I’m no good at answering the question, who is your favorite Bible character? Can I have 37 favorites? Or none save Jesus. All the others are so... flawed.
There is a lady in Scripture, however, who inspires me. When I first started speaking and teaching, my mom sent me a bracelet with a single charm on it. As a reminder of this story. I think of this woman often.
She remains unnamed. Luke is the only gospel writer who shares her story. If you aren’t careful, you’ll probably overlook her altogether. It would seem those in her day certainly did.
A poor widow.
We read her story in Luke 21:1-4. Four verses that pack a lot of punch. In the gut.
As recorded, Jesus looked up from his seat at the temple. Because, you know, Jesus went to church.
He watched the rich put their gifts into the temple treasury. Can’t you see them? Making a show of lugging their heavy gifts to the containers. Struggling to lift their bags of money from the sheer weight of the loot. I bet they dropped those dozens of coins in one by one. Clink. Clink.
Then, she came along. I hope to learn her name in Heaven someday. Because I think her name is important.
A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins. A tiny offering. Meager. A toddler could have carried the weight of her offering.
But Jesus. He was impressed. And that is all that matters.
“I tell you the truth... this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:3-4.
There is a hashtag movement happening on twitter this week. Many of my readers aren’t active participants in the blogging world and its social media counterparts. Our week goes on largely unaware.
#FaithFeminisms. Jesus. And a love of women. Here is my favorite article on the topic from this week: Loving Eve and Ham.
I, for one, am starting to pay attention. I’m moving past the connotation feminism carries in my mind. A definition learned from a young age in my very sheltered world.
Kind of like the term “poor widow.” A lady in Jesus’ day who lived in poverty and had no means to improve her lot in life. A woman who others in her day wouldn’t have noticed in their very sheltered world.
Yet, Jesus praised her. Forget winning an Oscar. Or having a blog post go viral. She earned a mention in the Bible!
That takes me back to the idea of a favorite Bible character. If I were to ask you for the name of a favorite, some would say Moses, Ruth, Esther, Peter, Abigail. Some of you brave souls would even claim Paul.
But very few, if any, would claim a poor widow as their favorite.
Short story. Very few verses. Unnamed. Widow.
I wonder if it would help her cause if we knew her name. If Luke had embellished a bit more on her story. If she’d been in need of a physical healing and Jesus provided a miracle.
Which also makes me think maybe we’d warm up to this idea of Christian feminism a bit more if we saw the label through a different lens.
Then, when writers like Rachel Held Evans have the nerve to get all up in our business. And she says:
Enough! And she dares to write posts like this one, We Need Feminism. In no uncertain terms, she tells us we can do better. No more wrinkling up our noses at those who dare to use the word “feminist.”
No more ignoring the poor widow, who put in all she had.
And we remember these women. Victimized women. Overlooked women. They have names. Jesus knows them every one. By name.
And you. And me. And Rachel. American Christians who have so much to give. He wants us to give all we have.
To the woman who has experienced domestic violence. To the woman caught up in the nightmare that is sex trafficking. To the young girls (sitting on the pews in our church) who already think they are not thin enough. To women who are sexually assaulted. The women who don't live into the full calling God has placed on their lives because it might break a mold.
I don’t know exactly how God’s justice system works. Oh, I hurt. I have struggles. But overall, mine is a life of privilege.
This week, though, I have determined to learn just one name. One name of a woman I can pray for. One name I can support in whatever way God leads.
Together, let's be inspired by an unnamed poor widow who impressed Jesus all those years ago. Let's give all we have.
I am inspired by people living out their passions.
A popular movie in the 90s that I had no business watching showed a happy man walking the streets of Hollywood...
Welcome to Hollywood. What's your dream?
Hollywood or no, I enjoy learning what makes someone tick. What they have tied up in their dreams. This has become a hobby of sorts for me. Finding the passion behind the person. And watching them embrace that.
Seeing a person’s eyes light up when you land on the topic that means something to them. Allow me a few examples to illustrate my point.
Meet Larry. The worship leader at our church. Larry is happy and positive and agreeable. All around pleasant to be around. But if you really want Larry to get revved up, talk about music.
In addition to his Sunday morning gig, Larry performs gigs in the area too. He actually used to do this a lot more, in addition to his day job, but not as much these days.
