Time Out by Diane Buie

You know those words the flight attendants always say, “In case of an emergency, the air bags will automatically fall. Place the air mask over your face FIRST before helping the person next to you.” Now, if you are a parent or someone who has a heart for people, you will find this a difficult task right. In response to those instructions, I find myself thinking, “How can that be a good thing? Place an air mask on myself first and then help others? Is that really the best way? Sounds kind of selfish.”

But if I slow down a minute, visualize myself in said emergency and imagine myself choking or passing out while helping the other person, I realize that we both would die. “Yourself FIRST” is sound advice, even if it is hard to accept by those of us who find it difficult to set boundaries. But placing the air mask on our self first ensures that we will all have the needed air to live and to survive the emergency.

Fast forward to one of my recent days off. I was truly exhausted. I am single, but I have lots of responsibilities. I work. I care for my parents, relate to my siblings, make time for friends, complete daily household chores, and just keep things flowing in my life. And this recent day off, I found myself so tired. I do not know if this tiredness had been building over the last few weeks or if it was just suddenly took hold of me. But I was tired. I really needed a vacation.

But then the feelings of guilt crept. I felt bad for needing a day off. Setting boundaries for my own needs is sometimes difficult. I have to remind myself that even Jesus “withdrew to lonely places,” so he surely understands my needs and my feelings. He was single too, and he found times to be alone, to recapture his energy, and to focus his attention on God. If Jesus took time out to be renewed physically, mentally, and spiritually, then certainly we should too.

Sitting in Starbucks, drinking my Frappucino, I embraced my “time out.” Sure, there were things still undone, but if I don’t take this time for myself, I will be useless to the next person or commitment in my life! And so will you.

Take time out, withdraw to a lonely place, go away from the “crowds” in your life, and be refreshed in God’s presence. Put on your own air mask first!

Diane Buie lives in South Carolina and enjoys reading, writing, hanging with friends, and gardening.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Lord,

Teach us how to pray. There’s a busy part of us that urges us to be always out doing something. But you’ve told us that being quiet with you is essential too. How can we know what you want us to do if we don’t take time out to listen to you? Help us not to be afraid of what we might learn if we are still. Let our lives be a work of peace because we have discovered you and ourselves in you.

Pat Corrick Hinton

 

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Prissy Tunnell

Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing woman minister, and today we are pleased to introduce you to Prissy Tunnell.

Prissy, tell us about your current ministry role.               

I am the minister of music and children at North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia, and have been here for three years.

Where all have you served in the past?     

My ministry has taken me from Florida to Texas to Vietnam to Costa Rica back to Texas to Georgia to North Carolina and back again to Georgia, my home state.

The positions that I have held include: weekday education director, assistant minister of music, minister of music, minister to children and families, minister of music and senior adults, minister of faith development, minister of music and children, home missionary, foreign missionary, and seminary professor.

I have been teased about not being able to hold down a job, but my answer has always been, “I have had the same boss, worked for the same company, but been assigned to many different departments with many different supervisors.”

What do you love best about your current ministry role?

I am now in a smaller church than I have served in a number of years, which has allowed me to know all of the membership in a more personal way. North Broad supports my ministry in wonderful ways and allows me the opportunity to try new things and to dream big.

Who was the first woman minister you ever met?           

Her name is Loraine Lumpkin. She did not have all of the degrees, credentials, or titles that today’s world deem necessary. She was a home missionary and on the staff of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Her title was not minister, but her passion certainly was. Even today I have her ear, and she is willing to listen and advise at the age of ninety-seven.

What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?

You are free to be and do whatever God has called you to be and do, which is my paraphrase of Ephesians 4:15-16: “ Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Also my life verse is “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:1

 

On September 7, 2014, North Broad Baptist Church held a beautiful celebration to honor Prissy’s 50th anniversary in ministry. Prissy is pictured above at that celebration with all her grandchildren.

