Providence and my Fancy Watch

At an early age I was taught about the providence of God. One of the first verses my mother had me memorize was Romans 8:28—“And we know that in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). Knowing that God has good plan for our lives is one of the simple aspects of faith we begin to teach our children.

So, when did I forget the simple, yet oh-so-important, concept of providence?

whole world in his handsAt what point during my “grown-up” time on planet earth did I stop believing that God has a good plan for my life, that he cares about all the little day-to-day things that concern my attention?

I am not sure, but I did forget.

I became aware of this fact this past August when my wife and I moved to Marshall.

It all began the day I lost my watch.

Now, the watch in question is not your ordinary Timex from Target. It is special. It is valuable because of it price—at least 15 times more than I have ever spent on a watch—and because of its origin—it was a gift from my wife’s parents on the day I completed my PhD.

It is the kind of watch that I have always wanted, but would never buy for myself. It is the kind of watch that says that I am a real grown-up, serious about telling time. It is the kind of watch I imagine passing down to my son (which one, I haven’t decided).

So, sometime during the dark hours of our first night in our new home, my watch was quietly removed from the console of my unlocked car in our driveway. It was devastating. I knew that it would be a long time before I could afford another watch like that. I knew that I could also never replace its significance as a gift. I was disappointed, to say the least.

We did all the things you are supposed to do—called the police, asked the neighbors if they saw anything, visited pawn shops, reported the theft to the insurance company—and there seemed to be no hope of ever finding the watch.

After word got around to the neighbors, my colleagues at work, and my family members I remember repeatedly hearing the same phrase from several people, “Oh, I will pray that you find it.”

That phrase, even though I am a God-fearing, Jesus-following, Providence-believing Christian, seemed ridiculous to me.

My educated, grown-up mind told me that it was gone, either sold for easy cash or it had become a permanent part of the wardrobe of the thief that took it. How would prayer miraculously bring the watch back to me? The possibility that God would convince the thief to bring it back or somehow keep it safe in the pawn shop until I arrived to get ti was not just unlikely; it seemed an impossibility to me.

It also seemed absurd to think that God, who must concern himself with all the troubles in the world—starvation in North Korea, wars in the Middle East, poverty in the city where I live, or the plight of small children suffering under unimaginable oppression and abuse—would be concerned in the least bit with a stolen watch.

I told my wife after hearing the “I will pray you will find it” phrase from one individual that I did not want God to give one thought to my watch. It seemed downright selfish to even imagine that God should care about one silly watch, just because it meant a lot to me and I asked him for it. I told her that I would not even pray for God to give my watch back.

But, I prayed it nonetheless. The watch means a great deal to me, and I wanted it back.

The ironic thing is the timing of the missing watch. You see, my wife and I had spent the better part of two years trying to find God’s plan for us. As I neared the completion of my degree we sought out God’s will for us on a daily basis, constantly fretting about where I would get a permanent job, where we would settle.

At the very moment in which we finally found a home, I lost the watch and was not just convinced that I would not find it; I was also convinced that it was too small a thing for God to be concerned with.

The lost watch represented my own questions about the nature of God’s plan for my life. Does God really care about the plan for my life? Does he even care about the little things, like a lost watch?

This lost watch was a synecdoche for my lost soul. That’s a fancy word we English professors use when a small part of something stands in for or represents the whole.

If I really believe that God did not care about my watch, then how could I believe that God did care about the direction of my life?

Eventually, I was calmly resigned to the fact that the watch was lost forever. I was not mad at God. I was just certain that sometimes bad things happen; we move on. It wasn’t God’s fault because it really shouldn’t be any of his concern.

fancy watchWell, as you can see from the picture, that is not the end of the story. One evening, several months later a neighbor came to our house and brought the watch to me. She had found it inside the bushes in front of her house less than a block away from our home. It seems that the thief had a change of heart for whatever reason and tossed the watch away. It lay there gathering dust for months, not a scratch on it.

I have spent a lot of time trying to answer the questions that come to mind when I think about the loss and miraculous return of my fancy watch. Why was it taken? Why did the thief not keep it? Why did several months pass before I found it?

I can’t help but imagine all the tiny little events that happened to ensure that the watch was returned to me. If the thief had understood its true value or completed his/her malevolent plans, it would never have been left behind. If it had fallen outside the bush, it could have been gobbled up by a lawn implement or found by someone else. If my neighbor had not been one of those people who said, “I will pray you get your watch back,” she might not have remembered that it belonged to me.

But, none of those things happened. What did happen is that God saw fit to return the watch to me. And I am grateful.

The best thing about the watch, though, is not how well it tells time. The best thing is that when I look at the time, I am reminded that God does indeed care about my life, even the little things.

