Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What about Priscilla?

“Does God allow women to teach?” she asked, looking to me for clarity.

This bright, gifted college student was being trained to join a church planting team in France, and she wanted to fully play her part. Through her training she discovered a preaching gift, but she wasn’t sure what to do with it. As a pastor’s daughter, she had been bathed in the faith since infancy; yet, questions like this one remained unanswered. Taboo.

“Does God allow women to teach?”

It’s a question that I, too, have been forced to wrestle with since moving to France. In the States I kept plenty busy using my preaching gift in the realm of women’s ministries, which is generally not controversial. But since moving to France, where there really is no such thing as “women’s ministries,” I’ve been asked to preach or teach to mixed-gender groups. That is to say, when I preach in church these days, both men and women are present. And we have lost one supporter due to this fact—a man who wrote to tell us that God does not allow women to teach men.

I wish I could be so sure.

Again, scholars—experts who love Jesus with all of their hearts—have studied the scriptures pertaining to this subject and come to different conclusions. I, too, delve into the Word of God, seeking wisdom, guidance and truth. While my questions are clear, the answers are not so simple. However, I have discovered a few insights that help me to make my way.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans, right after he commends Phoebe, Paul sends greetings to his friends Priscilla and Aquila:
 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Priscilla is a married woman who is mentioned six times in the New Testament, always with her husband Aquila.  Four of the times that they are mentioned, Priscilla’s name comes first—a detail that carried significance, as it was contrary to standard practice.  According to the New American Commentary on Acts, “That she is usually mentioned before her husband is indeed remarkable for first century usage but probably is less due to her social status than to her prominence in Christian circles.”

Priscilla and Aquila make their Biblical debut in Acts 18, where they are identified as tentmakers who worked alongside Paul both in vocation and in ministry. Later in that same chapter, they teach a man named Apollos. Apollos was a highly educated man from Alexandria who knew the way of the Lord and spoke boldly and accurately about Jesus. Priscilla and Aquila recognized that he had a gift, but they also noticed some minor faults in his theology concerning baptism. So they invited Apollos to their home and taught him the truth. Luke writes this in Acts 18:26:

He [Apollos] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Apollos went on to become a powerful preacher and evangelist, due in part to his humble acceptance of the teaching that he received from Priscilla and Aquila.  

The New American Commentary on Acts says, “It is noteworthy that Priscilla took an equal role with her husband in further instructing Apollos.” In other words, everything in the passage, including the phrasing in the original Greek, indicates that the teaching of Apollos was a joint effort, shared by husband and wife.

In the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul sends heartfelt greetings and expressions of gratitude to his friends Priscilla and Aquila, calling them both his “co-workers,” which I imagine was a double entendre. So when people say that in 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul strictly forbids women to teach men, I have to ask, “What about Priscilla?”

Tune in next week when I ask, "What about Junia?" 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

1. Last week David and Graham helped to lead worship at an ecumenical service in Loches. Every January we join together with the Catholic church in our town for a Wednesday evening service, focusing on the things we have in common, which are, honestly, the main things--salvation through Christ alone, unity in the Holy Spirit, and love for the Father. 

2. I do not understand Pinterest. I just don't get it. I don't know if I want to get it. Can someone please tell me what they like about Pinterest? Should I figure it out?

3. Google+ is also an enigma to me. Why do I see posts from people that I do not know? 

4. On the contrary, I totally dig a website called where I can find all sorts of knitting and crochet patterns, many of which are free! I recently crocheted a super cute pair of baby converse. See:

Photo: Crocheted baby converse...for a sweet new baby boy!
The pattern is free and can be found here.
5. Our summer plans are starting to come together. Looks like we'll be taking a two month furlough, spending July and August in beautiful Spokane, Washington. But I don't know how to take a furlough, so if you have any advice I'd love to hear it. I'm pretty sure furloughs include Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream, boxes and boxes of Lucky Charms, and plenty of trips to Thai Bamboo.

