Category Archives: Ordinary Miracles 2015

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair: The First Cut


Almost twenty years ago my husband and I walked down The Aisle. He looked as dapper in a Victorian morning coat as any twenty-two-year-old Tennesseean could be expected to look in the mid-1990s. I was channeling Scarlett O’Hara, with puffed-and-bowed sleeves and a skirt layered with so many petticoats that it could stand up on its own. It was Christmastime and the church was garlanded and the bridesmaids carried wreaths of fresh greens.

Wedding Day over, the rented tuxes returned, the cake top in the freezer, and my dress stuffed back in its original hanging bag from the discount bridal store and hung in a closet in my parents’ house. Where it remained for almost twenty years.

It made sense for them to keep it. At first, they had plenty of space, while we lived in small apartments. Then they stayed in one house, while we moved from place to place. Then, this year, twenty years later, my parents moved. Cleaned house. Let go of some things and offloaded other things onto us kids. And finally, my dress came home with me.

And I found myself at a crossroads between Practicality and Nostalgia, with a pair of scissors in my hand.


Cutting the dress wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision; I’d been thinking about it (and stalking Pinterest for project ideas) for several years. In fact, I surprised myself with my hesitation once I had the dress hanging in my own closet.

Nostalgia kept it hanging there.

Until one day Practicality spoke up. I’d been looking at Pinterest (again), pinning ideas of Things To Make with the Dress, and I heard Practicality say, almost audibly: “It can’t become anything until you make the first cut.”

(Then I heard the tiny preacher voice in my head pipe up, as it sometimes does, to say: “That’ll preach.”)

It can’t become anything until…

Over the next couple of hours, I systematically dismantled the dress. Separated the skirt fabric from the bodice; used a seamripper to remove the zipper and to release several yards of lace from the hem. A tiny, sharp pair of scissors helped with the covered buttons and the sleeve bows. As I removed each piece I carefully folded and stacked lace and fabric and trim, until the majority of my wedding dress fit into a single shopping bag.


And Nostalgia hit me. Hard. Cutting it was easy, but seeing it all cut up was (is) hard.

I will never be that person again. I’ll never be that young woman again, on the brink of a new life, with no idea where those twenty years would lead.

But I know that now the dress can become something new: keepsakes to be enjoyed rather than merely stored. Memories that are functional, or even simply beautiful. On our twentieth anniversary this Christmastime, our decorations will include stockings made with lace and bows; ornaments with covered buttons and tulle. And the two of us will look at pictures of our young selves–in all our morning-coated and puffy-sleeved glory–and dream about the ways we, too, may still become.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is a minister, mother, and wife to a Navy chaplain. She and her family now live in South Carolina, where Nikki enjoys biking, knitting, and writing.

Sarah Boberg: For Better or Worse

I, like many others, took a marriage oath on the day of my wedding. These vows went something like this, “I Sarah, take you Bradley, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Upon taking that oath, I knew to expect good times and bad times in my marriage. I knew marriage would be a roller coaster ride, and it has been. However, I wish there would have been the same type of oath on the day of my ordination into the ministry and even on the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child.


Motherhood and ministry both require the same dedication as a marriage. As a mother and minister I have held many people, have stood beside my own child and my church children in the best of times, and the worst of times. I have struggled with what it costs to raise a child and with ministry budgets, but I have always been able to make it. I have nursed my own sick child, have given out many Band-Aids and ice packs, and sat beside many hospital beds. Motherhood and ministry, like marriage, are lifetime commitments.

This all hit me last week as I went from dancing and singing on stage at Vacation Bible School to a funeral visitation within an hour. Ministry is full of these instances. However, I will cherish this specific “for better or worse” moment forever.

I remember the first time I met my ministry mini-me. (For those who have ministered with children and/or youth, you know what I am talking about. A ministry mini-me is that kid in your group who is so like you as a kid it is scary.) It was the Sunday Brad was visiting First Baptist Church, Red Springs to preach his first sermon and be voted on to become their pastor.

