to town. We would lay upside down on a small hill and create images out of the clouds…elephants, dinosaurs, faces, dogs, birds. 

My Grandpa worked a swing shift running the burn off at Anchor Hocking. He would take naps at curious times of the day, curious for a young child who did not understand what working a short-change over entailed. But I would be right there beside him…on the wooden floor but always in the sunshine, under the shade of the tulip poplar tree out back and my favorite on the red vinyl recliner in the basement. Nothing felt more like a refuge than falling asleep on your Grandpa’s belly, me trying to match him breath for breath while the Statler Brothers belted out Flowers on the Wall on the vinyl: 

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do

I mean: Vinyl chairs. Vinyl records. The Statler Brothers. Life was good.

Because of Grandpa’s seven-days-a-week swing shift factory job, I spent the majority of my time with Granny. I learned to cook and bake for which my family is thankful! I learned to love simple things like drinks from a hose, noticing when seeds began to pop up through the soil, the art of make believe, and to never say within earshot that I was bored. I learned to grow things…flowers, corn, tomatoes, peas, strawberries, onions, potatoes and most importantly my faith. 

We grew up going to a little country Methodist church where indoor plumbing was a luxury we didn’t have until well into my elementary school age years. Our church always had the retired guys who still loved to preach but was too old to have a “real” church. Granny took my brother and me every Sunday. No matter what. No matter the weather. No matter the whine. And definitely no matter the attitude.

If we gave her too much grief, she would close her eyes, move her lips in silent prayer after which, we would all climb in the ‘72 Pontiac and head to church. I was never sure if she prayed for wisdom or prayed for the patience to not snatch us bald headed. Either way, when Granny prayed, we listened…out of fear of a lightning bolt from God or a lilac switch from Granny…we behaved ourselves in the pews of that little country church. 

Her faith was lived out in the faithful way she lived. Quietly raising up her second round of kids. No fluff. No fanfare. But a confidence in Christ to see her through with the grit and grace she needed day by day.  

Granny was essential in how I grew in my faith. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The Grandmother

There’s one little verse that packs a powerful punch for those of us who have entered the delightful role of being a grandparent and in particular a grandmother. 

Paul is writing a letter to Timothy, encouraging him to continue his ministry, letting him know how much he is missed and reminiscing of their last time together. He continues: 

That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! (2Timothy 1:5MSG) 

We don’t know much about this dynamic mother-daughter duo except that they were steadfast in the raising up of young Timothy in God’s word. Some believe that because Lois was listed first, she was essential in her grandson’s faith.

But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2Timothy 3:14-15ESV bold is mine)

The Grit

Paul doesn’t mention anything about Timothy’s grandfather, Lois’s husband, so we don’t know if he’s passed away or simply not involved in helping to teach him about God. Perhaps he is an unbeliever like Eunice’s husband is thought to be. (Acts 16:1)

No matter the reason, this Granny didn’t let that stop her from being involved in her grandson’s upbringing in the faith. Here again because the word whom in verse 14 above is plural, it leads one to believe that both Eunice AND Grandma Lois were deeply involved in all things spiritual, taking care that this little boy was acquainted with the sacred writings.  

While we may not look at this as such a big deal today, it took some grit and tenacity to step into those sandals and walk the path of being the spiritual leader to what would become a close associate to the apostle Paul, a giant in the faith. 

I wonder if Lois ever closed her eyes and moved her lips in silent prayer as a young Timothy whined about going to church? Maybe he hopped on in the chariot, not knowing if his Grandmother was praying for wisdom or a whippin’ but knew to not push it when she got to the point of praying! 

The Grace

Lois was Eunice’s mother. Eunice was an adult woman, a wife and a mother herself. The situation had the possibility of not being ideal: they were raising a child who might not have had a grandfather and a dad who was not a believer. Lois could have said she’d raised her family and would rather spend her time doing what SHE wanted to do. 

Yet she chose to give. Of herself. Her time. Her love. Showing, teaching, living her faith before a moldable young grandson who would grow up to love the Lord and serve Him well as a New Testament pastor and Paul’s right-hand man.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Nana. Gigi. Mimi. Gogo. Bibi.

Gammy. Memaw. Grandmaw.

Granny. Grandmere. Grandmother. 

Whatever name you go by, know this: you have an important role to play…even still.  There are things to be taught and caught. Taught by the words we say. Caught by the way we live. 

It takes grit because at this point in life you’ve lived through some stuff. Heartaches and headaches. Happiness and hell. You may think you’re too old for this. Gird your loins and pull up your girdle girls, we’ve got some flannel graphs to cut out! 

It takes grace because, boy is life different than when we raised our little ones. But the Good News of God’s Son is the Greatest Story Ever Told and that one never gets old. 