6. Last time I preached one of my sons asked, "Why do people laugh at you all the time?" Hello? I'm funny. When will my kids finally accept that truth? 

7. Here's my new favorite super-flavorful/super-easy dinner-in-one-pan-but-NOT-a-casserole recipe. I modify it by using boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I bake the green beans and potatoes for 30 minutes while marinating the chicken. Then I add the chicken to the pan for just the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Comes out perfect every time, and it's pretty too!

Pan-Roasted Chicken With Lemon-Garlic Green Beans
You can find the recipe here.
8. I really wish you people would pass along some good fiction titles. I love non-fiction as much as anybody, but a girl needs some book candy every now and then. Throw me a bone! I'll give an amazon gift card to the person who recommends a fiction book that WOWs me! Yes, I will BUY you a book if you can just suggest a good one that I haven't read.

9. Anytime someone in our house speaks a three syllable phrase, Chandler sings the phrase to the tune of the Tranformers! theme song. "Where's Gemma?" "Pass the salt." "Don't do that." Are you humming along? The rest of us are avoiding three syllable phrases these days. 

10. David is in the final week of P90X--an intensive exercise regime. He's lost 14 pounds and he is looking GOOOOOOOOOD!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Flailing and Failing

Last Friday I started out running, just like every other morning.

But the wind was cold, the route was challenging, and this old body was tired. Despite great effort, my run gradually slowed to a jog, then stumbled to walk, then choked to a stop. Finally, I doubled over. Done.

I needed someone to spoon me off of the sidewalk and ladle me home.

Today was a completely different story! From the first stride to the last, I moved with strength and agility. At the end of my route I felt as though I could do it all over again.

Why do the same three miles completely exhaust me one day and barely challenge me the next?

As I ponder this question I realize that I have the same experience in ministry. One day every word that I speak rings of truth and love. The next day I struggle to find any words with meaning or significance. One day I'm doing ministry with power and impact, the next day I find myself ineffective and irrelevant. One day I'm sensing God's presence and pleasure, the next day I'm questioning his involvement and interest in my life.

How do I get off of this roller coaster?

There is an account in the gospel of Mark that speaks to this very issue. Jesus had taken three of his disciples up the mountain with him, where they saw him converse with Moses and Elijah like they were old friends. Talk about a spiritual high! I'm sure Peter, James, and John were never the same. But I wonder how the other nine disciples felt, being left to manage on their own back in the village. They weren't invited to go on this awesome spiritual retreat, they were down in the nitty gritty, still doing ministry. And doing it poorly, I might add.

As Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down off the mount, probably singing "kum-bi-yah" and glowing, they noticed the other disciples were in the midst of an angry crowd. The nine were at the center of the controversy, looking sheepish and resentful, while smug Pharisees and a frantic parent hurled insults at them.

Jesus asks, "What are you arguing about?"

The agitated parent quickly explains that he has brought his mute, demon- possessed son to the disciples for an exorcism and that the disciples had attempted and failed to cast out the demon.

So Jesus quickly assesses the situation. He deals with father's faith issue. No problem. He deals with the nasty demon. No problem. Then he sneaks away with his disciples--all twelve this time.

Defeated, the disciples ask, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

You see, they had performed numerous exorcisms prior to this attempt. They knew the drill, they'd experienced the power, they had the faith, and yet, in this instance, they failed. While Jesus was up on the mountain with his besties, the other nine, the un-chosen, were down in valley, flailing and failing and not understanding why.

One day they were running strong, the next day they were sprawled out on the pavement.

He spoons them off the sidewalk and ladles them home, explaining, "This kind [of demon] can only come out by prayer." It doesn't appear to be a reproach, just a statement of fact.

I hate to say it, but I find his response a little, well, unsatisfying. So what? So when I'm struggling I just need to pray? If I had been one of those disciples I'd have been thinking, "Well, sorry Jesus, but while you and your select few were up there having your secret meeting we were trying our best to hold things together down here. Do you know how needy these people are? When exactly were we supposed to be getting in our devotions? And don't you think we know all about praying?!?!"

