May 27th, 2011
The last Friday of the month brings joy just to see it on my calendar. On this day I call my spiritual director who resides in New Jersey while I am home in South Carolina. The hour I have with her is sacred, joyful, centering, and greatly anticipated.
All women in ministry (or any minister for that matter) should have a spiritual director. I have connected with the same director for over ten years and have encouraged my colleagues to be in relationship with a director as well. However, not everyone embraces this idea.
Two objections frequently arise. I hear “I don’t have the time to schedule one more meeting a month. I can’t do anything else.” I counter with “Spiritual direction is not something you do. It’s an embodiment of who you are.” When you sit with your director, you are with someone who knows your spiritual journey. They know where you’ve been, how you got to where you are, and are more than willing to walk with you as your journey unfolds. In your meeting time, you focus on your relationship with God and how it is being lived out. You get to discuss where God is in your life and where you most need to connect with God. Ministers spend hours hearing other people. A spiritual director hears you.
The other objection to spiritual direction is “I don’t like the idea of a ‘director’. I don’t want one more person telling me what to do.” For me, this argument is semantics. Instead of director, use the other names such as spiritual friend or guide. A spiritual director or spiritual friend walks with you. They don’t chastise you or demand that you subscribe to a particular spiritual discipline. This friend is someone who nurtures his/her relationship with God and then can be with you as you nurture your relationship with God. A good spiritual director hears where you are, helps you reflect on where you’ve been, and then assists as you discern where God is leading you.
So how can you find a spiritual director? I recommend asking your minister if she knows a director that she’d recommend. If not, ask someone in the state or national office of your denomination. There are many websites to check as well but I think word of mouth and personal experience are excellent ways to locate a spiritual director. Or you could get lucky like I did and have the spiritual director ask you. However it comes about I recommend you get one.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.
May 24th, 2011
The Vocare Spring 2011 was in my mail this morning. Thumbing through this issue brought to mind events from 1980. A small group of women at Southern Seminary and Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, were talking, meeting, thinking, and evaluating the changes needed in Southern Baptist life for women in churches and for women called to ministry. This small group evolved into a formal meeting that was in Pittsburgh at the 1983 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. (That 1983 gathering was the first meeting of the organization now known as Baptist Women in Ministry).
The Spring 2011 issue of Vocare has a two-page list (small print) of churches participating in the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching! Such changes in three decades!
I recall the bravery and the anxiety felt by many of the women examining and calling for drastic change. Could women preach?
Should women teach men? Should churches ordain women? How did pastors and pastor’s wives work out individual callings?
After I returned to Chattanooga, Tennessee, following the 1983, I began meeting with women from three or four churches for lunch at First Baptist Church of Chattanooga. Nervously one woman observed, “Let’s be careful and not rock the boat.” Another promptly asserted, “It is long past the time. Let’s do rock the boat.”
In the intervening years in Chattanooga, First Baptist Church and Signal Mountain Baptist Church ordained women as deacons and eventually ordained women to ministry. Those churches called women to serve on church staff and to fill other leadership roles.
Enjoying the most recent issue of Vocare causes me to celebrate and to give thanks, but I am also reminded of what remains to be done. I cheer for Baptist Women in Ministry and the work of yesterday, today, and the work of tomorrow!
June Holland McEwen is one of the thirty-three founding mothers of Baptist Women in Ministry. She lives in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.
May 19th, 2011
I remember sitting in the office of a friend in ministry six months ago when she looked me in the eye and said, “You know, Susan, there is no way you can do this . . . only God is capable of doing something this grand.” In my cynicism (not really appreciating her direct tone) and my mounting to-do-list, I quickly moved on to the next conversation of the day, but her words lingered with me.
Last night as I arrived at my daughter’s girl scout dinner carrying my half-baked mac-n-cheese, wearing stained pants, and accompanied by my pouting seven-year-old, I was reminded of her words. Just an hour before arriving at the dinner, I had realized I had underestimated the time it would take to do all I needed to do in the next hour. I rushed at a record breaking pace, throwing ingredients in a dish, even breaking a plate along the way, but somehow we managed to make it there on time. I was a mess . . . and to be honest, I am a mess most days. I forget things, don’t get near enough sleep, realize my children have nothing to wear to school because I have not washed clothes yet, clean well only when we’re having company (sorry, honey!), and I could go on. I’m a mess.
