Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

Starting a New Year Presently


Over the past few years I’ve noticed bloggers doing this thing where they pick a word for their year. I don’t totally know how it is supposed to work, and since I was doing well just to start this thing part-way into last year, I didn’t worry about picking a word. I just needed to start.

But this year, I wanted to pick a word. Well, it’s not so much that I wanted to pick a word as that God kept laying this one idea on my heart–over and over. So, I wanted to put a word to it for 2014.

The idea that God has been nudging me toward has come with a number of different words: “showing up,” being “incarnational,” and such like.

Basically, my natural inclination is to retreat. When I’m super stressed out, I probably need a good stretch of solitude to right myself.

I don’t withdraw to avoid conflict. In fact, I’m surprisingly comfortable navigating interpersonal rifts and engaging opposing viewpoints.

But I do like to escape into my inner-world. I have a super-active thought-life that doesn’t slow down–ever. In my previous post titled Why I Love Conferences Even Though I’m an Introvert (click the title to read that post), I explained, “I can be in a crowd of people and be totally withdrawn into my own thought-world.”

I don’t consciously try to shut people out, but this natural inclination to retreat does mean that I have to consciously make myself get out, reach out, and be connected to others.

At first when we moved to this super rural community I was a little troubled by the fact that there wasn’t a paying job for me way out here in the Texas countryside. As time has gone on, what I have found is that this easy country life has been a great opportunity to do the writing that I have wanted to do. And the preaching & speaking opportunities have come just often enough that I can bring in a little income for my family.

All the same, this country life has made it easier than ever in my life to retreat to a fault. And my dear husband is so supportive of my writing and preaching and speaking that he lets me retreat whenever I need to. This is great when I need it, but not great when I am needed elsewhere.

So the big challenge for me is pushing myself to get outside of myself more despite how easy it is to retreat. With that, my word for 2014 is…


I’ve never been very big on New Year’s Resolutions–mostly because making resolutions all-of-a-suddenly, out of nowhere seems like a recipe for failure. But this word, this idea of being present has come from quite some time of reflection and I am indeed resolved to work at it in 2014.

Some specific ways I want to live this out are:

  • Getting up & ready by X time everyday, so I can be ready for unexpected opportunities to be present with others.
  • Putting events on my personal calendar as soon as I learn of them so I can make sure to be present at events that are too easy to forget without planning for them.
  • Writing on the blog 1-2 original posts each week so I can continue to cultivate a consistent online presence.

This is new territory for me in choosing a word and making resolutions. But New Year’s is generally an upswing for me as my birthday falls on the third day of each new year (yes today). So, I am optimistic about my resolve to live into this intentionality of presence. Pluswhich, somehow 2013 was the best year of my life so far, so I want to be fully present for whatever 2014 might bring.

This post is part of the January 2014 Synchroblog: New Beginnings. See what other Synchroblog contributors are saying about their New Beginnings:

Paths as Yet Untrod


Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrod, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Lutheran Book of Worship

I know I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had quite a bit of transition in my life as a pastor’s wife–we’re in our fourth state in 18 years of marriage. And yet…I would have to say that the transition I’m in right now is every bit as big as a cross-country move even though I’m not literally going anywhere.

But man, am I going places!

If you had told me a year ago that I would have a blog that I actually had the guts to write on 2-3 times per week, I would have laughed. I tried blogging years ago and it scared me to near-silence to be so exposed online.

If you had told me a year ago that I would be a regular contributor at somebody’s podcast, I would not have believed you. Actually, I would have had to ask you to define a podcast.

But I want to be out there now. When I was so scared to use my voice in years past, those were some of my darkest years–made all the darker by not talking about what was going on.

I’ve written before about my desire to be a writer and a speaker. Yes, I know I said I wanted to be “great” too–you’ll be proud of me to know that I’m getting over myself about all that quite a bit.

The dream to write & speak is still there, only I stopped trying to get ahead of myself so much.

