Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm a Wimp

Confession One: I rarely bring up the fact that I'm a woman.

Confession Two: Often when I'm out at random places (getting my hair cut, eating out, etc.) and people ask me what I do for a living, I respond, "I work at a church," as opposed to "I'm a pastor." (for a really funny story about this, ask me sometime about an outing I made with friends a few years ago to a Japanese steak house - for the even funnier version, ask Greg Horres to tell the story)

At this point, you may be saying "What is she talking about?" especially in relation to the first confession. Obviously I'm a woman - this is not something I hide, in fact I've come quite a long way from my elementary school tomboy days when I loved to race the boys at recess and took great pride in beating all of them. I now love shoes, massages and girl's nights almost as much as Duke basketball :)

Here's what I'm talking about. I am an evangelical, and in evangelical circles (I'm about to make a big generalization) women who call themselves pastors are often regarded as feminists without any further discussion. For example, in February I went to an incredible conference for church planters and after registering online as a church planter I received an e-mail invitation to the luncheon for pastor's wives that was being held on the second day and at registration when we arrived, I was asked if Jamin, our church's worship leader, was my husband.

I don't want women in ministry to be the issue I'm known for and I fear being branded as a crazy feminist by those who wouldn't have the chance to get to know me and see beyond that initial label.

Why am I writing about this today? There is a great discussion happening over at Carlos Whitaker's blog on this subject that I would love y'all to check out. Thank you Carlos for facilitating this discussion!

I'll share more on this subject another day, but for now I'm going to stop hiding from who God has made me and what God has called me to do in everyday conversation. I'm not a woman pastor, but I am a pastor who happens to be a woman and I love, love, love what God has called me to do and I'm thankful for the privilege and opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Friends, Boundaries and Other Thoughts

I'm thinking about friends today for several reasons: First, one of my very best friends is moving away tomorrow. Ross Chellis is heading to Hampton, South Carolina to be the pastor of Hamption and Varnville UMC. He won't be that far away, but far enough that he won't be able to join me at a text's notice for lunch or read my face and know when I have a situation I need to discuss. I will miss him, but I am thankful for him and so excited to see all that will happen as God uses him in ministry in a new place. Hampton and Varnville - good luck, your lives will never be the same :) I'm also thinking about friends because another friend of mine, Greg over at I'm Just Sayin' posted a blog yesterday on friendship.

So, here are a few of my thoughts...

"Don't be friends with people in your church." Before you laugh and think I'm being ridiculous, you should know that this advice is handed out with frequency in seminaries and within clergy circles. I happen to disagree with it.

I've always struggled with this piece of advice. I've heard the people who give it provide rationales that make sense. In fact, I've already found myself in several of the scenarios they've used as cautionary tales. But still...

From the most basic standpoint, I go back to Jesus and then Paul, neither of whom related to people from a distance. In fact, Jesus very specifically called us his friends; and on several occasions Paul spoke intimately to the people and churches he wrote, calling them both friends and partners. Obviously I can't be best friends with everyone in the church, but I think if we're going to meet together and talk about the most important things in our lives, people ought to know that I love them, I care about them and think of them as brothers, sisters, and yes, even friends.

Friends are people we share our lives with. Friends are the people who stand by us and celebrate with us when things are great and get down on their knees and pray with us when we're walking through the scary stuff. (wait, I think I'm describing the church here...). Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and yes, even levels. But, I think we're being inauthentic to close off the category of friends completely and call ourselves a Christian community.

You see, some of those situations I mentioned I've been in because I ignored the pastor/churchmember/friend boundary are some of the very same situations that have forced me to confront my own insecurities and pushed me to a new level of sincerity in my life, faith and relationships. They're situations that have demanded some painful conversations, but if we skip those conversations, what do we have and how do we grow?

Friendships, like marriages and all other relationships of value, aren't easy. They're often uncomfortable, demanding and impossible to manage. But, today, I thank God that He calls me friend and I thank God for all of the people I feel privileged to call friends!