With no fanfare or fluff, Granny’s are tough.

They may no longer be quick, to grab the lilac stick. 

But a greater weapon they say, is to bow our heads and pray. 

Like Lois of old, we too can be bold. 

Teaching our grandkids the faith, day by day with grit and grace. 

kw

A Parable of the Peony

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)

If this German born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the world’s most famous equation of E=mccan understand everything better by looking at nature, then this simple girl can surely learn from her as well, right? 

There is Someone else who used nature to help us understand everything better using stories. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Jesus told many parables, short allegorical stories designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson and often used simple things like sowing seeds, sheep herding, coins, fish, harvesting as subjects to some of life’s greatest instructions. 

Consider the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. His stories could be taken at surface level, I mean… 

What farmer doesn’t know the soil you plant your seed in matters? You could walk away with a simple garden lesson and go plant some literal seeds, hoping for a better harvest because of the agricultural lessons you learned: Stay away from rocky pathways, keep the weeds to a minimum, amend the soil for the best harvest. We’re gonna eat like kings and queens come harvest time, baby!! Thanks Jesus! 

Then there are those who wondered…is He talking about actual seeds and soil or is there a deeper meaning here? Who is the sower? Does that even matter? Do the rocks mean something? And what about those pesky weeds?  They walked away pondering profound truths that would give them a lifetime of learning.  

He still uses nature to teach, as long as we have ears to hear and eyes to notice. Because beyond the surface of the simple is a sacred something to see. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Enter the peony. Their spring season is short so every day I walk out to check their progress. They go from this: 

To this: 

In a matter of only a couple of days.

Small buds that bust a move with blooms as big as my entire hand. Gorgeous colors. Petals so soft you can barely feel them. Each one intricate, unique. Layer upon layer of lovely. 

As my daughter and I were inspecting the peony progress I said to her, it’s hard to believe that just a couple days ago this tightly wound bud went from this (pointing to a bud), to this (pointing to one half open), to this gorgeousness! (pointing to full bloom) Who would’ve thought there was so much beauty inside such a small bud?  

With arms loaded, we brought some of them inside to enjoy. Later that night that still small voice whispered, there’s also beauty in you that’s dying to bloom big blooms. You have no idea the possibilities that are waiting to bust out. What keeps you from doing so?  

Yeah. What does?

I came up with some possibilities. Maybe you can relate?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I’m going to start out here with the FACT that we all, Every. Single. One. Of. Us have God given gifts and talents. Don’t say you don’t, or we will have to have a group intervention for your clarification! Nobody wants that. Just ask my kids. 

So, what keeps us from bringing out the beauty and blooming big? 

We Compare. 

It’s the thief of joy, according to President Theodore Roosevelt. And this quote from Brene’ Brown: The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity, it’s be just like everyone else, but better. – from The Gifts of Imperfections 

What would happen if we stopped trying to be just like everyone else and started bringing our own uniqueness to the table? Can you imagine the beauty that bouquet would bring? 

You are wanted. You. Not you being like your best friend. You. 

We Downplay. 

How many times have I started the answer to the question: What do you do? with, Oh, I’m just a… or I’m only a…

It didn’t matter if I was talking about being a stay-at-home Mom or when I was working a job for a paycheck. It didn’t matter if I got paid to write an article or was simply writing to share on my blog with you, I downplay myself. I’m just a writer…not like an important writer…not famous or anything…just, you know, someone who likes to write…sometimes…

Do you do that too? Can I hear you saying, YES! OH MY GOSH! YES!!

Why? Just why, do we do this to ourselves? 

We have to stop the insanity and be proud of the gifts and talents we have and the jobs we do! We need to encourage each other to bring the full bloomed flower to the group! Can you imagine how different our culture would be, our homes would be, our workplaces would be, our churches would be, if we stopped devaluing and underestimating the importance of our God given gifts and talents? 

You are needed. You. Not the just a… or only a… But-full-booming-bloom-here’s-what-I-bring-to-the-table-in-all-your-lovely-YOU.

The Dreadful Iffy’s.

Oh, how these can dance in my head! Maybe you’ve had this same conversation with the what if’s as well. I’ll throw out a handful with the antithetical answer in the parenthesis: 

What if I can’t? (But what if you can?)

What if I fail? (But what if you succeed?)

What if they don’t like me? (But what if they do?)

What if I’m too much/not enough? (But what if you’re just right?)

What if it’s not worth the risk? (But what if it is?) 

What if I fall? (But what if you fly?) 

Anybody else have this conversation in their own head? Dreadful iffy’s be damned! Let’s, each one of us, live in the Oh but what if and not be afraid try. Let’s be courageous enough to take hold of our thoughts, be the boss of our internal voice and walk into our calling. 

