Cleaning and Worship (by Christina May Gibson)

I am so excited to share this piece with you. It was written by my friend Christina May Gibson. This post beautifully articulates much of what I was attempting to say in this week's sermon at Collective Church (which you can listen to here). I thought they paired well together, and I wanted to share Christina's words with you. Enjoy!



Brett and the girls left town for about 24 hours and I stayed behind to get some much-needed rest.  I fully intended to read three books while drinking endless cups of tea and sleeping at least 14 hours.  But, before I started my book, I put on a load of laundry.  And when I went to transfer it to the dryer, I found a load in need of folding.  And when I put the clothes away, I found a disaster in Olive’s closet.  As I cleaned her mess, I found 7 sippy cups under her bed.  When I went to put the sippy cups in the dishwasher, I saw that it was full and needed to be washed.  After hand washing the remaining dishes, I noticed the counter was dirty, so I cleaned it, along with the kitchen and dining room tables.  And the chairs.  And the floors.  And maybe a window or two. Nine hours later, I was ready to start reading. So I opened my book in bed and was asleep after three pages.

I drifted off feeling like I’d completely blown my alone time.  No leisurely walks, no martinis with my cousin, no scripture memory to report.

Yet, somehow, I woke up rested with no regrets about cleaning.

I sensed God telling me, “This is living.”

I still misunderstand being with God.  It’s not about waiting for a good stack of time to power through books or escape on an extended prayer retreat—although that kind of alone time is more than valuable and important.  But life is rarely retreats or books or even Sunday mornings at church.  Life is all the space in between.  It’s the frustrating dog accidents or scrubbing crayon off the walls.  It’s the routine of getting the mail or unloading the dishwasher.  It’s buying stamps and returning calls and making the bed or going to work.

And this life, this routine, this unloading the dishwasher and loving our physical neighbors can be our greatest act of worship.

I’m frustrated with the overgeneralization the female population has made regarding the Mary and Martha story in Luke 10.  Martha was stupid.  Mary was smart.  It’s about being, not doing.  So, how am I supposed to know when it’s ok to make dinner and when I need to be in my prayer closet?

Luke purposefully coupled Mary and Martha with the story of the Good Samaritan.  Both are stories of attentiveness to Jesus– the idea of worship through listening at Jesus’ feet and actively loving a man beaten and left for dead.  Action wasn’t the problem for Martha.  Her problem was that she failed to really see Jesus in her own house.

Of course, it’s important we understand that God values who we are instead of what we do.  But we’re attacking the issue from the wrong angle if we criticize Martha for working.  The bigger question is, did she ever look Jesus in the face?  Did she pay attention to him?  Did she realize he was in her house?

As we go through our routine, do we realize God is in our house?

Kathleen Norris in her book The Quotidian Mysteries talks about laundry and liturgy being very similar in nature.  Laundry always has to be done.  No matter how many loads have been washed, you can never fully cross that one off the list.  Worship is the same.  We are in constant need of communion with the God who speaks to us regarding who we are.

If our goal in our routine is ever to finish or accomplish, we’ll be frustrated enough to slam our head in a car door.  It’s never done.  Work comes every morning.  Towels must be hung.  Children still need us in adult hood.  Friendships must be maintained.  But this is not wasted work.  This is the rhythm of life.

And this rhythm offers constant opportunity to open ourselves up to the new and the transformative even in the midst of the mundane.

I spent nine hours picking up toys which will end up on the floor tomorrow.  I spent nine hours windexing handprints I know will come right back.  But I also spent nine hours alone with God, allowing God to awaken my truest desires and call out my harmful motivations.

The Israelites were so aware of the mundane.  That was the wilderness—the stuff of everyday life—setting up home, gathering food and looking for water.  But it was this very stuff that God was using to teach the Israelites how to become the people of God.

And housework gives us the opportunity to be, even as we’re doing– to recognize it’s not about finishing, it’s not about accomplishing, it’s about living—day in and day out, figuring out how to be present to Jesus who is present to us.

