God is Active

My friend Kimb and I were talking the other day and I was whining about my singleness. I was whining because another wedding was on tap—two more people were going to move from single to married. And I knew it was a celebration and I believed that this union was a good thing, but jealousy and comparison were creeping in.

I told Kimb that it just feels like God is closing doors, shutting windows and locking gates, while not opening anything new, just sealing off entries and exits, so I cannot go anywhere. She let me get it all out and lament, and then she spoke straight to me. She looked and me and said, “Good, that means God is active, He is not being silent.” She might as well have punched me, because that response took my breath away. And she was right!

My lack of a love life is not God’s silence. He is active in guiding me away from the wrong man for this season. He may not be “closing a door and opening a window,” but He is opening me. He is using this time to show me the strength in vulnerability, the power of not settling and the need for a solid community of both marrieds and singles.

Even all this internet dating is pushing me toward openness. Last week I met someone on Bumble. We have a handful of mutual friends and hit it off via text. He loves Jesus, music, justice and hates sexism. We never met up while I was in his part of the country, we just couldn’t find the time. But I let myself feel a spark, I let myself get excited when I got a message from him, I did not automatically assume it wouldn’t work. I was 100% me, honest, open and appropriately vulnerable. The Lord shut that door for this man in this season, and I am OK with that. Because God is active.

I have found that I liked God’s silence over a no. It was easier. Silence meant that I might still be able to get what I want. Silence meant that there was hope for the way I wanted things to work out. In my heart, I wanted silence because I felt more in control. But a no is just infuriating. A no means I do not get what I want, a no means that my will is not as strong as His. A no is definite and deafening. But a no is also participation, a no is a response, a no shows that one day there may be a yes. God is answering.

And this all just seems to be another lesson in openness and vulnerability. Because honestly, I spent a week setting my intentions to openness and it was exhausting even for me—the extreme extrovert. “Being on” and being vulnerable is significantly more draining. But with most things, it will get easier the more I practice. Maybe there is an emotional muscle memory that I can build up and one day it will feel more natural. God is teaching.

By being open and vulnerable this last week I was able to forge deeper relationships with my current friends. I empathized more, listened more and talked slightly less (let’s be real, I am a talker). I was also able to forge a rather deep friendship quickly with a prayer warrior and super talented artist who I know God is going to use in big ways for the Kingdom (I just have a gut feeling about this one, he is a good man). God is active.

Kimb said it and I am trying to live into it. I am trying to be aware of God’s activity in my life. I am looking for God at work, and I am listening and waiting for His “YES.”

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Bridging the Millennial Boomer Divide in the Workplace

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“Why won’t my Baby Boomer boss listen to me?” This was a question I frequently heard Millennials ask at a conference for those working in Christian non-profits. At first I was annoyed, and thought, “Get over it, maybe your ideas are not that good.” But then I wondered, “How can I help?” Cause here’s the deal: I am technically a Millennial (I’m borderline between Millennial and Gen X, depending on who you ask), and my experience with Boomers has been awesome. My boss is in a generation very different from my own—all of the senior leadership at my organization is older than me. I see this as a good thing! I am blessed to have Boomers in my life who love me, listen to me, and collaborate with me. But I see now that this is not the norm. So I would love to pass on four workplace practices that I have found to be successful when bridging the Millennial-Boomer divide, in a Christian workplace.

1. Pray. When I say this I am not saying pray that they change. I am telling you to pray for them and to pray for your own attitude. Pray that the Lord will give you opportunities to collaborate, to listen, to show that you value them and their opinion.

Pray for God to change your heart; this is one of the great things about our God, when we cry out to Him, we leave the conversation changed. We come away different, and others will see it.

Also, look for moments to pray together. Maybe there is a project you’re ideating or a staff concern, step out and say, “Can we pray about this right now?” This will break down boundaries and barriers.

2. Take the initiative. Just because they are older and more seasoned does not mean they are 100% confident with reaching out to the youngins. They may fear rejection, they may think you have nothing in common, they may not “get” you, but you both need each other.

I joked with a Boomer coworker of mine that Millennials should #takeaboomertocoffee. She laughed and said in a serious tone, “You need to do that!” So here I am encouraging you to ask that Boomer to join you at the local coffee shop, pay for their drink and ask them about their history in ministry, how they came to know the Lord, a funny college story, or best concert they ever attended. Be interested and be genuine.