His wife told me a story of how a younger Larry agreed to do a gig in New York. Traveled all the way there and back from Michigan. He was so excited to go. And was still amped when he got back. His wife asked him how many people were in the audience. He thought maybe three?
Larry doesn’t do what he does for the crowds. He loves music.
Meet Elaine. An amazing artist. A true right-brained talent who creates masterpieces with her hands.
Several years ago, Elaine had leukemia. She got very sick. In those years, Elaine didn’t have the energy to create art. At times, she wondered if she’d ever get that ability back again.
She shared her testimony with our church family. And she talked about the complete healing of her body. About her return to creating art. Sometimes, she said, she wonders why God saved her. Why she was healed. And she believes part of the reason was to show others beauty. The everyday beauty she sees all around her. Around us. Through her passion, she helps us all see beauty.
Meet Margaret. But if you want to talk to her, you’ll have to follow her around in the kitchen. Or ride along as she delivers a meal.
Margaret knows food. More than that. She puts food to use for God’s Kingdom. On any given day, she will deliver a meal to a grieving family, drop off potluck dishes at the local hospice center and bake up some cookies for her husband’s office.
Margaret is all too happy to share her kitchen, her passion, as well.
She was standing in the banquet line at a women's retreat once when she overheard someone talking about her son getting married. Politely, she offered to host a shower for the young bride. Because she loves hosting showers.
Now, if I tried to talk to Larry about my musical experience, we could converse for about five minutes. I have sang in church choirs, played Mary in the church pageant once. But, get Larry going and I just sit back and enjoy the fact that God gave Larry a passion for music.
If Elaine and I sat down together and I attempted to paint something artistic on canvas, she would realize not everything created has beauty. But ask Elaine about what projects she’s working on or what opportunities she is considering right now, and we can talk art.
I like to dabble in hospitality but if Margaret and I were to pull out our calendars and compare meals delivered or cookies baked, she’d make me look lazy. However, walk beside Margaret for an afternoon of hard work in the kitchen and you know God gave her a real gift.
I could make this article a very long one because I take note of people’s passions, whether I find those same things interesting or not. And I love learning from them. Watching them do what they were born to do. Horses, gardening, organizing, tinkering with computers.
Oh, we need to learn how much we all have in common. Much more alike than we are different. But let’s celebrate the differences too.
You may not be much of a reader. But if you are planning a day or two at the beach. Or if you know you’ll be spending several hours in airports for an upcoming trip, let me know. Because my thing, it’s the written word. Both the creating and readng ends of it. And if you really want me to, I can go on and on (and on) about what I’m reading or writing for hours.
My friend grew up in a traditional sense. Notice I didn’t say normal. Who could ever define that? I mean traditional in a way many of us understand.
She lived with both parents and had a couple siblings. They lived in nice homes in the suburbs, had a dog and went on vacations to the beach. Her dad worked while her mom stayed at home to keep the house in order. They went to the big Baptist church down the street.
And my friend, she always thought her path would see her in a Suburban, driving home to a house in a similar subdivision cul-de-sac. She dreamed of a life like that. A houseful of kids, a hard-working husband that provided for her while she volunteered in the PTO and made sure dinner was on the table when he got home.
She married about a year after I did. A picturesque wedding along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Her fairytale had begun. Until she woke up to a reality far different than her lifelong dream. My friend’s husband got sick the week after their child was born. Not physically. Not terminally. Mentally. He fights an illness every day of his life. Medicine, plenty of sleep and a regulated diet do help. But it has left him unable to build a career of his own.
In her words:
Only a year after my fairy tale began, I found myself applying for food stamps, WIC (infant and children supplemental programs) and trying to get back to work with a newborn while juggling my husband in and out of the hospital. A world very foreign to me.
I cried as I put my child in an ugly outfit and took my wedding rings off to go to the welfare office. College grads and wives of attorneys aren’t supposed to have to go to the welfare office. Wasn’t that for people who couldn’t keep jobs or weren’t educated? Not people with unfortunate circumstances that kept them out of work temporaily.
The looks I got when I stepped out of our nice SUV broke my heart. I remember saying, 'Why me God? I got on the wrong bus, but I can’t get off.'
I felt stuck and lonely, even though I knew God was in the midst of our circumstances and wouldn’t leave me. Due to my husbands illness, he couldn’t be there for me, so I had to hold it together for him and for our little one.