DS

You Should Do Shakespeare! (or… How We Choose Our Season)

Once, after a performance of a contemporary play, a patron told me, “You should do Shakespeare.”

Sometimes it’s hard to find the grace to respond with kindness when I’d rather be banging my head against a wall.  Repeatedly.  Then I remind myself… they don’t know the whole story.

ScriptsChoosing a production season for any theatre, whether professional or educational, is a painstaking process.  We can agonize over it for months before we commit to next year’s work, essentially because there are several criteria that guide our selection of a play.

I’d like to share those with you.

1. Is the cast size consistent with the talent in the department?

It is folly to choose a show we have no hopes of casting.  Though our productions are open to the entire student body, we have found that only those who have a deep love for the theatre are willing to commit to the demanding schedule required of any show.  This limits the size of the cast and, as a result, the type of shows we can do.

2. Does the production have academic and thematic merit?

We are a university committed to the intellectual growth of our students.  If we say we want them to think critically, then the material must demand intellectual inquiry through skillful storytelling and ask the participants thought-provoking questions regarding the content.  Wrestling with great literature helps our students think and problem solve beyond everyday expectations.

3. Has the play been recognized for excellence?

This is closely tied to #2.  Usually those plays that have been popularized through strong word-of-mouth reviews, legitimate awards, or favorable critiques provide the richest academic and artistic challenges.

4. Will the demands of the show exceed our budget or workforce?

Selecting the wrong show can sabotage an entire department in one of two ways: we can break the bank by committing to a play that demands too much of our budget or we can break our backs by selecting an overly ambitious show that will drain our workforce.  With a season of at least four shows, we must find a healthy and economically sound balance.

5. Will the experience stretch, challenge, and grow our students (both on stage and behind the scenes) in a way that prepares them for professional or graduate-level academic work?

Students should experience a wide range of genres, forms, and styles from across history to better understand the discipline.  We must also prepare our students for the real world by engaging them with the work out there now.  They are challenged to make bold choices, take risks, engage their faith, and set their boundaries.  It’s not all black and white, and our students must know how to dialogue about their limits in a profession that won’t necessarily sympathize with them.

6. Does the play reflect the faith and values of the institution?

This question is best answered by our Theatre Arts and Christian Worldview statement found on our website and in our programs.  In short, we absolutely want to maintain the integrity and mission of our university.  We love to discuss the redemptive, cautionary, or unresolved conflicts found in the work we do.  As a result, we often schedule talkback sessions after particular performances to help answer the difficult questions.  Our goal is to balance the needs of our students with the expectations of our patrons.

7. Is it something we personally want to work on for 6-9 months?

That’s about how long we spend on any one show, often overlapping the various needs as the schedule demands.  While one show is in performance, another is being designed, while another is being researched and conceptualized.  If we aren’t passionate about the work we have chosen, the end product will suffer.

2014-15 Production Season

2014-15 Production Season

I love Shakespeare’s work and would welcome the opportunity to produce any one of his histories, comedies, tragedies, or romances if we can do the play justice.  However, large cast sizes, multiple male roles, few female opportunities, lengthy run times, multiple sets, iambic pentameter (with numerous variations), difficult thematic content, and some of the most beloved stories ever told make his work a significant challenge for a department of our size.

So we work to grow.  We try hard to recruit top-tier students.  We train them in voice and movement, acting and design, analysis and history.  We build our stock of period clothing, weapons, and props.  We dream big and problem solve within the limitations of our facilities.  We press on in the hopes that one day we will do Shakespeare.

But until that time comes, we strive to meet the immediate needs of the department in a way that gives students opportunities that are just as rich and rewarding.  Maybe it will be Miller, Ruhl, Brecht, Molière, or Sondheim, but it will be just as worthy.

TEL

Is there a Happily Ever After, Daddy?

One night while putting my kids to bed I opted to tell them a story, rather than read them a story. The difference is subtle. When I read them a story, I read the words on the page and show them the pictures illustrating the narration.

When I tell them a story, I put into my own words a given story, usually a fairy tale or bible story, from my own memory. No pictures illustrate the narration, but for some reason they love it. Maybe it is the sound effects I add or the fact that every time I tell a given story it is a little different from the last.

Whatever the case, they now prefer stories I tell more than stories out of a book. Just between you and me, I am beginning to run out of stories.

three bears

One of our favorites is “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”  I admit, my version probably does not remain entirely faithful to the classic tale—Goldilocks eats pancakes or oatmeal, not porridge (What is porridge anyway?).

Yet, just like the original, in the end the Bear family discovers Goldilocks asleep in their home.

