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What’s new with Sue?

“The difference between bounded-set spiritual growth and centered-set spiritual growth is that the first requires constant new information to keep us (marginally) interested and the other requires all the promise and insecurity of a living relationship that’s on the move and might take us to surprising places. ” Dave Schmeltzer

As I was reading through the latest thought piece from Blue Ocean faith on Childlike Faith, I was struck by the quote above.  You see, for many years I’ve been in the camp that equated greater knowledge with greater maturity.   Yet as I thought about it, I realized that all the learning and theology never brought me to any greater degree of maturity, either personal or spiritual, unless there was an experiential, life engaging aspect to the learning.   

I’ve been in a process of moving away from bounded set thinking for a number of years.  The less bounded set I have become in my own thinking, the harder it has been to live and work within a bounded set context.  Ultimately, that led to my leaving a job I loved (for the most part) in order to pursue Jesus, without knowing at all where that might take me.  I’m beginning to have an idea of the next steps.  

In a couple of weeks I will be attending the final cohort meeting of my training in spiritual direction.  It has been a wild two years.  Where I thought I was going when I began and the direction I am pursuing now could not be more divergent.  I started down this road to learn more about spiritual formation (the “new information”) and to learn how to be a spiritual director.  What I found instead was the “promise and insecurity” of a far deeper relationship with Jesus.  (I am frequently reminded of the cry of the children in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle: “Higher up and further in”).  Yes, I’m learning to be a spiritual director, the learning of which is a life long process.   But so much more has happened.  

I’ll be letting you know more of where Jesus is leading me soon!! 

I’m numb, and yet…

I’m numb.  Another shooting.  Another young white male with a gun. Immediately everyone wants to co-opt it for their particular pet cause: gun control, the broken mental health system (this with no indication AT ALL that mental illness is part of this particular incident), you name it, it is being said somewhere. Fingers pointing every which way.

Yes.  This is about race and racism.  Yes, this is about white male privilege.   Yes, this is about guns.  Yes, this is about a broken fallen world.    Yes, this is about many things.  But please, above all, this is about people:  People whose lives were cut short by another person.  All of them image bearers of the Living God.  Yes, even the shooter is an image bearer.  A broken, fallen, damaged and seemingly very corrupted image bearer, but still made in the image of God.

It breaks my heart when we, as image bearers of the Living God, hurt other image bearers.  To devastating effect: 9 lives ended because, ultimately, the shooter didn’t see them as fellow image bearers. Perhaps he didn’t see himself as an image bearer, let alone anyone else.  I don’t think this will even be a question that is asked.  But I’m asking it: Do we see those around us, those we love, but more so, those we dislike, those we fear, those we disdain, as image bearers of the Living God?

I can’t prevent the next shooting.  But I can be aware that each and every human being I encounter, no matter what their character, what choices they have made in life, what their beliefs, bears the image of the Living God.  And with this in mind, I can treat them with respect and dignity, because I too, bear God’s image.

Walking the Labyrinth

As I begin, a few turns and the tantalizing closeness of the center is there; the temptation to believe that I have arrived: A conversation remembered from many years ago with B and G and J; accusing me of self-righteousness, do I think that I have “arrived”? I deny the truth, that I do think I have arrived.

Turnings and twistings, but only one path: freedom that all the twists and turns are part of my journey, there are no mistakes. I am beloved in each turning. A step off the path to let me pass: the kindness and care of community. I step off the path: a pause in the journey, but brief.

From above all the turnings are seen. The center is reached but the journey is not done. Being present in the moment in each step, each turn. Turns that are surprising and take me in unexpected directions, far from the center.

The leaving behind of rigid thinking; still more to come in the way of challenges. A moment of grief remembered from the night watches: grief that a gay couple with kids would be made to feel unwelcome.

Ah, the end is in sight…but no, once again I am turned away to follow the path where it leads. There is no arrival, only the path.

Can Home schooling and God’s outrageous, extravagent Grace co-exist? I hope so.