We had spent Saturday meeting some church members, but Sunday was the big day. And while on normal occasions I am extroverted and great with crowds, this day was overwhelming for me as a 23 year old wife who knew very little about being a First Baptist preacher’s wife. So I found myself migrating to my comfort zone, the youth room.

There in the youth room I met a young girl. She was around 12 years old, tall and skinny. As we began to talk I realized I had not met her on Saturday because she had been preparing for and performing at her dance recital all weekend. I thought, “Now this is a conversation I am comfortable with. Thank you, Lord!”

We talked a little and the Sunday morning continued to unfold. I met a lot of people. I shook a lot of hands. After Brad preached, the church voted, and he became the next pastor at First Baptist Church in Red Springs.

Egg Hunt

My ministry has been full of “for better or worse” moments, but no ministry relationship has taught me more than ministering to my mini-me. We both share a love for dance, basketball, volleyball, all things tie-dye and retail therapy. We both but up a strong front, but are sensitive on the inside. We are both hard-workers and put others above ourselves. We both have what I call “sassy mouth.” As a college student, she even worked as a waitress at the same restaurant chain I worked at as a high school and college student!

This beautiful young woman has grown up before my eyes. As her youth minister I walked along side of her through middle-school and high school, some of the hardest years for girls. I have been to many sporting events and awards days. We have taken many trips to Taco Bell. We have spent hours talking. Her name should be engraved on the chair in my office. I have rejoiced with her in her accomplishments and when her heart has been broken, mine has broken. As she has grown, our relationship has become less one-sided. I no longer just minister to her, she ministers to and with me.

Our relationship has been full of “for better or worse” moments. Our relationship has taught me about ministering with agape love, unconditional love. Even though I don’t always like her life choices, and sometimes want to scream at her, I love her with the unconditional love of Jesus.

Several weeks ago this relationship taught me again the value of committing to relationships in ministry. As I entered the funeral home, still wearing my “I Love VBS” t-shirt, my husband grabbed me. He asked if I had seen my mini-me. I said, “No”. He then told me she had not gone to the casket yet, she was waiting for me to go with her.

It was her grandmother’s visitation. Her grandmother was a committed member of the church and a great friend to my husband, daughter, and me. I spoke to many church members, family members and friends, but my heart and mind were solely focused on finding my mini-me. I found her, we hugged and talked a little. I told her I was there and ready whenever she was.

After the funeral home cleared out of guests, we reconnected. She grabbed my hands and we made our way to the casket. We cried, we talked, and we even laughed, the whole time holding each other.

It didn’t matter that she is now 22 and not technically one of “my youth.” It didn’t matter that we hadn’t had a taco bell run or long talk in a while. All that mattered was that we were there together, “for better or worse”.

Life and ministry are full of “for better or worse” moments. Marriage, motherhood, and ministry mean committing to love God and each other “for better or worse.”

(As I type this, the next generation mini-me just made her way into my office! Thankful for many “for better or worse” moments to come.)

Mom and Mickey

Reverend Sarah Boberg is a minister, mother, and PhD candidate. She is currently conducting narrative research for her PhD dissertation.

LeAnn Gardner: Ordinary Miracles: A View from Charleston

Just about two months ago, the unthinkable happened in my city. A young man entered a church, sat in a Bible study and unleashed bullet after bullet, killing nine church members. There were also survivors, including a child, who witnessed the terror unfold. What happened a few days later might even be more incomprehensible: the families of those victims forgave that killer. If you want to go to church, watch the bond hearing here.


