What is Mission?

I just finished my third year of Seminary. Most of the students who started with me just graduated and are moving on to their ministries. Since I have been attending part-time, I still have a few years to go. I haven’t shared much about my experience with my classes here mainly because it has been a real rollercoaster ride and I have just been holding on for dear life! Though it has been challenging, it has also been transformative and life-giving. I am not the same person I was when I started three years ago. I would like to be more intentional about sharing some of my Seminary experiences here so I’ll start with an essay I wrote on the Christian mission. This essay was for my course on Interfaith Studies, Comparative Theology, and Ministry where we learned about many of the world religions and how to best engage with others from different faiths.

The question for the essay was: “What are the features of ‘Christian mission’ in a multireligious society characterized by a widespread poverty and social inequality, animosity and violence between people due to various factors, and ecological deterioration?”

While I am sure there was an appropriate academic answer, I decided to go with a more personal, reflective response. Here is what I wrote:

Our Christian mission is to serve God’s people – not just Christians but all of God’s people – with love and humility rather than with arrogance and power. We are to listen to and lift up others and to trust that God is already working in their lives. We are to be the student when called and to be the teacher when called, and the only way we will know which one is called for at any given time is in relationship with one another. 

Jesus tells His disciples in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I am not sure that Jesus would recognize us as His disciples, as we have failed to love one another. We have not loved as Jesus commanded and the state of the world is evidence of this. The world does not appear well-loved.

So what does this love look like? For me personally, it looks like education and loving across lines. It looks like advocacy for the marginalized in my life, specifically the LGBTQIA+ community. It looks like holding open doors and inviting people I know and love into spaces where I am allowed but they are not. For me it looks like writing a blog, where I share my faith, my spiritual practices, and my struggles with the state of things. For me it looks like standing at the edges with those who don’t feel like they have a place at the center. For me it looks like donating time and resources to the organizations who are working tirelessly to make room at the table, to feed and educate the poor, to plant trees, to teach God’s word, and to share the benefits of spiritual practices. It looks like working with children and youth so they too can live into a Christian mission of love. It looks like cultivating friendships outside my faith to better understand others and their experience with what I call God’s life-giving Spirit. It looks like laying down my religious language so as to open lines of communication with the rest of God’s people. For me it looks like having hard conversations with people at my church, in my family, and in my friend groups about how Christianity and God’s word have been used as weapons against the least of these. It also looks like learning how to repent and apologize when I have been the one in the wrong using my faith as a way to judge or harm others. It looks like being willing to learn something new every day and being willing to wander into uncharted territory for the sake of love, relationship, and justice. 

I certainly do not have all of the answers. I am grateful for educational and religious leaders who are willing to take a stand and teach those under their care how to better love people. I am grateful for brave voices from the margins who have risked everything to call attention to injustices and disparities. I am grateful for a savior who came for all of us and I pray that we can be better so that He will know us by our love, and as a result, all will know the love Jesus came to share. 

The Woes & Adventures of a Seminary Dropout…

Well, it was a short adventure, but a good one. I have withdrawn from Seminary. Yes, after just seven weeks. But that was enough. It was enough for me to learn what I needed to learn, for now. I knew going in that it was an exploratory venture. That I would ‘check it out and see’. I also knew that there was a chance that it would be temporary. Whenever I was struggling to learn the material, I would pray:

“Lord, I know I am going to learn something. Please help me learn what You want me to learn, even if that is different than what my professors want me to learn, or even what I want to learn. Help me learn the lessons You have planned for me. Amen.”

I have figured out from experience that the lesson is not always what we think it is. So, what did I learn? I learned that I still do not fully understand my call. I re-learned that we can always make a U-turn, that we always have choices. And I was reminded that God is always leading us, if we are willing to follow.

This last one makes me think of Vacation Bible School when I lead kids around the church grounds between sessions. Many times, I will take the long way around and circle a picnic table or the fountain just to see if they will follow (and because it is more fun!). When they were younger, the kids always followed even when they wondered why. But this year, the group was older and they did not follow and it made me sad. I pray that I always follow God’s lead even when it makes no sense to me or others.

