Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mary the Law Breaker

Three years ago Waylon and I tag teamed a sermon together during one of the weeks leading up to Christmas. We went back and forth telling the story of Mary and Joseph. I told Mary's story and Waylon told Joseph's story. I reflect on that sermon now as I sit in a church that will not even allow women to become deacons. I sit and reflect on the story of Mary as I am a women who has no voice within a local church.
Mary had no voice.

What an odd situation. God chooses to use a woman who has no voice to bridge the eternal gap between humanity and the completeness of God and his Kingdom. I started to read a book about Mary, written by an Evangelical man. He tried to exegete the life of Mary, so that we may better understand her role within the story. I gave up on him by the second chapter, because he seemed to miss the point.

As do many people who have never experienced pain, oppression, or poverty. Mary was completely ostracized from her community. She carried around that reputation for the rest of her life. That reputation of being unfaithful to her husband, or being crazy enough to believe that God impregnated her. I am sure you have met one or two people within your life who had held similar views about their role within the Kingdom. You know, the person on the train, who says he is a prophet, or the woman that walks into your church and claims she has a special understanding of scripture.

Jesus wasn't just born in a humble cave. Jesus was born to a woman who held a dangerous reputation. A woman who did not even give birth within her community, but rather had her husband, help her give birth. A woman who did not follow the cleanly laws of the Israelite birth process but rode on a donkey to a foreign place to give birth. And let me tell you, pregnancy is a nervy process to begin with, let alone having to deliver a baby in a cold, dark, dank, place. This woman did not follow the Israelite law in anything. Yet she bore Abba's son.

A woman that had no voice brought Abba's son into the world. A woman who had a dangerous reputation raised Jesus, had authority over what he ate, and wore, and what kind of chores he would have around the house. I would be curious to sit across from Mary, and ask her how she felt about her son. And, how she reconciled her dangerous, law-breaking, reputation with trying to teach Jesus the truth and the law. While, I sit here reflecting on Mary the law-breaker, I ask myself that same question. Will I try and raise my child with an understanding that moral Christianity is crucial to understanding the life of Jesus, or will I try and demonstrate a faith that is more interested in following the Holy Spirit than in morality? Maybe a little bit of both?

Sunday, November 27, 2011


The last year I have been leading a women's bible study. We started going through 1 Corinthians and I eventually asked if they wanted the group to have worksheets while working through a book of the Bible.

They loved the idea. So, I took a model I learned in school and I changed the language to fit within the group's framework. I had all the group members buy a copy of The Bible book by book, and we started on 1 John together.

Every week we did some exegetical and contextual work. Every week we tried to immerse the group within the understanding that the Holy Spirit is crucial to our understanding of scripture. Every week I challenged their old framework. It was a lot of work but slowly I saw some of their old framework shift and take a new shape.

Now, many people would consider this discipline a waste of time. A lot of leaders in ministry focus on service and outreach to challenge their people. I think that is a wonderful discipline to practice. Some of the most convicting moments within my life have been in step with some sort of service activity.

However, I will defend the discipline of challenging theological frameworks using scripture even after the grave. I find it crucially important to our faith because while we will meet Jesus in service to others, without the eyes and ears to recognize what He looks like we will likely miss a holy moment.

Challenging this group's interpretative framework was not motivated by pride or Biblical arrogance. I am not foolish enough to believe that I have the key to an interpretative formula, but I am aware enough to know that the Kingdom's foundation is the many different views of faith that our ancestors experienced in their own life.

Hebrews 11 paints this ancestral illustration of faith that we get to be apart of as Kingdom people. Every person in that faith list had a different experience with God and the Kingdom. And every person within that list had a whole framework that had to be shaken, twisted, and molded into a framework that could glimpse more and more of the Kingdom.

Moses was not ready to lead the people into the promise land when God called him. God had to rework Moses' framework over a period of time to bring him to a place of leadership and understanding.

The women in my group, me included, have been immersed in a specific framework which limits our understanding of the Triune God. However, through the story we have been given within scripture, through our experience, through other Kingdom people, and through our Christian tradition we place ourselves in a place where God continues to shake, stir, twist and mold our framework.

Our Bible studies are a wonderful example of this discipline. As we are constantly being challenged with a Gospel that does not fit within our White, Middle class, slightly racist, American, gender specific framework.

