Rubber Time

By Renée Langley

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.

Not many years after my husband and I married, he spent six months doing graduate research in Indonesia. When he returned, he told me about a curious phrase in Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of the country. The phase was “Jam karet.” “Jam” means “time” and “karet” is the sap from the rubber tree. In other words, “Jam karet” means “rubber time”. When the train was delayed, or the event started two hours late, or the short walk turned into a multiple-kilometer hike, Indonesians would smile and say “Jam karet!” My husband is a bit more laid-back than I am, so the phrase seemed to strike a positive chord within him.

Now, this notion of “stretchable time” fits well with my husband’s personality, but not mine. I am a Type A, get-the-task-done-on-time woman. Most of the time, I am thankful for my drive and focus. But every now and then I wonder about my need to have everything run according to my schedule. So I stop to smell the roses, only to mentally note which ones need pruning and other gardening care. I relax with a cup of herbal tea, only to mentally go over which teas we will need to replenish on our next shopping trip. And arrive late for an event? Perish the thought (and the person responsible for making me late!).

The Psalmist understood our all-too-human desire to have everything fit our calendar and chronometer. The writer of Psalm 46 also knew that our preoccupations are not necessarily things upon which God focuses. In Psalm 46:10, we read, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Sometimes we have to pause in order to better know the Creator.

When life’s circumstances or my husband throw my well-ordered timeframe out of synch, I have two choices. I can rail against the lack of drive and focus of others, or I can pause for “Jam karet.” Sometimes in the midst of a busy life, it can be a blessing to stretch time, if even for just a few moments.

Don’t get me wrong. I am still a Type A personality and always will be. But it is nice to know that in the midst of a purposeful and productive life the occasional slowdown is not always a bad thing. The next time your schedule gets thoroughly off-kilter, remember, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Then laugh and say “Jam karet!”

Renée Langley serves as president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Michigan.

 

 

Never Alone

By Deneen Ray

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.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

With graduation season just behind us, I would like a share a story of heartbreak and loss that has resulted in a triumph and growth.

A young lady full of dreams and great at strategically planning her life was side-swiped the day she found out her best friend, someone she called her “twin” or her “older brother,” had passed away. Life, in that moment, had ended for her as well.

Ja Niecy (known as Niecy to those close to her) started an amazing week on a, American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles Regional Ministry trip to Arizona with other youth, a close church friend, her sister and, of course, me, her godmother. The trip included camping in the Grand Canyon, hiking, s’mores, and hosting an afternoon carnival for the children on an Indian reservation. Through this week, she met many new people who became not only friends but family.

So. you can imagine, coming home with all that excitement to share with her parents and grandparents, only to walk in the door to tragic news: Terrance had died.

Ja Niecy and Terrance had plans to take over the world. They were so alike, in every way you could imagine. It was like they could’ve been twins, had they been born at the same time. I would hear story after story of what they were going to do after she graduated from high school, and how life was about to be “lit” (as the teenagers say).

Niecy was hurt, angry, and confused. She had many questions such as, “Why God? Why now? Why him?” I know her feelings because her questions were all directed at me. Talk about needing an instant God-intervention moment. Honestly, in that moment, I said nothing. As parents, godparents, and youth leaders, we love our children and want to protect them, never wanting to see them in pain or heartbreak and, yet, also never wanting to lie to them. I truly had no answer.

I do know Niecy is a “processor” (like me), so there are times when she is vocalizing a question or concern but she’s really not asking for answers. It’s not because she doesn’t want to know, or that wants you to solve the problem. She has a strong foundation in her faith and what she believes to be true. So, when asking questions such as those, I truly believe she wanted to see if I was going to sugar-coat things and stay in protection mode, or if I would truly help her process her grief, keeping all things “real.”

After a short period of silence, I asked her the following questions:

  1. Do you believe in the God you talk about?
  2. Do you trust the God you talk about?
  3. Is God not the same yesterday, today, and in those days to come? Do you believe this?
  4. Does God tell you the “why? in everything?
  5. Do you believe God loves you and sees your pain, loss, and tears?

I is my belief that God does not ask, need, or wait for our approval. God does, however, allow or sets things in motion. But, God will love us unconditionally and carry us through.

Didn’t God do it for Ruth (God sent her Boaz, after her loss), Esther Queen (she didn’t have the luxury of being raised by her parents), Sarah and Elizabeth (bearing children as senior citizens) and allowing Mary Magdalene her walk and service in his presence, with her not-so-upstanding past?

The absence of the joy that Terrance brought to Niecy’s life comes and goes, but the understanding and acceptance of the situation, and Niecy’s understanding of who God is, has been reassessed and strengthened through her experience of grief.

Niecy will have graduated from Northern Arizona State. She has also served as BSU Fundraising Chair, BSU Treasurer and BSU President her senior year, facilitated a campus Women’s Leadership panel, and has been accepted into the Walt Disney College program in Orlando. Niecy may not have had her big brother here to see her dreams manifest, but God held her tightly in his arms throughout.

So, when you think you are alone and can’t see the road ahead, remember that you are never walking alone. Trust, activate, and watch God show up and show out.

 

Deneen Ray serves as the national coordinator of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

A Faith Walk, Not a Cake Walk

By Jessica Jenkins

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.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 ESV

         I remember the last visit I had home to Philadelphia to see my family. I ran into an old friend and she said something that totally took me off guard. “Jess, I don’t know if I would have had the faith like you did to move away, by yourself, and go to school.” I was confused with her words. It never really dawned on me until that moment the transformation that had taken place in my life.

It has been three years now since I moved hours from my family to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree at the age of 23. Moving here was never in my five-year or ten-year plans. If you would have asked me a few years ago where I saw myself, I would not say Nashville. I was planning to get my Masters in Public Health, and I had already acquired a job with an amazing non-profit after graduation; I was well on my way to an amazing career in healthcare. That is, I was until my ambitions were pleasantly introduced to God and God’s plans. Once introduced, my life’s plans were transformed into something that I could have never imagined.

I don’t think that there has ever been a time in my life where faith was a major factor. Faith, by definition, is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. I have never really had much confidence in anyone or anything other than myself. But I knew that I was out of my league when it came to this new life direction. So I guess you can say that I developed a slight lack of faith in what I personally was able to do. And if you couple the ignorance that I had with a total faith and reliance on God, I guess you can also say that there developed the perfect match. Someone saying that I had a lot of faith was right. All I did was put my faith in God. I felt that God was leading me to seminary and, if God was leading me, God would make provisions for me as well. Having that trust in God and God’s ability made it so much easier to follow. My desire in life transformed from pleasing myself to pleasing and doing the will that God ordained for me.

Don’t get me wrong: this faith walk has not been the easiest. Trusting in a God that you cannot physically see or touch is tough. But a God that you can feel every step of the way is comforting. Any moment that I feel stressed, financially unstable, doubting my calling, or saddened because I am away from my family, God has made me, instead, feel engulfed in complete love and care. Somtimes it is by a message from someone I have come to know here, or reading the scriptures and being comforted. I have been taught a new type of faith: one that does not depend on what I am able to do, but one that is lived out by having faith in God and trusting that I will consistently feel God’s presence. There is not a step that I have taken in which I did not feel like God was there. In the midst of total mayhem, as well as the silence of the most peaceful moments, God has been with me.

Jessica Jenkins is a member of the young adult women’s ministries advisory team of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.