Patience on the Path to Maturity

This week the woman I’m discipling and I laughed hysterically over a story in Rich Villodas’ book, A Deeply Formed Life. He tells about a temp job that he had shortly after he became a Christ in which he prominently displayed Romans 3:23 on his computer screensaver and wore t-shirts with Bible verses on them in an attempt to evangelize his coworkers. Before quitting the job, he sent an email to the entire company explaining how they could go to heaven. He walked out feeling triumphant.

We laughed and laughed and then we shared stories of when we have been just as aggressive and obnoxious and thought we were doing God a favor. We considered the work we were doing as vital to the kingdom, even if it meant knocking on a stranger’s door and accosting them with a question about hell.

I must admit that my perspective on evangelism has changed drastically. (Here’s a short podcast by NT Wright you might like if you’re curious about less aggressive evangelism.) But I need to remember those embarrassing stories so that I will remember God’s endless patience.

Bearing Witness to the Story

Kentucky doesn’t understand spring so as the sun beat down hotter and hotter Wednesday morning, I moved the brush. I knelt on our patio, stroking stain into the wooden benches. While I moved the brush and chatted with my sons, I prayed. My best friend from college had an emergency c-section with her twins last Friday. They are tiny, the smallest under two pounds. That tiny baby was in critical condition.

One of my most distinct memories is sitting in a Fazoli’s in Lexington, Kentucky, pretending to eat while my own newborn was being prepped for transfer to a different hospital. It was a gorgeous spring day. The sun shone and across the parking lot was a large display of flowers and hanging baskets outside a nursery. The cheerfulness felt like an assault. The sunshine and the flowers didn’t change the fact that the hospital had told us there was nothing they could do for Micah. The attendant the night before had left it at that. The resident that morning had one more idea. I realized, looking out the window, that everyone else was going about their lives, enjoying being alive instead of feeling held hostage in a nightmare.

What I Read in March + starting to read well

Two weeks ago, I did a shorter Instagram live where I talked about reading with discernment. How do we read an author we respect and disagree with some of what they say? How do we read people who have differing world views and come away with knowledge we need? I talked about those things in this video, but I’m always left considering the conversation later and I have two thoughts to add.

First, I take my questions about the faith to orthodox believers. They might not be in the same denomination or the same church circles, but I go to faithful believers who profess Jesus with my doubts and my questions. It might take a few tries to find some that are ok with doubts and questions, but I’ll stick around while I’m searching. Then I read deconstructionists to understand what they are experiencing and believe. To be honest, I think most of us have done some sort of deconstructing, even if we haven’t called it that; but there’s a different type who, after they tore apart their faith, never built anything back. Personally, I don’t look to them to answers.

Second, I also think it’s imperative that we have these conversations and that we equip people to deal with questions. For one thing, we can stop living in fear of everyone else if we are no longer scared of their ideas. For another, we cannot truly hide out from these ideas without living a cramped life. We send our college students off to school moaning about how they fall away from the faith, but did we teach them to dig in? To ask questions? To be unafraid of other people’s questions? Did we teach them to evaluate ideas and statement in light of the Bible? To wait in the tension of not knowing an answer? We cannot short-circuit this process and yet we often skip it entirely.

Resources for a Discussion on 1 Timothy 2

After a conversation during a Q+R on Instagram, I agreed to discuss 1 Timothy 2. As soon as I agreed to do this, I also told my Instagram friends in a story that they had homework too. They might have asked me to talk through the passage but no one gains anything by someone else doing the work alone or telling them what to think. I asked them to read all of 1 Timothy, noting any themes they saw. Then to walk through Paul’s train of thought in all of 1 Timothy 2, making a very brief “outline” of sorts. Finally I asked them to write down any questions they had and any other passages of Scripture they thought of during the reading.

If you missed that part, feel free to participate in the homework before watching the video or checking out these resources. The whole point of this is studying Scripture so Scripture is where we start. Is that a decent amount of work? Sure. But if we are going to have opinions that we insist are biblical we need to thoroughly evaluate them.

My goal with this conversation is to point out some of the difficulties of this passages and then focus on things the passage does not say. You can find the conversation on Instagram right here! 

Seminary Notes 5: am I here for grades or an education?

One of my favorite parts of taking Greek has been my Thursday night translation group. Every week, for nine weeks, the four of us have talked about calls to ministry, our everyday life, and prayer requests before we’ve jumped into homework. We’ve also discussed the classes we’ve loved.

More than once, someone has joked about a fabulous class having a hard professor. “I learned a lot but she’s a hard grader.” We laughed that we were keeping a running list of the tough graders so that we could avoid them, but it was just that, a joke.

I’m going to seminary to learn, to grow, to be challenged. I want to listen to intelligent, thoughtful conversations even if I have to scramble to keep up. I want to read content that will require effort and work on my part. I want my own skills to grow even if it means lower grades.

I’m not in seminary to get A+’s in everything.

Women in Ministry: Models of Faithfulness

I have never participated in a Beth Moore study although I am very interested in her recent Galatians one cowritten with her daughter Melissa. Most of my love for Beth has been fostered by her Twitter presence and listening to her on podcasts. (Her discussion with Esau McCaulley on the Disrupters podcast ranks as one of my favorites.) I’ve heard her preach and teach and she is both dynamic and faithful to the Scripture.

Beth Moore has paved the way for many women in many forms of ministry. In her, women have seen themselves and seen a model for how they can use their gifts for the kingdom. That has come with a cost to Mama Beth, as she is delightfully known, but it is a cost she has paid in the hopes that other women will find an easier way. She recorded some of her experiences as a woman in a conservative denomination in this blog post from 2018 and I encourage you to go read it, especially if you are a man.

I continually face my own frustrations as a woman in the church. I have my own stories, and I hear stories, at least once a week, from women on Instagram about their own negative experiences among believers. Although I am not complementarian, I hold to the hopefully gracious position that many complementarians and egalitarians affirm the authority of Scripture while believing different interpretations of certain passages are the most cohesive with all of Scripture.

What I Read in February + how I evaluate stories

Over the years, my metric for good fiction has changed. I jumped into the Christian fiction realm as a young teenager, read excessively and honestly, found it lacking more and more as I got older. Since my goal here isn’t to critique (some forms of) Christian fiction, I’m going to leave it at that. What I want now is a story that accurately portrays humanity with all the beauty and flaws that come with being human. I don’t want performative sin in an imaginative world where consequences aren’t real. I also don’t want to see evil glorified, that’s a different narrative altogether. But neither am I looking for a pretend world that shows no parallel to reality. Even stories that at first glance seem far removed from our everyday lives such as fantasy or dystopian fiction only work when they reveal the world that we thought we knew.

Some of these stories might have themes that are outside of a kingdom ethic. We will all encounter people whose stories fall outside of kingdom ethics. All of our stories fall outside a kingdom ethic in places. Reading fiction can help prepare us for these encounters around our dinner tables. We need to wrestle with concepts in embodied life and not just academic theories. If this person, from this book, were drinking coffee in my living room, how would I respond to the story?

Of course everyone has different limits. The stories you can read/watch/listen to will be limited by your experiences, past trauma, your age and maturity, personal temptations, and so many other things. I cannot prescribe those limits to you and I have no desire to do that. This is just a potential opportunity to reframe the point of stories.