Target Practice and Jesus


It’s not every woman whose persistence includes being shot at by WWII gunners. Gunners who are your friends.

I’ve been fascinated with Betty Greene for years. I’m not even sure why, but I’ve wanted to write about her ever since I learned of her existence. I name all my cars after women who break barriers of one sort or another. My current little turquoise Versa Note is named Sally. Sally Ride. (Because car, ride, so . . . OK, moving on.)

But a previous Windstar bore the name Lizzle Greene. (Though it was, in fact, tan, not green.) This was before I had read a great deal about her, and all I knew was that her given name was Elizabeth. So I chose the nickname that said “explorer and rebel” best to me, which was Lizzie. I later learned she actually went by Betty. But, too late for the car.


Betty grew up in Seattle in the 1920’s. Fortunately for her, she had parents who believed in educating daughters, but unfortunately for her, they also believed she should go into a field that would assure her of a good job that was open to women—nursing.

Betty hated nursing. Nevertheless, she persisted, both in her studies and in hoping for something different. Usually on her own money and her own time, she learned to fly and completed pilot training with honors. She was one of three women in a UW class of 40—in 1941. Did I mention the “with honors” part?

She dreamed of a day when she could use her passion for flying and missions together. She didn’t know how, and it didn’t seem anyone was willing to offer suggestions.

Nevertheless, she persisted.


Target Practice

In 1943, the “something else” happened when the WASP program began (first called the Women’s Flying Training Detachment), and Betty went to Texas and basic training. Assigned to base after graduation, she spent her days and nights (mostly nights) flying so that servicemen could practice searchlight spotting, radar tracking, and shooting.

Yes, Betty was a flying target for Air Force men to practice on. Presumably they aimed at the big X she was towing, but still, some explosions were a bit too close to enjoy the fireworks. Other women were killed in the practices. Incredibly, other women were also sabotaged, losing their lives in intentional attacks by servicemen who didn’t believe women should be allowed “their” positions.

Times have not changed.

Nevertheless, she persisted.


Soon, she was assigned to experimental training in discovering how high human beings could fly and what their physical limitations would be at levels that exceeded natural ability to provide oxygen and heat. Learning to pilot many kinds of airplanes served Betty well for what would come next.

Jesus and Airplanes

WASP was disbanded in the fall of 1944. The women had been promised that they would become part of the Air Force, but that promise was not kept. So before the work was over, the women were left without the benefits they deserved for the work they had done and danger they had undertaken for their country.

Betty, however, did’t go home. She went to LA where she started the first office of what would later become Mission Aviation Fellowship. All along her plan had been to use her flying skills for missions, and now, with the unexpected end of the program, she felt she could begin.

She persisted. And a new door opened.

Betty was the first woman to fly over the Andes. (After being told by a male colleague that he could find someone else for the job since she was . . . well, you know.)

She was the first woman to fly into several countries, or over them.

In 1956, the Sudanese government had to set aside its law forbidding women to fly over their land just for Betty. The Muslim governments came to see her and her colleagues as friends, an amazing achievement in that era or this. Betty’s mix of confident capability and accommodating grace made her welcome in places Christians, and Christian women, had not been.

Nevertheless, she persisted.


She persisted in getting her pilot’s license.

She persisted in seeking a career that was not “women’s work.”

She persisted in requesting the same treatment as men leaving college for war, that her diploma be given at 3 1/2 years rather than four.

She persisted in graduating WASP training and all the other difficult assignments thrown at her.

She persisted, even as she grieved the loss of dear friends in both the flying and mission work so close to her heart.

She persisted in planning to use her gifts and her passions for God, when a gift and passion for flying, as a women, was considered absurd at best and abhorrent at worst.

She persisted in using those gifts to open doors for the gospel in places where it had never gone.

She persisted.


She persisted with a mix of humility and confidence that amazes me and makes me hope that I can do as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning Betty’s story. Somehow, I believe her persistence created an easier path for other women in difficult careers. I know, sometimes in ministry I certainly feel like I am flying a big “X” target—in front of friendly fire.

But Betty reminds me to stay humble, stay grounded in my calling, love Jesus . . . and persist.

Running Wild with Hope

img_9156So perhaps laughing uncontrollably through a video on ebola may not be appropriate. But appropriate is not always my spiritual gift.

Let’s be clear—ebola is not a humorous topic. Certainly not one to take lightly. Thousands have died, and that isn’t forgettable or funny.

But the video I happened upon, and shared with my daughter who appreciates British humor, poked fun at the media’s response to ebola, not the disease itself, and it put me in tears. Sometimes, we do laugh at horrible things. But I wonder if maybe the reason isn’t so much lack of taste as a desire to laugh at the horrible itself. To pretend we have some control over it and some ability to minimize it if we make fun of it.

Yet, as we continue to celebrate Easter, I wonder if there isn’t even more to it for Christians. Shouldn’t we be the ones who are perpetually laughing?