As I have mentioned before, my word this year is ‘confidence’. It can be tempting to let something like this shake my confidence, but now I actually have more confidence in many ways. After getting feedback from professors and deans on my assignments, I have more confidence in my writing and speaking abilities. I have more confidence in talking to people I don’t know and more confidence in sharing my story. I have more confidence in my ability to discern when I am on the wrong path, or in the wrong timing. I have more confidence in being authentically me. I have confidence in the loving people along the path who want to help me discover God’s will for me rather than pushing me to pursue their will. Having worked many years in the corporate world, that has not always been my experience with people, and it is a refreshing and nurturing change. I also have confidence in the support of my friends, family, and church community. I have confidence that new opportunities will arise as I continue to discern and pursue this calling to share my faith.

I am really grateful for the experience, and I am so glad I went. Can’t wait for the next adventure!

So rather than “Woes”, I like “The Adventures of a Seminary Dropout” instead.

p.s. For those of you concerned that I may be ‘throwing away my shot’ (my daughter will be so excited that I included a Hamilton reference), I want you to know that my standing as a Seminary student is good for a full year. I can choose to go back if I feel that is the right thing to do. It is really great to have so many wonderful options.

Now off to continue discerning….


Dear Loving and Faithful God,
my Wise Teacher and Guide –

I pray that I always have confidence in Your Guidance and Your Leading and Your Path, U-turns and all.



Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

~ Proverbs 3:5

This is my (Crazy) Story…Crazy for God

This week I shared a bit more of my story on my church’s Spiritual Formation blog.  You can follow the link to see the post, or read the text below.

First United Methodist Church Grapevine Blog post

This is my (Crazy) Story…Crazy for God

God is calling me to Ministry. I am not sure exactly what that means yet, but I know it is true. And I have been wrestling with it and resisting it for a while. I feel the pull in my heart, but my mind is not quite there yet. It doesn’t really make sense to me. I still feel so new to this faith. The whole thing seems a little crazy.

I did not grow up in church. I was baptized as a baby, and I remember attending one Sunday School class in first grade. And that’s about it. As a teenager, I attended some services with friends and with my grandparents. But I was always uncomfortable in an itchy dress, afraid I would sit or stand at the wrong time or say the wrong thing. I have lived a very secular life.

Sometime in my early 30s, after a conversation with friends about religion, I asked my husband, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

And he answered, “Well for one thing, it means that you believe Jesus is the Son of God.”

And I remember thinking “What?! Seriously?! That’s really crazy! Do people really believe that?! Do you believe that?!”

My curiosity was piqued.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was really sick and I had to quit my job. I did not have many friends locally other than work friends, so suddenly I was isolated. I was lonely and afraid. I felt like I was supposed to do it all on my own and I had no idea how to do that. And then I felt a Presence, an overwhelming sense of love and peace and strength, a hand on my shoulder saying, “I am here. You are not alone.”

That’s when I began my journey toward Christ.

When my oldest daughter was three years old, we started looking at Preschools. We checked out Creative Learning Center (CLC) here at FUMC Grapevine, but I was unsure. It was an older building; no computers in the classrooms; it was not bright and shiny like the competition. But my husband, Rick, knew it was right….because of the smell. Yes, the smell. It reminded him of his church and his Sunday School. And because of the teachers and the old buildings. It seemed a little crazy to me, but he knew. So we trusted. And it was good. It was very good.

Once we decided on CLC, we decided to check out the Worship Services here. We had wanted to find a church home, but never seemed to start the search. The first service we attended here was on Easter 2007. The head pastor, Ken Diehm, handed out orange bracelets that read, “Do all things without complaining.” (Philippians 2:14)

“What? All things?”, my mind exclaimed.

Again, I thought, “Wow! This Christian thing is really radical, because that is crazy!”

But Rev. Rick Mang played the guitar and Pastor Ken gave his amazing sermons and we kept coming. So the following Easter, a year later, I mentioned to Rick that maybe we should join the church. But he said he was not quite sure yet.

So I suggested, “Well, if we are not ready to join this church, maybe we should keep looking.”

He responded, “I don’t want to look at other churches. I like this church.”

And we joined.

In the meantime, not only was the Preschool great for my daughter, but it was great for me too. I was home with my youngest daughter, who was one, and I was still sick with a lot of food sensitivities and probably some undiagnosed depression. Pickup time was the only adult conversation and interaction I had all day. Those few minutes on the front lawn of the Preschool with other tired mamas were the highlight of my day. And then one day, a fellow mama mentioned the Bible Study class she took with Kenda Diehm, Ken’s wife. I was curious, but I did not own a Bible. So I went to Mardel and asked a lot of questions about the different versions and bought myself a cute pink women’s devotional Bible. I was ready.