Our routine grounds us in the truth that we are human.  That no matter what grand things we do, we still need to wash our dishes and fold clothes.  We still need to answer the call to daily commune with God so that we can learn to be the people we already are.  And as I wait for my kids to get back, I know I’m more in touch with my truest desires than I was nine hours ago.



Christina May Gibson is the Ministry Associate for Pastoral Care at Baylor University as well as a kickboxing instructor in Dallas. Christina blogs at If you are interested in hearing Christina in person, she will be speaking at Collective Church on Sunday, May 4, 2014.

How Birth Teaches Us About Christmas

Today's blog post was written by my talented and amazing wife Caroline. She is a gifted birth photographer whose work you would almost certainly enjoy. So read the post and then check out her photography!


When I tell people that I am a birth photographer,

they usually think it is strange and,


a little gross.

It's hard to make people understand why 

I love what I do so much.

I spend a lot of time in delivery rooms, be it in hospitals or homes,

hiding in corners, 

listening to the sounds of birth.

Mothers, fathers, doctors, midwives, 

coaxing babies into this world.

I love everything about it -

watching a new mom and dad go through the hard work of labor,

partnering together, sharing strength.

Capturing their faces the moment they meet their loves.

The joy of hearing the first cry, counting fingers and toes, 

aquatinting themselves with the person they've known in their hearts for months.


There is a moment, right before the baby takes that first breath,

when I hold mine,

marveling that moments ago there were just a few people in the room,

but now there is one more

and the world will never be the same 

as it was.


To think that the Savior of the world

came to be born from his mother's belly, into her arms and love,

just exactly the way I was, 

it is almost unfathomable.

More-so, for me, to think that Mary,

a girl in her teens, went through the same uncomfortable months

of worry and wonder that I did in pregnancy,

then gave birth to a son through sweat, and pain, and fear, 

through courage, and strength, and determination,

just as I did.


It is a phenomenal moment when you become a parent,

and know that nothing will ever compare to

the visceral love that worries and cares, 

shelters and comforts,

carries and lays itself down.


How could Mary know that her baby

would do the same for all of humanity?

That when Jesus was born, 

nothing would ever be the same

as it was?


It's no wonder that the Christmas season

turns me into a walking mess of tears and joy. 

The idea of birth that I am already so passionate about 

colliding with the ultimate gift of grace 

pierces my heart.

The carols I've sung my whole life have new meaning to me as a mother.

Each one right down to "Away in a Manger" reduces me to a blubbering sap.

Don't even get me started with "Mary did you know" or "Breath of Heaven".


I'm more convinced than ever that birth is the perfect picture of Salvation -

God, in all his mercy, coming to this earth as a baby,

like any other baby,

to love me as much as I love my own children.

that we participate in the story of Christ through bringing lives into the world, into our families,

and teaching them to live 

and love 

like Him. 

What a great honor and what a humbling calling.


"Today in the town of David 

a Savior has been born to you; 

he is the Messiah, 

the Lord."

The Mom Who Stole Christmas

Today's post was written by my good friend Brandon WebbBrandon works with at-risk teenage boys in Houston, and this story reflects some of his experiences in that world. I hope you enjoy it!

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I never watched The Cat in the Hat when I was a kid. I watched He-Man, G.I. Joe, all the television shows that were about muscle and force. Perhaps Thing 1 and Thing 2 were too overwhelming for me or maybe my father feared that “Hop on Pop” would be something I was bold enough to try. Regardless of the fact that I avoided it---or perhaps was shielded from it---as a child, my 3-year-old daughter has taken a liking to the ol’ Cat. 

With the Christmas season within arm’s reach, The Cat has a new episode out in which he throws a wild Christmas tree decorating party complete with song and dance, and ending in what my daughter believes to be the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.

