Your Guide to Ethical Gifting This Christmas

This Christmas, I wanted to do something a little different when it came to gift giving. I wanted to give gifts that changed lives or empowered the makers. I wanted to support small businesses and fair-trade, slave-free organizations.

As I researched my options, the sheer number of companies and organizations to choose from overwhelmed me. This gift guide is meant to make things easier on you by offering a few suggestions in one handy list.

Here are 10 incredible ways to give ethical gifts this year:

Happy Giving!


  1. Compassion International  Give everything from bicycles and goats to healthcare and school supplies to children and families in Compassion’s sponsorship programs. Consider sponsoring a child while you’re at it!
  1. Land of a Thousand Hills  Give the coffee lover (or seminary student) in your life the gift of delicious, ethically sourced coffee. Land of a Thousand Hills exists to stimulate economic growth in Rwanda through fair-wage, fair-trade coffee farms.
  1. International Justice Mission  Each gift makes a difference in the fight against human trafficking. Gifts range from meeting survivor’s medical needs to supporting legal aid and aftercare programs for survivors.
  1. Noonday Collection Noonday offers a variety of beautiful jewelry, handbags and scarves made by artisans in Africa, Central America, and India. Artisans are paid fair wages and ensured safe working conditions, and child labor is prohibited.
  1. Kiva  Microloans help alleviate poverty by allowing borrowers to start or grow their small businesses. Through Kiva, choose an international borrower, give them a loan, get progress reports as their business grows, get repaid, start again!
  1. Refugee Beads  This Atlanta-based jewelry company supports the local refugee women who make each piece by hand.
  1. Thistle Farms  Through your purchase of candles, soaps, teas, and more, you support women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction.
  1. The Home T  Show your state pride and support Multiple Sclerosis research by purchasing one of these t-shirts.
  1. Sevenly  Sevenly offers clothing for a cause, donating $7 of each purchase to the cause of the week.
  1. Amazon Smile  Let’s be honest, we’re all going to buy something from Amazon at some point, so why not give back in the process? Choose a charity to support, and Amazon Smile donates a portion of each purchase you make to your charity of choice.



Rachel Freeny is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in Journalism/Mass Communication. Originally from Nashville, she is a second year student on the Global Christianity track at McAfee. Rachel is excited to be a part of the Tableaux team because she loves to tell stories that matter. When she’s not studying, she enjoys exploring and eating her way through the South.

Wild Horses

By Brett Younger

Photo by Neil Walbaum

I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. -Revelation 6:8

I picture us sitting on the veranda sipping whatever passes for lemonade in Chile.  We are planning a peaceful day at the Walbaums’ farm an hour west of Santiago.  Then Paul asks a question that changes the picture, “Would you like to go horseback riding?”

“Sure,” we say without thinking, before Paul explains, “In the spring”—which has just arrived in Chile—“the horses are not as calm.”

I am not someone about whom others think, “I bet he rides horses.”  My favorite horse movie is the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races.  I root against the Dallas Cowboys.  I enjoy playing horse only when it involves a basketball.

I try to get in the mood by singing Gene Autry’s Back in the Saddle Again until I realize Gene has fallen off his horse.  I switch to the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, also a questionable choice.

I last rode a horse when I was twelve.  My grandfather told everyone Old Lady was 50, which we assumed meant horse years, but now I think she might have been 50.  When she really got moving Old Lady could go two or three miles an hour.  It was like riding a bag of concrete.

Since it’s been a while since I rode a thousand pound animal, I decide to prepare.  I consider watching Blazing Saddles, but go with “How to Ride a Horse” on YouTube.  I learn that sitting up straight is a big deal, as is forming a straight line from my elbow to the horse’s mouth, leaning forward going uphill, and communicating with my heels.  This is helpful information, but the “emergency dismount” looks like jumping from a speeding car.

I do not want a horse named Tornado.  A cool horse racing name like maythehorsebewithu sounds appealing, but Sausage Roll would be less likely to cause injury.

Horses are mentioned 189 times in the Bible—a lot compared to preachers (8), deacons (8) and pastors (1).

In Job 39:19, God asks, “Do you give the horse its might?  Do you clothe its neck with mane?”  (The answer is no.)

In 1 Kings 22:4, Jehoshaphat says, “I am as you are; my people are your people, my horses are your horses.”   (This should be read at weddings.)

In Revelation 19, Christ rides a white horse out of heaven. This is yet another way I am not good at following Christ.

Paul gives me Juanito, who I call Juan Grande, Secretariat, and Pegasus when no one else can hear.

Carol’s horse, “the white one,” doesn’t have the ring that “Black Beauty” does, but she gets along fine with her horse with no name (though Carol was secretly hoping for a unicorn).

I think about climbing on when no one is looking, but realize as I stand beside Little John that my attempts to reach the saddle without help will end badly.

As the real cowboy adjusts the stirrups to fit my short legs, another rider comments, “That poor horse.”  She is, I want to believe, expressing concern about the tightness of the saddle, but it sounds like a comment on my weight.

I am instructed not to hold the reins like the woman in the video, and am asked, “Why are you keeping your arms straight?”  Everything in the video is now suspect, except that the how to ride a horse lady’s helmet would prevent brain damage and the boater I am wearing will not.

