Category: personal

Princeton Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, and the Abraham Kuyper Lecture

When I was in my early 20s, I was unclear about whether or not I was “allowed” to be a minister. By “allowed” I mean if it was something that I thought the Bible permitted. Even though I grew up in a denomination that ordained women, I went to a college that was a part of a denomination that did not, and so I was confused.

See, I loved (and still love) my faith and I took (and still take) the Bible very seriously. Some Christians said I could be a minister, and some said I could not. At the time I was working as a youth director at a great church. The pastor of the congregation listened to my struggle and said something to the effect of “I respect your high view of Scripture, it’s the same as mine.  I want you to know our denomination allows for the ordination of women from a reformed perspective.” He went on to tell me about that reformed perspective and how it included women in ordained ministry. He even told me about all the women he met in seminary and how gifted they are. He further went on to tell me about the gifts he saw in me. He challenged me to rethink my views and consider whether or not the Spirit was leading me to ordained ministry. He is a graduate of Princeton Seminary. Without his influence in my life, I would have neither attended Princeton Seminary nor become a Minister of Word and Sacrament (Teaching Elder) in the PC(USA).

I’m thinking about that story this evening because I did a double take (ok, a TRIPLE TAKE) when I read that The Reverend Dr. Tim Keller is Princeton Theological Seminary’s choice of speaker for the Abraham Kuyper Lecture. He will also be awarded a prize for excellence in Reformed Theology and Public life.  Spoiler alert: Rev. Keller is arguably the most influential pastor of a denomination that is very clear in its assertion that women should not be ordained to ministry. He (and the denomination he serves) is also very clear in its exclusion of LGBT people.

I’ll let others argue finer points of Rev. Keller’s theology (hello, this is Princeton Theological Seminary here, arguing finer points is what we do.).  My personal soapbox is much less refined. It boils down to this: an institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings. 

But he’s not even talking about “women’s issues” or “LGBT issues,” some will argue. The lecture is on church planting. Who can argue with church planting? Can’t we look past what divides us find common ground? Of course we can find common ground. Let me state clearly and without equivocation: I believe Rev. Keller loves Jesus. I believe he is a man of faith. I believe he works hard and has a respectable career. I would happily go to the church he pastors and listen to him preach. He’s absolutely invited to come to the church I pastor and listen to me preach. We can totally hold hands during the hymn sing.  The reason that’s not enough in this case (and the reason he shouldn’t have been invited to give this lecture and receive this prize) is that this isn’t some minor thing. This is a giant lecture with a giant whoop-de-doo factor.  There’s a place for common ground, but unless Rev. Dr. Tim Keller is prepared to argue for the ordination of all the women students of Princeton Theological Seminary, the The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is not that place in my opinion.

I would love to talk to the people from Princeton Theological Seminary who made this decision to better understand their position. Give me a call. Let’s chat.

UPDATE: The Seminary responded by referencing this email to the seminary community:

Dear Members of the Seminary Community,

I am aware that many in our community are deeply concerned by the invitation of the Kuyper Center at our seminary to have the Reverend Tim Keller come to campus next month. He will speak on the work of the theologian Lesslie Newbigin, and receive their annual prize as one who embodies their aspirations for extending the mission of the church in society. The focus of the concerns that have come to me is that Rev. Keller is a leader of the Presbyterian Church in America, which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained ministry to Word and Sacrament.

Our seminary embraces full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church. We clearly stand in prophetic opposition to the PCA and many other Christian denominations that do not extend the full exercise of Spirit filled gifts for women or those of various sexual orientations. We know that many have been hurt by being excluded from ministry, and we have worked hard to be an affirming place of preparation for service to the church.

The seminary has many student organizations and several theological centers that bring speakers to campus. While my office issues the official invitations to campus, I don’t practice censorship over the choices of these organizations, even when I or the seminary disagree with some of the convictions of these speakers. It is also a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church. Diversity of theological thought and practice has long been a hallmark of our school. And so we have had a wide variety of featured speakers on campus including others who come from traditions that do not ordain women or LGBTQ+ individuals, such as many wings of the Protestant church, and bishops of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions.

So my hope is that we will receive Rev. Keller in a spirit of grace and academic freedom, realizing we can listen to someone with whom many, including me, strongly disagree about this critical issue of justice.

Sincerely,

Craig Barnes

If President Barnes and I were chatting over coffee or margaritas, I’d gently challenge some of these assertions and we’d probably have to agree to disagree on what his role is or should be in this. I admire many of the things he’s done for the Seminary, and I also appreciate that his job is unimaginably difficult in so many ways. It’s also worth mentioning that, though the buck stops with President Barnes and though he had (and still has) the option to be much stronger in his response, he’s not the one who extended this invitation. Those who still feel compelled to respond ought to write, not only to President Barnes, but also to the Kuyper Center who can be reached here: http://kcpt.ptsem.edu/contact-us-2/

Onward.

