All posts by aporterfield2013

About aporterfield2013

I'm a minister and mother who is always interested in learning new things, listening to stories, and living into grace.

Courtney Pace: Hidden Figures and the Light

We’re starting the new year by looking at the intersection of popular culture and our own faith stories. This week, we’re sharing Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace’s reflections on the new movie, Hidden Figures. We welcome your thoughts on the movie and how it impacted you. Thanks, Courtney!

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Hidden Figures and the Light

Part of being divorced is that your child(ren) cannot share every holiday with you. This year, I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my son, but it was not my turn for Christmas. So, when you cannot celebrate Christmas with your whole family, you do what you can. For me, this year, that has meant focusing on my writing. I did come up for air today, however, to worship, fellowship, and remember.

In worship this morning, I was reluctant at first. It’s hard to be without your child on a holiday, especially Christmas. My church family was loving and understanding, and after a few minutes of feeling the care of this family of faith, I was singing, joyfully. Every element reminded me that no matter how dark things feel, the light will always shine brighter. Always.

After church, I was delighted to share a Christmas feast with dear friends from church who welcomed me and several other friends to their home. This couple is so full of love, in a way that brings people together. We shared conversation. We were honest, in ways rarely done among people who have just met. It was beautiful. Lunch felt like communion, like the Kingdom of God breaking forth among us.

After lunch, I saw “Hidden Figures.” This is a must see. I laughed. I cried. I remembered. I dreamed. I hoped.

Though I am now a historian and minister, in a previous life, I was an engineer . . .

Keep reading here.

Elizabeth Evans Hagan: Third Week of Advent: Expecting, Yet Not Yet Expecting

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Photo courtesy of love sanctuary.com/2015/12/embracing-both-joy-and-sorrow-this-christmas/

 

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

 

For a woman expecting but not yet expecting a baby, Advent can be a miserable time.

While songs of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” and “joy the world, the Lord has come!” are being blasted on the radio, this time for the wait-ers among us can often feel more like Holy Week than it does Advent.

But it is the holiday season, and most of us want to be happy. We want to be able to put whatever is bothering us aside and rejoice as the scripture exhorts us too. We want joy—even as much as our life circumstances aren’t naturally joyful.

I would love to offer that joy is a formula that can be followed as many preachers offer: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. I’d love to suggest that joy is an emotion of the will that we can just pray harder to make happen. Or, if we force ourselves to sing one more Christmas carol or bake one more sheet of cookies, the joy of the Christmas spirit will find us.

Maybe you’re better at joy than I . . . but it has been my experience that seeking joy in the midst of waiting for children does not come through formulas and cookies. Throughout my journey to become a mother, I’ve waited through some of the darkest days of my life.

Read more here.

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Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza. Check out her new book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press.

Elizabeth Evans Hagan: Second Sunday of Advent: Infertility and Waiting on Jesus

Dear Readers,

You’ll notice we’re a week behind this Advent because . . . well, it’s Advent and things are hopping–as in hopping all over us. 😉 We’ll publish Elizabeth’s Third Sunday of Advent offering this Friday.  Thanks again to Elizabeth for bravely sharing her story with us.

Advent Blessings!

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“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” II Corinthians 4:1

I was in labor for almost eight years.

There were ultrasounds.

There was blood work.

There was pain: both physical and emotional.

I felt called to motherhood. It’s as strong as the calling I felt to enter the pastorate ten years ago. It’s as strong as the calling that I felt to marry in 2007.

When I first began the journey toward motherhood, I was naïve.

After being married a year, I thought we’d start trying to have kids and then nine months later pop out a beautiful baby. I saw so many of my friends become mothers so easily. My mind and body felt strong. I saw no groaning up ahead. Why would childbirth not happen easily for me?

I had no idea the process of waiting for a baby can extend Advent after Advent, year after year.

To keep reading, click here.

 

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Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza. Check out her new book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press.

 

Elizabeth Evans Hagan: Advent: Infertility and Waiting on Jesus

Throughout this Advent, we will be sharing Elizabeth Evans Hagan’s blog series from Faith Forward at patheos.com. The series interweaves the stories and symbols of Advent with the journey of infertility, a journey explored in Hagan’s new book, Birthed: Finding Grace through Infertility (Chalice Press). Welcome, Elizabeth, and thanks for sharing your story and reflections with us. We look forward to reading your book and leaning more into ministry and support for all who’ve been on this journey.