As we meet we challenge each other to seek the story within scripture and to wrestle with the faith of our ancestors.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

A glimpse

I love coming home and looking through old photo albums. I actually just was given a photo album for Christmas that brought me to a reflection on why I love photographs. I often come in when I am at my parent's home and I mill through the photographs from when we were kids. I also love to look at photos of my folks as kids. One of the reasons I love photos is because it's a moment captured within time. Photographs reveal so much about the moment captured. The fashion style popular at the time, the relational dynamic, the age, and the action of the moment. I don't look back on the past and mourn the lost time, or wish for my time now to illustrate something similar to that life. I do look at photos to see who I was, to find my role within my family in a sense. Photographs give us glimpses of a story. However, interpretation is crucial in looking at these captured moments for everyone within the picture usually has a different feeling about that time in their life. I look at our family photos very differently then my siblings do, because I was at a different stage of life. My family photos remind me of our Holy Scriptures. We are often given glimpses of story and often times we interpret these glimpses differently as we grow throughout our lives. A part of a story means something different to us at age fifteen then at age thirty. When we experience the story for ourselves throughout our many days we get the opportunity to get a glimpse of the Kindom in our Holy Scriptures. So, what story have you been reflecting on these days?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This year has been a year of changes for the Lawrence family. We have been busy and searching this last year and it has been a fruitful, hard, challenging year thus far. Last December I quit my full time job to go back to Seminary to become a chaplain and that was life changing, in many ways. I finished my first summer and got a part job job at my favorite coffee shop over the summer. This last year has been a great year for our marriage, as we have gotten closer and have finally started a real faith journey together. Which is probably why we got pregnant in September! We were both shocked to find out we were expecting, but we are both excited for this new chapter in our lives to start. Right after my 24th Birthday(I know I am in mid twenties yuck!) I attended one of Waylon's prayer services. Every Wednesday he has a prayer service for the church where he leads them through three different scriptures and through three different times of prayer. It is a nice silent respite in the middle of the week. Well, we were in 1 Samuel reading over the life of Hannah. As we were reading through her life situation her character and her faithfulness struck me in a very convicting way. If you don't know much about Hannah, she was a woman that was married to a guy named Elkanah, who was head over heels in love with her. Elkanah had two wives and Hannah was the one that he truly loved. However, Hannah could not have children and this was a great burden to her. In Hannah's time having kids was the main role of a woman who was married. It was an honor and a great responsibility to bear children and to bear a lot of children. If you had a whole ton of kids you would have been considered a pretty important woman of that time. Hannah's sister wife, if I can use a cultural term, was a bitch. She was always being mean to Hannah, because Hannah was barren. For years Hannah dealt with ridicule and insecurity. Normally a person who is suffering cries out to God. I do. It is not recorded that Hannah spoke to God about her troubles until 1 Samuel 1. Until Hannah is so distraught that she cries out in such a physical and emotional way that the priest in the temple thinks she is drunk! Hannah comes to God in complete vulnerability and asks God to remember her in her misery. The Lord listens and remembers Hannah and blesses her with a son. Hannah responds to the Lord with a powerful prayer to the Lord. Through her faithfulness and trust in the Lord, and through her experience with the Living and active God she responds in a powerful and prophetic way. Hannah prayed: I'm bursting with God-news! I'm walking on air. I'm laughing at my rivals. I'm dancing my salvation. 2-5 Nothing and no one is holy like God, no rock mountain like our God. Don't dare talk pretentiously— not a word of boasting, ever! For God knows what's going on. He takes the measure of everything that happens. The weapons of the strong are smashed to pieces, while the weak are infused with fresh strength. The well-fed are out begging in the streets for crusts, while the hungry are getting second helpings. The barren woman has a houseful of children, while the mother of many is bereft. 6-10 God brings death and God brings life, brings down to the grave and raises up. God brings poverty and God brings wealth; he lowers, he also lifts up. He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, Restoring dignity and respect to their lives— a place in the sun! For the very structures of earth are God's; he has laid out his operations on a firm foundation. He protectively cares for his faithful friends, step by step, but leaves the wicked to stumble in the dark. No one makes it in this life by sheer muscle! God's enemies will be blasted out of the sky, crashed in a heap and burned. God will set things right all over the earth, he'll give strength to his king, he'll set his anointed on top of the world! After I encountered Hannah and her story in July I felt that God was preparing my heart for a little Lawrence. However, Waylon and I felt that it would be better to wait a year before we starting trying and a month and half later we were surprised with a baby. While it wasn't an immaculate conception I do feel like the Lord had a definite role to play in this whole process. I know I do not relate to Hannah's years of being barren I do find her prayer to be encouraging and to be proof of an existential response to an eternal reality. As I passed my twelfth week of being pregnant and I will enter into my second semester in a couple of weeks Hannah's story has also pointed me towards the Immaculate Conception and the role of Mary within the Kingdom Story. As Advent approaches I continue to reflect on Mary and Jesus and the story that changed the world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Communion meditation