I had never studied the Bible before. I had never even read the Bible before. Kenda was starting a study on Exodus, which was handy for me. I just had to read Genesis, one book, and I would be caught up. So I started reading. And I have to say, I was truly shocked to see that Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was really a story in the Bible. I had always heard the story, but I never knew that it was really scripture. Wow! Again, I thought, “This Christian thing is kind of crazy.”

The Creation story tripped me up a bit too. I had been raised on evolution and never considered another option. My aunt came to visit from a small town out of state and wanted to go to a “megachurch”, so we went to a service at one of the larger churches in the area. The sermon was about Creation, and I remember being shaken.

“Can’t we just ease into this a bit? Do we have to start with believing that God created the entire world? That seems like a big leap for a beginner. It’s a bit crazy.”

So another year goes by, and I’ve been in worship services listening to the Ministry Moments talk about needing Children’s Sunday School teachers. I had been volunteering at my daughter’s school and was really enjoying it. I was interested in working with the kids at church, but I didn’t have much biblical knowledge. (I was only through the first two books at this point!) But after two years of listening to the plea, I finally said, “Yes”. Again this seemed a bit crazy. How would I teach kids about the Bible when I knew so little about it? But the ad in the video said, “You just have to be willing.” Okay, I am willing.

I started ‘teaching’ my daughter’s Kindergarten class, but I had to demote myself to Preschool when it became glaringly obvious that the Kindergartners knew more than me. It was around Easter and we were playing a trivia game, but there were only questions, no answers. As teachers, we were supposed to know these ‘easy’ kindergarten facts. One of the questions was about the Garden of Gethsemane. I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t know what it was, and I certainly didn’t know how to pronounce it. Luckily, I was team-teaching with someone who knew the answers. So I demoted myself to Preschool the next fall, and taught my youngest daughter’s four year-old class every Sunday for a year. Consequently, most of what I know about the Bible I learned in Preschool Sunday School as a 40 year old.

As I read the stories and the lessons each week, 90% of the time it was the first time I had heard the story. I had to look up each one to learn who the author was and the context of the story. But in addition to learning Bible stories, I also learned that God was giving me the ability to see the message in a story or a situation. And God gave me the ability to explain that message so others could understand.

This was the beginning of my ministry. God equipped me to share biblical truths, in spite of my lack of knowledge and lack of experience. It was crazy.

I taught children’s Sunday School for a few more years. I also helped with Children’s Choir. I love helping children worship and praise God. I’ve helped with VBS. Again, I love helping children discover God and fall in love with Jesus.

And then recently, I’ve moved into Adult Ministry, which is much harder for me, much scarier. Kids are pretty forgiving, but that’s not always true with adults. Most of us want to be forgiving and full of grace but we are so busy and overscheduled and tired to truly be kind. We don’t really have time for inexperience. So I have been more guarded. I have been resistant to ‘Leading’ or ‘Teaching’ adults, not believing that I have anything of value to share, not wanting to waste their precious time.

But I still love helping others discover and draw closer to God. I love Spiritual Formation, which teaches us how to be quiet and listen; to create space in our lives and in our hearts for God to do amazing work.

And now I’m being called to this big scary thing. This crazy, radical thing. To create space in my life for God to mold me. To create space in my heart for God to do amazing work. To just say “Yes”. To follow.

My word last year was ‘Surrender’, but I was in denial for the first part of the year. I told everyone that my word was ‘Faith’, which is a much more gentle word. I knew it was to be ‘Open’ and ‘Trust’. So I’ve been praying and worshipping with my hands open, hoping that my heart will follow the example. Open to Receive, Open to Give, Open to Trust that God is big enough.

Mid-year I finally admitted to myself that my word was really ‘Surrender’. That’s a tough word. It’s a radical word. But it is what God calls us to do.

This year my word is ‘Confidence’. Confidence in God, Confidence in myself, Confidence in the work God has already done in me, Confidence in the work God will continue to do in me.

As I surrender to my call and gain confidence in God’s equipping, I will start Seminary in the fall at Brite Divinity School (TCU) so I can continue my crazy, radical journey toward Christ.

This is my crazy story, this is my crazy song, praising my Savior all the day long.


Dear Loving and Faithful God,

Nurturing Mother and Father,

Majestic Creator,

Almighty Lord of Lords –

Thank you for being a radical God. Thank you for helping me follow You even when it seems crazy. Please continue to give me the confidence to surrender to Your will and Your path. And thank You for Your unending patience when I resist.

 Please catch me when I fall, and guide me when I fly.

 In Jesus holy name I pray,