Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Author: Randy Page 1 of 142

Retreats and Advances


I’m excited to report that the inaugural Off-Script Kids retreat was wonderfully received and appreciated. This event, which you can read about here, is designed to bring encouragement and perspective for parents whose adult children have wandered from the Christian faith or in some other way have made life choices that have unsettled the parents’ expectations.

Over the first weekend of November, men and women representing eight different families gathered, talked, reflected, learned, and walked away encouraged. The weather was perfect, our hosts at San Pedro were graciously accommodating, and our special musical guests We Are Tuesday sang thoughtful songs that wonderfully intersected with the themes of the retreat. You can hear one of their songs, performed in San Pedro’s beautiful chapel, here:

It was everything I had hoped for.

Based on the interest in this, and on how well it was received, we have determined to continue to host these intimate events twice more in 2024. The next is scheduled for May 3-5. If you or others you know are interested, more information can be found at the Off-Script Kids web site. We have not yet opened registration for the May retreat, but those who put their names on the waiting list will get the first crack at attendance.

It’s a heavy thing that such an event is necessary, but we are thrilled to be able to offer a hopeful perspective for these parents.


A few people know that I have written a memoir exploring my roots as a pastor and how the unexpected intrusion of God’s grace once transformed and broadened me. This story of God’s grace, currently titled A Reformed Pastor, is one I very much want to tell, but it’s not yet ready to be put out there in any formal way. There are portions of it in need of serious editing, and some re-writing, tasks I’ve been unable to do since I’ve been focused on the Off-Script Kids retreat, Greatheart’s Table, and my day job.

Still, a couple of friends have been banging on my door to let them read it, no matter how rough it is. To satisfy their insistence, I have recruited them to be ‘beta readers’. Over the next several months (a year, I imagine) I plan to release chapters slowly to these readers. After I touch the chapters up a bit, I’ll send them out one at a time letting my beta readers go to work offering feedback and suggestions.

It occurred to me recently that there might be others who would like to join this team of beta readers. If you would like to be included, you need to do a few things. First, become a Greatheart’s Table paid subscriber or Patreon supporter at at least the 10K level. Secondly, ask me to include you. Then, as each chapter is released, you will receive it via email and be asked to read it and offer constructive criticism on it. And that’s it!

But remember – this is not automatic for paid subscribers or supporters. You will need to ask me by emailing me directly. This should be a fun journey!


My friend Mike Osborne, retired pastor, dean of students at Reformed Theological Seminary, and the author of the helpful book on pastoral endurance called Surviving Ministry is a man clearly wearing many hats. One of those hats is a ministry serving pastors in crisis called Standing Stone Ministry. I asked Mike to describe that ministry for us, as it could be helpful for some of you. Here is what he wrote:

Standing Stone Ministry is an interdenominational non-profit organization founded in 2002 by a lay couple named Jim and Debbie Hogan. Jim and Debbie were concerned about the stories of burnout, isolation, and discouragement they heard from a number of pastors, including their own. They bought a ranch in Colorado and turned it into a place of retreat for ministry leaders who needed a place of rest, counsel, and fellowship.

A decade later, they realized their ministry to burned-out pastors could be multiplied exponentially by training and recruiting people to care for ministry leaders in the field. At last count (October 1, 2023), there were 219 field shepherds walking alongside over 3,000 ministry leaders throughout the US and Canada. Field shepherds are older, experienced pastors who spend time each week visiting, listening to, praying and caring for ministry leaders who need someone safe to talk to. Conversations are held in confidence. Field shepherds are assigned to a cohort of fellow shepherds for training, communication, and accountability.

The mission of Standing Stone Ministry is to guide ministry leaders–pastors, missionaries, church planters, etc.–into healthy ministry. I spend approximately 15 hours a week with ministry leaders who find themselves in all sorts of situations. I meet with them either in person, over the phone, or via Zoom. Some relationships are short, others are long-term.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, either as one needing care or to be a field shepherd, you can reach Mike by emailing him here.

That’s it for this go round. I wish you all a delightful Thanksgiving week. Our regular posts will return on November 27.

The Life of Blog – Update

A cursory look around quickly reveals that I have not been frequenting these parts recently. I’m still busy writing, but not here. Two important projects have been consuming me.