One of the lines from The Cat’s Christmas song is, “Isn’t Christmas the greatest time of the year?” Since I was a child I have always believed that to be true, for myself and everyone throughout the world. And even as an adult, I still love the Christmas season. But I have come to understand that Christmas isn’t always “the greatest time of the year.”

Personally, I have my misgivings because I spent my first Christmas as a married man in the hospice room with my mother awaiting the inevitable. But even as my mother lay on her deathbed, our family still experienced the joy of the season. Instead, I struggle to believe this is the greatest time of the year because of the heartbreak felt by the people I’m surrounded by today.

As the director of a home for at-risk teenage boys, I am more aware that not every parent loves their children the way my parents did. Broken promises are a reality on our 26-acre oasis on the east side of Houston. Last year I witnessed one of the most heartbreaking moments in my time here.

Joe is one of our more seasoned residents, meaning he’s been here longer than the obligatory year. When he was little, Joe’s father was deported back to his home country as a result of his involvement in illegal behavior. Less than a week after that, Joe’s mother was found dead in their home, tied up and shot multiple times. Joe was placed in CPS custody and spent a few years bouncing from home to home until he was finally adopted by a woman who promised him the world. Within a few short years, she submitted his application into our program. She was full of false accusations, and we’ve since learned the reality was that she just didn’t want him. Time and time again she would promise to pick him up for weekend passes and wouldn’t show. As a “courtesy,” she would follow up with a phone call and a list of excuses. She finally followed through with a trip home for Thanksgiving Day last year, and with that she gave a promise of an extended visit for Christmas. Then Christmas vacation came.

It was Friday, December 21, and she was to arrive shortly after 5pm. He had bags sitting by the door, waiting for her. When bed time came that night, she still hadn’t arrived, nor had she called or returned the numerous calls from our staff. Perhaps the next morning she’ll come, he thought. We all hoped. But another day passed and still no word. On the morning of Christmas Eve, we finally sat him down and told him that she wasn’t coming and he should unpack his bags. He would be welcome in our home for Christmas. We scrambled around town purchasing presents in hopes they might serve as a band-aid to the wound.

It had taken us a year to get Joe to begin trusting us enough to open up and allow us to walk him through a process of healing before this happened. Because of his adopted “mother’s” actions, it would take another five months to resume progress. The first step came when she finally returned our Christmas vacation call on January 25, 2013. She explained why she never arrived, but it was too late---the damage had already been done.

It’s been almost a year since Joe has seen or even heard from his “mother.” Rarely does he refer to her and never does he call her his “mother” anymore. It’s a bit strange to say, but disowning his “mother” was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him.

As for me, I’ll never forget the day we had to tell a boy that his mother would not be showing up for Christmas. To hear the tears in his voice. To try to make her wrong seem not so bad. This is not a Christmas memory you want any child to carry with him. Unfortunately this is just one of the stories that haunt this 26-acre oasis.

We could get all theological about the idea that Christmas really is the greatest time of the year as we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, but I am reminded that because of the world we live in today, that’s not always true. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that Christmas is the most hopeful time of the year; it’s a time when others fail us with their promises and false hopes, but not God. There was no failure in His promise, there was only hope. And for this one young man during the Christmas of 2012, that might have been the greatest hope he had to hold on to: the fact that God loves him.

In the midst of this madness we’ve created during this season, God’s greatest concern isn’t whether our lights look better than our neighbor’s, but that we become the light that tells the story of the Christ-child. God’s not worried about whether or not little Johnny or Sally get the gift they wanted, but rather that we share the gift of hope with our children, our neighbors, those we cross paths with everyday. I have to wonder if there is any holiness in any of our hollow traditions.

As you tire yourself out running from party to party and store to store, may you be keenly aware that you are surrounded by people who need more than presents; they need hope.

This year we will spend Christmas morning with at least three boys who won’t be with their parents for the holidays. They’ll wake up in the same bed as they do every day here on our campus, and we’ll greet them with a loving, “Merry Christmas, son!” We’ll do our best to hand them presents that will, hopefully, put a smile on their face and, when it’s all said and done, we’ll share with them the greatest story of hope that we know.