For three years, her husband tried to go back to work as an attorney, but in 2008, it was obvious that wasn’t going to be a reality due to his medications. Instead, they began another horrible journey, applying for permanent SSI disability.
In her words:
This was another very sad time because I felt we were giving up any hope that my husband could continue to practice law and do political work. Hours and hours of paperwork later and lots of tear, two years worth, we finally received some financial support, allowing me a little freedom from working so much.
I have watched this story unfold. I know the faith walk my friend and her husband have developed in order to walk the new “normal” God has for them. Rather than staying home to bake the bread, she serves as their primary bread winner. While she has a flexible job, allowing her to help care for their daughter and still be the PTO president, she puts in loads of miles and hours each week to care for other families in their homes as a special educator/social worker.
A few times her husband has been hospitalized for up to four weeks. One year he was hospitalized four times. God has taught her to count on those nearest and dearest to her during these bouts and they swoop in to help. She’s had to rely on help more than anyone should. But thankfully, God has always provided it in ways my friend could have never imagined.
They have one child. Not the houseful they dreamed of but with his condition and her busy schedule, they realize multiple children weren’t God’s ultimate plan for them. This was a hard place for my friend to get to. She struggled knowing she felt God telling her not to have more, but her heart wanted more. God rested her heart and lessened her desire for more children. Instead, they welcome foster children into their home and give back to as many children as they can to fill that hole in their hearts.
My friend doesn’t always handle all of this whirlwind perfectly. However, she does handle it honorably. Her mom has had similar health issues and caring for her and watching her father love her mother, prepared my friend to love her husband... in sickness and in health.
Not once has she forsaken the vows she made to her husband before God. More than that. She loves him for exactly who he is. She amazes me in the way she’s found the things he can do well and given him those responsibilities. She still views him as the leader of their household and teaches her daughter what that traditional role looks like.
Does she wish things were different? Every day. They both do. God, however, has allowed this in their life. They continue to trust Him and put Christ right in the middle of it. In the midst of a very non-traditional reality, she’s found happiness. They kiss, hold hands, parent as partners.
In her words:
After ten years of relying on God through this life He has for us, I have come to the full realization that yes, I did get on the right bus. I don’t want to get off. I no longer feel “stuck” in my marriage.
I realize this was the marriage and life created by God - for me. It's made me a more beautiful woman than the one I thought I'd be entering my 40's. My life and circumstances have given me a servant's heart to help others who are in the same situation. Further, I help those I work with who don’t understand why God gave them a sick husband, loss of jobs or a child with special needs.
I rely on the verse Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, give you a hope and a future.’
I pray for this couple often. I know things aren’t easy for them but I also see they are good. Two believers have found a way to make “non-traditional” work for them. They could teach us a thing or two.
How about your life? Does it look like the normal you had in mind? Like my friend, sometimes the changes we don’t like are out of our control. Even in those times, we can manage two things. 1) Our response to the situation. 2) Who we are going to count on for help. I believe part of why God allows us to go through things is so a world around us can notice the big difference the Holy Spirit makes in us.
He shines in this couple. Traditional or not, I find it beautiful.
I still can’t believe I was out of town when I heard the news. The man you’d called Dad for twenty years. Not the biological one but the day in and day out one. He died unexpectedly. A terrible, terrible tragedy.
It took me back. To 04-05-06. I got a call that my own father had passed. The biological one. And most days the day in and day out one.
Oh, how I wanted to be there for you. But I found myself 400 miles away. Sorrowful because of your loss. Stunned by the new reality for your mom and your family.
Remembering how complicated it was to grieve for someone while still miles away. Shaking my fist at God for giving us this new common ground.
You are my friend. Such fun and I love watching our daughters enjoy their friendship. But more. We did Bible study together. Part of the same church family. That makes us sisters.
Our other sisters were saddened too. One expressed her desire to do anything, anything, to make a bit of the pain go away. She felt helpless. But sometimes, you just have to hold hands and walk through it.
So, from a distance, I tried.
In our day of social media, I immediately private messaged my condolences. Your days were a whirlwind of making funeral arrangements, helping your mom, visiting with friends and family. Until we could talk on the phone, I offered sympathy and promised to pray from a distance.