My one trick pony’s trick is to not worry about his rider’s desires.  What I try to communicate with my heels is “I do not want to fall off.”  I cannot remember the Spanish word for “Whoa.”

I channel the horse whisperer to work out a deal with Juanito.  He can go wherever he chooses if he does not throw me to the ground.

I feel comfortable until we go up a hill (Juanito speeds up as I forget to lean forward), down (Juanito doesn’t care for down), or along the embankment of a reservoir (which is narrow enough to make me think about Pharaoh’s horses in the Red Sea).

When I get off my horse it looks like an emergency dismount.  Apparently I am supposed to take my foot out of the stirrup first.

When my feet are back on solid ground, I almost shout “Beer for My Horses!” but I’m not sure how big Toby Keith is in South America.

I walk fine the next day, but when I sit down I remember that I have ridden a horse.

Psalm 20:7 warns, “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord.”

I am in no danger of taking pride in horses.



Brett Younger is Professor of Preaching at McAfee School of Theology and is on sabbatical in Chile.

A Pastoral Care Response to Those Dying with AIDS

By Kate Riney

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

-Matthew 5:4

Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, nearly 30 million people have died worldwide from AIDS-related causes[1] and at present there are 1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV, both diagnosed and undetected. [2] And while funeral home discrimination is illegal, many families and friends affected by AIDS are refused full or fair end of life care concerning their loved one.[3] The tensions brought on by moral conflict over homosexuality, strained family relationships, and the stress of grief can be a lot to face, but these should never deter ministers from fulfilling their calling to offer pastoral care and conduct funeral rites at end of life to all persons.[4]

Believing that God is punishing the U.S.’ sodomy by killing its soldiers, Westboro Baptist Church is notorious for the picketing of military funerals. The most relevant instance of this consummated into a national court case. The family of Matthew Snyder sued WBC in 2007, alleging “invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. A jury awarded the family $2.9 million in compensatory damages plus $8 million in punitive damages, which were later reduced to $5 million.” [5] However, the church appealed the case in 2008, and in a vote of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling, siding with the church’s allegations that its First Amendment rights were violated.[6] Thus, once and for all, the ruling clearly demonstrates that the law favors free speech over privacy rights. The question for Christians, is how would Jesus respond to such an ethical challenge?

The right to life or “sacredness of life” encompasses not only physical sustainment and quality of life upon the Earth, but also reverence and celebration of life as the gift of God, i.e. true spirituality. Thus, all persons, regardless of race, creed, religion, or moral stature should be given proper burials, a blessing and send-off from this world that memorializes their individual life and celebrates Life. If we claim to follow a norm of sacred respect and guardianship of life, we must do so in matters of death as well.

Violence to life can be done both actively and passively. Murder is active; the protests of funerals by Kansas fundamentalists is active; but even the refusal of recognizing a person’s life and their friends’ and families’ need to grieve and them send them off, while passive, is a violent act. It does damage to the dignity and value of the person based on a perception of their sinfulness. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, delivers this transforming initiative to his followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your friend and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love even your enemies and pray for them. Be like your Father in heaven who gives gifts and provision to saints and sinners alike” (Mt 5: 43-48, Paraphrase mine) —or as Kingdom Ethics puts it, “be all-embracing.”[7] And later he says this, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For the judgment you give, you will receive, measure for measure. Address your own sin, before concerning yourself with others’” (Mt 7:1-5, Paraphrase mine).

Fundamentalists argue that AIDS is a punishment inflicted by God upon homosexuals for their sin. If such a judgment is true, then shouldn’t we consider infertility, miscarriage, and even cancer to be punishments for sexual sin as well? Jesus repudiated the notion of physical suffering as a direct result of personal sin (Jn 9:1-3).[8] It also contradicts the common evangelical belief in substitutionary atonement. Clearly Jesus’ suffering and brutal punishment was not a result of his sin; rather it is historically interpreted as the result of and response to our sin as a people.

When commending someone into God’s hands, we are not the divine judge. Our responsibility is to care for the loved ones left behind; to lead the celebration of Life, the process of grieving; and leave retribution and reward to God. God is supreme in life and death, taking responsibility for our being. Romans 14 says, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (vv. 7-9). Scholar and gay rights activist, J. Michael Clark says,

We can […] learn to impose meaning upon tragedy, to reject theologically unreasonable explanations of suffering, and to reconceptualize God as a compassionate presence in suffering, alongside those in pain or on the margins, as well as the ultimate source of empowerment for appropriate response. Discovering this divine empowerment enables us to forgive God, the cosmos, ourselves, and one another. We are empowered to care for (and not avoid) those who are suffering and thereby to contribute actively as pastors to the healing of the psycho-spiritual pain which AIDS brings and to the development of deepened interrelationships and safer sexual behavior.[9]

It can also be said that we miss out on an evangelistic opportunity when we disregard the call to give pastoral care where it is needed. Attending the bedside of someone who is dying and supporting the family through their confusion and grief is part of the pastoral calling. It is a grave duty that we should find honorable. Dismissing such opportunities is a rejection of what God has called us to as ministers and as followers of Christ.

