Posts Tagged ‘challenge

11
Oct
19

Celebrating Women in Ministry

Female pastorFrom watching the TODAY Show this morning, I learned that today – October 11 – is the International Day of the Girl. Seems like something I should have known already.

I hope you won’t take offense at being called girls, but to celebrate this day, I want to give a big shout-out to female pastors.

I have had the privilege of knowing some phenomenal women who have answered the call to ordained ministry and who have served Christ faithfully, tirelessly, and creatively… all while enduring challenges we male clergy types have never even imagined experiencing.

  • I, for example, have never had a congregant come through the hand-shake line and compliment me on my hairstyle, utterly ignoring every word of my painstakingly prepared message.
  • I have also never heard the comment – overtly or covertly – that “men just don’t belong in the pulpit.” (And yes, that is still being said in 2019 in reference to female clergy).
  • No one has ever told me that they couldn’t focus on my message because I was “too pretty.”
  • My denomination has not systematically overlooked my leadership abilities when appointment-setting time rolls around.
  • I have never been called “overly emotional” (even though I really am an overly emotional guy).
  • Concerns have never been expressed about how I will balance my parenting responsibilities with my ministry.
  • I have never been “accidentally” groped while serving Holy Communion. (And just to be crystal clear; the quotes there around the word “accidentally” mean there was nothing accidental at all about the groping. And yes, that happened just a year ago to a female clergy friend).
  • And the list goes on and on, ad nauseum

It was only fifty years ago that the Methodist Church (pre-merger) began ordaining women. The largest protestant denomination in the world (the Southern Baptist Conference) still cites 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”)for its outlandish refusal to permit women to have any position of power in the Southern Baptist Church.

[So just a question for you here, SBC: are you also “all in” with Paul’s instructions on how to treat our slaves? Or on the covering of heads? Or the Levitical ordnances against mixing fibers in our clothing? Just curious…]

Even though I would love to believe that the CHURCH would be the last place we would find injustice, intolerance, and bigotry, it is just not the case.

Even here.

Even now.

So, blessings and much love on this International Day to you Shelly, Gayla, Maria, Kara, Nancy, Barb, Nanette, Libby, Melinda, Trudy, Sylvia, Sharon, Amy, Dee, Anne, Karen, Stephanie, Ally, Shayla, Esther, Joyce, Ashlee, Jada, Lisa, Rebecca, Nadia, and to every woman who nevertheless persists in following God’s call on your life.

We need you now more than ever.

And to the rest of us, let’s do everything we can to support and encourage these women as they lead us in following Christ.

22
Aug
19

The Final Quarter

Driving stressJoan and I drove to my stepdaughter’s house in Ft. Collins, Colorado the other day.

This involved driving across the entire state of Kansas, east to west, and then half the state of Colorado.

It is a trip of roughly nine hours.

For the most part, it was a pleasant and uneventful drive… even considering the utter lack of visual stimulation for almost the entire trek. That’s the part when the great conversations can happen.

But then we hit the last fifty miles… the part where you turn off of Interstate 70 and head north toward Ft. Collins on Interstate 25. That part was sheer, white-knuckled terror; Cars zipping in and out of our lane, nearly clipping our bumper in so doing… large dump trucks and semi-trailers hemming us in on every side with no room to breathe or escape… tank-sized SUVs driven by people casually chatting or texting on cell phones at 80 mph.

It’s just not fair,” I complained to my sympathetic seat-mate. “The worst part of this trip should NOT take place when our energy and wits are at their lowest ebb.”

And then I happened to remember the same phenomenon happening on our drive to my son and daughter-in-law’s house just outside of Houston. Eleven-and-a-half hours of dull monotony followed by an hour of a terrifying two-ton carnival roller coaster ride.

How does that make any sense at all? Why couldn’t we arrange things so that we just coast placidly in to our final destination?

But then I thought of the sports world and immediately saw the parallels. The last quarter of a football or basketball game is often the most brutal and strenuous. The ninth inning of a baseball game taxes body and soul beyond measure. The 100-yard dash and the marathon are often both won or lost in the final seconds.

And so I am prompted to ponder: will my life follow that same pattern? Am I going to be put to the ultimate test at the point when my resources are the most depleted?

I sure hope not.

But then again, what if that is the way life is designed to work, too? What if the biggest challenge is supposed to come at the end?

What if we are asked to give the most when we feel like we have the least?

I’ll be the first to admit; it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of rational sense, does it?

But what if this quirky arrangement is just God’s way of putting a gigantic exclamation point at the end of the wisdom found in Proverbs 3:5-6? If you will allow me a little literary license here, what if God REALLY wants us to figure out a way to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight (resources/energy). In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

I seem to regularly need to re-learn the lesson that when I am at a place where my own native wit, strength, and cunning have run dry, I am then in the PERFECT place to take the steering wheel out of Russell’s hands and put it back again where it really belongs: in God’s.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get it figured out before this whole amazing adventure comes to an end.

Until then, God, next time would you mind terribly taking the wheel for the stretch between Denver and Ft. Collins?

25
Jun
19

Uprooted

Roots-of-an-uprooted-tree-after-a-stormThere is a controversy raging right now that is sending arcs of electricity dancing through the air between Kansas City and Washington, D.C.

If you do not live in either one of these cities, you are probably blissfully unaware of this epic feud.

The fun all began on June 13 this year when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to the Kansas City Region.

It is a move that will potentially involve nearly 550 USDA staff members.

Folks in Kansas City were tremendously excited to hear this news. After all, it means a boost for the local economy, added prestige, and many potential new converts to The Magic of The KC Experience.

