Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Today, may my greater hunger be for the Bread of Life.

Amen.

Valerie Burton

Psalm 34: Praying Psalm 34 for Those who Simply Cannot Praise by Nicole Finkelstein-Blair

As a young person, I carried a Bible with a list of scripture references, many of them from the Psalms, carefully Scotch-taped inside the cover. Each was a promise, or an encouragement, or a word of hope for a variety of everyday struggles: when you feel afraid, when you are lonely, when you are tempted, when you are sad. I thought of that list as I was reading the Psalms in preparation for this month of devotions, and I remembered that though I may not personally be afraid, or lonely, or tempted, or sad (or anything!), there are countless people in the world who ARE. And many of them may be so terribly afraid, or lonely, or tempted, or sad, or anything, that they cannot even shape words into prayer.

Together, as the community of faith, we can claim the promises of God and pray on behalf of those who have no words.

Praying Psalm 34 for Those who Simply Cannot Praise

Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh, let us acclaim Yahweh’s name together. Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted. Yahweh helps those whose spirit is crushed.–Psalm 34: 3, 18, NJB

Possibly, praising God should be the first and the easiest thing we ever do. The Psalmist certainly wrote plenty about it—broke out all the loudest instruments, summoned the congregation, extolled the wonders of creation and the victories of the Lord! In the worst of life’s battles, struggling against the most deadly enemies (both external and internal), the psalms pronounce praise to the God of all things! Praise God though all things! Praise God IN all things!

To be honest, I can see how the Psalms could be off-putting because of this insistence, this unending confidence, that God is to be praised no matter how broken our hearts are, no matter how crushed our spirits. If I try, though, I can hear these songs set in a minor key, instead of as a rousing chorus. I can hear them in a different tone, hoarse with tears instead of bursting with joy. And then–in that pain-scarred, worn-out, gently-echoing song–there is room even for those who are so broken, so crushed, they cannot bring themselves to join in with a raucous congregation or a resounding orchestra.

God, worthy of praise,

keep your promise and answer your people with joy,

even (and especially)

when they are so weary,

so empty,

so ashamed,

so injured,

so dismayed,

so heartsick,

that they simply cannot form words of praise.

 

Let us lend them our words of encouragement,

of caring, of companionship.

Let us carry their brokenness in our own prayers.

Let us match our tears to theirs–and not demand that they

match their joy to ours–so we may praise you in one voice.

 

With the Psalmist we pray for all who cannot bring themselves to praise:

make your camp around them;

be their refuge of comfort and peace. (v. 7)

Bless them with reassurance of your goodness, (v. 8)

even in the worst of the bad times.

Give them confidence in your care, and

show them that you can be trusted to save them. (vv. 9-10)

Look on them with gentleness, and

listen to the sound of their tears; (v. 15)

in your steadfast goodness, gather them near to you. (v. 18)

When they are broken, heal them.

When they are crushed, restore them. (v. 20)

In all their troubles, rescue them (v. 17)

so they may sing your praise

with ever-increasing joy.

 

Amen.

 

Nicole Finkelstein-Blair is a 2001 graduate of Central Baptist Seminary and an ordained Baptist minister. As a military family for the past fifteen years, she and her husband, Scott, and their two boys have found “church homes” across the country and across denominations. For fun, she writes, reads, knits, and helps the school librarian make bulletin boards.

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Starlette McNeill

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing woman minister, and today, we are pleased to introduce you to Starlette McNeill.

 Starlette, tell us about you current ministry and where you have previously served?

I am presently serving as an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland. I serve alongside an amazing and gracious partner in ministry, Bruce Salmon, who allows me to share in shepherding our congregation and leading them spiritually each week in fellowship, study, and worship. Before entering pastoral ministry a little over a year ago, I served the leaders and member churches of the D.C. Baptist Convention, where I benefited from the freedom to create opportunities, supports, and services for pastors, ministry leaders and those discerning a call to Christ’s ministry.

What do you love best about your current ministry role?

