Boxed Away, or Out of the Box?

By Deborah Malavé Diaz

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Photo courtesy Creativity103, used by permission, www.creativecommons.org.

These days the more connected we are the more separated we seem. As we are able to gain knowledge almost instantly about anyone or anything through the internet, cable, and social media we manage somehow to lose the realness of experiencing life with all in it. If we are not aware of how much of our everyday falls into a virtual lifestyle, we might jeopardize the blessing of feeling life the way God intended.

Many of us email, text, post, and “chat” every day for work, church, family and friends. We do this with the comfort of the privacy that our PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones provide. Our life can get compartmentalized since there is so much to do in so little time. This may cause what I call the “boxed away” effect. We might tend to live in-and-out-of “boxes” of duties, relationships, family, and church, with no interconnection among them. We may also overlook our feelings regarding each component of our life. Once I had a coworker that I only knew via email or corporate chat, as we worked in different floors. Every day we exchanged data for reports but never had to see or talk to each other. As time went by, we got friendlier, to the point of knowing each other’s plans for the weekend, hobbies, and so forth. After about six months of this kind of relationship, by chance we saw each other for the first time in the elevator. Our conversation was a short “Hello, how’s it going,” answered by an even shorter “all good.” After that, it was only silence all the way until the elevator stopped at the lobby. This moment was an eye-opener for me. We were boxed away in our virtual world in a little chat box—more  separated than connected, lacking the realness of an actual relationship.

The “elevator encounter” caused me to think a lot about my feelings about other people and, more importantly, how I was relating to God. Did I put God in box? Was my relationship with God like the one I had with my coworker? Was I chatting away with, and about, God like we were virtually so close, when in reality our one-on-one relationship was more like an “elevator encounter prayer?”

I realized that if we are not aware of how much of our everyday falls into a virtual lifestyle, we might jeopardize the blessing of feeling life the way God intended. It’s easy to live boxed away, mixing effectiveness, productivity, and interactions but ending up with very short, meaningless experiences. God’s call to us is to live out of the box, daring to feel for real and not virtually. Put yourself and your life out the box because God is out of the box.  Romans 12 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Deborah Malavé Diaz is the national Coordinator of Events for American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

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Feeling God’s Everlasting Love

By Angel Sullivan

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

 

As I ride around my neighborhood looking at boarded-up houses, empty parking lots, and a store filled with despairing faces, I feel a sense of loss, having no idea what tomorrow will bring.

As I turn on the nightly news, I watch a city, a community, destroyed, not knowing if friends and loved ones are alive or dead.  I feel a sense of helplessness, a feeling that I want to do something but I don’t know what.

As I look at my phone and read the news feed, I see again and again that violence from the barrel of a gun has taken the lives of innocent men, women, and children. I feel numb. I cry out to God, “Why?”

It is in that moment that I feel a gentle touch in my spirit, as if a loving parent is cradling me in his or her arms, surrounding me in safety and love. I feel as if God is saying, “Trust me. In my time I will make everything alright.” In that moment I feel a light breeze blow past my ears and I hear the soft words of hope whispering, “Be of good faith and courage, I have overcome the world.” I feel a sense of courage.  I feel a sense of call rising up in me, challenging me into a new level of existence, inviting me to be the hope for today and the change for tomorrow.

My head and heart are both inundated with feelings of excitement and discouragement, fear and courage, sadness and joy, in a world that is imperfect, but made perfect in God. As I wrestle with my feelings, I am reminded that those feelings can be fickle, wrapped around worldly events and desires. I am also reminded, however, that the one thing that is constant and everlasting is God’s feeling of love and wanting the best for each of us.