UPDATE #2 on this. From President Barnes:

Dear Members of the Seminary Community,

On March 10 I sent a letter to the seminary community addressing the emerging objections to the Kuyper Center’s invitation to the Reverend Timothy Keller to speak at their annual conference and receive the Kuyper Prize. Those who are concerned point to Reverend Keller’s leadership role in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament.

As I indicated in my previous letter, it is not my practice to censor the invitations to campus from any of our theological centers or student organizations. This commitment to academic freedom is vital to the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community. In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom.  Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions.

I have also had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.

However, the Kuyper Center’s invitation to Reverend Keller simply to lecture at their conference will stand, and he has graciously agreed to keep the commitment.  We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. In this spirit we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry.  Reverend Keller will be lecturing on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church – not on ordination.

I want to thank all who have communicated with the administration of the seminary as this important conversation has unfolded on campus. We have heard many heartfelt perspectives from both sides of the debate. It has been a hard conversation, but one that a theologically diverse community can handle.

In the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we strive to be a community that can engage with generosity and respect those with whom we disagree about important issues.

Sincerely,

Craig Barnes

Well done, President Barnes. I appreciate this response, and you. This is the right move. Yes to academic freedom. Yes to listening to others whose opinions are different from our own (no matter how distasteful they may be.) No to giving large fancy prizes that can be confused with endorsement. Some may not be satisfied with this response. I think it’s a great compromise. Yes to this! -T

5 Things NOT to Say to Pregnant Women and Why (and What to Say Instead)

This post is a little “off topic” for me, but it was inspired by THIS POST  I wrote awhile back on helping speech. Since I was pregnant for the better portion of 2016, I feel like I know what I’m talking about on this one. Having heard other pregnant women concur with the challenge of some of these comments, I thought I’d post them here as food for thought. Interested in shoring up your helpful commenting when it comes to pregnant women? Read on!

“You look huge!” 

Variations: “Wow, I hope you don’t have the baby right here!” “Are you sure there’s only one baby in there?” “You’re gigantic!” “You look like you’re about to pop!

 Why you should avoid saying this: Unsolicited comments about the size of one’s belly are never welcome, but for some reason, people feel like pregnancy is an exception to this rule. Few people would walk up to an overweight person and say “Wow, you’re ENORMOUS!” Yet to pregnant women, it happens all the time. Baffling.  By the end of pregnancy, many women feel bloated and awkward, huge and uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be told that she is huge or large. It’s impossible to know how to respond to this. “Thanks?” “I know?” “You’re right?” What’s the proper response to having been told that you are gigantic? When these comments start coming when a woman has 3 or more months left in pregnancy, it makes the end of pregnancy feel even longer. I know women who had extra large bellies throughout their pregnancy who ended up dreading the daily comments about their size from friends, acquaintances and even strangers.

What you might say instead:  “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“You look tiny!” 

Variations: “You hardly look pregnant at all.” “Are you sure there’s a baby in there?” “I can’t tell you’re even pregnant.”

Why you should avoid saying this: I have firsthand experience with this one. In a culture that values thinness and being small, I think many folks said this to me thinking it was some sort of compliment. What they didn’t know was that my baby was measuring small for her gestational age and was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction. Every day I was praying for growth and a bigger baby, and every comment that I was small or that nobody could see a baby in there reminded me of this. Toward the end of the pregnancy a stranger asked when I was due (I’m taking that one on next!) and when I told her she said “Wow, your baby must be really small!” I burst in to tears right there at the grocery store.

What you might say instead: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“When are you due?” 

Variations: When is your due date? When is the baby coming?

Why you should avoid saying this:  I completely understand why people say this as a conversation starter, and it may not be a problem for all pregnant women. It didn’t bother me when people would ask me when my children were due. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of women say that this question can get tiring when it’s asked all the time, particularly by strangers. (In part because the answer is often followed up with unwelcome commentary, but more on that in a different post!) Babies seldom arrive when they are “due” and they day they arrive can be wildly different than expected. Also, depending on the mother’s medical situation, the “due date” might be  a source of stress or uncertainty, and asking what seems like an innocent question might bring up topics the expectant mother would rather not discuss.

What you might say instead: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“You look tired.” 

Variations: “You look like you don’t feel well.” “You look exhausted.”

Why you should avoid saying this: Personally, I think “you look tired” should be stricken from everyone’s vocabulary. It feels like a socially acceptable way to tell someone they’re looking terrible. I’ve been told I look tired when I was feeling great and happy and wide awake. After being told I looked tired, though, I felt a responsibility to say “Yeah, I am sort of tired” and then high-tailed it to the bathroom to put on more lip gloss or eye liner. The same applies for pregnant women. What is possibly intended as concern comes across as a critique or insult.