And we pray that Joe, who’s still with us today and now walks daily with the Lord, will have his joy restored in this, the most hopeful time of the year.

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About Brandon Webb

After serving as a Youth Pastor for 15 years I now how the opportunity to serve as the Director at Youth-Reach Houston, a home for at-risk teenage boys. My wife, 2 children and I laid down many of the comforts that we had come to love in order to follow God in one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding, ways of life. In sharing life with these boys our hearts are constantly being broken. But with every broken heart comes the opportunity for grace to abound. 

Follow Brandon on Twitter: @bnwebb

A "Fear Not" Story

Today's post is written by my guest David Fuller, who blogs at Dave is one of the wisest, most insightful people I have ever known. I am lucky enough to say that Dave was my youth pastor in junior high and high school. I hope you enjoy his post!


In the heart of America’s heartland, on I-40 just west of Oklahoma City, there is a patch of federally-owned land named Fort Reno. At Fort Reno is a cemetery. Most of the graves there are Germans who died in Oklahoma in the 1940s.

I love a story with a happy beginning. Why do we love stories that begin, “Once upon a time…”? For me, the lights dim; red velvet curtains pull back and the moment overflows with the promise of adventure and wonder. We know that on the other end will be the line: “and they lived happily ever after.” But still, we take the ride.

As great as that opening line is, there is one better. It is: “Fear not!” It creates enormous anticipation because we don’t know what precedes, the assumed conjunction, “but.”

Like, “This ride is off limits to the very young, the very old and the very pregnant, BUT fear not.”

Can you think of a line that starts a story with more white-knuckled, slack-jawed angst than “fear not”? The line creates the exact opposite of its admonition. That is until you hear the rest of the story. At that point, the two short words become a sort of mantra that serves to remind of a promise we can use the rest of our lives.

If you don’t know of the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, a Google search will provide hours of reading material. The story is a true one, although embellished over the years of its telling. It is a story of an hours-long cessation of fighting during World War One. It seems that a cease fire was called between the fighting fronts of the British, French and Germans. There was an area between the frontlines called “No Man’s Land.” It was strewn with dead and injured soldiers from both sides. The cease fire was called so that each side could walk safely into No Man’s Land to retrieve the bodies of the fallen troops. But on this Christmas something more happened. Small Christmas trees with candles that had been sent to the German soldiers on the front lines were placed for all to see. Christmas carols gave a common language as enemies became something else and spent the day together. For just a several hours war stopped! It just stopped.

Soon however the troops were ordered back to their bunkers, the fighting resumed and millions more perished.

Did it matter that in the midst of the sounds, smells, the horrors of war, men gathered in peace and remembered a story that begins, “Fear not”?

John Lennon recorded a song he titled, “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” I don’t know his intent, but my perception is that he juxtaposed the happy, innocent, storybook feel of a Christmas Song with a questioned state of a humanity that draws lines, stays divided and doesn’t seek the promise of the season’s story even though it is attainable. Lennon seems to anticipate our hypocrisy.

[By all means give a listen to Lennon’s song and check out the arrangement of the song by Yo-Yo Ma and Jake Shimabukuro on the album, “Yo-Yo Ma & Friends, Songs of Joy & Peace.”]

My father is a World War Two veteran. One of his duties during the war was guarding German prisoners of war who were being shipped to Oklahoma to work on farms. If you’re interested you can find more about this here:

I asked my father, who has served as a pastor for many years, to recall a time he remembered when he could say that God was very present in the moment. With hundreds of memories to call upon, he didn’t hesitate. He told of a time on a train hauling the German POWs to Oklahoma. It was Christmas. He said that all of a sudden a German soldier began to sing:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,

Alles schläft; einsam wacht

Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.

Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

And before he could finish the first verse, everyone on the train was singing Silent Night.