This may sound selfish but serving the members of Village Baptist Church has done more to reveal who I am as a person and a leader. The opportunities to write a children’s message, a sermon, a pastoral prayer, and monthly articles for our newsletter have awakened a sense of self that is energizing and encouraging. I am eager to see more of myself, to witness her with each Sunday morning delivery of the Word.

Who has inspired you and helped you along the way in ministry?

It has taken a village.  When I was twelve years old, my grandmother, Eva Mae Thomas, put a pen in my hand and told me to “write down all the words that the preacher says.” I have not been able to put the pen down since. As a young adult, my pastor, Bishop Troy Anthony Bronner, saw who I would become while I was still discerning who I was. He did much to shape me as a disciple and spiritual leader. Today, Rev. Salmon is very much a spiritual father to me and has raised me up very quickly to walk in the gifts and talents that God has given me. It has taken these hands and more. They all continue to shape and mold me as I minister.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?

First, I would tell her to say, “Yes.” Acceptance is the first step. If she does not accept herself as a minister, no one else will. Second, I would say, “Don’t apologize for the call.” She did not call herself; she is not responding to an echo. Her confidence lies not in her voice but the voice in her ear. Finally, I would ask her, “Did you hear God?” If your answer is yes, then serve and sing and pray and preach without apology.

DEAR ADDIE: So Lonely

Dear Addie,

I am serving outside the United States, doing mission work. I have been here for eight months and really enjoy my ministry. I am a twenty-eight-year-old single woman, and honestly, prior to my move to “the field,” I did not give much thought to my singleness. But suddenly, I am finding it difficult to remain content in being single. Why is it harder here than it was in the U.S.? Any suggestions on finding peace with my singleness?

Lonely and Far Away From Home

 

Dear L.A.F.A.F.H.,

As you have faithfully followed God’s call, you have left behind all that was familiar. Now you find yourself in a foreign land having “foreign” feelings – discontent with your singleness. Whenever our usual routines are changed, that which is deep within us rises up and gets our attention. Rather than viewing this yearning for companionship as a problem, can you receive it as an invitation to self-discovery?

As you explore your feelings of discontentment, what might God be teaching you about yourself? About your relationships with others? About your relationship with God? This is a good time to discover the spiritual discipline of solitude. Solitude, aloneness, and loneliness are not synonyms. Perhaps the distance between you and your support system of family and friends back in the U.S. has made you more keenly aware of your need for companions on the spiritual journey. What steps can you take to nurture new spiritual friendships on the mission field?

The Apostle Paul, a veteran missionary, wrote that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11). Those are certainly challenging words. How can you be open to the possibility of finding a life partner while still being content in your singleness? Moving from loneliness to aloneness to solitude is spiritual work. Making those movements doesn’t preclude the decision to have a life partner, but it does move the possibility of single life into a different light.

Blessings on your ministry,

Addie

 

If you have a question for Dear Addie, please send them to dearaddie.advice@gmail.com.

*The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.

Where it Begins by Evette Creighton

My name is Evette. I am a minister, a mother, a wife, a professional, an entrepreneur, a board member, and a blogger. I am exhausted just thinking about all the things I have going on in my life—all of which are opportunities opened by God’s grace, opportunities I have leveraged to minister to those in need. Parenting two little girls, Evie and Ezra keeps me busy enough. And, in the midst of a busy life I too often forget that ministry starts right within the four walls of our home.

Please understand that I’m not suggesting that ministering to the lost in our community, visiting the sick and the shut-ins, saying a prayer with a colleague at work, or tending to the needs of the church aren’t important.  These things and other ways we re-present Jesus Christ are vital to the work of God in the chaotic, desensitized world in which we live in today. What I am saying is that all too often the needs of our family get overlooked for the needs of what we have defined as “ministry.”