I honestly don’t know what is supposed to come after that, but to contemporize the story I used to say that the Bears call the police and have her arrested for trespassing. Perhaps that is not the best ending for small children, so now I narrate that the Bears unite Goldilocks with her parents who have been desperately looking for their daughter lost in the woods.

In order to capture the meaning of a story about a lost girl who finds safety and aid under the hospitality of strangers, I end the story with something like, “And Goldilocks returned home safely to her family who had a party because she was safe and well.”

Last week after concluding the story, my daughter asks me, “Did they not live happily ever after, Daddy?”

Now, anyone who lives with small children in the 21st century understands how my five-year-old daughter has been so indoctrinated with Disney fairy tales that she just assumes that every story is supposed to end with, “And they lived happily ever after.”

But, how should I answer that question?

Not wanting to verbalize all the thoughts that went through my head without thinking about the best answer, I answered her with a quick, “That’s not how this story ends, but she and her family were happy to be together again. Good night, I love you.”

Lame, right?

Ever since she asked, I can’t get that question out of my head. I sense I may have missed one of those important moments, a moment where I have an opportunity to teach my child something about the way the world works. Or, about the true meaning of happiness. Or, about anything of value instead of just trying to get her to go to sleep as quickly as possible.

But now that I have had a few days to think about it, I have a couple of responses.

My first response to her question comes from my framework as a literature professor. I read and teach stories for a living, and anyone who has ever sat in my class knows none of the stories I teach end with “happily ever after.” In fact, most stories in any recognized academic canon of literature do not end happily at all. So, my first answer could have been, “No, a lot of stories don’t end with happily ever after. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

My next thought was much like my first. As a “grown-up” pushing 40 I am well aware of the way life goes. I considered answering with, “Nope. Life doesn’t work that way.”

Thankfully, I had the wherewithal not to verbalize either of those responses. I sense that a father should not pass on to his child such a cynical view of life at the ripe age of five.

The side of me that prevented me from giving my first two answers, though, is not simply ruled by common sense. It is that part of me most influenced by my faith.

While nowhere in the Bible does the phrase “happily ever after” appear, there are some important aspects of the Biblical narrative that embody the values of the fairytale ending. The fairytale ending is not merely about happiness; it reflects the simple hope that we can experience all of the best things life has to offer—love, well-being, health, personal success, and the full realization of our individual role in our community.

Therefore, what is the Garden of Eden if not the original plan for happily ever after? And what is heaven if not the ultimate realization of happily ever after? And, we can’t ignore the 28th verse of the 8th chapter of Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

If we can say anything about the Biblical perspective on “happily ever after” it is this: God’s original intent and ultimate hope for mankind is to experience all of the perfection that he created for us. In understanding Romans 8:28 and knowing what our Father has in store for his followers in afterlife, we can say that God intends a “happily ever after” for all of us.

fairytale

Furthermore, if I am completely honest with myself, I still believe in fairy tales.

Certainly, I am a cynical grown-up and a critical thinking academic. But, when I think of the joy and fulfillment I find in my marriage, in raising my children, in going to work everyday, and in the pursuit of my faith, I am convinced that if there is a “happily ever after,” then I am living it.  And, I most definitely hope that what I model in my roles as father and husband demonstrates “happily ever after” to my children.

Yes, life does not work out how we plan. Yes, there is a lot of everyday-stuff-of-life that makes us unhappy. Yes, we all experience loss and regret. Yet, those things don’t prevent me from believing in God’s great plan for all of us, that he wants “happily ever after” for all of us.

So, next time my daughter asks me whether they lived “happily ever after” my answer will just be, “Yes, they did.”

DS

 

Where’s My Death Scene? (or… The Value of Theatre)

When I was a little girl, I often found myself digging through my mother’s closet and drawers to create what I termed “old-timey” clothes.  My mother’s fashion sense was not in any way “old timey”—but her nightgowns could be layered and belted on my frame to resemble the great robes of eighteenth-century royalty.  It fascinated me that people from long ago did not attire themselves as we did in the early 1980s, and I wanted to explore that with my own “designs” and imagination.

I was also a pretty voracious reader.  After reading Little Women (the abridged version) as a third grader, I would spend hours in my room reenacting scenes from Meg’s life.  Not long after, I was orchestrating talent shows and made-up plays from the living room with neighborhood children.  Yes, I was *that* kid.

After one particular living-room performance, which idealistically I believed EVERYONE would want to be a part of, I found myself near tears because one of my friends had categorically refused to participate.  I now understand that she had stage fright, but that didn’t (and still doesn’t) exist in my genetic make-up.  To heap insult upon injury, my mother pulled me aside for a scolding.  My offense?  I had invited the neighborhood into our home without warning and the house was a mess.  Oops.