Laughter at Easter

Because we know. We know the truth of Easter—that God personally interfered in our messy world and gave us the forgiveness, love, and tools to set it right. We know that no matter the ugly, there was a cross on a hill, and a God-man who gave his own body to be nailed there, and a blinding light from an empty tomb first thing on a Sunday morning.

Christians should be the ones laughing.

Early believers thought so.

In the early days of Christianity, all of Easter Week was one continuous feast, a week of intense happiness and spiritual joy. Easter Monday is known as the Day of Joy and Laughter, Bright Monday, or White Monday. The custom was rooted in the musings of early church theologians that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. ‘Risus Paschalis–the Easter laugh,’ the early church theologians called it.


In fact, I find that the people who get angry the easiest, who get offended at the least bit of humor, are the ones who may, after all, be capable of atrocities against others. It’s the anger that gets offended easily, the dislike of thoughts other than our own, the distrust of laughter we can’t understand that causes a lot of the pain of this world. People who can’t laugh are often quite willing to abuse those who can.

If you don’t know this craziness ends? If you don’t know pain is temporary, and the hurt we do to one another defeatable? OK, I can see how nothing would be funny. Nothing at all. But we know. We know that, because of Easter, the world isn’t going to hell in a handbasket. We know where the power lies. Or, no longer lies but stands, strides, and rises in one great ‘Hallelujah!’ of resurrection joy.

Why So Serious?

So why do we sometimes act like those without hope? Why do so many Christians freak out over threats large and small? Why do we say we believe God is in control and act as if we believe it’s all up to us? Yes, there are horrors beyond our imagination happening right now. Yes, I am on the frontlines of helping refugees and praying for the persecuted. I hope you are too.

But I do not duck my head and scream that the sky is falling. Men do not hold up the sky.


Some call this naïve. I prefer to call it belief. Belief that, because of Easter, God wins. Faith that, despite suffering, He has the final say. Trust that yes, things may get rough. Very rough. They may not go the way Christians would like them to go. Nevertheless, His purposes, not mine, finish the story. Victoriously.

We should laugh. We must hope. In my favorite Rich Mullins song (and it’s a tough choice among his glorious songs), he sings about running wild with the hope that we will one day be shaken into glory and abundance.

Running wild with hope. I can hear the wind roar just thinking about it.

It makes me smile. And laugh. And outright throw my head back and shout with joy.

Because I know.

That’s the wild laughter we need to have. The abandon that comes from certainty that we will not always thirst. The joy we need to embrace, not in the absence of fear and horror but in its midst. That is the only place it serves its purpose. Joyous, abandoned, holy laughter only makes sense when it’s in the face of a force that thinks it has won but most definitely has not.

Risus paschalis – the Easter laugh.

Jesus cried many times in this world, but he also laughed. A lot. I am sure he did it with his whole heart and soul, with abandoned, head back, hiccuping joy. Because he saw the horrors of this world better than we ever have–and he knew the end.


The song is not sung in vain. Run wild with the hope this Easter Monday. Stifle the sour faces and dire predictions. Stop the endless blaming for this world’s ills. This world has a promise born in a stable and raised from a tomb. See what kind of peace on earth your wild, laughing hope can bring.

Fear, Get Outta My Way (#Neverthelessshepersisted)


My last child is a worrier. She worries that her classes won’t be far enough apart that she can get to them ten minutes early. She worries that her cats will forget her while she’s gone. She worries that we will miss a bus or a train when we travel and be trapped forever in a foreign city where no one speaks English and she will be sold into slavery.

She may have some grounds for that last one. Traveling with me has given some close calls on missing trains.

Four years ago, a doctor told her words that gave her new worries, ones no seventeen-year-old worrier should have. Worries about pain, and struggle, and death.

I went postal on the doctor.


I have inherited kidney disease. The only cure is a kidney transplant, which can take years and cause much illness and suffering because the waiting list for organs is so long. Many people die before they reach that magic match point. (Sign up to be a donor. Now.)

I watched my mother suffer and die from it. My daughter has watched me suffer and live through it. And on that day, a physician, who was supposed to only be dealing with her back pain and keeping her business our of anything else, informed my child without preamble that her MRI showed the tell-tale kidney cysts.

We knew this. My husband had seen them when he saw the MRI. We knew what it meant. We had decided to tell our daughter at the right time, not at a time when she was already stressed out on multiple levels by college applications, final exams, gymnastics pressures, and life. The doctor usurped that choice for our child. And yes, for the first time in my life, I let a person in a doctor’s office know exactly how I felt about that, at a volume people in the next building could have heard.

I am not a go ballistic person. But this was my kid. And someone had just told her she had a new worry for the rest of her life that she was not ready to hear. And she was crying. Mama bear is strong with this one. My eyes crossed and I yelled and I’m pretty sure sparks shot out or my nostrils. It was ugly.