Rev. Angel L. Sullivan is national president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Gifted with All The Feels

By Jami Robertson

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Oh my friends, I am the queen of the feels. I am constantly processing, sensing, feeling everything. When I walk into a room, I can feel other people’s happiness or confusion, or sadness, or any of the hundreds of emotions God gave us all the ability to experience. Sometimes it is hard to tell my own feelings from another person’s. I’m sure I am not the only person on the planet that does this, so if you are like me, I feel your pain! It’s exhausting. However, I believe it is a God-given gift and I’m finally getting the chance to see that gifting being put to work. And Lord, I am so thankful for it!

Do you know how you feel like there is something in you that can be put into practice, but you don’t know what, how, or where to even start? I was there. It felt like I was at that point for an eternity in my Christian walk: just permanently stuck, wondering how I fit into God’s grand design in this tiny parcel of time. Then one day, well, I needed a job. Okay, for a lot of days I needed a job. We had moved to Indiana and I seriously started to think there was something wrong with me because nobody wanted to hire me. I’m old-school and dress up for interviews, brush my hair, teeth, and so forth. I almost always speak in logical sentences. I even checked my pits: nope. I didn’t forget deodorant!

Somewhere along the line, Scotty (my husband) had found out the local school district had a few job openings in the special education department. As my negative-prone self said, “There is no way! I cannot do that. I went to school for merchandising. I don’t see the correlation.” And honestly, there isn’t one. But surprises are always in store for us, sisters!

I remember going to that interview thinking, “I have no idea at all what I’m doing here. Seriously. Why am I here?!” Do I have experience? Nope. Do I have a desire? Hmmm, nope. I had a desire to support my kids, but that was about it. So, I took the job I was offered, even though I was scared, and even though I didn’t think I really wanted to. However, I have this other blessing God gave me—tenacity. If I say I’m going to do something, then it will get done. Even if I feel like calling it quits, I stick with it if others are depending on me.

Back to my overwhelming sensing of emotions. After working in special education for two-and-a-half school years, I felt like I had a good handle on things. I even liked my job. Then I was moved from the school I was in to the high school. That’s when I really discover that I love my job. That pesky “I sense everything” comes in really handy with non-verbal autistic kids, or any autistic kid, really.

This past school year my life was forever changed by one of my students. I never really noticed my gifting until a student “told” me about it. That’s a pretty powerful message, especially if you receive it from a non-verbal autistic student. It’s amazing that there are times in which you can just look at each other and get the message. Almost every day I come home from work and think, “God, your creations are good. I get it. I feel it. We are all different, but we all feel. We all sense. We all love. We all get to experience this life and world in different ways. And we all have gifting.”

Some people’s gifting might not be obvious to society’s standards, but it is there. I dare you to look for it, to experience it, to feel it in the most unexpected ways and in unpredictable places.

“Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4: 11-12, NIV.

“…With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposes in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:8c-10. NIV.

Jami Robertson is a member of the national young adult women’s ministries advisory team of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Fear and Faith

By Virginia Holmstrom

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Photo by Kaustav Das Modak. Used by permission, creativecommons.org.

Scripture:  “The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.”    Exodus 14:19 (NRSV)

Sometimes fear overrides faith. We feel abandoned at the moment of peril. Where is God when we most need a protector and savior?

The Hebrew families fleeing Pharoah’s army felt the terror of impending disaster when they stopped short at banks of the Red Sea. The escape route abruptly ended.  There was no way forward! The Egyptian army bore toward them from behind. The deep waters in front of them prevented their desperate escape to freedom. Even God had disappeared. The assurance of God’s presence that had remained a step ahead of them in the form of a cloud pillar was no longer in front of them. Pressed between the sea’s edge and the approaching Egyptian army, trembling mothers clutched their children in their arms, the shelter of their embrace no longer a safe zone.

When we feel the dread that God has abandoned us during our most vulnerable moments of peril, we can identify with the Hebrew families, exhausted from their running, hearts pounding, hemmed in between death by weapons and death by drowning. Where is God?

The question haunts me today as I read the news of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar; a half million persons fleeing toward the border to the west, hemmed in between a brutal army pushing them out and a country unwilling to receive them.  Where is God in this?