Scholar, Byron McCane, notes that death rituals are some of the most deeply symbolic of cultural values since death brings about reflection on the meaning of life and evaluation of experiences.[10] While memorial and funeral services are of upmost importance to us today, Jews in Jesus’ time valued burial rites. Due to Jesus’ conviction as a criminal, the Roman authorities would traditionally have prevented Jesus from being buried in a family tomb as this was a place of honor, however, Joseph of Arimathea took great care to place Jesus’ body within his own family tomb.[11] In those days, honorable burial required immediate placement in a tomb, (often anointing with spices and oils), and mourning.[12] Jesus’ followers testified to the dignity and importance of their fellow Jew, teacher, and friend, caring for his body in death and mourning the loss of his life even in the face of his conviction as a criminal and heretic (Mt 27:57, Jn 19:38). We have the opportunity to do the same for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Finally, we are called to care for “the least of these” (Mt 25:31-46). Whatever we do for a fellow person, Christ counts as if we did for him. A refusal to comfort the grieving and dying is a refusal to come to Christ’s aid. No one should die alone. We endure immeasurable suffering in this world, but as Christians, we do not suffer alone. As far back as Israelite captivity in Exodus, God’s people has bonded together and shared in one another’s suffering as a people. Thus the attitude of a Christian should be, as Paul says, to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15).

Treating our brothers and sisters suffering from AIDS as if they are Christ means giving them and their loved ones proper pastoral care, withholding judgment, and celebrating life through performing a memorial service and burial rites. Clark says, “As we help a dying friend to maintain self-esteem by realizing the tremendous value of his/her life, and as we enable ourselves and others to retain the goodness of that life, however foreshortened, and its effects (over and above the effects of death) in our own continued, future-ward living, thusly do we contribute to redeeming the tragedy of AIDS-death.”[13] Thus, protection of end of life rights become for Christians and ministers a co-redeeming activity with God, turning all that is against life, back towards it.



Kate is the managing editor for Tableaux and an anti-trafficking advocate. She is a third-year MDiv student at McAfee in the nonprofit dual-degree track. In her spare time, Kate loves cooking meals for friends, taking in the outdoors and drinking good joe.


[1] “Worldwide HIV & AIDS Statistics,” AVERT, December 1, 2012 (accessed November 3, 2014).

[2] “U.S. Statistics HIV/AIDS,”, June 6, 2012 (accessed November 3, 2014).

[3] Jane Gross, “Funerals for AIDS Victims: Searching for Sensitivity,” The New York Times, February 12, 1987 (accessed November 3, 2014).

[4] Note: Not all homosexuals experiencing death from illness are patients with AIDS and neither are all AIDS patients homosexual or intravenous drug users. This distinction is crucial, though for the purposes of this paper, I will focus mainly on the right of homosexuals to pastoral care and funeral rites at end of life.

[5] Bill Mears, “Anti-Gay Church’s Right to Protest at Military Funerals Is Upheld,” CNN, March 2, 2011 (accessed November 3, 2014).

[6] Lindsay Network, “Five Incendiary Westboro Baptist Church Funeral Protests,” USA Today, March 21, 2014 (accessed November 3, 2014).

[7] Glen Harold Stassen and David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2003), 341.

[8] J. Michael Clark, “AIDS, Death, and God: Gay Liberational Theology and the Problems of Suffering,” Journal of Pastoral Counseling 21, no. 1 (1986): 41.

[9] Ibid., 40.

[10] Byron McCane, Roll Back the Stone: Death and Burial in the World of Jesus, Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003, 98.

[11] Craig Evans and N. T. Wright, “The Silence of Burial,” In Jesus, The Final Days: What Really Happened, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009, 44, 68.

[12] Byron McCane, Roll Back the Stone, 97.

[13] J. Michael Clark, “AIDS, Death, and God,” 52-53.

My Canterbury Tale

By Brett Younger

The caption under this photo could be “Who doesn’t belong?”  I am the one photobombing these very nice archbishops, bishops, and priests.  I am the one who is not Anglican, the one from North America, and one of only two—the Archbishop of Canterbury being the other—who does not speak Spanish.  I am the answer to the question “Where’s Waldo?”

We assembled bright lights, television cameras, lots of candles (even for Anglicans), three dozen robes, at least that many medallions, and a few pointy hats for a visit from the principal leader of the Church of England, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.  Our congregation, Santiago Community Church, polished the silver and pulled out our wedding outfits for Rev. Justin Welby, the 105th in a line that goes back more than 1400 years to Augustine of Canterbury.  The diocesan bishop of Southern Argentina exclaimed, “What a show!”

I felt like I was at someone else’s family reunion.  Because we are in Chile, there was more kissing than at most Baptist gatherings.  I confess that in my unsophisticated moments “Archbishop of Canterbury” still sounds like a medieval version of the “Sultan of Swing.”

During lunch, which began at 2:00 because these people are not from the United States, each of six tables had the chance to ask one question.  The questions were offered by bishops and priests—ministerial professionals—which means they were long and meant to reveal the intelligence of the questioner.  They were also in Spanish—a language in which I am not fluidez –but here is a translated abridged version of the questions and the Archbishop’s answers:

Where are we on the ordination of women?

