Tera Yakel

Some of my thoughts as I journey the path of following Jesus.

Location: Kansas City

I am a single woman who is listening and learning from the emerging conversation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Language and Words

I have been thinking about language recently. I watched a marathon of “Anne of Green Gables” over the weekend. I love how Anne spoke!! She was always so descriptive about everything. She made language come alive. Within her words I found eloquent descriptions of the boring and everyday.

I also went to the KC Symphony on Friday night. If you go an hour early than you can hear Michael Stern (the Conductor) speak about the music that will be played. I always love those times listening to Mr. Stern use such descriptive language to help us all understand the music better. The words that he chooses are so vivid and make the music come alive in ways that I don’t get if I haven’t heard him.

Language, words and descriptions can be both so liberating in helping some see what can not be seen. Yet words can also be so limiting. It seems that I am frequently searching for the right words to convey to someone my thoughts and beliefs on a subject that are both concise and yet adequate to convey my meaning.

Wouldn’t it be nice if when it comes to issues of the Church and theology that we could all use the same words and definitions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to continually explain what we mean when we say certain common words. Yet in reality it is that ambiguity of language and words that has made us think more and work harder to articulate what we think, feel and believe. As much as I am at times frustrated by the constant defining of “what do you mean when you say X,” I am thankful for it because it is through that constant defining that we work out what it really is that we are trying to say.

It is through conversations where words take on meaning, and it is in the context of relationships that we begin to understand what belief or practice really is behind those words.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I am back - at least for today

It appears that I am lacking in the self-discipline department when it comes to writing – and this is a surprise to who exactly??? I haven’t blogged since Christmas. I have thought about blogging, I have even looked at the page and thought about what I would write about but I never actually did it. Don’t you hate it when you have such good intentions but don’t seem to follow through like you should?

I am getting ready for a big trip to Italy – I leave in a week and am really excited and looking forward to my vacation. I haven’t really been on vacation for over a year – so this is hopefully well earned.

I am looking forward to the history and architecture of Italy as well as the great cathedrals of the Church that are located there. I am longing for the opportunity to sit at a table outside and people watch. I am searching for some places and times of rest and reflection. I have one big decision coming up that I need to make and I am hoping that I return home with new and fresh perspective. Is that too much to ask of a 2 week vacation?

I am really looking forward to our private tour of the Vatican and the opportunity to see some of the fabulous works of religious art throughout Italy. I look forward to being out of my comfort zone a bit. I am not expecting a great epiphany while I am away, however I am expecting to hopefully again return to a place where I can more easily experience the overwhelming presence of God in my day-to-day life. It seems that the busier I get the easier it is to stop noticing those things that reconnect me to God throughout the day. During this time and trip may I be reminded of the overwhelming grace of God.

Young Adults in the Church

This is some thoughts and writing from a few years ago and I am placing it here so I can remember where I put this conversation.

About 4 years ago I did some studies about young people and the church - And why they seem to stop attending when they graduate from High School and don't come back until they have children of their own; if they come back at all. I started forming a list of questions that I would love to ask pastors if given a chance, and they didn't come to defensive about the topic - and here they are.

Do you think that it is unreasonable for young people to think that they should have a seat at the table when it comes to church leadership?

Do you think that, given the choice, any of the young people that you know are interested in church leadership? Do you still think they would be interested if nothing changed in the church?

Have you ever set down and had in dept conversations with young people about church – and not tried to correct them and their way of thinking?

Do you think that it is OK for church to change? For church to not have the look & feel that you think it should have?

Does it frighten you to know that in 50-75 years you may not recognize the church – that it could change so dramatically that you might not know it if you saw it?

Do you think that a young person needs to "pay their dues" or "climb the ladder" before they are given authority? Do you think that Paul was thinking that when he talked to and about Timothy?

Would any real harm come if you allowed one of your own young people complete freedom to have a Sunday Morning worship service on their own and do it the way they feel is meaningful? Would you be able to take the heat if everyone hated it – yet still love, respect and encourage that young person? Would you be able to take the heat if everyone loved it and wanted to continue to do some of those things?