The first, which I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, is Greatheart’s Table, a thrice monthly newsletter and podcast. Each post is short, about 800 words, and therefore is easily digested. Though I write this as a vehicle for encouraging pastors, many of my subscribers and listeners are not pastors. I hear they still find great benefit in the content. I encourage you to check it out by visiting the web site or, better, heading straight to Substack to subscribe!

The second project is one done under the auspices of Greatheart’s Table called “Off-Script Kids.”

The goal here is to help parents adjust mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and practically to life when an adult child heads in a concerning and unanticipated direction. This material does not center on our kids (mine receive only passing mention) but on how we as parents may have been misled by an evangelical parenting subculture and how we might navigate a way out of the guilt and shame this has produced.
For now this material is presented primarily in a retreat held in Winter Park, Florida. Two are planned for 2024. For more information on these, visit the retreat website here.

So, yes, I have been busy. But I still want to drop in here now and then. As a part of Greatheart’s Table, I publish what I call a ‘Third Monday’ edition which is a designed to update readers on what I’m doing and to point toward things that I think they might find helpful. It occurred to me recently that it would be worthwhile to post those editions in this space as well. For now, that’s what I’ll do every third Monday.

Til then, thanks for dropping by!

Barrelling Forward

What happens when you commit yourself to an 800 word newsletter/podcast to be released three times each month?

Nothing much else.

As I announced back in April elsewhere and on this blog in June, I’ve started a thrice monthly publication aimed at pastors and those who care for pastors. Greatheart’s Table, as it is named, has received a modest reception. Numbers are really hard to get or understand. But it’s pretty clear heavy hitters like Joel Osteen or Brene Brown have nothing to fear from this, the new kid on the block.

Neverthess the response I have received has been sufficiently fulfilling to keep me plugging away. One listener said,

“I listen and have friends who listen. We talk about it. They look forward to it and I think it has been one of the things that has helped my friend process his grief from a super bad church situation. He said he looks forward to each episode.”

Another commented,

“Stumbling across your writing has been a tremendous blessing.”

A surprising volume of positive input has come from non-pastors. Apparently, Greatheart’s Table touches on realities felt by engineers, teachers, and others as well as pastors.

But it has required focus. I’ve published nearly 15,000 words in the past six months, all on Greatheart’s Table. Other projects—such as the nearly completed memoir (a story I really want to tell), essays on corporal punishment, on the audience of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, on rethinking the meaning of headship, and the long dreamed of book on the intersection between pastoral ministry and sanctification—these all sit on the bench. I don’t know how to summon them into the game as long as Greatheart’s Table is barreling forward and as long as I have a congregation wanting me to be their pastor. I hope to figure that out. (Though I cannot help but note that the metaphor of “barrelling forward” has somewhat concerning connections with Niagra Falls.)

If you’ve been wondering whether I’ve died, retired, or run away to farm okra in Michigan, I’ve done none of that (though the okra farm sounds fun). I’m slogging away and spreading my thoughts elsewhere.

I’d be encouraged if you join me there for this part of my journey.

For a general introduction to Greatheart’s Table you can go here.

Subscribe to the newsletter here.

The podcast, whose content is identical to the newsletter, is available at all the usual podcast outlets such as Apple, Spotify, Google, and Amazon – or by searching for “Greatheart’s Table.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts and its Kin

I once birthed a blog called Somber and Dull.

I described it as an online journal, a collection point for my random thoughts. For a long time it satisfied my growing impulse to write. I’m proud of what appeared there – from what felt like a lonely critical take on Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer to a preliminary development of my fundamental understanding of a Christian’s personal role in God’s sanctifying work which I came to understand as “standing in the way of grace.”

Years passed, and my baby Somber and Dull grew up to become

As pretentious as that sounded, it was the way to go, I was told, if I were to get more serious about my writing. By then I was writing not only for the blog but also for other projects for which I had dreams of publishing. I’m a slow writer, a ponderous one, so as more projects clamored for attention, others, like this blog, received less.

And then the unthinkable happened. A publisher agreed to publish the book I had christened Something Worth Living For.

Suddenly all my attention bore down on getting that book out there before the world. Projects related to drawing attention to the book spun off from that. As a result, this blog became the largely neglected child.

Now that the book is out there, what is next? The book has not vaulted me to fame, and publishers are not beating down my door to see what else I have in my back pocket. Though I might have worthy projects in mind and a proven track record of being able to execute those projects, as long as I’m an obscure, unknown (and uncontroversial), small church pastor in Florida publishers remain uninterested.

