Friday, May 31, 2013

What timing is this?!

"If you're going to blog about going to Indonesia, be sure to write about the bad things as well as the good," my mother-in-law said to me yesterday. "That's real life."

I woke up this morning a bit dumbfounded by God's timing, so I'll write about that. I am puzzled why God would choose this time of life for W and me to become church planters and mission teachers.

I don't mind getting older. A strange facet of American culture is the resistance of 40-60-year olds to admit that we're aging. "You're not old!" my friends protest (in self-defense?) when I self-identify as "an old lady," compared to younger women.

Hello? Compared to 20- and 30-somethings like our kids, I AM old. It takes me a long time to learn what I could breeze through and remember years ago. How am I going to learn a new language and fit into a 180o different culture? When I look in the mirror, there's no denying that the years are stamping themselves on my face and body.

Oh well. Here we are. Mid-50s. Going into missions. I'm reminded of a couple of recent encounters:

1) A pastor asked us, "Why are you going at this time of life? Will our investment ($) be worth it? Should we be investing in young people instead?"

I ran that past Dr. Wayde Goodall, the NU School of Ministry dean and my husband's trusted adviser.

"What people here don't understand," he told me, "is that age and grey hair are valued where you are going. Precisely because you are older, well-educated, and mature in the faith, you have advantages young people don't yet have.

"What about bishops, apostles, and elders in scripture? They were entrusted with building the church in the New Testament. Remember that if someone asks you about 'being old.'" (Thanks, Dr. Wayde, for scriptural insights to balance our cultural assumptions!)

2) Pastor Kim Martinez talks about God's intentionality when we're feeling stalled by circumstances or ability. (Listen here for her talk.) She notes that Joseph was an arrogant spoiled young man, sure of his dreams and his ability to lead. But God took him through difficulties and detours. Joseph wasn't ready for the top post until he was ready in God's timing. Then, Joseph's readiness coincided with Egypt's need for a wise administrator.

We weren't supposed to go until this time in our lives. This is what God has designed. What in our characters and personalities needed to be knocked off - or added?

The confidence of our youth, the easy "we-can-do-anything!" and "let's go for it!" attitudes are past. I actually can't imagine waking without the comforts of our home, the quiet forest behind the house, and the safe haven of family and friends who know and trust us. I feel afraid when I wake some mornings, that we're not enough and "nothing will happen" when we get there.

That's when God says, "Remember, nothing was EVER about you or W. It's always been about Me. If you remember that and live that way, I WILL do what I planned - through the two of you and those who will teach you and work with you."

 3) I'm wondering if I can learn Bahasa Indonesia. At least it's not as hard as Mandarin, which I expected to study as a young woman. (W proposed to me, asking, "Will you go to Red China with me?")

When we visited Beijing in 2011, I was grief-stricken, sitting in a Chinese church service. I knew I could never learn Mandarin and that region of missions was closed to us.

We are going where the language is one of the simplest to acquire (according to linguists). I'm gradually listening to more and more Bahasa, trying to hear patterns and pronunciation. I'm hoping I can learn it, bit by bit. I'll always have a funny accent and I may not know all the words.

Language encapsulates its culture's gifts of thinking and knowing. Our parents were immigrants who spoke German. (W's folks knew Polish and Russian, too.) Our childhood churches used another language. We taught our children German so they would have alternate ways of knowing the world. Sometimes when we pray or read scripture, we slip back into German because there are words that express God's truths differently than English does.

Limited though our ability may be, both W and I intend to do our best to understand our new friends from the inside out. That means language learning.

4) I'm tired. Just thinking about down-sizing and moving wears me out. We don't have the energy of 30-somethings or even 40-somethings. God reminds me that maybe Job wasn't initially that thrilled about starting anew. Maybe he wasn't THAT excited about having 10 more kids, after being sick and losing it all. Yet God blessed him with a new family, great riches, and wisdom that moderns still learn from.

Thank God for our good health and plenty of vigor. We may take longer to think through what we're doing now. But that might be a good thing in days ahead.