You are brave. You. Even with knees knocking. You. 

We’re Blind to Ourselves

What you see as ordinary, I may see as extraordinary. What you consider to be just who I am, may be the exact thing that is much needed at your job, in your home, your church, your ministry. We don’t often see ourselves as others see us. As activist and educator, Marion Wright Edelman said, you can’t be what you can’t see. 

Often, when I’m leading a Bible study, we’ll have opportunities to point out a quality or gift or something one likes about another and it is such a JOY to watch as the one who is getting the compliment actually receives it as such! We have no idea how our “normal selves” can be used for God’s glory.  

We need to compliment and encourage each other so we CAN see what we CAN be! 

We were having an after-dinner conversation a couple weeks ago about “inspired versus inspirational.” Are we one or the other? Should we be both? I made the comment about how we should be inspired by others so we can in turn be inspirational. To which my man asked if I thought I was inspirational. To which I replied, no not really. I’m just a stay-at-home Mom. (Take my own advice much?!) 

My teenage son was surprised. Are you serious?  Then proceeded to list every reason why I inspired him and others. I had no idea he noticed such things. Who was truly surprised then? 

If we were having coffee, I would sit across from you and make a list of the blooming qualities that you can’t see. Those gifts and talents that you downplay would become the aroma others enjoy long after you’ve left the shop. 

You matter. You. You have something to give. You. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I may not have a Nobel prize for my contribution to quantum physics like Albert but we do have something in common, we both love to look at nature for a deeper understanding. 

The parable of the peonies sure made me think beyond how gorgeous they are. Maybe the story helped you too? Don’t be afraid to bloom to full capacity. This world needs the beauty and fragrance of YOU! 

kw

What About Martha? (Sheology Part 4)

My sister and I are as different as night and day. She’s adventurous. I’m…well…scared of the carwash among other things.

We approach life much like getting in the swimming pool. She cannon balls. I enter slowly, step by chilly step. 

I’m more of a thinker. She’s a doer. 

Often times when I hear women talking about the sisters Mary, the thinker and Martha, the doer, they will pick one or the other with whom they feel a connection. 

Is that a bad thing? Must we choose between doing and thinking? 

***

The first time we meet Martha, she is hosting a party for Jesus as he passed through the town of Bethany. Dinner wasn’t the only thing steaming. So was she.

Babes ready to be born. New life is coming!

Her sister Mary (as we’ve already seen) was learning at Jesus’ feet instead of helping in the kitchen. Martha,boldly served up some roasted lamb with a side order of attitude. 

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! (Luke 10:40 NIV)

Boy do I get this. If you’ve been involved in church or ministry work at all, then you know the 80/20 rule that says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It’s so easy to serve with some Martha ‘tude. I’ve been her and also been served by her.

Jesus’ response? Martha, Martha, (whenever he says your name twice…oh dear!) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Only one thing is needed.

Jesus wasn’t drawing lines or categorizing women by personality type and interests, He was defining priorities for all of us, and more important, drawing Martha into a deeper relationship with himself.  (When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James pg 223)

Choose the better thing. 

I can get so caught up in the serving part that I forget the sitting part. Without the sitting part, the serving part can become a bitter thing I do, not the better.

***

Babes are here! Needing care, feeding, teaching.

The second time we see Martha’s boldness is when her brother Lazarus is sick and Jesus delays coming so long that he dies. 

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, bu Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been her. My brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:20-22 NIV) 

Martha’s daring drives her to the One who can calm her concerns. I love that Jesus doesn’t rebuke her but is ever the Teacher as he reveals a bit more of himself as the Resurrection and Life. He challenges her by asking, do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Some would call Martha brazen and brash, disrespectful. Mary’s response was perhaps much more appropriate. But we don’t have to put a lid on our wants and wonderings. We can be fearless in our asking of questions and laying out of our concerns. 

We can therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 CSB)

Theology begins with doubts that make us dig. ‘Tude or not, he can handle us just fine. 

***

The last time we see Martha, she’s back at it in the kitchen minus the ‘tude towards her sister. There’s another dinner party being given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just six days before Passover and while Mary takes her pint of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus as an act of worship, John tells us, 

Martha served. (John 12:1-11 NIV)

Two little words with a powerful punch. We find Martha using her gifts as a form of worship and not to wage war with her sister. When we each bring our gifts and talents to the table, the church and ministry of Jesus is so much better. The world needs to hear the good news of the gospel and whether that’s washing dishes or feet, both are important. 

She’s learning and so am I. 

Empty nest means these babes have been nurtured and can fly on their own.

