A Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthThe Power of ListeningDeath in Dunedin: A NovelJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeA Renewed SpiritualityFriendingDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Lynne's Blog

Stories I ponder: Dave’s sister’s end of life

Friday October 13 2017

Stories I ponder: Dave’s sister’s end of life

My husband, Dave, had two sisters, Connie and Jinny, three and a half and one year older than Dave. Jinny got married at 16. Connie and Dave became good friends in the many teenage years they spent together in their home in Ohio.

Connie became a nurse and in her early 20s, she married a man from Philadelphia and moved there. He came from a large, close knit family. Over the years, Connie’s family allegiance naturally shifted to the relatives nearby.

When I married Dave, Connie and her husband had been married eight years and had just adopted a baby girl. Later they had a son. Over the next couple of decades, Connie came to several family gatherings in Ohio with her family when we were there, but our contacts with her were brief. Dave felt increasingly disconnected from the sister he had once been close to.

In 2008, Dave heard from his sister Jinny that Connie had been diagnosed  with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Dave called Connie. As they talked, he noticed that she felt very alone. She had been separated from her husband for many years. Her daughter and grandchildren lived a thousand miles away. Her son lived nearby, but he was very busy with his work.

Dave decided to call her weekly. In those first weeks of calls, he listened to her talk about looking for help from crystals and positive thinking. He listened as she recounted her struggles with chemotherapy.

A few months after they started talking, Connie told Dave that she had awakened in the night because she heard a voice calling her name. Somehow she knew the voice was Jesus.

In the months and years that followed, Dave continued to call Connie weekly. They usually talked for an hour. He supported her through three rounds of chemo. He listened to her talk about her fledgling Christian faith, precipitated by that moment in the night.

At first she wanted to look to Jesus AND crystals. Dave told her Jesus wants our sole allegiance, and after some time, she got there. Looking online, I found a church in her neighborhood and contacted the minister. Connie became a part of a women’s group at that church.

In September, 2010, Dave flew from New Zealand, where we were living, to Philadelphia to see Connie. He felt strongly led to do that, and the ten days they had together were a precious time of rediscovering the intimacy that they had as teenagers. They shared many childhood memories. Plus, now they shared a faith in Christ.

Connie died in April 2011.

Dave continues to be grateful that God nudged him to make a commitment to call Connie weekly for three years and to go visit seven months before she died. He’s even more grateful for that voice calling Connie’s name in the night.

I can suggest so many take-aways from this story. Here are a few:

  • God works in ways beyond our expectation and our comprehension. Our job is to rejoice, respond in obedience, and pray for more of his acts.
  • We must speak up like Dave did when we see people trying to follow Jesus and something else.
  • We should never completely lose hope about important relationships, even when it seems people have become very distant. God can change things.
  • We should always make that phone call when we are nudged to contact someone.

(Next week: the high cost of pretending to be someone we’re not. Photo: Connie and Dave at age 17 and 16. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

Last week I preached at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Seattle on staying motivated in caring for creation. A link to an audio recording is here if you have any interest.

Stories I ponder: How I changed my mind about women in ministry

Saturday October 7 2017

Stories I ponder: How I changed my mind about women in ministry

In my childhood, in the various places we lived, we went to church every Sunday, and the ministers were always men. The doctors and dentists we went to were all men. My dad worked, my mom stayed home to raise kids and keep the house, and all my friends’ parents had the same pattern.

Oddly enough, out of the five aunts I had, two of them worked full time. One was a secretary, like my mother had been before she got married, and the other one was a teacher. So as a child I dimly understood that some women – a very small number, mind you – worked outside the home in roles like secretaries or teachers. I literally had no picture in my mind, no ability to imagine, a woman working in any role other than a support role or a teaching position.

I became a committed Christian at 19, and soon after that a new InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff-worker came to my campus, Becky Manley (now Becky Pippert.) Becky took me under her wing, gave me all sorts of encouragement, and helped me grow in faith in so many ways.

Becky did a lot of speaking at our college fellowship group and at conferences. She was part of a staff team headed by a man named Fred Wagner. It was always clear to me that Fred was a strong and competent leader of the staff team, and I enjoyed getting to know him at conferences.

As I got closer to graduation, Becky and Fred invited me to join them on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I ended up serving as a staff worker for four years. In those years I often spoke to groups. I led retreats. I exercised a variety of teaching and leading roles, always under the umbrella of Fred’s leadership.