But perhaps that's exactly the problem. Perhaps the nine disciples, having been left behind, lost sight of the fact that they had, indeed, been chosen, that they did, indeed, have access to God even in the absence of Jesus, and that they could still call on his name. Perhaps, while claiming faith in the power of prayer, they had failed to pray in power. Perhaps they were relying on their past experiences and their own strength--they forgot that ministry success didn't actually depend on them.

I'm learning that in this life I'm going to have ministry failures. I'm going to hit physical walls and spiritual walls that don't seem to make sense. I'm going to feel forgotten by God, even though he's clearly chosen me. I'm going to be tempted to compare my experience with others and come to the conclusion that they've been partying on the mountain while I've been left to tend to the work. And I'm going to get disgusted by the seemingly simplistic solutions that Jesus offers. Solutions that often take me back to inadvertently overlooked basics. Solutions that actually work.

When I think back to the day when I struggled to complete my run, I realize that I had not eaten properly before setting out on my route. I was also insufficiently hydrated. On top of that, I had not slept well the night before. Honestly, I hadn't slept at all. While the route was routine, my resources were depleted. I whine, "Why couldn't I complete my run?" when the simple but honest answer is, "This run can only be completed by nourished runners."

In the same way, the further I go in my ministry and service of the Lord, the more desperate I am for the basic nourishment that comes from prayer, scripture, worship, and fellowship. I don't outgrow those things, I grow more dependent on them! This isn't a reproach, just a statement of fact.

I need thee, oh I need thee
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now my Savior, I call to thee! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What About Phoebe?

“Do you think that women can be elders?” she asked.

This younger woman was searching for answers that will have a direct impact on her role, her ministry, her identity, her life. Like me, she wants to live for the glory of God, embracing all that he calls her to do and rejecting anything that is not of him. As she and others try to navigate their mission, they ping questions like this out into the ocean of the body of Christ and anxiously await a response.

“Do you think that women can be elders?”

I want to give her an honest answer, but I honestly don’t know what I think.

I know what the Bible says about elder qualifications, but I also know wholehearted believers who interpret those verses differently. People that have done much more study than I, people who know Greek and understand the significance of context and the implications of authorship, have come to opposing conclusions on the matter. And so the debate continues, each side certain that their own understanding is the Truth with a capital T.

I wish I could be so sure.

A few years ago, I was asked to preach on the role of women in the church as described by Paul’s greetings and encouragements at the end of his letter to the Romans. It was ironic, really, because at the time I was questioning whether or not I (a woman) should preach at all. But my pastor and my husband both believed that preparing such a sermon would help me understand my own ministry better, so I agreed to do it—in submission to them, of course!

All my life I had just breezed through the final chapter of Romans, thinking it to be a bunch of salutations that had no meaning or implications. But I learned a lot as I worked on that message, things that surprised and challenged me. There are three significant women mentioned by name in Romans 16, each with distinct roles and ministries and each revealing some important things about Paul’s view of women.

First, there’s Phoebe:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Phoebe appears to be a single woman, and the fact that Paul commends her to the Romans and instructs them to receive her in the Lord leads many scholars to believe that she delivered this letter from Paul to the church in Rome. He identifies her as a “deacon,” though many translations employ the word “servant” in these verses. The word that was used in Greek, diakonon, literally means “one who serves;” however, it is the exact same word that is translated as deacon in most other passages, including I Timothy 3. In scripture diakonon generally refers to an office in the local church.

Deacons in the early church were appointed and they were responsible for most operational ministries. The deacons did their work so that elders and pastors could dedicate themselves to prayer and the preaching of the Word. Such roles were modeled from the earliest days of the church, beginning with the apostles in Acts chapter 6.

So the first thing I learned in preparing my sermon was that Paul was a proponent of women deacons. While many churches use Paul’s letter to Timothy (I Timothy 3:8 to be exact) as proof that Paul did not appoint women to be deacons, Phoebe is evidence to the contrary. If I want to rightly interpret scripture, I must consider individual passages in light of the whole, that is to say, we interpret scripture through scripture. If someone says that in I Timothy 3:8 Paul strictly forbids women deacons, I have to ask myself, “What about Phoebe?”