I’m taking this season of writing on the blog, guest-blogging, and other writing opportunties, this season of podcasting, preaching here and there, and guest-speaking at small gatherings to continue to hone my voice, develop my craft, and most of all to discern my core message.

I don’t know where all of this is going–as the prayer above says, these are ventures whose end I can’t see and paths which I have not trod. But I don’t have to know where it’s all going to say “yes” to this bit right now.

I truly appreciate each of you who read and encourage me. Thanks for being with me as I use this place to try different styles, play with ideas, and share my heart about life in general.

My Interview with Sarah Bessey about Jesus Feminist

In my last post I mentioned my friend Sarah Bessey and her new book, called Jesus Feminist. I recently had the opportunity to interview Sarah about the book for Life & Liberty!

>>>Click here to listen to the interview.<<<

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist

I’ve known Sarah Bessey for more than a decade, since before either of us had kids, before she had her blog and waaaay before she signed a two-book deal with Howard Books. But a decade is a long time and now here we are with her having just released Jesus
, her first book.

As an old friend I am super excited for Sarah getting a book published. And as a woman of God, I resonate with the particulars of this book. I read an e-version of the book from Net Galley and was moved deeply by the beautiful vision that Sarah casts for the mutuality that is possible among God’s people.

Sarah coined the term “Jesus Feminist” and it boils down to the idea that being a follower of Jesus has led to an understanding that women are people too. My own study of scripture affirms this conviction as Jesus and the gospels routinely lift up women.

I credit Sarah with helping me see feminism in a positive light. You can read more about why I identify as a “Jesus feminist” in my previous post titled, I’m a Jesus Feminist Because I Don’t Have to Be One.

Jesus-Feminist-CoverSarah lives in Canada (her homeland) with her husband Brian and their three “tinies.” She’s a non-denominational charismatic and just overflows with the love of Jesus in every aspect of her life.

Sarah calls herself “a liberal to the conservative and a conservative to the liberal” and she often takes what she refers to as “the third way” on difficult issues. Her writing–on her blog ( and in the book–is both poetic and prophetic.

It’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it for anyone who cares about the church and the movement of God in our world. This book would also be ideal for a group study or a retreat. Click the book cover to learn more about the book and to order yours from the Life & Liberty Amazon store.

Disclaimer: Links in this post will take you to the Amazon store at Life & Liberty, an online magazine where I am a contributor. Any purchase you make there will help support our work at Life & Liberty.

The Ministry of Accepting Questions


I was in elementary school before my family began attending church on a regular basis. Whereas Lutherans ordinarily baptize infants, I wasn’t baptized until the age of 9, the summer after my third grade year. As a school-aged kid who hadn’t been in church my whole life, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do to learn about the faith. The attention given to me in my childhood that enabled me to learn more and grow in the Lord, I attribute to the Spirit of God at work.

My usual mode of processing the world is to ask questions, lots of questions. And I’ve been that way since I was a child. So, as I tried to catch up with my peers, I asked a lot of questions about all this God and Jesus stuff.

I am deeply grateful to the Sunday school teachers who fielded these questions. To be honest with you, I don’t remember anymore exactly what questions I asked. What stuck with me though was the sense that it was okay to ask questions.

I mean, if you think about it, there is something rather bold about some kid questioning the very existence of the God of the universe. But one Sunday school teacher after another stuck with me as I tried to get my mind around it all.

One year in particular I remember asking my usual million questions, but it seemed that my questions were beginning to annoy my fellow students. I began to feel self-conscious when I had a question to ask and wondered whether it was worth asking knowing that I was irritating the other kids.

But I asked anyway. And when the other students groaned and begged to get on with class, the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, patiently entertained yet another question from me. I saved a couple of less pressing questions for after class, after the other students had left. Mrs. Johnson gave me the extra time I needed.

When I then apologized to Mrs. Johnson for asking so many questions and for holding up the class, first she told me not to worry about holding up the class. But then she said, “Keep asking questions! That is how you learn!”

