Tag Archives: discipleship

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 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.

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.

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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.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair: Family Album

Acts 4:29-35


Acts reads like a photo album of the first days of the church; the way I took monthly photos of my babies as they grew, the way I painstakingly notated their sleeps and eats and… such. Here, in the very earliest days of the church of Christian believers, we receive snapshot after snapshot of the life of the church; a scrapbook of moments that shimmer with the presence of the risen Lord, milestones of the Way we are still tracing today. The photographs become clear:

For the early church, as for us, the world’s powers threaten.
Prayers are raised.
The Spirit moves.
We give, and share, and care for one another.

The story of the church didn’t happen TO it—though it was initiated by Christ, gathered around the wondrous good news of his resurrection and shaped into flame at Pentecost—but when the early believers first lifted their voice to God, in one heart and mind, they didn’t just pray for God to work magic.

The pictures of the early church aren’t exposures of God’s mighty hand, reaching down from On High to solve problems and smooth paths in God’s best deus ex machina fashion. Instead it’s a scrapbook stuffed with the pictures of people who have prayed to be changed, so they may help change the world. They prayed to be bold in their words of witness and in the works of their hands.

Maybe they didn’t know what they were asking when they prayed for God to make them bold; who ever does? (My instinct says it’s one of those “be careful what you wish for” deals, like praying for patience… that’s just asking for trouble!!) But when they could have prayed for God to just take care of business–as I so often do–they prayed instead for God to work in them.

Then they went on to operate in a way that I can barely imagine, setting aside individual concerns and any “I got to do for me and mine” attitudes, and instead giving everything to their fellow believers. There was no need among them, because they saw each other as “me and mine.”

In the pictures of this church, everybody looks like family—and not because they share the same nose, or hazel eyes, or pattern baldness. In these snapshots, the family connection comes through in the way they link arms and lift each other up. It shines in the way they use their stuff: as if what matters isn’t the stuff itself, but the people. As if what matters isn’t only the people who are related to me by blood, but those who are related to me by faith. As if other people’s needs have become my needs, and as if caring for those needs is the very same as caring for Christ’s own self.

And–most shocking of all–as if when I am in need, I too will be embraced, lifted up, made whole in the family.

This is the story of the church. And this is the Gospel of our Lord.

The early church, and we, are still (are always) growing up, snapshot by snapshot. We’re stumbling and finding our feet, learning what life together means as we practice familyhood and faith everywhere we gather in twos and threes and more.

And whether we realize it or not, we too are filling albums with the pictures of this story, just as the earliest believers did. In the scrapbook of our testimony, the world can page through the stories of our growth, can watch us speak and act in boldness and with love, can examine our faces for family resemblances.

What will they see?

Blair pic

Nicole Finkelstein-Blair became a U.S. Navy spouse in 2000, graduated from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2001, and became “Mom!” in 2004. She finds ministry wherever the military and motherhood lead: in five states and two countries (so far), as a parishioner and a pulpit-supplier, as a sometime blogger and devotional writer, and at countless dinner tables and bedtimes.

Katrina Brooks: Forever Friends

Ash Wednesday came and went in my world without its typical markings. No breeze in the air. No warm sunshine. No scrumptious aromas. No reflective liturgy and no ashes on my forehead.

Like most of the great adventures I have embarked upon, this Lenten journey began whether I was ready or not. Like clockwork on Wednesday, my inner self called my name and demanded I begin this year’s quest by counting my blessings.

Two of the greatest blessings in my life are Tia and Debbie. One I met the weekend I came as a candidate to be one of her pastors. The other I met through our daughters before her family became a part of the church.

With both it was love at first sight. My success over the years with female friends was zero, so no one was more surprised than me when we bonded.


Tia invests herself vocationally as an academic principal for middle schoolers and Debbie as a dean of students for a liberal arts college. Tia has a boy and a girl. Debbie has two girls. Tia and Debbie both grew up in ministerial homes…one in the north and one in the south. Debbie is a bit older than I am and Tia a bit younger. Tia builds things and Debbie makes beautiful things.

I am the nontraditional one. I am the one who prefers wild finger nail polish and a hair color I was not born with. I am the one who brazenly challenges orthodoxy. I am the one who lacks homemaker skills and I am the one who is still trying to find herself vocationally after all these years.

These women “get me” even when I do not “get” myself. Having entered their lives as their pastor, I was not prepared for their friendship. Maybe it was their professionalism or maybe it was because they grew up in ministerial homes, but something inspired them to seek me out as more than “their pastor” … I was their friend.

In 2011 the season for being their pastor came to an end when my spouse took a job in a different state. I would like to say it was an amiable transition, but truth be told I fought the move. One day I will write it all down, but for now let’s just say my beloved friends pulled me through. They knew enough about grief and about me to realize that no matter how “adult” I was pretending to be when I exited the church system, I would crash and crash hard.

Unable to stop the crash, these blessings of mine walked with me. They listened and cried with me. They offered insight and thought-provoking questions. They let me grieve.

When the grief slid into depression they upped their game and intentionally connected with me in spite of the miles. Their love kept me afloat.


When I could not find a job, these friends of mine reminded me of my gifts and talents. They pushed me to try something new and not dwell in the past. They inspired me to dream again and boldly step into a new adventure. When I did find a job and it was something outside my wheel house, these women dared me to try.

As I fashion and form who I am in this season of my life, Tia and Debbie continue to inspire me. They ask bold questions and send me thought-provoking books. They encourage me to step out and not settle. They dare me to dream big and insist I boldly step into new adventures.

These women unashamedly remind me to be the one I am destined to be and not less than. They challenge my inappropriate self assessments and dare me to try new things. They invite me to question and to wrestle with my unrest. Our friendship bears witness to a love that keeps covenant.

Gratitude for a love that never gives up, never fails, seems to be the perfect starting marker of a Lenten quest.

These women and I do life together, challenging each other to continue to be formed and fashioned by the One who modeled what love is. In spite of the miles that separate us, we commune together and are real together. We laugh and cry, weep and celebrate.

What began as a relationship between congregants and their pastor has become something very precious to me. I am the minister I am because of Tia and Debbie. I am the mother I am because of Tia and Debbie. I am the disciple I am because of Tia and Debbie, my forever friends.

Brooks pic

Rev. 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 in college.