So it was time to redirect my energies.  My mother happened upon an ad in the paper for a local children’s theatre.  Their production for the summer?  Little Women.  Did I want to audition?  (She had to explain to me what an audition was first.)  Ummm, YES!  And while disappointed to learn I was too young to play Meg, I did receive the part of Beth.  The rest is history.

Beth in Little Women

“Beth” in Little Women

There are two interesting segues to this story.  The first is that the adaptation of Little Women we performed was “cleaned up.”  Spoiler alert.  In this version, nobody died.  Imagine my ten-year-old brain trying to conceive why anybody would want to change a word of Louisa May Alcott’s literary masterpiece.  Where is my death scene?!?!  Everybody should grieve Beth’s sacrifice, illness, and loss!  It was unconscionable.  Eventually, however, I adjusted to the new approach, but it rang false.  I couldn’t articulate it then, but I know today that theatre was/is a way to wrestle with the difficulties of life.  That it was and is necessary to explore grief, love, doubt, inequality, and suffering through art.

The other branch to this story is providential.  Just a few months prior to my audition for Little Women, I heard the gospel presented in church—for what was probably the thousandth time—in a way that finally hit me.

My Sunday-School teacher was a rather rotund, middle-aged man named Buddy.  Buddy was unassuming, humble, and full of kindness.  And I liked him because he didn’t condescend to us.  There was no baby-talk.  There were no silly voices or exaggerated tales.  We were fourth and fifth graders together.  We were the highest echelon of elementary students.  Top dogs.  Almost adults.  And he spoke to us with the gravest sincerity, and his words sunk in deep.

I find it no coincidence that, after meeting Jesus, I should be introduced to the world of theatre.  I wouldn’t understand the connection between the two for years, even as I hungrily gobbled up every theatre opportunity that presented itself, but that fact was that God was preparing me, shaping me, using me as He designed me to be: an artist who is compelled to create in the image of her Creator—obliged to create in an effort to explore, to connect, to relate, to entertain, and to educate.

This brings me to the crux of this post.  An acquaintance of mine queried last year, “What really is the purpose of theatre at a small, liberal arts school?”  Or, we might ask, “What is the value of theatre anywhere?”  What does it do?  What should it do?  The debate is as old as theatre itself.  And there are (generally) two camps that the arguments fall into: theatre as entertainment and theatre as instruction.  Theatre should delight!  Theatre should inform!  Well, yes.  And yes.

There are those who want escapist entertainment that doesn’t require much thought.  They want to be awed by the spectacle and roll with the laughter.  Theatre should be equal parts romance, poetic justice, and action.  It should allow them to set aside their own concerns for a few hours, and delight in the trials and triumphs of some other life.

Then there are those who want to be challenged by something new, who want their perspective challenged, who want to examine the tough subjects through the intimate setting of theatre.  They carry the story with them beyond the curtain call and into the days and weeks ahead, turning it over in their mind and wrestling with it in their conversations.

The best theatre, in my opinion, does both.  It explores relevant topics or stories in a way that captures the audience’s imagination and heart.  It inspires discussion at the very least.  It never bores.  It demands examination and change.  It emboldens and encourages.  It lifts and it humbles.  It heals and it hurts.  Therein lies its purpose and its value.  And I know of no other way to bring so many diverse topics and so many different people together in one collaborative, cathartic event than the theatre.  And to me… that has great worth.

TEL

Why the library?

Library CardTo this day I have in my possession (and still in good working order, I might add) the first barcoded library card that was issued to me by Ms. Wendell Ogidi at the Palestine Public Library. Based on my foggy memory and my early rendition of a cursive signature, I’d guess I was entering fifth or sixth grade. Before that I can remember visiting public libraries as a younger child with my parents in Garland, Texas. I still have memories from the Abbett Elementary library where I was taught about the Dewey Decimal System via an overhead projector and transparency sheets. Last semester Will Walker mentioned that ETBU Library Director, Cynthia Peterson, talked about playing “library” as a child. She’s not the only one. I think my sister might still owe me a fine…

I was a proud member of the Bluebonnet Club both at Story Elementary and at Washington Sixth Grade Center (thank you, Ms. Rozman) where we read and discussed the books nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Award. I can remember researching Y2K (warning: for some this will make me seem terribly young and for others you might need a definition of Y2K) on dial-up internet connection (perhaps even a CD database) from my public library computer on an orange and black screen. And between libraries and Baptist life, I have developed an affectionate appreciation for the usefulness of a golf pencil…

Me and libraries? We go way back.

So in Spring 2011, when Dr. Dub Oliver asked me during my interview why I chose to be a librarian, I should have been able to produce an answer. Right? Well, sort of.