“And it came to pass” by Pam Durso

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” – Luke 1:1 (KJV)

The Christmases of my childhood are all connected to this verse about taxes! Every single Christmas, my grandmother gave one of the grandchildren the “Christmas Story Assignment,” King James Version, of course. Before presents were opened and before the lime sherbet punch was consumed, we heard all about taxes and travel and stars and announcements. As a child, I grew impatient having to hear that same old story about Jesus being born and the shepherds being surprised by angels. After all, a huge mound of bow-topped gifts sat ready for us to open.

Mom and Michael

Mom and my son, Michael, in 1996.

But these days I miss that quiet moment. I miss watching my grandmother’s smiling face as she listened to the story being read by one of her “sweet” grandchildren. I miss sitting with all my cousins on the floor, while the aunts and uncles sat in chairs and on my grandmother’s pink sofa. But mostly I just miss my grandmother.

We called her Mom. According to family lore, she decided that she was much too young to called Granny or Grandma when her oldest grandchild was born–so she assigned herself the name “Mom.” And so Mom she was to us all.

Mom loved, loved, loved Christmas. She loved shopping for gifts–and she shopped for months and hid her purchases so well that she sometimes didn’t find them until well into February. She loved decorating her house, even making sure all the toilet paper rolls were covered with crocheted Santas. She hung NINE stockings on the fireplace–one for each grandchild, which she filled with candy and whatever fruit she found in her fridge on Christmas Eve. She loved making lime sherbet punch (lime sherbet mixed with Ginger Ale) every Christmas, and she served it in her crystal punch bowl from the dining room table. We all drank punch from the little crystal cups, and I felt so grown up getting to hold a pretty, breakable glass, but it was so small that I had to go back to the punch bowl five or six times to get my fill. Mom loved her house being filled with the chaos of grandchildren. She even enjoyed when Granddaddy rolled up his newspaper and chased us grandchildren around the living room, which resulted in LOUD shrieks and much laughter. And Mom loved, really loved, opening her presents. There is no one I know who could get so excited about unwrapping a box and finding a new pair of slippers or yet another box of chocolates. She would “ooohh” and “ahhhh” over every single present with great joy and sincerity.

Mom died in 1999, and Christmas hasn’t been quiet the same for me since. I find myself missing her most at Christmas.

Yesterday, when I was at Kroger, pushing my cart through the produce section, I looked up and saw a short, white-haired woman, sorting through the broccoli. It was a wet, miserable day outside, and the woman was wearing one of those plastic hair bonnets. And just for a moment, I thought she was Mom.I walked past the woman, unable to hold back my tears.

I am grateful for the reminder of Mom during this Christmas season, and I give thanks for the traditions she gave to our family. I give thanks that she taught us on Christmas Day and every day of of her life that the story of Jesus needs to be heard and lived out. I give thanks that she showed us how to share with one another, how to give wholeheartedly, and how to receive with gladness. I give thanks for Mom and for all the memories of her that warm my heart in this season.

I hope that your Christmas this year will also be filled with good memories and much joy.

May the love of Christ be with you today and all year long!

Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years by Ashley Robinson

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light,
The hopes and fears of all the years,
Are met in thee tonight.

 

One of my favorite Christmas Eve activities is singing with my family. We sing everything from traditional Christmas carols to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” to “Happy Birthday” while we blow out a candle for the baby Jesus. But, the year that My Mom, my sister, and I got to sing a trio of Michael W. Smith’s “All is Well” on Christmas Eve tops all of the other musical memories. It was 1995, a year of big bangs and even bigger attitudes, and I spent most of our rehearsal time arguing with my sister about who got to sing the melody. I won, of course. The thing that stands out to me most, above all of the bickering, was the peace that I saw on my Mom’s face when we finished singing. That year we had lost our grandfather suddenly, and my very sick grandmother was living with us, so the words “All is well,” were in no way a reflection of what was really happening in our life. But when I looked at Mom, she was silent, (which is a miracle in itself) and she looked like she was at ease. It was as if she knew, that even in the midst of grief after losing her father, and in the fear of what was to come with her mother, that there was hope. In my mind, Mom’s face that night was the same face that Mary had as she “treasured those words and pondered them in her heart.”

