deadly killers...

>> January 31, 2011

LaRae and her husband are missionaries in a Muslim country in West Africa, where they are developing a public health clinic to serve the medical needs of the people in their village. They live with occasional electricity and running water, and have a son who is 3 years old.

Our latest time-taker has been a certain little girl. She is very cute, so easily forgiven. :) It really tugs my heart because she is so small, fragile and possibly has no life in front of her.

Born to an HIV+ mother, more likely than not she has it too. We still don't know the real status of her HIV. It could be just the antibodies of her mother, or it could be the real thing. Its hard to look into her face and remember there is a silent, deadly killer in her. It is so easy to forget that her life may be abbreviated before it even gets started.

LaRae & the baby girl
Yesterday we went to talk to someone in town about legal adoption. It appears that it will not be too hard to adopt her. So this week we hope to get all our papers in order and go again to make an appointment with the judge. Once that is done, we can work on getting her USA paperwork in order.

We hope to send some of her blood up to Dakar (the capital city) by the middle of February to be tested for the real virus. In some ways I don't want to know, but it is necessary for her health and ours.

Here where we live, HIV is a fearful and hushed topic. At first it doesn't appear that HIV is very common here, unlike other African countries. But as we are here longer, we get the idea that it is definitely here, killing just the same, but no one is really facing it.

When people in our clinic are tested (this is the procedure for all clinics/hospitals here in Senegal) and they test positive, it is not recorded. All that is shows on the record is that they were tested. So, obviously you know they were positive because there is no result in their chart.

It reflects the mentality here though, "if we don't say it, don't acknowledge it - then it can't hurt us". At the same time, if a man here has HIV and continues to sleep around without informing others that he has it, he can go to prison. I'm not sure who enforces that, but it is the local law.

With all these thoughts and observations going around in my head I can't help but think of another deadly killer - SIN. We don't talk about it much, we don't like it, in some ways we are afraid of it (at least of its effects), but we also tend to act like if we just don't acknowledge it, it won't hurt us.

Crazy huh?

Sin works just like HIV, too. HIV slowly, silently kills off the immune system, opening the body to other illnesses that will eventually kill us. Sin does the same thing. It slowly, silently kills our spiritual immune system of faith, opening us up to diseases like doubt and disobedience, which eventually can kills us eternally.

And the whole time, with both killers, we can look okay on the outside or take enough medicine to fool everyone that we are healthy. Neither disease sticks to just one person, either. Both are passed from one to another, killing en masse.


© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
Tweets, trackbacks, and link sharing encouraged.


guest post:: Brenda Black

>> January 24, 2011

We are delighted to present a guest article from Brenda Black, the wife of the United States Senate Chaplain. She wrote this article for CLUTCH with young pastor's wives in mind. 
 ~the CLUTCH chicks

Brenda Black is the wife of Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the U. S. Senate.
In addition to supporting her husband, her own ministry projects include volunteering as a mentor and advisor at an urban community center and middle school in Southeast Washington, D.C., and serving as an elder in the Woodbridge Seventh-day Adventist Church, where she coordinates women’s ministries and teaches a study class.
A Navy wife for 27 years, Brenda promoted networks to encourage and mentor Navy wives and families. For 34 years, she taught writing and literature with a specialty in developmental education for under-prepared college students.

She still ministers by hosting “Girls’ Night Out” (sleepovers), “GirlTalk” parties, and other activities  to encourage connection and support among women. She writes and presents seminars at churches, conferences, and retreats. And she loves reading and shopping.

The Blacks have three sons: Barry II, director of marketing for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; Brendan, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Michigan; and Bradford, a senior at the University of Chicago.

It’s an awesome responsibility to attempt to shed some light on the path of those coming behind you.  As an "older" minister’s wife, I’m painfully aware of how quickly the time has passed. I remember when I first started out, asking older wives for advice at a Shepherdess Wives’ meeting. The best advice they could give was always go door to door to solicit the Ingathering offering (a seasonal fundraising tradition that used to be common in our church), and don’t just donate it myself.