When we did talk on the phone, I listened. Until my dying day, I’ll continue learning how to sit in the silence. Being quiet offers such value. And I am so bad at it. I promised upon my return I would be there. Visitation, funeral, graveside ceremony, funeral meal. I’d be that familiar face you could see through tears of grief. Always there.
Those are the people I remember at my dad’s funeral. That one big hug from his childhood best friend. Whispered words of truth from a brother-in-law who also lost his dad too young. The ones who sat silently beside me at the funeral luncheon.
Following the phone call, upon your request, I looked up several verses you could turn to for comfort. Psalm 139 as a reminder that God knows our inner most being. He loves us and has made us perfectly. Our life, and death, are in his hands.
Revelation 21 for a picture of that heavenly place where you will reunite with your stepdad someday. The picture of “all this” we have coming gives us hope and comfort.
Again, this took me back to those first few hours when I found out Dad was gone. In my haste to pack for home, I had left my Bible behind. When I arrived at my in-laws, our one stop to break up the long drive, all I could think of was reading God’s Word.
I didn’t need it quoted to me right then. I wanted to touch it, read it for myself. Time between me and a Father who knew how much I hurt.
What a blessing I arrived home in time to attend the funeral events.
True to my word, I walked each step of the journey. I hope no one noticed I slipped away from the graveside a bit early. The memories came flooding back when I saw your family say that final goodbye.
How can we be expected to do that?
These times are hard. But we must be there for one another.
At times like this, I often feel awkward and worry about saying the wrong thing. So, instead, I relied on my presence being the comfort. I hugged, touched shoulders, grabbed hands, spoke when it seemed appropriate. I tried to be a supportive friend. Further, a representative of our Great Comforter.
Please know I intend to walk through this grieving time with you. In the days, weeks, months, even years ahead. When you need to talk, I’ll be a listening ear. If a good distraction is what you really need, I am all about it.
A friend of mine shared a comforting trick she keeps up her sleeve. When a loved one of hers loses someone, she marks the anniversary of the death in her calendar. She’ll call her friend on the anniversary. Maybe mail a card. I love that. Watch for a card next year about this time.
Between now and then, you and your family have a year of firsts ahead of you.
Like this past week when we met for breakfast. At your stepdad’s favorite restaurant. The first time you’d been there since he passed. As God would have it, we walked in and saw your mom sitting with all her granddaughters. Their first time to revisit this special family restaurant as well. Don’t you know your stepdad grinned at that?! An impromptu meeting at his favorite spot.
I have no idea if I served you well in your time of grief. There is nothing anyone can do to take your pain away. Instead, I listened to God’s prompting. Talk little. Sit much.
Maybe we can learn together how to carry one another’s burdens. I know I’ll someday need you just as much.
I received an uncorrected proof of The Feasts: How The Church Year Forms Us As Catholics, written by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina, for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
During Holy Week, I shared my admiration for the traditions of the Catholic church. Does Amazon Sell Holy Water (I'm asking for a friend).
And just a few weeks ago, I bought A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, And Coming Together, by Jerusalem Jackson Greer. After reading some of her blog, I knew she too shared an interest in the rhythm of the church year. And why wouldn’t a Christian book by a gal named Jerusalem be excellent?
Today’s post falls right in line with my interest in the liturgical calendar. For thousands of years, Christians have been participating in the cycle of the church year. A constant calling to remember God’s plan and our place in it. To celebrate occurrences in the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ.
At the time Christianity appeared, the Roman world observed a calendar with ample time for partying. There was no shortage of civil and religious holidays.
Many of the church feasts developed in part as a response to these pagan holidays. Much like Jesus, a devout Jew, the church created a calendar year honoring the various events of our religious heritage.
The church year starts with Advent. It moves from there to Christmas. To Lent. Including Passover (the Last Supper). To Easter. To Pentecost. So many other feast days I have never heard about before now.
Many of these celebrations last more than one day. They often include many Holy Days and last for weeks. Feasts around the world have been celebrated at different times, often honoring local saints in addition to the feasts of solemnity (mandatory celebrations for all Catholics). For example, the Church in Ireland celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day as a solemnity, while other churches worldwide don’t consider it mandatory.
The feasts have a lot to teach us. God established them for this reason.
In closing, a book like this helps a Protestant gal like me understand the fine heritage all believers call their own. It was rich in church history, explaining how various feasts got their start and why we celebrate them when we do and as we do.