I am just as content teaching a Bible study on even given week or gathering dirty communion cups after Sunday service. Reading a commentary on the book of James or pulling weeds. Planting seeds whether in the garden or over coffee with a distraught woman. 

Theology doesn’t disconnect us from life or weaken our willingness to do the next thing. Knowing God, makes us mobile to do the very thing he calls us to. Those of us who know God find sacred in the simple as well as the sensational. As strange as it may seem, theology belongs in the kitchen just as much as it belongs in the classroom at seminary or behind the pulpit or in elder meetings. 

I don’t believe we have to choose between Mary and Martha, between being a thinker or a doer. I think we are meant to be a blend of both. 

Learning, leaning and loving make for some sound theology. 

kw

Worship is Never Wasteful (Sheology Part 3: Loving)

The babies have grown and flown….just like they’re suppose to. 🙂

I’ve never felt very courageous. I scored 0% in the category marked “Adventuresome” on one of those tests everyone takes. Like Walter Mitty in his secret life, I would daydream an awful lot…can you hear me Major Tom? 

But then again I have five kids, which takes lionhearted courage and I was the first of my big family to go out of the country to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. My pastor sent a text the day before I was to leave, You can do this Mrs. Mitty. He knew.

After that trip, every time something came up that would take courage (car wash anyone??) I would tell myself I could do this thing. After all, I’d been to Africa!

So maybe bold is a better word. I can speak to big groups but get a bit sweaty palmed small talking with folks I don’t know. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, the center of attention, but like to control when said light is turned on. 

I’m a nine on the Ennegram, a Peacemaker, doing almost anything to avoid conflict and choosing the path of least resistance. I like routine. I don’t like to be the center of controversy. Though I can debate and have an opinion different than yours, I need a nap afterwards. 

But sometimes you just have to be bold. 

***

The third time we see Mary of Bethany she’s at another dinner party, this one being given in Jesus’ honor. (John 12:2 NIV) It’s just six days before Passover and time is drawing close for Jesus to be arrested, beaten, put on trial and crucified. He knows it. 

I wonder if Mary senses it too? I wonder if she picked up something different in his teaching lately, an urgency, a preparedness, a warning of what was coming. 

The disciples were jockeying for a pristine position on his right and left in this new kingdom Jesus came to establish. (Mark 10:35-45 NIV) They’ve politicized Jesus’ ministry thinking he would become the new king of the country instead of King of Kings. 

Not Mary. While the others are eating Mary takes a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NIV) 

This was a bold act for several reasons: 1.) Society expected her to be serving food not wasting time at Jesus’ feet. 2.) Touching someone’s feet was considered degrading (imagine the disciples surprise when Jesus washes their feet!) 3.) A woman was never to take her hair down in public…never. 4.) The perfume she poured out was more than a year’s wages and her dowry that she’d been collecting. It gave her value for a favorable marriage in the future. All poured out, wasted as some of them were saying. (Based on the book Insight’s on John by Charles Swindoll) 

The boys in the room didn’t like it. They thought it was a big waste and were vocal in their “concern” but Mary didn’t care. She didn’t just bust open a jar, she broke open the box society had put her in. She lived out the full life Jesus came to give her. 

***

Being a woman of faith can put you in a position to step outside your comfort zone and into the war zone, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do to take a risk and pour it all out there with a boldness you’ve not known before. 

We have to be ready. We can’t walk into battle armed only with what we learn from a person behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We aren’t meant to fight with the men (they are not our enemy) or even in their shadow but beside them armed with sound theology from our own digging daily in scripture. This war zone is no respecter of gender. 

It is on the battlefield that a woman will discover the power and usefulness of her theology. Mary’s third portrait should have a profound impact on how we see ourselves as women, in the home and in the church. When we take this definition of ourselves seriously, the home, the church, and the men will only benefit. Conversely, to walk away from this hurts us all. (From the book When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)

Mary shows us much about what it takes to be a theologian. She sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. She learned what he was all about and who she was because of who He is. But it’s so much more than learning.

She fell at His feet and leaned. We lean in to what we’ve learned; which enables us to endure those storms that could rock our world otherwise. It puts our faith to the test and helps strengthen and mature our theology.

She worshiped at His feet and loved. When we begin to understand who Jesus is and what he has done (and does) for us we want nothing more than to love him, to pour out our best for him. Worship is never wasted. 

Mary is such a great example for us to follow. But…

What if I’m more like Martha? I’m so glad you asked…

kw

If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw

Creeping People and Itching Ears

This reminder in nature that eventually we can’t rely on others to feed us. Instead we must learn to feed ourselves.

You could see the battle going on in the woman’s mind that sat across from me. Her husband had coercively, emotionally abused her for many years. While I could see her making strides toward gaining some confidence, she was struggling to answer the question I asked. 

