Ordinary Time by Tammy Abee Blom

Tammy grassIt is an ordinary summer day here. Eve is mowing the lawn, and her sister, Audrey, is helping me weed flower beds. Eve is unconvinced about her task. With sunglasses, gloves, and sunscreen donned, she declares, “I can’t do this.” I know she can. She is a healthy, strong ten year old. I know she can push a lawnmower safely. I demonstrate what she is to do and hand off the mower to her. I watch closely from the flower beds as Audrey and I pull weeds. Three stripes in, Eve stops the mower and screeches; “I don’t want to do this.” Now we are closer to her central complaint. She and I discuss how we are part of a family, and we all help out. With resistance still intact and ill-will radiating from her person, she mows the rest of the lawn. We celebrate her success with wild, happy dances in the front yard. She is all smiles, whether due to her success or because she can now shut off the mower, I do not know. I look over the freshly mowed yard and see tufts of grass standing proudly next to its shorn neighbors. I decide we are grass mohawk kind of people and praise Eve for her perseverance.

Sweaty, cranky, and tired, we retire to the swing set over which I have installed a flexible water sprinkler. We turn the water on, swing, laugh, and get soaked. As we cool off, the girls start chanting, “Best day ever. Best day ever.” I am amused by their glee. Both worked hard and neither particularly enjoyed the tasks. However, a hose spraying water over them makes this the best day ever.

Tammy girlsI think “best day ever” expresses for the girls how good it feels to contribute to the family. Their work gave them a purpose and their success gave them confidence. And it is delightful to balance the labor with some sheer fun in the sprinkler. A balance of work and play makes most days better.

While the day was an ordinary summer day, my efforts are intentional. I am teaching my girls that working together creates a better community and play has its place in the everyday. Mowing grass and playing in the sprinkler are ordinary events, but the way we view them can make them extraordinary. Bob and Michael Benson say it aptly. In Disciplines for the Inner Life, they write, “So much of my life seems to be devoid of events that can be labeled important. Its content and quality will more likely be determined by my responses to the ordinary.”

Often, summer feels ordinary. Students are on summer break, and not all days are spent on vacation. Our churches have liturgically moved into Ordinary Time, which is devoid of the celebrations of Christmas and Easter and of the concentrated piety of Lent. We live in the common, everyday time. If we are not careful we fall into the summer slump of being bored with our faith. Ordinary time, however, is an opportunity to see the commonplace as the place where Jesus walks, the place where a cup of water means great service. The ordinary is where most of our life is lived. Let us not mistake the ordinary for the not important.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Blessing Central Seminary’s Graduating Women by Day Lane

Day Lane offers words of wisdomMid-May this year, Central Baptist Theological Seminary held its annual ceremony to bless women graduates. The new graduates received brightly colored ribbons representing the colors of the liturgical seasons, and they were blessed by women who have been serving in multiple fields of ministry—as chaplains, pastors, seminary board members, and educators.

The “seasoned” seminary alums encouraged and affirmed each new graduate, speaking from unique perspectives imbued with the wisdom of experience:

  •  “Assemble a group of peers in ministry.  Support one another.”
  •  “Women are notorious caretakers.  Never stop seeking to move toward the impossible balance.  Take good care of yourself.”
  •  “Love the people in the communities you serve. Love them well. Everything else is secondary.”
  •  “Set aside time for family and friendships and activities to rejuvenate you. Create time for fun.”

Molly Marshall blessing Kymberly QuarnThe graduating women were encouraged to move forward with confidence in pursuit of their vocational calling, especially when the authenticity of their calling might fall under suspicion, challenge, or the ridicule of others.  Along with the encouragement never to capitulate under these kinds of stresses, a dear sister offered the solemn challenge: “If you choose not to act on your calling, you hurt me, you hurt your sisters, you hurt all of God’s people who need to experience your unique, God-given gifts.”