Which, I’ve decided, is fine. I get it.

So what’s up currently? In March of this year, in conversation with a variety of friends, a new “child” was birthed. It is a combination newsletter/podcast for “pastors and those who care for them,” called Greatheart’s Table.

My intention with this is to be a voice of encouragement for pastors, that they might take heart and press on. This is something of a test, a running a flag up the pole to see if any who do not know me have interest in what I have to say. Early feedback suggests that though the posts are written for pastors, non-pastors are benefiting as well. I have committed to producing three posts each month for a year before reevaluating it. I am proud of Greatheart’s Table, to be honest. I invite you to subscribe to either the print newsletter or the podcast on any platform like Apple or Spotify.

In addition to Greatheart’s Table, I’ve been encouraged to write for publication an essay on the intended audience for the Westminster Shorter Catechism, as I reject, with good support, the popular notion that it was written primarily for children. I’ve written a longer essay on the stunningly wrong and harmful way Christians use the Bible to justify spanking their children which needs, I and some others think, wider attention for the sake of confused parents and battered children. I have another book largely complete, and one or two in my head.

And I have a day job (and a moonlighting gig).

Though has been neglected, it is not forgotten. In addition to occasional content of a general interest, I will try to post updates here on what my various other “children” are doing. Thanks for hanging around for the ride. It has been the readers of this blog who pushed and urged me to write more (a fact noted in the acknowledgements of Something Worth Living For) and so my relative absence here is the fruit of your encouragement. My appreciation is deep.

A Theology Worth Embracing

In advance of the release of Something Worth Living For Matthew Barrett and Credo blog asked me to write a series of blog posts touching upon the value of a catechism. With their permission I am reposting these here for those who did not see them there.

Recently a member of my church’s staff poked his head into my study to ask me a “quick” question. He had been given money by a family member to replace his ancient and ailing PC with a new computer. “Why do you use a Mac?” he asked me.

It was not quite a “What must I do to be saved?” moment, but the way some of us are religiously devoted to our computers, it was close.

I framed my answer to his question guided by the way he asked it. He was genuinely curious. He was open to understanding my position and to thinking in a new way. He was not seeking an argument. He wanted to learn. I answered him, therefore, sensitive to where he was coming from. Sure, I hoped to nudge him a bit in the direction of my convictions. But if I pushed too hard, or was too negative about the admittedly much less expensive PC, he might shut me down and not hear me.

Our presentations of theology should bear the same spirit. There are legions of those curious about Christianity who have been put off by the polemic nature often attending its presentation. Those who are curious are seeking understanding, not an argument. The tone and content of our presentations should be shaped by those to whom we speak or write. The Westminster Shorter Catechism can provide a wonderful doorway into a theology worth embracing, but only if we handle it with care and present it in a way that can be heard. What might that look like?

I have already noted in these posts that our presentation of the Christian faith needs to be comprehensive. When we overly simplify the gospel, we risk not presenting the gospel at all, but some caricature of it. A tool like the Catechism disciplines us to convey the breadth of the gospel, even the hard things, without simplification and without losing our way with secondary matters.

As well, our teaching needs to be accessible. Most of those who are curious do not have the patience to read the newspaper much less John Owen. The Catechism answers the question “What is God” with twenty-seven words. That compares with Stephen Charnock’s 400,000 (in The Existence and Attributes of God). If we can help people catch the gist of those twenty-seven words we have opened a door for them to see and appreciate deeper wonders. They may choose to go further or not. It is our job to point the way in a manner that they are able to hear.

Further, we need to be positive. It’s a bitter and polemic age in which we live. We tire of polarized parties lobbing grenades across “enemy” lines. And yet some of our theological presentations feel that way. If we spend our time tearing down the opposition, we run the risk of losing the attention of our audience. My friend wants to know what’s good about a Mac not what is awful about his PC. Similarly, I want people to know what is beautiful about the Christian gospel. There will be a time to introduce them to Arius and Pelagius, perhaps even to Arminius. But first, let’s help them appreciate the gospel’s positive beauty.

