Where are the scouts when you need them?
By Judi Jackson
Sept. 24, 2014
As we move into Week 6 of the semester, we’ve had plenty of time for the seminary acclimation process to set in. We’ve survived orientation and convocation and, thank the Lord, haven’t had any hurrica-tions (yet).
But still many of us are juggling so many responsibilities and deadlines that our stomachs are tied up in knots. We need some Boy Scouts to show us how to UN-tie these knots so we can continue into the semester with a sense of peace and purpose.
In Hebrews 12:1, we’re encouraged to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” so that we can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” In a previous blog, I wrote about the importance of identifying what hinders you or what’s holding you back. In this one, I want to throw out some thoughts on dealing with knots and entanglements.
THREE: Identify what ties you up in knots.
So let’s brainstorm. What gets tangled? Hair. Christmas tree lights. Necklace chains. Shoelaces.
When any of these things gets tangled, we find a way to work out the knots. Rarely do we just cut off our hair, throw out the light strands, or toss the gold. Instead, we give the situation some patient attention and see what we can accomplish. Occasionally, we call in the big guns … like when I ask my hubby to use his special little tools for getting the knots out of my necklaces.
We do some very intentional things to deal with the physical ‘knots’ in our lives, and we need to use the same determination when we encounter people, commitments, and other things that get us tangled. In order to “throw them off,” we need to deal with them intentionally.
Have you heard the phrase ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’? One choice or decision that seems good or manageable at the moment can reap a consequence down the road that you aren’t prepared to deal with.
Someone I know is making plans to move back to a city she lived in recently. She left for a short-term job opportunity, expecting to make enough money for the return trip. However, during that time away, she enjoyed shopping, eating out, and other money-draining activities. Now that it’s time to move back, she is scrambling for the funds necessary to cover expenses until she can get settled again. Yikes! This knot certainly can be untied but not without careful attention to the other tangles around it.
Someone coming through a drug recovery program may finally admit that he or she never dreamed life could get so tangled. Separating the high of the drug from the reality of wasted money and relationships makes the knot bigger and bigger. And, for some, that knot can get really big before the inevitable fall.
Oh, the fall. Last spring, I fell twice in a one month while running. The first time I was running on a stretch of pavement I had run over many, many times before. But I was distracted, pressed for time, and a bit bored. Boom, down I went. The second time I was in an unfamiliar area and tripped over my own feet. Down I went again. Needless to say, even five months later, I am very aware of my potential to fall … to get tangled … and so I run more carefully. Notice I didn’t say ‘I stopped running.’ Nope, I just try to eliminate the entanglements by staying intentionally engaged.
What ties you up in knots? What helps you work through the tangles? You don’t need a Boy Scout to get you out of this jam. Invite the Holy Spirit to do His work in your life. And don’t forget those supporters you identified a while back … they’re wanting to see you run (and finish) your race well.
WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?
By Judi Jackson
Sept. 2, 2014
Anybody else tell yourself that you’re going to do something and then not follow through? It’s not that it wasn’t important or valuable, it just wasn’t urgent. Ugh! This happens in my life all the time … prioritizing the urgent over the important.
Early in the summer, I started a blog series on Hebrews 12:1-3 called “Lessons I’ve Learned from Running.” My first point was taken from the first phrase of the first verse: identify your supporters.
Preparing for the Saints’ Back-to-Football 5K this Saturday has me processing my running again so it’s time to jump into the next point:
TWO: Identify what’s holding you back.
We’re already into Week 3 of the semester and, I don’t know about you, but I’m behind. Actually it’s more like I’m getting a late start. I wasn’t ready for school to kick off two weeks ago so I feel like I’m still walking toward the ‘start line.’ This will make sense if you’ve ever been in a large race like the Crescent City Classic or the Peachtree Road Race where the really fast people get to start right at the line but the rest of us thousands are amassed in timed bunches (or corrals) for blocks and blocks behind. It’s not usual for the frontrunner to have already completed their first mile or two before I even run under the starting banner.
In Hebrews 12:1, the writer tells us that we need to “throw off everything that hinders” (NIV) or “lay aside every weight” (NASB). Basically, this implies that we need to consider anything that hinders or impedes the runner’s progress. First century runners would enter a stadium in long flowing robes but, just before the race, they would lay them aside – throw them off – and run naked.
