2007 at 1:09 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Once again, we welcome Mary Mohler for part one of a four part interview.
Starting from the very beginning: where did you grow up and how would you describe your family and childhood years?
I grew up in suburban Detroit, Michigan in an idyllic area called Bloomfield Hills. I was born to godly parents who had waited a long time to be given the gift of children. They loved my brother and me profoundly and raised us in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They gave us a rich and rewarding childhood. My father was a deacon at Bloomfield Hills Baptist Church and we were basically there every time the doors were open. It was there that we made many wonderful friendships and were taught so many truths about the Lord that stay with me to this day. My mom stayed at home with us, for which I am so grateful, while my dad worked as an architect and engineer. We started vacationing in South Florida during my early teenage years. My dad had a chance to take early retirement so we relocated to Pompano Beach, Florida when I was in middle school. I was privileged to graduate from Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, the school affiliated with Dr. D. James Kennedy and Coral Ridge Ministries. From there, I made the long seven hundred mile journey away from my loving home to attend Samford University in Birmingham, AL.
We would love to hear your conversion story—when and how did God reveal Jesus Christ to you?
What a blessing it was to be born into a family that held the precious truths of God’s word as the bedrock of life. I have never known a time in my life when I did not have the Lord’s hand upon me. I was prayed for before I was ever born and taught the wonders of God’s love before I could even express myself. After a week long Vacation Bible School meeting at our church in June of 1968, I felt compelled to respond to the invitation given by our pastor. I did not tell my parents that I was going to do this for fear of them telling me that I was not ready. In an unusually bold move for a very shy and compliant child, I clearly remember bolting down the aisle on the first note of the invitation because I was a sinner in need of a Savior and in my heart; I knew that He was calling me to Himself. I still get chills when I reflect on how good God is to have saved me as a child—before I had a chance to taste of worldly ways. I didn’t have to be a theologian to understand what was happening either. The gospel is so clear and plain! Our pastor welcomed me gladly and as I was being counseled by a Sunday School teacher, I suddenly noticed that about ten other children had come forward after I had done so. For a church with under 200 members, this was a revival. I later appeared before the board of deacons in what was the most harrowing moment of my life up until that point. My beaming father was seated in the circle among the deacons. I simply told them my story and was later baptized along with my brother.
Many testimonies contain black and white stories with twists, turns and great drama as in the case of the runaway teenage drug addict who is down and out in the gutter when God calls her out and turns her life around. Those of us who seem to have no drama to share might be tempted to feel that our stories are boring and uneventful. On the contrary! My story is about a young girl who was a shy, prudish little girl by the world’s standards and not considered to be guilty of anything major. The truth is that I was a sinner just as lost and unable to save myself as the worst criminal. How thankful I am that Jesus Christ saved me before I ever had to be taken through harrowing times and that my life has been blessing upon blessing ever since.
Mary, can you tell us how long you and Al have been married? How did you two meet?
We just celebrated our 24th anniversary this summer and are looking forward to our Silver Anniversary next year. Our families were members of First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach during our high school years but it was a large church and we didn’t know each other at all. My brother went to Samford University one year before I did and ended up meeting Al there as they recognized each other from church. They became roommates during my freshman year. Almost immediately, I started dating my brother’s roommate! Al graduated and headed north to Southern Seminary to start his master’s degree but I had three years of college left to complete. We had a long distance relationship up and down Interstate 65 for three years. We married just weeks after I graduated from Samford and he graduated from Southern. We began married life as he entered the PhD program while holding a rural church pastorate.
We know Al Mohler as the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, radio host, and author. Was Al always interested in Christian ministry or is his vocation somewhat of a surprise to both of you?