I got married in my years with IVCF. Dave and I left Seattle and served in Iran and Israel as self-supporting missionaries. I did a variety of leadership and support roles in our churches in the Middle East while pregnant and while our first son was young. Then we returned to Seattle, got back involved in our big Presbyterian Church. I taught adult Christian education classes there.  

In this overview of my life, I have now arrived at September, 1982, a life-changing moment. Our older son was almost 3 and our younger son was six months old. At this point in my life, I had never met a woman doctor, dentist, lawyer or ordained minister. I had led many small groups and spoken at many conferences, always under the oversight of a man.

I was aware that 1 Timothy 2:11 says that women should not teach or have authority over men, and I took comfort in the fact that all of my teaching and leadership has been directed by or encouraged by a man. So, with respect that that verse, I felt “safe.” But I definitely had questions.

Those questions motivated me to attend a conference at the Seattle Center sponsored by Christians for Biblical Equality. I arranged babysitting for my older son, and I took my baby with me each day. We sat in seminar after seminar. Sometime I nursed him while I listened intently. I collected handouts and articles.

The speakers talked about various possible interpretations of 1 Timothy 2, along with 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. They discussed the possible meanings of headship in Ephesians 5. They talked about the centrality of Galatians 3:28: “In Christ there is no longer . . . male or female.”

They talked about the fact that people of Jesus’ time accepted slavery, but the book of Philemon lay the groundwork for the abolition of slavery. In the same way, they argued, the people of Jesus’ time accepted leadership by men, but Galatians 3:28 and Romans 16 lay the groundwork for the equality of men and women.

Fifteen years after that conference, I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, breaking every pattern I learned as a child. I could not have moved toward ordination, or thrived as an ordained minister serving a congregation, without the knowledge I gained at the Christians for Biblical Equality conference.

Resources can change our lives: conferences, books, seminars, classes, sermons, even conversations. Pray for yourself and for those you love, that God would bring life-changing resources into your life and their lives. Pray that God would use you in ways that change other people’s lives.

(Next week: my husband and his sister. Photo of me on my ordination day, 20 years and 2 months ago. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)

You may be interested in an article of mine that recently received an award from the Australian Christian Press Association: To be a Neighbour Must Include Listening.

Drawing Near to God with the Heart: Facing the Inner Darkness

Wednesday March 1 2017

Drawing Near to God with the Heart: Facing the Inner Darkness

Lent begins this week, on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. If you'd like to look over my Lenten devotional using a psalm for each day of Lent, you can download the pdf here.

As we grow in maturity, many of us experience increasing honesty about the powerful and dark forces at work inside of us that draw us away from God and from what we know to be good. In our early adulthood, we can often fool ourselves into the illusion that we are pretty good people, free of irrational anger, vindictiveness, all-encompassing fear, and petty desires. Many of us find that as we age, we experience all sorts of ugly emotions, and it is no longer possible to hide the truth from ourselves. We truly do have a lot of ugliness inside us. We realize the complexity of our inner emotions: rejoicing and content in God’s grace one moment, irritable and unpleasant the next.

With maturity many of us face our addictive behavior with new honesty. We begin to see more clearly the various counter-productive ways we have tried to fill the God-shaped vacuum inside us. We know our deepest longing is for God, yet over and over we choose food or shopping or pornography or alcohol or something else to try to satisfy that longing. Common to maturity on the journey of faith are honesty and humility in acknowledging the incredibly inappropriate ways we strive to fill our emptiness.

How can we change? How can we learn to live with our emptiness and longing, when all the cultural voices around us are telling us to hurry up and fill up that hole? Gerald May believes that we need to change the way we view life and come to understand that emptiness is a part of the earthly journey, a part that our culture will do nothing to affirm and everything to negate. As I expressed in the blog posts in this series about the Psalms, praying and pondering the Psalms has been a significant source of help, comfort and re-orientation in addressing this issue for me.

Gerald May, in his book The Awakened Heart, discusses the seeking and longing that characterize our lives.