I do not claim to fully understand Catholicism. Reading one book does not make me an expert. But it did give me an even greater appreciation.
Alongside other books and articles I am reading, it teaches me how to celebrate Christ year-round in my own home. In my own church. From Advent to Advent.
The Bible offers some pretty solid advice. It gives us a riveting history of the people of God. Many find comfort in the Scriptures when they are hurting.
And there are verses I read and they will not let me go. For example, we read in a biblical paraphrase, The Message:
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (I Peter 2:9)
Come visit us in Wednesday night Bible study sometime and we can really dissect this verse. God chose us, not the other way around; what priestly work was Peter actually referring to....
But for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on our part. We are to do priestly work. Be a holy people. Do His Work. Speak out for Him.
In a nutshell, we are God’s representatives. And I often reflect on the fact that I had NO idea what that meant when I walked down a church aisle to Just As I Am at age seven.
Then, quietly but assuredly, the Holy Spirit reminds me I have no idea what all that means now. But by the grace of God, I am learning.
Can I share with you where the identity found in this verse has taken me lately?
Several years ago, a gal in Bible study asked us to pray for Beth. We didn’t know Beth but she lived in our community and her husband had been in a terrible car accident. Beth and her husband had a long road ahead of them. We prayed. A few short months later, Beth started attending our Bible study. This group surrounded her with the love of Christ and I was proud to be a part of it.
A few times, when Beth was really in the thick of it. She didn’t make it through the study without tears. So, under the directive of those in our group with the Spiritual gift of mercy, we stopped the lesson for the day, put our hands on Beth and prayed.
Beth and her family survived this incident. They live a new normal these days. Happy.
One of the results that came from the accident is that Beth needed to go back to school. To further her nursing education. She busted her butt for a couple years. Finally, graduation day came! She invited her friends and family to join them in this celebration.
Now, my husband didn’t know Beth or her family. So, I gave up a Saturday with him, loaded up our daughter to play with the kids that would be at the party, and the two of us went.
Because I knew. This party celebrated something much bigger than just a graduation. That alone warrants a party. But this was more.
Life threw Beth a curve ball. Things got really hard for a few years. Illusions were shattered and I had nothing to offer in the way of wisdom. But she trusted God. She knew He had already made her life from nothing to something - from rejected to accepted. From one ambassador for Christ to another, I saw God had been up to something.
I wasn’t about to miss out on celebrating that!
Another friend lost a baby due to complications during the pregnancy. When I met her, she was grieving the loss of their daughter. Imagine her excitement when some time later Kate found out she was expecting. Another girl. The pregnancy, though closely monitored, met with success and a beautiful, healthy little one arrived.
A year passed. A year of firsts. A year when Mama Kate thought her heart might burst as she had this second chance to raise a little girl after her precious one had been lost.
And, of course, Kate and her family threw a party! I learned a baby who dies is called an angel baby. While a baby born after the tragic death is a rainbow baby. Pointing us to the truth we read about in the story of Noah. When God sends a rainbow to remind us He is faithful to His promises.
Photo credit: Kari Stull Photography
So, we had us a rainbow party. Again, my husband didn’t know the family. I didn’t know them very well either. It didn’t matter. I loaded up my daughter to play with the kids at the party, and the two of us went.
Because I knew. This party celebrated something much bigger than a first birthday. That alone warrants a party. But this was more.
Photo credit: Kari Stull Photography
Kate had been in the depths of despair. I can’t relate. But I have been witness too many times. Women suffering the worst loss imaginable. The loss of a child. But she trusted God. She knew He had already made her life from nothing to something - from rejected to accepted. From one ambassador for Christ to another, I saw God had been up to something.
I wasn’t about to miss out on celebrating that!
It isn’t always easy to give up family time to attend these events. For those who work full-time, it is sometimes not possible to always be available.
Some days I am tired. But I told you, the verse, it got to me. I am chosen to do priestly work. Ministry. All believers are. Why?
Repeat after me: To tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
So, when you see God is up to something, practice your priestly duties, holy one. Where God calls you to, step into that. Celebrate!
Chicken Roll Ups
1 chicken breast per person
1 slice deli ham per person
1-2 T. shredded mozzarella cheese per rollup
Salt and pepper to taste
Flatten each chicken breast with a meat pounder. Place one slice of ham and the shredded mozzarella on the meat. Roll this combination up. Dip first into the melted butter and then in bread crumbs.