I want to make a confession. So, here I go: There is no way I can start a church. My friend was right. I cannot pretend any longer that I have the leadership skills, the experience, the education, the creativity, the perseverance, the patience, or the ability to multi-task a billion-and-one things. If this is going to happen, I will have to get out of the way and make space for something much more powerful, much more creative, much more patient, more experienced and more persistent to bring this into being.
My friend’s words have lingered because I need to remember them. I need to confess my inadequacies, to remind myself and those around me that what God wants to bring into being is far greater than our abilities. When I try to manage and manipulate it into existence, I end up exhausted and ineffective. When I remember that it is God that is capable and God has called me I am free to show up with my half-baked casserole and enjoy the meal anyway. It was never about me in the first place.
Susan Rogers is a church planter in Jacksonville, Florida. This post is from her blog, “Losing and Finding.”
May 18th, 2011
Last Friday and Saturday my facebook feed was full of congratulatory responses to students winning end of the year awards. It’s a good reminder of one’s accomplishments that have been recognized by others and took me back down memory lane. Perhaps one of the awards I am most proud of was not awarded to me by my college or seminary but by my middle school volleyball coach.
The daughter of a multi-lettered high school athlete, I inherited my father’s love of playing sports. I fell short of the “natural athlete” gene and realized early on that I would have to work hard to be a good team player. I was elated when I made it on the girls’ volleyball team my eighth grade year. My parents were strict about maintaining good grades while playing sports. That fall semester I earned my best grade point average yet. On the court, I relied on our top players to help me hone in good technique. It was Nancy who taught me the team cheer and how to serve. Heather demonstrated the perfect set. At home and at after school practice, I worked to practice what these more seasoned players had taught me. By the end of the season, I had been moved from the second string to one of the starters and most memorably, I was given the award for the “Most Improved Player.”
As a thirteen-year-old, it was a good lesson for me to learn. With discipline and hard work, improvement can be made. I didn’t do it alone though. It was with the help of my teammates who were willing to coach me along. These are lessons I still take with me in ministry today. There are gifts in ministry that are God given and the tools I received in seminary, but it’s the instruction of my peers in ministry who have taught me how to use them in the real world. Those peers include Tamara who gave me instructions on how to sit on the platform and David who taught me how to slide my manuscript without distraction. There are the countless others who have read through a sermon and offered encouragement. They are all a part of who I am as a minister today.
I believe we should all be making improvements in our role as ministers. Let us not forget that God is always calling us to be who we are and to share from that place with others. Congratulations recent Seminary graduates! As you begin your ministry placements, find your “teammates”, ask for help, and keep sharpening your skills in ministry. As we move forward, perhaps the greatest lesson found on the court and in ministry is that we are never alone.
LeAnn Gunter Johns has served on church staffs in Georgia and California. Now living in Macon, Georgia, she is busy writing, preaching, and enjoying her husband, Barry, and son, Parker.
May 16th, 2011
This month, we’ll celebrate six months since Parker drew his first breath of life into this world. The last six months have radically changed my life. These moments have been full of blessings and joys. We’ve also faced (and conquered) unexpected illnesses. I’m remembering the college habit of what it means to function on very little sleep. I’ve learned that multi-tasking with a baby at your side requires extra skills. My growing son is teaching me something new about myself each day.
Being Parker’s mom has been another lesson in relinquishing control, a life lesson that I find difficult. It’s also encouraged me to let my own high achieving expectations go. In the midst of these lessons, we struggle to find a common ground from which to understand each other. Most recently, during a particularly fitful crying episode that I’d like to blame on teething (simply because that seems to work when all other causes are eliminated) I decided we’d load up in the car and go for a drive. My mostly mild-mannered child who loves to ride in the car screamed louder while resisting and fighting me to get strapped in his seat. Exhausted and frustrated that I could not meet his needs, I collapsed into the floor in front of him in a tear-filled moment of my own. I thought to myself, “What kind of mother am I?”
In spite of my doubts that day and others that follow, each night Parker confirms I’m the right mother for him as he curls up into my arms. It’s in these moments as he settles down to snuggle before drifting off to sleep that God quietly reminds me that in His grace I am enough. I’m not perfect (someone remove this from the archives so Parker can’t remind me of this when he’s a teenager), but I am the mother for Parker. And in each new discovery, the promises of God and His love for me are displayed through my growing baby boy.
LeAnn Gunter Johns is a Baptist minister, wife, and mother. She lives in Macon, Georgia.