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The Body Part 2: Embodied Living

By |2023-03-24T17:50:18+00:00September 1, 2022|Blog, Body Image|

TARA GIBBS|CONTRIBUTOR Have you heard the word “embodied” being used more in the last few years? If asked to define that word a few years ago, I would have defined it “represents” or “lives out” as in, “She embodies the values of her home church.” But people are talking a lot more these days about a different definition of embodiment, one that addresses what it means to inhabit our physical bodies. As we observe our culture today, we see more and more confusion about how much our physical body defines who we are. Modern culture seems increasingly inclined to separate identity from our physical reality. It is not uncommon today for someone to decide who they are by how they “feel,” divorced from the physical reality of their bodies. As Christians, we must continue to consider, “Do our physical bodies and what we do with them matter to God?”...

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Five Ways to Love Stateside Missionaries

By |2022-05-04T23:14:01+00:00April 5, 2021|Blog, Mission|

MANDY|GUEST “So, how long are you home for?” That’s a normal enough question, but it always gives me pause. Which home? How long has it been anyways? As a missionary back in the States, I often wonder what to make of this time of furlough or HMA (Home Mission Assignment). This year we have seen more missionaries “stuck” in America for longer than expected. I’m often asked other questions too, like how does the church minister to missionaries during this odd season— when we are in town for longer than the mission’s conference? There is certainly a need to articulate how we can “mutually encourage one another.” Let me, as one of these stuck-wondering workers, provide five ways the church can love stateside missionaries. 5 Ways the Church Can Love Stateside Missionaries Give them space. This may mean giving literal space to live in. Missionaries need a home! Different families have different spatial needs, as well as functional needs. Ask questions and work together to make a space a As a homemaker, a few house plants and pretty curtains really ministered to me in our Goodwill-like mission’s house. One church collected clothes to fill our closets with a winter wardrobe. And here’s something important: they did not send us the stuff no one wanted. When they realized slim fit sweaters were hard to come by (for my tall skinny husband), they didn’t give us grandpa’s size 44 suit and polyester pants. They gave a few gift cards instead. Coming alongside missionaries in homemaking (however that may look; however temporal it might be) can remind all of us of our true eternal home. We can find beauty in the basic needs. Invite them to the party. Remember missionaries are (mostly) normal people. We want to grill out, go for a hike, or help paint the guest room. We want to do everyday life with you. Stacey met me at a nearby nature center. Rachel brought her boys to celebrate my 11-year-old’s birthday. Tim ran with my husband each week. Stephanie encouraged me to wake before dawn for a neighborhood walk. When we are stateside, we also miss our “everyday” routine. One church connected me with a piano teacher and gymnastics class for my kids. Adding those activities back into our week helped us gain a bit of normalcy. Now I know investing in people who aren’t going to be here very long (and who travel so often) can have many hurdles. Doing everyday life with missionaries requires selfless intentionality. It’s difficult, but incredibly loving. Ask about money. This is the obvious one, right? Missionaries are usually very good at asking for funding, and we always seem to need it. It is lovely however, to be asked first. One friend simply emailed us, “We want to increase our giving. Tell me how to make that happen.” Some supporters want to give “an extra gift” and ask what would serve us best (give to the support account, tag it for a specific ministry, gift cards, or a personal check). Whatever your ability to give more, you can always pray for financial needs to be met. One long-time supporter had to stop her financial giving for a time. Her own finances had taken a hit, and she sadly had to cut some parts of her budget. She let us know (rather than simply dropping off) and then told me she was praying for a new supporter to give in her stead. What a reminder to me that God is working in very specific ways!  Talking about money can be awkward, but we all need to work hard to be generous givers, receivers, and money-conversationalists. Let them work; let them rest. We do enjoy a break from the work on the field. HMA can be refreshing and a time to regroup, but it’s not a total vacation...

Living With Gospel Tension in a World Gone Binary

By |2022-05-05T00:11:29+00:00September 14, 2020|Blog, Theology|

Long, long ago, in college classrooms far, far away there were no personal computers. In fact, there was simply one little basement room in the entire campus of my college that had two or three computer monitors and a computer system that ran paper cards. Really. This was the era in which I took my first computer programming class. (Truth be told, I despised that class. Attention to detail is not my strength, so every time I had an extra space or a mis-placed keystroke in the code I wrote, the program would not run. Then I would spend hours trying to find and fix my error. But I digress…) My biggest takeaway from BASIC programming was that computer programs run on a binary system of rapidly processed continuous choices between “1” and “0.” That’s it. (Remember that next time you spend $1000 on a laptop!) A Binary Culture Do you ever feel like our culture is operating inside of a computer? Have you noticed that so much that poses as discussion is couched in binary ways? If you spend any time on social media, or on cable news, or in political theater, you are likely to find yourself regularly bombarded with either-or propositions. This or that. Them or us. Rich or poor. Rural or urban. Black or white. Is this really the nature of God’s universe? Do we live in a static computer program or in a dynamic universe held together by God’s power? Does God reveal himself through a set of binary propositions or does he reveal himself through his Word and his world? So much of what the Scripture teaches us is that life is lived in tension. There is not only conflict between good and evil—which I am not discounting—but also a literal tension between two right things. Christ was described by John as “full of grace and truth.” That is noteworthy because it requires so much godly tension. Grace AND truth. Fallen human beings are prone to one or the other. Jesus as the only perfect human being flawlessly exhibited both. While none of us can possibly perfectly emulate Christ, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we are called to be conformed more and more to his image. What I am asking each of us to reflect on is this: “Where am I presenting or embracing a binary stance where there is a biblical call to embrace the tension between two good things?”...