Spiritual implications, anyone? No, I’m not suggesting we start running naked; this would not be a pretty sight! However, I do know that I’ve already begun thinking about what I will wear or carry with me at this Saturday’s race so that I can have the most freedom to run my best.
And what does this look like as we seek to run the race God has marked out for us? Each believer needs to ask, “What is hindering me from being and giving my best to God?” No, we can’t lay aside or throw off our children, churches, or spouses, but we can consider the things we have cluttered our lives and schedules with. What needs to go? What needs to stay?
Sometimes I say, “My YESes have collided.” I try to manage my schedule carefully but there are times that my YES to teaching a weekly Sunday morning Bible Study collides with my YES to be available to visit and support my young adult children who live in different cities. My YES to prepare for and teach seminary classes may distract from my YES to going to bed early enough to get the amount of rest I need. I could go on and on but the point is for all of us to consider what is most important to fulfilling God’s call on our lives and to do this! I’m not saying giving up your downtime and recreation … goodness, I’m all about cheering on the Saints and shopping a good sale … but, in the big picture, if these seemingly harmless activities are hindering me, then I need to re-evaluate their place in my life.
And before we give all the blame or attention to our busy schedules, don’t forget that our attitudes can be a hindrance to our running as well. Author Tommy Yessick once said about running that the hardest part was tying one’s shoes and the best part was the shower afterwards. We’ve got to get our attitudes in line with our desires … it’s not enough to want to be a runner; to be a runner, you have to get out there and run!
Do you have some ‘bad’ attitudes you need to lay aside or throw off? In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul gave us quite a checklist for where our thought life should focus. If we’re letting our minds go anywhere but to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, then we’re off course and need an attitude check.
So, have you identified anything that’s holding you back in your life race? I pray that this week you open your heart – and schedule and attitude – to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to help you lay aside and throw off anything that’s hindering you. Why? Because it’s only Week 3 and we’ve got a long way to go!
How I spent my summer vacation: Wow!
By Courtney Veasey
Director of Women’s Academic Programs
Not long after the announcement of their engagement earlier this year, my dear friends Mike and Jaclyn called to ask if I would do them the honor of being a bridesmaid in their wedding. The ceremony would take place in the summer, and would be held at a location in Mike’s hometown. Sounds like a fairly standard invitation, right? Yes, all except that Mike’s hometown is located on the island of Maui, Hawaii!
Maui, Hawaii…this island’s exotic name alone makes it sound like an expensive destination…and it is! However, I enthusiastically agreed to check on prices and see if I could make it work. After months of ticket searching, money saving, and praying, all I can tell you is that the Lord opened a ridiculously amazing door for me and a friend to make this trip happen, take part in the wedding, and also have a few extra days for vacation on the island.
After much anticipation, the time for departure finally came in early July, and the days that followed proved to hold an unforgettable adventure in America’s beloved 50th state. Upon arrival, we who had travelled from the mainland were welcomed by Mike’s family with hearty “Alohas!,” big hugs, and days of wonderfully prepared Hawaiian cuisine. Feelings of jet lag were soon overcome by the joyous energy which being with good friends produces. On the actual wedding day, the girls were dressed in deep royal blue t-lengths, the guys in khaki pants and faded orange shirts with a Hawaiian pattern in the fabric, and the bride in brilliant white. Hawaiian musicians ushered in the outdoor processional with ukuleles and guitars, and with family and friends behind them, and nearby mountains standing tall in front of them, the couple embarked upon one of life’s greatest journeys by saying, “I do.”
The wedding and the days leading up to it, were only the beginning of a series of treasured moments and experiences I would have during my visit to Maui. Much like how the facets of a diamond reflect difference colors when the stone is turned, each beach I visited there offered a unique view of the Pacific, as well as demonstrated the gambit of temperaments which this ocean can have. Vintage silhouettes of swaying Hawaiian palm trees were set against layers of purple, pink and blue that streaked across the sky and melted along the beach at the start and close of each day. Mountains, beaches, waterfalls, surfing, hiking, exotic flowers, wild sea turtles, luaus, coconuts, world class spas, exceptional food…Maui boasted of having it all (except snakes, Hawaii does not have snakes which is even more amazing)!