What do you want to do? 

I really want to leave him….but I can’t. 

Why not? 

Because if I leave him, God will leave me. He hates divorce. 

While it is written, I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel. (Malachi 2:16NIVit also says this of God, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5NIV)

My heart broke for her as she shared with me that she was told by “the church” God would rather she stay in the abusive marriage than get a divorce. She now recognized the affront for what it was but what was she to do? We talked, searched scripture and prayed for direction.

Unfortunately her story is all too common. Being duped, damaged and deceived by half-truths and truth twisting is a play by the enemy that is as old as the Garden of Eden. She knew just enough scripture to believe deception but not enough to refute it with truth. 

Anybody else been there? We may not be in an abusive relationship but there is a half-truth believed to be the whole truth. A twist to scripture you’ve never untwisted.  

Enter the creeping people:

For among them are those who creep into households… (2Timothy 3:6ESV)

Who are these “creeping people”? The Message tells us they look like this: 

People who are self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2Timothy 3:1-5MSG)

That’s quite a list, yes? Instead of women being creeped out and recognizing religious fads that calls itself “truth”(2Timothy 3:7MSG) these people are creeping in and taking every advantage of us and many times we don’t even notice. Does this fire up anybody else?

These people prey on the weakness of women, the guilt of women and the passions of women. (2Timothy 3:6) Listen, it is not God’s desire that women be weak in discernment…theological, Biblical, and moral discernment…so that they are sitting ducks for creeps. 

What makes these women (and us) gullible and easy to deceive? Let’s look at the reasons in reverse order: 

The Passions of Women. The emphasis here could be sexual in nature but we women can be passionate about a lot of things. We can lust after…the perfect house, job, family, body etc…we are so intense with our passionate pursuits that we leave no space or place for sound Biblical study. 

We find our value in the stuff we have or the things we do instead of the One that’s already done it for us. We passionately pursue after our purpose instead of purposely placing our passions in the hands of our Pursuer. 

There’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, pursuits and passions as long as they don’t have you. 

The Guilt of Women. These are women who are loaded down with sin. This isn’t fun to talk about but here we go. We cannot surround ourselves with people who never speak truth to us, who let us do whatever we want. I have a handful of girlfriends who are my biggest cheerleaders, yes, but who also keep me in check if I’m out of line. 

This alignment keeps me out of the line of enemy fire and able to recognize his schemes. 

Paul warns Timothy about this a bit later when he says, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4NIV) 

Don’t circle yourself in with best friends who scratch an itch with a feather. Surround yourself with grace full truth tellers. You’ll grow stronger and keep the creeps out.  

The Weakness of Women. The creeping people who are mentioned in Timothy are smooth talkerswho prey on women with every new religious fad that calls itself truth. Oh, it’s subtle and slick most of the time. There’s just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make it sound good and Godly but the underlying message is more like did God really say…as said by the serpent of old.  

What do we do so we aren’t misled? 

In a word: Theology. 

I know, I know. It sounds boring or maybe intimidating or too churchy. But theology isn’t just for the men. We will be judged based on what we ourselves know to be truth not what somebody else did or didn’t tell us to be true. We have a responsibility, as women, to become sheologians. 

It really isn’t as tedious or terrifying as it sounds…as I hope to show you over the next few blog posts. Theology isn’t just about reading textbooks like Lectures in Systemic Theology, trying to get a grasp on the knowledge of God. James tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God…and shudder. (James 2:19)

We are in a battle that is fierce. Carolyn Custis James says, Soft theology won’t sustain us on the battlefield. Marching into battle with superficial, false, and flimsy ideas of God is like going to war with a popgun tucked under your arm. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 95)

Theology is more than just knowledge. 

Sound theology brings a bazooka to the battlefield enabling us to keep the creeping people out and our itching ears scratched with the Truth. Sound theology grounds us when life picks us up and spins us around. Sound theology prevents us from believing half-truths. Sound theology helps us recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sound theology engages the intellect, leans in after a loss and warrants us to worship.

Are you ready? 

kw

Into the Wilderness

Photo cred: Mackenzie Crumpacker

Sometimes you go. Sometimes you’re sent. 

Does anybody see you? 

Does anybody care? 

Is the Lord even there?

You didn’t choose this desert space, this wilderness place. 

Or maybe you did. 

However you land there doesn’t really matter, it can be horrible yet the most hallowed place you’ll ever be. 

In the last blog post, Forcing the Pieces, we met Sarah who desired to have the children God promised her and her husband. But God’s timetable wasn’t hers so she suggested they get the party started with a romp in the hay between her man and her maidservant. Alas, it worked and Hagar (AKA Fertile Myrtle the maidservant) does indeed get pregnant. 

