The Stack

I met Betty Wiseman almost 20 years ago when I became pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church. Over these years, Betty has become a trusted friend, counselor and prayer warrior. She has a deep commitment to Christ that has led her to at least 6 continents on mission journeys. I love her enthusiasm for Christ, His kingdom and for life. She has become and still is one of my heroes.

The Stack
by Betty Wiseman

The stack keeps getting higher and a little more ragged and worn from travel and use. The scripture verses on these 3 x 5 cards are smudged with fingerprints, underlined and highlighted, edges torn, and most are personalized for the moment and place. They are held together by a heavy-duty rubber band. For years now, I have added to the stack as verses grab my attention and jump off the page of my Bible. The stack of scriptures has become a valuable tool and constant companion as I lead sports evangelism mission trips around the world with student-athletes from Belmont. When I pack my Bible, I pack my stack of scripture cards.

Early morning and late night quiet times in preparation for another day’s work find me sifting through, rereading, chewing on, and meditating on God’s promises recorded in this stack. Inevitably, one or two scripture cards grab my attention and prick my consciousness. It’s like an “Ah ha!” moment – this is God’s message for me today, and I claim the promise. The card, or maybe two or three cards, are pulled from the stack and placed in my bible to be shared in a devotional time with the team as we gather to depart for the day’s ministry. I depend on these promises from God’s word to guide us through the day.

In May 2006, my team and I arrived in Caracas, Venezuela for ten days of ministry. We made our way through customs and outside the terminal for a short trek to another terminal for the next leg of the journey. It hit us in the face – the heat! We had been told to expect extreme heat, but this caught us by surprise. We could hardly breathe. I thought “How will we withstand this heat for ten days?”

The days ahead were packed with ministry, outside on concrete areas, under the hot sun!

On our third day, we had gathered for our morning devotional thoughts. This is the scripture God gave me from “the stack” for the day that I shared with the team: “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58: 11)

We worked all morning in the sun. Then they escorted us inside the school to a very small dimly lit classroom, with no ventilation, to serve us hot beans and rice and warm bottled Coke for lunch. Then it was back onto the court under the afternoon sun, where the temperature registered 112 degrees. Yes, it’s true. I have a photo of the thermometer registering 112.

I began to pray, “Lord, you promised to take care of us in this ‘sun-scorched’ land. Send your clouds to protect us, please.” And He did! The clouds came and covered us for the remainder of the afternoon. He “satisfied our needs and strengthened our frames…like a well-watered garden.”

I grew up in a Baptist church and literally “cut my teeth” on God word. I never met a “Bible drill” that I did not like. That was just part of the competitive nature in me – “Attention, Draw sword, Find.” I can still hear those pages shuffling as I attempted to find the scripture before all my competitors. It was fun, and I liked to win; and it served a purpose. I loved God’s word, and I began to treasure it in my heart at an early age. But words are just words until they bring meaning, purpose, and direction to one’s life. Scripture began to take on a deeper meaning as I grew in my walk with Christ and realized that it is to be personalized for where I am and what I am dealing with. Sift through my Bible, and you’ll find my name written in the scriptures where I have personalized it for daily living. One might respond when seeing my name written so much in my Bible, “Betty thinks this Bible was written just for her!”

My response would be, “You’re exactly right! This is God’s word, for Betty Wiseman. I hear it, I believe it, and I live!”

Betty Wiseman is Professor Emeritus and Assistant Athletic Director for Student Services at Belmont University, with a teaching career of 44 years. She is known as a trailblazer in women’s sports, having founded the women’s basketball program at Belmont in 1968, one of the first college women’s programs in the state of Tennessee and the south. Wiseman was the head women’s basketball coach at Belmont for 16 seasons. In 1999 she was given the Josten-Berenson Service Award by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in San Jose, California to recognize her lifelong commitment to women’s basketball. In 2004 she was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, one of many honors bestowed upon her locally and nationally.

Betty is an active member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee where she serves as Trustee, is a member of the adult choir, and is an active participant in volunteer missions.

From city streets in Eastern Europe to dirt paths in South America and South Africa, “BW” takes teams of Belmont Christian athletes to use the platform of sports for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Her forthcoming book, a collection of stories from those mission trips, will be published in March 2011 by New Hope Publishers.

Trust is a Verb

We often see trust as a passive state. So, when we read the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 about how we are not to worry or waste our lives pursuing things like pagans do, we mistakenly think this means we are to simply sit and wait, while God brings to us all that we need in our lives.