Yesterday I posted links to two widely disparate articles that I had read in the last several days.  One is an interview with Tullian Tchividjian, pastor, author, seminary prof and grandson of Billy Graham, about the topic of his latest book: One Way Love: Inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world.  The other is an article about students (and parents) leaving behind their fundamentalist homeschooling roots. In some cases, literally needing to escape from their families and communities.

I was a home-schooler for eight years.  I wasn’t a very good one.  I didn’t have ten kids of my own, who were all Rhodes scholars in the making.  I wasn’t cooking a month’s worth of food all in one day to keep in the freezer so that I could devote all of my time to said kids.  My kids weren’t going to kiss dating goodbye,  etc.  I went to the home schooling conferences (where I felt distinctly out-of-place with my jeans and short hair.)  I read Mary Pride and all the other big names.  I had friends who were more like the cover families from the home schooling magazines, and thankfully, some who were, like me, not!

Perhaps another time I’ll blog about the whole paternalistic, misogynistic side of some parts of the home-schooling movement.  It was one of the big issues I ran into with home schooling, but isn’t really what struck me about these two articles together.

One of the things that always struck me in the home schooling community was how much was done to protect the kids from the world.  I admit, my own reasons for home schooling had much more to do with keeping them out of a really broken school system in our city than any personal philosophy that home schooling was somehow better.   But what was being done to actually prepare kids for living in this world?    Much of what was/is emphasized in the literature is about making children think and behave a certain way.  The Bible was always the rule book for behavior and thinking.   Yet, did this really prepare them for successful living in the real world?  It fostered an US versus THEM mentality, where they, “the world,” is a threat; so that what is acceptable, good, “normal” is very narrow.   It fostered a mindset that breeds hatred and intolerance.

The Bible, when used as a rule book becomes the law.  It has the same effect today that it did when Paul wrote about the Law in the book of Romans.  The Law actually stimulates us to sin!   So then we can either recognize God’s immense and wonderful grace and respond by repentance or we can beat the bad behavior out of the child.  Unfortunately, much of what I had read in the homeschooling literature chose the latter.   The literature always seemed to be about behavior modification rather than about teaching the grace of God.

This is where the interview comes in.  Tullian Tchividjian talks about how we are so afraid of really teaching grace.  The very argument that Paul addresses in Romans 6.  Essentially, “If we teach grace then people will sin more.”   Why are we so afraid of sin?  Tullian says  “Eugene Peterson has wisely said that ‘discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own.’ ”  If only I had known this twenty years ago!  If I could say that there is a place where I failed in home schooling, it would be in that I paid more attention to developing well behaved kids than kids who understood grace.

So what’s my point.  It’s not specifically about home schooling.  That was just the catalyst article.  My point is that in all our discipleship, with our little ones (I have a five year old granddaughter now) and our older ones (my job involves adult discipleship) we need to not be afraid to teach grace in all its scary messy wonderfulness.  Total forgiveness, total acceptance.  The idea that we cannot make God not love us.  God is love – he cannot do other than love, because his nature is love.  ALL wrath was already poured out on Jesus (Thanks be to God!!)  There is no wrath left.

I love my friends who are home schoolers.  I respect you!  But please, please, please, remember the Bible is about Jesus wonderful sacrifice and Grace, not a handbook for raising well behaved children!

A bit of a ramble, I know.  I’m out of practice.  Grace and peace!


I have been AWOL.

My last post was just after the shootings at Sandy Hook.  For some reason, after that post I just couldn’t write.  Life was busy, job was changing a bit.  But mostly, my heart just wasn’t in it.

But I’ve been piqued by a few articles and blog posts I’ve read recently, I have things to say, that I want to say.  So I’ll be back…  Look for something tomorrow involving extravagant grace and people who have abandoned the fundamentalist homeschooling movement.   Meanwhile, read the articles that got me going again…


How will I be heard?

Add a season of serious busyness, some ill health, some indolence and voila: no writing.  However, the blog world has recently kicked me into gear once again.  Some recent conversations as well as some personal reflection have had me thinking about how I communicate.