Monday, June 28, 2010

After the Message

Yesterday we finished the "One Prayer" series with a video message from Craig Groeschel, the senior pastor of and the initiator of "One Prayer." Craig's message was simply that "the path to our greatest potential is often straight through our greatest fear." We are surrounded everyday by our fears, but our God is bigger than all of our fears.

We started this Unstoppable series with a perspective reminder of how big God is (anybody still have their golf ball?). I think we ended in the same place - our God is huge, so much bigger than our fears.

Where is God calling you to be unstoppable? What's stopping you? Who is your God?

If the last answer is Jesus, then the second answer is nothing and I would love to hear your answer to the first!
God Says "Yes." We say "Amen."

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." ~ 2 Cor. 1:20

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents said things like "when I say 'jump,' you say 'how high?'" Well, this is sorta kindof like that, but much, much cooler. In Jesus, God has fulfilled every promise in heaven and earth to you and me. As a response, we don't get to second-guess God or rationalize with God or put God's plan on a chart to make sure it works for us. Instead, we say "amen" in a way that is acted out in our life as a true "so be it."

Let me give you an example. When Jesus says, "I promise to be with you always." We don't say, "That's cool, I'd like to make appointments for these days and times, but I'm pretty sure I have these other areas covered, so I'll check back with you when I need you." No, we say, "So be it." And then we live our lives as though Jesus is with us always and therefore we can do more than anyone on this world thought possible or imaginable so that in everything, God gets the glory.

When's the last time you relied so completely on God's promise to care for you that you did something your family and friends told you was nuts? It's when we get so uncomfortable and so dependent on God, that God steps up to the plate and fulfills His promises in a way the world cannot deny. Too often, we live inside the bounds and then we take credit for the things that work in our life. What if we started living out-of-bounds in our world, trusting God's 'yes' and pointing back to Him. Athletes do it all the time when they score and we think it's cool. Your co-workers might laugh at you for awhile, but I challenge you to let God's 'yes' to their life break through while you keep living an exorbitant 'Amen!'

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Worship?

I grew up as a pastor's kid - Sunday morning worship wasn't optional. God called me into ministry - again, Sunday morning...not optional. I have always lived in the world where worship is simply part of the week. It isn't an enormous effort to go or something that would even occur to me as an option for consideration. It simply is.

It occurred to me recently that not everyone has the same story (I know, one of those rare moments of non-self-centeredness we humans experience from time to time). It made me wonder if I would go to worship every week if I wasn't the pastor's kid or the pastor. I would like to think the answer is yes, but the only thing I can base that on is my four years of college when I wasn't under my parent's direct purview or on a church's payroll and I still went to worship every week. I'm not looking for a gold star here, I get my genetic and habitual presets, I'm just sayin'...

Anyway, since it is summer and the temptation to not worship seems greater, I thought I would take a moment to offer a few reasons why we worship so that the next morning you wake up and ask "Why?" you have some motivators to push you to worship over the extra sleep/boat/beach/pool/to-do list/or whatever else seems more engaging or pressing at the moment. Here goes:

1. God is worthy of all the worship we can give. He created us. He loves us. He provides for us. He saves us from our selfishness, foolishness and daily bad decisions. He forgives us. He gave us Jesus. Enough said.

2. Worship is what we were created to do. You know those moments where everything in your life seems to feel right or in place? Those are the moments we're living fully into our design - a design to know our Creator. It can happen in lots of times and places, but none more so than in times and places of worship. I don't know about you, but in my chaotic life, I crave those moments where things make sense - why miss the place I know it happens?

3. Worship reminds us that we're part of something much bigger than ourselves. It's easy to get caught up in our own world and develop tunnel vision. That's great when things are going well, but when things aren't going so well, it's easy to get despondent. In worship, we see other people who may have an encouraging story to tell of where God has been active in their life. In worship, we read Scripture together that reminds us of God's faithfulness and Jesus' incredible love for us.