Do you feel that the most appropriate way to conduct spiritual formation is to have a lecture style teaching? Or have some of the most important spiritual lessons been taught to you in conversation and watching peoples lives?

I know that these are big questions – but think about them; ponder them, let them role around inside you. Try to remember what it felt like when you where 20-30. Did you feel like there would every be a place for you? Did you wonder why no one wanted to listen to what you had to say?

I know that older adults feel that young people think that they know everything but really know nothing. What if the reality was that young people really do know a lot about some things, it’s just that they know different kinds of things and one is not better or lesser than the others it’s just different; like vanilla and chocolate ice cream; one isn’t better than the other – but some people prefer one kind of knowledge vs a different kind of knowledge

My whole point is this - give the young people some credit - they won't dress, talk and act like you. But they are serious and important and if you don't allow them to have some kind of meaningful leadership - they will leave and as you know many already have. The point is - allow young people to take ownership and leadership in a authentic and meaningful way.

Spiritual Formation

This was written over 3 years ago and I am putting it here so I can remember where I put it.

I want to add a new term to the concept of discipleship/mentoring; spiritual formation. I feel like discipleship/mentoring have taken on a connotation in our western culture that is maybe isn’t correct. When I think about our western views of discipleship I think of a class/bible study. I think that in western church we have regulated spiritual formation to formal settings where there is someone who knows more and is teaching the one who knows less. That puts us in situations where we have to measure someone’s spiritual maturity against an arbitrary yard stick to determine if they have made it or not. That puts us in situations where we have in/out mentalities. Just like when it comes to salvation and we say someone is saved (in) or lost (out), we say if someone is more spiritually mature (in) than someone else (out). I think that it has been to our detriment to attempt to take relationships out of the spiritual formation process.

Pastors are taught to maintain a certain distance from church members and I think that church leaders as a whole are encouraged to have a façade of having it all together and not struggling with issues and that if there is a problem then it is only shared with leadership/Pastor. I think that it would be good for people to be aware and see leaders struggle and understand that there is never a time that you “Arrive” or have it all together and no longer have problems.

We have created an environment where we want people to believe that God is bigger than all problems and thus we have no problems, we have developed entire theologies and philosophies about problems and “why bad things happen to good people.” What I am saying with this rant is that we just need to be human and real and allow people to see an honest look at our lives, with all our crap, and say “I still have faith in God.”

I tend to feel that our classroom (by classroom I mean any setting such as small groups and one on one discipleship that is more formal) type “I know more than you, let me teach you what I know” mentality has worked for certain people who learn best in those situations. But I think that we have lost people who learn best through other ways. I think of different personality types and learning styles who just can’t relate to the formal way that western church has been doing things for the last 50 years. I personally learn really well in a classroom setting and have always done well in school yet I can only think of one bible study in my entire life (and there have been more than I could count) where I felt that I got something from it. Yet think of all the other people who don’t learn well in that setting (and I would contend that it is the majority of people,) what of them and their spiritual formation? Can we expect them to always conform to our expectations? Is it really appropriate to want people to meet a certain spiritual maturity level? Who decides what that is? Could it be that attempting reach spiritual maturity is really just an attempt at sin management and not Kingdom living? I think that the rediscovery of the gospel of the kingdom of God (i.e. "the kingdom of God is among you") as opposed to what Dallas Willard calls "the gospel of sin-management" (i.e. "believe in Jesus so you can be forgiven of your sins and go to heaven after you die") is a fundamental shift in emerging thinking. What would it look like to believe that the kingdom of God is among the people? Would that change our perception of spiritual maturity? I think that we so frequently associate spiritual maturity with head/academic knowledge of God/Bible. Is that really spiritual maturity? I can think of many people (especially those in the margins/minorities) who would not be spiritually mature by traditional church standards yet I can learn so much from them and their deep faith that is different than mine. My faith is not better or less than theirs; it is just a different kind of faith and is expressed differently.