The Archbishop pointed out that women’s ordination is less controversial than ten years ago, “The church will continue to make progress, even as we care for those congregations with different ideas.”

How do we improve the reputation of our denomination?

The hope is that the Anglican Church will be known as a home for Christians who disagree but work together: “We can be a church that gathers in the love of Christ.”

What is going to happen concerning gay marriage?

He quoted statistics concerning gay marriage in England—85% of adults are in favor—and said, “Those with a more conservative viewpoint are seen as mean-spirited and not at all like Christ.  We must proceed, whatever our opinions, in a Christlike manner.”

How can we be more evangelistic while being true to who we are?

Rev. Welby suggested that the decline of the Church of England is not without precedent.  On Easter Sunday 1800, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, the heart of the Church of England, can you guess how many people received Holy Communion?  Six.  He admitted, “We did some excellent church planting in the 19th century.  Not so much since then.”

How do we care for ministers’ families?

Caroline, Justin’s wife, answered this one:  “When Justin was ordained, I insisted that he be home from 5:00-7:00 six nights a week.  During this time no one in the family—we had six children—was allowed television, a computer, or a telephone.  That’s helped.”

How do we respond to the changing culture?

The Archbishop said, “We have been in worse places.  Our history of war and sexual violence is at least as disturbing as our present situation.  The church’s job is to introduce a broken world to God, to be priests doing Christ’s work, to speak the words of God to the ways of the world.  Stanley Hauerwas says, ‘The church should live in a way that makes no sense if God does not exist.’”

The conversation sounded vaguely familiar.  Those six questions could have been addressed to any denominational leader in the United States.  How would it be different for Baptists, Methodists, or Presbyterians?  We are facing the same questions.  We are struggling for the same answers.

Carol and I got to spend an hour in the manse talking with Justin and Caroline. We talked about our families and what foods we miss when we are in Chile, but mostly we talked about the future of the church because we knew they needed the perspective of two Baptists from Georgia.

I would have guessed that the senior bishop of the Church of England would be consumed with institutional success, but he sounded like the kind of servant leader Christ needs when he said, “As we talk about the church, we need to make sure that we do not hear ourselves, but hear the cries of the poor and the war-torn.”

I started out feeling lucky for the opportunity to photobomb someone else’s family reunion and meet the Archbishop of Canterbury.  I ended up feeling blessed by the hope that comes from meeting other family members who are giving their lives to Christ’s church.



Dr. Brett Younger is the Professor for Preaching at McAfee School of Theology and is currently on sabbatical in Chile, serving as an interim pastor and going on adventures with his wife, Carol.

Fostering Change: Bridging the Gap between the Church and the Foster Care System

By Rachel Freeny

The seminary journey is one of exploration where ministers in training can explore and discover their callings. Sometimes one class assignment can change the entire direction of a student’s ministry. That’s exactly what happened for Paul Knowlton, a third year student at McAfee.

During his first year of study, Knowlton’s Pastoral Care class wrote about painful life experiences and shared them in class. The assignment prompted Knowlton to open up for the first time about his experience as a foster child.

“I have always been very silent about my foster care experience, so I kind of came out with my foster care story,” Knowlton says.

The story was short, but when he finished reading it, the room was quiet.

“It was deadly silent, and everybody was staring at me. I had this wave of childhood anxiety, like silent rejection, “ Knowlton says. “As it turns out they were kind of blown away. It was a huge disconnect to see me now, someone who has been a lawyer and somewhat successful but [who has] had that experience.”

Soon after professors and fellow students began to encourage Knowlton to consider how God might be calling him to minister to kids in the system he and his siblings spent nearly ten years in.

“I had no intention of going back to foster care. That was an agonizing time in my life,” he says. “But maybe I’ve got a responsibility to go back to foster care and help others make this transition from foster care to adulthood.”

Knowlton refers to the current state of the foster care system as an epidemic, with nearly 400,000 kids in the system each year. The system was intended to be a short-term fix of state intervention for families that have fallen apart. Knowlton says more and more kids end up spending their whole lives in foster care.

“Those kids tend to become institutionalized,” he says. “They move from life in foster care, they [age out of the system], and they don’t know how to operate. They can’t function in the world. It’s easier to go into prison or do whatever you think you need to do to survive and wind up dead soon afterward.”

Knowlton knows from experience how difficult it can be to transition out of the foster care system. “I figure foster care cost me about thirteen years out of my life. From the time I took my first college class to the time I graduated college,” he says. “When I graduated from law school I was 39. My daughter was 26 when she graduated from law school.”

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Knowlton says he hopes to “condense the journey” for other people and the church is the perfect place for these journeys to begin. He is currently laying the groundwork for a ministry that would allow churches to partner with foster children. The premise is simple: open your doors.

“Like the church has opened its doors to Alcoholics Anonymous and Boy Scouts, it can open the door to foster kids,” he says. “They need a place where they can learn to trust and where they can learn about themselves.”