I realize at this point that I still cannot answer my friend's question about elders. But I'm going to keep pinging. 

Tune in next week to read what I learned about Priscilla. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Leader Speaks Well of Others

I learned to speak well of others from my mom. My mom speaks well of just about everyone she knows. She can find something lovely, something praiseworthy, something right, or something good in anyone. I used to think it took courage to criticize another's failings. I now realize that it takes greater courage to praise another's giftings. That kind of courage is rooted in a self-less attitude, a genuine appreciation of my teammates, and a confidence that freely encourages the success of others.

Leaders speak well of the ones that they lead. My team should know what I appreciate about them, both as a group and individually. When I notice that someone does something well, I make a point of telling that person directly, but I also try to tell others on the team. Nothing feels better than hearing that someone praised you behind your back! I try to create an environment where teammates speak well of each other, too. I avoid blanket statements like,"Good job, everyone!" and strive to offer genuine, timely, specific, personal feedback. I find that most people are encouraged not only by praise but also by sincere and regular evaluation. When I notice an area in need of attention, I honor a team member by lovingly addressing it in private. When our work succeeds, I try to make sure that team members understand the valuable role that they played in that success. Many times the talents of the people on my team far exceed my own! I'm learning not to be threatened by such people, but to encourage and promote them. When they surpass me, I want to be the loudest voice cheering them on.

A leader speaks well of colleagues. Every leader has equals or peers--people who are in similar roles in different departments or organizations. These are the people with whom I am most likely to compare myself. Comparison is a dangerous sport, and it often leads to unhealthy competition. When I feel like I am competing with someone, I may be tempted to use my words to tear that person down in an effort to make myself look better. Remember how Jesus responded when the disciples started vying for position? He reminded them that to be first in the kingdom of God is to be last here on earth--that is, to put others before ourselves. Do I put others before me in how I speak of them? I'm not talking about empty flattery. I'm talking about sincere praise! When a colleague solves a problem, streamlines an operation, or nails a presentation, do I wallow in envy or stand up and clap? Do I minimize their success or share it broadly? Will I just give them a nod or will I commend them personally, sincerely?

Leaders speak well of their superiors. Most leaders also have leaders to whom they report. How I speak of those above me sets the tone in an organization. If I constantly question the direction of my company, complain about the work load, or criticize the decisions of those above me, I undermine the authority of my leaders. I do not need to agree with every move my organization makes. But if I cannot support the overall direction with a positive attitude and a decent amount of good faith, then it may be time for me to look for a different place to serve.

A leader doesn't kick those who are down. Since we're all human, it's likely that we work with or for someone who occasionally blows it. Our verbal response to another person's failure can be even more powerful than our response to to his or her success. Will I continue to speak well, to support, to encourage, to bless others, even when they have made a mistake? Will I choose to believe the best? Lesser leaders depend on platitudes such as, "Better luck next time" and "Everyone has an 'off' day." Greater leaders will offer thoughtful feedback, help others see what went well even if the final outcome was a flop, and even shoulder a share of the blame. They approach success with a "You did great!" attitude, but they embrace failure with a "Where did we go wrong?" mentality. A great leader will analyze mistakes not to point fingers, but with a goal of  helping others find subsequent success.

A leader puts the kibosh on gossip. Oh Christians, we in particular are gifted at cloaking gossip in reverent terms. "We really need to pray for Tom, I hear his wife just left him." "Have you seen Carol's new car? Bless her heart, did she get a raise?" "I notice that Terry has been late every day this week. I sure hope he's feeling okay." I cannot tell you how many times in ministry a woman has come to me to complain about another woman. They often begin with some dismissive statement like, "I just need to vent!" or "Can I ask you a question about someone?" The minute I hear anything like that, I'm on alert. My first response is, "It would probably be better if you speak directly with that person." I have learned that though I am tempted to "be in the loop," it is better if I encourage people on my team to interact with each other directly. It honors people when I say, "I believe you two can work this out without my help." And when someone shares something with me that has even a whiff of gossip, I need to shut the conversation down immediately. If I do not tolerate gossip, then those with whom I work will quickly learn to avoid it as well.

