Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Married Widow

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 would have been the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of Bob and me.  We had made it nineteen years and five months before he was abruptly and without warning taken from me, Hannah, and Noah, as well as from many of you.  On March 20, 2010, I was given a membership card to what another widow calls one of the world’s “crappiest clubs” – the widow’s club.  And as she writes, “Dear widow police, I won’t return my widow membership card” ( I agree.

This coming Saturday, October 24, I will speak for the first time at a widow’s conference.  And all of this has me thinking.

You see, I was Bob’s wife for 19.5 years.  I was 21 years old when we married.  I learned much of who I am today through his friendship and partnership.  My faith developed as I lived it out beside Bob.  We had two beautiful children and learned to parent side by side.  We made crazy decisions to move places that people said were crazy; to leave well-paying jobs for next to nothing, giving up life insurance and retirement funds; to sell house, home and possessions to be “Reeds in the wind,” desiring to be more like Christ.  We spent sleepless nights worrying about our decisions; we defended our home together against thieves; we had to trust our children to their Heavenly Father over and over; we coached and loved and encouraged and cried and laughed and argued and debated and worked together to help the other be the person that we were created to be.

I have been Bob’s widow for 5.5 years.  The first six months, I didn’t sleep.  I walked around like a ghost for two years.  I’m amazed that any good work actually came out of the time I spent in Ghana.  I lived in fear of being perceived as a witch in the Ghanaian culture which views wives whose husbands die suddenly as being at fault for the death and therefore a witch.  I continued raising our sixteen-almost-seventeen year old daughter and fifteen year old son as a single parent, striving to navigate teen years as Bob and I had agreed.  I spent a year, after coming out of my stupor, trying to figure out who I was without Bob by my side. 

Unequivocally, I am a widow.  Being a widow has shaped who I am today.  And it is one of the world’s crappiest clubs.  Grief teaches you many things but it comes at a great price.  As the author of this blog writes, “I would not wish my pain on my worst enemy but I’d wish my perspective on the world.”

And I have remarried.  I am now Michael’s wife and have been for one year and four months.  But being Michael’s wife does not cancel out being Bob’s widow.  Bob was not replaceable.  Michael is not trying to replace Bob as my husband or as my children’s father.  It can’t be done.  People cannot be replaced.  People are unique.  Our love to different individuals is unique.  And so, I am Michael’s wife.  And I am Bob’s widow.

And this week would have been our 25th wedding anniversary.  And as I watch many of my peers celebrate their milestone anniversaries, I feel sadness, even though I am happy. 

It is complex. 

It is messy. 

It is life.

If you know a widow who would benefit from the widow's retreat this weekend, please pass this on.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"This is a Revolution!"

The graduating business class
This was the comment of one of the students of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders class held in Kitale, Kenya last week.  A trainer with the CMS Kenya (Church Mission Society, associated with the Anglican Church of Kenya), it was her first exposure to the work of Church-based Business as Mission.  The comment came after attending a graduation and commissioning service at Faith Tabernacle Church, and witnessing the presence of a number of pastors from other churches as well as a choir from a church across town.  "How did all these churches come together to do this?" she asked.  "And what did you do to get this to move so quickly and organically to involve so many churches?  This is a revolution!"

Sign in Ghana
I smiled as I listened to the DML Kenya staff and the pastor of that church respond to her comments and questions.  I smiled because of her comments, and I smiled because of the fact that I didn't need to respond - others were responding more articulately and more passionately than I could.  Additionally, I had been able to enjoy the graduation and commissioning without having to sit in the front, do any planning, or any speaking (other than a greeting).  I smiled because of what I was seeing happening; what this lady was witnessing was a result of the passion of others for this ministry, backed by the Holy Spirit.

You see, over and over again, I am told that the ministry of Discipling Marketplace Leaders is not a new concept.  It is a forgotten truth in need of rediscovery.  It is Biblical.  It is so evident throughout the Old and New Testament when we look closely and study the Word.  And when people see that, the light bulb goes on and they can run with it.  And they are!

And now DML is beginning to learn more from those who are implementing.  I sat in the Advisory Council meeting in Kitale for DML Kenya and listened with amazement at the learning that was happening on the ground of what works and what doesn't, and the creative ideas to be more effective, especially as it relates to ongoing discipleship.  The churches involved understand that this is not a program - it needs to be an ongoing ministry so that "business as mission" doesn't revert back to "business as usual."  And I thanked God to be a small part of this work.

Church-based Business as Mission class
This past week I had thirty pastors and trainers take the Church-based Business as Mission class.  Two were from Cairo, Egypt.  Two were from Tororo, Uganda.  Two were from CMS in Nairobi (Rev. Tongoi's organization).  Five were from Kisumu, Kenya, having just completed the twelve week class and ready to launch as a center in that city.  A number were pastors from area churches who had a member go through the training at another church, and who are now interested in starting this in their own church.  It was a beautiful, global class with rich and deep discussions.  It was a joy to be a part of this passionate and dynamic group.

Maged and Paula, from Egypt, sharing with the church.
For many in Western Kenya, it was their first time to see Egyptians.  It was very cute to see at the graduation that everyone had to have their picture taken with Maged and Paula.  I think they enjoyed the attention and the many references to them being a "Pharaoh." 

I close today with the following prayer from one of my favorite prayer books Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder. The prayer is called "I Claim Your Power to Create" which reminds me of the creativity in each of us, made in the image of God.  People in poverty often find it difficult to release their potential.  People in business often get sucked into working only for profit, and miss the opportunity to release their potential and see the image of God in themselves through their work.  Yet this is a powerful gift designed to bless this world and help people to flourish. 

O Ingenious One,
it is not only creation,
but creativity that awes me.
It is a wondrous, fearsome thing that you share your power to create.

O Mysterious One,
I shrink from your power, yet I claim it;
and it is mine by your genius or madness,
this power to speak and have light burst upon a mind or darkness descend upon a heart;
this power to make music to which souls dance or armies march;
this power to mold and paint and carve and so spin out the stars by which I plot my course to heaven or to hell;
this power to hear and touch and taste the love and truth by which life itself is birthed and built, or the hate and lies by which it shrivels and dies

O Daring One,
it is an awesome power you've shared; 
and I rejoice in the artists who dare to use their gift to create the beauty which casts this world into a more whole and holy dimension,
who dare to breathe visions and vibrations into dullness,
as you breathed life into dust.

O Gracious One,
it is an awesome power you've shared;
and I honor your power
not only in pianist, poet, and painter,
but in those whose encouragement ignites my heart,
whose laughter lights up a room,
whose touch fills a void,
whose integrity inspires my will,
whose commitments build a church,
whose compassion builds a community,
whose demands stretch my soul,
and whose love makes my day;

and I honor your power in those artists of kitchen and office and shop,
of courtroom and classroom and sickroom;
in those crazy people who somehow know the world is always unfinished, 
and who happily risk pushing and shoving and tugging and pounding and making love to it
until it and all of us come out in more glorious shape.

O Ingenious One,
it is not only creation, but creativity that awes me.
It is a wondrous, fearsome thing that you share your power to create.