Before coming to ETBU, I had recently completed my Masters of Library Science degree from the University of North Texas. I also was leaving the first library job I had ever had with the library that grew me in my hometown. Prior to that I had spent time trying to help middle school students learn to love reading as a public school teacher in two great districts.

And so why did I choose the library?

At the time I would have told you that I had always sort of kept librarianship in the back of my mind as a career path. [Note to readers: I’ve lost count the number of people who tell me that they always thought about being a librarian if (fill in the blank with first career choice) hadn’t worked out.] A series of life circumstances and situations made it possible for me to step out of my classroom role and work full-time in Adult Services at my hometown library while I worked on my MLS. At the time I could give you the standard “Why are you a librarian?” answer – I loved reading and being around people who loved reading. Even more than that, I loved learning and now I was surrounded by information. Every day I had the chance to feel like I was sharing something with my community and the work that I was doing made it easier for people to get to the information that they needed to make their lives better. Also, I got to help select the books for the collection – who wouldn’t love that? It sounded like a good enough reason to pick a career to me.

Back to Dr. Dub’s interview question. My initial response was something quippy about there not ever having been a librarian track at church camp. Beyond that, I think I did manage to say something about believing that people should have access to information and that being able to use that information to take charge of your own learning can make all of the difference in a person’s life. That statement remains to be one of the true reasons why I love being a librarian.

Since then, though, I’ve thought more and more about where my Christian faith intersects with my career of librarianship and what it means to be a Christian librarian. In hearing the teaching faculty talk about faith and learning in their disciplines, I’ve begun to ask myself where librarians and the role of the library fits into the larger picture.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who asks these kinds of questions. For me, questions about my calling to the library go something like this:

  • Where does the library and its mission fit into what I believe about my faith?
  • How does what I do on a daily basis serve God or those around me?
  • Why should a Christian, or anyone for that matter, care about information and its use?
  • Just what exactly am I supposed to be doing here, anyway?…

These are some of the very questions I hope to address in this semester’s blog. I hope you’ll join me as we look together at how the world of information intersects with our faith, how reading impacts empathy, why I believe Christians are called to be information literate… and many more reflections from a librarian’s point of view.

Why the library? I think the answer to that question is something I get to continue discovering. As the library and my role within it continues to evolve, I am constantly finding a new reason to enjoy this calling to educate, steward, and serve. I hope you are able to do the same in whatever work that God has called you to join him in doing.

Curious about something? I know the feeling. It’s a job hazard for me. Leave a comment below and I’ll try to get to it in a future post. Happy reading and thanks for following.

EDP

Ride the Storm

About this time every year, I start seeing more and more students with a perpetual scowl on their faces. Never mind that Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner – these students are STRESSED!

Photo Credit: Amy McTigue via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Amy McTigue via Compfight cc

Maybe you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of homework and projects, or you just can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Regardless, most students (and professors!) experience some tension about this time of the semester.

But if we are followers of Christ, and truly trust God, what is there to be worried about?

I’m talking to myself just as much as anyone right now… it is so easy to try and control everything and worry that it won’t work out.

Did I study hard enough for this test? Did I work hard enough on this report? Will they like it? Will people be disappointed in me? What should I do now? How am I going to fix this problem?….

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us alone to flounder under the pressure.

Check out Psalm 55:22-23 (MSG)

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin.
But you, God, will throw the others
    into a muddy bog,
Cut the lifespan of assassins
    and traitors in half.

And I trust in you.

Pretty cool, right?

I can’t say that I personally know many assassins, but it is comforting to know that God has a plan to cut their lifespans short!

There are lots of “Christian-ese” phrases that point to the fact that we already know we’re not supposed to worry, and that instead we should trust God:

  • Put your trust in the Lord
  • Let go, and let God
  • When God closes a door, He opens a window
  • God never gives us more than we can handle

You can probably think of some more yourself.

But when was the last time you said that to yourself in the middle of a freak-out? And even if you did, did it stop you from worrying?

This church sign points out that every Christian already knows we are supposed to trust God, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Photo Credit: Joshua Daniel O. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Joshua Daniel O. via Compfight cc

So, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone when you feel pressure.

Also, you’re not alone when you struggle to stop worrying and trust God.

You may feel alone if you’re fighting to do well in classes, but you don’t have to! Every ETBU professor would love to help a student in trouble. All you have to do is ask!

I read something online today that told the story of a one-fingered king. The king cursed God, blaming Him for the loss of a finger. What the king didn’t know what that God planned to save his life all along – He just used the lack of a finger to do it!

Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

The point of that story, and my post, is that it’s important for us to remember that we don’t know God’s plan for our lives.

When it seems like stuff is going wrong and there’s no way out, it may be exactly there God wants you!

The best thing all of us can do is try and ride the storm, and keep trusting that God will work everything out like He wants it!