Times have really changed. I do hope what I have to say is a bit more useful. Nevertheless, my word of advice to young minister’s wives is to lighten up!

I often look at young women today and compare (I suffer badly from comparisonitis) their lives as wives and mothers to mine at that phase of my life. From a distance they look like they’ve got it all together. Girlfriends are working it. I’m amazed at their ability to balance careers and homelife.

Some are homeschooling, some are pursuing advanced degrees. They are busy with church life, and some are heavily involved in community affairs. And miracle of miracles, some actually get their young husbands to contribute responsibly in the care and upkeep of the family---cleaning up after dinner, getting groceries, preparing meals, doing laundry, and bathing and putting kids to bed.
But when we get up close and personal, and I ask them how they do it, they pour out their hearts and bare their souls. The truth is, some things don’t change. I see that young women today aren't that different from where I was as a young wife and mother. They say they are tired—bone tired—of trying to be everything to everybody. This kind of tiredness can bring a barely submerged anger at your husband, your kids, your church—your life.  Like that talking parrot commercial, the consistent repetition is “I shouldn’t have to do everything.”
The truth is you shouldn’t have to, and you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be in church for every service. You don’t have to teach children’s church. You don’t have to lead women’s ministry. You don’t have to always have the guest minister stay in your home. You don’t have to be Super Minister’s Wife. But you can be an example to the stressed, the weary, and the worn-out.
The years are teaching me that so much that I allowed to burden me as a young wife and mother was totally unnecessary. I can now see so many ways I let the devil keep me on his treadmill—whispering his lies and cracking his whip—“You got to  keep up”, “What will people  say?”, or “How is that going to look?”, or” What kind of minister’s wife are you!!”

I was constantly fearing that I wasn’t measuring up—not having people over enough, not being serious enough, not sharing Jesus enough, not having a nice enough house or car to represent the church.
There is no such thing as having it all. Life is made of trade-offs. If marriage and parenting is a full-time job, and I think most of us would agree that it is, then you have to decide for yourself what will get traded off. But be honest with yourself — something has to go. Don’t even delude yourself into believing that you can cover all the bases.
When we try to do it all, we are trying to accomplish something God never intended. The fact of the matter is something and someone is going to suffer. The guilt you feel is there for a reason. Don’t try to rationalize it away. Ask God to show you His ways and give you wisdom to choose wisely. Jesus says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke, and learn my ways, and you will find the rest that you so desperately need.”
Many people know me only from my husband’s sermons. They know his funny stories, and when they meet me, they tell me of how highly my husband speaks of me. Some have read From the Hood to the Hill, and they know our love story. Naturally, many want to know the story from my perspective.  And I'm ready and willing to give my testimony. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” But I wouldn’t trade anything for what God has taught me about His faithfulness and sufficiency.

When my husband was deployed for six-month periods, being there for our three sons was a challenge for me. I wish I could say I covered all the bases and did it all. But, in so many ways, I often failed miserably—as a wife, as a mother, as a college English teacher, as a woman of God. When people hear me introduced as having 37 years of marriage and three successful sons, they want to know how I did it. My standard answer is “Grace and Mercy!”

Two of my favorite Bible verses promise that God will be a father to the fatherless (Psa. 68:5), and that He will restore the years that the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). I claim these promises for my marriage, my family, and my career. You see, I never will be able to do everything, be all that I need to be for everybody, or have all that I think life requires of me to earn its label of success.  But God is sufficient. He is my Resource, and He will redeem and restore. And what’s more, there are no time limits with God. He’s in my past, my present, and He’s already in my future.
It has taken me a long time to apply this truth to my life in a very practical way. As I have shared my heart with you, I pray that you will consider my advice seriously.

Lighten up.
Lighten your load.

Jesus says the life He plans for you is easy, and with Him in it with you, your burdens are light. Work on seeking only to please Him, and you’ll find that it really simplifies life.

© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
Tweets, trackbacks, and link sharing encouraged.


on images & generations (part 2)

>> January 12, 2011

Postmoderns are by definition undefinable. While this article isn’t a full dissection of the postmodern generation, a few small things can make a big difference in the communication field.

Start with images. Postmoderns tend to be highly visual and relational. The younger generation values experience and feeling. These characteristics flow over into their choices for entertainment, recreation, and marketing.

While previous generations wanted lots of facts and information, today's generation tends to focus on how it feels. Doubt me? Just do a YouTube search for classic tv commercials (try THIS one, or THIS one) and count the sheer number of words.

Then search modern tv commercials (like “Toyota”, or “Febreze”) and notice how the entire focus is on feeling instead of fact.

Advertising today is all about the personal experience. And while we know that the gospel isn't only just good feelings, Jesus did put a huge emphasis on telling your personal story to others. What more is the gospel than the sharing of your individual experience, your feeling about the amazing things God has done for you?

There are also huge differences in marketing and design between past and present generations. I think Christian communicators are wise to develop an awareness of these changes, and see which ones might be beneficial. Here are a few then-vs-now tips in case you serve on your church's communication department, or for sharing with your PHs communication team:

past: concerned with accurate representation of the object being photographed,
present: concerned with evoking feeling or emotion often using steep angles, creative lighting or other effects

past: concerned with transmitting as much information as possible
present: concerned with transmitting a brand or image, usually with spare visuals, one strong image, and few words

Try designing websites, bulletins and brochures with as few words as possible, and allowing one dominant image to carry your message. Keep colors spare and clean. Don’t be afraid of black and white photographs, especially punched up with one or two accent colors. Write your copy and then cut it in half. Let it sit for a week and then edit it in half again.

The art of writing has changed over time, too. Instead of proving credibility through big words and the cold distance of third person, today's successful wordsmiths tend to settle in the first person. Good writers seek to build a relationship with the reader, even when writing about important subjects.

Research writing hasn’t altered much, and the criteria for college papers may never change – but outside the confines of academia it’s a different story. The postmodern reaction to a forceful attitude of  “I’ve got the truth!” can range from indifferent to hostile. Instead, try drawing out an audience through invitations and examples. Ask them to participate – invite them instead of demanding or overloading.

Experienced writers can play with expression through partial sentences and phrase structure. Put yourself into your story, and tell it from how you feel on the inside. For some writers this is excruciating at the beginning – but that’s okay.

If you don’t watch much television, try going on the internet and searching funny video clips or television commercials. Give yourself a homework assignment to rate the quality of different commercials based on image, appeal, and content.

Visit church websites and decide why you like or don’t like them. Try, or for an archive of various amazing sites.

Maybe these concepts seem new, maybe they match how your PH and your church already work. Either way, remember that learning your audience and adapting to it isn’t a contemporary concept – it’s a biblical one.

Paul said “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. … Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (I Corinthians 9:19-23).

So, even if you're "just the PW", people may look to you for comments or opinions. Or maybe you can just share ideas with your PH about ways to build connections between your church and your community. Whether or not communication is really your thing, you may have opportunities to influence others in the gospel quest to find common ground with everyone in your audience.

And, as the PW, you might be someone who can ask some tough questions: Does your church tend to neglect one generation in favor of another? Are your leadership teams willing to reach outside their comfort zone and try something unexpected?

this article was originally published in 
the February 2008 issue of Practicing Communicating,
a journal for Christian communicators

adapted for reposting on CLUTCH
by Sarah K Asaftei,
former associate director of the
Centre for Secular & Postmodern Studies

© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
Tweets, trackbacks, and link sharing encouraged.


on images and generations (part 1)

>> January 11, 2011

Not long ago, I went to my local Christian bookstore to pick up some bible study lessons. And I was reminded of a challenge that has troubled me for years. The most colorful sets didn’t have great content, and the more solid biblical studies looked like they’d been mimeographed in the 1950’s.