Needless to say, the phrase, “wow!” kept uncontrollably coming out of my mouth with each new sight and experience. It was literally as if I had not progressed past a kindergarten vocabulary level of terms which one could use to describe amazement, but that’s all I could come up with, just “wow,” at every turn. But never once during my tour of Maui did any encounter invoke this expression in me as much one particular instance did during one of my daily Bible reading times.
When I had first arrived, I inquired of the Lord as to what He would have me read while on vacation. I felt like I heard in response, “Read your favorites.” And so for most of the week I hung out in four chapters of the New Testament of which I am particularly fond, John 14-17.
Just before bed one night, I was reading through the beloved phrases found in John 15 which teach of Jesus being the true vine, His Father the vinedresser, and us as branches which must remain in this vine. In verses 1-8, Jesus instructs that His disciples must remain in Him and His words must remain in them to be fruitful. But then in v 9, He adds a real stunner to the equation. There He says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”
Though I have read this passage and verse many times before, there in my Maui condo, the Holy Spirit prompted me to think differently about these words. I began to consider all of the entities which Jesus could have instructed His disciples to abide in…He could have said, “Abide in My will,” or “Abide in My power.” He could have slid the word “perfection,” or “blessings,” into that slot. And yet He said, “Abide in My love.” As this thought resonated with me, I closed my eyes to ponder it more, and the last thing I remember is falling asleep with my Bible in my hands, and that simple phrase repeatedly pouring out of my mouth, “Wow, wow, wow.”
Even in the midst of sheer paradise, nothing on that island in the days that followed quite took my breath away nor held my attention like this revelation of God that came through His Word. It taught me that even where there is abounding beauty on earth, He is more beautiful still. And as far as the implications of this notion to abide in the love of Christ…what profound freedom this brings! I am free from worrying myself sick over whether or not I am in His “will.” I am to abide in His LOVE. This can take place no matter where or how I find myself serving in ministry. I can abide in His love in the highest and lowest of economic conditions. Even in those times when my flesh wins out and I feel like a complete failure as a disciple, the door to this abode yet remains open. It probably would have been much easier if He had said to abide in His power or strength, for those qualities are not as personal and require less vulnerability. But His love…His intimate, endless, unconditional love…it is in that place with God which we are to let go and allow ourselves to feel the warmth of His embrace.
Love is a universal necessity and is an applicable factor in every situation and moment we encounter in life. Perhaps this is why, above all of His other infinite qualities, God chose His ability both to be and give love, as the primary part of His nature in which we are to abide. We abide in His love so that we may in turn know how and what to give as we obey His command to love one another. But the choice must be made to abide there, for He will never force us.
So, fellow traveller, where are you choosing to abide today? Is it in your performance for God? In the love you have for Him? These are well and good, and you are free to choose them, but they are not His love, and they will never be enough. The greatest travesty in life would not be that you or I would never have the chance to experience such places as Maui and other extraordinary destinations. But rather that we would never say yes the opportunity that Christ has already placed before us to abide in the one place which promises to trump all others in comparison…His love. You don’t need a plane ticket or a passport to get there today…only a prayer.
Lessons I’ve Learned from Running
06/20/2014—I was recently asked to share on Hebrews 12:1-3 at a conference where the theme was “Run the Race.” It almost felt like cheating since, well, I’ve run a bunch of races and also I’ve enjoyed lots of time in the past studying this passage. However, in true Judi Jackson procrastination fashion, I waited until the last minute to REALLY pull my thoughts together and was very thankful that God gave some order to my scrambled thinking.
After sharing at the conference, a dear friend challenged me to put my thoughts into a blog. So, here I go … in an effort to pull together a short series from this scripture, I will start at the beginning and eventually add the other five points.
ONE: Identify your supporters
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….” (12:1)
I have always thought of this great cloud of witnesses as the folks from Hebrews 11 (and a bunch more who have walked with God since) standing on the sidelines of my life in true race-supporter fashion, cheering me on to victory.