A few years later, in my last year of college, I was back in my hometown for Christmas break. On Christmas Eve, one of my friends stumbled her way to my house to seek refuge after a drinking binge. She arrived at my house without warning, because that’s just the kind of friends we are. We sat on my bed, surrounded by my luggage and unwrapped Christmas presents and shared a cold Diet Coke and my Mom’s Christmas cookies. As we stuffed our faces with goodies, we looked at old pictures of us in high school – pictures of us that held such promise. We had big dreams. Then she told me, while mascara ran down her face, that she was sure that she had successfully ruined her life because she had gotten a DUI that semester. I held her hand, looked into her smudgy, bloodshot eyes, and told her the exact thing that I, too, needed to hear – that there is no such thing as a ruined life. We sat in silence on my messy bed and ate our tears away. Then we laughed and shared secrets until she sobered up, while our hopes and fears spun around us like whirling dervishes. That was not the kind of communion I was expecting to partake of on that Christmas Eve, but nothing will ever convince me that those butter cookies and Diet Coke weren’t holy.

Just a few years ago on Christmas Eve, I sat on the couch in my sister’s house and felt my nephew flutter in her belly. He kicked when I sang, so of course I sang often to annoy my sister. That same evening I watched my friend document her daughter’s battle with leukemia on Facebook. They had decorated the hospital room with Christmas lights and somehow found smiles through all of the pain. The incessant blinking lights of the medical equipment were certainly not the kind of “light in the darkness” that they were expecting, but I saw a sense of hope in their eyes. That year I carried both my sister’s great hope for her new child and my friend’s great fear for her daughter with me as I revisited the story of the nativity at church. Both of their stories held a place in my heart that night.

Tonight I will join my church family as we participate in a Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Some of us might be content while others find themselves in a fresh hell. The good news is that there is room for all of our stories. We will light our candles and sing our familiar songs – of our hopes and fears of all the years. May they be met in Christ tonight.

Ashley Robinson is the executive assistant at Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Dear God,

It is so hard for us not to be anxious,

We worry about work and money,

about food and health,

about weather and crops,

about war and politics,

about loving and being loved.

Show us how perfect love casts out fear.

Monica Furlong

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Elizabeth Mangham Lott

Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing Baptist woman minister, and today we are pleased to introduce you to Elizabeth Mangham Lott.

Elizabeth, tell us about your current ministry position.

I am currently a senior pastor in New Orleans at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church

Where have you served in the past?

I served in associate pastor and ministerial staff roles at Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Alabama, Northminster Church in Richmond, Virginia, and Westover Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.

What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister?

I feel extremely fortunate to have served in multiple ministerial roles over the past sixteen years and have served alongside six pastors, each supportive and affirming in his or her unique way. I would not say I have encountered “bumps in the road” but rather detours on a winding journey. The “bump” may simply be that I expected the trajectory to be straight and quick instead of winding and slow.

I was not prepared for how motherhood would change me. The birth of my son in 2006 absolutely up-ended my world, and I spent several years as a stay-at-home parent with a flexible work life. I wrote curriculum for Smyth & Helwys and drove the Virginia back roads on the pulpit supply circuit while my son and daughter were very little. Later I moved into a bi-vocational identity as at-home mom and associate pastor.

Almost a decade of mothering has helped me separate my sense of calling from the professional work I do. I am called to be fully myself in specific, unique ways that may not always intersect with the work that I am being paid to do. The interior work of the first years of motherhood helped prepare me for the daily work I do now as a senior pastor as it helped cultivate a strong sense of balance, boundaries, and self.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl who might be discerning a call to ministry?

Keep wide options and interests. Pay attention to what you love doing and what you are really good at doing. Think about those activities that make you lose all track of time. Think about what makes you feel more energized and what makes you feel more tired. Listen to people’s stories. As you move into college, pick up some business classes alongside those religious studies courses.

AN ADVENT DEVOTION: Irresistable by Nikki Finkelstein-Blair

This devotion is based on Luke 1:46-55, one of the lectionary texts for December 21, 2014–the fourth Sunday of Advent.