I thumbed through several, finding none that appealed to me, and finally settled on an old standby. But I was left frustrated at all this gospel message on the shelf – with less than zero visual appeal. From conversations with friends and fellow ministry wives, I've learned I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Time was, when our grandparents’ generation didn’t care what information looked like. They wanted to know what was right. What was true. But that era has gradually morphed into the visually addicted society of today. Our generation.

Our generation isn’t attracted by mimeograph. Who cares whether the facts are great, if it looks boring on the outside?!? Our generation didn’t grow up reading books where single sentences were a paragraph long. Many of us were nursed on fast-paced television commercials and split second subliminal images.

Our generation buys movie tickets only if the trailer looked smashing. And so Hollywood plays to our fantasies, and we keep forgetting over and over that the previews are almost always better than the movie anyway.

What has this got to do with church, you ask? Think hard. When was the last time you looked at your church’s event posters? Or website? Or bulletin?

Our generation is the postmodern generation. We tend to think that if nobody bothered to make something look good, then we shouldn’t be bothered to notice it. With so many visually compelling images competing for attention – why should we focus on what doesn’t measure up?

Does this mean the gospel needs to be transformed into a slick commercial machine? No. Am I suggesting that churches should pour oodles of money into fancy gimmicks? Not at all. But could it help if we learned more about the people we’re trying to reach and then sought to meet their needs? Definitely.

There are a few fundamental techniques that professional marketing agents understand, which can only help Christian communicators be more effective. These are:
1) know your audience
2) know your audience
3) know your audience

Sounds redundant? It isn’t. Our audience - both inside and outside our congregations - is shifting constantly. What is normal today will be outdated tomorrow, leaving pastors and gospel communicators in a mad scramble to keep up.

In that scramble, simple is often best. Genuine relationships, straightforward communication, selfless service and interest in others. But simple bible teaching doesn't have to automatically mean looking old-fashioned and outdated either. 

More about that in part 2, next week...

this article was originally published in 
the February 2008 issue of Practicing Communicating,
a journal for Christian communicators

adapted for reposting on CLUTCH
by Sarah K Asaftei,
former associate director of the
Centre for Secular & Postmodern Studies

© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
Tweets, trackbacks, and link sharing encouraged.


fresh start::2011

>> January 2, 2011


It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!!

Can you tell I’m excited?

Technically, you can have a fresh start any day of the year, but there's something special to me about laying one year at the feet of Jesus and starting all over again with another year.

I’m excited to personally plan for 2011. Of course we have our church calendar mapped out, all the major events and so on, but today I want to talk about YOU.

What do you have planned for 2011? Is there a particular goal you would like to accomplish? Would you say you are serious and wanting, or serious and willing?

At the end of 2009, while prepping goals for 2010, I set out to enroll back in school. And I did it! I completed Spring, Summer and Fall sessions successfully. What am I going back to school for you ask? To be an attorney! I’m working on earning my second degree and then moving forward with law school. When it’s all said and done, I will still be in my thirties, my babies will still be in elementary school and I will have fulfilled a personal life goal.

Did you catch that? A goal for me. So often we get caught up giving, giving and giving some more, to the extent that we are not growing ourselves. Then we're left feeling empty, broken and used.

Growing for you, doesn’t have to mean “going back to school” as it did for me; everyone has a different purpose in life. But today, I'm encouraging you to see how you can grow in 2011.

I'll go first: I've written downs several goals for 2011 regarding my growth as a wife, a mommy and a leading lady. For the sake of time, I'll just share one major goal - to get in shape! That’s right, you heard it here first - I need to get physically fit. I'll confess I'm a lover of Coca-Cola™ in a can; but I'll be switching to sparkling water. I love Red Bull™, but I'll be disciplining myself to get more hours of sleep. I hear the gym calling my name; we are already members. 

You, my friends, are my accountability partners. I will be tracking my progress on so we stay connected!

Now let’s hear it, what are your goals for 2011? Don’t be shy, I want to hear from you!


© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
Tweets, trackbacks, and link sharing encouraged.

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