However, I recently heard a sermon on this scripture in which the preacher pointed out that those mentioned in Hebrews 11 and many of the others whose lives have impacted mine are in heaven, and they certainly aren’t spending their time in glory looking down at me. I mean, they’ve got JESUS right there! GLORY! All eyes are on the Son!
Why then are these ‘witnesses’ mentioned? How about so that I can look at them and learn from their lives? Knowing that each of them walked through difficult challenges and made it to the Hall of Faith tells me that there’s hope for me. My supporters are those that I am encouraged by, whether they are walking with me step-by-step in real time or if they have walked the Christ journey a while back. They build me up, call me out, and point me to the One who promises strength, sustenance, and a hope for tomorrow. Regularly, I hear believers (especially those in ministry) say, “I’m so lonely. Where can I find friends? Who can I trust?” Consider three groups, starting with who are already your friends? Who do you already trust? Nurture these relationships! They may not be living in the same town as you know but, with Facebook, Facetime, and whatever else who use to communicate, you can stay connected.
Also consider who’s a little farther (or a lot farther) down the road of the Christian life than you that you want to get to know? Seek out these people. Some of them would love to join you for a cup of coffee. Others will teach you through their books, podcasts, and blogs.
Finally, who needs your encouragement and influence? Initiate these friendships. It’s amazing how much we can gain from focusing on giving to others. When we turn our attentions away from our personal pity parties and start celebrating someone else’s existence, we may find a deeper sense of purpose and meaning than we ever dreamed possible.
Truthfully, if I’m not careful, I give the air of being a self-sufficient, got-it-all-together, busy-doing-important-things high achiever. But I’m not. Most days, I feel more like a crawling-in-the-dark, what-should-I-do-first, do-we-get-points-for-getting-out-of-bed impostor. I need my supporters and I need to support others. What about you?
[Associate Dean of Students, Coordinator of Women’s Programs]
The ‘trappings’ don’t change the ‘execution’
11.5.13–With college football ramping up into some feverishly-competitive match-ups this weekend, it’s hard to ignore the hype, even if you’re not one of those who ‘Love Purple Live Gold,’ ‘Roll Tide,’ or even ‘Sic ‘Em, Bears!’ Each of these teams – and many more – are working hard to prepare a game plan that will outwit, outsmart, and outscore its competition. But even with the best laid plans, on any given night, it’s anybody’s ball game. Yep, even the underdog can upset the favorite and wreak havoc on the BCS standings.
So, who really has the advantage? If everyone knows the underdog is capable of an upset, how does a team maximize its preparation? While listening to some ESPN Game Day interviews last Saturday, I heard the previously-unbeaten Miami Hurricanes coach address the issue of playing still-unbeaten Florida State in Tallahassee in the loud and intimidating Doak-Campbell Stadium. Al Golden said he wasn’t worried about facing the Seminoles with their home field advantage (what he called “the trappings”), Instead, he surmised, “It all comes down to execution, two acres, and a ball.”
Thanks, Al, for reminding me that it’s not so much WHERE I’m pursuing my God-calling as it is HOW. How well am I executing the plan I’ve been taught and have practiced, wherever I am? Sure the ‘stadium’ and ‘fans’ (or lack thereof) can impact my performance but neither of these trappings should be the deciding factor in the consistency of my obedience.
Well, as we know, it didn’t turn out so well for the Hurricanes; FSU blew them away with a final score of 41-14. But neither team knew what the outcome would be when they started. Thus, the players hit the field with the expectation that, because of intense preparation on both sides of the ball, their efforts would pay off. May you too have a game plan of obedience that focuses not on the WHERE but on the HOW so that you can faithfully execute the call of God on your life both now and in the future. And THAT’s worth cheering for!
[Associate Dean of Students, Coordinator of Women’s Programs]
Pink it up
10.22.13—For some, orange is the color of October. But the Breast Cancer Awareness people have us seeing pink here, there, and everywhere! So let’s join the party on Thursday, October 24, and PINK IT UP! Throw on a pink tee or pink jeans or pink hair bow or whatever pink thing you’ve got, and help spread the word.