This is one of those moments where listening to Jesus through the prism of His own life would expand greatly our understanding of this passage. For Jesus, His trust in the Father was His life’s work.

• Because Jesus trusted the Father completely, He relentlessly submitted Himself to His identity in God and refused to let anyone else name Him. For instance, whenever the crowds tried to anoint Him king, He would simply slip away from them.

• Second, His trust in God allowed Him to singularly focus on the mission God has given to Him. Though some would try to lure Him away – the temptation in the wilderness or Peter’s refusal to understand the Messiah must suffer and die—Jesus refused to alter the course of His obedience.

• And third, because Jesus’ trust was so complete, He experienced moments of affirmation along the way such as the blessing at His baptism and the Mount of Transfiguration. Thus, reminded in small ways of God’s faithfulness, Jesus was confident of His Father’s love in the agonizing torture of the cross.

Far from being passive, trust is the active and constant process of aligning our lives with Jesus. The more we focus our lives, the more we are affirmed in small ways and then learn to trust God in the big things.

Worry is the waste of energy in motion that doesn’t go anywhere or accomplish anything; trust is the use of energy to tighten the focus of our lives on Jesus. The more we see of Him, the more we know of Him, the less we worry.

Trust is the opposite of worry, but trust is far from passive. Trust is the permission given to Christ to remake us so that we, like Him, can face our future with the same confidence in the Father as He did.

Love Christ, Leave the Church?

The big news recently has been the announcement by Anne Rice, the famous author, that she has left Christianity. According to her statement, she remains committed to Christ, but has left Christianity. Here is part of her statement:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

Now, my first response was, “I don’t blame her. Catch me on the right day, and I’ll leave with her.” Anyone—and I mean ANYONE—who has worked in a local church will tell you that sometimes Christians are anything but…

Of course, her announcement was celebrated in the world. “See,” the columnists and bloggers wrote. “No one with any conscience can be a member of the church or a part of Christianity—certainly no one with talent, sophistication, worldly savvy and intelligence like Anne Rice.” Well, of course, the world celebrated. They just wanted another bullet to put in their gun to shoot at the faith.

For the record, it is important to understand that Anne Rice still considers herself to be a believer in Christ, just not a believer in the church.

I would agree with Ms. Rice in this point: the church is not a perfect place. We are made up of imperfect people who bring their issues, brokenness and open wounds into the church every week. If the church was a perfect place, we wouldn’t have let Ms. Rice in—or me or you, for that matter.

Also, she really didn’t say anything new. Prophets and preachers have been condemning the same behavior for generations. Church is what happens when you open the doors and don’t charge admission.

We are all on a journey together. Yes, it’s slow and frustrating, but together we learn and love and in general—though it’s often one step up and two steps back—learn to become more like Christ.

I know her frustration. I know her anger. I can’t tell you the number of times I have prayed Jesus would let me go do something else. But He won’t. I am called to serve the church. I know that. So I stay. I love Jesus. That means you love His body the church. That means you honor His Bride, the church.

As long as the church opens its doors to sinners, we are going to be a messed up place. That means sometimes, people like Ms. Rice, will get disgusted and leave. But Jesus has stayed with the church through worse. I think I’ll stay too.

Wagons, ho!

When I read history, I try to put myself in the story and wonder how I would have done in the same situation. I would not have made it on a wagon train. All those pioneers leaving St. Louis and headed for the west—well, I would have left them behind after about two days.

Wagons are too slow. I would’ve grown impatient and frustrated because someone else’s wagon had broken down, causing the whole group to stop and wait for repairs. I know me. I wouldn’t have waited; I would’ve left. I would have spurred my own horse westward and gone off by myself.

Which means I wouldn’t have made it at all. People traveling alone in those days didn’t survive long. Your horse would come up lame. You would get lost and die of thirst or starvation. Bandits or Indians would attack you and leave you for dead. You just had no chance surviving if you were by yourself—which is why so many people moved in wagon trains. It might take longer to get there, but at least you got there.

The church is a lot like a wagon train. We bump and thump along, and you think, “I would get there much faster if I didn’t have to wait on these people.” And we are always waiting on someone. You don’t think you will ever arrive.

And then the bad guys appear on the horizon. A warning is shouted and the wagons are circled up. In that moment, you sure are glad everyone is there.

The church is the same way. When something happens, you sure are glad everyone is there. Good things need to be celebrated. Bad things need to be shared. And when we are attacked, we need someone to defend us.

We live in a time that celebrates church-less Christianity. But Jesus never taught that following Him was a solo experience. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. The point is not just to get there, but to get there together.