I like underdogs, the last-chosen-for-the-team, the challenge that nobody else wants to deal with. When it comes to preaching or writing devotionals or poems, I’ll more often than not choose to focus on a scripture that would garner a yearbook superlative of “least likely to succeed.” But there are some scriptures I can’t not write about, and this is one of them.

When Mary lifts her voice to God, I feel myself reacting almost physically, as if my heart starts beating faster and my ears perk up.

I feel the tears burning in her eyes when she is wrapped into Elizabeth’s embrace—I’ve wept those very tears in the arms of a blessing friend.

I feel her lungs empty out, releasing the slow sighing breath of acceptance of God’s call—I’ve been holding my breath, anxious, waiting, all along.

I feel her hand gently stretched over her own barely-pudging belly—I’ve wondered at new life, mine and my child’s, already amazed.

I feel her throat hoarse with tears and fear and joy, clearing with a cough before she can obey the impulse she can’t ignore, to pray with joy. But while I’ve remained speechless, Mary carries me with her prayer:

My soul magnifies the Lord . . .

The Magnificat is irresistible, because Mary speaks for all of us, all who have been commissioned, who have been loved, who have been entrusted with growing lives within and around ourselves. Mary prays joy for all of us who have been afraid, who have been alone and been befriended, who have been unable to see the way ahead. Mary sings for all of us who have been unable to be silent but who cannot find words that are worthy of God’s praise.

And the Magnificat is irresistible, because Mary is not like me at all.

I’m not in danger of being sent away (at best) or stoned (at worst) for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. I’m not a member of an oppressed people. I’m not one of the poor or the hungry or the lowly that Mary prays about; if I’m honest, in the terms of Mary’s song, I’m one of the proud who will be scattered, one of the rich who will be emptied, one of the powerful who will be brought down.

How can I—proud, powerful, rich—pray Mary’s prayer, just as I feel her tears, her breath, her hand, her breaking voice?

I pray with her, because, like her, I’m holding out hope for a returning Messiah who will right God’s world and invoke God’s kingdom. A kingdom where I will rejoice to be humbled; rejoice just to be among all those who have been raised up, brought together, filled with good things. A kingdom that may be glimpsed in every willing response to God’s call: in tears, in breath, in hands, in voice, in song. A kingdom that is already breaking through.

I can feel it.

Since her ordination in 2001, Nikki Finkelstein-Blair has been a US Navy spouse, participating in churches everywhere her family has been stationed (six states and the United Kingdom so far) and eagerly accepting pulpit-supply invitations. Along with her husband, Scott, and their two sons, Nikki currently lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.  

An Advent Devotion: Let it Be With Me by Stephanie Little Coyne

This devotion is based on 2nd Samuel 7:1-11 and Luke 1:26-38, two of the lectionary texts for December 21, 2014 – the fourth Sunday of Advent. 

After a disastrous breakfast time, full of food-throwing and kicking legs (two sets of legs), I announced to my family—my husband, my 4-year-old and almost 2-year-old—“I am taking a bath. I don’t want anyone to join me. I don’t want anyone to knock on the door. I don’t want to see the door handle move. I don’t want anything slid under the door. If anyone has to go potty, she may use the OTHER POTTY—there are TWO in this house.”

Hopeful, but realistic about my early morning demands, I turned on the bath water, added a few drops of baby oil, lit a 10-cent tea candle, and pulled out a jar from a secret stash labeled “calming sugar scrub.” We shall see, oh jar.

After fishing out a toy boat, a mermaid, and a racecar, I stepped into the bathtub. Slowly, I sank further into the warm water and felt a graininess lining the bathtub’s wall. The leftovers of the previous night’s de-sanding of the children had not been properly rinsed away. Oh well, I thought, people pay money for mud baths.

I leaned back and suddenly felt a drop of cold water on my forehead. I looked up to see the saturated red locks of the mermaid Ariel leaning over the edge of the bathtub catchall. Annoyed but determined, I declared, I will not be moved! Well emotionally, I would not be moved. Physically, I shifted my backover a little and let my hair and ears move below the water’s surface.