To some on the NOBTS campus, breast cancer awareness takes a personal turn. One student shared a prayer request recently for her aunt who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. At least one staff woman and one administrative council wife are celebrating remission from the disease. One alum’s wife, hailing from Fayetteville, GA, is a two-time survivor and another’s mother-in-law is six-months post-surgery and finishing up her chemo treatments.
However, not all women with the disease have this outcome. One such gal was Kim Wilson, a 2000 graduate of NOBTS. Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35 while serving with the IMB in Southeast Asia. She returned home and spent the next two-and-a-half years going through treatment and recovery, including a double mastectomy, multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, and breast reconstruction surgery. Kim returned to Southeast Asia in the spring of 2005 but was diagnosed with a brain tumor just a few months later, and returned again to the states for treatment.
In March 2008, Kim returned to the NOBTS campus one last time. During her visit, she was able to share her story in classes as well as a special gathering of campus women in Carey Hall. Her signature testimony revealed her solid and sold-out trust in God: “My Lord is the greatest. He has remained my rock through all of this and will continue to strengthen and guide me through all of this. We all are praying for complete healing.”
Her good friend (and NOBTS media director) Vanee Daure believes Kim got her complete healing when she went home to be with the Lord on May 20, 2008. Several years ago, Vanee started the Kim Wilson Scholarship Fund in memory of her friend to help women who were coming to NOBTS to study missions. In hopes of raising more funds for this missions scholarship, we will be accepting donations through the month of October in the Dean of Students office but especially on October 24, PINK IT UP DAY. Stop by between classes and show your support. Those giving $1 or more will receive a pink Breast Cancer Awareness bracelet with your choice of the words FAITH, HOPE, STRENGTH, or SURVIVOR. Thanks for helping to keep Kim’s mission fresh and growing!
Dr. Judi Jackson
[Associate Dean of Students, Coordinator of Women’s Programs]
You simply must have a look around.
10.8.13—As a part of my nightly routine, I typically enjoy having a time of reading before going to sleep. In recent nights I have found myself engrossed with reading through the stories once more in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Currently I am plodding through the first book of the series, The Magician’s Nephew. This narrative follows the adventures of two childhood friends, Digory and Polly.
Early on in the story, the two children discover magic rings which were created by Digory’s uncle, that allow the wearers of the rings to transported in and out of worlds other than their own. When the children got the courage to take their first leap of faith into another world, they found themselves in a very deserted, sort of ancient setting. Almost immediately upon arriving, Polly expresses her desire to want to return home. Digory responds to her by saying, “But we haven’t seen anything yet…now we’re here, we simply must have a look around.” Polly replies, “I’m sure there’s nothing at all interesting here.” And with a profound statement which changes Polly’s mind, Digory says, “There’s not much point in finding a magic ring that lets you into other worlds if you’re afraid to look at them when you’ve got there.”
When I encountered this scene a few nights ago, I couldn’t help but think about the work of the Holy Spirit in all of our lives as God transported us into this “other world” of New Orleans for this season of life and ministry. The dialogue between these two characters can easily be transferred to one between a husband and wife, teacher and student, friend and mentor, etc. And in agreement with Digory, I thought, “What’s the point of letting the Spirit of God guide us into others worlds if we’re afraid to look at them when we get there?”
This is true for New Orleans and for any other adventure or place in America and beyond that our Lord may lead us into. Sure, this city can be a dangerous place, but it’s also a wonderful place. I hope at this time you find yourself being like Digory, ready to explore and discover this new world. But in the chance that you more resemble Polly as of late, being the one ready to get on the next bus headed back home, let me encourage you to spend some time getting to know this unique place into which you have been transported. Give God a decent chance at opening your heart to the sights, culture and people that you encounter each day, both out in the city and at the seminary as well.
There is no better time than the fall season (even more than Mardi Gras), to get to know and appreciate New Orleans. Right now you can find festivals, food, football (Who Dat?!), other sports and fun at every juncture. The city comes alive when it’s time to “Bless dem boys!” And so, just an encouragement and a reminder from C.S. Lewis, Digory, and me: “Now that you’re here, you simply must have a look around.”