Which means our presentation needs to be pastoral. One need not be a pastor to assume a pastoral mantle here. Many people struggle. They have genuine questions and hurts. They feel guilt for their doubts and anger for their pain. They struggle to know a God that they hate or do not trust. We need to listen to them, and our presentation needs to show that we have listened and that we have understood their questions. Our words must reflect an understanding and a sensitivity to the realities of the lives of our readers and listeners.

And finally, any presentation of Christianity needs to be deeply passionate. We need to show that these truths matter to us. Dry and dispassionate theology is clinical and sterile and unattractive. A guidebook to the Rocky Mountains may either bore or inspire. Give me bare statistics or esoteric data about the Grand Tetons, and I’ll yawn. Help me see them with the breathlessness you feel, and I’ll want to drop everything to come see what you see. The same must be true about theology.

This is the spirit which has driven my writing of Something Worth Living For. Whether I hit the target or not, others will judge. My friend may show up in a week or two with a brand new shiny Dell computer. But hopefully I’ve done nothing to poison his view of the advantages of the Mac so that someday, if his PC disappoints, he will consider what I have said. If we present Christianity well, the words we speak will not be forgotten. They may in time be used to awaken others to find in Jesus something worth living for.

A Gospel Worth Sharing

In advance of the release of Something Worth Living For Matthew Barrett and Credo blog asked me to write a series of blog posts touching upon the value of a catechism. With their permission I am reposting these here for those who did not see them there.

Imagine an evangelistic conversation that goes something like this:

“Man, I just don’t know why I get out of bed any more.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, the world is such a mess and I feel such stress at work and at home.”
“Wow, I get it! It’s the same with me. Life is so confusing. But God has given me a way to see a path through it all, at least.”
“Yes. I suppose. But that religious stuff never made sense to me.”
“I know. But I’d love to talk about that. Have you heard of the 107 spiritual laws?”

Clearly there was a good reason that Bill Bright chose just four spiritual truths to make his evangelistic appeal. And yet, every time Christians encourage non-Christians to consider Christianity, they are inviting them to embrace something larger than can be expressed in four, or eight or ten statements. In a day when the very word “God” is understood, if at all, with rambling diversity, the way we communicate the gospel requires breadth and clarity. And though I’m not suggesting we see the Westminster Shorter Catechism and its 107 questions and answers as a gospel tract, the theology it unfolds is, in its heart and essence, the gospel. It is not simply a tool by which others come to know religious stuff. It is a doorway inviting them, and ourselves, to come to know, and to love, God.

As any good presentation of the gospel will do, the Catechism begins with the questions people themselves are asking. People wonder why they exist. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What’s it all about? That is, the Catechism begins, “What is the chief end of man?” People have tried money and sex and everything else Solomon bemoans as meaningless. The question, “What is there worth living for?” is an urgent question for all, Christian and non-Christian.

Of course, the answer the Catechism gives, that we are to live “. . . to glorify God and enjoy him forever” challenges our treasured human self-centeredness, among other things. The Catechism grounds this claim in the fact that there is a God who has spoken. This God has given us in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments a call and reason to glorify and enjoy him, and a rule by which we are guided in our response.

Many, of course, struggle to believe the Bible, even those sitting in our pews. And yet Christianity is a complete package. To believe in God is to believe that he is and that he has spoken. We believe the Bible because it is the word of God, and we know God by the word he has given. These things are to be taken as a whole.

And so the Catechism invites us to understand the two primary things the Bible teaches: what we are to know about God set side by side with the response God expects of us. To put it another way, the Catechism outlines how we are loved by God and how we love him in return.

Questions 4-38 introduce us to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are shown our sin in all its misery and God’s wonderful provision of a redeemer. The redeemer’s person and work is shown and the fruit of his work outlined. That is, we are shown why people need salvation and how God provides it. This is how God loves us.

Then beginning with question 39 we are shown how one responds to this provision. We learn of the law God has given, of the nature of faith and repentance, and of the value of the church and her sacraments and of prayer. Here we are shown, in response to who God is and what he has done, how we live for his glory and enjoy him forever. This is how we love God.

The Catechism, in other words, paints the full gospel picture by which we can tell the whole truth to a world aimlessly trying to find its way. It reveals the beauty of the gospel, something we all need to hear.