Several years ago I read  The Loudest Duck by Laura Liswood.  This book helped me articulate many of the issues I was having within my workplace, where I am one of the few female pastors on a large staff at a mega church.   Our senior pastor had asked the entire pastoral staff to read the book.   It gave those of us who did not have male privilege and power some language for dialog.  Sadly, however, not much changed ultimately.   I still regularly find myself ignored when I express myself in my normal manner.  Called out for being harsh if I express myself in a way similar to my male colleagues.

In an earlier post I wrote:

As we look at current business leadership, the trend is toward teams and team building, with an emphasis on creating teams that are strengths based. From a biblical perspective, I would say that this points us to one of the first issues.   As we seek to develop leadership teams for churches, do we not want to reflect not just strengths, but God’s character and nature on our teams?  Men and women are created in the image of God, yet are often different in the ways they think about and approach issues.  As men and women, we both reflect the image of God, yet somehow differently; different aspects, different ways of looking at things, different ways of processing information.  I would suggest that leadership teams for non-gender specific ministries that are not mixed gender fall short of reflecting fully God’s nature and character in the leadership team.  Well balanced single gender teams, while they may be highly successful, might find that they are even more effective moving to a mixed gender model, although they may have to learn to operate a bit differently!

I am even more convinced of this today than when I posted this previously.  I know that there are things that I see and experience differently than my male colleagues.   I also know that God placed me where I am for a purpose.  How then can I fulfill this purpose if I am ignored or silenced when I reflect what I am seeing and hearing in our church?  If I am not to operate in the way that God has created me, then why be there at all? Honestly, I’m tired of having to put on the “man suit” to be heard and respected. I’m tired of being ignored when I don’t and damned when I do.

How can I communicate in a way that does not violate who I am as a woman and still be heard?  One truth I have recently embraced is that I do not need anyone’s permission to have an opinion, to voice it and defend it.  Do I need to speak like a man to do this? No, but I do need to be tenacious and that can be difficult.  My old complementarian upbringing had convinced me that at some level I needed permission to think and speak differently than the males around me, and to hold an opinion that is different in the face of much masculine disagreement can be challenging.  So I need to pick my battles carefully.

So, how will I be heard?  I’m still figuring it out.  But I do know this;  if I don’t speak at all, I will never be heard!

Looking back, looking forward: Journey with Jesus

I was never a consistent nor prolific journaler in years past, however, last year I undertook the Journey with Jesus, Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Larry Warner.   I was encouraged to journal on a daily basis.  While I didn’t quite manage daily, I wrote more than in the previous 5 years combined.   I found it helpful, challenging and often found myself writing things that I would have been afraid to say out loud.  It slowed me down a bit as I had to process what I was thinking in order to write it out.  But the biggest thing it did was get me writing again.  I’m a reluctant writer, I both love it and dread it at the same time.  I wouldn’t have this blog if I hadn’t started journaling more consistently last year.

As I looked back through my journal on December 31, I found things that I had forgotten about;  ideas and thoughts that I need to revisit.  They would have been lost, had I not written them down.  There are frustrations and victories at home and at work, all there, to be considered again, to see how God has moved, answered prayers, albeit often not the way I would have predicted or wanted.

The Daily Examen has made me more mindful of what I say and how I interact with people.  More importantly, I have been challenged on a daily basis to see myself through the eyes of grace and love and in so doing, my ability to see others through that lens has been transformed.  I have realized more clearly who I am and who I am not.  I have watched others on this same journey also becoming more themselves.  It has been a joy to behold.

Looking forward, I have yet to complete the exercises.  I’ve gotten stalled a few times.  But that is OK.  I’m still moving forward, and there is no right or wrong time frame for this.  I expect to be exploring Spiritual Direction from many angles this year.  As a recipient it has been life changing.  I’ll be pursuing training as a Spiritual Director in some way this year.   I expect I’ll write about that here on occasion.

I will be updating and continuing to expand my thoughts on ways that we need to be aware of the challenges faced by women in ministry.   I’ll be writing about the challenges at different life stages and some thoughts on how we need to challenge the current thinking.

I’ll be extending my annual “Holy Spirit Challenge” to you, too.  Every year I challenge the attenders of our monthly Holy Spirit Empowerment Night to an annual challenge.  Why not come along for the ride?

Above all, I want to go “Further up and further in”


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