Tag Archives: ministry

WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?)

WWJD: An acronym for “What Would Jesus Do,” a phrase so popular in the 1990s among Evangelical Christians that it was worn widely in bracelet form. The bracelet was meant to remind Christians to act in a way that communicates the love of God to others.

At first, the woven cloth is uncomfortable and rubs against your skin. You wear it anyway because you’re not ashamed of your faith. And also, because it’s The Thing right now, available in every color imaginable, noticeable even on the wrists of celebrities.

Should you sit next to that kid who is alone at the lunch table? WWJD. Cheat on that test? WWJD. Go on a missions trip? Smoke a joint in the parking lot? Pick up that child’s photograph from the Compassion International table, and promise to send $28 in support each month? What would Jesus do?

At fourteen, it’s as simple as a simple question. As easy as four letters on a bracelet.

You can’t remember the day you stopped noticing. One day it was scratchy, the next, soft and frayed on your skin. You’ve lived with it for so long that you pay about as much attention that acronym as you do the lines on your own hand.

*

The boy in the hoodie sweatshirt was shot for no reason that anyone can understand. It’s been a month now, and still the facts are a little hazy, his killer free. His name is still heavy among us. His picture circulates through the news – dark skin, glad eyes, wide smile.

Elsewhere in the world, a guerilla leader named Joseph Kony hurts children in unspeakable ways. I know his name because of a video made by a man who is broken in his own way. I know because the video was distributed by an imperfect organization. Because the internet blazed with it for weeks.

The world’s great hurts are trending on Twitter, throbbing like a great open wound. Everyone has an opinion, a point of view, an answer.

Would Jesus wear a Kony 2012 t-shirt? Help plaster the city in signs on a night in April? Would he shake out his pockets to give change to the Invisible Children, or would he overturn their tables in a rage?

Perhaps he would wear a hoodie in honor of Treyvon Martin, and the hood raised up over his head would communicate a hard truth: “What you do to each other, you also do to me.” Or maybe Jesus would just take a Greyhound bus toFlorida, put his hand on the boy’s body, and raise him straight up from the dead.

*

My almost-three-year-old is standing on purpose on the fingers of my almost-one-year-old, and I am yelling at him in my loudest, most terrible voice.

These boys of mine are everywhere all at once, requiring a store of patience that I don’t have, a level of consistency that I can’t sustain. I’m cutting up another frozen pizza, wiping sauce from floors and faces, carrying, yelling, singing, hugging. I’m lugging him to the stair-steps for another time out.

And the tragedies keep happening, the world breaking open at its seams with grief.

I don’t know what Jesus would do about all this murder, racism, genocide, pain. I can’t even manage to take a picture of myself in a hoodie, because my camera is dead and I can’t find the charger in that eyesore that is my “junk box.”

But I do know that once, a man named Lazarus died, and Jesus wept. A woman was condemned, and he offered her mercy. He walked, healed, listened, narrated. He opened his arms and let the children come.

The dishes are out of control and the phone is ringing. We’re late for class, and on the other side of the world, a child is being ripped from his home to fight an evil war.

We’re late, and I’m yelling at my toddler who is white and therefore privileged in some sense. He will likely be able to wear a hoodie at age 17 without being considered a threat.

I don’t know what Jesus would do about all of this mess. Except love. Love, love, love.

The answer is as simple and as complicated as that.

Women in Ministry

One of the unexpected joys of starting a blog this past fall has been the new friendships.

In a faith journey where I have often felt lonely and misunderstood, I am suddenly meeting people who have had similar experiences, who are fighting their own cynicism and darkness, just as I am. They inspire me and motivate me, and I feel privileged to hear their voices every day, speaking from the far corners of the world.

Ed Cyzewski is one of those people. I’m over at his blog, In a Mirror Dimly, today. I feel honored to be a guest writer for his Women in Ministry series. I hope you’ll hop over and join us!

Greeters

Greeters: People positioned at the doors of a church to welcome newcomers with a smile and a handshake.

At my church, there is a small battalion of middle aged-men—a motley crew who throw a football back and forth in the parking lot, even as Minnesota fall turns to winter. They wear heavy coats and hats with ear-flaps and holler boisterous g’mornin’s as you pick your way across the snow to shake their outstretched hands.

Once inside, there a few more—the older crowd, holding coffee in one hand while bending down to speak to your small son as if he is the only person in the world. Then straightening to look in your eyes, take your hand, say, “So glad you’ve come.”