For thought and discussion: Do you regularly praise others? If you find it hard to praise others, what is the root of your resistance? When do you find it most difficult to speak well of your leaders? Your colleagues? How do you avoid gossip?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Am I missing it?

We were curled up together in those last conscious moments before being swallowed by sleep. My mind was replaying the day's events like a montage, a visual examen of sorts. Then, like an uninvited guest, a question snatched me from the edges of dreamland and jarred me awake.

"What if I'm missing it?" I asked aloud, wondering if David would respond.

"Missing what?" he mumbled sleepily.

"Missing whatever God made me for, that thing I'm supposed to do or be? I'm 42 years old and I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. But what if I AM grown up? What if I'm missing it?"

"You're not." he groaned, trying to discern if he needed to rouse himself for an all-nighter or if the simple truth of his response would be enough to encourage his anxious wife to to surrender to Mr. Sandman.

Every so often these existential questions plague me. While I know that God's grand plan does not depend on my participation, I do believe that he invites me to play a part. He invites me into the story and offers me work in his fields. And I want the job!

So I say, "Here am I, Lord! Send me!"

But then life just marches on. I fold laundry, lead a small group, knit a scarf, cook dinner, minister to a friend, walk the dog, mop the floor, preach a sermon, go to market, pick up a prescription, bake cookies, practice French, and after a while I start to wonder, "Did he send me?"

Am I doing the very thing he made me to do, or am I missing it? Is my holy calling nestled in the mess of the mundane? Or am I allowing the minutia of daily life to suffocate my divine purpose?

David prefers for me to avoid such thinking, it interferes with his sleep.

I can't let it go.

"I have this nagging fear that I might be a disappointment to God." I whisper, knowing the silliness of the sentiment, but feeling its burden nonetheless.

He hugs me close, giggling. In his laughter the burden dissipates. "You are not a disappointment to God." His words sound final.

I choose to believe them.

Friday, January 10, 2014


"How do you see me, Lord?" I prayed.

It seemed like a self-serving question, but it was an exercise recommended by my daily devotional, so I decided to play along. I really wasn't expecting any great revelation. I had looked in the mirror that morning. I know what I look like, and frankly, it's not much.

Surprisingly, almost immediately a long-forgotten memory sprang into my mind.

As a young girl, my mother sewed most of my clothes. While she was a skilled seamstress, I hated having to stand for fittings. I was often shivering while she pinned partially pieced-together garments around my tiny frame. Sometimes I got poked. And no matter how rich the fabric, nothing looks pretty inside-out with chalk markings all over it, so it was hard to imagine exactly what she was creating. But in the end, I always loved the dresses that my mother made for me, and they always fit me like a glove.

When I asked the Lord how he saw me, I saw an image of me as a child being fitted for a new dress. I immediately felt all of the old uncomfortable feelings--the cold, the scratchy seams, and the fear of being pricked. But when I looked up to see my tailor, I saw Jesus in the place of my mom.

Then, in my mind's eye, the little me walked over to the mirror. But instead of seeing a wee lass covered in goose-bumps, in the reflection I was a fully clothed grown woman. I was taller than I am in real life, I was well dressed, comfortable, and warm. I wore brown boots, and strangely, a sword was strapped to my side. I looked both feminine and strong.

God sees me as a child that he is ever-fitting for his service, ever-clothing in his righteousness, ever-dressing in his love. But he also sees me as a capable warrior, equipped with his mighty word. He sees me as both smaller and larger than I see myself. More than anything, I got the overwhelming sense that he likes what he sees.

I like what he sees, too.

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Leader Speaks with Care

Oh, the power of words!