3. Sometimes new is better. Sometimes it isn’t. This one can be the toughest. You may love to innovate but feel that innovation is not valued where you serve. You may want to branch out to new social media platforms, but Facebook is all they need. You may think it is time to spend the money and update the website, but many think the site is good enough. Work with in the parameters given to innovate, and know that you might be wrong.

When I first became the Marketing Director for World Impact, we were using an in-house custom made mass emailing program. It did the job, but it was clunky compared to new, user-friendly options readily available. I suggested we try Mailchimp for six months so we could increase the number of emails, see analytics, and not have to manage the unsubscribes—two months in we made the full switch! Going in, I put together a timeline for evaluation, I gave it measurable metrics, and was intentional about talking up the gains this new system provided. This time, newer was better.

But there have also been times when new was not better. We tried a direct mail campaign that increased the pieces of mail folks got from us, but it backfired in a big way. Our donors did not like this and they let us know. They liked receiving one piece of mail from us a month, and we returned to the old way after evaluation.

4. It is ok to not be best friends. Us millennials like to have relationships, we like our lives to intertwine, and working with our friends is fun. But there are some teammates we simply may not get along with. We pray for and with them, we care about them, but we just may not want to be best friends. This is ok.

I know that in the Christian nonprofit sphere this sounds mean or harsh, but it is not, it just is. This is not a reflection on you or them; it is just like life, accept it and move on.

Bonus: show respect whenever you can—say hello, make the coffee, ask about life events at the “water cooler,” meet your deadlines (early and ask for feedback when appropriate), do that extra thing that annoys you (without complaining), and this will show the Boomer in your life that not all Millennials are the same.

For years there have been stereotypes flying around about Millennials—some true, some not. This just means that we have to work to counter what has been rumored. So let’s work together with Boomers to change the norm.

 

FAQ (Feminist Answered Questions)

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At some point in my life I became a feminist. This word is has so many connotations and meanings, some good and some bad. I would like to respond to some of the topics that have come up since planting myself in this camp in the context of the Church. So here are my answers to the frequently asked questions:

If you’re a feminist, what about abortion?

Well, this is an easy one. God creates life, and only God should take life. But let’s not stop there; as a follower of Jesus I am pro-life not just anti-abortion. I do not believe in the death penalty (our legal system is too corrupt for that), I think we need more restrictions on how to buy guns, and I think that my pro-life stance means I must give my time and money to to kids and teens in high risk communities. So, yeah, I think abortion is wrong, but I also believe that to be pro-life you need a comprehensive view of life as a whole.

And to be honest with you, when I talk with pro-choice men and women about this topic—it comes up once they learn I love Jesus—they really respect the consistency of this approach. It has broken down walls before they’ve gotten very high.

So, you think men are less?

What is this, 1962? Feminism does not mean men are inferior, it means we are equal. I do not need to emasculate a man in order to be at the same level, nor does a man need to belittle a woman in order to show strength. We, followers of Jesus, need to treat each other with the respect and dignity the Image of God brings to all people. Gender should never be a reason to treat someone as less.

Is this why you are single?

No. And no joke, someone asked me this. I know many feminists who are married, and when I marry, he will be a feminist also. I like who I am and who God is growing me to be.

Does this mean you don’t need men?

It is questions like this that slay me! This does not mean I do not need a man—I need my dad all the time! I need other men in my life with unique skill sets to help me out. Just last week I called my friend Andy because there was a sketchy car parked outside my house for the second Tuesday in row, same car, same man. Andy check on it for me (all was good, it was an unmarked cop car). But I did not think it was smart for me to walk up to the odd car and see what was up.

In the same vein, men need women. Not to bake, clean, or bear children, but to be friends with and build God-honoring relationships with, so there are examples of platonic friendships within the church. We need each other, period.

What about the Bible?

This is one of my favorites, because for real? I cannot read the Bible without encountering Jesus, the ultimate feminist. He stood up the rights of women, He affirmed dignity, He made room for them, and He loved them so much He redeemed them.

I look at Old Testament women like Jael, Deborah, Rahab, Hagar (a single mom), Huldah and Hannah: they were women of strength, obedience and submission to God not always man (ok, sometimes submission to man and God, lol). I think God did not create women as subpar humans; he made us as Ezer, and that is so much more than a “helpmate.” “‘Ezer is not a term of subordination or inferiority; most of the time in the Old Testament it refers to God who is Israel’s helper. The forming of the woman from the man’s side indicates the unity and equality God intended for all human beings, male and female.”