Bake at 375 degrees uncovered for 30 minutes.
We served this recipe several times the year I helped with Wednesday night dinners at church.
Before that, Mom worked in the school cafeteria the whole time I was in school. An ideal job for a mom with three kids. No work on school holidays, snow days, summer break. And she always got home before the bus dropped us off each day.
When I was in junior high, I would get the worst cramps the first few days of my period. If I didn’t take a high dosage of pain medication in time, I sometimes had to lie down and often got sick anyway. And I didn’t like to take pain medication.
About once a month or so, I would get pale and tell my teacher I felt sick. She would think maybe I was coming down with a flu bug and send me to my mom, whom she knew worked at the school. I never told the teacher what was really causing my problems. How embarrassing! Mom knew the truth though. And she’d give me Motrin and send me to lie down in the back of the car with a chocolate milk. In approximately 45 minutes, I’d have a miraculous recovery, every time.
My sophomore year of college, I returned home to attend a nearby junior college for a year. Mom still worked at the school cafeteria. But in addition, she now prepared the Wednesday night dinners at the church in town we attended.
On Mondays after school she would pick up the groceries for that week’s supper. On Wednesdays we would get started about 2:30 in the afternoon.
I would meet my mom, Aunt Betty and some other ladies at the church. Sometimes Connie. Sharon. Cathy.
We would divvy up the tasks to make a full meal for about 100 people. After a couple hours of prep, we sat down for a short break before the final preparations of the meal and serving.
In many ways, it seemed a rite of passage for me. I sat around with the adult ladies and got caught up on our families and friends. We shared recipes and drank flavored coffees. Land of the grown ups.
Often times, I collected the money from folks for the dinner. It wasn’t much but helped supplement the cost. I got to know so many members of our church that way. And visiting with them over dinner.
One gentlemen in particular always came through and said his name was Mr. Henkel. It wasn’t. I don’t remember what his name actually was but I remember Mr. Henkel.
Now, my daughter attends camp. The camp chef attends my Wednesday night Bible study. The first year Allie went to camp, she was still quite young. So we worked out an arrangement that I would volunteer in the kitchen with my friend. To be close by should Allie need me. She hasn’t needed me yet.
But I enjoyed the arrangement so much, I did the same thing this year. I work beside my friend, Marissa, and another cook. Betsy. Deb. Sue. We prepare food for about 150 people. About 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, we sit down to eat our meals and take a little break. And all day long, I keep thinking of the sweet memories I have of my mom and other women in all those kitchens over the years.
The work I do isn’t hard. I leave the hard jobs up to the professionals. But I like to think I help. The more I volunteer, I learn what needs to be done. I am comfortable there. Looking back, I guess I always have been.
In a healthy, thriving church, the kitchen is always open. For potlucks, dinners, small group gatherings, showers, anniversaries, Vacation Bible School, community-wide holiday dinners.
I don’t know what it is about a kitchen. But I’ve always found community there.
God knew. I can trace Him at work in our friendship ever since our first day on that small college campus.
Many of us have experienced that moment. When you find yourselves hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles from home. For the first time. On a college campus. And you don’t know a single soul.
That’s the day I met April. Amidst our “Welcome Family,” that first week, she emerged as a forever friend.
Some of our best friends are made in college. Perhaps because the only common ground exists exclusively between us. We don’t know one another’s family. We don’t share a home town and its thousand memories.
We make new memories. Together.
I only attended that small Christian college for one year. Financially, it made more sense for me to spend my sophomore year at home.
But I kept my college friend, April. Really, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s better at that than I am. Several times a month, she would write me with updates and ask how I was doing. She visited. We talked on the phone.
The next year, I started attending a state college close to where April was still going to school. And again, she proved herself a faithful friend. We would spend weekends together. She was the loud to my quiet. The crazy to my calm. So much different. But we shared a love for Jesus and for our friendship.
After college graduation, I made the move to St. Louis. One of my very favorite cities. Upon graduation, April moved back to the town of her youth. St. Louis. For a time, April and I became roommates.
We took turns dissing the boys who broke up with us. Went on more than a few one-date wonders. Shared loads of secrets. Attended church and Bible study together. There wasn’t any part of life that was off limits.