In the moments, days, week and now months that have followed, I have tried to be open to all the experience is teaching me. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Evil and hate exist. You may be thinking, “Of course it still exists.” But when evil comes to your doorstep, its face looks even more sinister. Until June 17, I watched from afar other mass shootings. This atrocity reminded me that we live in a world full of evil, but what came after the shooting, the way my beautiful city responded did not let that evil win out. More on that later.
  • Symbols aren’t everything, but they are something. The Confederate flag conversation began almost immediately after the shootings. I heard people remark that it was “tacky” and “disrespectful” to talk about the flag before the victims were even buried. My thoughts on this were very different. One of the victims, Reverend Senator Clementa Pinckney fought to have this flag removed before his death (and mandatory body cameras on police officers as a result of the Walter Scott tragedy which occurred about 2 months prior to the shooting; you can read more about that here). The thought of Sen. Pinckney’s viewing at the state house occurring while the flag was still up was sickeningly ironic. (officials did cover a window in the state house so it couldn’t be seen). The Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate. You can argue what its roots were, that its meaning has been co-opted by racists, that “the flag didn’t climb down off the flagpole and kill those people”, etc. The bottom line for me as a person of faith is if my brother and sister are offended by this flag, if they have a visceral response to it when they see it, if they remember their forefathers and foremothers being wrapped in it after being killed by the KKK, then it needs to come down. This is not only civil, or polite, but CHRISTLIKE. People before symbols. IMG_5048
  • Policies aren’t everything, but they are something. Gun control. Mental health services. Something needs to happen. We can no longer pretend that our love affair with guns is a healthy one.
  • Reconciliation and peacemaking is holy work. We are all called to this. What does this mean exactly? For my friends Bill Stanfield and Evelyn Oliveira, it means living among the people they are serving at Metanoia. But what about for me? For you? Will this tragedy be a passing atrocity that I allowed to change me for a short amount of time, or will it transform my worldview, and thus my actions? Tragedy, especially at your front door, fosters self-reflection, but my prayer for myself, my family and our community as a whole is that it will truly change the very fiber of who we are.
  • Forgiveness is a choice. When the families offered the gift of forgiveness just days after the massacre, I was talking to an African American colleague who grew up in the Civil Rights era. I asked her, “How can these families give forgiveness so quickly?” She said, “You say it with your mouth. You lean into it. You say it so that the action will follow so that not one seed of hate has room to grow.” It was then that I realized that even the act of forgiveness is different for my African American brothers and sisters. My white privilege allows me to fester, to be angry, to harbor resentment and grudge. For my colleague, for the families, their history of oppression has not afforded them that luxury.
  • Not talking to your children about race sends a message. Although my children are very young and cannot grasp what happened that fateful Wednesday night, fear overcame me. The thought that we are raising children in a world where churches and schools are no longer safe terrifies me. So what would I tell them if they were older? I hope that we could have open conversations about our own biases (we all have them) and that to voice and recognize them is the beginning of change. I hope that we will teach them that there are privileges that automatically come with having white skin and their job is to be aware of this and to listen to their friends of color to really hear others’ experiences. Whereas I will converse with my two boys about white privilege, their African American friends’ mothers will talk about the danger of wearing hoodies and the assumptions that police officers may make because of the color of their skin. Even if these conversations are awkward, they need to happen. Silence sends another message: it isn’t important, we are too uncomfortable to talk about these things, and worst of all, we don’t care.
  • Love wins….every single time. I cannot say enough about how my beloved hometown reacted to the tragedy that occurred. Dylann Roof allegedly said he killed those kind souls to “start a race riot.” That, most certainly, did not happen. The Sunday after the shootings, an expected crowd of 5,000 walked our city’s most visible icon, the Ravenel Bridge. Estimates are that upwards of 10-15,000 showed up, including some of the children of the victims. Love wins. IMG_4956 As the victims were being buried, there were rumors swirling that Westboro “Baptist” Church would be coming to picket: another attempt to smear our city with hate. Instead, a grassroots Facebook movement emerged of volunteers to be “human shields” so that families could grieve peacefully. One of those volunteers held up a “Love Wins” sign as Jennifer Pickney, Clementa Pickney’s widow, exited the church. Mrs. Pinckney hugged the volunteer and whispered into her ear “every single time.” IMG_5091

Dylann Roof told someone that he almost didn’t go through with the killings because the Bible study participants were “so nice” to him. What he experienced, before killing them, was the love of Christ. That love continued at his bond hearing when the victims’ families pled for his soul and offered words of forgiveness. This is the lavish grace of Christ, fleshed out in a courtroom. My prayer is that their hard decision of forgiving the person who killed their loved ones is not in vain; that their example will continue to inspire my city known for its beauty, and now for its soul. Love wins…..every single time.