I guess I should start by saying what I have said elsewhere—-it’s interesting to be married to the most intelligent person that I have ever met. This is why CJ Mahaney and I have such a bond about discussing sports with Al. It is one topic on a very short list of things of which I can talk circles around him. He has no interest in sports whatsoever since he “can’t affect the outcome.” His insatiable intellectual curiosity on most everything else was apparently evident at an early age. He basically skipped the first two years of college by way of advanced placement and started his collegiate career as a political science major at a local state university. I think he was interested in politics, law and probably at least several other majors. The Lord called him into ministry during that year and everything changed. He transferred to Samford and that’s where I came on the scene. So, to answer the question, I have known since my first conversation with him that God was calling him into the ministry. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still have a strong interest in so many different areas, of course. However, sports are a lost cause so CJ and I have given up on that.
Did your background prepare you for your role as the wife of a seminary president? If so, how?
Since I majored in biology, minored in chemistry and considered a career in health sciences, the obvious answer is no! However, God used my years as a college student to teach me many things. I gained confidence in academics as I successfully competed with very bright pre-med majors. As the Lord made it clear that Al and I were to be together, I remained focused on my goal of a strong finish to my university career even as I was resolute in concentrating on the next step that God had for me in marriage. Al and I were always united on the plan that should the Lord bless us with children, as we intently prayed He would, I would be home with them full time. If that meant we had to make sacrifices, it would happen because we both believe that no one can care for our children like I can. All that to say, a major part of my role as a seminary president’s wife is to make sure that our home life is such that Al can do his job without dealing with chaos at home. I believe that Al is able to do the job that he does so well in part because I am at home and always have been. That’s true for any wife but with the added responsibilities that we face, it’s crucial. As for the “life in a fishbowl” aspects and the many events that we host in our home, we deal with those as they come and are happy to have had so many opportunities to meet such wonderful Christians. It is much easier to deal with now that our children are older but they will have many wonderful memories of the early events as well.
2007 at 10:01 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
For our third girl-to-girl talk interview, we are delighted to welcome Mary Mohler. Mary is the wife of Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the mother of their two children. She is also serves as the Director of Seminary Wives Institute at Southern Seminary. Mary, as you know, we here at girltalk are big fans of your husband’s ministry, and we are also big fans of you!—and so it is a real privilege for us to have this opportunity to introduce you to our readers.
You probably know me as: Al’s wife.
I’ve been married for: 24 years
My children are: Katie, 18, a freshman at Union University; Christopher, 15, a freshman in high school
I was born in: Detroit, Michigan.
The best “spiritual” book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible) is: It’s really hard to choose a superlative here but one of the best would be Fearlessly Feminine by Jani Ortlund.
The movie I’ve watched more times than any other:What About Bob?
The music you’re most likely to find me listening to: choral anthems or upbeat Christian music
My favorite food: bread, especially yeast rolls
In the morning I drink: skim milk but switch to Diet Coke at midday
If I have free time, you’ll most likely find me: checking favorite websites or shopping
My favorite place in the world: any quiet place with my family
A Bible verse I return to often: Habakkuk 3:18-19—“yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
“Sisters, it is hard for you to submit, period, even to a good man, in anything. It is submission itself that riles you….I will add, by way of encouragement that submission is simply not that hard on a day-to-day basis. My wife could tell a few stories where it was a struggle, but those incidents occurred over the course of thirty years! She would tell you that it has been far more a delight and a relief than ever it was a burden.”
What I love most about this book (besides John Ensor’s ever delightful prose) is the winsome and attractive way he presents God’s truth. How the Bible presents it, actually. All too often, we twist God’s gracious plan for marriage into a list of unappealing restrictions. We suck all the joy and beauty out of it and then try offering it to a watching world. No wonder they say, “no thank you!”
Submission is possibly the most misunderstood of all. We can view it as a burden, a punishment instead of a “delight” and a “relief.” But submission is the doorway to a joyful, enduring marriage and a host of God’s blessings.
If you are struggling with a dour or resentful view of submission, read this chapter, and then reread it until you have God’s perspective. Then take John Ensor’s pastoral advice and, “Set aside your fear and exercise faith in this matter.”