What you might say instead: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“You know how this happens, right?” 

Variations: “Pregnant again!” “You and your husband need a different hobby!” “Don’t you have a TV at home?”

Why you should avoid saying this: I was subjected to endless comments in this category when I became pregnant with my second child a few months after giving birth to my first. Aside from being really awkward (Um, please stop talking!) it felt rude and invasive and judgmental.

What you might say instead: “Congratulations” “What a blessing!”

Pregnancy is a wild time for women. Some love it, some feel “so-so” about it. Some can’t wait to be done. For most women, though, simply being told that we’re looking wonderful or hearing a concerned “How are you” is more than enough commentary. If a pregnant woman has more information she’d like you to know, she’ll probably tell you.

So, what do you think? What unwelcome comments have you experienced during pregnancy? What would you add?

 

 

On Marina Lynn, Fetal and Maternal Health Worldwide, and Other Musings

Well, well, well… look what’s been going on around here! A little over a week ago, we welcomed little Marina Lynn into the world. She came in to the world at 6 pounds and 4 ounces of pure awesome, and I can’t wait to see what adventures she takes us on. I’ve had so many thoughts this last week, and with so many friends, family, and readers to share them with, it seems like a little reflecting and updating is in order. Here goes…

On her name… 

I love names. I love hearing the story of people’s names, the ways people come up with names for their children, and the story of their nicknames. Names in the Bible are a huge deal, too. In the Bible, people give their children and even places names that are significant to them. Often God or an angel tells them what to name the child or the place.

In this spirit, Elias and I put a lot of thought and discussion behind what we would name each of our children. The name Marina Lynn was “on deck” as a girl’s name for both Clayton and Samuel, and this time we finally got to use it!

Marina was Elias’s mother’s name. Marina raised her two children, Elias and Mavit, all on her own. She worked very hard and taught them the value of working hard, too. Marina loved roses and beauty. Unfortunately for the children and I, we never had the opportunity to meet her, because she died when Elias was just 17 years old.

Lynn is my mother’s name. She’s spunky and energetic and fun and compassionate. She loves her grandchildren like nobody’s business. She blesses our lives and the lives of her grandchildren in immeasurable ways.

We love that this little one is named after her two grandmothers, and the name suits her.  Marina Lynn: it has a nice ring to it, we think! We are excited for her to have two great role models always before her as she goes through life.

On her birth… 

Each of my children has had a birth story as different as they are! Clayton was born after two days of labor, a whole lot of “off script” interventions, and hours of pushing. Samuel came flying out 18 minutes after we left for the hospital. (Elias nearly missed his birth because he was parking the car.) Marina Lynn, too, has a story we will love to tell her as she gets older.

We went to the hospital for her to be induced on Tuesday night, January 17th. Our midwives felt induction was necessary because she had a two vessel cord, and also because she was diagnosed with IUGR. They told us we had every reason to believe and assume that the birth would go well, but we were, as you might imagine, very nervous and ready to get on with it. Soon after we got there, they gave me a medication that was supposed to get things prepared for the next day. In my case, all it did was give me horrible and annoying crampy contractions I could tell weren’t doing anything, and so I asked to be taken off of it so I could sleep and be prepared for labor the next day. Since this was baby #3, they agreed and I got a little bit of sleep. (After watching just half of Bridget Jones’s Baby with Elias. Note to self: re-rent to see how it ends!)

Wednesday morning was when it got really interesting. At 8:00 a.m. they put me on Pitocin, the medicine that starts contractions, and by 9:00 a.m., I was huffing and puffing and crying like nobody’s business! I had been mentally prepared for a day’s worth of laboring and felt so defeated and heartbroken that I was already feeling exhausted after just an hour. Elias (correctly) called it by saying “I think it’s so intense because you’re about to have the baby!” The midwife came in at 9:20 a.m. and agreed that the baby was on his/her way. She said that if she broke the baby’s water, she thought we would see him/her within an hour. She was absolutely right, and by 10:07, little Marina Lynn came out, pink and squirmy and crying loudly. Her one minute Apgar score was 8 and her five minute score was 9. Healthy, happy baby! After all the worry and scare about potential complications from labor and birth, the NICU nurse that looked her over gave her a clean bill of health and she was allowed to stay with us the entire time we were in the hospital.

During the short (and challenging) labor, the things that got me through the most were looking at the “It’s a surprise!” sign the nurse had written on the whiteboard and listening to this song, a song that has helped me through so many challenging times. I also couldn’t help but think of Kelly, my soul friend and the first friend I told when I was pregnant with Marina Lynn. Kelly is another person I hope and pray Marina Lynn has always before her as a role model and example of fierce, principled and warmhearted living.