Churches provide the space and Knowlton provides a program for foster kids ages sixteen to eighteen. Each group would be a safe place for kids to deal with the challenges they face within foster care and transitioning out of the system. There would also be a mentorship component with mentors coming, ideally, from the church.

The place of the church in caring for foster kids goes beyond moral obligation⎯it’s a biblical mandate. Knowlton points to James 1:27, where we are commanded to care for the widows and orphans. The church can provide a safe haven for kids whose lives are already filled with uncertainty and change.

As for the scary foster kid stereotype, Knowlton says the church has nothing to fear.

“That scary 15 year old, the one you’re afraid of, that used to be me. I may have looked like a thug, but I was a future engineer and lawyer. A future minister,” he says. “You can mentor these kids, it’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s our mandate.”

“We can plant gardens in the churches,” he says. “Let the kids meet. Let there be mentors. Let there be a safe and welcoming place.”


Paul Knowlton is still in the initial stages of forming partnerships and developing programs. He is launching a website with more detailed information about the ministry at the end of November. If you have interest in learning more or potentially partnering with Knowlton, contact him through the website when it launches:


Take My Life

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

-Hymn by Frances R. Havergal

I really struggle with wanting stuff. I guess that’s called greed right? I’ve had this “ideal” life pictured in my head for many years now, the one where I dress cute everyday, proudly sport my piercings and tattoos, go running and hiking with my dog, and throw all my camping gear into the back of my SUV… Well I now have a closet that is–quite literally–overflowing, a hipster tattoo, a lovable dog that I never go running with, and an SUV that has yet to carry a tent or sleeping bag.

And now that all these wishes have been fulfilled, what is next on my shopping list? Oh yes, a house. I long for a place that I can call home, to invest in, paint, perk up, and design to be “just right” for this Goldilocks. I want an actual dining room table where I can serve a group a meal, and a big enough kitchen where I can cook and bake for more than one. I want space for my art supplies so I can really commit to my craft and I want room for a family to grow into. I want to have enough living room seating for a movie night and small group Bible-study and worship. I want, I want, I want…

It’s not that my desires are totally unChristian; they’re at least functionally noble. It’s not like I covet my friend’s husband, or a set of jet skis, or a personal chef. On the surface, my dissatisfied longing even seems God-pleasing. I believe God loves it when we choose to root ourselves in a community and invest; open our homes to cook and welcome people; or create art and families. The problem is that these motivations are my cover. They’re the insurance policy I use with God to get what I want… “Please God, if you just give me the desires of my heart, I’ll give them back to you!”

But I never do.

My apartment that I moved into almost a year ago has never once entertained a small group of friends in it. While I continue to buy art supplies, I can’t remember the last time I practiced or created anything. I’m undedicated in the way I treat my body, both denying it exercise and healthy nutrition. I’m undisciplined in the way I spend my money, spending it like I have it and using it on selfish, temporal things. The things I promise to God, I selfishly take back as my own and in my hands they are worthless.

I’m so afraid that I won’t get what I want in life, but I’m even more afraid that I will.

Because as I reap undeserved gift after gift… I’m overcome more and more by guilt, not grace. If I can’t manage or steward what I already have, how will I be able to handle more? The Bible is clear, I won’t be able to (Lk 16:1-13). If I want God’s true riches: peace, wholeness, love, and joy, then I must learn how to be fixated on God and not material things, however noble their purpose. By consecrating my life to God, I hope to be an instrument tuned to God and the rhythms of his grace.

Now, what I’m about to say shouldn’t be taken as a three-step process to consecration, because that’s not what it is and that’s not how spiritual formation works. However, in the spirit of vulnerability, I’m letting you in on the process I’m endeavoring in order to present my life as a holy sacrifice to God:

  1. It starts with my time. I’m giving up TV because that’s the biggest waste of my time and also the best way for me to distract myself from the real things that need attention, namely God, and his purposes for me. It’s about putting myself in a posture of surrender. For you, this could be fasting from something else or re-purposing an activity or item in your life. Ask God to show you what excuses he wants you to give up.
  2. I’m planting myself firmly in community. And not just the kind of community that has awesome movie nights and knows the best margaritas in town, but the kind of community who will call me out on my junk and be living examples back to me of true dedication to Christ. I keep trying to do this by myself. It’s not working (go figure). If you want loving help facing your crap and you’re willing to lovingly help me to see and take on mine, come find me, let’s be friends.
  3. Every day. Every single day, I’m going to confess to God what I desire, and pray that he conform those desires to his. I’m praying that in the process of being honest and self-disciplined, I will be freed from my discontentment. I’m going to read Romans 12 and try be faithful in all that God has already given me. And I’m going to beg God not to give me anything else–no matter how much I want it–unless it serves God’s purposes.

Lord, consecrate us to you. Take our moments and our days, our dining room tables, our classrooms, our families, our crafts, and our words. Take us and we will be, ever, only, all for Thee [1]. Amen.


[1] Adapted from the hymn, “Take My Life and Let it Be” by Frances R. Havergal, 1874.

Kate is the managing editor for Tableaux and an anti-trafficking advocate. She is a third-year MDiv student at McAfee in the nonprofit dual-degree track. In her spare time, Kate loves cooking meals for friends, taking in the outdoors and drinking good joe.