God spoke the universe into existence and Jesus is called the Word. The Lord has infused human communication with supernatural power--the power to bless or to curse! Yet, how often am I careless with my words? More times than I care to count. A leader who cannot manage his/her tongue--a part of his/her own body--has no business trying to manage others.

We live in a world that is overly-verbal. We don't just speak and write letters anymore, we Tweet, we post status updates on Facebook, we send mass e-mails. With blogging, everyone has a platform for their words--for better or for worse. I know people who practically narrate their entire day through various on-line media. We're using words en masse these days--often thoughtlessly. Sometimes carelessly. Other times harmfully. We have an abundance of words, but have we lost respect for their power?

Once, when wanting to teach our children to be more careful with their words, we gave them each a small tube of toothpaste and a plate and told them so squeeze all of the toothpaste out of the tube. They happily complied. Then we gave them a wide assortment of utensils and told that they needed to put all the toothpaste back into the tube. We let them struggle with it for a while, and when they finally admitted that the task was impossible we told them that words are like toothpaste. They come out easy, but once spoken, we can't put them back.

I don't know where I first heard this acronym, but it helps me to THINK before I speak. Before I say something (or post something on Facebook!) I ask myself:

Is it RUE?




Is it IND?

TRUE--Leaders speak the truth! We don't tell little white lies to protect people--not even our children. We don't ask others to lie for us. We don't stretch the truth, or bend it, or distort it. If the words I am about to speak are not true, I'm better off not speaking them. Sometimes I'm tempted to fudge a response when the truth is, "I don't know the answer to that question." Sometimes I'm tempted to say, "I was too busy to get it done" when the truth is, "I didn't get it done because I chose to focus on other projects." Sometimes I'm tempted to say, "Sorry, I forgot!" when the truth is, I had no intention of doing it and I didn't want to deal with the other person's disappointment.  A leader's integrity is revealed through his/her commitment to speak the truth.

HELPFUL-- Everything that is true is not necessarily helpful. It may be true that a co-worker is having a bad hair day, but it is not really helpful for me to draw attention to that fact. Often those who feel strongly about being honest fail to realize that not every truth needs to be spoken. Stating the obvious to shame another person is not helpful. Being brutally honest about something that is irrelevant or irrevocable is not helpful. Speaking your mind when your opinion cannot positively influence the outcome is not helpful. But honest, helpful words are a blessing. Things like, "Excuse me, but I noticed your rear tail light was out." or "I just saw your child put something dangerous in his mouth!" or  "I noticed a mistake in your presentation, can I send you the correct information?" A leader's intentions are revealed through his/her commitment to say things that are helpful.

IMPORTANT--What do you care about? Sometimes I spend so many words on unimportant topics, that when something I really care about comes up, I've already spent all my verbal collateral. People have listened to me wax poetic about trivial things, and then when my passion flares for some critical issue, they have no way of knowing that THESE words are the ones I really want them to hear. Having to learn a second language has helped me so much in this area. It takes enough effort to speak that I will just keep my mouth shut until I feel really strongly about something, and then I will take the pain to open my mouth. Here's hoping I can transfer this skill back to my mother tongue. A leader's values are revealed by what he/she deems important. 

NECESSARY--Oh the senseless babbling we do! I often catch myself whipping off a frustrated reply to an email, only to pause and ask myself, "Is this really necessary?" Most of the time the answer is, "No!" A ministry partner misunderstands me on a minor point--do I have to correct her? A friend misspeaks, but I know what she meant. Can I let it slide? A family member overlooks a daily chore that he normally does without fail. Must I bring it up, or can I simply do it myself?  Should everyone on Facebook know that my dog has fleas? That my son got straight As? That I burned my dinner? A leader's priorities are revealed by what he/she deems necessary.