[Director of Women’s Academic Programs, Doctoral Student, Biblical Interpretation]
9.26.13—We talked about stress management in my Total Wellness class last week, exploring definitions (distress vs. eustress); considering stressors in the lives of NOBTS students (who double as parents, ministers, employees, friends, spouses, etc.); and processing several coping mechanisms. In addition to ‘learn to say no’ and ‘take time to sharpen your axe,’ I encouraged the students to ‘grant grace.’
To highlight this point, I showed a video from the study Margins that reminded us that the perspective from which we filter life has a huge influence on our ability to handle our emotional challenges (aka stressors!). The speaker references the bishop’s response in Les Miserables, how he chose to grant grace to Jean Valjean—and challenged him to do the same—rather than turning him over to the authorities who would’ve thrown him back in prison for another unreasonable term of demeaning servitude.
What does this look like in 21st century daily life? Check out this blog entry by Susan Basham (http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/she-yelled-and-called-me-names/) and consider how you might put feet to your faith this week:
Pulling my car into the drive-thru line at Starbucks, I wondered why it was a dozen people deep. It wasn’t raining, yet it seemed everyone was driving through today. I was transporting three dogs to the groomer, and there was no way I could leave two wild Shih-tzus and one crazy Bichon alone while I went inside for my daily dose.
Millie, the Bichon, sat on my lap licking the window. As I peeled her away from the glass, I saw the woman. She sat across the parking lot, leaving just enough room for a thoroughfare, as she too was waiting in the Starbucks line. I smiled, and gestured to her. It went something like this: “Are you next, or am I?” Really, I was fine either way.
She was not.
Thinking I was trying to snag her spot of next up, she gunned her Suburban, rolled down the window, and let out a string of expletives that made me blush. Millie barked back a retort. “Go ahead, please,” I said. “I wasn’t sure who was first.” I pulled Millie back onto my lap, so she could see I had been dog-distracted and truly didn’t know who was next.
She didn’t buy it. She continued with the name calling without taking a breath. I won’t write them down here, but the main mantra shared initials with the number one social networking site.
Then something really strange happened.
Instead of getting mad or yelling back at her, a sense of empathy invaded me. I looked at her again, and this time I saw someone different, someone who wrenched my heart. Her eyes were red and puffy. Her hair was pulled back in a natty ponytail. She held her phone in her palm, glancing down at it every few seconds. And she was driving that big ole’ gas hog of a Suburban, my own car of choice when I had three kids at home and a carpool.
Dear God. I was looking at myself ten years ago. Same car, same ponytail. Same frustration.
We’ve all been there. Dog vomits on the sofa. Both kids have strep throat. The garbage disposal chooses today to break, when you are trying to disintegrate moldy fridge leftovers. Husband is mad because you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning and he’s going on a business trip. Sound familiar?
And by the way, was that him she had been talking to or texting?
She gunned forward, just to show me that she could.
I left her a wide berth, smiled at her splotchy face. She shot me a sideways scowl, mouthed the mantra again. Pulling up to the loudspeaker behind her, I said “I want to pay for whatever the woman in front of me has ordered. And please tell her I hope she has a better day.” I meant every word.
The woman idled in front of me for a good four minutes, talking to the barista who had leaned out the window. She shook her head and handed over a bill. She drove around the side of the building slowly, this time no gunning. Hmmm.
“No takers, huh?” I said to the barista as I pulled forward. “Nope. She said she couldn’t believe you wanted to pay for her drink after all the names she called you. She said she couldn’t allow it, and said to tell you she was sorry. She felt really bad.”
“Did you tell her I hoped she had a better day?”
“Yep. She said thanks— that she already was.” “Good to hear.” I smiled and handed her a dollar to put in the tip jar. As I drove away, I began to cry. Not because I had been called so many terrible names, but because God had answered my very recent prayer—which was that He would allow me to see people as He sees them, not as I see them.
That I might be able to see the hurting inside, instead of just the hurtful outside. And maybe a few tears were of gratitude and amazement that He always shows up with an answer when I sincerely ask.
So how will you ‘grant grace’ today?
A couple of weeks ago, I quoted James 2:13 and think it bears repeating: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” With midterms and research papers and bills coming due, tired students with stretched emotions will sit next to you in the cafeteria, drive behind you exiting campus, and play their music a little too loud next door. Consider what a difference a little grace makes in your life, and pay it forward!