All I could hear was the movement of the water. Whatever might be stirring up outside of the bathroom was no longer of concern to me. And as I sat, warmed and on my way to a brief moment of quiet relaxation, I let a smile of gratitude slide over my face. I was beginning to forget the chaos outside—the cream cheese-filled hair, the piles of soggy cereal, the argumentative transition of pajamas to school clothes—and remembering the random declarations of “I love you, Mommy,” the soggy kisses, and the drive-by back hugs.

I was grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful for the season of chaos, in life and in this time of year. I love the Christmas season. I love red bows and bright lights and familiar tunes. But I feel something different this season. It’s not indifference; I feel just as giddy as in years past thinking about watching loved ones open presents.

This year, I hear a call back to focus on the covenant mentioned in 2 Samuel. Embedded in these verses is a continuance of God’s relationship with the people of Israel. And it’s in that relationship—build God a house and God will make you a home—that I hear God saying, “Eh, Christmas? You can have Christmas. Give me your moments and your days.”

I believe that the Advent season is important, the focus on Hope and Joy and Peace and Love is a beautiful time of reflection on and for our faith! But when we have the opportunity to come up out of the waters renewed, it is important to remember that we have an active part in the moment by moment and day by day relationship with God. This is the substance of this holy experience called Life, which exists from birth to death.

This is the thing that we take with us, into the temporary chaos of typical mornings and into the overwhelming chaos of global tragedy.

I hear commitment to this relationship in Mary’s words—the girl who carried the embodiment of God’s promise—I hear in her words a bold faith: “Let it be with me.”

Oh yes, dear Lord, I will make room for you. Let it be with me.

Stephanie Little Coyne is associate pastor for administration and family ministries at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, Lousiana. You can read more of her work on her blog, A Redhead’s Revelations

Ministry Manners: Titles in Church and Academia by Lynn Brinkley

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8:27-29

Jesus posed this question to disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Well, I pose this same question today, particularly, as it relates to titles in the church and academic setting. Who do you say that I am? Well, it all depends on who you ask…

If you grew up in “my hood,” you certainly call me, “LL!” Very few use my first name, “Carol.” In high school, my Latin teacher called me, “Helen of Troy.” The Campbell Divinity School community has given me the following names—“D-Brinks, Binky, Condi, Sunshine, Mama, LynnaBeth, and yes…Olivia Pope!” My pastor calls me, “The Closer.” My cousin, “JK,” has called me “Vera” (from the TV show Alice) most of my life. Finally, (I will be brave and put it out there) my dad has always called me, “Little House Kitten” (DO NOT repeat that)!

Since earning my D.Min., I have adjusted to being called “Dr. Brinkley” by students accustomed to calling me, “Lynn.” Nevertheless, I am trying to embrace this title and proper protocol in the academic setting, which brings me to this month’s Ministry Manners topic, “Titles in the Church and Academia.”

Recently, I had a conversation with a student who referred to two of our professors as “Barry and Larry” (Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my)! It is just bad manners for a student to refer to a professor on a first-name basis. Even if you know a professor personally outside the classroom, unless permission is granted to ALL students to use a professor’s first name, it is best practice to address your professor as “Dr.” or “Professor” in an academic setting.

I extend this conversation to proper use of titles in the church. Through my experience preaching cross-culturally, I have come to recognize most black and white churches view the use of titles in the church differently. In white churches, it is common for a pastor to be called by his or her first name. In most African-American churches, the pastor is called “pastor,” “Rev.,” or “Dr.” Why the difference?

Historically, black churches were the one place in which people of color could have status, position, and respect. Black congregants celebrated the academic and leadership achievements of its members that were often invisible or ignored in larger society.

Whether I preach in a black or white church, I strive to honor what they honor. But at the end of the day, in both church and academia, we strive to honor the one whose title is above all, Jesus Christ, Lord of All!”

So, who do you say that I am? . . . I am who I am. #C.LynnBrinkley
C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.