AL

If you’ll be my sunny day, I’ll be your shade tree

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DaveLawler via Compfight cc

Maybe it was moving to Texas. Maybe it was watching The Voice. Maybe it was a Pizza Hut commercial. But lately, I’ve really been enjoying Blake Shelton’s music.

Judge me if you must, but I’ve always thought he seems like a genuine guy, and I’m always impressed with celebrity couples who can stay married for longer than a few days. Blake is married to Miranda Lambert (a country star in her own right), if you were wondering :)

Why am I talking about Blake Shelton today? Well, to be honest, I heard his Honey Bee song this morning, and it has been stuck in my head all day!

It is a catchy, sweet song! You can click here for the YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZjosn2u1gA, or read the lyrics below

“Honey Bee”

Girl, I been thinkin’ ’bout us
And you know I ain’t good at this stuff
These feelings pilin’ up won’t give me no rest
This might come out a little crazy
A little sideways, yeah maybe
I don’t know how long it’ll take me but I’ll do my best

You’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

Yeah, that came out a little country
But every word was right on the money
And I got you smilin’ honey right back at me
Now hold on ’cause I ain’t done
There’s more where that came from
Well you know I’m just havin’ fun, but seriously

If you’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar, baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

Your kiss just said it all
I’m glad we had this talk
Nothing left to do but fall in each others arms
I coulda said “I love you”
Coulda wrote you a line or two
Baby, all I know to do is speak right from the heart

If you’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

You’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
And I’ll be your honey bee

I’ll be your honey bee 

Photo Credit: R.H.Sumon™ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: R.H.Sumon™ via Compfight cc

Am I crazy, or does this describe God’s plan for marriage? 

Ok, I am a little crazy, but given what I’ve heard Blake Shelton say about God and marriage, I don’t think I’m completely wrong!

I think we’re all pretty familiar with the Genesis story…

Genesis 2:18, 21-23
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper that is right for him. … 21 So the Lord God put the man to sleep as if he were dead. And while he was sleeping, He took one of the bones from his side and closed up the place with flesh. 22 The Lord God made woman from the bone which He had taken from the man. And He brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh.

One of the many things that can be taken from this passage is that men and women aren’t meant to be alone. God made women for men, to complete them, to help them.

And this is the main message of Honey Bee, I think.

It doesn’t work for all the lyrics, but you certainly can’t have sweet tea without sugar. And you wouldn’t need a tree for shade if it wasn’t sunny outside.

Whether you phrase it in terms of Southern charm and a catchy tune, or not, the fact remains that men and women need each other. And I always love when God’s message comes out in pop culture!

Not to burst your bubble, but in the interest of ethical blogging, it must be noted that Blake Shelton did not write this song. In fact, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip did.

But I’d like to think that Blake really believes in what he’s singing – otherwise, it wouldn’t be so popular, right?

In a recent interview in Redbook magazine, Blake described how important his wife is to him, and gave his advice on being a good husband.

Photo Credit: Daniel CJ Lee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Daniel CJ Lee via Compfight cc

 “I think you’ve got to be confident and a little bit of a pushover. Obviously, you’ve got to be a loyal person. I’m never going to listen to someone trash my wife. I think you have to be willing to take a bullet for somebody if you’re going to stand up there, take your vows, and be married to them for the rest of your life.”

Sage marriage advice from the expert!

Ok, obviously, God is the real expert. He knew Adam could not do it without Eve, just like He knows how much I need my husband, and how much every marriage depends on the partners relying on each other.

A beautiful plan, don’t you think?
AML

Like eagles y’all!

“East Texas? Why do you want that job?”

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller via Compfight cc

“Are you sure you like it here?”

“What’s in Marshall, Texas anyway?”

“Isn’t that far from home?”

I’ve been getting questions like these ever since we moved to Marshall – mostly from my parents and grandma – because they just don’t see the whole picture.

If I’m honest, I don’t really see it either. But that’s ok. God does. It’s just our job to trust Him.

In fact, I’ve moved around more than you’re average young adult. And my parent’s aren’t even in the military!

I was born in Shreveport, LA. We lived there until I was 7, when we moved to Euless, TX  because of my dad’s job. When I was 10, we moved to Omaha, NE, again because of my dad’s job. Then I got my bachelor’s degree at Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln, NE. I moved to Saint Louis, MO to get my Masters at Saint Louis University, and moved to Lawrence, KS to get my PhD.

For those of you keeping score, that means moving to Marshall was my my 6th move!

Photo Credit: Frenkieb via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Frenkieb via Compfight cc

My dear, sweet husband has been with me for two of those moves. And that’s a lot for most people we know! Not to mention six!!

Has the path always been clear? Absolutely not!