Put Your Hands Up and Surrender Your Schedule

By Rachel Freeny

The Israelites are a frustrating bunch. They experience incredible deliverance and provision, yet they still manage to wander. If God leaves them alone for one second, they they freak out, run off and worship a golden calf. They constantly turn from their deliverer to a graven image.

Every time they fall back into the same bad habits, I want to yell at the Israelites, “Are you kidding me? You get bread falling from the sky and a pillar of fire to lead you, and you still worship idols?” To borrow from Seth Meyers on SNL, “Really, Israel? Really?”

As those reading the story thousands of years later, we can easily get frustrated with Israel because we can see the whole story. The problem is we have idols too. Our idol may not be shaped like a golden calf but that doesn’t mean we don’t worship one.

Sometimes our idol looks like a calendar.

I’ll be the first to admit that empty calendar pages make me nervous. They either tell me I don’t have enough friends or that I’m lazy. It makes sense considering the high value we place on busyness in America.

We have our days scheduled down to the minute, between jobs and schoolwork and social commitments. The fear of unscheduled time comes from an unspoken narrative that we are what we do. We are not enough unless we are constantly on the move.

We are no longer allowed to be just one thing, and the pressure is on to do it all and do it all well. At first, we can usually handle it. But over time we get exhausted from being spread so thin. We hold ourselves to a standard of perfection that we can’t meet.

Busyness is one of our culture’s status symbols, but worshipping our calendars sets us up for failure. We lose any notion of grace because we forget that God didn’t design us to live this way. God commands a Sabbath rest for a reason.

“Enough” isn’t something we can strive for, it’s a gift given to us by the salvation we received from Christ. We were made new, meaning we don’t live for culture’s standard of worth.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” -1 Peter 2:9

We are enough because we are chosen to proclaim God’s glory and not our own.

The other side of worshipping our schedules is a false sense of control. If we can control our calendars, we can control our lives. We are in charge.

As followers of Jesus, we surrender control of our lives to God. Living in complete surrender, hands wide open, means putting down the pen and leaving room for grace. It means taking life one day at a time, kneeling before the cross and asking God to remind us God is with us.

It means loosening our grip on the things we want to control so desperately⎯our careers, our relationships, our schedules⎯and instead choosing to offer them up to God each day.

Surrender doesn’t mean living life passively but being open to the idea that our version of being in control isn’t always the most fulfilling or Christ-honoring way of living. It’s intentionally leaving room in our schedules for grace when the unexpected happens.

Sometimes we miss God moments because we don’t have room for them in our schedules. Let us not forget that “the human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NRSV).

Just as there was grace for Israel, there is grace for us. Christ has set us free. Let’s use that freedom for God’s glory, surrendering our schedules one day at a time.



Rachel Freeny is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in Journalism/Mass Communication. Originally from Nashville, she is a second year student on the Global Christianity track at McAfee. Rachel is excited to be a part of the Tableaux team because she loves to tell stories that matter. When she’s not studying, she enjoys exploring and eating her way through the South.

Keeping Our Eyes Open

By Barrett Owen

Be strong and bold . . . for it is God who goes ahead of you.

– Moses to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6

I love Moses’ phrase, “God has gone ahead of you.” Rob Bell talks about it in his latest book, What we Talk about When we Talk about God. Bell (and Moses) is arguing that God is simultaneously in the present and in the future pulling us into a better tomorrow.

The Greeks had a word for this: telos. It means God’s dragging, enticing, and luring us into the Great Unknown.

Ministers must be people who believe God has gone ahead of us. That’s the deep, sacred work of vocational ministry. We listen and discern, hope and hold on, pray and believe that God is in what we’re doing, and we can be not afraid or dismayed for God is gone ahead of us.

I’m a NEEDTOBREATHE fan. In their song Keep Your Eyes Open, the chorus says, “If you never leave home, if you never let go, you’ll never make it to the Great Unknown . . . so keep your eyes open . . .”

We ministers must be people who keep our eyes open. We stand on the precipice of what Diana Butler Bass calls the Great Spiritual Awakening, and we’re the ones people look to in order to see it, to interpret it. So keep your eyes open.

Or you’ll miss it.  You’ll miss what God is doing in and around your community. You’ll miss how God is translating life’s moments for a better tomorrow.

People show up at church every Sunday looking for a better tomorrow. They believe God is ahead of them, but they can’t see where or how to get there. They need help deciphering the Divine. That’s our job.

People need ministers translating God’s power, analyzing life’s movements, and listening to the spirit of the living God. When we believe God has gone ahead of us, then we’re on the right road to helping these people experience a better tomorrow.

And despite reasons not to be, we pastors must remain hopeful, for the story we tell is that we worship and serve a God who isn’t done with us yet. There’s more to come, more to the story, more to see. There are new beginnings to experience. We just have to look up on the horizon and believe that as we go, God is ahead of us preparing the way.

If and when we do this, we give people eyes to see the spirit of the living God. We give them eyes to see injustices flying all around. We give them eyes to see despair in the midst of fear, brokenness in the midst of insecurity, and shame in the midst of regret.