Sarah gets angry about the whole thing, blames Abraham. Abraham throws his hands in the air and says you deal with it. So she did. 

Then Sarah mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6 NIV

Hagar ends up in the wilderness of the desert.

Sometimes you have no choice but to flee for your own well-being. You choose to take a stand and with such courage and bravado say, Enough! Sometimes you have to leave behind the familiarity of community, a job, a home, drugs, comfort, provision, abuse, friends, tradition, others opinions. Walking away from what you know, all you’re familiar with and what makes you fit in can be one of the toughest and best things you do.

Sometimes it’s simply the season of life you’re in. You run your kids around like you’re an Uber driver at Kentucky speed way and you miss adult conversation. GNO? What’s that? Or you’re an empty nester who gave all your time and energy raising a family and now what do you do? You’re a student who lives, eats and sleeps studying, classes and tests…social life? What social life? Your child has special needs and demands time and energy, doctor appointments and round the clock care. You love them to pieces but could sure use a break. 

Dry desert air makes for a thirsty soul. Thirsty souls wander and wonder.

Flip over a few chapters and we’ll see Hagar had gone back (in obedience to an angel), had the child and once again, because of Sarah’s jealousy, got banned, this time….for good. 

Sarah said to Abraham, “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)

So Hagarwent on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:14 NIV)

Sometimes the choice is made for you. A husband walks out. Kids rebel. People distance themselves. A diagnosis is made. A death happens. And don’t think for a minute this century doesn’t have “Sarah’s” in it…using you for a means to an end manipulating and mean, then tosses your butt out like a rag doll. 

Either way, here you are. According to Brene’ Brown, The wildernessis an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. (Braving the Wilderness)

The wilderness is full of uncertainty and certainly feels like you are the first and last one to blaze this trail. Surely nobody gets it. Or you. Check out my journal entry for January 18th

Twice Hagar found herself in the wilderness, the unknown, the scary place. The first time she was seen by God; the second He heard her cries. Both times He brought comfort and provision. Wilderness has wild in the word because it’s a crazy time of walking with the One. 

Hagar’s time in the wilderness, that time of searching and solitude, allowed her to experience things she never would have otherwise. She is the only woman, a slave woman at that, who names God. You are the God who sees me, for she said I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi, it is still there. (Genesis 16:13-14NIV)

He continues to be the One who sees. Now and forevermore.

Don’t be afraid. Keep moving through. 

You’re among good Wilderness walkers. It’s where the prophets and poets live for inspiration. It’s where the risk-takers and trailblazers thrive. It’s where Jesus beat the devil at his own schemes. 

He sees you. He hears you. Lean in and listen. Walk in the wild and be free.

kw

Forcing the Pieces

God promises Abraham kids and Abraham believed God would give him kids. So simple…God answers prayers. (Journal entry/January 16th/Genesis 12-15 )

I wish I could say I was like Abraham who trusted God to do what He said He would do, what He promised him He would do. No matter how long it took. Abraham set out on an adventure not knowing what the whole picture looked like, not knowing the when’s, why’s and where’s but knowing the One who was sending him. His journey of faith was simple: Abraham believed the Lord. (Genesis 15:6NIV). Period.

I fear I’m more like Abraham’s wife Sarah who got ahead of God. You see God had promised this couple children so they waited. And waited. And waited. It sure seemed like God forgot or was asleep or just didn’t care. Maybe, just maybe, she was supposed to do something, take action, to get this as-many-stars-in-the-sky-so-shall-your-offspring-be party started. After all, “God helps those who help themselves” right? (Anybody else use this line of thinking while telling yourself it sure sounds like a Proverb so it must be so? It’s not.)

The very next day, January 17thmy journal entry looked like this: Nothing good comes from getting ahead of God’s plan. Trust Him…even when it doesn’t look promising. 

Sarah ended up “helping the Lord” by having Abraham sleep with her maidservant. While we may look at this and think to ourselves wow! I would never ho my man out to another woman, which is probably true for the majority of us but what would you do/have you done when you’ve taken matters into your own hands? 

I liken all of this to putting a puzzle together. It’s a process to go from 2000 pieces dumped on the table to finding and assembling the edges, giving you a frame from which to work, to the buildings coming together to people’s faces and animals becoming whole to the field of grass and wildflowers making sense. 

Watching, waiting and walking away. 

My man stands in awe and wonder 🙂 of my puzzle putting together ability, as he does not have the patience for it. Every now and again he will try and then get frustrated. How can you sit there and look and look then pick up a piece and it fits? 

There are clues in the pieces but you have to be patient. A little piece of a foot here, a bit of flower there and the shape all matter but you have to look carefully. God gives us hints of hope in our situations too but we must be always aware, ever mindful and looking for Him. 