I think that there is a lot to be said for spiritual formation that is relationship centered. I know that for me I learned the most from simply living with my Mom and watching her and how she interacted with people and situations. I was also able to listen to her conversations with her friends and what they talked about regarding God/church/spiritual life. As I became a teenager I had 2 women in their late 20’s who where married with young kids and I spent a lot of time with them. I cleaned, cooked and ran errands with these women and I was able to watch them in their conversations and how they interacted with people, husbands and kids; we just had relationships and talked. There was never a formal “these people will mentor you” type conversation and I was just their friend, they didn’t have an agenda or felt that they where teaching me. I have had 3 people approach me in the last year and have told me how much my mentoring them meant to them, but I never set out to mentor them, it was never (at least for me) anything more than a friendship. Perhaps what discipleship/mentoring/spiritual formation looks like in a eastern/emerging context that is relational based.

Change Theology

I am a hypocrite. There, I said it. I desire change, I love change, I thrive on change; yet a few years ago my parents started talking about selling the family home and building a new house. I was (and still am) the very vocal opposition to that plan. My parents have lived in the same house virtually my entire life; this is the land that my grandparents lived on, this is the land that my father was raised on and this is the only home that my brother and I have ever known. They where desiring change and where willing to risk some things to see that change come to fruition in their lives; yet here I was the one who supposably loved change more than anyone else in the family and I was the one standing against it.

I had a very stable childhood, unusual in my generation, my father is one of the most stable people I have ever known and I think that my parents really provided for me an incredibly secure life and as a result I felt comfortable with change because I knew that they wouldn’t change. As I look back now I can see that they laid a foundation for me that they probably don’t even realize. I don’t really remember how it was or when it was that I came to realize that change was good and even Godly. I remember always kinda having an inward cringe every time I heard the phrase "God never changes." I didn’t really realize why it bothered me so much. I recently heard that phrase during a sermon and I just kinda tuned out and started thinking about it; does God really never change?

As I have been on this emerging/postmodern journey I have started to rethink and reexamine many of the things that I have always been taught and believed. Change and God’s relationship to change is just the latest in this list of topics that I have been thinking about.
As Christians we long for and desire change in new believers. Conversion and repentance by their very definitions are change – it is a complete 180 change from a previous life to a new life in Christ. We want and desire baby Christians to renew their mind (Ephesians 4:23). We embrace theologies of sanctification, transformation and regeneration as truth. Yet we think that while change within an individual person is a Godly thing; change within the church is not. The metaphors that we use about God being the same yesterday, today and forever, God as our fortress and foundation don’t emphasize the God that I know.

As I read the Bible I see a God that loves change and at times forces change onto his people. In Zechariah 7:11-14 God basically says to either change with the wind of God or He will change you through the whirlwind. Abraham moving to the promised land, his descendents moving to Egypt, the deliverance out of Egypt; that all looks like change to me. The list just goes on and on about how God viewed change as good and necessary. The prophets talk about change a lot. Jeremiah 31:31 talks about God making a new covenant, Habakkuk 1:5 talks about God doing a work in your day that you would not believe even if you were told about it. God tells us about the men of Issachar who knew and understood the times in I Chronicles 12:32. I don’t believe that it was just a story – I think that God is giving a clue here that we need to understand the times that we are living in and not just in regards to the second coming, as this verse is so often used in conjunct with, but that we need to understand the culture and the people that we are dealing with. If you don’t get the picture that God is all about change from under the old covenant than lets look at Jesus.

Jesus was the master agent of change. He turned the whole world upside down and changed things for all of eternity. While here He completely deconstructed the religion of Israel. He went around upsetting the money changers in the Temple, He hung out with tax collectors and lepers, and He challenged the religious folks at every turn. Jesus instituted a whole new level of change. Let’s just think what a miracle and signs and wonders are – they are change.
The Church was birthed out of incredibly dramatic change. If you don’t think that the Day of Pentecost was dramatic change then we need to talk. If you don’t think that 3,000 people being added to the Church in one day was change than I don’t know what is. In Acts 15 at the Council in Jerusalem it appears to me that they where emphasizing the need for the church to change and adapt to the culture. They specifically said that a gentile did not have to come out of their culture to become a follower of Jesus.