 

On complications shortly after her birth… 

The morning after we got back from the hospital, Marina’s weight had dropped more than the doctor was comfortable with. We talked about how to get her weight up and she told us to make sure and monitor her wet and dirty diapers throughout the day. Throughout the day Marina was more and more lethargic and her diapers weren’t wet at all. On Friday night we called the on call pediatrician who told us to take her in to the hospital. When we did, the doctors put in the teeniest tiniest IV you will ever see, gave her fluids and ran a variety of blood tests. Thankfully the blood tests revealed that her sugar and electrolytes were good, and there were no other infections or abnormal markers in her blood. The wonderful and compassionate ER doctor listened to all of our questions and spent a ton of time with us. He said there was no reason to think she wouldn’t be able to pick up where she left off after this new “reboot” of fluids and sent us home.

Thankfully, since then we’ve been back to the Dr., her weight is up, and she’s eating (and filling her diapers) like a champ!

On my stitches and recovery… 

I’ve had stitches after each of my babies. Who would have thought that the teeniest baby would have had some of the most painful and challenging stitches of all? I learned from my midwife that sometimes small babies can cause as much (or even more) tearing than larger babies because they don’t smoosh and stretch. In Marina’s case, because her labor was so fast, things were even more problematic in this regard. The stitches I had after Marina’s birth were incredibly painful (worse than the labor itself) and, because I didn’t have an epidural or other pain medication, I felt them in excruciating ways.

As I was stitched up, we realized the local anesthesia wasn’t working.  Having Marina in my arms to look at and snuggle was the only thing that got me through. That experience has been rolling around in my brain a lot this week, which leads me to…

On fetal/maternal health worldwide, giving back and making something beautiful out of all of the challenges… 

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about women, particularly about fetal/maternal health worldwide. I’m mindful of the fact that all of the excellent medical care Marina Lynn and I have had — from the prenatal care and diagnostics that allowed us to know what was happening with her before her birth, to the stitches. (Painful as they were and are, without stitches, my life would be changed forever, just as the lives of so many women worldwide are forever changed by tears and other birth complications that are routine in the US). I have been remembering the book Half the Sky that talks extensively about how women are affected by complications in childbirth and lack of access to healthcare. Though Half the Sky is several years old, there’s a ton of great information, and I absolutely adore the phrase “Women hold up half the sky” from which the book gets its title.

When we got back from the ER with Marina Lynn, I was praying for her continued healing and made a promise to not let all of this pass by without doing something concrete for pregnant women and newborns worldwide. I decided to make a printable for everyone who wants to put this beautiful, empowering message on her wall, or refrigerator, or message board. You can find it in the Etsy store HERE.

100% of the proceeds of this printable will go to the organization Every Mother Counts. For the first 100 sold, I’ll kick in the Etsy fees so your entire $5.00 purchase will go directly to Every Mother Counts. After that, the fees will be discounted, which means that $4.22 will go to Every Mother Counts and .78 will go to Etsy for the fees. Cool minimalistic poster for your wall and helping mothers and babies around the world in honor of Marina Lynn? Yes please! 

On “other musings” 

There’s something about those late night feedings and hours upon hours inside the house that makes a person super pensive and reflective. I’m not sure how all of these thoughts will make it in to the blog or other writings, but I’m very thankful for this time. I think I’ll leave you with this amazing spoken word poem by Sarah Kay. If you haven’t heard it, it’s definitely worth your time, both the beginning

If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom”, she’s gonna call me “Point B.” Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me.

and the end

Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartbreak, slip hatred and war under your doorstep and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

Links:

Every Mother Counts 

Half the Sky Printable 

If I should Have a Daughter 

No Woman, No Cry – a great documentary about women’s prenatal care in the US and Worldwide

 

 

Someone You Should Know: Jerusalem Greer

jerusalemgreer

From time to time I’ll be talking to someone new about Seamless Faith (soon to be re-released as Faithful Families!) and that person will ask “Do you know Jerusalem Greer? I think you two would really get along.” The answer I give is always “Kinda.” The truth is, I “met” Jerusalem through the wild internet world of connections, and we’ve yet to end up at the same place at the same time. As much as you can get to know someone via their writings and their work, I have to say, these mutual connection-makers seem to be right. I absolutely adore her stuff. I’ve been meaning to write a post about her forever!

Jerusalem, like me, doesn’t really put what she does in a box, her blog has a ton of categories homemadeyear(farm, faith, family, fest, fete) and her book, A Homemade Year is also a compilation of many wonderful things: cooking, crafting, and faith at home. (Hello!) Though there are a lot of different things going on, they all feel connected and woven together. As you read through the book, and her blog, you feel like you’re sitting in her living room with her. It’s magical.