4. Worship is an opportunity to say thank you to Jesus for saving our lives and drawing us back to the God who is love. I do a lot of meaningless things in my week, including the hours of mindless television I watch and the solitaire I play on my phone at night to make my brain stop working so I can fall sleep. It's nice to do something with so much meaning to start the week and to start each day.

I could go on, but you get the point. I'm not writing this as a guilt trip for all the times you may have missed worship (I don't have perfect attendance either). Instead I want to encourage you for all the opportunities you have in front of you to worship. Worship is a gift from God - an opportunity to be with Him, and there's no better place in heaven or on earth!
After the Message

Unstoppable Ashley Ridge

Are we fighting an unstoppable God or

are we part of God’s unstoppable movement?

Other people are inconvenient…

Which is why most of us are slacktivists (a term coined by Don Miller in his May 6 blog post). A slacktivist is someone who finds the most convenient way to help others, or perhaps better said, the least inconvenient way to help others.

Luke 10:25-37 – a slactivist’s story (and an anti-slactivist's story

v. 25 – expert in the law, i.e. that guy who memorized his Bible and uses it as a weapon

v. 29 – but he wanted to justify himself, i.e. feel good about himself, add a gold star to his chart

vv. 33-35 – the anti-slactivist who embraced inconvience for the sake of another person

God chose inconvenience for the sake of you and me – Jesus left heaven and came to earth, God moves mountains if it means reaching us

“Go and do likewise” – choose people over convenience

At Ashley Ridge, we could start a bunch of programs and you could give money to those programs and show up every now and then to help out and we would all feel better about ourselves, but what if it weren’t quite so convenient – what if actually started to share our lives? What if we took seriously Jesus instructions to go and do likewise?

Maybe that’s how the world will know our God is the God who saves.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Take a Listen

I decided to break form today and share one of my favorite artists with y'all. His name is Foy Vance and he is an Irish musician. One of my life goals is to go to Ireland and see Foy Vance play live in a pub. What can I say - I'm a sucker for guys who can sing and play the guitar. (I could really embarrass Clark here and share with y'all about him sitting with me by the ocean and playing his guitar and singing for me on one of our early dates, but I won't do that - oh wait, just did :)

Foy Vance is not identified as a Christian musician, but, like myself, he is a pastor's kid. His music has an unmistakeable theme of hope that is somehow haunting and incredibly authentic. My favorite song is called "First of July" that talks about heartache but it carries the constant refrain "but that was the end of June and this is the first of July." We all have moments, days and sometimes seasons of frustration, anxiety, and hurt, but we always have hope that another season is coming and God walks with us through it all. I included my husband's favorite Foy song below called "Indiscriminate Act of Kindness" - enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

After the Message

Unstoppable Church

I John 4:7-12

Are we fighting an unstoppable God or part of God’s unstoppable movement?

Annual Conference – doesn’t always make me very excited about the church

Debating pensions and budgets and organizational charts, closing local

churches - it can be discouraging

How do we know the Church isn’t dying or lost?

1. Jesus is the foundation – may change forms, we may make a mess of things on our own, but Jesus cannot be stopped

2. Where there is love, there is God and there is the Church of Jesus Christ

I John 4:7-12

Since God loved us, we also ought to love one another. If we love one

another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us

Here's one way we're being the Church...


- passion for me started about 4-5 years ago

- the world watched as love overcame the worst humanity had to offer

- Land of 1000 Hills Coffee – largest cash crop in Rwanda is coffee

o 500 orphans in Bukonya, 280 in child-led homes, 95% of the orphans show signs of malnutrition

o $30,000 will start the initial sustenance farm to feed the orphans in Bukonya

Ashley Ridge Church will give $15,000 to Bukonya over the course of the next 6 months, starting this week with a check for $7,500

*And, start praying now about whether God is calling you to be part of our Summer 2011 Team that will travel to Bukonya, Rwanda

“If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Step One to being part of God's unstoppable movement is loving each other in real, tangible, life-giving ways because that’s how God loves us

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?