Sometimes when I can’t see it coming together I need to walk away for a little while. When I come back, it’s fascinating what I now see that I couldn’t before. Giving your mind a rest can be just what you need in order to see that God is working. 

We have what I call a “waiting well” issue in our culture today. Our attention spans demand instant gratification, quick points to an article, faster internet speeds, quicker service, microwave meals, instant replies on text messages, articles instead of books, okay Google information, short conversations and drive-through answers to prayer. We do not like to wait so we…

Force the pieces together. 

My four-year-old grandson was helping me put a puzzle together one Sunday but soon got discouraged at such a big endeavor so he tried this: 

Obviously this would make quite a different picture than the one on the front of the box.

Forcing the pieces together skews the bigger picture of God’s plan. I am in a current season of waiting on an answer to prayer and I want so badly to make something (anything!) happen. Desperate decisions don’t make for a pretty picture so I remind myself that God’s ways are not mine and He is working this thing out. I have to constantly…

Look at the bigger picture. 

I keep the lid to the puzzle box right next to me so I can look at it as I try to decipher where the different pieces go. I need that to be my guide especially in the beginning when I’m looking at a mound of pieces with no direction. 

We’ve got to be in His word, studying, learning and getting to know the character of the One who puts the pieces together. Praying to Him, yes but also listening for Him to speak to us. We can rest in Him, trust Him and put our faith in the process He sees fit for our situation. Being still and watching or moving forward with pieces as He sees fit. 

So how did Sarah’s story end? Was God angry with her for forcing the lineage He had promised to Abraham? There were consequences and it was a bit messier because of the move made too early but…

…the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. (Genesis 21:1NIV)

He is faithful. He sees you. He hears you. He will put the pieces together. 

kw

Women of Means

Platforms, performance and purpose. Competition, comparison and cattiness. We wonder. We work. We worry. 

Bigger is better. Faster is more fun. We fight our way to the top, scratching and clawing anything or anyone that gets in the way. That ladder of success is no longer just in the work world either.

We compare ministries, Mom styles and our mayhem. We compete with Pinterest perfect parties. Our purpose becomes all about virtual friends, follows, likes and heart emoji’s. Busy is a badge of honor.

Buying into today’s culture that screams “MORE” makes us manic with panic and may I go as far as to say..mean? There is nothing worse than a worn out woman whose worth is wrapped up in what she does rather than what’s already been done. 

It’s rather exhausting isn’t it? 

There is a different way. 

The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. (Luke 8:1-3a)s

I love this group of women who follow after Jesus!

There’s Mary Magdalene who has a past spent with seven demons. Seven is a complete number in the Bible and some scholars suggest she was wholly possessed. While you and I may not be possessed or never have had demons come out of us, there are a few of us with a bit of a, shall we say sordid, former life. She was no longer that person because of Jesus and neither are we. 

Joanna was the wife of a highly placed official in the court of Herod Anitpas. She knew people and inside scoops. I image there were dinner parties, dances and functions that kept her in societies eye. Once she knew Jesus, the rest faded away. The power and prestige paled in her pursuit for her Savior. There are those of you who relate to Joanna, knowing people in high places (maybe even being those in high places) but recognizing where real worth comes from…being a Jesus follower. 

Susanna is a bit of a mystery. Mentioned here and no other place in all of Scripture the one thing we know about her is she is a part of Jesus’ ministry and had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Maybe you are Susanna. Ever grateful of what Jesus did for you and in quiet adoration you follow and serve him. 

And many others…I wonder who among you reading this feel as though you don’t have a “big story” to tell so you don’t tell your story at all? You aren’t Mary M. with seven demons or high in the social scene or even mysterious but you adore Jesus and follow him with everything you’ve got. You count too you know. Your story with the Savior is a beautiful one. 

Why do I love this group of women? They are all so different and yet the same because they all recognize their need of Someone bigger than themselves. Each one brought something unique to the table. 

These women were helping to support them out of their own means. 

(Luke 8:3bNIV)

What if this was a group of mean girls instead of women with means? Mary wouldn’t have been allowed in for fear of what others would say about her shameful past. After all, Jesus doesn’t need that sort of reputation! Joanna would never “lower herself” to serve others nor wish to be seen with such people. Susanna would have nothing much to offer so nope, no average folks allowed. 

What a difference that would have made! How much would they have missed out on? 

Thankfully they were women of means and not mean women. They each brought their “something” to support the Savior so he could further his message of hope. 

