Archives for May 2016

Remembering to Ask — for the Covenant Companion

Every other month, I get the remarkable job of writing a column for our award-winning denominational magazine. I love who we are, our history and our identity. Like many Christian denominations, we sometimes struggle as we seek to follow the Spirit’s lead, but we have one important distinctive that is highly valued: we agree to disagree on any doctrinal issue not considered central to the message of the Gospel. (One example: as pastors, we are ordained to baptize both infants and adults, depending on the convictions of the individual family.) We are small but, with God’s help, we are also ‘mighty.’ My contribution to our current issue was highlighted today at the online version of the magazine. Here’s a piece of it with a link to connect you to the entire piece:

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Everyone has a story. Everyone. You do, I do, the cranky checker at the supermarket does. The profanity-prone cabdriver, the arrogant teacher, the shy first-year college student, the exhausted gray-haired pan-handler on the corner — everyone has seen more, done more, experienced more than we can imagine. We haven’t a clue what another person has had to deal with in their lives, or even in the last ten minutes!

And yet, we so often act as if we’ve got it all figured out, that life is simple rather than complicated, that easy answers are readily available for any and all situations. We wonder, silently or aloud, why the one moving slowly can’t pick it up a little bit, why the one who is angry can’t put a cork in it, why the one in tears doesn’t pull him or herself together, why the one we can’t agree with is so dense and uninformed. We’re embarrassed, or we’re frustrated; we’re anxious or we’re judgmental. Too often, we default to defensiveness and reactivity rather than breathing in for a few seconds and remembering to ask this all-important question, a question I heard articulated perfectly by one of my pastors in a recent sermon. He gives his wife credit for this one, and I am grateful to both of them for it:

What don’t I know?

What DON’T I know? Truth be told, we don’t know much, do we? Some days, it feels like we know less and less about who and how people truly are. The pace of life in the twenty-first century doesn’t leave much space for easy conversation during the course of our days. We have to move on to the next appointment, tick-off-the-next-errand, tackle the task that nags at us from the back of our minds. We have no time for stories, no interest in distraction . . . unless, of course, the internet calls our name. . .

Come on over and finish it at the magazine . . .

Across the Age Gap — SheLoves, May 2016

We’re talking about FORWARD over at SheLoves this month. And what came to me was the wonderful way older women ‘paid it forward’ in my life and how I want to be an older woman like that. Come on over and join us, won’t you?

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Lucille Peterson Johnston and her sister Betty Junvik MacCreight were the two women who paid it forward in my life (among others!).

I was in my early 30’s, a stay-at-home mom with school-aged kids, actively involved as a lay leader in our church, with more time and energy than I had enjoyed since the babies started coming. A woman who was a mentor to me called one day with an idea: “My sister and I would really like to see something happen for the young moms in our congregation and we thought maybe you’d be willing to head it up for us.”

“Interesting idea,” I thought. “And I’ve got some time these days.”

So we met together and made plans. From that meeting, a semi-monthly morning gathering began in the church basement. For the first two years we met, childcare and snacks were provided by the older women in the church. Can you imagine? Lovely women, who had walked the road of mothering babies years before, gave themselves to the younger women, helping us to start something new and life-giving for all of us. For me, it was a chance to stretch my leadership muscles; for the women who gathered, it was three hours of freedom and fellowship every other Thursday.

That group was called The M & Ms — for Mary and Martha, of course. This was a long time ago — the late 70s and early 80s — when about 90% of young moms could (and did) choose the stay-at-home route. I led them for about five years, then moved sideways into leading Bible studies for both women and men in the evenings, before finding the courage to enter seminary in 1989. The group continued to meet for about a dozen more years, with other slightly further-along-moms stepping into leadership, until the need for a day-time getaway-for-moms largely disappeared.

It was the right idea at the right time, and it started with older women ‘paying it forward.’ They saw a need, got creative about how they might meet it, and then stepped right into the middle of it with their own loving presence. What a gift!

This is just one story, one picture of intergenerational connection, about learning from and leaning into one another across the age gap. Even though sociological evolution has changed the dynamic of many families today, the principles that undergird this example are still valid.

We need connections to our past in order to move forward with wisdom and integrity. And we need connections with our future in order to be open to the Wind of God at work in the church. We need each other.

Please hop on over to SheLoves to finish this essay and to join the conversation about leaping across the age gap! Click right here.