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This is the first in a weekly series of Advent devotionals reflecting on what an experience of infertility can teach us about waiting for Jesus here at Faith Forward.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61: 2, 7

Some of my favorite Advent texts to preach on come from Isaiah. I mean, who doesn’t love an opportunity to “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” and “people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light” on Christmas Eve?

Two Advents ago, only a week and a half before Christmas, I lingered extra-long in my sermon writing chair one morning with cup of coffee in hand with my Bible opened to that week’s Isaiah lection #61. I’d read the passage numerous times before and even preached a subpar sermon on the text in seminary. But on this cold morning bundled up in a fuzzy blanket, something about the beauty of the phrase “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” caught my attention anew. My eyes could not move on to the next sentence. For it was true: this preacher was still so brokenhearted.

On our sixth, going on seventh year of trying to welcome a child into our family after completing IVF 8 times and 2 failed adoptions already—there was just so much to continue to wonder and weep about.

(click here to continue reading Elizabeth’s post)

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Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza. Check out her new book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press.

Alicia Davis Porterfield: All Saints and the Anniversary Syndrome

 

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Gray November Sky Photo courtesy of touch2touch.wordpress.com

Since childhood, November was one of my least favorite months. Halloween’s candy was long eaten and Christmas felt too far away.The leaves lost their brilliant hues and fell to the ground, leaving bare branches up high and a raking chore waiting below. Gray skies and a gray heart.

In Divinity School, I discovered All Saints Day, which helped start my gray month off with a gild of theological wonder. My favorite image of All Saints was the across-time-and-space unity of the people of God, the sense of a cosmically bigger picture than any human mind could comprehend. That “cloud of witnesses” stretched far and wide and deep, surrounding us all with their stories and faith, weaving us together as one family.

In my time as an eldercare chaplain at a Continuing Care Retirement Facility, our All Saints observance involved lighting candles for each community member who had died  the preceding year. We talked about each light being a reflection of the light of Christ our Savior; how each flame spoke to the life of a person who had touched countless other lives. We shared stories of the light these people had shed in our lives, those memories and moments that we would hold onto for the days to come.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.mattoonfirst.com/events/allsaintsday

All Saints became one of my favorite services, full of remembrance and wonder, thanksgiving and grief, shared tears and shared laughter.

Then, my father died last November. We had three weeks between the diagnosis that finally told us what had been happening to him over the past year and his funeral. Those three weeks were priceless and holy and rich–and not nearly long enough. 74 years was not nearly long enough for my father’s light to shine.

(Note: God knows how I feel about this.  And God’s OK with it, according to the Biblical witness of the Psalms, the lived out faith of those who have gone before, and my own prayers. We’re good.)

Grief has been a constant companion this year, an invisible armband on every outfit I wear, taking up room and energy and attention, some days more than others. Sometimes this grief is a silent companion; other times it jerks me out of another conversation or train of thought and unashamedly takes over the space it needs.

I’ve been dreading the anniversary of Daddy’s death since summer. Last year, we were all still stunned and absolutely raw when Thanksgiving rolled by two days after his funeral. We limped through Christmas, grateful for the children in whom Daddy delighted to keep us distracted enough to function.

This year, the shock won’t be there to cushion the reality of his absence.

This year, we’ll be facing the fact that a whole year has passed since we lost Daddy. The world has been racing on as normal, pulling him farther and farther into memory and the past and pushing us forward into life without him and a future where his stories and guidance and laughter are not present.

And it is that framework that I find I cannot bear.

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The Anniversary Syndrome wasn’t just going to dredge up all the pain of the original loss–it was going to tell me that I should be somewhere else with my grief, that life had moved on, that I wasn’t keeping up, that a whole year has passed and that’s a mighty long time. 2016 was about to roll into 2017, making our 2015 loss ancient history in a nanosecond world.

I wasn’t just dreading the resurfacing of the deepest grief of Daddy’s death. I was dreading the reality that a whole year has passed without him in our lives. I was dreading the judgment doled out by way we frame time, the calendar’s unspoken but powerful assessment.

But All Saints Day rescued me.

All Saints Day offers a wondrous counterpoint to the peculiar judgment I was dreading on the anniversary of my father’s death. Time doesn’t matter.  At least not the way our world thinks about and measures time. According to Hebrews, that cloud of witnesses we will all join one day binds us together over time and space, death and life, woven by the love of Christ Jesus.

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from internetmonk.com

Past, present, future–it’s all God’s time. The cloud of witnesses brings together the earliest followers of God’s call as outlined in Hebrews to those who lived when Hebrews was written to all of us who read Hebrews now to those who have not yet taken their first breaths.