Dr. Judi Jackson
[Associate Dean of Students, Coordinator of Women’s Programs]
A Life Well Lived.
9.20.13—While in town for a visit a few years ago, I was introduced to Mrs. Doris Kelley at a luncheon. Though I had lived in New Orleans in years prior and dearly loved my time there, at that point God had me serving in ministry in another part of the country and I had no foreseeable plans of returning to the Big Easy. Little did I know that a year later I would be back in town for another visit, only this time to interview for the Ph.D. program at NOBTS and to begin making plans to return to this great city.
During this second visit I once again had the privilege of being a part of a lunch party where Mrs. Kelley was present. I remember slowly walking along side of her down a hallway and saying, “I don’t know if you remember me, Mrs. Kelley, but my name is Courtney Veasey.” Without hesitation she replied, “Of course I remember you, I have prayed for you every morning at 6 A.M. since the time I met you, that you would move back to New Orleans!” I was stunned. I asked, “Well, why would you pray that?” She said, “When I met you at that lunch I was impressed to pray for you every day…I think you are good for this city and this city is good for you!”
Over this past year I have spent many afternoons visiting with and learning from this special lady who held such favor and counsel with her Lord. And what can I say about her? Aside from being one of Jesus’ obvious favorites, she was an avid encourager through her words, her prayers, and her pen. Probably many of you reading this have received a hand-written card or letter from Mrs. Doris which she was so famous for sending at any and every occasion. Her sheer faithfulness and love for God made me sit up and pay attention to her life and the impact it could have on mine. In an age and culture that overly values and caters to youth, Mrs. Doris (and her partner in crime Mrs. Joyce) never allowed herself to become obsolete but instead lived in such a way that commanded a hearing and great respect. But may I not make too many remarks without just saying, that this precious woman was simply a delightful human being.
In this entry I have spoken in the past tense about Mrs. Kelley, because last week, at the age of ninety-one, she stepped out of this earthly life and into glory with her Savior. There has never been any question around NOBTS as to who was being referenced when the phrase “Mom Kelley” was spoken. To Dr. Chuck and Dr. Rhonda, she was Mom. To her grandchildren, she was Mammaw. To those in her church and living community, she was advocate and friend. To those at the seminary, whether they knew her or not, she was prayer warrior on their behalf. And for me, because somehow God saw fit that I should know her a little more personally, she was and is a tremendous legacy of the faith.
Just this past Sunday evening I was speaking with Mom Kelley on the phone, and at the end of our conversation, instead of her usual “I love you,” she said, “Don’t forget me.” I laughed and said, “Of course I won’t forget you, that’s why I called!” She said once more, “Okay, just don’t forget me.” So here’s to Mom Kelley and a life well lived. May we not only remember her in the days and years to come, but also seek to live as ones so faithful to Christ and the gospel as she.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” -2 Tim. 4:7
[Doctoral Student in Biblical Interpretation, Director of Women’s Academic Programs]
Don’t play favorites with God’s love.
9.16.13—I taught Sunday on the first part of James 2. So, like a good Bible study teacher, I started preparing at the beginning of the week. As I read the first verse, I knew I was in for a challenging week. “…Don’t show favoritism.” Not, “try your best to treat everyone the same.” Or even, “I know some people are different and annoying but give it a shot.” Nope, James just jumps right out and says it: “Hey, Christian, stop playing favorites.”
I had several in-my-face opportunities to practice what I was going to preach during the course of the week. I did well on some tests; okay on others. More than anything I was reminded at how exclusive even we as believers can be. Ouch! Basically, the summary of the lesson was/is ‘don’t play favorites with God’s love. He doesn’t, and we shouldn’t either.’