Back to the book, though.  A Homemade Year is absolutely gorgeous (it looks like Martha Stewart Living, but better) and has step-by-step instructions and personal anecdotes along with all of the beautiful photos. It’s hard to pick a favorite activity in here, but since we’re sneaking up on Christmas, I have my eye on these sweet origami boxes meant to talk about the twelve days of Christmas.

origamiboxes

As a pastor, I feel like the time after Christmas is time I want to celebrate. I’m not ready to hunker down until after the services and pageants and other events have ended and it’s just me and my family.  I’m planning to try and make these boxes this year. I’ll let you know!

I also like the fact that it sneaks in some special holidays and traditions that many of us don’t usually celebrate (St. Lucy’s Day, anyone?)

I also think A Homemade Year would be a great Christmas gift for your favorite mom or dad or uncle or grandpa who enjoys creating family traditions at home. For you pastors and children’s ministry leaders, it’s a great resource for families who say “How can I help my children grow up with a strong sense of faith and family?”

As for Jerusalem Greer, if you don’t know her: get on it! You can find her on

Facebook

her Blog

Instagram

She’s also a workshop leader and speaker. I’m guessing it’s way too late to book her for Advent this year, but how amazing would it be to have her come lead an Advent workshop for families to prepare them with the tools they need for a faith-filled family advent at home? She also has a Lenten version as well. Squee!

Jerusalem, thank you for the space you hold on the internet and through your books: a space for families who want to do faith at home to be inspired and welcomed, a space to get encouragement and “how tos.”  I can’t wait for your next book! Oh, also? All the people are right – we should be friends!

 

Goodbyes, Hellos, and New Projects… What a Strange Summer it Has Been.

Where to start, where to start? I’ve been way far away from this site this summer, and many of the things that I planned to write this summer have been postponed or put on hold. Slowly, very slowly, I feel like I’m coming out of a sort of hibernation. For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been able to do the necessities of job and home, but nothing extra. No extra writing, no hobbies, just work and family and sleep. It feels good to be able to start to add some of those things. I actually cleaned out a drawer the other day. Progress! I feel a bit like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon or a bear coming out of a cave!  This site isn’t usually a personal diary of sorts, but I felt like there was just so much going on that a little “here’s the news” would be great before diving in to lots of new articles and such (and boy are there a lot in my ‘drafts’ folder! Lots to look for!)  So here goes…
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Saying Goodbye
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Priceless selfie! Traci & Kelly

This Summer I said goodbye to Kelly who was a dear friend, mentor, and colleague. The last post that I put on this blog over a month ago was a copy of the remarks I said at her memorial service. Her sudden death, at just 50 years old, has been a life challenge I’m still working through. The only way to describe it has been to say that it feels like getting booted out of orbit and flung in to outer space. I count Kelly among life’s greatest friends, and she was also a mentor to me in ministry. Some day I will post about the common sense lessons she taught me, because she was an incredibly gifted minister and her wisdom helps me on a near daily basis. Kelly and I were presenting together at a conference the week that she had her sudden stroke, and we had spent a lot of time together that week, walking the labyrinth, talking about life, sharing plans for the coming year, years, and decades. It was a privilege to be with her through those dark moments of illness and confusion, though it was obviously unimaginably difficult. I am grateful for that time and for every single moment I was able to spend with her. I continue to miss her terribly, and will for a long time, I suspect. I continue to pray for her family and those closest to her. See you soon, Kelly.
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Waving Hello 
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NewBaby

Hello, little baby!

Just twelve days after I said goodbye to Kelly and in the very same hospital, Elias and I heard the heartbeat of a new baby boy or girl that we are expecting to welcome some time at the end of January(ish). (After two babies who took their own sweet time to arrive, I think I will hold off on predicting actual dates.) Elias and I have gone back and forth wondering and dreaming about how many children we would parent, and we are beyond excited to be expecting this new little one. Clayton (5) and Samuel (4) are thrilled as well and can’t wait for a new brother or sister. Point of clarification: we are not “hoping for a girl this time.” We are praying for a happy, healthy baby. This new life, while an amazing joy, is also a big part of the reason I’ve been “off the grid” recently. In both of my first two pregnancies, the first trimester was the most challenging. This time, though, the challenge has risen to a whole new level. Lots of nausea, vomiting, and going to bed at 8 pm (or earlier!). I’ve finally gotten the medication that seems to work well, and the baby is growing big enough that I feel much better. Excited to feel more like myself again. Much more to come, I’m sure!
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New Adventures for Seamless Faith 
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Seamless_Faith_cover_5th_proof

Getting ready for a new edition!

