Author: Tabitha Driver

Wilma

Knowing I had Monday off, I'd gone into full-scale Hermit Mode that Saturday. When I'm in Hermit Mode, I avoid people. Sometimes my solitude is invigorating and productive. Sometimes it is relaxing and needed. Other times my solitude gives my mind permission to be negative. This time was the latter. I was berating myself for not being more friendly in an earlier conversation as I drove to pick up Wilma for a social event. “God, I have no desire to fight this. How do I get out of this selfish, negative funk?” It suddenly hit me where I was headed, and I found myself grinning. God didn't even have to answer. He'd already sent me someone to help me out. Wilma.
Wilma had told me she'd be done eating supper by 5 o’clock, so I arrived at the assisted living center eager to get to our party which had already started at 5. Wilma, however, was still eating. I thought longingly of my book in the car.
“No! Be present, Tabitha.” Then I thought of my phone. I could check my email.
“Don't do it, girl!” It was awkwardly quiet. I tried to think of something to say, but my mind was still on myself. “Are you a Seventh Day Adventist?” a resident asked. “I noticed your prayer cap.” “No, I'm a Mennonite. Do Seventh Day Adventists wear prayer caps?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation going. He misheard me, “I'm not a Seventh Day Adventist,” he stated. I tried again, but he just repeated his statement. We again fell into silence. Wilma still had a sandwich left to finish. Finally, I made a comment about the weather. It worked. Conversation flowed naturally. The men told stories about their construction days and teased Wilma. We laughed. My mind was no longer on my book. Or myself. I have conversations with strangers a lot when I'm with Wilma. She introduces me to everyone, tells everyone my personal business, and then tells me their personal information. Somehow even though she won't have been able to go to church for months, she still knows more about what is going on at church than I do. When we go to a restaurant, I pay attention to the menu. Wilma, instead, pays attention to people, saying “hi” to every table near us. “Are you in the military?” “What’s your name?” “Are your kids enjoying the canceled school day?” If we are at a buffet, I usually head off to find more food and let her do her thing. But there was one time that I was halfway through my plate and had nowhere to go. Wilma somehow could tell that the lady beside us had diabetes and started a conversation. To my surprise, the lady started sharing her whole life story. I felt rebuked. What I viewed as annoying people during their lunch was perhaps an opportunity to provide a human touch of compassion. Another quality I find refreshing in Wilma is her blunt honesty. There’s no pretense. You know exactly what she thinks of you. If she’s mad at you, she gets quiet and abruptly hangs up on you. If she’s enjoying herself, she’s asking to stay longer. I wish I'd counted the number of places Wilma asked me to give her rides in just the first day we hung out. It was constant. She'd see a sign for a free church meal. “Can we go?” Or she'd invite herself along when I traveled to my parents for Thanksgiving. If she wants something, you don't have to wonder. She just asks. I don’t realize how much of a pretense I put on --even around my closer friends-- until I hang out with Wilma. I don’t mind being honest about my quirks with her --my messy house, the old-fashioned radio station I listen to and my appreciation of cemeteries. She lets me pray aloud when I have something on my chest that I need to confess and gets on me if I’m speeding. When I started attending my current church, I was hurting from my previous church experience and not quite ready to open up to a new church. Thus, I thought I'd sneak in and out for a while. Yet, with Wilma as the welcoming committee, the avoiding church life thing didn't really work. Giving her rides actually made me feel part of the church family and not just a guest. It also helped me be less me-focused at church. We apparently make an odd pair. Occasionally, one of Wilma’s nurses will try to figure out our friendship. “Are you related?” “No, she’s my friend.” Or the other residents assume I'm a new social worker. “How did you meet?” “Church.” “Oh.” They still look puzzled. I guess people think it's weird for a twenty-something year old to be hanging out with Wilma, but I wish I could convey to them how much I need Wilma in my life. When I leave Wilma’s, I find myself leaving with a big grin on my face that I didn’t have when I came. I leave with a different perspective on life too. For a couple hours, life is reduced to the basics. We are concerned with where we are eating, what we are doing and people we know. National politics doesn’t matter --just the local election where we know the candidates. My activities don’t matter --unless it’s possible for Wilma to get a ride with me. Conversation doesn’t matter --just being together makes Wilma’s day. Everything I stress over, my work, my car, my friends, et cetera is unimportant. Life calms down as I have to slow my step, sit in the parking lot for five minutes until the seatbelt clicks, and collect all her bags. Thank you, God, for giving me Wilma.
Note: This post was requested (frequently) and approved by Wilma.

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True or False? "If you’ve had an easy life, don’t try to help."