LeAnn Gardner is a right brained social worker and minister married to a left brained engineer. Together they (sometimes) compose a full brain. She is mother to two boys, ages 3 1/2 and 1 year.

Hannah Coe: Ordinary Miracles: The Miracle of Trust

Trust vs. Mistrust.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase? It’s Erik Erikson’s first stage of psychosocial development. In the early months and years of life, children learn to trust (or mistrust) people and their environment. When they are hungry, does someone feed them? When they need to be held, does someone hold them? When they have something to say, does someone listen?

I’m a minister who works with children. I’ve heard the facts, but there is nothing like experience to prove that the window of 0 to 3 years is a crucial time for children to develop a sense of trust. This is why the nursery is such an important place in the church. It’s why the childcare for infants and toddlers during worship is so important.

Please pardon the clunking noise. It’s me stepping on my soap box.

Caregivers teach children that they can trust God. Children form their foundational understanding of God through their experience with adults. Children learn love when we love them. Children learn grace when we offer them grace. Children learn trust when we build a trustworthy environment. Ministers can remind caregivers (over and over again) that they embody God’s love for children. They are teaching children to trust, enabling them to have faith.

I am forever learning to trust God. I am forever learning to act like I trust God. Trusting God occasionally comes naturally. Most of the time, it’s unnatural. I cross my arms and turn my back. In my best two year old voice, I pout, “I don’t want to!”

I don’t want to trust that God is working all things together for good. I want things to work out my way. I don’t want to trust God’s timing. I want to force my timeline on the projects and people around me. I don’t want to trust God to provide what my family and I most need. I want what I want when I want it.

Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said God’s kingdom belongs to children. My firstborn recently turned three. Her trusting soul is an (extra)ordinary miracle. She wakes up in the morning and trust-falls into my arms. She calls for help when she is hurt, sad, or nervous. When she asks a question, she presumes the answer to be honest and true. When I react inappropriately and apologize for my actions, her forgiveness overflows from a bottomless well of trust that can only come from God.

I am most often learning trust rather than teaching trust. Does that seem ironic to you too? Indeed, it is the mysterious, irresistible, beautiful, and challenging irony of ministry and motherhood.

Today we live in a world of mistrust. That is why I find trust to be miraculous—an unexpected occurrence for which there is no rational explanation. Against the backdrop of a difficult world, the trust exhibited by children is a miracle. Amid pain, grief, and suffering, people choosing to put their trust in God is a miracle. In the midst of seismic cultural shift, churches that trust God’s call to minister are a miracle.

The other day, as I walked out of a local hospital after doing pastoral visits, a chaplain came over the intercom to offer a morning prayer. I did not hear the whole prayer. But the first line of the prayer stuck with me:

In you, O Lord, do I place my trust. You are the strength of my life.

As we ride the unpredictable waves of ministry and motherhood, may our souls be anchored by trust in our Lord. May our ministry—in and outside our homes—proclaim the life-giving strength that comes from God.


A Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Hannah Coe serves as Associate Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Hannah and her husband, David, are parents to Katherine and Annalina. They enjoy playing, eating, and the occasional nap.

Katrina Brooks: Ordinary Miracles: “Awake and Alert”

Our son came into the world completely awake and not missing a thing. The nurse brought him to me his first night saying, “This one is watching everyone and wants to see everything.” I remembered thinking awake and alert are excellent qualities for a disciple, but this will be an adventure.

Doing life with Joseph has been just that. Even as a wee boy he saw everything and watched everyone. And when Joseph played, he played hard. With the back of his head drenched in sweat and a grin reflective of his utter fascination with life, Joseph touched, manipulated, repurposed and reimagined everything he encountered. Even with his huge, advanced vocabulary, Joseph had little time for words. There were worlds to discover, parking lots to design, things to pull apart and put back together, speed barriers to shatter and sports legends to become.


Entering school was a challenge for our son. Not only did school insist on the use of words, school required Joseph to learn classroom boundaries and social etiquette. A man of action, Joseph entered the world of sports to balance his Monday through Friday world of words and rules.