If I wanted to really make a point about gender and the Bible, I would point out all the times men failed verses the times that women came through in the clutch. If we are going to use the entirety of the Bible as our barometer for feminism, then let’s really look at it, with openness and fresh eyes, let’s see how Jesus approaches women, let’s look at the cultural context of the writing and let’s look at our own cultural biases.

I am a feminist

My identity is not in being a feminist, it is in Jesus. And in the end, Jesus is my favorite feminist.

Tinder Standards

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So I joined Tinder, and to be clear I have no idea what I am doing. I have no game and I hate games. But I am being open to the process of these modern forms of getting to know someone. I did not meet The One at Bible College, I have yet to meet anyone through the local church, and Match and E-Harmony have failed me; either there is something tragically wrong with me (that I am unaware of), or Tinder is my last hope (lol).

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if—amid the unsolicited pics—I find a godly man who is looking for a godly woman? The humor of this narrative is not lost on me: a Jesus-loving, city-dwelling, justice-seeking feminist meets guy on Tinder. Such is my life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So far there has been no such favor found in the right swipe. I have matched and communicated with a few men, blocked a few pervs (I do not want to see that), and am pretty sure one was a bot… is it possible to have Tinderbots? Nothing has panned out yet.

Truth: I am A-OK with this. I have not felt bad about my lack of connections, I do not feel like I must find the match of my dreams, and I am being honest about who I am. Proclaiming the Gospel is my priority and Jesus must be the common denominator of our lives. I see God’s hand at work actively closing doors and protecting my heart.

Even with Jesus being a requirement, I have had matches who say faith is important but message despicable things. Lesson one for all you Tinderellas: the DM shows who he actually is. Say no, and then block him. Be the woman of standard you are meant to be.

Lesson two: if his kids are his first priority but his profile is all pics of his innocent non-dating kiddos, swipe left. His adorable children should not be the bait that gets you to swipe. I have appreciated the fathers who blur or cover the faces of their children; these are dads that think about the privacy and safety of their children. (To be clear, someone is not a bad parent for putting pics of their kid on Tinder, but it makes me uncomfortable).

Lesson three: If he has more than one gym selfie, he needs to add another hobby to his repertoire. Being in shape is great, and working out all that sexual frustration is fantastic, but I need to see more than that. As we are on the subject of mirror selfies, let’s also nix bathroom selfies. I do not need to see any more urinals on my Tinder feed, just saying.

Lesson four: If it says add me on Snapchat, RUN. If he has a bunch of ladies adding him on Snap, you are one of the many, not The One. If a date turns into something more, you will always wonder who is sending him snaps, who is on the side, who else did he reel in? And if there is a problem in the future, will he run to you or his Snaps?

Maybe this is why I’m still single, but exploring the Tinder culture has shown me new levels of standards I want, and need, to have. To be fair, there are probably a ton of awesome guys on Tinder, you just have to wade through the mass of dudes that are only separated (not divorced), the ones who are in “open relationships,” the ones “not looking for anything serious,” and—my personal favorite—“only here for the weekend,” to find them. Tinder is a tool, not the answer.

So be smart and go with your gut. Modern romance is app-based and lots of people actually do meet this way. Hopefully that means that the God of the universe might use Tinder to hook a sister up.

ReSister: Why I Marched

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This is why the Women’s March matters to me, a white, pro-life, anti-gun, Midwestern Christ follower.

It matters because in this time of great disunity, I was able to stand with women from all walks of life, backgrounds, religious affiliations, and political beliefs. We were able to unite in the fact that something must change, and we can be the catalyst for that change.

It matters because laws need to change. I stood with women who are fighting for the rights of trafficked girls, seeking tougher penalties for Johns, working toward harsher sentencing for domestic violence abusers.

It matters because I represent Christ. Many of the women around me had been hurt by the Church. On that day, I was able to stand with those in pain as an ambassador of the Gospel.

It matters because I love my niece. I want to make sure she does not need to fight for equal pay, that she does not have be more qualified than her male counterparts.

It matters because Black Lives Matter. I said “Amen” and “That’s right!” when words of dismantling racism were spoken. I was in agreement with my sisters of color and stood as an ally.