The USDA folks potentially affected by the move are… well, let’s say somewhat less than excited. At the joint staff meeting where the move was announced, many USDAers in attendance stood up and turned their backs on Secretary Perdue as he spoke.

They said the move would disrupt their social connections. They said it would upset their children’s educational progress. They say they are not willing to watch a major league baseball team that consistently fails to play at or above the .500 mark.

(OK… I just made that last one up. But they WILL say that once they think about it.) 

Kansas City people feel miffed by the Washingtonians’ response.“What do you mean you don’t want to move here?” we ask. “We LOVE this city! And you will, too, once you taste our BBQ!”

Their (our) feelings are hurt. We see it as a negative judgment on our hometown by some snooty, high-falootin’ East Coasters. Heck, we say, they probably wonder if indoor plumbing even exists out here on the Great Plains.

Having experienced a forcible, cross-country relocation myself – in the summer between my junior and senior years of high school – I know nothing could be further from the truth.

So chill out, KC. It’s not about US at all.

What it IS about is the emotional and physical trauma that is an inescapable part of making this kind of move. People have to deal with the severing of every connection that defines them… whether social, religious, family, cultural, or community. They have to deal with the challenge of rebuilding all of those vital relationships, let alone figuring out which neighborhood to live in, where to shop, where to dine, and where to find a good bagel.

But as hard as the move is on the adult members of the family, it is probably even harder on the children.

It feels like an UPROOTING. And who would ever voluntarily subject themselves to THAT?

50 years ago this month I did exactly that. Mind you, not without great howls of protest and the conviction that life – as I knew it – was about to end. However, unlike the USDA staffers, I was utterly powerless to resist the pending upheaval.

But somewhere along the way, the funniest thing happened.

I don’t know what caused it, but at some point in the middle of my wailing and protesting, a switch inside me flipped. I came to the realization that I had the power to decide what kind of experience this was going to be.

I could decide that this was going to be a horrible, traumatic, worst-thing-ever experience.

Or I could decide this would be the opening of a new chapter of adventure and challenge in my life… a moment to be faced and seized and maybe even RELISHED.

And then after that realization dawned, the choice was easy. I opted for Door #2 and the rest – as they say – is history. And as a symbol of my new adventure, I decided I would take on a new identity. I decided that this would now be the time for my childhood name “Rusty” to go away, and my new, quasi-adult name “Russell” to emerge.

Of course, Sonny Perdue is not God. But just like Sonny Perdue, sometimes God calls us to be obedient to upheavals and uprootings from our comfortable circumstances.

Just ask Abram. Or Joseph. Or Moses. Or Mary. Or Joseph. Or Paul.

And I am sure most of the time there are a hundred good reasons we could offer as to why this uprooting is a really bad idea… about how much pain and discomfort this will cause us and our families… about how inferior a place Canaan is to Haran… and how we really would prefer to stay right where we are.

Or we can just decide to believe God is using this uprooting as a way to enlist us at the beginning of a new adventure of faith and obedience.

 

So… which will it be?

18
Jul
17

Predictable Abundance

Vitamin pillsI take vitamins.

Every morning.

Plus a daily allergy medication.

I also have a very specific WAY I take my vitamins… grouping the pills by size and shape and being sure to take them between the morning showering and shaving functions. (Yes, siblings, it’s true… I am more and more becoming our father.)

So sure… go ahead and snicker at the idea of anyone being so persnickety and anal-retentive about something as trivial as VITAMINS, for crying out loud.

But as you’re sitting there laughing at my silly vitamin quirks, are you sure you don’t have a few eccentricities of your own I might get a kick out of hearing about?

The truth is, we ALL have stuff like this; whether you call it patterns, or habits, or quirks, or routines. These things serve as little anchors that give us some modest illusion of control of our lives.

The popular narrative is to accuse older folks of cornering the market on rigidity and routine. But my experience has often been just the opposite: after a certain age, people often learn the difference between the things worth hanging on to and those that aren’t. I’ve found that younger people are often much more rigid than their grandparents.

The real fun begins when any of these “anchors” are challenged by someone asking, “Why do you do it THAT way? Why not try THIS way instead?”

Suddenly our backs are up… our claws come out… we are more than willing to mount a vigorous defense of something that might not actually be worth defending.

We are seldom willing to acknowledge the reality that the person who challenges us and our patterns might actually be doing us a favor.

Routines can indeed make life manageable and sane. But they can also make it dull… predictable… lifeless… lackluster. And have you noticed… the people who make a practice of shaking things up… asking questions… challenging the status quo are usually the people with the greatest zeal for living; even if they regularly get under the skins of those of us who want to tell them to take their questions GET LOST!

When you dig into his story, you find that Jesus was a shaker-upper. Par excellence! Nothing was immune from his searching, challenging eye. No practice, no belief, no understanding, no routine, or habit was safe in his presence.

I’m sure that is why some people found his ministry liberating and life-giving while others found him to be a supreme pain in the tukhus.

I often wonder how many people – when they heard him say, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10) – muttered quietly to themselves, “But Jesus I don’t WANT life abundantly! I want life SAFELY and PREDICTABLY!”

It’s true: when we are willing to look at one of those “anchors” in our life – whether it is a habit, a belief, or even a trivial daily routine – and examine it with fresh, questioning eyes, we are taking a chance.

We are taking the chance that life might become less stable.

But we are also taking the chance that it might become a whole lot ABUNDANTER.

It is a choice we face every day… no matter our age or station in life; will I go for predictable today, or abundant?

Wow… when you put it that way, I might even dare to start taking my vitamins ONE AT A TIME!

 

Abundant blessings to you today;




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