With very few exceptions, formations of human communities across time were organized with males at the center of, and in control of the sacred mythologies, the sacred spaces, and the ways that each was interpreted and celebrated. The women have been at best, marginal to, at worst, excluded from the ways the divine in community is understood, celebrated, and remembered.

Central’s president, Molly T.  Marshall, explained that our gathering was not designed to exclude men, but to create a space Blessings Gerri Sheets-Howardin which women bless women because in ministry, “men are often blessed in ways that women are not.” Correspondingly, women face particular struggles in ministry that men do not. Creating a space to talk about the influential, meaningful, and essential presence of women in ministry is important as is acknowledging the obstructions and frustrations that we often encounter in our work, simply because we are women. We are not alone in the joys and challenges of being women in leadership. We have a sisterhood. We are blessed.

 Day Lane graduated from Central Seminary in 2002 with a Master of Divinity degree and is currently a Ph.D.  student in the Religious Studies Program of University of Missouri-Kansas City.  She recently participated in a tradition begun by Central’s president, Molly T.  Marshall and the women in ministry student group at Central Seminary. The tradition has expanded in recent years to include alumnae of Central and women trustees of the seminary.

 

In the fall of 2014 Central Baptist Theological Seminary will welcome 10 women for a Master of Divinity track that will specialize in leadership development for women. In addition to traditional areas such as biblical and theological studies, homiletics and pastoral care, and the practice of ministry, this track will offer specialized coaching in leadership, financial management, and spiritual creativity.

Please contact President Molly T.  Marshall directly at mtmarshall@cbts.edu to recommend a qualified woman you know who is called to ministry. Central wants to build a remarkable cohort of women for this new horizon in theological education. Candidates will receive a full tuition scholarship, a global immersion experience in Myanmar, and personal coaching from women leaders who have pierced the stained glass ceiling.

 

 

 

Patchwork Minister by Tammy Abee Blom

Tammy QuiltWhen I was in elementary school, I slept under a patchwork quilt sewn by my maternal grandmother. One day I was telling my mom how pretty the quilt was, and she said, “Oh honey, that’s a scrap quilt. All the pieces of fabric came from outgrown clothes or old curtains. Every piece in there is a scrap of something it used to be.” I assured her that even if it was made of scraps, I thought it was beautiful.

My friend, a fellow woman in ministry, and I were recently chatting on the phone. I was telling her about my day.  I told her that I had written a blog for BWIM, worked on a Sunday school lesson, and called a friend who had recently had a baby. With laughter I exclaimed, “I am a patchwork minister. I do not have one ministry role that  defines what I do. I do pieces of this and pieces of that, and somehow it works. Ironically, many of my former ministries are evidenced in current ones.”

My first ministry position after seminary involved creating sensory motor worship experiences for preschoolers. I combined my knowledge of Christian education, worship, and recruitment of volunteers to create a weekly worship experience. Today I use all three of those skills teaching first and second graders in Sunday school.

My second ministry position was serving on church staff as minister of education and youth. Not only did I create educational and social opportunities for teenagers, I also learned about developing a network of support for a ministry. I developed the skills for identifying people who are passionate about a ministry and then working together to make that ministry thrive. Today I serve on ministry teams and get to use those skills frequently.

And most recently, I wrote a series of Sunday school lessons for Smyth and Helwys. When I was contacted to write, I was asked to work with the theme of spiritual disciplines, particularly Lectio Divina. I chuckled because when I worked with Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I was given the opportunity to take several classes on spiritual disciplines at Stillpoint in Nashville.  In constructing the Sunday school lessons, I did my best to convey what I have learned along the way, and I pray diligently that my experience connects with the learners.

There are days when I want to be more like a patchwork quilt constructed of new fabric and pieced into an elaborate recognizable pattern and less like a patchwork quilt made of scraps of fabric from other places and times. However, I remember my grandmother’s quilt. I never thought it was less beautiful or less warm than one of the fancier pieced quilts. Today I hope to relax into the many different pieces that have lead to the ministry role I have currently.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.