That’s the message of the gospel. That’s God’s hope for humankind. That’s the definition of metanoia. That’s the whole issue with forgiveness, and that’s good news worth sharing. If we want to see God, then we need to start by looking ahead.

Here’s to believing God’s not done with us yet.

Here’s to helping others see God.

Here’s to a better tomorrow!


This article was originally written for and published by Baptist News Global and used by permission.

Border Crossers

In May, 15 theology students and two professors took a trip to India, visiting multiple religious sites over two and a half weeks. The visits included various Hindu and Buddhist temples, a Muslim shrine and Christian churches. The leader of the trip, Dr. Rob Nash, and a student participant, Bryan Kidd, reflect on their experience.

Kidd: We experienced the unfamiliar. This was different from any experience I’ve had; I didn’t even have anything to compare it to. Stepping into the first temple in Hyderabad, it was unfamiliar, uncomfortable—just different. I became surprised at how quickly those temple experiences became familiar and not as challenging. Even though they were still kind of edgy, I didn’t put up a wall every time I went in and was asked to take my shoes off or be faced with different images or rituals. I was okay entering into those spaces and becoming a part of it, not just a viewer.

Nash: It’s interesting to me that you identify how it became familiar quickly. As I’ve gone to temples in India and in America, I forget how strange the experience is for people. What was the strangest experience for you?

Bryan KiddK: The Kali temple in Kolkata…the amount of chaos, the money being exchanged outside, the vendors, the [goat] sacrifice with the blood scattered on the stones, and the fight that we witnessed…seeing all of that and not being able to define what was going on because it wasn’t my context was strange. I’ve tried to think back about that experience, but it’s hard because it’s still uneasy to process.

N: I have to confess, that was even challenging for me. I led us in, and as we were pushing up toward the place where Kali [the deity] resides, I thought we might need to back out because I was unsure of how safe we were, but then you’re already halfway in so what are you going to do? You come out on the other side.

K: I’m glad that you didn’t make that choice. I think because it was so out of my comfort zone and I survived, I can go back and be alright. After those experiences, I still have a lot of the same beliefs. It didn’t automatically change me or cause me to make a different decision. I can experience those things and be okay with who I am, but still learn.

N: That’s one hope for the trip, that you become a guide across religions and cultures for the church. In a day in which we have a shrinking globe we really need to model that kind of comfort level. Did you sense anything familiar becoming unfamiliar to you?

K: I grew up in a Southern Christian culture where we think we’ve got it all figured out, we know what is holy, what is God, what is sacred. But going into these experiences that were so unfamiliar to me and experiencing something that is holy kind of breaks apart my definitions of what is holy or divine or sacred. I’m even struggling with that now; not trying to put the pieces back together, but being okay with the pieces where they are.

Buddhist TempleN: I’m always reminded of that human hunger for the divine. In a sense, it complicates my Christianity in that people who grow up in another tradition are going to find meaning and purpose out of the tradition that shapes their life. Like you mentioned—growing up, that’s all you know, and growing up, that’s all they know—so suddenly Christianity becomes for me something a little more unfamiliar that it was before. You know, in a secularized society like we live in, we sometimes neglect or forget the depth of that hunger for the divine. In our culture, you can get away with not even thinking about God for long periods of time. Then you go into a context like India, where the sacred sort of infuses life in many ways with the festivals and temples and the attention to the holy. It reminds me of the depth of that hunger and our need as ministers to pay attention to it. Were there any people who served as good teachers for you?

K: Another student on the trip, Alyssa Aldape, was generous in recognizing my ignorance within that culture and being willing to walk me through my silly questions. Her knowledge of the culture and practical wisdom were invaluable to me.

N: We learn in community. That kind of intense communal learning experience can’t be recreated without going together and experiencing together. You learn about being human. You learn about each other and you learn from each other in ways you wouldn’t otherwise.


Read other articles from the Fall Issue of Tableaux.

Living in the Economy of God

Unjust compensation is an ethical issue facing us at every socioeconomic rung today, even in nonprofit and religious organizations. The income gap in the U.S. narrowed following the Great Depression and continued to do so into the 1970s, but since then it has widened. In a ten-year period, beginning in 1979, after-tax income for the top 1 percent of households grew 275 percent, while for the bottom fifth it rose only 18 percent. By 2013, the federal government found that the poorer half of U.S. households held 1 percent of the total nation’s wealth, while the wealthiest 5 percent held 63 percent.[1] While all income must be received graciously and stewarded generously, we also have a duty as Christians to engage in business ethics when it comes to meting out compensation packages.

In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus tells the crowd gathered at the mount that where their treasure is, their hearts will be also (v. 21). Jesus is reminding us of a very simple truth: what we invest in is what we value. When the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Herodians gang up to trick Jesus into betraying his allegiances, they use economic ethics (Mt 22:15-22, Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26). Asked the question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus points to a denarius, with the face of the Roman Emperor imprinted on it. He replies, “Whose likeness, whose image is this?” The leaders respond resoundingly, “Caesar’s [of course].” Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s;” his second commandment forms the crux, or transforming initiative of the teaching, “give to God what is God’s.”