Our faith is tested when the “pillar of cloud” symbolizing God’s presence shifts from our forward view.  God’s presence is not always in front of us, God’s escape route not always visible.  Let us choose faith that God’s salvation is bigger than the fears  of chaos and tyranny.  After feeling the panic of the Hebrew families stopped in their tracks by the Red Sea, I feel utter relief when I read the words of their victory song in the next chapter of their story.  “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously . . . . In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

Choose faith over fear.  For the final line of the song goes like this:  “The Lord will reign forever and ever.”  (Exodus 15:18)

Virginia Holmstrom is executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

 

Praying out of Our Deepest Feelings

By Sandra Hasenauer

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

“Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.'” (1 Samuel 2:1, NRSV)

“Then Hannah prayed out of her deepest feelings.

Hannah: My heart rejoices in the Eternal One;
        my strength grows strong in the Eternal.” (1 Samuel 2:1, The Voice)

When the story of Hannah was selected for the two year theme “Feel/Siente,” I wondered about The Voice paraphrase Bible, which reads, “Then Hannah prayed out of her deepest feelings.” I had not seen that particular interpretation of that sentence before, so I dug into my Strong’s Concordance. Strong’s is an excellent tool for doing word studies–a way of seeing the many ways the word in question is translated in its appearances throughout scripture, as well as seeing original roots and such. This can often help us gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening in any particular Bible verse. What I found was that The Voice, in its paraphrase, was most likely looking ahead a few words from Hannah praying, to Hannah saying that her heart “rejoices in the Eternal one.”

So, then I went to The Message, another paraphrase. “Hannah prayed: I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation,” (1 Samuel 2:1, MSG).

“Huh,” I thought. I realized that our common image of prayer is a fairly calm one. When one searches for images of the term “prayer,” the vast majority of what shows up from the Christian context are people sitting calmly, peaceful expressions on their faces, with their hands folded neatly in front of them. When we read of Hannah praying in most translations or paraphrases, we may get an image in our mind’s eye of Hannah standing or sitting still, perhaps with her head bowed and hands clasped, but undoubtedly with a small, circumspect smile on her face. Instead, as The Voice and The Message try to impress on us, Hannah is beside herself! The idea of someone praying out of her deepest feelings, “bursting,” “walking on air,” “laughing,” and “dancing,” is a very different image of prayer than we may usually have. Now I picture her twirling around, arms in the air, shouting and laughing–and that’s prayer.

On the flip side, “praying out of my deepest feelings” also reminds me of those times in my life in which I was praying while “ugly crying,” over personal hurts, deep losses, times when I just couldn’t see a way through. Even the phrase “praying out of my deepest feelings” seems tame compared to what that felt like. There have certainly times when I was cry-praying with no words–just an unspoken plea to God for healing, peace, understanding.

This two-year theme “Feel/Siente” will encourage all of us, I think, to explore more thoroughly what prayer is in our lives. Does it really come out of our hearts? Does it truly reach our deepest pains and release our greatest joys? Do we feel like dancing and shouting? Are we “bursting with God-news” or really praying out of our deepest feelings?

Sandra Hasenauer is associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Feelings….

By Rhonda Compise

My family upbringing was rather stoic. I was raised in the day of “stop crying or I will give you something to cry about!” When I read the Bible as a young person, I was very impressed by all the heroes of the faith who overcame their feelings and chose to have faith in God. Paul was beaten, imprisoned, and once left for dead. He was a man who had to deal with a lot of negative feelings, but he did not allow them to hinder him from pursuing Christ. In my young spiritual mind, I somehow got the notion that feelings were merely something that I should overcome.

When the new AB Women’s Ministries 2017-2019 theme of “Feel/Siente” was announced, I was surprised! My first inclination was that feelings had nothing to do with spirituality. I could really relate to the song “Feelings” by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings….” I thought, “Why do we even have feelings?”