God only knows. It's his timing, after all!

Read more:
*For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4 NLT

*This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV

*God consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

Moravian Prayer: You are our refuge and strength, O God, our ever-present help in trouble. Embolden us to share the good news of your steadfast love. Make us instruments your consolation, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A grammar grandma

It takes me longer to synthesize information and write stuff now. I used to whip out assignments, but now I want to think about what they mean. Silly me!

This week we're relearning English grammar in our TESOL class. Today we went through clauses, phrases, kinds of verbs (12!), adverbials, and more.

If I zone out for an instant, I feel like I've lost track of where we are. My head was spinning: it reminded me of algebra where everything makes sense until you open the book at home. Then it's blah blah blah - and "didn't this make sense 5 hours ago?"

I've just wrapped up an assignment ... and found there is nowhere to post it. Maybe it was deleted from our requirements and I blinked at that time ... and didn't hear we didn't have to do it. Oh well, it's late and time for bed. I learned something from reading it and writing my paper, so that's a bonus.

This is all part of what I'm learning in prep for Indonesia. I don't know how God will use this information. At the very least, it's reminding me of how complicated English is.

It should be helpful for the Research Methodology class I teach this summer in Singapore.  That classroom is usually filled with students whose second or third language is English... and I have to teach them to write a coherent paper in 2 weeks. Good luck to us all!

What have you had to learn that doesn't seem to have a purpose? Found out anything lately that seemed so random or out-of-the-ordinary that you just shook your head?

We might not know why God brings things to our attention. But "paying attention" is important, day after day. We read scripture, pray for guidance, and then do what is at hand. Grammar wasn't high on my list, but here we are. What's on your list today?

Read more: 
*But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Psalm 19:12 NLT

*Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary. Isaiah 40:30-31 NLT

*When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy. Titus 3:4-5 NLT

*It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Father God, we praise you as our Creator. Lord Jesus, we thank you for your sacrificial death. Holy Spirit, we are grateful for your constant advocacy. Triune God, fill us with your love and power that we may worship in wonder, work without growing weary, and wait patiently to know your will.

Almighty God, you know us completely. We all sin and fall short of your glory, but Christ’s death saves us from the punishment we deserve. Keep us strong and sure in a world of sin and strife. We ask this trusting in your divine mercy. Amen.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What good friends do

 Sitting in Maltby Cafe this morning with my friends, I realize that good friends:
  1. Share their hearts, in good times and bad.
  2. Listen to each other, taking in non-verbal communication as well as what is said.
  3. Love each other, regardless of how sweet or mean their friend feels.
  4. Pay attention to each other, noticing what's important to the friend today.
  5. Hold each other accountable for good actions and attitudes. Stinkin' thinkin' gets rooted out by good friends.
  6. Pray for each other regularly, knowing that God is at work in their friend.
I'm so grateful for my friends.

Do you have people who walk through life with you in these ways?

Read more:
*Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. Isaiah 51:4 NLT

*Paul said, “I stand here, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” Acts 26:22-23 NLT

*I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:20-21 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Lord Jesus, as poor sinners, we love darkness rather than the light. Help us to walk in your light and to witness to its power. You commissioned us to tell all people the good news of God’s love. Give us strength to fulfill that charge! Amen.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bach at Leipzig

This might be the best play we've seen at Taproot Theatre! It engages the mind and tickles the funny bone. Attendees were buzzing with their favorites one-liners, chuckling as we left the show.

"The more you know, the more you are rewarded," exclaimed my husband as we walked to the car.

Honestly, it didn't sound very exciting from the description and I wasn't sure we'd enjoy it. Were we happily surprised! The 2 1/2 hour play, Bach at Leipzig by Itamar Moses, was a romp through the pretensions of ambition and twists of personality. From accidental drug overdoses to backstabbings to romantic alliances, the playwright had us doubled over.