Emptiness, yearning, incompleteness: these unpleasant words hold a hope for incomprehensible beauty. It is precisely in these seemingly abhorrent qualities of ourselves – qualities that we spend most of our time trying to fix or deny – that the very thing we most long for can be found: hope for the human spirit, freedom for love. This is a secret known by those who have had the courage to face their own emptiness. [1]

Gerald May writes that we are able to fall in love with life and enjoy each day when we learn to befriend our yearning rather than try to avoid it, when we enter into the “spaciousness of our emptiness” [2] rather than trying constantly to fill it up. This is easier said than done, but many Christians have described a kind of contentedness and peace that comes in accepting life as it is and looking for God’s presence in daily life, rather than constantly expecting God to make everything easy and nice.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we are encouraged to fill our longing for freedom, wholeness, and joy with countless material objects and endless thrilling experiences: clothing, cars, home furnishings, food, sex, alcohol, drugs, vacations, sports, and so forth. Our culture tells us that if we are experiencing desire of any kind, the most important thing to do is fill that desire with something – anything! – immediately. Thus we rush to satisfying our yearnings and cravings without sitting with them long enough to learn from them and to allow them to draw us towards God.

Seminary professor David Rensberger writes,

Although our hunger and thirst are for God, we are always trying to satisfy them with other things. . . . Indeed, our consumer society energetically organizes these means of avoiding the quest for God, offering us a false quest that is sustained with enormous force and skill by the engines of economy, media, and government.[3]

Rensberger believes that it requires an equal force and determination to resist our culture and cling to the truth of the Gospel that only in God can we find what we long for. How do we find in God what we long for? By facing our inner darkness, accepting it, bringing it to God (perhaps by praying the Psalms), relying on God’s grace and forgiveness, and resting in God’s love and presence with us through the Holy Spirit. These are all part of drawing near to God with the heart.

This is the fifth post in a series about Drawing Near to God with the Heart. Previous posts:
Introduction: Drawing near to God with the heart         
God woos us          
A journey with the Psalms           
Praying the Psalms        
God's presence through the Holy Spirit

(The series continues next week with "Tears."  Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column. This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife, available in paperback here and on kindle here.)

[1] Gerald May, “Entering the Emptiness,” inSimpler Living, Compassionate Life, Michael Schut, ed. (Denver: Living the Good News, 1999), 48. (An excerpt from The Awakened Heart.)
[2] Ibid.
[3] David Rensberger, “Thirsty for God,” Weavings, July/August 2000, p. 23.

My latest creative project: Short stories about self-discovery and spiritual growth

Thursday January 19 2017

My latest creative project: Short stories about self-discovery and spiritual growth

In 1990 I finished my seminary degree, having taken ten years to finish a three year master’s degree. My kids were 8 and 10. I was a candidate for ordination as a Presbyterian minister, but I knew I didn’t have the extraverted energy to be a minister while my kids were so young.

In my last year of seminary, I wrote a short story about a woman in transition. The 2,000 word story took me a year to write, and I found it helpful to write about a fictional person who was dealing with similar issues to mine. In the two years after graduation, I wrote seven more short stories. The main characters were all dealing with transitions, trying to figure out who they were, how they wanted to live and where God was guiding them. All of the stories reflected issues I was thinking about on my own faith and life journey, even though most of the characters bore little resemblance to me.

I recently dug out the stories and spent some time with them, smoothing out the dialog and editing small errors. I decided I liked them. In fact, I liked them a lot. So I have published them for kindle, with the title A Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual Growth. The cost is $2.99

I sent the stories out to several people for whom I have written book endorsements in the past, and they sent back really lovely endorsements, which I’ll paste in below. They actually liked the stories. I was thrilled.

I hope that readers will enjoy meeting the imaginary people who helped me process major issues at a time of transition. Here are the endorsements for the book.

The stories in A Garden of Living Water are about struggle, discovery and grace. Grace often comes clothed in a friend’s willingness to listen and to risk speaking the truth with sensitivity. Lynne Baab’s faith reverberates through these stories. God does not come like a genie from a bottle, granting wishes. Yet God abides in the nexus among friends and lovers, and in each narrative’s trajectory of hope.
Carol Simon, author of Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity

A back-yard garden, a new dress, a patchwork quilt, ordinary items from ordinary lives, except in the deft hands of author Lynne Baab. In the stories that make up this collection, the things of everyday life become the point of intersection for our deepest longings and God's faithful presence. It is rare to come across stories that capture both daily life and faith in God with the same level of intimacy and ring of truth.
Douglas Early, author of Abide in Me: Being Fully Alive in Christ

Lynne Baab has always been one of my favorite theology and spirituality teachers, but now she is also a favorite short-storyteller. In this volume, Lynne depicts a whole variety of people and places – all on the cusp of discovery. Who to be. How to interact with others. Where to invest time and talent. Get to know the folks in Lynne's Garden and take away truth and inspiration to help your own life.
Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author of Dwelling Places