French Philosopher Blaise Pascal noted that in persuading others of religion we must “. . . make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is” (Penses, 12). The Catechism makes all of us once again wish that Christianity were true, especially those of us who have lost sight of the beauty of salvation and the hope of our “full enjoying of God to all eternity.” (Q/A 38)

It gives us a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. It reminds us that we have something worth living for. It is a gospel worth knowing, and sharing.

A Faith Worth Learning

In advance of the release of Something Worth Living For Matthew Barrett and Credo blog asked me to write a series of blog posts touching upon the value of a catechism. With their permission I am reposting these here for those who did not see them there.

Charlie Mora was one of the finest and most solid men with whom I’ve ever served in the church. He was an elder in the congregation to which I was called out of seminary and he taught me how to be a pastor. But as a commercial fisherman with no more than a high school education, Charlie was an unlikely mentor.

As a young man, during a downturn in the fishing industry, Charlie moved from Cortez, Florida to New Jersey to find work. There he met Marge. He was so taken by this young woman that he was willing to attend her small Orthodox Presbyterian Church in order to date her. There Charlie heard the gospel. As he fell in love with Marge, he came to love Jesus as well.

Charlie was hungry to learn about this new faith, but the church had no adult classes for men like him. And so Charlie, revealing a deep humility that would stay with him his entire life, asked if he could attend the youth class. There, huddled in a room with teenagers, Charlie learned the theology of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. He emerged with a broad, deep, and profound love for God which would later have such a profound impact on me.

Charlie’s story reveals the beauty and mystery of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church. It also reminds us of the power of a well ordered, systematic teaching of the Christian faith. That is, it points to the value of a catechism.

A what?

A catechism is an ancient pedagogical tool that systematically presents a broad body of knowledge in small interrelated units. Using a question and answer format, catechisms have been written to serve well-seasoned theological meat in bite sized pieces for those hungry to know God and his ways. Particularly, the theology of the Protestant Reformation rode across Europe and sailed into North America in vessels of beautifully crafted and carefully framed catechisms by which one generation instructed the next. One of these, the last and most concise of these, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, was used to pass this faith worth learning on to my friend Charlie.

Published in 1647, the Westminster Shorter Catechism has had a wide influence. It was the product of 120 seventeenth-century theologians and pastors from England, Ireland, and Scotland meeting in assembly in Westminster Abbey in London (hence the name) over a period of four years. The products of committees and assemblies are usually bland. Not this one. The Westminster Assembly found a way to distill essential theological truth into memorably precise and matchlessly profound language. Its words have become widely known even to those unable to name their source. That our chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever” and that “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” are ideas that have lodged in the hearts of many even outside those Reformed and Presbyterian Churches which claim the Catechism as one of their confessional documents.

Of course, the very idea of theology is daunting to many Christians. The word conjures images of big books and fine and incomprehensible distinctions. Theology is imagined to be something boringly peripheral to the living of a full life. But a moment’s reflection suggests that we all embrace a theology of some sort. It may be poorly developed and it may be absolutely wrong, but we have a theology. And too often the theology we are give is couched in negative terms.

The acquisition of theological knowledge in our day is often erratic, spotty, and cloaked in controversy. We learn a bit about eschatology to counter the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come knocking at our door. We ponder how to understand God’s law only because we want to find a way to better argue our case against big government on Facebook. Rarely do Christians enjoy, and I choose that word purposely, the opportunity to consider a positive presentation of the beauty and breadth and practical relevance of our historic Christian faith. The Catechism offers that opportunity.

There are many Charlies in our churches, people curious about Christianity and hungry for some guidance. The Catechism is a good place to begin to satisfy that curiosity. To support this process is why I’ve written Something Worth Living For.

As pastors and churches we may not be able to help our Charlies fall in love with our Marges, but we certainly can use the rich tools of our heritage to help them fall in love with Jesus

Something Worth Living For

It’s been a long time coming. Today, my book Something Worth Living For is released. In honor of that event, I created a fun little video which I hope you enjoy. After watching, go buy the book! It is certified to fit in most standard Christmas stockings. Here are some good places to buy: – $9.99 – $10.39 – $11.95

Now, for the special event: Ta-da!!

Aimee Byrd and the Evangelical ‘F’ Word

It is among the virtues of evangelical thinking to frame one’s life and practice according to Biblical standards. At the heart of evangelical discussions will always be the core question: are we reading our Bibles correctly? This is the question that Aimee Byrd raises in her recently published Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose. Byrd offers this book as a contribution to the discussions in the evangelical world about how men and women are to relate to one another in the church and in the world. To ask whether we are reading our Bibles correctly with regard to men and women is a question worthy of consideration and discussion.