Sports gave Joseph a place to pour his energy and later, his brilliance. Joseph was a powerhouse on the field and excelled in soccer, baseball and later, football. Over the years we found him asleep under his schoolbooks with at least one notebook holding his latest sketches of plays for not only his team, but for his beloved Auburn Tigers.

IMG_0621 IMG_0618

Having become a disciple of Jesus at age ten, Joseph thrived in youth group. He thrived not only because he was comfortable in his own skin and could articulate the epiphanies that came to him, but because his steadfastness, patience and perseverance steadied the entire group. As his personality blossomed, so did his good hearted mischief and sense of adventure. Behind the scenes, acts of love became his signature.

Joseph entered college determined to turn his love for football into a career as a high school math teacher and coach. As easy as math came to him, the physical demands of college athletics drained him. His junior year, Joseph changed his major to accounting and finance and made math his minor. His love of problem solving, puzzles, statistics and all things having to do with numbers flourished in his new degree program and in May 2015, Joseph graduated from Maryville College.

Through camp, worship, ministry opportunities, youth group, mission trips and doing life with others, we watched God instill in our son a heart for ministry and missions. Our numbers guy became a passionate and gifted disciple. As God continued to call him, Joseph’s transformation into a minister became complete.

At 23 he is a fascinating minister to watch as he leads, loves and serves others with his whole being. Honestly, I don’t even think he considers himself to be a minister. When asked, he simply defers that journey to his sister who is a seminarian following a more traditional ministerial path.

Joseph as a Passport,  leader

Our son may never attend seminary like his sister, but I have no doubt that he will minister in his church. I imagine he will be the cool professional who gives his vacation time to chaperone. He will be the one at the table of the finance committee as it imagines an annual budget. Having lived off church salary packages, Joseph will be the one to explain practically how much of a salary package actually gets into the minister’s paycheck.

Joseph will be that one at the table that advocates for creative ministry and missions. Joseph will be that youth parent the ministerial staff can count on for support and love, ideas and presence. He will be the adult who understands faith formation and establishes his family’s schedule around church ministries. Joseph will be the one who invites colleagues to church and passionately shares what is happening at his church. Joseph will serve his coworkers and engage them in conversations about Jesus. He will be the one to seek out discipleship opportunities and position himself to continue to seek God’s will and desire for how he lives life.

Regardless of how it happens, Joseph will minister. It is who he is at his core. Under his fascination with numbers, his curious nature, his insane problem-solving skills and his ease with finance and accounting, lives a disciple of Jesus determined to love God and love neighbor with all he has.

“Awake and alert,” he is on the greatest adventure . . . life.


Reverend Katrina Stipe Brooks has served as a pastor, campus minister and youth pastor. Part of a clergy couple, she is also a mother to a daughter in Divinity School and a son who just graduated college.

Melanie Storie: Ordinary Miracles: Letting Go

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” –James Taylor

IMG_1932For a significant portion of my life, I carried my young sons on my hip. The warmth of my boys clinging to me like monkeys on a tree, their legs wrapped around my middle, their feet dangling, their hands playing with my necklace or in my hair – that warm imprint of them still lingers like a phantom limb.

Back then, people would say to me, “Enjoy it, because it goes so fast.” I heard these words as if from the platform by a rushing train. At the time I barely discerned their meaning. Those seasoned parents made sense, but someone was about to put a strange object in his mouth and I had to go stop him.

That’s the mindset I lived in for several years: Constantly monitoring small boys, keeping them safe, fed, entertained, potty trained, etc… Now, that time is gone.

I sent my teenage son to Guatemala on a mission trip this summer. My pastor husband has been leading trips to Guatemala since before we were married. I’ve been with him several times and when our children were young, we took them with us too.


Aidan was five and we taught him the phrase, “Puedo jugar?” which means, “Can I play?” He said these two words all over Guatemala and no one turned him down. He played toy trucks with children in the market. He played soccer with children in the field. He was a little missionary.

The trip this summer would be different. Aidan is nearly fourteen. He would be on a roof in a foreign country doing construction. He would be with his father, but I wouldn’t be there. Communication back home would be sketchy. Could I let him go?