Finally, this summer Chalice Press and I agreed to re-release Seamless Faith with new activities, a new  (super exciting!) forward, bonus materials and more. I have been working on it a teeny bit so far, but am planning to do the bulk of the re-writing in August while I’m on vacation from church. Y’all, I can’t wait! Not only do I think the re-release will be just as awesome for churches and individuals who want to practice faith at home, it’s going to be even better. Much more on this to come, but I wanted to throw it out there for a couple of reasons: 1. If you really are attached to this version time to buy it now because it will be going away. (New version won’t be out until March or April, so if you need ’em for baptisms or whatever, I’d suggest getting the current version). 2. I really want to know what fun ideas you have or activities and faith practices you’ve wanted to see included. Please comment on this post or drop by Facebook, and let me know what you’d like to see in the new version! Now’s your chance to influence the new version. Stay tuned for all sorts of fun info about the re-release. Yippee!
In sum, the following image is me, about to wake up. Look out world.
Nap time for Yogi

Remembering Kelly Allen: The Hebrew Midwives

 

KellyPreaching

Yesterday, the San Antonio community came out to celebrate the life of Rev. Kelly Allen. It’s impossible to think about writing publicly about all of the thoughts in my heart and mind about her life, her death and her legacy, but some folks who were at the memorial service asked for me to post my remarks here, and I feel so happy and honored to do this.

The remarks are based on this passage from the book of Exodus.

The story of the Hebrew Midwives is not one we often hear at a memorial service, if ever. We chose it for this service, though, because it was one of Kelly’s favorites.  Shiphrah and Puah were two Hebrew Midwives (or Midwives to the Hebrews). They decide that they will not listen to the Pharaoh’s command to kill all the male babies. Instead, the text says because they fear God, the babies will live.

The last week of Kelly’s life, she was leading a workshop at the Mo Ranch Women’s conference. The title of her workshop was Solidarity and Imagination: Women’s Stories of Resistance and Courage. Kelly was telling stories of civil rights leaders, immigrant rights activists, and the Hebrew Midwives. She was doing what she did her entire ministry; she was using these stories of courageous women to encourage others to be courageous too.

Shiphrah and Puah, because they feared God, saved lives. The book of Numbers says that there were 603,550 men who left Egypt in their adulthood. Many (or most or all) of these men, presumably, are men that would not have survived if everyone had listened to Pharaoh’s command to kill them when they were innocent newborns. Clearly two women couldn’t have attended the birth of over six hundred thousand baby boys all on their own, so we’re left to wonder how they did it. We don’t know, for certain, but we can speculate that these women, Shiphrah and Puah, lived lives that were bigger than their own. They trained other midwives about the importance of saving innocent lives, and others learned from their message and their courage.

It’s not hard to understand why this passage was a favorite for Kelly. These women were bold and courageous, and they stood up for what was right in the face of injustice. Kelly took inspiration from them and from other bold leaders. She stood up for what she knew to be right, even if there was a cost to that, professionally or personally. Throughout her ministry Kelly stood up for LGBTQ rights when same-sex marriage was not legal or popular. She organized on behalf of marginalized and disenfranchised people, wherever she ministered, for twenty five years. Here in San Antonio she was among the most prominent voices for ending the detention of Central American refugee women and children. Her life made a huge difference to so many people, even people she never had a chance to meet.

Kelly was also a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a colleague, a pastor a mentor and a friend to us. Her sudden death leaves us shocked and bewildered and full of a grief that will not soon dissipate. In this past week we’ve heard it asked so many times “How will we fill those big shoes she left for us? How will we ever fill a void so big as the void she left in our hearts, in our church, and in our community?” The answer is “we can’t.” People like Kelly are once in a lifetime people.

What we can do, though, is pray that God would let Kelly’s spirit live in all of us. Just as she told the story of Shiphrah and Puah to us, we can tell her story to ourselves and to others. We can make sure that the lessons she taught us about standing up for what we believe in, and about being brave in the face of injustice are lessons we truly take to heart. Just as Shiphrah and Puah’s courageous actions were taught to others and multiplied again and again to save the lives of over six hundred thousand babies, so can we multiply and magnify the good in Kelly and the lessons taught us. May we have great courage as we do this.

 

More about Kelly: I wrote about her love and compassion earlier this year (I went back to that post and underlined the part that references her.)  Find that post HERE and then also when she was running for Moderator HERE.