But God made something beautiful out of the ugly.

Beth cried in the car. We talked. I knew exactly how it felt to get that diagnosis. By the grace of God He put words in my mouth that I did not know I possessed.

“Beth, you can use this either to get scared or to get brave. You can worry about it for twenty years or you can live like you’ve only got twenty years and you want them to count. You can be frightened and let that fear control you. Or you can choose to tell fear you have your huge mountain, you know it now, you have its name, and you will take courage to tackle anything else, because what more do you have to fear?

You can allow fear to be your master or you can look it in the eye and tell it you will crush it. You and Jesus. Jesus and you. You can make this choice, at seventeen. It can bless you, if you let it.”

My daughter is a brave soul.


I have watched her take those tentative steps. I have seen her make courageous decisions. I have known her heart and her fears as she steps out, and she has stepped. She has strode.

She has looked at experiences that frightened her, like spending a semester in a foreign country, or standing up for immigrants, or learning who she is and what she’s made of (the scariest journey of all), and she has asked the fateful questions.

Will I get this chance again? Will I regret not doing this? Will I let fear stand in my way? Will God get me through this and will He love me ferociously?

Oh yes. To that last one, oh yes.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

She persisted in taking something that could have swallowed her whole and allowing it to create power in her instead. She persisted in looking this horrible disease in the face and saying, “Not me. You don’t get to take me down. I will not live in worry about you.” She persisted in developing deep love for others who have far greater worries than she.

She persisted.


Sometimes, we are graced by God with the gift of children who make us want to stand in awe and clap. Loudly. Ferociously. This is a gift beyond expectation or belief. I have such a gift, in all three of our girls. But this one—this one persisted.

We have a generation of young women who need to see us persist. They are persisting themselves. They are amazing. And together, what fear can stand in our way?

Great Expectations–Parenting in Public

How could you get angry at such a face? Well . . . 

One huge trigger for anger as a parent is when our kids embarrass us in public. I’m sure yours never do. But mine made quite a successful career out of it.

I’m over at Christian Parenting today telling a story that may sound familiar–how to handle our anger when kids don’t live up to other peoples’ expectations. Please join me for a fun–and all-too-real–story of parenting.

God’s expectations are simple: teach your kids to love what matters and know who matters.

#Nevertheless. She Persisted.


I remember the first time I taught someone the meaning of the word “persistence.”

Our oldest daughter was about four. Maybe less. My husband and I took her to the townhouse complex playground—a sad affair consisting of an old school metal slide, haphazard swings, and one ancient set of monkey bars. But those monkey bars—they were the holy grail. She wanted more than anything in life to cross those monkey bars.

So she tried. And tried. And tried again. After about ten or twelve tries, she did it. She crossed the whole set. These were full size, big kid monkey bars. And she was a 10th percentile in height and weight four-year-old. (Maybe less.) An achievement indeed.

When she ran back to us, triumph in her eyes, my husband bent down to her and said, “Becca, you are persistent!”

“What is persistent?” she wanted to know.

So we told her. One of my daughter’s first identifying labels that she pinned to herself that day was “persistent.” I had no idea how much she would need that label. I wish I could say all the others we gave her over the years have been so positive. But that first one—that was a worthy beginning.

This is also what it feels like.

We women label ourselves at every turn. Bad mom. Too emotional. Incompetent. Not enough. We pin those words on ourselves and accept them as our identity, taking them into our very souls. What power there is in having one of your first labels be something so positive and strong.  Persistent.

It’s a good word.

Yes, it’s a hashtag now. But I don’t think it has to be a political hashtag. (Although, you know, I have many political thoughts. Many.) I think it represents something higher and far more encompassing than mere politics. It’s all the women who persist. All of us who, despite outside odds, inside demons, or people who simply do not support our dreams and try to shut us down, persist. Those women drive us. They give us hope. They keep us striving for our hopes and dreams.

They make us persist.

And that’s a good word.

So I’m going to give space to those women. We’re going to explore their stories. Those who have persisted, tried something new, believed in their dreams, overcome (or persisted and not overcome), and learned something about themselves in the process. I pray that they give you hope. I would love to hear your stories of persistence. I will be featuring some gifted to me.

Let’s change our labels. Let’s peel off the ones that say, “Unable. Quitter. Daydreamer. Too late. Not enough _____.” Fold them up into tiny balls of sticky paper and toss them away. They are not your names.

Together, let’s forge some new ones. “Fighter. Carer for that which matters. Worker. Grace-giver. Journeyer. Dream-creator.”



What’s your story? Have you a story of triumph through persistence? Has someone in your history? Have you a story of disappointment and labels you’d like to shed? Maybe your story is being written right now, and you’re in the trenches of trying tho persist, but you’re not sure if you’ll survive.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6.9

Don’t grow weary. Persist. Come back and listen to the stories of those who did. And please, tell your own.