Could I let him go? The question echoed in my mind as we sat at the kitchen table and discussed the details back in the spring. I had many concerns, some so devastating I dared not speak them out loud.

But to see the excitement in Aidan when we talked about not only this trip, but a mission trip to Cleveland as well… how could I not let him go?

The thing I’m learning at this stage in parenting is that there are moments of letting go along with almost every day. This is the first fall I won’t have a son in elementary school. I have two middle school boys. How did that happen?

Owen went to church camp a few weeks ago and got on the van without saying goodbye or having that last hug with me. He’s too cool to hug me in front of his friends. I knew it would happen sometime. I just didn’t know that time would come in a flash of a moment.


When Aidan went to Cleveland, it was the first time one of our kids visited a city that Matt and I had never visited. On their free day, Aidan went with the youth to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saw a Great Lake, watched an Indians game… All things we’ve never experienced.

He’s growing into his own person, both of my boys are. Time seemed to go so slowly (The Righteous Brothers) when they were small, when I was knee-deep in diapers and toys were strewn all over my house.

But really, life moves pretty fast (Ferris Bueller).

This summer has been marked by life-changing events for my sons. Aidan gave up two weeks of video games to help others in Guatemala and Cleveland. When he tells me about what he’s seen and done, I know these experiences have shaped who he is and who he will become.

Owen was baptized this summer. He’s been reading his Bible on his own and asking me hard questions. On that church trip, his children’s minister texted me, “He’s a sponge.”

And isn’t it true? They are soaking it all up, our children. The life they are given, the time that’s passing, the experiences we open up for them. There’s a little letting go every day.

When James Taylor sings about enjoying the passage of time, he asks, “Isn’t it a lovely ride?” Yes, it is. I’m thankful for all of it.


Rev. Melanie Kilby Storie lives in Shelby, NC with her pastor husband, Matt, and her two sons, Aidan and Owen. Currently a tutor at a local school, Melanie is finishing work on a novel, Wildwood Flower set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina about a girl who can talk the fire out of a burn.

Heather Mustain: Ordinary Miracles: First Pregnancy

“Being pregnant is not for sissies,” a phrase my husband Chad has heard me say more than once over the last six months. As our baby girl continues to grow, and I with her, I find myself wanting to grumble and complain. Complaining seems a lot easier than being filled with gratitude for the healthy baby growing within me.


Instead of complaining I remind myself every day that growth, albeit painful, is a gift from God. Every ache, every pain, every tear, every jab, every stretch mark, every trip to the bathroom, every night spent tossing and turning trying to find the perfect sleeping position has been entrusted to me by a God that desires my participation in co-creating life.

Erin Robinson Hall introduced this holy idea during last month’s conference call hosted by Baptist Women in Ministry. As she discussed the privilege women enter into during the nine, but really ten, months of pregnancy, my eyes swelled with tears as I realized for the first time the opportunity set before me. Being pregnant is not just a means to an end; it’s a holy process that invites a messy and broken person, like myself, to participate in the creation of life.

Any woman who has endured the trying months of pregnancy, not to mention labor and delivery, knows that this privilege isn’t all roses. Each has her horror story and many willingly share these with starry-eyed first time mothers, bringing them back to the reality that pain will ultimately find you.

But if you listen long enough to the chorus of these brave and courageous women, the hearer will find each story concludes the same way: “but I would do it all over again, because [s]he is worth it.” Ultimately these stories remind me that I am not alone, that others have gone before me, and that it’s worth it.

So as I roll out of bed, literally, three times a night, I find myself thanking God. Participating in creating life requires growth and commitment and ultimately pain will accompany it. Some days are better than others, but on the really hard days I hear the chorus cheering me on, asking me to join them in remembering that although pain is inevitable, it’s worth it.

Although pregnancy has taught me this valuable lesson, each of our days are filled with “pregnant” opportunities to embark on the journey of co-creation. So as God invites you to participate in co-creating life here on earth, don’t forget that it’s not for sissies!


Heather Mustain serves as minister of missions at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. An advocate for global missions, Heather graduated from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Social Work.  This post originally appeared as an article in Wilshire Baptist Church’s newsletter.