The story line? A bunch of organists are vying for the prestigious job of playing at church and leading the music school in Leibzig, Germany. It's 1722, the main organist has just died, and six musicians descend to grab for the power and prestige that they hope comes from the post.
  • the habitual pickpocket and forger
  • the legalist who wants to stick to tradition
  • the innovator who wants change
  • the playboy who collects and discards his mistresses
  • the bumbling diplomat
  • the "always-second-in-line" wanna-be

If you've ever been in hot competition for a job or watched others form and undo alliances to get promoted, you'll recognize the funny business satirized in this play. Mind you, a beautiful description of a fugue and lots of other historical snippets are crammed between the hijinks.

We laughed through the shenanigans of political alliances, musical references, religious infighting, and cultural insights. Running gags sped along like a Bach invention, including spoofs on names, satires on stereotypes, and cleverly repeated motivs. (Each musician exclaims, "If only         , I could be the greatest organist ever." Sure. Sure.)

The costumes are wonderful, the lighting and narration superb - this play kept a steady pace; we were leaning forward in our seats to see what on earth the next twists and turns could be. Just when we thought we'd figured it out, off they went again!

The body acting is hilarious: we howled through the sword-fighting scene. You won't know what to expect next! The surprises keep coming.

I especially recommend it to:
  • those who love satire or sarcasm (the humor never stops) 
  • the ambitious (it will teach you to leave your pretensions behind)
  • the academic or historian (the historical fiction is mind-boggling)
  • the musician or music student (you'll recognize most of the musical references and maybe learn some new ones). This is one a music teacher could happily recommend to students!
  • the playwright or storyteller (for the clever language and compelling tale)
  • those who just want a fun night out, this will do it.
The play runs through June 15. Don't miss it! Click here for tickets.

Tickets provided the reviewer by Taproot. All photos by Erik Stuhaug.

Who is your Barbara?

Dr. Barbara Cavaness (R) and another of my
mentors: Dr. Deborah Gill, signing their
joint book, God’s Women: Then and Now
(Grace and Truth, 2009)

I just hung up the phone with one of my main mission mentors. When I went back to school last time, one name kept popping up from different sources, both male and female. Barbara Cavaness-Parks had written a defining dissertation on the attrition of single female missionaries in the Assemblies of God. (She'd studied why there were fewer women in AG missions in the 1990s than in early years.)

When I was in Springfield, I'd try to connect with Barbara. We'd have lunch and she'd ask, "What can I help you with?" I didn't know. I wanted to hear about her career in missions, what she knew about life overseas, her research, and fill in gaps in what I was learning and writing. When we'd shake hands or hug at the end, she'd say, "Well, I don't know that anything I've told you has been useful."

I'd drive away thinking, "Aha, after talking to Barbara, I know this and this. Also, I didn't know anything about that."

Barbara pulled me away from things that were already explored to researching what still was waiting to be written. She loaned me her file drawers of research (which I somehow messed up in the process. Sorry, dear friend!)

Plus, she was just plain interesting! I liked her. I felt honored that she took time for me.

This morning Barbara called me after reading about our plans to move to Indonesia. Who knew!? Once again she is my trailblazer and mentor, pulling W and me toward the plans God has for us:
  • She did language school in Bandung and worked in Indonesia for two terms as a single missionary. We think we're headed for Bandung.
  • When she married, she was designated the primary missionary spouse in AGWM records, as I will be.
  • She learned Bahasa Indonesia and gave me tips on how the language is structured.
  • She advised me on teaching the Research Methodology course I'm teaching in Singapore this summer...
From Real Simple
And on and on it goes. You can't make up that kind of relationship, which delves into the broad picture and specific details of God at work. Only God can bring it together.

Thank you, Barbara, for your willingness to invest in me as part of God's kingdom. I am grateful - and always surprised - at God's intentionality and goodness in bringing us together.

Who is your "Barbara?" Who do you meet here and there, who is God's voice and God's hands when you're in the thralls of change? Please share him or her with our readers!