It matters because our differences should not define us. We may disagree on issues of reproductive rights, but we agree that women need access to affordable and safe health care, let’s start there.

It matters because Jesus was a feminist. I want to be the voice that says, “The Savior of the universe advocated for women, and so must the Church.”

It matters because I mentor teen girls. I want them to know the importance of voting and believe that their voice matters. In my city women make up 51% of the population and I want to see women represented in our government.

It matters because sexual violence is real. The hashtags #metoo and #timesup are not enough. I must be present and active in these movements. The more women who are brave enough to tell their stories and stand in solidarity with survivors as well as call for change, the safer our collective future will be.

It matters because women can work together. I want to be part of this amazing collaboration that is for people and not against them. I loved standing with a diverse, powerful and creative group of people.

There are a thousand other reasons why it matters, but today this is my list. This is why I marched, this is why I stood alongside women who need to be heard. This is why I showed up and this is why others did too.

Moody

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I knew at thirteen I had a strong call from the Lord to work in the city. I had no idea what this meant, but I knew my future was going to be ministering in urban communities. Later in life, I received the book A Heart for the City by John Fuder (a Moody professor) as a gift from my parents, I devoured it and knew Moody Bible Institute was the place for me.

So my senior year I applied to and was put on the waitlist, and I waited a year to be accepted. I entered as a freshman with a few credits, but I was an Urban Ministry major at the best Bible College in America. I was now a “Moody.” I was living in Houghton and walking the halls that many of my heroes had walked. I was making life long friendships and deepening my relationship with the Lord, all while being softened by life.

I was a rebellious Moody. I was not the typical student and sometimes felt that I did not fit there. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that none of us were typical. God called each of us to something different and unique; He put passions and drives in us that forced us to work together. He gave me a strong sense of justice and a passion for theology. But sometimes I need someone with an even stronger passion for Theology to call me back when Justice pushes me too far. And some times that Theologian needs me to push her when words are not enough and action is needed. We need each other for balance and function—the Body needs all different members.

I may have felt too “liberal” or “other” at Moody, but what it comes down to is that it was four impactful years of my life. For four years I had the privilege of learning from professors who would become my friends. I sat in classrooms with men and women who would go on to do great things for the Kingdom, others who would walk away from their faith, some who would go on to experience heartache that I can not even pretend to understand, a few who would come out, and those who would struggle. For a time, Moody was for all of us, a messed up group of young adults trying to figure out what life was supposed to be.

In those four years, we prayed together, cried together and stayed up all night studying. We laughed and explored Chicago and drank a lot of coffee. We read the same books, heard the same chapel speakers, attended Missions Conference and Founder’s Week. Ultimately we sought the Lord together and He directed our paths. Paths that have led us around the globe.

I am not saying Moody is perfect, nor was I always a model student. And yet, I am grateful. I sit here typing this post as an Urban Missionary who came out of college with no debt and the tools I need to interpret the Bible, preach the Gospel and make disciples. Moody gave me more than I could ever repay it for. So as I watch her struggle I pray that she will continue to be a place for students like me—those who do not fit but who love Jesus and long to be obedient to the call He put on their life.

The Beauty of Feminism

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The Beauty of Feminism
The Beauty of Advent Pt 4

This year has been filled with sorrow. From politics, to news, to allegations, to personal issues—mourning and lament have been top priorities. And yet there have been two things that have brought me constant hope: first is Jesus, more on that later, and the second has been feminism.

I always thought feminism was the f-word of Christian culture. But for the past couple of years I have found a deeply ingrained equality seeping from the Gospels. This year particularly I have been studying Mary, and I have noticed parts of her story that I had never given much thought to before. I have heard her story the same way my entire life. There was no new secret diary unearthed, no social media account to follow the journey, just four sparse accounts of this miracle.

Mary’s story is one of options. Options I never saw before this year. Part of me kind of felt bad for Mary, pregnant with the Messiah out of wedlock, young and without a choice. But that is what I have always read into the story, it is not how the story actually goes. The truth is Mary could have said no to the angel. Mary had the power of consent.

I used to think all this poor girl wanted to do was marry her man and participate in the tradition of her culture. To simply be married off to a man who was going to make all the decisions for her. But the Angel did not appear to Joseph or Mary’s father to ask for permission to change her future forever. The Angel went to Joseph after Mary accepted the invitation to host the Incarnation in her womb. Mary made her own choices and God empowered her to think for herself.