Meredith Stone: Ordinary Miracles: Kinsey Finds a Hero


Whether we are at a theme park, Chuck-E-Cheese, a local play, or university football game, my seven-year-old daughter, Kinsey, loves to meet the “characters.” Although she can’t sit still for more than five minutes, she will happily wait in line for half an hour to take a picture with Bugs Bunny–even if she has never seen a Bugs cartoon. She always wants to hang around after an event and meet the actors who starred in the play or the costumed mascot at the end of a game. Kinsey just has an affinity for characters.

Last week my husband and I brought both our daughters to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Dallas. We began our week at Baptist Women in Ministry’s annual worship service. Squirming Kinsey sat on my lap as the service began. After a few minutes, Pam Durso introduced a young woman who would be supported by the BWIM’s Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler missions fund. As the young woman got up to speak, I whispered in Kinsey’s ear, “Shh. Please be quiet right now. This is mom’s friend Lauren Brewer Bass and I want to hear what she says.” Kinsey quieted down and listened carefully . . .  and then proceeded to continue fidgeting once Lauren was done.

Later at BWIM’s luncheon Kinsey heard Pam say that Lauren had written a book and would be signing copies after the lunch. On her way out, Kinsey quietly made a note of how neat it looked for people to stand in line and have Lauren sign their books.

When we arrived at the headquarters hotel just hours later, Kinsey spotted a banner with Lauren’s picture on it and shouted, “Hey, look! It’s Lauren Brewer Bass!” Then, Kinsey heard my husband and I talk about how Lauren and her husband, David, would be commissioned as field personnel during the Wednesday evening worship service.

As we prepared to go to dinner Wednesday evening, out of the blue Kinsey proclaimed as if it had been churning in her little head all day, “I want to be like Lauren Brewer Bass when I grow up! I want to write books and sign books and have my picture on banners. Will you read Lauren’s book to me once we get home?”

Kinsey had found a hero, a character. For the next forty-eight hours I heard the name “Lauren Brewer Bass” over and over. Once Kinsey realized that Lauren was moving to Cambodia to be a missionary she was a little concerned that she wouldn’t be able to see Lauren much, but she still chanted her name, “Lau-ren, Lau-ren, Lau-ren,” as we waited in line to get a picture with Lauren at Smyth & Helwys’ book signing on Thursday night.

I am so grateful to be a part of a fellowship that has characters like Lauren Brewer Bass. Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are places where a seven-year-old girl can find heroes who write books, sign books, have their pictures on banners, and even go to Cambodia to share God’s grace and hope.

You can buy Lauren’s book, Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling and Pilgrimage from Smyth & Helwys, HERE, or learn more about Lauren and David’s work on their BLOG.  My family will be supporting Lauren and David in their ministry, and I will keep Kinsey updated on all things “Lauren” in the years ahead. You also can give to support Lauren and David as well as other CBF field personnel HERE so that little girls and boys around the world can find characters and heroes worth standing in line for and chanting about.

This post originally appeared on the BWIM blog at

Meredith at 2012 WIM conf

Meredith Stone is director of ministry guidance and instructor of Christian ministry and scripture, Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas.

Merianna Harrelson: Serving Together


This Sunday, we served communion after we participated in #chimewithcharleston as a way to remind ourselves not only of Jesus’ sacrifice, but also the sacrifice of the nine people who were following in his footsteps as they welcomed the stranger into their community. It was a holy time as we remembered their broken bodies and their blood shed and as we remembered Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. And we remembered that the Lord’s table invites us all in. We remembered that the table is also a symbol of hope and reconciliation.

As I walked away from the table, I realized that it was a powerful image to have my serving alongside our summer intern Jeff who has just finished his first year of seminary.

A black man and a white woman ministering to a congregation might seem odd to a lot of people. In fact, as I have introduced him to people as our intern, we have gotten responses like, “Oh that’s great, so now your congregation is multiracial.” Even though the person didn’t know anything about Emmanuel or the makeup of our congregation, the underlying assumption is that we wouldn’t be serving together.