In her book, Byrd challenges many of the premises and conclusions of the evangelical Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), an organization that has shaped for many evangelicals what it means to be a Christian man or woman. The impact of the CBMW has been broad and deep and, to Byrd, problematic.

While clearly embracing her church’s traditional and confessional understanding of office and gender, Byrd challenges many of the assumptions and formulations of the CBMW. She questions the theology lying behind their primary assertions and challenges their use of Scripture. Positively she makes a Biblical case to see women as equal participants and contributors to the life of the church and society. Men and women, she argues, equally bear the image of God and have gifts and ministry to share with one another.

Even when critical of others, she is respectful. Her exegesis is compelling. Her insights are properly provocative. Her call to return discipleship to the local church is refreshing. She writes well and with temperate language, and she invites others into a conversation on the matters she raises.

Readers may assume that I am compelled to speak favorably regarding Byrd’s book because she endorsed my book Something Worth Living For. Grateful though I am for that, I speak positively because this is a worthy book raising necessary questions. Her arguments invite engagement.

The responses she has received, however, at least by the loudest voices, have been completely other. Some warn that she is leading the church onto a dangerous and slippery slope (always a weak and tenuous argument). She has been mocked mercilessly. She has had speaking engagements sabotaged by slander. Instead of interaction on substance, she has received misogynistic slams against her looks, against her husband, and against women in general. Such behavior is inexcusable and repugnant. Apparently while battling for the Bible some evangelicals lost sight of the Christian virtues of charity and gentleness.

This book, and others like it, are met with such a response because, at root, evangelicals are a fearful bunch. Fear is evangelicalism’s ‘F’ word. It is not often spoken or faced. And it reveals that try as we might, evangelicals really have not moved away from their fundamentalist roots.

Evangelicals today laugh at the stereotype of the fundamentalist. Evangelicals dance and drink and smoke cigars and pipes, and even make occasional judicious use of the other, less socially acceptable, ‘F’ word. And yet, they, too, are moved by the same fear that led to the prohibitions they now consider foolish.

It’s worth imagining for a moment why drinking and dancing and card playing were forbidden in the first place.

If there is a dangerous pit on one’s property, judicious landowners build a fence around it. Fearful ones build the fence a mile away. Such fear led to the prohibitions evangelicals mock. Dancing could become erotic and the erotically roused may not be able to resist sleeping together. Better build the fence further out. Fear of sin, sexual immorality, led to the forbidding of otherwise non-sinful behavior, dancing. Fear led our fundamentalist forebears to forbid that which was permitted in order to guard against that which was forbidden.

Similarly, to prevent sinful drunkenness drinking itself was redefined as sin. Gambling can be a violation of the eighth commandment so, to be safe, card playing was forbidden. Fear of the thing forbidden led to forbidding a thing permitted.

Evangelicals now dance and drink and play cards having learned that while it is sinful to permit a forbidden thing, so too it is wrong, even sinful, to forbid a permitted thing.

But one may ask how much have we really learned. We might still be in the habit of forbidding what is permitted out of fear that we would permit what is forbidden. In many churches, women are not to receive the church offering. They are allowed to teach boys, but teaching adult men is forbidden. They are not to lead a mixed small group Bible study. They are not to be present when church elders debate matters affecting the entire church. They certainly should not write books addressing matters of theology or church practice.

The issues, whatever they are, whether it is enjoying a lager or allowing a woman to pray in public, should be discussed. But fear shuts down the discussion. The camel’s nose cannot be allowed under the tent. Slippery slopes must be avoided. Prohibitions become entrenched, and fear does not allow them to be questioned. If a woman is allowed to participate in the offering she’ll soon be presenting herself as a pastoral candidate.

I wonder how much abuse was heaped on the first evangelical pastor to offer his elders a beer? Someone along the way had the courage to ask, “Are we reading our Bibles correctly?” We should never be afraid to ask that question. Aimee Byrd is asking that very question and the response has been swift and severe and motivated undeniably not by reason but by fear.