Call me crazy, but I am confident that this isn’t what God wants. (Okay, please don’t call me crazy). Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up a child in the way that she should go and when she gets old she will not depart from it. How can we teach our children the way of the Lord if we aren’t spending time with them during critical moments of their childhood? Is it God’s desire for us to neglect the very children God has called us to mother? Isn’t depositing God’s word and the characteristics of Jesus Christ into our children also ministry?

I recently had this ah-ha moment. Let me explain how God opened my eyes.

EzraEvieOne Sunday morning during Sunday School, the lesson writer included these profound and simple words: Ministry STARTS at home. I was absolutely, positively convicted. I reflected on the list of all the things that I am involved and realized that I hadn’t made the spiritual needs of my family a priority. I’d taken them for granted and unintentionally pushed them aside. Hindsight, always 20/20, allowed me to see that the subtle requests for attention from my then toddler was God’s way of showing me that I wasn’t giving her enough of my time. This eye-opening prick to my heart from God’s word has resulted in changed behavior on my part.

How can we reach the lost in the world if our children are lost in our homes? How can we teach young couples how God moves in marriage if we never spend time falling in love over and over again with our spouse? How can we intercede for God’s children in prayer if we don’t join hands with our family and pray together at home?

Understanding how God moves within our homes equips us to be used to mend broken ones. It also positions us to testify on the glory of God to those who need to know God’s fullness.

I wish I could tell you that this is a one and done thing . . . that ministering at home is something that you can do once, address all the spiritual needs of your family members, and then walk away. But sorry, I can’t. What I can tell you is that just as in our journey with Christ, ministering at home is a journey, with growing pains and transformations. And likewise, we have to let God use us at home every day as we do with our daily walk with Christ. Shouldn’t we meet God where God is at work? And isn’t God at work in our home, too?

Evette Creighton blogs at The Real Moms of Eastern Iowa. She and her husband, Martez, have two daughters, Evie and Ezra. 

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Lord, help me to see as You see. Open my eyes to the injustice around me, and give me the courage to make a change that reflects Your love for this world.

Amen.

Amy Shorner-Johnson

Psalm 32: Praying Psalm 32 for Those who Can no Longer Hide by Nicole Finkelstein-Blair

As a young person, I carried a Bible with a list of scripture references, many of them from the Psalms, carefully Scotch-taped inside the cover. Each was a promise, or an encouragement, or a word of hope for a variety of everyday struggles: when you feel afraid, when you are lonely, when you are tempted, when you are sad. I thought of that list as I was reading the Psalms in preparation for this month of devotions, and I remembered that though I may not personally be afraid, or lonely, or tempted, or sad (or anything!), there are countless people in the world who ARE. And many of them may be so terribly afraid, or lonely, or tempted, or sad, or anything, that they cannot even shape words into prayer.

Together, as the community of faith, we can claim the promises of God and pray on behalf of those who have no words.

Praying Psalm 32 for Those who Can no Longer Hide

I made my sin known to you, did not conceal my guilt. You are a refuge for me, you guard me in trouble, with songs of deliverance you surround me.–Psalm 32: 5a, 7, NJB

For kids playing hide-and-seek, the hiding part is fun… for awhile. Behind a tree, under the bed, braving the pricks of a rosebush, hushing the betrayal of the family dog. But there always comes a moment when the game has gone on too long. Though we intentionally sought the best possible hiding spot, hoping to win the game and outwit the seeker, inwardly, our countdown clock sounded. And at first, just a bit of nervousness passed over us; then full-blown insecurity; then utter (if irrational) fear: Is anyone coming? Where are they? It has been too long now…

The seeker always came.

The Seeker always does.

There’s relief in being found. Being found is being seen. Being named. Being called.

(There’s also relief, sometimes, in being found out. This, too, is true for children, who hide behind a closed door or under a sheltering blanket when they’ve broken a dish or clobbered a sibling. Being found out is being disciplined. Which is also, strangely enough, being loved–when the seeker is trusted, and when the seeker is loving.)

Maybe it’s time for the game to end. “Come out, come out, wherever you are…”

 

God, seeker of us all,

keep your promise of blessing,

finding and forgiving all who have been in hiding.