In these captivating short stories Lynne Baab, a seasoned writer on topics of Christian spirituality, introduces us to people who are growing. Many of these characters are women who are wondering what will be next for them. Their discernment is aided by friendships of various kinds – with God, with husbands, children, parents, and friends. One of the women in the stories, standing on the cusp of new life, is counseled by a friend that "it’s a question of creation. Each of us was created by a loving God for supportive relationships and creative work." That faith permeates this book, bringing healing and hope to characters and readers alike.
Susan Phillips, author of The Cultivated Life and Candlelight

As with Lynne’s other fictional writings, these short stories are not only a compelling read, they are both thought-provoking and inspirational. Lynne has a real gift for dealing with some of life’s very real, but seldom confronted realities – such as grief, past hurts, loneliness, and belonging – in an honest, gentle and therapeutic manner.
Clare Ayers, Life & Business Coaching, Christchurch, New Zealand

Lynne Baab’s heartfelt and encouraging stories about people searching for meaning, yearning toward authenticity, and navigating family relationships and friendships are sure to resonate with anyone who’s wrestling with the perennial questions Who Am I? and Why Am I Here? Perhaps the most encouraging part of this collection is Lynne’s closing letter to readers, in which we hear how she wrote these stories out of her own struggle to discern her calling and purpose—and then get to see her 20 years later, with a Ph.D. and 16 books under her belt!
K. C. Ireton, author of Circle of the Seasons and Cracking Up

(Next week: the first post in a new series on worshiping and serving God from the heart. If you’d like to receive an email notice when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)

Why “journey” works so well as a metaphor for faith

Thursday November 12 2015

Why “journey” works so well as a metaphor for faith

The Bible is full of journeys – Abraham, the Exodus, the Exile and the return to Jerusalem, Paul’s missionary journeys – but you’ll seldom if ever hear the Bible referring to the life of faith as a journey. We, however, use that metaphor all the time. We say things like, “In my faith journey, God has used so many circumstances to teach me about trust.” We talk about God “walking with us” in hard times. We might say something like, “I’ve come a long way in my faith since my father died.” All of these statements evoke faith as a journey.

“Journey” is such a helpful metaphor, and I want to point out a few reasons why.

1. “Journey” focuses on the process of getting there, not the arrival. Christians are being transformed into Christ’s image “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is a process that continues throughout our earthly life. On earth, we never arrive but we continually grow closer to who we were created to be. When we talk about faith as a journey, we are emphasizing progress, not perfection.

2. A journey implies changes, transitions, challenges and adventures. I’m sure my desire for comfort, stability and outward peace isn’t unique to me. When I think of my life in Christ as a journey, I am more open to meeting God in the unexpected. I am less likely to resist change and challenge.

3. Many human journeys involve travel companions. Sometimes our travel companions accompany us on the entire trip, and other times we meet up with a short-term travel companion. In many instances, travel is quite difficult on our own and significantly easier with a companion, someone to open doors when we’re juggling baggage, someone who knows the language to translate a menu in a foreign country or someone to chat with about the scenery. When I think about my life of faith as a journey, I pay attention to the travel companions God has given me.

4. When we travel, we often need to lighten our load. Simplicity is a very helpful practice when travelling, and simplicity is also a very helpful practice when walking with Jesus through life. Maybe I need to jettison my attachment to some of my possessions. Maybe I need to let go of anger and bitterness about someone or something. As I look back over many years of walking with Jesus, I can see how many attitudes and presuppositions God has helped me relinquish.

5. When we travel, we get to experience the wonder of the guest-host shift. When we receive the hospitality of others, we are the guest. But sometimes the guest makes a contribution to the host, shifting the role. Jesus was a master of this. On the first Easter, in Emmaus, Jesus is invited into a home. At the table he breaks the bread and is revealed to be the Host (Luke 24:13-35). In many small ways, guest and host shift back and forth in many settings, and this is one of the gifts of the journey. We all give, and we all receive.

The biggest and most significant journey story in the Bible is Jesus leaving heaven and coming to earth for our sake, to live and die and be raised again so that we can live in him. Jesus asks us to journey with him into family relationships, friendships, work, neighborhoods, and the broken world. Jesus asks us to trust him as he gives us companions and calls us to lighten our loads. The Holy Spirit works in us so we can grow into Jesus’ image on the journey and so can reach journey’s end.

(Watercolor by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email update when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column. This post originally appeared on the Godspace blog.)

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