My father is now part of that cloud of witnesses. We are still part of the same grand, cosmic, beyond-human-comprehension story of God. Through the Light the darkness could not overcome, Daddy’s light still shines, in all of us who loved him: in our memories, in the countless kindnesses he offered, in the welcoming space he taught us to create for others, in the childlike curiosity about God’s amazing creation–especially people–that he fostered in us, in the songs he taught us, stories he told . . .

So November looks different for me this year. Never my favorite month, it is now a holy month. Still gray with the loss of an hour of evening light, with the bareness of the trees, with the death of my father.

But now, November is infused with the “substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen.” Things not seen, like the cloud of witnesses that whispers me on, one voice in particular I know by heart.

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Alicia Davis Porterfield recently moved to the wilds of West Virginia with her family, where she serves as Associate Pastor for Adult Education at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, Huntington, WV.

 

 

 

 

 

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore: Everyday Theology: To My Beloveds on the Day After the Election 2016

In this tumultuous week, we turn to ministry-mom Aileen Lawrimore of NC whose blog post addresses so thoughtfully and eloquently what it means to love and not lose heart.

To my sweet babies. You: who I held in your earliest days, whose preschool programs I applauded, whose elementary school presentations I attended, whose milestones I’ve celebrated. You:  who have cried in my arms, on my couch, and on my shoulder. You: who I have counseled, advised, guided. You who I have loved and who have loved me in return: Hear me.

This US election is not the solution to the world’s problems or the creation of them. This is neither the beginning, nor the end. This is a moment. An historic moment, a game-changing moment, a moment for rejoicing or weeping depending on your perspective. But beloveds, this is one out of many such moments in the history of our nation and of our world.

Are you listening? This is important.

Some of you are delighted with the results of last night’s election. Okay, that’s fine. But don’t be a braggart. Be gentle and be kind. It is not okay, no matter what the world tells you, to call people names, to boast in victory, to bully others with no regard for their feelings, interests, or even opinions.

Watch your language. (You know how I feel about this!) Despite what your government’s leaders may model, it is not right or good to use filthy language. Rise above it. If you feel like a winner today, use language becoming of royalty, not trash.

Finally, if you are claiming this victory as a victory for Christ, please remember that there are people who share your faith, but not your political beliefs. You can be happy about who won or about whom you defeated. This is one of the wonderful things about this nation: you have the unalienable right to your opinion. But this right comes from your citizenship in the United States; as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, you are called to adhere to the message of Christ who said it is the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers who are blessed, not the boastful, the prideful, and the rude . . .

Click here to keep reading on Aileen’s blog, “Aileen Goes On.”

Sarah Womble: Everyday Theology: Like a Girl

This week, we hear from double-ministers’-kid and all around talented young blogger Sarah Womble. She reminds us that the problematic everyday theology that skews the phrase “like a girl” can be changed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your wisdom and insights with our readers. We are grateful for you and young women like you who challenge us to keep thinking, keep growing, keep praying, keep hoping.

 

Like a Girl

Over the course of the universe, women have been down graded, pushed aside, and under estimated. The last few years have pushed this reality towards the top of humanity’s list of things to fix, yet many have not made it a real priority.

There is, however, an ad by one company that struck my attention. In this 3 minute video, several women and men are asked to do an action “like a girl.” As each person takes their turn I can only think, “Wow! That was wimpy.”

After these adults show their version of what it means to run, fight, and throw like a girl, the video shows several young girls that are asked to do the same things.

This time, the entire atmosphere of the action changes. These girls have not yet come to understand society’s  pathetic expectations of them and they are excited to run faster, fight harder, and throw farther than they ever have for the camera.

There is no fear of failure. There is only passion, faith, and determination . . .

Click here to keep reading and watch the video.

Jeanell Cox: Everyday Theology: Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

Editor’s Note: Three weeks ago our middle child required surgery to repair a badly broken leg.  Our lives were turned upside down with what turned into an almost-week-long hospital stay. Needless to say, lots of things fell by the wayside and one of those was our blog. We’re back on track now (we think!) and look forward to continuing to journey together as ministers and mothers. Grateful for your grace and patience–Alicia Davis Porterfield.

Jeanell writes:

Confession time: I don’t like change. And I truly, deeply mean I don’t like change. I have spent a lot of my life trying to establish security and predictability, only to be foiled every single time by the ways of the world, and the ways of our God who never fails to invite me to consider the unconsidered.