KIND--Kindness matters. I'm not talking about sugar-coating, I'm talking about genuinely caring. If my heart is not tender towards someone, then God will most likely NOT call me to speak a hard truth to that person. If I desire to shame someone, even the most helpful words will not provide assistance. Even when someone is clearly in the wrong, kindness is key, for kindness leads us to repentance. Sometimes I am shocked at the hateful words that Christians will post on Twitter or Facebook--in the name of God! Political statements, name-calling, gross over-generalizations that are simply unkind. If the words coming off your keyboard or out of your mouth are not kind, they should not be said. Period. A leader's heart is revealed by his/her commitment to kindness.

For thought and discussion: Which of the five--TRUE, HELPFUL, IMPORTANT, NECESSARY, KIND--do you struggle with the most in communication? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top Picks from My 2013 Reading List

Okay fellow literature lovers, of the 39 books that I read in 2013, here are a few that topped my list

In the spirit of sharing, please oh please let me know what your favorite reads were. I am particularly in need of good fiction references!

Best Classic: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Graham had to read this for his American Literature class, and since I hadn't read it since high school, I decided to give it a gander. The truth is, I think I loved it even more as an adult than I did as a youth. As a Literature Major in college, I have read most of the classics, but I try to reread a few of them every year, and I am never disappointed. What classics did you discover or revisit this year?

Favorite New Author: Tom Hilpert

Earlier this year I made a Facebook plea for suggestions of good fiction, and an old friend of David's family (a woman I also know and love) suggested her son's books. While I love Sharyn and Ted Hilpert, and I had met their son Tom years ago, I was hesitant. It's  hard to believe that a mother might be objective about her own son's writing. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot. After all, Superior Justice was only $3.99 on Kindle, so what did I have to lose? Much to my delight, I absolutely LOVED Tom's writing. He is funny, he creates great characters, and he tells a good story to boot! I quickly bought the sequel, Superior Storm, and found it just as pleasing. The third in this mystery series, Superior Secrets, came out two months ago, and I just downloaded it today. Have you discovered any good new authors this year?

Book that has had the biggest impact on my ministry: Miracle Work, by Jordan Seng

My mother-in-law sent me this book, seemingly out of the blue. What she did not know was that God has been calling me to a deliverance ministry in France, and I had been fighting God about it. I just don't like dealing with demons and find life to be more pleasant when I can ignore the reality of their pitiful existence. This book, whose sub-title is A Down-to-Earth Guide to Supernatural Ministries, is a practical manual, a heartwarming memoir, and a challenging call to action all rolled up in one. It was exactly the encouragement that I needed for the unexpected ministry that God has given me. What book did God use to bolster your ministry this year?  

Most Inspiring: Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey

Jesus Feminist was like a tall glass of water. It was refreshing, invigorating, and downright necessary. Bessey is first and foremost a lover of Jesus. It is her passion for her savior that shapes and defines her worldview as a feminist. I have never read anything like it. She is not angry, she is not bitter, and she is not anti-men. She is honest and hopeful and intelligent. As I am trying to find my place as a Christian Woman Leader, this book inspired and empowered me. 

Most Life-Changing: Godly Servants, by David Teague

Godly Servants spoke to a deep void in my life. I was in danger of replacing my relationship with God with my ministry for God. The two are not interchangeable. This book woke me up and helped me re-prioritize my life so that my work for God now flows out of a rich and satisfying love relationship with God. After reading Teague's book, I began Brian Rice's Spiritual Exercises, which have helped me learn to invest daily in my own spiritual formation. I am so thankful for these resources that are helping me to  rediscover my First Love. What book pointed you back to the essential truths in life?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year from the French Alps!

The boys are here for their GEM Youth Conference, and David and I tagged along to help with cooking for the group. Graham is leading worship and enjoying time with his best friend, Kayla.

Chandler broke his toe, but it didn't stop him from tearing up the slopes. He skied like a maniac on that foot, swearing all along that he felt no pain. 

Between meal preparation I find a fire and put up my feet, read a bit, or knit a few rows.

Even the cooks were blessed with a free afternoon to hop up the mountain and ski. It was a wonderful sunny day.

Seriously, I know 40-somethings shouldn't take selfies, but David and I wanted to catch our moment together on the slopes.

What a wonderful way to start a new year!