Mary had authority over her body and her life. Mary was God’s choice to mother the Savior of the world. Mary would be the most influential woman in Jesus’ life. She was strong and brave and accepted the societal consequences of a divine proposition.

And then there is Jesus—the radical hope of all mankind. The Babe in the straw grew up to be the Man who saw women as people, stood up for them, talked to them, and ultimately redeemed them. He continually saw the Father’s image in people who needed dignity restored, and oh so often it was women whom he protected, built up, and gave authority.

This year has been a tough one for a lot of people, folks I know and those I do not, but this Advent I can assure you that there is hope in Christ. As I delve more into what feminism means for me, a single woman in the church who is trying to follow Jesus, I look to Mary and the Baby she chose, who grew into a man who just might be my favorite feminist for the way forward.

The Beauty of Yes

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The Beauty of Advent Pt 3

For the past few weeks, I’ve spent Sundays sitting in my coffee shop, sipping my mocha with a book or pen in hand, and I have prayed. I have prayed for the barista (I’ll call them R) behind the counter, the one whose smile brings warmth and whose greeting brings charm. I have been praying for R, because faith is hard and spiritual abuse is real and the beauty of Advent is not always evident. I have been praying that R would see the coming of the Messiah with the wonder they did when they were young—when the mystery was still enchanting and life was not complicated and faith was easy. I pray for R because I want them to say, “yes” like Mary did.

The Son of God came as a zygote in the womb of a woman. A young and poor woman with no rights or notoriety. Just the favor of God poured out on her. Jesus could have come in any form—a mighty warrior, a reigning king, a roaring lion, a magnificent dragon, a brute force, or a battleship. But nothing royal or majestic came. Just small and miraculous.

The angel could have appeared to Mary with great volume and flaming sword in hand, but he came gently relaying God’s plan and seeking her consent. Mary listened and responded. I do not know how she deliberated or wrestled or how she came to her conclusion, but her yes ushered in redemption. Her yes may have been a whispered awe or spoken with bold assurance. Her agreement with the Angel came with no surrogate fees from heaven, just a promise and peace.

Mary pondered and thought while the Christ Child grew in her belly. She knew the Prophesied One would be born soon. She had songs, prayers, words, and peace, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! (Luke 1:45)”

At Advent I have a choice, R has a choice: is the baby in the manger still the King? Was He born to die so that we might live? Born in a manger so that I might be born again? Born into poverty so that I might sell my belongings and give to the poor? Born as a refugee so that I may live as an alien in this world? Do I give this little eternal King my consent to tear down the walls in my life and grow fruit in the cleared lot? Do I treasure the fruit and say yes like Mary? I want to say yes, I want to believe that the Lord will fulfill His promises. I want to, and I pray that R wants this too. I pray that my “yes” will set the example for R, the example that Mary set for me.

written while listening to Worship 2017

currently reading Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances

Beauty in the Waiting

The Beauty of Advent Pt 2

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

As we anticipate, we wait for the light of Christ together. Like the watchman waits for the morning, we wait for the dawn of Hope to break through the darkness. Like the watchmen yearn for the sun, I pine for Advent, hungry for something new. I am searching for light in the context of encroaching darkness. And yet as the night gets darker and the light grows dim, the hope of Advent appears, rays of the sun begin to peek over the horizon. This hope is what makes the waiting worth it, for it illuminates and casts out the uncertainty of night.

The beauty of waiting is that even when it seems lonely, it is not. The watchmen wait together. Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth prepare together. The shepherds celebrate together. The Magi seek together. And we, the Body of Christ, the Fellowship of the Saints, wait, prepare, celebrate and seek together.

We wait together because the Christ Child is the Truth, because the waiting is worth it, because the waiting unites us in the grand story of redemption. Together we sing and pray and expel the darkness, together with Christ and the Church we are the best Patronus the world will ever see. We bring the blinding light of the truth and the hope, and the joy of the Lord with us everywhere we go. When the darkness is winning, we look to the light of the Baby in the manger, he shines brightly and overwhelms the void.

If the Advent is real, if the Light is coming, if the waiting and the anticipating is for Truth, then we must wait together. The beauty of Advent’s waiting is that we do it together. It is not a solitary event, it is communal. We are a community that waits together, that prepares together, that celebrates and seeks truth together—so that we can eliminate the darkness in the world and in ourselves.

written while listening to Yes, Yes and Amen