Regarding the Licensing of Karnes Detention Center as a Childcare Center

To: Ms. Vanessa Crum (vanessa.crum@dfps.state.tx.us)
From: Rev. Traci Smith, San Antonio, TX
RE: Karnes Residential Facility
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Dear Ms. Crum,
I write to express my grief that your department is considering granting a license to the Karnes Family Detention facility, and to urge you to consider the implications of this. If you grant a childcare license to Karnes, you will be responsible for perpetuating the trauma and abuse of innocent children who are locked behind bars.  The purpose of Karnes Detention Center is not to provide childcare.
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Below you will see a photo of a young boy named Diego (who was housed in Karnes approximately a year ago) and my two children, Clayton and Samuel, who were born in the United States. Clayton and Samuel both attend childcare centers that are licensed by the state of Texas.
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During his time in detention, I visited Diego and his mother regularly. Diego was never free to leave the premises of Karnes facility to go to a park, get a haircut, or go to worship on Sunday morning. Diego regularly had nightmares and outbursts of grief. He would hit his head on the wall. He did not smile or laugh. Upon his release from detention, he began to slowly recover. Over time, with fresh air, the ability to be free, and a truly nurturing and structured environment, the pain and trauma of detention began to fade into the background, though I’m sure he will never forget it.
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The fact that Texas DFPS is even considering granting a childcare license to Karnes Family Detention center makes me gravely concerned for the standards of licensing that guide the care of my own children when they are in state-licensed facilities. If the state of Texas is willing to concede that a for profit prison corporation who does not let children leave the premises of a locked facility qualifies as childcare, then what does this say about the quality of the licensing process in general? If DFPS grants a license to Karnes, it tells me that they don’t, in fact, care about the well-being of children. This makes me worried about the safety of my own children.  Granting a license to the Karnes facility makes a mockery of the licensing process and is bad for all true childcare facilities in the state of texas. 
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The purpose of your department is to protect children and look after their well being, not jail them. The effects of detention on children are well documented by medical professionals and child psychologists. It’s inconceivable that your department would even consider licensing a facility where children are not free.
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Please consider the implications of what your department is doing by granting a license to children who are not free. This is giving your stamp of approval to the shameful practice of locking up children in jails. Don’t be complicit in this immoral practice.
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Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, or for comment. My contact information can be found in my email signature below.
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Sincerely,
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Reverend Traci Smith

Mentor Monday: John Fife and the Sanctuary Movement #LetHildaStay

JohnFife

When Elias and I were looking at Northwood Presbyterian Church as a possibility for where God might be calling us to ministry, I started doing what any reasonable job seeker does: internet stalking. I read everything I could online about the congregation, and the Presbytery. One of the things that intrigued me was a flier I saw for a dinner sponsored by the “Immigration Task Force.”

This Presbytery has an immigration task force? I thought. Now, that’s cool.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m now on the Immigration Task Force, and completely invested in and excited about their work. The current chair of the task force, Rev. Kelly Allen, and the original convener of it, Rev. Rob Mueller, have been consistent and persistent in our Presbytery, hosting educational dinners virtually every time the Presbytery gathers together. I’m so proud that Presbyterians in South Texas are so educated on the immigration concerns that affect our community and our country.

At our last Presbytery meeting in February (yes, I’m a little behind on blogging!) we were so honored to have the Rev. John Fife come and speak to us about the Sanctuary Movement.

Straight from wikipedia:

The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. It responded to restrictive federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.

At its peak, Sanctuary involved over 500 congregations across the country that, by declaring themselves official “sanctuaries,” committed to providing shelter, material goods and often legal advice to Central American refugees. Various denominations were involved, including the Lutherans, United Church of Christ, Roman Catholics,Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, andMennonites.

Movement members acted in open defiance of federal law, and many prominent Sanctuary figures were arrested and put on trial in the mid and late 1980s. The roots of the movement derive from the right of sanctuary in medieval law and Jewish and Christian social teachings.

When Rev. Fife was with us, I was struck by his compassion, his wisdom, and his calling to encourage the next generation. There is a new sanctuary movement gaining momentum right now, and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin currently has a mother and son living in their sanctuary.

I included John Fife on “Mentor Monday,” not because we have strong ties (just met him one time) but because he seems to be making it his business to use the wisdom he gained in doing this work in the 1980s and pass it on to those who need to continue to do it now, in 2016 and beyond. Just being around him for a couple of hours lit a fire under all who heard him speak. When I think about reasons I’m proud to be Presbyterian, Rev. John Fife and Rev. Alison Harrington and the sanctuary movement are at the top of the list.

If you’ve never heard of the Sanctuary Movement, check it out. (Particularly if you’re Presbyterian and particularly if you’re in Mission Presbytery)

Deuteronomy 10:19 You are to love those who were foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners… 

Interested in learning more about Sanctuary?

