Private Woman, Public Walk

Gentle Reader,

The tree just outside my window transformed seemingly overnight. Sad gray branches suddenly full of green leaves and delicate pink blossoms. Winter has finally passed. Spring, with all it’s bluster and showiness, is here to stay.

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze…

I’ve sung these words more times than I know, and yet, somehow, they remain fresh to me in ways that other words do not. Something in the poetry captures my mind. Perhaps this is because I am inclined to solitude. I don’t mind listening as the wind rustles the new leaves. I like stopping to listen to birdsong. If there’s an opportunity to watch the sun set in real time, I’ll take it. There is such complexity and wonder in nature, such a mark of God’s presence. Others can have the noise of cities and constant movement. I will sit and observe as the clouds change shape.

And yet…

My walk is a public one. My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.

– William Wilberforce

God really does choose the foolish and powerless things of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27) through which to pour His light.

…the logic of the Gospel defies human wisdom and conventional expectations.

Asbury Bible Commentary

I don’t know what God is doing right now, what exactly He is calling me to. I do know that I am most wholly myself when engaged in ministry, whether that be through writing, teaching or preaching. Oh, yes. This shy and often tongue-tied woman has been behind the pulpit (well, music stand) before. It’s exhausting, but I like it. I like it a whole lot.

What I like even more?

Serving.

I want to be of good use in this world. I want to be helpful. I want others to see the hope and love of God when they’re in my presence. Perfect, that’s not a word to describe me, ever, and a state for which I no longer seek to strive. But consistent, constant? Those I like.

What I like even more?

Humble.

The greatest saints I know do the dirtiest jobs, and they often go without recognition. Yet their faces shine with a light that must be akin to that of Moses after he spent time with God (Exodus 34:29-35). They are full of joy, because they serve the King, who sees all. Perfect, they are not either, but definitely consistent and constant. Their wisdom impresses me. Their soft hearts convict my own that is so often hard and impatient. Their complete willingness to do as God leads stirs up a longing inside me.

A longing to be that immediately obedient.

I stood at the front of the sanctuary on Maundy Thursday, loaf of bread in my trembling hands. Thank goodness the pastor thought to wrap the base in a napkin, otherwise my clammy palms would have soaked the crust.

“The Body of Christ, broken for you,” I whispered, seeking to look every person in the eye, even as my vision blurred with tears. Blue eyes, brown eyes. Young eyes, old eyes. Eyes full of life, eyes full of pain.

Hands tore as much off of the loaf as they wanted. Smooth hands, wrinkled hands. Hands of office workers, hands accustomed to manual labor. Chipped nails, glossy nails.

Feet, in sneakers, in heels, in sandals, shuffled over to the cup. “The blood of Christ, spilled for you,” the pastor whispered. Her face, it was shining, a tender smile extended to all.

At once the fear left me and I focused simply on the holy moment. People of disparate backgrounds and experiences drawn together by the sacrament. The remembrance of Christ. The beginning of three days’ somber contemplation before the celebration. The noise of chairs, coughing, the clang of rings against the cup no longer registered in my ears. All I could hear, see, or feel was Christ and His love.

What an incredible privilege!

How wondrous it is, to be part of something logic-defying. How strange, to walk against convention. How utterly impossible, if not for Jesus.

So I will continue, one step at a time. I do not know where this bend in the road will end up, but my business is in the world. My task is among the people. And I think that, because He is a very good God and He knows that I need time and quiet, that there will be space for walking in the woods. There will be moments to feel the breeze. Somehow, solitude and service will join together in the beautiful and mysterious way that bears His mark.

I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

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Worthwhile: Creating a Life of Purpose & Joy in Infertility

Gentle Reader,

“Are you really a woman if you can’t have a baby?”

I’ve been asked this question, in one form or another, many times. It’s on the rude end of the spectrum, and I admit to responding with equal rudeness on occasion. But mostly, I get it. The general assumption, especially within the Christian community, is that woman equals one who gives birth. This is God’s design.

“You must have sinned in a major way. God must be mad at you.”

The bolder sort move from the question to these assertions, which never fails to leave me wondering what Bible people are reading. The God I know is the essence of grace, love and truth. He is not vindictive. He doesn’t engage in tit-for-tat. Can you imagine if He did? We’d all be lost.