I began to search scripture for “feeling” words. The scripture that constantly resonated in my thoughts was Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Joy is a feeling worth having! And yes, I have experienced that joy and strength. And no, it was not just positive affirmation. I experienced joy as a spiritual event. This verse helped me to understand that feelings are spiritual.

My research of scripture revealed that God has feelings. Two examples from the Old Testament are Genesis 6:6, which says that God was sorry, and grieved. Psalm 145:8 says that, “The LORD is… full of compassion, slow to anger…” And there is the familiar New Testament verse in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Throughout the Bible, I saw that feelings are a part of the nature of God. In the New Testament we see feelings expressed by Jesus. These expressions of feelings help us understand why God acts in the way that God does. God’s compassion results in God being slow to anger. The tears of compassion from Jesus help us understand why he raised Lazarus from the dead.

Today we can see actions resulting from feelings on the news every day in response to the recent Hurricane Harvey. Individuals from all over the country are taking action in response to their feelings of compassion for those who have been displaced. Now I am excited about exploring the connections between feeling and acting as a part of our spiritual life and service. I am praying for growth as we study our new theme “Feel/Siente.”

Rhonda Compise is president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of the Indiana/Kentucky region.

 

The Woman at the Well: To Be Known

By Yana Pagan

Based on John 4:5-30

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

He, Qi. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46094 [retrieved June 5, 2017]. Original source: heqigallery.com.

It was almost time to leave. She gathered her things and made the journey in the heat of the day. Yes, usually people avoided traveling then, but she did it to avoid the whispers and stares; dealing with the heat was easier than dealing with that. Frankly, anything was better than the gossip at the well. The well was an important resource for all of life’s daily chores and could not be avoided. Yet, as she got closer, she saw that there was someone there. During the hottest part of the day was an unusual time to be at the well: She wondered if he was injured.

There was a part of her that was in no mood for this today. She’d had another fight with her significant other and was wondering if men were worth the trouble after all. She was tired of being treated like nothing; she knew there had to be someone out there who knew her worth. She wasn’t crazy for still expecting someone to treat her with the respect that her father had. She was engrossed in her thoughts as she walked, so she was startled by this man at the well asking her for a drink of water.

The woman was caught off-guard. This man was a Jew. A Jew—speaking to her, a Samaritan! His eyes pierced into hers and she felt noticed as he asked her again for a drink of water.

Let us remember she was trying to go unnoticed. But Jesus did not see her the way others saw her.

Isn’t it weird how there are people who can see you in a way that no one else sees you? Some people look past us, or through us, but never see the real people we are. That real seeing is what we need to feel noticed, loved, wanted; it helps us to care for ourselves and others. This is where our body images come into play. Some people think if they see your physical form, they know you. But there is so much more to a person, especially to a woman.

As the conversation between Jesus (who, as we know now, is the man sitting at the well) and the Samaritan woman ensues, the Samaritan woman tells Jesus she has no husband. Jesus responds, “That is right, and the one you have now is not your husband,” (John 4:17). Jesus is reminding the woman that the five men she has been with will never fill the void but, he goes on to say, “I know you.”

I have always enjoyed the passage, both what we know and what we can only imagine of this text. This unnamed woman at the well is bold questioning Jesus. She, a Samaritan, is courageous, while he is tired but still sharp. She knew he was not supposed to talk to her and yet he provides her with a dialogue that truly sees her. She feels known in such a way that her life is changed forever; she leaves everything behind. She becomes the good news incarnate and says to all she meets, “Come, meet a man who told me everything I have ever done and loves me!” And people believed because of her. What a testimony!

Questions for reflection:

  • What dialogue do the Lord and you honestly need to have?
  • Is there something you need the Lord to notice in your life or ministry?
  • How do you most need to feel loved by Jesus Christ?

Rev. Yana J.C. Pagan is ordained American Baptist clergy serving as pastor at Gulph United Church of Christ and faculty at Esperanza College of Eastern University.