We could have brushed off the comment as ill-informed or misguided as it certainly was, but there is a deeper issue for us baptists who consider ourselves moderate or progressive. What are we really doing to try to serve together, as men and women, black and white, and people from all different kinds of backgrounds. Are we really challenging ourselves to connect and serve together or are we much more comfortable serving ourselves?

What if it didn’t take nine deaths to bring churches in the same city together? What if partnership were our natural inclination rather than competition?

I’m guessing the world would look a little different if we as leaders in churches and we as leaders in our community served together.

NOTE: This post originally appeared at 


Rev. Merianna Neely Harrelson serves as pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship and is stepmom to two wonderful children.

Danielle Glaze: Ordinary Miracles: “Through It All”

The chorus of this hymn has been playing in my head the past several weeks. As I have had time to be still since school has ended for the semester, I can only say “through it all…” The chorus of the song says “Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God; Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”

The reason I keep reflecting on this chorus is because I have had a tremendous year, but when I think about it, through it all God has performed ordinary miracles over and over again.

Ordinary and miracles don’t typically get phrased together because “ordinary” means normal and “miracle” means wonder, phenomenon, amazing, marvelous. There seems to be nothing ordinary about miracles. But if we stop and think, we realize that so many things we take for granted as “normal” in our lives are, often times, great miracles.

As I think about “through it all,” I realize that God performed so many miracles in my life over the past ten months. As I drove up and down Interstate 40 four times a week for Divinity School, God performed the miracle of keeping me safe and accident free. This wouldn’t seem to be a miracle but when you think about a vehicle traveling well over 70 mph in darkness, driving rain, ice, and sometimes amazing lightning storms–but was accident free–that’s a miracle.

Colleen Kelly, CUDS graduate, and Daniele Glaze, CUDS first year M.Div. student
Colleen Kelly, CUDS graduate, and Danielle Glaze, CUDS  M.Div. student

It was truly a miracle because sometimes I was so tired that I don’t know how I stayed awake! It was a miracle because I witnessed overturned vehicles and accidents, but through it all, God kept me. Thank God for the miracle.

Through the economic shift from full time employment to part time employment, God performed a miracle in my household and finances. Just like the widow who didn’t run out of oil until she had more than enough, God performed that miracle in my home. My expenses remained the same, and even increased.

But through it all I learned to trust in Jesus, I learned to trust in God. Miraculously every household bill was paid, I always had gas money, my children had what they needed. And not only did we have what we needed but we always had it right on time. Oh my, what amazing provision! What a phenomenon to seemingly not have enough, but to have God miraculously provide. What miracles . . .

The greatest miracle I experienced in this past ten months was that God blessed me to spend time with my dad before he left this earth. Yes, it was a miracle because I live fifteen hours away.

It was a miracle to get the call that my dad would not be here much longer and to ask God to allow me to say goodbye. It was a miracle to get a flight out within ten hours, to have amazing friends to help me get there, and to spend seven precious days taking care of my dad and being blessed with some moments of lucid conversation with him. Oh, what a miracle!

The most outstanding aspect of this miracle was to have God empower me so much that I was able to stand and deliver my dad’s eulogy. It was so beyond me. It was the hardest sermon I’ve ever preached, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but God’s miraculous anointing power strengthened me and used me to bring words of hope and encouragement and salvation to others.

Oh, what miracles I have experienced in my life! Through it all, I’m still standing through the grief, the financial struggles, Divinity school, single mommy-hood, and just plain old life. Oh, through it all, I’ve learned to depend on the Lord. Through it all, because I’ve learned to trust and depend on Jesus, God has performed so many miracles in my life–too many to count. I’ve only highlighted a few.

Despite living on auto-pilot for months on end, not getting enough sleep, through stress, challenges, and grief, I can say, I’m still standing because of the outstanding ordinary miracles that God has blessed me with. Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in His Word. His Word that says He will never leave or forsake me and His Word that says He will supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Through it all!


Reverend Danielle Glaze serves as Director of Christian Education at Macedonia Baptist Church in Wilmington, NC, and us a frequent retreat leader and speaker. She is mother to a daughter in college and a son in high school–all while attending Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, NC.