And I think there is something brave about this work, something holy about extending your hand to a stranger, even if it’s for just a brief moment.

But on Child Dedication Sunday, they add another layer of greeting in anticipation of all the guests. She is young and beautiful, works at the church in the specific area of helping new people get connected, and she is grinning wide and purposefully. She is gunning for them.

I can see it in their eyes, the people who are stopped by her glad greetings after already enduring two rounds of handshakes at the door. This is overkill. I can tell that they are momentarily stunned by the fluorescent wattage of all this excitement first thing on a Sunday morning. They shift a little, look around the room. I feel a little sorry for them all.

We’ve been going to this church long enough to know a little bit about this girl. She is strong and honest and beautiful. Once she sang for us the song she wrote for her mother when she was on her deathbed, and the way that pain and hope mingled in the notes made everyone cry a little.

When she stands up on stage this morning, explaining that if you’re new, you should meet her after the service for a free gift, she means it all the way through. She wants you to find something here; she wants it to feel like home.

But it doesn’t really sound like that. It sounds like sales, like marketing, like a freebie designed to get you to subscribe to an email newsletter that you’re not really sure if you want.

And it sounds awkward and inorganic because it is. Because this is not the work of a select few with the Greeter sticker slapped on their shirts, but the deep heart of Christian love. You look for the stranger, the wanderer, the weary, and you welcome them in.

It is quiet work, and it takes every single person, every last broken one of us.

It is hearing a name, a detail, a child’s age, and holding it like treasure in your heart. It is asking questions, listening, introducing. It is helping to find the right classroom. It is exclaiming over a child’s artwork in the foyer.

To greet is a kind of bravery. To take up the long consistent work that is welcome—that is a kind of love. And that belongs to us all.

Women’s Ministry

womens-ministry-christianese-redefined

Women’s Ministry: Events in a church geared specifically toward the spiritual growth of women.

I come every week at 7:00 to sit in a basement with thirty other women and watch Beth Moore talk about Esther. There is chocolate, beverages, nametags. An icebreaker question:

“Describe a time you had to wait for something,” and since I’ve turned to a woman I’ve never met, I don’t say the true things that come to my mind. Instead, I toss the question back like hot potato, and I listen to her tell about a time when the flight was delayed.

These are not the types of things I usually come to. It occurs to me that tonight is $5 night at Andover Cinema.

Beth Moore comes on the screen with her big hair and her wild eyes and her sweater set. She is analyzing Persian history and linguistics. She is telling us to turn to our neighbor and say, “It’s hard being a woman!”

The last time I came to a woman’s Bible study like this, I was battling depression, undiagnosed. I was hurtling destructively through my days. I could not take the small talk, the icebreaker questions; I could not take the distance between the woman talking on the television screen and my own pain.

I sort of can’t believe I’m back.

In this study, Beth Moore is smart and engaging and beautiful and fierce. She says things that make me tear up; she says things that make me roll my eyes. And yet, though I fill in my blanks and try to internalize the truths she speaks, this is not the way my soul is nourished. This is not how I would do it.

I would do it small. Single living rooms. Wine. Bare feet. Unhurried prayer. Unfiltered conversation. I would do it at the back booth of the greasy diner with cheeseburgers. I want to be sitting on the edge of a dock, dipping unpolished toes into the great cold water, wondering aloud about the mysteries God.

I would love to lose track of time; I want to fill notebooks of unlined paper and share those thoughts, not necessarily the ones dictated by the study guide. I sometimes want to invite the guys, eat peanuts from the shell, drink beer.

But there is a woman over there on the couch who is learning to let go of fear, and she is learning it from Beth Moore on the television. There is another one who came in the shelter of the anonymity and who is slowly making a friend, one small icebreaker question at a time.

It is not how I would do it. But it’s not really about me.

Sometimes love looks like this: you go to the study, week after week. You don’t want to, but there are those who do, so you go.

I leave every week at 8:30, shuffling up the stairs with the other women, tossing my empty water bottle in the bin. Every week I try, “Anyone want to go grab a drink?”

And sometimes, a few of them say yes.

We are sitting in the back booth at the T-Box Grill, drinking late-night Happy Hour Pinot after Beth Moore. We are talking about our marriages, our pasts, our television shows, our pain.  We are saying the true things, the real things.

We are saying the things we never say.

It is exactly what I always want women’s ministry to be. True. Honest. Quiet. Loud. Beautiful.

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