When your children hide away from one another,

and from you,

when they cannot find a friend,

when they cannot trust a parent,

seek them out. Befriend them. Embrace them.

Show them your trustworthiness and your faithful love

so they may feel safe.

Let them know that you have seen them,

that you have named them,

that you have called them out of hiding.

With the Psalmist we pray for all who can no longer stay hidden away:

give them courage to be honest, (v. 2b)

to be human,

so they can experience your forgiveness (v. 1)

and in turn forgive themselves and

those who have hurt them.

Regenerate them. Grow back their tired bodies

and faint hearts. (vv. 3-4)

When they hear your voice summoning them near,

let them experience the freedom of your deliverance, (v. 7)

and enfold them in your love. (v. 10)

Grant them an end to the game,

and let them rejoice to find a home, free,

in you.

Amen.

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Rachel Gunter Shapard

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing woman minister, and today, we are pleased to introduce Rachel Gunter Shapard.

Rachel, tell us where and how are you currently serving in ministry? And where you served in the past?

I served as the associate coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida since June of 2012. I am also the mother of Drew (9), Kate (5) and Mac (4), which is equally a part of calling. Prior to working for CBF Florida I worked at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida as an eldercare advocate from 2009 to 2012, as a hospice chaplain in Lubbock, Texas from 2005 to 2008 and as associate pastor of discipleship and outreach at First Baptist Church, Gainesville, Georgia from 2000 to 2005. I also had the joy of serving alongside some amazing women as BWIM’s coordinator from 2005 to 2007 and as president of BWIM of Georgia from 2004 to 2005.

What do you love best about your current ministry role?

I am a native Floridian: I was born in Orlando, Florida, and grew up in Tallahassee. One of the main reasons I love my job is that it gives me the opportunity to give back to those who gave so much to me. The very beginnings of my faith formation occurred at First Baptist Church in Tallahassee. Alongside the efforts of my family, it was the people of First Baptist who loved and nurtured me. My church family encouraged me to use my gifts by giving me leadership responsibilities, offering me my very first job in ministry, supporting my seminary education through scholarship funding, and licensing me. It is truly a gift that my position with CBF Florida allows me to give back to all of the churches throughout the state that are similar to the one that nurtured me in my faith beginnings.

Who was the first woman minister you ever met?

Christine McCauley worked with the children’s ministry at First Baptist Church in Tallahassee when I was a child. I honestly don’t recall if her title was “children’s minister” or “director of children’s ministries,” but regardless of her title, she lived out her calling in ministry with such strength, creativity, and heart. She put me to work in my first volunteer position in the church by enlisting me to help her in Children’s Church (and it wasn’t simply a way to skip “big church!”) Mrs. Chris had me teaching bible stories and leading arts and crafts sessions when I was only a fourth grader. She had a way of seeing past our young ages and realizing our potential for service and leadership. When our turn to lead didn’t go quite as we’d planned, she was there to encourage us and help us learn something valuable. Mrs. Chris has always been tenacious in her love for God and all of God’s children and she embodied a spirit of humility and authenticity in her role as minister and in every area of her life. I am so thankful that Christine McCauley was the first woman minister I encountered. I couldn’t have asked for a better example!

What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?

I have received a lot of great ministry advice through the years, but at this particular moment, two things stand out. The first piece of advice is a bit of wisdom that my friend, Joy Green, member of First Baptist, Gainesville, Georgia, shared with me over ten years ago. We were having a discussion about parenting and the choices that parents have to make regarding whether they will stay at home or continue to work after having children. Joy said, “I believe that each parent should do exactly what they feel called to do . . . there is no right or wrong way, only what is right for you.” She went on to say, “what is right for the parent is usually what is right for the child. Children absorb everything, and if we force ourselves to work when we feel called to stay at home or we stay at home when we feel pulled to continue our career,  the stress that is generated in either circumstance can have a profound impact on the life of a child.” Her comments have stayed with me and have proved helpful as I have approached my own sense of calling both as a minister and as a mom. Joy’s wisdom, shared so many years ago, has led me to listen to my own inner voice and the promptings of the Spirit, quiet though they might be, rather than the noisy and sometimes overwhelming external voices that have the power to crush and do harm.