One of Aimee Byrd’s more respected critics, Southern Baptist Seminary professor Denny Burk, suggests that her questions be given the treatment that Gamaliel, the rabbi and mentor of Saul of Tarsus, recommended be given to Peter and the other apostles in the first century. He suggests she be ignored, marginalized, and dismissed. Any who want to remain safely distant from the slippery slope should just ignore her. Plus, if ignored, she will go away. He says, “. . . bad arguments, even when brilliantly presented and popular in their moment, don’t last. Where are Rob Bell and Donald Miller today? And their arguments? The world has moved on . . .”

Such advice dovetails so nicely with Gamaliel’s in Acts 5:35-38 that I can’t resist a mashup:

And Dr. Burk said to them, “Take care what you are about to do with this woman. For before these days Donald Miller rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of people joined him. He was ignored and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Rob Bell the Universalist rose up and drew away some of the people after him. He too faded off the evangelical scene, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from this woman and let her alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail.”

It is clearly mistaken and unfair to put Byrd in the same company as Donald Miller and Rob Bell (guilt by association is as easy as “slippery-slopism”). Byrd’s commitment to the church and her confessional heritage is deep and should be unquestioned. There is really no legitimate comparison here.

Dr. Burk is mistaken in another way. The questions Byrd raises are not going away and should not be written off so cavalierly. Her basic question is evangelical to the core: are we reading our Bibles correctly?

One who asks such a question well is a gift, not a threat, to the church. Byrd has framed the questions that many in the church are asking but can’t. She has done so clearly and respectfully and to engage her is to accept the gift.

But many won’t. Perhaps they are afraid.

Perhaps they fear she may be right.

On Being Enough

Last Tuesday evening, various family members gathered around our kitchen table as I opened a package with the ceremony ordinarily reserved for birthdays. The package from Christian Focus Publications contained a book that was mine in a way no other book has ever been. It was The Book. The one I had written.

I began writing The Book on January 5, 2018. After writing and revising for two years, I set aside to revisit in a couple month’s time. Over that time I had collected a few encouraging preliminary endorsements and four solid rejections from publishers. The rejections had been as expected as the endorsements surprising.

My plan was to continue to seek a publisher through April and after that to consider other options. But no matter where it went from there, on that day in December, I was okay with the state of it. To have written it was sufficient satisfaction. I needed no more affirmation. And that sense of contentment was surprising to me.

Recently I’ve pondered the seemingly contradictory notions of contentment and ambition. I did desire that the book be published. I felt that it could benefit others. I wanted it to be out there in the world and I wanted it to be successful. I had ambitions for the book, a desire for readers. No comedian wants to tell jokes to an empty room. Rare is the musician who does not want others to hear her music. As one who has written, I of course wanted it to be read (which you can do by pre-ordering here). And yet I was content that something now existed that had not existed before. I was happy with it in itself. My contentment was not dependent on a publisher’s validation or a reader saying, “Wow!”

Anne Lamott in her wonderful book on writing, Bird by Bird, speaks about how students in her writing workshops tend to have too many questions about publishing and not enough about writing. Certainly knowledge of how publishing works is important, but far more important is contentment with writing itself. She makes this point over and over again:

Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems. Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.

Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird, 185

She recalls an incident after she had published her first book. She had been invited to speak at a charity event, and somehow her name was repeatedly omitted from the publicity announcements. She was miffed, and frustrated, and hurt. But only for a time.

I remembered that if I wasn’t enough before being asked to participate in this prestigious event, then participating wasn’t going to make me enough. Being enough was going to have to be an inside job.

Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird, 220

Contentment is an inside job. So for me, having finished the book was gratifying in a way that was unusual for me. It was done and there did not have to be any more for me to be okay.

But then there was more.

In January, Christian Focus Publications (bless their hearts!) agreed to take the work to publication. And after months of revising, editing, discussing, marketing, and waiting, on Tuesday I, with those closest to me, laid eyes on The Book itself. To see it as a completed object was surreal and gratifying. All I could do was stare.

Unlike Bird by Bird my book does not and will never have “National Bestseller” stamped across the top. It does not and will never have “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” or “Now a Major Motion Picture” embossed anywhere on the cover. When it is released to the wild on November 6, it will go where God carries it. Some readers will like it; some will hate it.

But I keep coming back to this: If I was not enough before being published, being published is not going to make me enough.

Being enough is an inside job. It always will be. For me. For you.

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