Communion meditation

My women's small group has been studying 1 John lately. One of the biggest themes we have noticed during our study is the contrast of light and dark. We get to choose whether we live in the light or in the dark. If we accept Christ and his love into our life than we are living in the light and if w reject Christ an his love than we are living in the dark.

John flushes this kind of love out in 1 John 4:7-12 let me read it for us...

If we want to live in the light than we must accept the reality that love comes from God alone and that christ's death and resurrection were the fullest expression of Gods love for us. If we buy into this radical and transformational story and accept it into our lives we are called to love each other wholly and completely even when we are hurt, or angry or frustrated.

Communion is a time where we get to display this love in a physical way. Before we take communion let us ask ourselves if we are seeing God's transformational love in the details of our lives and within our church body or are we lost in hopelessness and despair?

Let us reflect on whether we are living in the light or in the dark before we participate in the holy act of communion.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Have you ever been to the desert? It's hot there during the day and very cold during the night. It's a variety of extreme conditions. You would not want to get stuck out in the desert. In Christian spirituality the desert image has strong historical roots. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years seeking solace and reconciliation as they waited as they waited to enter the promiseland. Jesus himself went out into the "wilderness" for forty days and forty nights. In history we can see desert father and mothers who deserted the world and went to seek the holiness of solitude and sand using Jesus as their example. We have writings from many of these men and women who had to get out of the world to save their own souls. Now a days the desert imagery is used to describe wilderness spirituality. The desert is the place where your soul is dry and where you

Have you ever been to the desert? It's hot there during the day and very cold during the night. It's a variety of extreme conditions. You would not want to get stuck out in the desert. In Christian spirituality the desert image has strong historical roots. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years seeking solace and reconciliation as they waited as they waited to enter the promiseland. Jesus himself went out into the "wilderness" for forty days and forty nights. In history we can see desert father and mothers who deserted the world and went to seek the holiness of solitude and sand using Jesus as their example. We have writings from many of these men and women who had to get out of the world to save their own souls. Now a days the desert imagery is used to describe wilderness spirituality. The desert is the place where your soul is dry and where you
wander and wonder and feel like God is very far away. This is where I have lived for the last three years.

I got married. I moved to southern Illinois. I became a preacher's wife. I grew into an adult. I got a full time job and then I quit. I went back to get my Masters degree.

All of this happened and I feel like I am still wandering around in the desert with bare feet. I have definitely continued to make decisions but I am not sure about any of them. I feel like my heart is no longer unified.

I am torn between the spiritual responsibility of where I am and who I am around with the knowledge of knowing I am called to do ministry full time in a vocational setting.

While I have been hanging out in the desert I have started to cultivate my some discipline. If you were trapped in the desert you wouldn't drink all your water at once, you wouldn't waste your energy walking around in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is the hottest. You would die if you wasted your energy and resources while stranded in the desert.

That is why I have started cultivating disciplines. I really don't want my soul to perish because I wasted my energy climbing up a sand dune of conflict that produced no results or change. I want to keep my cultivation in practice so that when I get to a place of rich greenery I can enjoy the beauty of the place. I do not want to get caught up in the beauty and in the belief that i created the beauty with my great leadership or righteous spirituality. I am cultivating now so wherever I am led I can try and see and hear the Creator. The one who has led me and the one who has been with me, and the one who is good.

While I wait for the green, cool, wet grass under my blistered bloody feet I will continue to practice the discipline of cultivation. While I sit in the desert and wait for the hottest part of the day to pass I cling to Romans 8:26-28.

God is still moving and breathing and living. I get to be in a place where God has taught me humility, discipline, and gratitude.

What are you learning in the desert?

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Never think that you need to protect God. Because anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure that you are worshipping an idol" Stanley Hauerwas

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