What if we weren’t meant to be mean women but women of means? Women coming together with all manner of gifts and talents, backgrounds and family histories, stories of healing and adoration for the Healer. We would follow the One we love instead of loving the number of followers we have. We would cheer each other on and be the loudest clapper in the crowd. We would celebrate what has been done so we could stop chasing after do. All for the glory of God.

What if the world saw us women of faith rise up and become women of means? Just imagine it. What if…

kw

Two F Words and a Book Review (Part 2)

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When sleeping women wake, mountains move. (Chinese Proverb)

There was a special section in the Cincinnati Enquirer Sunday paper last week titled 1968 The Year That Transformed the Nation which intrigued me so I read through it. One part in particular caught my eye: “Radical Women” find their voice, which is about a young woman tired of the patriarchy and feeling silenced so she decided once and for all to put the “act” in “activist.”

My first thought was, why should it be considered “radical” for a woman to want to be heard? Doesn’t everyone? My second was, have we made much progress in the past 50 years?

My friend Barb, who has lived a lot of life, made this comment with regard to part one of this two part series, So many of us have walked this path much of our lives. At less movement than a snail’s pace, this culture is beginning to change but you have to really search to see any of those minuscule changes. 

Because three of our five kids are strong, independent thinking women, I was a teensy bit taken aback at my man’s (their father’s) reaction of Oh, Lord, when I was talking about the book by Sarah Bessey called Jesus Feminist.

I get it. The word feminist conjures up all manner of images with the most recent being a handful (in the scope of the whole) of women marching for equal rights wearing vee-jay-jay costumes and hoo-ha hats on top of their heads.

Or maybe you envision a group of women sitting around a bon fire, smoking cigars, drinking bourbon, bashing the boys and burning their bras like a bunch of angry hussies.

To each their own but I don’t care for bourbon and I certainly don’t want to burn my bra. What I would like is to trade the ill-fitting, uncomfortable underwire that pierces in places it shouldn’t for a sports variety that will help me run my race well.

Feminism at its core simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance—not greater than, but certainly not less than—to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. (Jesus Feminist page 13 Kindle edition)

Don’t give this word away my church going gals. It’s meant for us too. Jesus leveled the playing field by treating us with dignity and respect. He listened to, loved on, taught, honored, walked beside, challenged, wept for, worked with, defended, talked directly to, met and included us. Women, just like you and me, in a culture that did not value females

If you look at the essence of the meaning, Jesus was and is a feminist. He is for women. Talk about radical.

What about this snail pace culture and in particular within the church? I don’t think there’s one pat answer. As people of faith, we sift our theology through Scripture, Church history and tradition, our reason and our own experience. (Jesus Feminist page 57 Kindle edition) We need to keep having conversations where we can. That snail will eventually get to where she needs to go.

In the meantime, we live out our calling by using the gifts and talents God gave us. I ended part one with this: Something I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) through the years, I kept waiting for an invitation to sit at the table when really the Table has been waiting for me to take my seat. I didn’t need a man to help me fulfill my calling because I answer to the call of one Man….Jesus.

I lost several years sitting in a pew being angry, hurt and confused thinking I couldn’t do kingdom work because I had tunnel vision that it was synonymous with church work. There’s a whole lot of kingdom outside the walls. The same God who gave you those gifts and talents will open the doors for you to use them, if you look for opportunities.

I got this text from a good friend of mine who works as a court advocate for abused women: The table (outside of the church) is so long & wide. I would not have found my seat here if my main focus was “church ministry.”

We don’t have to be a pastor to be a minister. We can choose to minister each and every day. To our families. To our neighbors. To the sick. To the shut-ins. To the Mom who is struggling. To the wife whose husband left. To the one whose diagnosis is scary. Maybe you’re the CEO of a major corporation or you may be in a season of ministry where those you are ministering to has jelly on their face and sticky fingers. Do it with all the gusto!

We don’t have to be behind a pulpit to preach the good news. We can choose to “preach” by clothing the naked, offering a drink, visiting the one imprisoned (oh these can mean so many things!), working in a homeless shelter, giving out of our abundance to those who have nothing, tutoring kids, and being kind (for goodness sake!). The world is dying for some Good News!

We have to stop waiting to get the nod when God has given the green light to go. You matter! You have worth and value and a voice and a place where you are called beloved by God.

I am surrounded by strong women. Women who are entrepreneurs, pilots, stay-at-home Moms, working Moms, foster Moms, nurses, doctors, advocates, law-enforcement, business owners, students, communicators, administrators, clerks, clergy, teachers and more! Do it Soli Deo gloria! For the Glory of God alone!

I swiped the last page of this book being proud to be a woman, an image bearer of the One who sees me! This book made me shout a few hallelujahs and hell-yeahs. I don’t want to burn my bra. I want to blaze a trail!

I am a Jesus Feminist.

kw