Yet in the Church today we have become so adverse to change that we are losing our relevance to the common pre-Christian person. The Church was established on the promise of change; change in hearts, marriages, and cities. I believe that we are called not only to be changed but to embrace change and be the catalysts for change. If we refuse to change than we are refusing to obey. I have recently been praying that God would encourage in me a sense of adventure on the journey. I really feel that it is important that we not have to be dragged along and forced to change but that we willingly follow the Holy Spirit and be thrilled that we are being asked to change. I think that a sense of adventure is what we, or at least I, need in order to remember that change is positive and Godly. Yes, change can be very scary. We rarely want to venture out into the unknown, but that is where the adventure and fun is.

I really feel very strongly about words such as heritage and legacy. I desire to passionately follow after God and go wherever He desires to take me. Yet I don’t want to go alone; I want to take others with me. I desire that at the end of my life I can say that I have finished my race; but I don’t want my children and future generations to start where I started. I want them to start where I finish. I want them to go deeper and farther with God than I was able to go; I want them to see that it is OK to follow God into the unknown, to take risks for and with God. But future generations will only know that that is a possibility if they see and experience first hand us (me) take risks and follow God passionately into the unknown.

We can’t live in the past; the 1950’s will never exist again and as a Church we need to move on and change in a way that allows us to impact and change this generation for God. I feel that the Spirit of God has started the winds of change blowing across the hearts of those that are seeking His heart. Are we going to change willingly and joyfully; expecting God to move in and through us?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Advent Expectation

I am done with Christmas parties now and tonight I will pack for my journey home for Christmas, it reminds me a bit of the journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem except that I will travel in heated comfort at a rapid 70 miles an hour, I have a guaranteed place to sleep when I arrive, and I will know people there and feel comfortable. However I will be expecting…. I will be expecting the arrival of our Lord. Not in the same way as Mary was expecting but I will be expecting in my heart. Expecting Jesus to come, to arrive. Expectations can be both good and bad – sometimes we have expectations and are disappointed, however this time I am confident in my expectation that Jesus will arrive.

I have recently gotten hooked on a new song. The words speak to me, maybe it is because I am a woman, and perhaps it is a bit of a catholic thought that I have picked up. It is at this time of the year, more than any other, that we think about Mary, about this young girl, some say that she would have only been 14-16 years old, who carried the future of our faith in her womb. What a blessed woman, she said yes to God, she suffered through the pains of labor in a barn, a barn mind you, to bring forth our Lord. May we all be like Mother Mary and say yes to God.

"Christmas Lullaby" by Jason Robert Brown.
I'll never have the power to control the land
Or conquer half the world
Or claim the sun
I'll never be the kind who simply waves her hand
And has a million people do
The things I wish I'd done
But in the eyes of heaven

My place is assured
I carry with me heaven's grand design
Glory, Oh,
Glory I will sing the name of the Lord
And He will make me shine
And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And I will give the world my eyes
So they can see

And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And the future of the world inside of me
In the eyes of heaven
My place is assured
I carry with me heaven's grand design
Glory, Oh,
Glory I will sing the name of the Lord
And He will make me shine

And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And I will give the world my eyes
So they can see
And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And the future of the world inside of me

And I will be like Mother Mary
With the power in my veins
To believe in all the things
I've yet to be
And I will be like Mother Mary
And I'll suffer any pains
For the future of the world
For the future of the world
Inside of me

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis

I recently found this quote from Shane Claiborne's book The Irresistible Revolution, about their Simple Way community:

"Most Christian congregations and communities have statements of faith articulating their orthodoxy (meaning "right belief"), but that's usually where it ends. For us, belief is only the beginning. What really matters is how we live, how what we believe gets fleshed out, so we also have a statement of orthopraxis (meaning "right living, right practices"). And this is where most belief-oriented faith communities fall short. They tell us only what they believe, but they do not tell us how their beliefs affect their lifestyles."