U.S. Churches Offer Safe Haven for a New Generation of Immigrants

Groundswell Petition to Let Hilda Stay

Watch a video about Southside Presbyterian Church and their successful resolution of one person’s case after 461 days in sanctuary. 

Mentor Monday: Love Your Kids for Who They Are (not what they do), Lynn Smith, Supermom

How fun and exciting to think about having my mom as the second mentor on Mentor Monday. Nobody’s mom is perfect, but mine is pretty darn awesome. She inspired many of the activities in my book, she is hilarious and creative, and she’s always there for us. I knew I wanted to feature her on Mentor Monday, but I couldn’t decide which of her many life lessons to include. As I thought about it, though, I kept coming back to one of her most constant refrains: “Remember, I love you for who you are, not for what you do.” What a lovely thing to have ringing in your ear as a child.

 I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my favorite Bible verses mirrors this language almost exactly. Titus chapter 3, verses 4 and 5 “When the kindness and love of God our Savior came, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Growing up I was a fairly success oriented kid. I liked school so much that I cried when I couldn’t go, I wanted to be in the science club and the environmental club and the band and the writing competition. I liked to achieve things. My parents were very supportive of all these endeavors. They proudly displayed awards and sat through band concerts, they took pictures and hung them on the fridge. They were encouraging, but they were very clear that the things I achieved didn’t earn me their love. In fact, my mom regularly said “Remember, Traci, I love you because of who you are, not what you do.” She wrote it down and put it in envelopes and cards, and she whispered it in my ear all throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I don’t know if it meant a lot to me as a child, but I remember it now, all the time.

Of course we want success for our children, but more than this, we want them to be at peace with themselves, confident that they are loved by God and loved by the adults in their lives. Take a page out of my mom’s playbook: tell your children you love them for no other reason than that they are yours.

mamaAbout my mom: My mom, Lynn Smith, is amazing. She’s funny and silly and she takes lots of pictures. She’s a master at connecting with her grandkids through Skype, hates to sew with a sewing machine, and loves her children unconditionally. Thanks mom!

photo credit: Sarah Clapp

 

 

 

Mentor Monday: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Tracy Germer, Arbonne Area Manager

MentorMonday

 

I’m super excited to start a new blog series called Mentor Monday where I share wise advice from friends who have mentored me in one way or another. It seems to me that life is made up of small pieces of good advice that end up being life changing. The best advice I’ve gotten about life or work or parenting has often been the simplest. The goal of this series is to pass along little stories like this and to highlight the advisors themselves. My hope is that the simple advice that I’ve received will be helpful to you and that you’ll get to meet some incredible people along the way. No promises that I’ll post every Monday, but when I post, I’ll post on Monday. Because who couldn’t use good advice on a Monday?

The first piece of advice comes from my friend, businesswoman, and detox-guru Tracy Germer. It’s the most common sense advice we never follow: eat more fruits and vegetables. Awhile back Tracy posted this funny meme:

fruitsandvegetables

And then, a few days later we had the following text conversation (paraphrased, per my memory.)

Me: Ugh. I’m overwhelmed, and busy and kinda sad and still in my bed.

Tracy: You need a salad for lunch.

Me: What? I have no time for salads. No to the salad. Plus, that’s not what I need.

Tracy: I’m bringing you a salad. Dropping it off. Salad drive-by.

And know what? She did. It was a homemade salad with fruits and vegetables along with some Yerba Maté  tea (which is for another post) Guess what happened? I felt better that day. I felt better, in part, because a friend cared enough to drive across town and deliver me a salad, randomly. (I mean… who does that?!) but I also felt better because instead of my usual scrounging around the church for leftover cookies or fast food drive-through, I had a real lunch. The Tracy G salad drive-by changed my lunch routine. I eat salad now for lunch, most days. Every day I have more veggies. I don’t have some fancy new year’s resolution to lose 50 pounds or follow x,y,z, diet. I do have a plan to eat more fruits and vegetables. Why? Because it’s the most common darn sense advice in the universe.

It’s so basic, in fact, I feel like it’s hardly worth mentioning, much less starting a blog series with it. Here’s the thing though: It is worth mentioning, because nobody ever does it.  The CDC recently found that only about 13% of us eat enough fruits and vegetables. Fancy diet advice? You don’t need it, just… Eat a salad for crying out loud. Tracy’s begging you.

tracyAbout Tracy (the very first mentor featured on Mentor Mondays!) In addition to being the only person I know who will bring you a drive-by salad because you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed, Tracy is an area manager for Arbonne. I love Arbonne products. My favorites are this body scrub that smells like sunshine in a jar, the sleep well spray, and (recently) these energy fizz sticks. (Note: I received no compensation from Arbonne or Tracy for this shout out. Well, other than that salad, of course.) Check out the Arbonne, and buy it from Tracy.