“A twenty-some kid barely out of seminary shouldn’t presume to counsel a father dealing with his son’s fatal car crash.”
"A happily married woman with well-behaved kids and a successful job has no clue what it is like to have my family issues." Your life is perfect. You know nothing about mine.”
I’ve been on all three sides of these statements: 'Ultimate
  • The Hermit: I’ve thrown mega self-pity parties, assuming that no one else could ever understand my struggle.
  • The Avoider: I’ve used my easy life as an excuse to not get involved in another’s problem, being terrified of not knowing what to say or do.
  • The Bystander: I’ve winced as a brash, arrogant friend advises instead of listens.
The idea that one with an assumed “easy life” cannot help someone with a supposedly “harder life” is deceptively close to the truth. Obviously, tough situations are not appropriate times to pretend we have all the solutions. Yet, we can’t let this concept prevent us from accepting or offering love in pain.
Here is the truth:
  • No one’s story is the same. No one.
  • There is no absolute hierarchy of grief. A rebellious child could be more painful than an illness for one person and vice versa.
  • We never know another’s past or inner struggles. Their life may not have been as easy as we assume.
  • Pain is universal. It may be cloaked in differing circumstances, but we all understand pain and can empathize to an extent.
  • If we only got involved in the stories that were identical to ours --well, we’d never reach out.
  • We cannot expect to fully heal other’s pain. We are not God.
  • We need each other --even if we bumble and make mistakes when trying to comfort or counsel.
  • We need each other because our stories are different.
Yes, it is absolutely necessary to enter a painful situation with humility, sensitivity and compassion, but first we need to be willing to enter into the pain despite our fears and inadequacies.

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Interview: Heather Lehman, Light Magazine Editor

Heather and I have been friends since we were teenagers​; we've played instruments together, shared book suggestions, road tripped to Ohio, sewed purses (mine was a flop), and studied 1 Corinthians at a local coffee shop. Heather's unashamed desire to follow God as well as her creative and independent spirit have inspired me over the years. Thankfully, even though our lives have gone different directions, we've kept in contact through the Light Magazine. Recently, I got a chance to ask her some questions about her part in Light Magazine. What first gave you the idea for Light Magazine?
Digging back through the archives as far as I can, I find a single, folded piece of white copy paper decorated with markers. “Girls for God” is scrawled across the top. I may have been nine years old when I wrote this, and whatever spurred me has long since disappeared from my memory. Later I created farm “newspapers” on an old typewriter I found in the shed. I wrote a family newsletter. I created several issues of a sundry of girls’ publications. As a teenager, I decided to see if one of my magazines could become real. Ten years later, I guess I can say it did. What do you look back at from the first issues and shudder at?
While the content from those first issues isn’t very deep or insightful, it makes me smile. It’s very personal and real. The graphic design, on the other hand, is a nightmare. Why did you choose light as a symbol for the magazine?
I can’t really say that I intentionally choose this symbol. It sort of evolved with time. My cousin, who fielded a long list of potential magazine names, told me she liked the name Life in the Light. I used this name for seven years before streamlining the name to simply Light. Now I realize God guided our seemingly random name choice.
Light is rich with symbolism that fits well with the mission of Light Magazine to bring clarity to difficult topics, to spread joy wherever we go, to be daughters of purity and integrity, and to share the Gospel with our lives and words. Light Magazine is about living in the light of truth and living as light in the world.
Years ago, you told me that you do a lot less writing than you thought you would for the magazine. What do you mainly do? Do you wish you had a better balance? How did you develop your photography and design skills? Writing is my first love when it comes to creative pursuits. Art, music, photography, sewing, graphic design, and baking are nice, but writing won my heart first. Still, it’s true that I don’t do as much writing for Light as you might expect. My articles get cut first if space runs tight, and even if they stay in, that’s only four articles a year. Meanwhile, I have one hundred and twenty-eight pages to layout and design and several dozen articles to edit. The ratio, while not my preference, is needed. Plus, though I love writing more, graphic design comes much easier than writing during seasons of personal dryness.
I’ve learned to appreciate graphic design as a form of communication in its own right and do genuinely enjoy it. Unlike writing, which I’ve studied formally, I’ve learned design entirely through trial and error, which has only recently been supplemented by a few classes through Lynda.com. Most of the photography is delegated to the staff photographers or done by freelancers. Did editing Light Magazine help prepare you for your current job? Absolutely. The magazine gave me practice doing graphic design, editing other people’s writing, and communicating extensively through email. I use these skills all the time in my work as publications editor for DestiNations International (the mission agency of the Biblical Mennonite Alliance). Only recently did I realize that all your DIY type activities in Light Magazine had a spiritual focus. Why? With the advent of Pinterest, most of us don’t have any trouble finding projects to do. The greater challenge is finding ways to bring the fragments of our lives into a cohesive spiritual walk with God. Light can’t really compete with all the tutorials and activities available to us, but what we do try to offer is something different: a holistic approach to life that doesn’t separate fun crafts from spiritual reality. Your family lived in Tanzania for 3 months when you were growing up. Later you spent some time in New York City. How do those places affect the type of material and perspective that you bring to the magazine? How have you provided a global focus for Light Magazine? I turned fourteen in Tanzania and have vivid memories of that birthday. My dad took me out for lunch, and I ordered a chapati and tea while the geckos ran around in the thatched umbrella over our outdoor table. Those months we spent in East Africa challenged me to see beyond my own experiences and into the lives of others. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several other countries and working with people from many ethnicities in New York City.
Heather Lehman (Istanbul, Turkey)
These experiences have helped me resist the status quo of the western world. I have no qualms about being different and standing against the tide. For Light this means I want to share insights from around the globe to help others gain a broader perspective, and I want all of us to live with the understanding that sharing the Gospel is my job -- not just the job for a professional missionary. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing how God worked in someone else’s life. Two of Light Magazine's features focus on this --the Good News Record and Jasmine’s interviews. Tell us a little bit about these two features. Sure. The "Good News-Record" is the oldest regular column in Light Magazine and consists of two pages in the very center of every issue that are dedicated to sharing true stories of God’s faithfulness or provision. Jasmine Martin also writes a regular column called "Life on Purpose". Based on interviews, she shares the life stories of others with us.
I’m a huge fan of true stories and believe that recounting stories of God’s faithfulness brings Him glory and fuels our faith. While we occasionally share stories from the past, most of the stories in these features are current so we are reminded that God is at work in our day and our generation.
Do retreats and magazines go together? Tell us about the Light Retreat. Would you ever do one again? I’m meeting with a friend this Saturday to discuss possibilities! ☺
If someone wants to subscribe, how do they do so? The easiest way is to just visit the website: www.lightmag.com/magazine.