Read more:
*Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NIV

*The Lord filled Zion with justice and righteousness; he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. Isaiah 33:5-6 NLT

*From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, we live in a time of great instability. We do not understand why people around the world must struggle with poverty, illness, famine, violence, and hatred. Trusting in your abundant and gracious wisdom, show us what we can do to right the world’s wrongs. Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

What next? The big reveal

Where in the world is Indonesia?
The last six weeks have been crazy. But now I can tell you why! Here's what God has in store for us.

My dear friend (Martha Ming) passed along an opportunity over lunch in late March, and then her husband Mel shared it with W a few days later. My heart almost stopped when W paused and said, "You know, that may be a good fit for us." [He's never considered anything but NU teaching in decades.]

We're leaving Seattle to become Missionary Associates to Indonesia (initially for 2 years, but we plan a permanent move). Starting date is Summer 2014. We have a year of fundraising and preparation while W finishes out his teaching contract at Northwest U (2013-14). Then we're on our way.

In brief: last fall, I heard the hint: "Get the TESOL certificate." I was thinking of the multicultural world of Seattle. However, I was so burned out after finishing the PhD that I just said, "Nope. No more paper. I'm done!Done!DONE!"

This spring I felt a renewed urgency to do TESOL [teaching English to speakers of other languages]. I asked W if NU had summer classes. They did. 4 weeks in a row. I signed up. After which this invitation arrived ...

Many of you have asked me -- some of you more than once :-) -- "Why are you getting a doctorate? Why a missions-focus? What kind of a job do you get with this?" OR more recently, "Now that you're done, what are you going to do with your degree?"

I had no idea. I only knew I was supposed to go to school, that the program was the right one, and that the outcome was God's business!

And here we are. In two weeks my TESOL courses are done. We'll attend Pre-Field Orientation in Missouri, then teach a month in Singapore, and come back for W's final year (his 28th!) at Northwest U. NU is so much a part of our DNA that it's weird to think of not being part of the campus. (Our kids are alums, as are we)

Our president (Joseph Castleberry) and W's colleagues are excited for us. We'll stay connected to NU and anticipate that its students and alums will join us to do God's work in Indonesia in coming years.

Please feel free to ask us any questions, and please support us financially and pray for us!


Read more:
Today the NU provost sent the following announcement:
Dear Friends,

I want to make you aware that Waldemar and Rosemarie Kowalski have accepted an assignment as Missionary Associates to Indonesia with Assemblies of God World Missions. This assignment is scheduled to begin after the end of the 2013-14 academic year. So after 28 years, this next will be Waldemar’s last as a full-time faculty member. 

Talk about mixed emotions! Waldemar has been an incredible force for good at NU. As the only instructor of our daytime Christian Thought course, Waldemar is the only faculty member from whom almost every traditional undergraduate takes a class. He has had a huge role in defining the NU experience for many generations of students. Similarly, Rosemarie has been involved at NU in a variety of ways over their time here, and recently completed a PhD in Intercultural Studies. We will miss them at NU.

On the other hand, we are pleased for Waldemar and Rosemarie—with their children (all NU alums) out of the house, it is exciting to take on a completely new challenge for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Their plan is to partner with NU alumnus Dave Kenney in planting an International English Service in Bandung, near Jakarta. Waldemar will continue to teach in various university and church settings, including as teaching pastor in the church plant.

They will attend Pre-Field Orientation in Springfield Missouri this June and then begin the process of raising their support. We will all have a chance to learn more details about their plans, but importantly, they hope to stay connected to NU by teaching online courses and by providing a place for NU students to have short-term mission experiences. 

We look forward to honoring Waldemar and Rosemarie over the coming year, both for their service to NU and for their example of being open to God’s direction.

Jim [Heugel]

*Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness. Psalm 115:1*Jesus said, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name.” Luke 11:2Moravian Prayer: O High and Holy One, we owe you love, adoration, and worship for your steadfast love and faithfulness. With Jesus’ help we will honor your name in every act, thought, and deed. Amen.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Do you love learning?

#1. The eager learner
We're in the second of four weeks of TESOL classes. My ears ring from morning to night with information and music. We have Pandora radio on during working breaks. I can focus on the exercises during those breaks ... with headphones blocking the music. Yeah, I'm one of those who has to focus if I care to remember something.