The cemetery at Fort Reno is a reminder that many of those young German men never made it back to their homeland. They wore the uniform of one of the most dehumanizing movements in our history. And still somehow there is something beautiful in a moment when people remember a story that begins, “Fear not!”

I wonder: would a moment like these be possible today?


About David Fuller:

Rob has invited me to write a guest post for this blog. I am honored. 

He asked for brief bio. I'm a sixty-something, mild-mannered mix of reader, writer, life-observer with some residue of a Sixties Hippie. I love conversation with thinkers--just for the sake of it. I want to be a part of something like The Inklings. The Inklings was a group of friends and a literary discussion group. They met together at least weekly for nearly twenty years at The Eagle & Child pub near the University of Oxford. Some of the regulars included: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield.

If I could have a group like The Inklings, I would want Rob at the table.

There is a Place for Us

I'm proud to announce that today's post was written by guest-blogger Katie McKown of the Hermeneutics in High Heels blog. I went to seminary with Katie, and she has some great things to say about the value of small churches. I hope you will read this post and enjoy it as much as I did! 

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On our best days small churches feel strong and mighty. We celebrate and build on our strengths and move forward knowing and sharing the love of Jesus. On our not best days however, we can feel discouraged. Without the funding and programs of larger sister churches smaller churches can feel as if we are somehow less than. Is there a place for us?

Recently Scottsville Baptist had the privilege of hosting the Kelly and Cates bell ringers, a group of adults with special needs who lead worship through their gift of music. This group is from Fredericksburg Baptist, a wonderful church with a history of missions and generosity. Tommy, their director, conducts music by using color-coded cards. By watching the colors change these friends are able to joyfully ring bells to beloved hymns and other songs.

Following one of the hymns Tommy shared the beginnings of their ministry. A woman named Margaret Ingram invited her neighbor to church. The neighbor's daughter had special needs. The neighbor asked "Is there a place for my daughter?"

Fredericksburg Baptist got to work and started a "Special Friends" class for persons with disabilities. The ministry grew and today Fredericksburg Baptist has two residential homes for adults with special needs. In addition to music ministry, many of these folks live at the Kelly or Cates Home near the church. All that to say: The ministry of the Kelly and Cates bell ringers is possible because of Fredericksburg Baptist Church and Margaret Ingram. Thanks Margaret for inviting your neighbor to church. A happy twist to Tommy's story is Margaret grew up at...Scottsville Baptist Church!

On our not best days small churches can fall prey to comparison. That church has x. We only have y. On our best days however, we celebrate our strengths. We rejoice in the privilege of raising young women like Margaret, who invited her neighbor to church. Today a ministry to adults with special needs thrives. We rejoice in the privilege of raising young women like Lottie Moon, who followed Jesus to China for the sake of the gospel.

This is not to toot the horn of Scottsville Baptist Church. We have growing edges just like everyone else! This is not a "Look how great we are" post. It is however a reminder that God works in small spaces and places. No matter the budget or number of programs, God can still work...and God does work in small churches, friends! Margaret and Lottie are sisters to celebrate.

During the service a blind gentleman with perfect pitch sang West Side Story's "Somewhere."

There's a place for us, Somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air Wait for us Somewhere.

He sang with pure joy. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

I could almost hear Margaret's neighbor asking "Is there a place for my daughter?" Fredericksburg Baptist Church said "Yes." Yes, there is a place for persons with special needs. Peace and quiet and open air waited for Margaret's neighbor at Fredericksburg Baptist Church. Thanks Fredericksburg Baptist.

Likewise, there is a place for small churches. We may not see "results" tomorrow or even next week, but perhaps we are part of something we cannot begin to imagine. Be faithful, small and mighty churches. There is a place for you in God's kingdom.

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Katie McKown is pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church in Scottsville, Virginia. Katie is a proud graduate of Georgetown College and Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary. She likes to read, travel, and root for the Washington Nationals. Katie blogs at