(Yes, that is a "Dumb and Dumber" reference - my apologies to those of you whose humor is more refined :)

When my son is fussy or discontent with his current situation he scrunches his face and makes a sound halfway between a yell and a grunt. It's his way of communicating "I'm not happy!!!" but it's also his uninhibited attempt at working out his frustration and releasing tension. He can't explain it to me, but I think he feels better after yelling and not just because he's made his feelings known. It's an actual release.

Sometimes I wish it was socially acceptable as an adult to express my frustration in a similar manner. On the other hand, how annoying would it be to walk around and have people constantly yelling out. But this also leads me to think, how much do we hold in on any given day? Do we exponentially increase our stress levels by suppressing our thoughts, feelings and emotions?

I'm at a conference this week where the comment was made at a break that you can tell we're a dysfunctional community because we don't fight enough. Our discussions are civil and restrained and then we gather in corners to vent. As a result, nothing is solved, tensions aren't released and we walk away with more wrinkles and frown lines.

How many marriages are like this? Businesses? Parent/Teen relationships? What if we stopped learning to stop fighting and instead learned to fight better? I'm not talking about punching and yelling. I'm talking about honest and respectful disagreement, a forum to be honest about our frustration without fearing ostracism - loving each other enough to risk upsetting the status quo.

I'm as guilty as the next person. Too often I wait until I can't control my anger to express my dissatisfaction and the results are never good. I'm resolving to start sharing my feelings while I'm still in control - how about you?

How do you deal with frustration? How do you express dissatisfaction in ways that produce actual results instead of shared misery?

Monday, June 07, 2010


I woke up this morning with a clear sense of what was on my plate for the day. I had two meetings scheduled for the morning and the agendas for both clearly organized in my head and on my iPhone (the note-taking app being one of my favorites). Long story short - both meetings were canceled due to conflicts from the other parties - I was rejected. So I did what any other affirmation-seeking, extroverted-thinking person would do - I contacted a few other people to set up a new meeting over lunch.

Healthy? ...Maybe. On the one hand, I recognized my need for input and feedback from others and I sought it out. My lunch meeting was incredibly valuable and I greatly appreciated my friends with administrative gifts helping me out in an area that I tend to avoid. (I like preaching and teaching and writing - I'm still in administrative training wheels that need to come off quickly). On the other hand, I fell back into the habit of taking rejection personally.

Every time someone visits the church and doesn't come back, I immediately assume it was because of me. The truth is, sometimes it is because of me. However, just as often it was some other circumstance or situation that led them away or elsewhere. But, nevertheless, I take it personally. I lose sleep and I begin thinking about what I can do to be more likable and popular and before I know it, I'm in all-out people-pleasing mode.

A friend asked me this weekend what my greatest personal challenge has been so far in planting a church. The answer - getting over myself and learning to deal with rejection. People rejected Jesus, why do I think everyone should accept me? And if I'm working for affirmation, I'm not working to please God and that's just not cool.

This is and will continue to be a growth curve for me. I like to be liked and I think I'm a pretty likable person. But, there will always be people who don't like me or don't agree with me or don't make time for me or don't want to be part of what I'm doing for whatever reason. I'm learning that's okay and even healthy. And, if I can continue to work to please God, hopefully my friends won't have to put it so much overtime building me back up.
After the Message

Are we fighting an unstoppable God or part of God's unstoppable movement?

Our God is huge and unstoppable and His pursuits include righteousness, justice and, above all, you and me!

We're going to spend the rest of the month talking about being part of God's unstoppable movement as part of the One Prayer movement. But, if you missed yesterday and you need your perspective updated on how big and unstoppable God is, please check out Louie Giglio's "How Great is Our God" tour on youtube.