My mind roves between reading, hearing the information, and distractions. Any sound, sight, smell, taste, texture can derail my attention. A conversation or song lyric will weave itself into my notes and later I'll think, "What's this!? Where did that come from?"

I've learned to go with what's in my head. By now, I know what works for me. When info intake is systematic, I can access data later, creatively pulling together entire new ideas and options. When intake is chaotic or random, I probably can't retrieve the information without checking my notes. Regardless, I love learning.

#5. The resistant learner
What kind of a learner are you? Here are some possibilities:
  1. Eager learner - no matter what comes your way, you want to know more about it. Where and how it fits in is less important than the excitement of learning something new. C'est moi.
  2. Analytical learner - you sort and categorize things as you ingest them.
  3. Reflective learner - you mull over what you're learning and connect the new to what you already know.
  4. Intuitive learner - you instinctively can imagine why, where, and how the material could fit into the big picture. You grasp a good approximation of the material, either for later retrieval or further study.
  5. Resistant learner - you're comfortable and don't want to change your mind (or your life) so you don't want to learn anything new.
Most of us identify with each of the above, depending on the information and our time of life.
  • What is God calling you to learn this week? This month? This year? 
  • What opportunities do you have to absorb new things and change how you think? how you behave? how you serve or work?
  • Are you embracing or resisting learning? Why?
From Real Simple

Read more:
*Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? Job 38:36 NLT

*You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1 NLT

*Jesus said to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Luke 22:32 NLT

*Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Jesus, Savior, hear our prayers. You know our earnest desires, our deepest needs, and our unspoken cares. Keep our hearts and minds fixed on you so our faith remains strong. Amen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Was meint das? (What does that mean?)

I'm back in school. This time, I'm working toward a TESOL certification, learning to teach English to speakers of other languages. We're whistling through four semesters in the next four weeks of summer school.

My kids raved about Prof Suzan Kobashigawa, who teaches in the university's Arts and Humanities department. She taught Japanese to our daughter and other course to our sons. Our children enjoyed her interactive, hands-on style that stretched beyond the classroom into fun activities in the community. They tasted international food, watched international movies, and learned about culture. I'm doing the same - and what joy it is to have a good teacher.

Language reflects the values and thought processes of its people group. For example, I didn't realize how regimented German was until I taught it to our children. I drew alphabet cards with animals to match the phonics and wrote a song for each. Then I found out that "a" (ah) sounded the same in nearly every combination: if you learned the "note" each letter made, you could combine the notes  to make words, much like singing a tune. Our kids easily picked up German reading and transferred it to English, which was much more flexible and complicated.

We don't always know the meaning for what we're called to do. Sometimes we move ahead and just do what's in front of us because we know we should. The reason why I'd spent five years on a doctorate became apparent this spring. And this class? I've already learned new several ways to teach, which I'll apply to a class in Singapore this summer.

I'm grateful. Every piece God puts together feeds into the work we are assigned. Sitting in Suzan's classroom reminds me how gifted teachers provide opportunities for students. Looking around at the students, I can't wait to hear how they change the world.

Read more:
*“In this place I will give peace,” says the Lord of hosts. Haggai 2:9 (NKJV)

*Through Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:2 NLT

*And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 5-6 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Our lives, our nation, and our world are racked with sin and unrighteousness. We long for peace, Father God. Help us to turn away from evil. We pray that the peace that passes all understanding may fill our minds and hearts and keep us safe in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Great expectations

From Real Simple Daily Thought
Wouldn't it be nice to have the ideal job?
  • You wake without an alarm and bounce out of bed in anticipation.
  • The family cooperates to make the morning easy and the commute is light.
  • When you check in, the boss (or coworkers) greet you with a smile and wish you a great day.
  • You work hard at your calling but it feels like play. The day flies by. Before you know it, it's time to go wrap up.
  • You're refreshed and your heart is singing. You don't even notice the homeward commute.
  • Your family is happy to see you - it's been another great day, and you can't wait for tomorrow!
Most of us don't have THAT kind of job all the time. I had a job like that for two years. I couldn't wait to tackle the tasks, to meet my contacts, and to facilitate services for the company and its clients. When the dynamics changed, work became...

well, work. It felt more like "By the sweat of your brow you shall labor," than "You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace."