The reality is that we are far more concerned with Caesar’s kingdom than God’s. But in all infinite wisdom, the Creator formed us in the image of God. We are better than the portrait on a minted coin; we are living, breathing, speaking, active beings who have the Spirit of God poured into us. Our purpose is to live for God and advance the Kingdom’s reign on Earth. When we live for these immaterial riches, God is revealed in creation and we live off of God’s economy. This scripture is about the source of our identity and the constant human temptation to confuse our worth and purpose with our earthly treasure. Whose image are we bearing by the way we handle finances?

So what does it say about our values when we invest our money in individuals and corporations who hoard wealth and—in some cases—promote harmful and unethical business practices? Or what does it mean that our athletes and entertainers make multi-millions while our social workers, teachers, firefighters, and police officers who save lives make a pittance? A 2013 federal study found that the community and social services sector has one of the lowest paid average annual salaries ($44,710), dropping far below the averages of almost every other industry and lower than the national average ($46,440). Of these, religious workers are some of the lowest paid, making $33,520 ($16.11/hour). The average annual pay for healthcare assistants is $28,300—this is who takes care of our elderly, the mentally ill, the physically and mentally handicapped, and dying.

So should we value and compensate workers based on the skillfulness of their labor alone? This is the ethic that tries to justify exorbitant compensation of our nation’s CEOs. The top paid corporate executive in the U.S. makes over $141.9 million annually[2] and the average CEO at big U.S. companies makes between 204 and 357 times the average worker at the same company.[3] Companies like Walmart, Target, Walt Disney, Starbucks, Chipotle, Nike, and JC Penney make more than 600 times their average worker, including their other executives.[4] Data from The Nonprofit Times and Charity Navigator corroborate that the average nonprofit leader makes less than $120,000, compared to the $9.7 million median income for leaders of S&P 500 companies.[5]

In order to provide just compensation, one must take seriously a person’s skill and performance, but through the eyes of truth and love. Thus, human resource managers and board members need to determine compensation packages with the needs as well as the work ethic, experience, and performance of the employee in mind. Mott and Sider write that, “Justice demands that every person or family has access to the productive resources (land, money, knowledge) so they have the opportunity to earn a generous sufficiency of material necessities and be dignified, participating member of their community.”[6] Given that God’s universal destination of goods to be shared equitably among humankind, every household should have equal access and means to earn and maintain a stable life.

The complexity of this issue is what often deters us from engaging it: there is no one compensation package that fits all. Some individuals have more serious health needs, more dependents, higher education cost and debt, greater job responsibility or stress, etc. Thus, the federal government can hardly be expected to be the sole regulator of ethical compensation. But as individuals and as Christian leaders we can shape the ethical approach to compensation determination. Individuals should be cared for in the way they are paid, both in cash and benefits, with investment toward retirement, rest from their work, and provision for healthcare and well being. Performance should be only one determinant of compensation; workers should be given performance evaluations based on clear, measurable and agreed upon objectives and goals and given feedback and coaching to allow them ample opportunity for success (for guides on performance evaluations see the notes).[7] Personal need should be another factor in compensation; organizations need to show the values of love, justice, and worth of human life and dignity, when determining what is fair pay. Fair pay should not be the least amount acceptable for a service as determined by the government. Organizations should research data and compare salary figures across the field and geographic region. All attempts to close the earning gap between genders and races should be pursued. For profit and nonprofit executive boards alike need to be more diligent and just to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities to the public and the organization by setting less excessive and more responsible compensation packages for top executives.[8]

Christians today can live a Kingdom economic ethic by lobbying for caps on executive compensation and tax reform that prevents corporations from getting exorbitant tax breaks. We can also educate and advocate for ourselves and other workers’ rights. Some of us will even need to become board members who can provide ethical oversight to organizations navigating these turbulent financial waters. It all starts by living for God’s economy, serving the Lord rather than capital, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.


Kate is the managing editor for Tableaux and an anti-trafficking advocate. She is a third-year MDiv student at McAfee in the nonprofit dual-degree track. In her spare time, Kate loves cooking meals for friends, taking in the outdoors and drinking good joe.


[1] Esmè Deprez. “Income Inequality.”

[2] “2014 Equilar Top 200 Highest Paid CEO Rankings.” Equilar.

[3] Smith, Elliot, and Phil Kuntz. “Disclosed: The Pay Gap Between CEOs and Employees.” Bloomberg Business Week. (accessed October 20, 2014). Note: companies complain that Bloomberg’s average is skewed due to their inclusion of deferred compensation including benefits, retirement, and stock options, however, the AFL-CIO’s average does not include these non-cash benefits and actually reports higher disparate ratios

[4] Bloomberg. “Top CEO Pay Ratios.”

[5] “2014 Nonprofit Salary And Benefits: Operating Budget And CEO Pay.” The NonProfit Times.

“2014 Charity CEO Compensation Study.” Charity Navigator.

[6] Glen Stassen and David Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 421.

[7] Simone Joyaux. “Performance Appraisal Process for the CEO.” Joyaux Associates.

Vincent Hyman. “Evaluating the Executive Director.” First Nonprofit Foundation.

[8] “Executive Compensation Policies.” National Council for Nonprofits.


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