It seems that I frequently get into conversations about orthodoxy and orthopraxis and what it means for us in a post-modern and, as some would say, post-christian world. I have no answers and I also have questions; however, I do think that since the last generation focused such a great deal of time and energy into the orthodoxy that it would behoove us to spend some considerable time thinking about what it might mean for us to "practice what we preach."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Advent is Upon Us

I have returned from visiting family for Thanksgiving and am unpacked and settling back into the routine, except that it is not routine. The church calendar year ended on Sunday with Christ the King Sunday and this coming Sunday brings the first Sunday of Advent. I don't know what that means this week is - since we are not yet in Advent, but none the less, Advent has arrived in my house and in my heart. My decorations are up - except that I still need to get an Advent wreath - my Christmas tree is up and decorated in white and gold and the nativity set is displayed prominately.

It wasn't until a few years ago after reading Robert Webber's book Ancient Future Time and reading that "Advent is a time to live in the expectation that God will break through" that I began to understand that Advent is not just about the Christmas preparations but it the spiritual anticipation of the coming of Jesus. You have to remember that I grew up in the evangelical charismatic world and such things as the church calendar year, saying the Doxology and reciting the Lord's Prayer where considered things that "dead" churches do. Now I have come to a greater understanding of what it means to "dumpster dive for the faith traditions of the past" and what a great spiritual blessing it is to know that just as I am participating in the spiritual disciplines, so have generations of faithful Jesus followers, both in the past and in the future.

The modern church threw out all, or most, of the faith traditions in favor of contemporary music, "relevant" preaching and no "decorations" in the church. How I am enjoying my "traditional" church. The stained glass windows that tell the stories of the Bible, the congregational participation as we recite the Lord's Prayer, the Doxology, and the Gloria Patri together, and the hymns written by those long past - it all means a great deal to me. I can see the beauty in it.

As Advent is upon us may we remember and anticipate the coming of Jesus.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


As I have dealt with my own issues of calling and gifting I have frequently desired "the Blessing" of some people in my life who have been influenced and played a part in shaping who I am today. The blessing that I speak of is both formal and informal – it is an acknowledgment of who I am and who/what God is calling me to.

Liz Rios is someone that I meet at the National Pastor’s Conference in May of 2005, I have continued to read her blog and have been blessed by her writings. One writing in particular "In Search of the Blessing" has really impacted me.

She writes "in reality countless women don’t dare step into God’s call on their lives because they are still waiting for "the blessing." Often times, when the blessing does come, if ever, it is only for specific or restricted roles." For me this has been true, and I would really love to instead be in this place: "Although it may hurt to lack the blessing of man, we must desire so much more the blessing of God. God’s blessing comes through our obedience to what God has called us to do, and sometimes fulfilling that call comes without the blessing of those from whom we desire it. Nevertheless, step out into your calling, searching first God’s blessing, and looking forward to the fulfillment you’ll receive by ministering to those whom God shall have you bless."

I wonder how many women are like me? How many woman where taught both consciously and unconsciously that you should do what God is calling you to; unless you are a woman and that means a leadership role.

What would it look like for a generation of woman to feel encouraged and "blessed." How would that change the Church?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Women - Justice or Theology?

I have been hesitant to post or say anything in regards to Mark Driscoll's comments about "Fat, Lazy Pastor's Wives" because it is such a personal issue for me. I have also been hurt and offended by some of Mark's statements both recently and in the past.

Today I read Rose Madrid-Swetman's open letter to Mark. It was so gracious I felt the need to comment.

I have been thinking more lately about how the issue of justice relates to the woman question. What if the issue of women in ministry/leadership is not as much an issue of theology as it is an issue of justice? What would that mean for me and the many other woman who struggle with what God is calling us to. What would that mean to fully realize that "equal, yet different in role" is perhaps just as hurtful as the previously used phrase "separate but equal."