No matter how ideal the vocation and no matter what our great expectations, parts of what we do will be hard, perhaps even distasteful. They may feel like boring chores.
  • Programmers have to show up at meetings with managers who ramble on about their own agenda. 
  • Faculty members have to serve on committees and grade papers. 
  • Landscapers have to scrape the mud off their shovels and strip off dirty overalls.

It's the part that feeds our soul that makes work fun.
  • Are you a communicator? Maybe the meetings and the group presentations ring all kinds of bells for you. 
  • Are you a gifted teacher? Seeing students grasp new concepts thrills you. 
  • Do you have the gift of hospitality? You forget the mess in the kitchen because people are enjoying the meal. 
  • Are you a caregiver? Easing the burden of others brings you joy.

What makes it all worthwhile is aligning our calling, gifting, education, and experience. What about your work makes you happy you're there?

Read more:
*The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but my people do not understand. Isaiah 1:3 NLT

*Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17 NLT

Moravian Prayer: You made us in your image, God, and appointed us stewards of your creation. Yet we do not acknowledge your greatness or your will for our lives. Teach us humility, that we may know you as our Creator. Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A hopeful day indeed

Six of us sit around a table at Third Place Commons this morning. Our table is a cross-sawn log, an enormous tree felled in its prime. We rest our cups and saucers and sandwich plates on the resin tabletop and discuss relationships, ministry, and future plans.

Our hour together includes sharing our lives and dreams, introductions to new ministries and resources, prayer for each other, and a banana muffin and tea from the Honey Bear Bakery. All it takes is the simple intentionality of meeting in time and place to be able to share direction and celebrate our wins together.

The sun's out on this hopeful day. It's time for a walk to think and pray about Sunday's sermon at Neighborhood Church. I'm grateful for peers in ministry who encourage, coach, and release me to the calling of God.

What do your friends and coworkers contribute to your hopeful days?

Read more:
*You shall meditate on the book of the law day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. Joshua 1:8 NLT

*They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them. You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes.

I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name." Psalm 44:3–8 NLT

*Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 NLT

*... That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:9-10 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Happy are those who follow God’s commandments, who obey him with all their heart! Help us, Lord, to live righteous lives. Teach us the Father’s will that we may please him. We ask this in your sacred name. Amen.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Four evaluation steps during transition

I've worked through four levels of evaluation in transition to my next ministry calling.

I started my process at the bottom of the chart by listing simple "pros and cons." Since then, each tier has propelled me forward in defining the new mission:

1. Pros and cons: Start a transition by asking, "What's good or bad about this?" Consider the advantages and disadvantages of staying in place or moving forward. This gives you a Yes/No answer.
  • Think about Caleb and Joshua's courageous decision to conquer the (humanly) unconquerable Promised Land. When others said, "It's too awful. Too terrifying. Too much. Plus we're too weak!" ... these two men boldly said, "If God is with us, we can take the giants, the hill country, and the challenges." (Numbers 13)
2. Possibilities and threats: "What are the risks of engagement, compared to possible achievements?" What could happen? Is God directing this? We ask trusted mentors to stand with us as we consider a big move.
  • Jonathan and his armor bearer demonstrate brave exploration. They were already out of the camp; yet they took a big chance for a potentially huge win. "Let's go for it. I've got your back," says Jonathan's teammate. (1 Samuel 14) This is where we shout out before scaling the cliff, to see if God is in it and others agree.
3. Multiplication and stasis: Our choice is to stay with what we have ... or offer everything to God. We ask, "Is God in charge? Or do we need to retain control?" God blows out our paradigms of what is possible by taking over. We ask: "What could happen that we don't know about? Do we trust God, even if it's going to be a wild ride?" We know we lose everything by holding on to what we have.
  • Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes. What might God do with our willing sacrifice and utter abandonment? Everything is fair game at this point, even a boy's lunch. (Remember, the youngster has lost his meal at this point.) (Matthew 14:19;15:36; Luke 5:6;9:3-17). BTW: God never offers a small consolation prize for disobedience.
4. Resonance and resistance: In refining options, we evaluate our place in the story. What "rings our bells" because it matches our gifts and calling? On the other hand, what produces an instinctive resistance? How can we use the resonance and resistance to define what "moving forward" looks like?
  • Remember "Thy will be done," from the Lord's Prayer. Think of Jesus at key points of defining his mission. His baptism. Enduring his temptations. Moving through ministry to the applause or scorn of people. Here, we constantly ask: "Does this glorify our Father in heaven? Is this what He is calling US to do ... or does this opportunity belong to someone else?" (Matthew 6:9-13)
I don't know Step 5. I'll pass it along, when I find out!