Louie has had an incredible ministry worldwide reaching out to college students as part of the Passion movement and now he is planting Passion City Church in Atlanta. He does an amazing job re-sizing our understanding of God - check it out!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I mentioned yesterday that Clark and I drove to Cambridge, Massachusetts last week to attend his brother and sister-in-laws graduation from Harvard. I had been to Yale and Princeton, but this was my first trip to Harvard. As you would expect, it was beautiful and full of history. We went for a run by the Charles River and I got to re-enact the running scene from "With Honors." I felt smarter just being there.

Anyway, the Harvard mantra is Veritas, which means truth. The word is printed all over campus on every post, pillar and written document. As we went from ceremony to ceremony the speakers reflected on truth and what this means and how we understand it and how we seek it. No one said anything about Jesus. It started to really bug me by the end of the festivities (it's not like I was expecting it, but still...). It was at the moment of my greatest irritation when I made a stunning discovery that put everything back in perspective.

The graduation was set up on the steps of Memorial Chapel in the middle of Old Harvard Yard. They had blocked the front doors and pillars with a backdrop and there was a huge tent spanning over the platform, podium and speakers. There were trees throughout the yard so looking straight ahead all you could see was what looked like the front of an assembly. However, if you let your eyes wander straight up, rising high above the trees, into the sky and far above the heads of the esteemed speakers was the high steeple adorned with the cross of Jesus Christ.

The ultimate irony. Unspoken and unacknowledged as some of the brightest minds in our world reflected on truth was the cross rising high above. I smiled and I think I even giggled a little to myself.

We can deny God, we can ignore God, we can pretend to have the world figured out separate and apart from God, but God is always there. Veritas = Jesus.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

So Much to Say...

I've learned that when there's so much to say and so much to catch up on, it's usually best to keep it brief and spread it out over time.

In the last week and a half, I celebrated my 5th wedding anniversary with my husband, made Ashley Ridge Church worship outside in 90 degree heat for Pentecost (trying to drive home the point that we shouldn't aim to be comfortable as a church, I think it worked :), drove from Summerville to Boston by way of Richmond, Pennsylvania and New York City to see family and ultimately witness my brother-in-law and sister-in-law graduate from Harvard Law School and Ed School (huge congrats to both on their incredible accomplishment, and even more on their desire to use their degrees to be public servants in the truest sense - so proud!!), and celebrated Memorial Weekend by marrying a remarkable young woman and man who is deploying to Afghanistan in August and spending time with friends out on their boats.

All in all, it's been busy and crazy and wonderful in so many different ways. I find God showing up and reminding me of things in places I never expect. So, in short, thank you God for always being a million steps ahead of me and yet right beside me every step of the journey.
After the Message

Mama Said, “Say Please”

Matthew 7:7-11

Finishing “Mama Said” – simple instructions we understood as a child that seemingly get more difficult/complicated as we get older

Say Please…Asking for things

Matthew 7:7-8

As kids, we’re good at it – and not only are we good at it, we learn a simple lesson that, for the most part, getting what we need is as simple as asking and using the word “please”

It doesn’t seem as easy as we get older. Oh, we still ask, we just don’t get what we think we need nearly as often – usually b/c we’re asking for more than a bike or a piece of candy

20-year old girl praying for her mom to find a great son-in-law

Parents praying for healing for their sick child

Everyday, you and me praying for help, praying for salvation, praying for

answers that don’t seem to come

Matthew 7:9-11 – are we asking for good gifts, or are we asking for easy answers?

It’s easy to confuse “good gifts” with getting what we want. And too often we either don’t get what we want and after awhile we stop asking; or, we ask, but for the most part we’ve figured out how to meet our own needs so our asking is for show or habit more than anything else and we settle for okay gifts instead of good gifts.

Need to work from the core conviction that above all things God loves us – and if we who understand only a glimpse of love give good gifts, how much more so does the God who is love give good gifts!