There were a few veeeeeeeeery long months where I was about to finish my Masters degree, didn’t know where to apply for PhD programs, wasn’t getting accepted anywhere, couldn’t get a regular job, and almost lost all hope.

But then I got accepted at the University of Kansas – my ideal program! I prayed about it, and God said that He told me to wait, and everything would work out.

When I was about to finish my PhD, I had some choices available. I was receiving a tuition grant in exchange for teaching undergrad Communication classes, and it would have been possible for me to stretch out the work on my dissertation another year, and just stay in Kansas for the 2013-2014 school year. I was comfortable there, so I thought I’d just see what kind of jobs were out there to apply for.

There were some veeeeeeeeeeeeery long months where I was looking for jobs, applying, and getting rejection letters. I was thinking that maybe I was supposed to just apply for  positions again the following year, because NOTHING was working out.

But then I got a job at ETBU – my ideal program! I, very excitedly, prayed about it, and God said that He told me to wait, and everything would work out.

Sometimes, in moments like these, God’s voice sounds a little sarcastic to me – like, silly, you know that I will take care of you and that I have a plan, you just aren’t patient enough to see it through. Does that happen to anyone else?

Throughout all of this, I continually turned to Isaiah 40:31. I even had a sticky note on my computer with that verse, so that I would see it every time I sat down to fill out ANOTHER application.

Isaiah 40:31 New Life Version (NLV)

31 But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weak.

Does anyone remember that scene in Remember the Titans where the large, white football player recites this verse in song? That’s how I always think of it :)

If you need a refresher, check out this clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66CWwlrp_c

Well, the moral of this long, drawn out story is that God ALWAYS has a plan.

Photo Credit: EladeManu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: EladeManu via Compfight cc

And it is ALWAYS better than any plan you or I could dream up. We just have to wait to find out what it is, which is definitely the hard part.

Since coming to Marshall, other wonderful things have happened to me and my family, and it is a constant reassurance that we really are living out God’s plan, and it feels good!

I know that lots of students are staring graduation in the face right now, or in six months, and it is scary.

But take it from me, God’s in your corner, and things will work out if you just wait for His plan!

AL

A Biblical Response to Domestic Violence

Does the Bible specifically address domestic violence?

Domestic Violence

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If the number of sermons or Bible studies you have heard directly discussing this reality were an indicator, what would it suggest about your church’s biblical engagement with this issue?

A recent Life Way survey revealed that 42% of Protestant pastors rarely or never address domestic and/or sexual violence in their sermons.  However, one in every three women will experience physical violence from an intimate partner in her lifetime thus raising the question: why have nearly 50% of these pastors rarely or never addressed a critical issue faced by 33% of all women?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines domestic violence as:

The willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another.

The NCADV notes:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States
  • More than 10 million women and men experience domestic violence each year
  • 1 in 7 women will experience stalking victimization during their lifetime
  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide
  • Intimate partner violence is most common among women between the ages of 18-24
  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner
  • At least 21% of all victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse
  • The cost of domestic violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.

In recent weeks national news has focused on the reality of domestic violence due to the wide circulation of a specific incident caught on an elevator video between an NFL player and his girlfriend.

According to a recent and related Associated Press article, a number of women used the hashtags WhyIStayed and WhyILeft to “share their own stories reflecting the sometimes difficult choice of whether or not to leave an abusive partner.”  One woman was Beverly Gooden who tweeted on September 8, “I stayed because my pastor told me God hates divorce.  It didn’t cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too.”

Does God hate abuse as well?

By the standard of church awareness, teaching and response to the reality of domestic violence one might be tempted to answer in the negative.

Illustrative of the experience of far too many women in the church, one British website notes:

Quite often, if we as victims approach and confide in an elder, priest, or member of our Church, hoping for some support and encouragement, we can leave feeling even more guilty and trapped than we did formerly.  We may be told that the abuse is due to our own lack of submissiveness, or our own sinfulness, that we would not suffer if our faith was greater, or that we will be rewarded in the next life for the suffering we experience in this one (!?!).  I have heard of women who have been told earnestly by their vicar that it would be better for them to die at the hands of their abusive husband than to seek a separation and protection for their children! … The question, however, for every Christian person should not be what does our Church say about our situation, but what does the LORD say to us in the Bible?

Malachi 2:13-16 addresses the reality of domestic violence:

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the Lord made them one?  In flesh and spirit they are his.  And why one?  Because he was seeking godly offspring.  So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

16 “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.

So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (NIV 1984)

Despite the fact these husbands were weeping and wailing before the Lord and offering sacrifices to him, they were rejected.  Why?  According to verse 16, the Lord hates divorce and the Lord hates a man who covers himself with violence towards his spouse.  Though there is some debate about how to best translate verse 16, the NIV text indicates that when it comes to discussing familial health, churches ought to address intimate violence in a substantive way.