What parts of these steps match or disagree with what you've experienced during transitions?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ready to go! Sort of.

From Real Simple
A few credentialed ministers talked last week about how few women lead churches. "It's not that we're not called," noted one. "Part of it is that we drop out to take care of kids. Part of it is that we keep going to school. We prepare and prepare and by then the guys have been working through the ranks and are senior pastors."

Do you agree with her observations?

I got to thinking about how we postpone ministry when I was getting close to graduation last year. I'm in my 50s. I was called to ministry and missions as a youngster. My husband's proposal was a pitch that we go into missions together. (I said yes, obviously.) He pastored. I stayed home with the kids. He took a teaching job. I taught music and my kids from home.

Life in Cambridge - really this wonderful!
In my early 40s, something flipped inside me. I plunged into a stimulating masters program, got all excited about planting a church ... and then W, Jonathan, and I moved to England while W wrapped up his doctoral dissertation. What a glorious sabbatical! I thrived on the break from being a "mom-of-four." Our youngest, enrolled in a British school, was the easiest-care version of a 15 year old. I experienced a true respite, attending a wonderful church, surrounded by a city filled with art and music.

Back home, a new job at a university used my connecting, hospitality, and writing gifts. Yet when a doctoral program crossed my horizon, I heard, "GO!" and went back to school. After a few years, I started full-time study. (Done, thanks be to God!) So here I am, called to ministry, educated, and getting closer to retirement age. My husband loves his job and I still love doing ministry, based at home.

The conversation about postponing ministry resonated with me. I've talked to others like me. We've raised our families, volunteered or been on church staff, and gained all kinds of resources and skills. Few of us have been lead pastors though. We've always put someone else ahead of us. We've boosted others into leadership.

That's a really great accomplishment for my peers and me. Many male lead pastors, missionaries, and community leaders benefited from our prayers, counsel, and connections. Many younger women we mentored are in ministry, too. However, we see the pattern repeating: the men gravitate toward a ministry career track. The women drift into family life and/or support roles in ministry. (Someone cares for the kids and the home ... and that's usually Mom.)

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
Women preaching in camp meetings
in the early 1800's
I'm not sure what to think about this. The attrition of women in top leadership roles is of great concern to men and women alike, if they believe the Holy Spirit calls and empowers all believers.

I'm wondering, "What about this issue has impacted your ministry?" Men, are you looking for women to boost into leadership? Women, do you feel called to lead or be the supporter of leaders?

How have you worked out your calling within your reality and church culture?

Read more:
You shall keep my commandments and observe them: I am the Lord. Leviticus 22:31 NLT

*The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 NLT

*Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Matthew 8:26 NLT

*Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Lord Jesus, you taught us that love summarizes all the commandments of the law and the prophets. Show us how to love God with every fiber of our beings and help us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Prince of Peace, if we have nothing to fear then let us not live to make other people fear us. Help us lay down our weapons, showing our trust in you and your peace that passes logic, and help us invite others into this more faithful way. Amen.