This, my friend, is why we must know our theology well…

To read the rest, head on over to Rachel Marie Lee’s site. While you’re there, stay awhile. You’ll find encouragement and hope in her words. Grateful to Rachel for sharing her space with me!

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Who is a Hero?

Gentle Reader,

Continuing from here.

Webster tells is that a hero is “an illustrious warrior; a person admired for achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage.” Much broader than our usual understanding. In our minds, heroic acts generally occur in the physical realm. Often we think of police officers, members of the military, or people who do something out of the ordinary, like rush into traffic to push someone out of the way of a speeding car.

This seems to be what the author of the article I referenced in the previous post focuses on, to the exclusion of all else:

The ideology that sends Brie Larson soaring fictionally around outer space has sent our real daughters, mothers, and sisters — devoid of such superpowers — to war to serve and die in place of men. Real wars, the kind where “horribly smashed men still [move] like half-crushed beetles” (Surprised by Joy, 240). Real wars, the kind C.S. Lewis elsewhere describes as the amalgamation of every temporal evil.

Unquestionably, men ought support women’s desires to be affirmed, respected, and honored. But indeed, few actions display our resolve to honor our women more than excluding them from the carnage of the battlefield. Where can we more clearly display our ultimate resolve to love our women as queens than to step into hell on earth as sacrificial pawns in their defense? Generation after generation has mobilized its men to be devoured — that its women might not be.

Yeah…that’s a weird turn to take when discussing a movie about a superhero. Obviously Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Scarlet Witch, Supergirl, Black Widow and all the rest are going to go to war – because that’s what their characters do. They are, to belabor the point, superheros. This is how they’re written. (As an aside, written largely by men). To say that these movies make a case for anyone going to war, not especially or specifically women, is a major stretch. It’s escapism. It’s fantasy.

The author, not the MCU, oddly glamorizes war here. Lewis wrote about the horror of war. About its great evil. The author quotes him, but then turns the idea on its head, making it sound as if men marching off to battle is always, without question, the honorable and noble and right thing to do, never mind what history, particularly recent history, teaches us. Because that, exclusively, is heroic.

Even when we say, “You can’t go into the lion’s den for us”; “You won’t risk a brutal death to protect us”; “You shouldn’t expose yourself to the bullets bearing our name” — even then, the deprivation still causes offense. But our God, our nature, our love must firmly say, You are too precious, my mother, my daughter, my beloved. It is my glory to die that you may live.

Who, exactly, is the enemy here? Because if one is a Christian, then surely one must keep Ephesians 6:10-17 in mind? But, to insert a little levity, what do I, the woman who believes the message of the Gospel and the life of peace go hand-in-hand, really know about anything?

You best believe that I would go into the lion’s den for the men in my life – because that’s what love does. I would go into that same den for the women in my life – because that’s what love does. I will not carry a gun, nor will I throw a punch, but long ago I resolved that, if it comes down to it, I will put myself in harm’s way in order to protect someone else. Frankly, I don’t see Scripture giving me any other option.

We’re supposed to do these things for each other.

I know that, in this section, the author is writing primarily about wars between nations and the controversy over whether or not women should be subject to the draft. Here, he and I agree, but not in the way he wants me to. The draft is, to use a technical term, deeply uncool. Nobody should have to register for it. Nobody should enter the armed forces without having the freedom to make that decision for him- or herself. Nobody should put on a uniform without thinking through the consequences, potentially good and bad, of doing so. And, please, nobody should be allowed to make such a huge decision before their brains are fully developed, which doesn’t happen until around age twenty-five.

(For probably the millionth time in my life, I pause and say: I do not question the faith or integrity of my fellow Christians who choose to serve on the police force or in the military. Yes, I am a convinced and convicted pacifist, largely because the Holy Spirit is always talking to me about my own very bad temper and the need to control it; because of this I cannot help but see the root of evil in all violence. No, I don’t understand how someone comes to a different conclusion than I have, but I recognize that there is space within orthodoxy for this disagreement. It need not keep us from firm fellowship. Moving on).

We must learn to think differently. We must move beyond the view of heroism as strictly belonging to a physical battlefield or space.

One example of great courage: My cousin, diagnosed with cancer at a stupidly young age. She faced the awfulness of chemotherapy and the derailing of her college plans with faith, grace and humor. Of course she had bad days. Of course she struggled. But through it all, she was determined to fight. Determined to win. She is a hero. Quiet. Unheralded. A hero nonetheless.