In those years, we started to get on each other’s nerves. It can be hard to know the inner workings that dictate the actions of a close friend. We were often inseparable. And the friendship slowly slipped into a sisterhood.
And I’d never had that before.
The friend you could share a meal with on the holidays. Just as easily as you do with your flesh and blood family.
She introduced me to my husband. Actually, I should more appropriately say, she pushed my husband and I into our first couple dates and fortunately we came to agree that was a good idea indeed.
On my wedding day, she and her boyfriend helped decorate the country church where we held the ceremony. On his birthday. She stood tall and proud as bridesmaid #3.
Just over a year later, I returned the favor. Bridesmaid #6 in her own wedding. On Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
And therein is the heart of our story.
April and I have spent very few years actually living in the same town. Our friendship survives over many miles. And God knew this would be so.
Traci married Ryan. A Michigan native. And I followed him here from Missouri. Gladly.
April married Tom. A Missouri native, whose family has owned a lakehouse in Michigan for generations. And they vacation here multiple times a year. Gladly.
Even though we live miles away from one another, we see each other quite often.
I work the basketball tournament in St. Louis each March. Tom and April visit Michigan a handful of times each year.
Friends that become family.
We both have one daughter. They are a few years apart. But BFFs before my daughter could even get those letters right, let alone know what they meant.
It must be in the genes because every time our girls get together, they pick up right where they left off. Like mothers, like daughters.
Still we can get on each other’s nerves. I am not much into talking on the phone, while April thinks we should talk daily just to catch up. Apart, we decide to eat healthy, until we get together and declare our healthy eating officially on vacation. No one but a friend like a sister can tell you the hard, honest truth during those times you’re getting it wrong.
We plan to see each other a few times this summer. Like always. When I think vacation, April and her family are never far from my mind.
Tracing God’s faithfulness. With my forever friend. From Missouri to Michigan.
We were there more Sundays than we weren’t. My mom, my brothers and me. I always had a Bible in hand. Church.
My first Bible, from my mom, an NASB Children’s Bible. Followed by an NIV pastel blue Precious Moments Bible. The KJV I used for Bible drills. The NIV for Bible quizzing. And the Bible I won for inviting the most people to revival meetings one summer. I treasured God’s Word.
I remember one Sunday morning right after an ice storm. They hadn’t canceled church and I determined I was going to go. Oh, how I hated to miss. On the way from the front door to the car, I fell on the ice not once but three times. My brothers watched from the window. Occasionally, safety won out over Sunday School attendance.
All in all, I have always taken this church-going business quite seriously.
Maybe I expect too much of my students, but I do think they should have the ability to look up a book in the Bible. Any book. Even that minor prophet, Obadiah. They should know what a reference such as 12:4 means. Young and old, they should have familiarity with the Bible.
Looking back I realize I’ve felt that way, that strongly, for a long time. Perhaps God made me this way? For a reason?
When I take Spiritual gift tests, I ooze of exhortation and teaching. If you study these two gifts, it explains my style in the classroom. I don’t offer the same experience as someone gifted in say, mercy, or hospitality. We need to offer our church the very best we can with our own unique gifts.
So many teachers come to mind when I look back over the years. Kind hands. Ones who taught us to make butter. Those who sang with us. The drama experts. The theologians.
I taught 3rd and 4th graders a few weeks ago. It had been a while. The first thing we do is hand out Bibles. One Bible for every child if we have enough.
The story that day was in Luke. I asked if they knew who wrote the book of Luke? Uhhh, one kid made a guess. Luke? Ding ding. We learned about Luke. Who he was. How he knew Jesus. Where he was from. What other book he wrote.
We look up the passage of Scripture together. Even if that takes 30 minutes. It might! We take turns reading. Trust me, it is an easier thing for an 8-year old to struggle with Bible names and cities than a 38-year old.
Then, we looked at the context of the story. Were the words in red - meaning Jesus said them? Who was He talking to and what else did He share along with the particular story we studied?
Next, we do an activity or two. When I have to, I help the kids with a craft. Same Body, different body parts, right? (I Corinthians 12:12)
Over and over, we review. Because I always think in the back of my mind, “I do not want this kid to be the one who can’t remember a thing when his mom asks what he learned in Sunday School.”