When the world might otherwise dismiss a pesky kid, when other kids would rather get on with the lesson, Sunday school teachers like Mrs. Johnson saw me and my questions as valuable. And I just know the hand of God was in that. The love and patience that my teachers showed me were evidence of God at work in their lives.

In turn, the faith that took hold in me is evidence of God at work in my life. My friend, Clint Schnekloth just posted on his blog today about a conversation he had with a mentor about different ways of being in the world. It was an interesting post, but it was something Clint said in the comments that really struck me as I prepared to write this post:

One thing another mentor told me one time: “For some people, there is a division between heart and mind. For you, your mind and heart are the same thing.”

For me, thinking through issues, asking questions and processing things in my head is inextricably linked with what stirs in my heart. So, when I asked questions in Sunday school as a kid and tried to get my mind around who exactly God is, the answers I got and the care I received sparked my life-long and heartfelt journey of living faith.

Sifting Out Selfish Pride

photoI recently posted about my own vacillation between longing for greatness and totally dismissing my own worth. In that post, I promised I would write more about how “the mind Christ” can help us avoid these extremes. But before I do that I want to go a little deeper into the struggle.

I was afraid I would scare everyone away with admitting how my pride tends to puff me up. Instead, I was amazingly encouraged by comments here and on Facebook, and by private contacts from close family and friends. I don’t take that encouragement lightly.

I don’t want to let that encouragement give me an excuse to cover up the ugly pride that is in me. Instead, I want to lean into the support I’ve been offered. I want to put my longing for greatness under a little more scrutiny. I want to sift the good intentions from the selfish pride.

Sifting Through the Feedback

Some of the feedback was from folks who seemed to resonate with the pendulum between thinking too highly and thinking too lowly of ourselves. So, I’m glad I’m not the only one who goes back and forth! I was relieved to know that other people seemed to understand the need to hold both extremes in check.

Much of the feedback I got was more directly related to my longing for greatness. One person related the idea of “greatness” to a quest for excellence. I thought that was brilliant! I admire people that have that drive. I kind-of wish I could say that is what my desire for greatness is about.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no intentions of trying to get by with poor writing or half-baked speeches. I want to do well what I do, but that is a matter of integrity for me and I don’t think it quite relates to my urge for greatness. It may for some people be their drive to be “great,” but that’s not primarily what this is about for me.

Another angle of feedback from multiple sources was the acknowledgment of the mixed motives involved in wanting to be great. Folks were extraordinarily gracious in pointing out that there are some good reasons to want to be great–like the opportunity to touch more people’s lives.

That is part of why I want to be “great.” I want to write and speak in order to help other people. I want to make my story available to others so they can be encouraged. The more well-known I am, the more people I can reach with what I write and say. This is true, but there is more to it than that.

The Zinger

One of the bits of feedback I got was from David Housholder and he said simply, “Make the big time where you are” and provided a link to reflections about and recordings of his college football coach, Frosty Westering. I popped over to Housholder’s site and listened to his podcast about his coach and part of an interview with Coach Westering’s own voice. I urge you to go listen too.

Coach Westering was as much about building character as he was about coaching football. Coach Westering’s advice to “Make the big time where you are,” was essentially to not worry about how well-known you are, but to do great things wherever you are in life in whatever tasks are before you.

And that was it. Right there!

So much of my longing for greatness is I want to be well-known, I want to be famous! It is hard to be content with the right-here, right-now being my “big time.” It is wicked hard. Making the big time where I am? Where’s the glory, my glory, in that?

There it is, the ugly nugget that needs sifted out: my selfish desire for my own glory.

Of course I have good motives, but that self-serving desire for greatness sometimes takes on a life of it’s own. I don’t want it to take over. I want the good and right motives to take their proper place. I want to make the big time where I am.

But that nugget, it’s a heavy one…and there are parts of it that are kind-of shiny. It’s not an easy one to cast aside, my friends. Which of course, is all the more reason to write about it. And it is all the more reason why I need the mind of Christ.

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