How Missionaries Want {and Need} You to Pray for Them

By |2022-05-07T23:06:03+00:00October 7, 2019|Blog, Mission|

Missionaries often are asked: “How can I pray for you?” and most likely, we will answer: “Pray for our financial support, our witness, and our families.” These are good things to pray for, but there are some things we are ashamed of admitting and that don’t make the prayer request list. A missionary is not someone special, more gifted, or more holy than anyone else. In fact, many of us missionaries joke that God needed to take us to the mission field to teach us the hard lessons we could not to learn because of our own stubbornness and zealousness. Among missionary leaders, there is a saying that leading missionaries is like “herding cats” because of our independent streak. Missionaries can exude strength and courage, but as the years progress, I have noticed certain patterns of struggle that are unique to missionaries (and I’d venture to say much of this applies to those who are in full-time ministry, pastors, or church-planters).  We need you pray for us in the following areas.

On Commencement

By |2023-05-01T13:54:36+00:00May 8, 2023|Blog, Graduation|

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR When my sons were little, they loved to watch the Walt Disney Davy Crockett movies. In one of their favorite scenes,  Davy Crockett and the local bully—Bigfoot Mason—have a disagreement that leads to a fist fight. The drama opens with each of them spitting on their open palms (remember—I have boys!), clenching their fists, and then cautiously circling around the room—never taking their eyes off each other, declaring “Rough and tumble! No holds barred!” Whenever I’d hear little voices loudly announce, “Rough and tumble!” in our house, I knew that some faux fighting was about to commence. When Graduation Signifies the Beginning Just like a Davy Crockett vs. Bigfoot Mason fist fight, academic commencement ceremonies are often preceded with an announcement. Maybe your family is in the midst of sending out graduation announcements right now—letting the world know that your son or daughter is about to set off on new endeavors. Whoever named graduation ceremonies a “commencement” had to be an optimist, as the word means “beginnings.” It sets our sights on the horizon—what is to come, all that is unknown (in the best and most adventuresome way), and all that might be. The very concept of commencement is brimming with opportunities. When Graduation Signifies the End If you are a parent of a graduate, however, your feelings are likely more muddled than pure opportunistic optimism. For the opening of a new time is also, inevitably, the closing of another. It is an ending—a time of “lasts.” Senior year—in high school or college—is a year of “we will not pass this way again.” The last band concert. The last play. The last football game. The last prom...

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When Downslide is a Downside for People with Down Syndrome

By |2023-03-24T17:20:04+00:00March 20, 2023|Blog, Caregiving|

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR Upon picking my son Tim up from work one night, enclosed with his paycheck was a paper reminding employees of the company dress code at the grocery store where he works. (In his role there, we affectionately refer to him as “Cart Man.”) As I perused it, Tim asked me what it said. Reading it out loud, I quoted, “Hair of male employees shall be neatly trimmed and groomed.” To which Tim blurted out, in his jovial way, “What am I? A PET??” This type of wry humor has been characteristic of Tim for most of his teen and adult life. But not all of it. Have you ever seen the film Where Hope Grows, or do you watch Born This Way, or do you remember the TV series Life Goes On? If so, you likely have a positive picture of people with Down syndrome and their quality of life in the world. I am really thankful for that. I am deeply grateful for advocates in the generations before and during my son’s lifetime who have invested to create a more open society, a better public education system, and improved living conditions for people with Down syndrome (DS). A lot of social progress has been made for people with DS in the last several decades. If you are blessed enough to know someone with DS personally, you likely also have been embraced by a person who is frequently open-hearted to others, forgives easily, laughs heartily, worships joyfully, and dances freely. The ways in which many people with Down syndrome excel in life as image-bearers of the Living God can take my breath away at times. Many of them reflect God’s character into the world in stunning ways. My 31-year-old son Tim, who has Down syndrome, can be like that. But if we only characterize people by the successes we have made as a society on their behalf, or the ways in which their functioning is admirable, we miss the fuller picture of who they—and we—are as human beings. The Functional and Social Dimensions of Disability Disability can be characterized as having both a functional aspect and a social aspect. The functional aspect is the part of the body that doesn’t work the way we expect it to. In DS, this involves possessing an extra copy of the twenty-first chromosome. (Hence the medical name for Down syndrome: Trisomy 21.) This extra bit of chromosomal material creates a vast array of complications in learning, in communication, in the immune system, in heart health, and in digestive health—to name a few. The functional aspects of disability cry out for merciful engagement  from others. I like to rely on the definition of mercy that was posited by St. Gregory of Nyssa—that “mercy is a voluntary sorrow which enjoins itself with the suffering of another.” While most people with DS would not describe their lives as being characterized by suffering, in my personal experience, most people I know with Down syndrome would acknowledge that their extra chromosome does present genuine challenges in their daily functioning in the world...

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Cultivating Community on Your Leadership Team

By |2023-03-24T17:22:01+00:00February 16, 2023|Blog, Ministry|

SHEA PATRICK|CONTRIBUTOR I’ve noticed a recurring theme in the phone calls I have received during my five years as a Regional Advisor on the PCA’s national women’s ministry team: the women’s ministry team at a particular church is unable to accomplish any of their goals because someone is trying to take over the team, or strife and conflict have caused relationships to completely break down. How can our leadership teams work together while loving and serving the church and each other well? I believe the answer is by working on the relationships between the women on the team. Even more, the relationships on our team can help our women’s ministry to support the mission and vision of the church or it can hinder these same things. We can take steps toward cultivating community on our team by doing two things: 1) remembering God’s design and 2) intentionally pursuing community...

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