According to Scriptures, a person engaging in verbal, sexual or physical violence against an intimate partner or family members is committing sin.

The Malachi passage is far from alone.  Other passages implicitly addressing this reality:

Genesis 1-2 articulates marriage as a helping relationship forged in the unity and equality of one flesh

Psalm 11:5 notes that the Lord “hates with a passion” those “who love violence”

Isaiah 59 does not mention specific sins but clearly condemns in verse 2 those whose “hands are stained with blood” and “fingers with guilt,” and again in verse 6 that those who commit “acts of violence” with their hands are doing “evil deeds”

Matthew 18:1-10 describes children as those highly regarded in the kingdom of God and therefore to be welcomed, honored and protected

1 Corinthians 13 offers a portrait of love that is patient and kind and free of intimidation, abuse or violence

Ephesians 5:21 discusses mutual submission

Ephesians 5:25-33 calls upon husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church: sacrificially unto death

Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 emphasize that fathers should not provoke their children

Domestic violence is sin.  When a person engages in verbal, sexual or domestic violence he or she has broken faith with his or her husband or wife.  Domestic violence is far too often a dirty secret happening behind closed doors and weekly filling church pews in suffering silence.  We have a responsibility to name this sin and to be grieved over its prevalence in the world.

If are to be God’s people then we must publicly teach that domestic violence is sin, acknowledge our complicit silence in this area, provide safe havens for those seeking freedom, regularly pray for those trapped in abusive situations, and model healthy and life-affirming relationships.

EMB

Does God have a Facebook page?

I am really excited to (hopefully) teach a new class in the next few semesters  - Social Media Communication. Anyone interested?

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

I have taught a similar class before, but not under the guise of the integration of faith and learning. Bringing faith into the discussion adds a completely new element, and one that I’m excited to explore!

Since I’m a little bored today – even professors have trouble concentrating on a Friday :) – I decided to start thinking about what the syllabus would look like for this new class. Let’s just say that I’ve found myself in a pickle.

How can we bring God into the discussion of social media? What kinds of questions should we be asking and answering in a class like this?

What can God add to the internet? Nope, wrong question. God created the internet (obviously), so he’s added everything already….

What does the internet have to do with God? Wrong question again, and same simple answer: EVERYTHING.

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

What does God have to do with the internet? UGH! Everything again! And still not an interesting question or answer!

How about, what can the internet add to our understanding of God? Or, how can we see examples of His glory/mercy/work/amazing-ness through the internet?

Hmm maybe we’re getting somewhere now…

Off the top of my head, obvious places where God shows up on the internet include:

  • Youversion.com, a site where you can read multiple translations of the bible,
  • Biblegateway.com , a searchable Bible site that also provides many different translations and where many ETBU folk have been participating in the Bible in a year program,
  • or even the websites for churches, like Mobberly Marshall where my husband and I attend…

…But what about more unique ways that God’s love is visible online?

My family is planning to go to New Orleans for Thanksgiving this year, and we are going to rent a house to stay in while we’re there. This experience has introduced me to Air BnB, a vacation rentals site.

Is everyone on this website a Christian? Probably not. But I can’t help but think of Christians using this site to live out 1 Peter 4:9.

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

Can this be seen as the internet helping us follow God’s plan for our lives?

Can’t you imagine the wonderful ministry opportunities that could become available if you opened your house in this way? You don’t know who would choose to stay, or what stage in life they are in, but surely God could use this opportunity for His Kingdom!

Or what about ChristianMingle.com?

Is there a guarantee that everyone on this site is Christian? Decidedly not.

Cardinal rule #1: You CANNOT trust the Internet!

But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t using the site for His purposes. Maybe that’s the best way for you  to meet your husband or wife. Who are we to claim knowledge of God’s plan or methods?!

Maybe this isn’t going to be the root of Social Media Communication class, but I definitely think these questions deserve some investigation. Maybe I’ll even use this post as assigned reading…

Photo Credit: Julia Manzerova via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Julia Manzerova via Compfight cc

If we return to the question I posed in the title of this post, Does God have a Facebook page? — how would we know if He did or didn’t?

He could be posing as Joe Schmo, John Smith, or Jesus Christ, offering status updates, pictures and music preferences, and we would never know. At least not for sure anyway.

Remember, you CAN’T trust the internet!

Bringing God into the discussion of social media communication seems to offer some exciting topics, and opportunities for discussion. I’m so excited!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how faith could/should be brought into a class about the internet, or social media. There are so many possibilities :)

The syllabus is still being worked on – you could contribute!!
AML