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Could Heaven Exist Without Hell?

“Miss Driver, look at my hand! I was playing Bloody Knuckles.” I winced appropriately, but then inwardly ranted about the stupidity of the game, not understanding anyone who plays Bloody Knuckles or appreciates boxing. Don't get me wrong. I like a good competition and totally understand that games sometimes mean getting beaten up. But those are in games which have a goal other than “inflicting pain” --goals like getting the ball to the other side of the field or earning points. Blame my gender, personality or pacifistic convictions. Whatever. But perhaps my reaction to hurting others explains why I struggled when Herman Reitz’ SS class discussed Joshua and Judges (books in the Bible about the Israelites fighting other countries). How could the God who taught turning the other cheek and dying for one’s enemy actually promote war and killing? How did my pacifistic stance fit with this Warrior God? But Miroslav Volf’s quote echoed in my mind every single Sunday: “If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence that god would not be worthy of our worship". Perhaps I was the one who had it wrong. Perhaps instead of asking how a loving God fit with this wrathful God, I should have been asking why I expected a loving, peace-desiring God to not attack evil? As Martin Luther King, Jr. declares, “To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it.” Or Edmund Burke puts it slightly differently, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Which brings me to the question, do I really want a God who doesn't confront evil? Do I want a God who isn't angry at sex trafficking, murder, or laws exploiting the poor?
We’d call someone a bad parent who ignored his child playing on the street or didn't prevent his child from a candy-only diet. A loving parent protects his child from death and sickness. Yet, when God is saddened by how sin is harming us and He longs to protect us from the effects --well, we complain that He’s strict, harsh, hateful and in-our-business. “A loving God wouldn't require me to do that,” we say, or “A loving God will forgive me.” Yes, just like a parent will forgive his child for hitting a sibling, God longs to forgive us, but that doesn't mean a parent isn't showing love when he tells his child not to hit or doesn't want what is best for the child when he punishes the child for hitting. God longs to restore us to perfection and happiness, but He knows we won't see our need for restoration without consequences and guidelines. For perfection to happen, evil must be destroyed. I, personally, am often quiet when it comes to confrontation. If a friend is in a harmful relationship, I think, “I don't know the whole situation.” If an acquaintance is making stupid choices about his money, I say, “Well, it's none of my business.” If a coworker is deceiving his students, I argue, “I shouldn't impose my standards on him.” In one such situation, I kept my mouth shut about my disagreement with a friend’s decision. But later I realized that if he had been my sibling there is no way I could have remained quiet! I would have pleaded with him, cried for him and prayed that God would change him. The difference between the friend and the sibling? Love. The more I love a person, the more I am going to speak into his life. Similarly, God’s love for us means that He pleads for us not to sin, and He longs to cleanse the sin in our lives. He speaks into our lives --not because He hates us-- but because He loves us. Thus, a loving God requires that there be a hell. A God who wants His people to experience the joy and abundance of heaven will out of necessity remove those who want to continue to selfishly exploit and hate others. If governments didn't exist, then crime would be rampant. If hell didn't exist, then the biggest bully would be the winner, gaining the most comfort in this life and the life to come. If hell didn't exist, we'd know that God didn't care what happened on earth and that there was no fulfillment in pursuing Him. Joy requires sadness removed. Health means getting rid of the infection.
Love comes when selfishness flees.
Thus, a God of love must be a God of justice; our sin requires death (Jesus’ death), and heaven cannot exist without hell.
 
Work Cited:
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. Print.

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Book Review: The Romance of Religion

Cynicism is a protective barrier that we often use to deal with the insanity of our society: Politics often provides more problems than solutions; schools don’t educate our kids, and despite our resources and knowledge, poverty and disease continue to ...

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