Another: My father, who has worked hard every day for years at a job that isn’t lauded or recognized. He’s not a CEO. He’s never made a lot of money. But he put in long hours and did without some days in order to see to it that his family was fed, clothed and sheltered. He’s far too modest to claim the title “hero” for himself, but that’s how I see him. He showed his love for me by making sure I got both the best medical care (we joke that I own him hundreds of thousands of dollars) and education possible.

Another: My mother, who endures chronic, excruciating migraines, yet had a successful career on the administrative side of medicine for many years. Who, when my brother and I were little, knew how to make a little seem like a lot. Who does a lot of behind-the-scenes things that she’s rarely thanked for (I’m sorry, Mom). Who leaves a bowl of leftover spaghetti in my refrigerator because she knows that my most favorite meal in the whole world.

There are heroes all around us. People who choose, each day, to do the right thing, even when the right thing is the incredibly difficult thing. Or maybe just the boring thing. Either way, not always the fun thing.

The beauty is, even though usually fail to notice the heroism in the mundane, God notices. The, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” that we all long to hear does not belong only to those who do the great deeds or have the big following. Those words will be said to all who daily, momently, take up their cross and follow the King.

And that – that’s the real war. The one that truly matters. The one that rages in the mind and soul. The one that is unrelenting.

Thankfully, there is grace for this.

A grace that flows from the heart of the True Hero.

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P.S. – If you would like to know what pacifism looks like in practical action (because it’s not passive, not in any way), please watch the movie Hacksaw Ridge. The story of Desmond Doss is one that has impacted me greatly.

By the Grace of God, Never Again

Gentle Reader,

Oh yes, You shaped me first inside, then out;
    You formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    You know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, You watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before You,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.


– Psalm 139:13-16, Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 1:10c (MSG, Phillips, CSB)

James tells us that not many should become teachers, for teachers will be held to a higher standard. Today I wonder if that doesn’t begin here and now, with the heaviness of the Spirit’s kind conviction, when you realize that there’s a part of you that still doesn’t believe. That still doubts.

I love to teach. I can’t help but teach. Maybe that’s why I feel such soaring joy when I’m around the teenagers; they have the most bizarre questions about the Bible and I love that. I love watching them begin to learn how to grapple with the text themselves. I love passing along the hermenutical skills I learned in college because that degree was dang expensive and needs to be put to use somehow. I love their steps of faith, large and small. I love encouraging them to live boldly, to be courageous in God and who He made them to be.

Ah, teacher. Teach yourself.

Born once, on a hot summer afternoon. A body that’s never quite worked properly. Living out John 9:3 long before I understood what that meant. Born again, on another afternoon when the sun burned so brightly through the bedroom window that my crayons melted a little. Right away in love with Jesus, content to sit on the swings at recess and talk to Him.

Flesh and spirit have wandered there and back again in the intervening years.

I read the words of the Psalmist and the Apostle and my heart twists. I know that it is the Holy Hand touching the tender place. I want to run, as I often do, but this time…this time I stay. I sit with the pain. Yes, Lord. I haven’t believed. I have declared Your goodness to others but have wondered if You are good to me. I have despised myself. Not the sin that You call me to hate, but the person, the woman You made. Father, forgive me. Help my unbelief.

Wretched companions, doubt and loathing. When we hold their hands, we are unable to grasp the scarred hand of our Savior. This doesn’t mean He’s left us – praise Him for His faithful patience! – but it does mean that we can’t move forward. Can’t live as He wants us to. Can’t keep our heads up and our eyes focused on what matters.

And me, I have to do that. I have to fix my gaze on Him.

Because teaching, the thing that He has called and gifted me to do, is not a fast-track to popularity. Or at least it’s not when the message that burns inside your chest isn’t one that people want to hear.

By the grace of God, never again. No more do I wish to walk around afraid of other people. It is impossible for me to serve the Lord wholeheartedly when I’m bound up in that. No more do I wish to apologize when no apology is needed. Just as there is room for you, dear reader, there is room for me. And no more will I reach for the “delete” button, consumed by terror and moved to compromise where no compromise should exist.

No more do I wish to be anyone other than who God made me to be.

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