But there is one change I always loved as a child, and still love as a mother. That change is the beginning of the new school year. There’s just something about the smell of a freshly opened box of crayons, the stark possibility of a piece of ruled notebook paper, and the blissful emptiness of a spiral notebook before it is filled with numbers, letters, words and stories.  Unsharpened pencils and pens full of ink and unused watercolor paints can create ideas that change the world.

At the beginning of a school year there is endless possibility in the smirking mischievous first day of school grins that are posted on social media. We don’t yet know what our kids will become over a school year, but we know they will finish somehow changed. Now that’s a change I can live with and celebrate.

On the last day of my first child’s Kindergarten year, he came home with a mostly empty backpack and a pencil pouch containing the remnants of his year. It was such a striking image for me that I snapped a picture of it.

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Broken crayons, glue sticks that were one use away from empty, a popsicle stick that didn’t quite find its place in that art project all stared back at me. They were far from the shiny new pencils and whole crayons that brought me such joy.

But the more I looked at that used up, torn up, almost good-for-nothing pile of school supplies sitting on my countertop I began to realize that they were even more beautiful than what I sent in that first day of school with my Kindergartner, full of my own tears of grief as he grew, my fears for him, and my hopes for his future. They were used up, and he was the better for it.

Living this life uses us up. It can take us from shiny new fresh-faced optimists to the realists with crow’s feet and spit up stains and an earful complaints about the terrible dinner we had the nerve to put on the table yet again. It can take us from the idealism of seminary completion to the rugged and dirty terrain of the church or the hospital or the homeless shelter, and the real-life-redeemed people we are called to serve.

In it, God asks us to take out our shiny new crayons and our blank canvases and use them. We are asked to begin, to commit to discipleship, and to be willing to let the crayons break and the pencils dull as we serve. Over my time in ministry,and watching my children grow I have learned that all of it-the beginnings, the endings, and everything in between- matter. They mold us and shape us into more of what God calls us to be. Sometimes the most broken places and the most used up places are the places that God makes into our greatest stories—our greatest masterpieces.

Those broken crayons and used erasers were the beginning of my sweet boy’s journey into not only an academic education, but a much deeper learning about who he is, and who God is calling and will call him to be in and for the world.  And every single time I’ve found myself with broken pieces, somehow God and those around me seem to help me put them back together, or give me something altogether new.

So enjoy your beginnings, and honor the good work that brings the endings. And when you are stuck in the jagged edges in between, not sure how to move forward, remember these words from Philippians 1:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

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Jeanell Cox is a Board Certified Chaplain serving with Glenaire Continuing Care Retirement Community and as Administrative Coordinator for the North Carolina Chaplain’s Association. She is also mom to three amazing boys and is married to a local church pastor.

 

 

Merianna Harrelson: Everyday Theology: When Our Children Serve Beside Us

As true, mutually-supportive sisters in ministry, we’re borrowing from the amazing Merianna Harrelson’s blog for this week’s post as she reflects on serving with her own children. 

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This past Saturday as part of ministrieslab, we partnered with Resurrectionsthat has been popping up on Saturdays in downtown Columbia to serve a midday meal for fourteen years. We knew it was going to be hot and we knew that there were going to be a lot of people in need. We also knew we had all three children. We made the choice that all the kids would go and serve beside us. We made that choice not knowing for sure if children had helped serve before or whether there would be tasks they could handle, but knowing we wanted them to understand that serving and helping others in need is part of who we are as a family.

When we arrived, we found that the whole team at Resurrections believed the same thing we did. They believed that willing hands are willing hands, no matter how big or small. They asked our children to jump in by carrying the tents and serving food just like the adult volunteers were doing.

The picture I am taking away from this Saturday is our eight-year-old serving another eight-year-old who was there with her mother. To serve someone her own age and own height was a powerful picture of what happens when we invite children to serve beside us rather than restricting them to children’s missions activities. When we serve together as a family and serve other families in need, there is a powerful communion that occurs. We understand that family is what unites us and binds us, whether we have a lot of whether we have little.

When our children serve beside us, we are welcoming them into the gospel message. We are letting the little children come unto God. We are bringing the kingdom of God here to earth in ways that we as adults can’t see. When our children serve beside us, we hear in their voices, “I like that better than some of the other times we’ve served because we actually got to do something. They actually let us help and serve the food.”

Thanks be to God for pop up meals and for people who understand that when Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food,” he wasn’t just talking to adults.

This post originally appeared on Merianna’s blog, at http://merianna.net/2016/09/children-serve-beside-us/. Follow Merianna’s blog for more insightful, soulful reflections.