The second piece of advice is something that Loyd Allen, professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation at McAfee School of Theology, said on my first day of seminary: “Always remember that you could be wrong.” As simple as it is, I have never forgotten that statement. What Dr. Allen taught me that I am still reminded of today is that I am will always be in the process of becoming. I do not and will not have all the answers. There will always be new concepts to discover, fresh perspectives to grasp and many more ways in which I can grow throughout my journey. I hope to remain attentive to my own process of becoming for the rest of my life, and maybe, in being honest about my own limitations, it will create the space for the formation of authentic relationships.

Check Please! by Lynn Brinkley

“Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” (Luke 10:7)

This month’s ministry manners blog will address the elephant in the room . . . honorariums. This topic is such a sensitive one to talk about. After all, should ministers be paid to preach the gospel? Are we not servants of our master Jesus Christ? We should serve the Lord without the expectation of earthly rewards, and in some cases this is true. However, Jesus spoke on issues of hospitality and humility in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus said, “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.”

There are several matters of preaching etiquette that can be gleaned from this text. First of all, the messenger is to be offered hospitality, which clearly includes lodging and meals. Second, and noteworthy, the preacher is encouraged to be a gracious guest. The guest is to be content with the hospitality that is offered. The focus should not be on the personal needs of the messenger but on the advancement of the kingdom. Third, the messenger is not to move around from house to house (weighing which engagements are financially better) seeking better accommodations. Finally, the laborer deserves to be paid (“check, please!”)

Ministers who preach the gospel must spend a great amount of time in sermon preparation, including research, exegetical work, and the capacity to be still and listen to God’s still small voice for direction. The great African-American preacher, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor once said, “Preparation time is as essential for a pastor as for any other professional. If a surgeon is operating the next day, and he or she is invited to a party and says, ‘Well, I can’t come, I’m in surgery in the morning,’ everybody would understand. If a major league baseball pitcher were pitching tomorrow he’d say, ‘Well, I’m pitching.’ But if someone said, ‘Well, I have to preach tomorrow,’ many church people would think, ‘So What?’”

Preaching engagements also involve travel, time spent away from family, and personal expense. Therefore, it is just good preaching etiquette to offer hospitality to a guest ministers. So what does that look like?

First of all, the sensitive matter of honoraria needs to be addressed during the invitation phase. The host church/pastor should inform the guest preacher of the expectations of the service, the theme of the service (if there is one), assess any travel needs, and by all means, address the honorarium up front! (Need a guide for determining an appropriate honorarium? Check out my new book, Manners and Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette!)

Second, the honorarium for preaching should be presented to the guest minister once the service is rendered. If for some reason the honorarium will mailed to the guest preacher following the speaking engagement, this should be communicated during the invitation phase. In some instances, reimbursement for travel may be a separate check sent to the guest minister following the engagement. However good preaching etiquette required that the honorarium be presented to the minister immediately following the worship service or event.

Finally, value the work of the minister. Consider the time she has spent in sermon preparation, travel, and her ministry experience/credentials, and welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints.

I love to preach the gospel! On occasion, I have refused to accept an honorarium for various reasons. Yet, I have also traveled great distances, paid my own travel expenses, spent numerous hours in sermon preparation and significant time away from my daughter only to leave a preaching engagement empty handed. Good preaching etiquette values the preaching ministry, communicates the honorarium when the invitation is made, and provides a fair honorarium to the minister immediately following the preaching engagement. So please, do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Check, please!

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.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Creator God, stick with me until I am no longer a reed but a rock. Redirect my path again and again as I trudge toward triumph and reunion, as I stumble toward wholeness. Give me the fortitude to follow Jesus.

Amen.

-Mary Elizabeth Hanchey