One of the gals who attended the Bible Study continued to process the passage as she did her quiet time the next day. She started with this passage:
So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. – John 4:40
She then wrote:
I read this passage this morning through the filter of yesterday’s lesson. Obviously associating with Samaritans (let alone staying as their guests for two whole days) would have been damaging to Jesus’ reputation in many ways, but he did it. I can imagine that the disciples were extremely hesitant – maybe even grumbling because of Jesus’ desire to truly invest in these people. After all, He’d done His duty (according to the way my mind works, anyway). He’d spoken to the woman at the well. Most Jews wouldn’t have done that. If I’d been in Jesus’ shoes, I’d have walked away feeling pretty proud of myself. He’d shared the Truth with her, and she’d gone in to town telling people she thought she’d found the Messiah. He could have been done there, and two thousand years later, we’d still be talking about what a good guy Jesus was.
But He didn’t stop there. He stayed with the Samaritans for two days. This blows my mind and challenges me to look at the James passage in a whole new light. I’m not supposed to tolerate people I find difficult. I’m supposed to LOVE them and spend time investing in them. Forget feeling good about myself for smiling and having a thirty second conversation with them about how their day is going. I’m supposed to invest in them. Ouch. But the next two verses in the passage cast a new light on things and make me understand why it’s all worth it.
And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” – John 4:41-42
Because Jesus spent the two days in Samaria, “many more believed.” They moved beyond faith because of what someone else told them and into a belief based on experience with the Savior. This is my prayer for people with whom I come in contact. Rather than having a brief encounter with me and thinking, “What a nice girl,” I want people to see Jesus and be challenged to have their own real encounter with Him. This doesn’t happen when I deem to speak to someone whom I find annoying. This happens when I invest in people and share life with them.
This made me smile on so many levels: 1) someone actually thought about the study after it was over; 2) someone found a connection in another part of the Word; and 3) God takes our feeble efforts and multiplies them as He sees fit!
Who do you need to be a little nicer to today? And who do you need to invest in? If you fast forward to the end of the ‘favoritism’ passage, you see this amazing promise: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” So dish out some mercy today; it wins!
[Associate Dean of Students, Coordinator of Women’s Programs]
Remember. Don’t Forget.
8.29.13—How many times do we read in the Old Testament “remember” this and “don’t forget” that? Blake Newsome mentioned this in his chapel sermon last Thursday, pointing out that Deuteronomy 8 is full of such references.
So we’ve been remembering. Remembering what it was like to be a part of the seminary community eight years ago when Hurricane Katrina came for a visit. Remembering when three years later, then-mayor Ray Nagin instructed New Orleans and NOBTS’ers to hit the road again in anticipation of “the mother of all storms” (a.k.a. Gustav). Remembering the end of last August and the disruption Isaac brought to our schedules and lives.
Reflecting on her Katrina experience, Courtney Veasey wrote:
“Eight years ago today, at the age of twenty-two, I learned a very important life lesson: to hold YOUR plans with open hands. I had just graduated college, spent the summer doing mission work, and then set off on my first ‘adult’ adventure of moving to New Orleans to begin graduate school. Three weeks after that move, I found myself back in Florida and watching in unbelief with the rest of the nation (and world) as Hurricane Katrina invaded our shores and brought with it, quite literally, a flood of devastation. I lived on a first floor apartment at the back of the school campus where most of the flood damage occurred. Needless to say, when I returned nearly a month later to retrieve any belongings I could from the rubble, what could be salvaged was minimal. It had taken two SUVs to get my belongings there in August, and one cardboard box to carry out what remained in September … humbling.”
To read the rest of these thoughts, see Courtney’s blog at http://courtneyveasey.com.
What is it that you need to remember — not for the sake of dredging up bad memories but to reminded of how you saw God at work in ways that you might not have seen Him otherwise? Sheila Taylor, in response to a Facebook post about the significance of August 29 in our lives, pointed out: “We will never forget Katrina, but most of all we will never forget the faithfulness of our God.”
It’s fixin’ to get real, girlfriends. You may not have a hurricane story in your Christ-walk narrative but I trust you’ve got something in your personal journey that reminds you over and over and over that He is faithful and active and loves to show up in the middle of “impossible.”
Your first quizzes are rolling in. Your first papers are coming due. Your first seminary stress-outs are lurking nearby. It will be easy to forget the work of the Lord that got you here. It will be easy to trade the peace you felt as you applied to come here for sweat-producing anxiety as the due dates pile up.
Instead, remember. And, even more, don’t forget.
“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God ….” (Deuteronomy 8:11a)