Some would say I teach over the heads of the kids. Like the time I borrowed a Hebrew Bible so the kids could see the foreign letters on the page. Learn about reading from right to left. Perhaps I am giving them a little too much information?
I don’t think so. When it comes to Bible study, I’m not sure there is such a thing. That doesn’t mean we keep talking until their eyes glaze over and they bang their head on the table. I’m probably guilty of skirting dangerously close to this a few times.
Remember I attended Sunday School all my life. I loved God’s Word. My top Spiritual gifts are exhortation and teaching.
At about 37, when I really learned context is everything, something came awake in me. Every person in God’s Holy Word is real. Real flawed, yes, but doesn’t that make them much more relatable?
Last summer, I taught the Bible story in Vacation Bible School. Daniel in Babylon. By the time a church kid is nine years old, do you know how many times they have heard about Daniel in the Lion’s Den?
Does that mean they know about Daniel's story?
Not a chance. One could live to be 87 and not know all the details of the story. To quote a gal by the name of Beth Moore, “There’s a whole lot of Bible.”
So I searched for an angle. We hit on the basics of the story, because the Biblical knowledge among the kids varied. Then, we discussed the part of the Daniel story before he got thrown in the lion’s den. We discussed his diet.
I don’t mean we read a couple verses. I mean we broke it down. I had a chart. One side said Jewish diet. The other said Babylonian diet. We had 15-20 strips of paper listing various foods. And we placed the foods on their proper side.
First, we had to learn the proper side. Which took us to reading Scripture passages in Genesis and Leviticus and Acts. To learn about diet.
The kids ate it up. Sorry, bad joke. But really, they thought through every food. They realized why Daniel came out of his preparation time so healthy.
They took home the fact that God cares a lot about our diet. And because of Jesus, we can now eat lobster.
Our pastor has a saying and I love it so much I just might have it printed on a t-shirt,
“Let Scripture interpret Scripture.”
That’s what we went to work doing that day. And we talked about who wrote Genesis, Leviticus, Daniel and Acts.
Same groundwork. Every lesson.
I am not suggesting we all need to approach Sunday School lessons this way. Just please don’t sell the kids short. Please place a Bible in their hand every week. Open those pages and read. Then, you can make the butter and the craft and sing a song.
Because, truthfully, will we ever reach a time when we realize our kids read their Bible too much?
I received a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, written by Bonnie Gray, for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
When I read the title of this book, I thought I knew right where we would go. Another resource for figuring out how to slow this life down long enough to be still and know God is God. Finding a calmness among the activities of life.
The author thought she knew where we were going too.
And we both turned out to be wrong.
She ended up working her way through a year-long bout with post traumatic stress disorder. Not because she was a war veteran. But because there was a battle raging inside of her that she’d never really faced.
“Prior to experiencing PTSD, I would’ve told you I was pretty good at being restful. I drink tea, love hiking, friends, and pastry joints, and sip coffee.”
A confident person who’d always seemingly had it all together, she found herself suddenly, hopelessly, broken.
“I step out to share my story with you because it is in these unexpected places of brokenness I’m hearing Jesus speak more tenderly - and I feel his hand fold into mine more gently - to lead me deeper into new places of rest. I would’ve never chosen to write to you about finding rest from these broken places.”
The entire book you find yourself learning about the need for whitespace. To accentuate to the art God is creating on the canvas of your life. But also, you are following the story of a little girl inside of an adult who carries some real wounds. It’s a memoir that touches you while it teaches you.
She had to learn to rest when her anxiety ran so high she couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t find rest in the way she’d always studied the Bible. No amount of self-discipline brought her soul rest.
“I no longer have the luxury of writing about spiritual rest behind the safety of studies, numbers, anecdotes, and experts’ advice.”
The author has a good grasp of Scripture and weaves verses and whole stories throughout the book.
“I am beginning to hear Jesus’s words, even though I tremble to accept it; I love you broken.”
This book doesn’t offer a formula for getting physical rest. It has space for you to journal about your own memories. Also ways to meet your need for creative whitespace. There are exercises at the end where you can map out activities to help you seek true soul rest. The author explains, and I agree, this takes a person on a much different path.
“This is why I choose to write, even if it means I’ll feel broken for a season. Because the other side of brokenness is restoration; the hope - the journey - is wholeness.”