A friend wrote to say, “I’m sure Janelle just meant for those chocolate muffins to be a nice little change of pace, but I agree with the other lady’s email…let’s talk about gluttony and self-control.”
She’s right. We did not intend the muffins recipe to introduce a series on eating. But judging from the number of emails we’ve received, this is clearly a topic you’re eager to discuss. So, let’s talk!
The following is an excerpt from an email we received yesterday in response to Janelle’s post:
Thank you for having the courage to say “gluttony” in public. I would beseech you to do a series on gluttony. I fight the battle with gluttony continually. I very much love God’s gift of food and overeat on a regular basis because I so desire the pleasure that the first bite brings me. It’s so difficult to remember that by the time I get too many bites in, I am no longer experiencing pleasure but I keep searching for it, bite after bite. I have been reading and re-reading Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Love to Eat, Hate to Eat for the last four years trying to incorporate the Biblical truths into my daily life; some moments God gives the grace and other days I choose to sin. It has been lonely because when I have tried to share some of the truths or even talked about my size I am dismissed. When a woman says she’s fat, no other woman wants to jump in and say “You’re right, can I help?” If I’ve wanted to discuss the contrast between Weight Watchers “eat what you want, as much as you want as long as you stay in your points range” vs. the Biblical idea of self-control, of pleasing God—not self, I am seen as attacking a sacred cow. I have done Weight Watchers before and I think there are lots of good things, but in my experience most people will boil down the good principles to the above idea; in addition, like anything else discernment needs to be practiced. Please do consider a series.
How I admire this woman’s humility and discernment. She takes the sin of gluttony seriously. But while benefiting from a reputable weight-loss program, she realizes there’s something more important than inches off her waistline: “pleasing God—not self.”
If we diet only to improve our appearance or reach a personal goal, we are no more pleasing God than if we indulged our every desire for food. Not eating for vanity’s sake is as sinful as gluttony for appetite’s sake. We can’t conquer one sin with another. We can’t fight selfishness with selfishness.
As the ever-insightful CS Lewis puts it:
“He cannot bless us unless he has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.”
Christ claims all—including our eating habits. But first, He gave all; He gave His life for us on the cross. If we repent from our vanity and our gluttony and look to our Savior, there, and only there, we will find the power and help to please God.
My dear friend and high school literature teacher sent me the following e-mail soon after my post went up yesterday…
I looked over your recipe, and I feel that you are trying to make them sound acceptably nutritious by calling them muffins. Let’s be honest; they’re cupcakes! : )
You caught me. In my defense, the recipe really did say “muffins.” But after eating a few, I would have to agree that they seem closer to the cupcake family. You always did call me to a standard of excellence in my writing. So, in honor of you, I am officially renaming them “Janelle’s Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cupcakes.” Love ya!
Even with the “muffin” label, I’m sure the cream cheese-chocolate chip combination set off more than a few calorie alarms out there. As women we can tend to consider such decadent foods as just short of evil. But the Bible (which actually has a whole lot to say about the topic of food) has a different perspective that Mom points out in her chapter on “Self Control” in Feminine Appeal:
“God…wants us to enjoy our food. It is a gift from the one ‘who richly provides us with everything to enjoy’ (1 Tim. 6:17). If you study the earthly life of Jesus in the Gospels, you will observe that our Lord enjoyed His food! We are to receive food with gratitude and enjoyment.”
Cream Cheese Chocolate Muffins, oops, Cupcakes aren’t bad—they are a gift from God for which we should give Him thanks. But of course, that’s not all Scripture has to say. Mom continues:
“…however, we must not be given to overeating. Gluttony (excess in eating) is not a popular term in today’s culture, but it is found in Scripture and thus deserves our attention…Eating to calm our fears, alleviate stress, or overcome feelings of depression…are habits that do not glorify God. Food is not our source of help and comfort…We need to ask ourselves: Am I seeking my own glory or God’s glory with my eating habits.”
Obviously, I’ve jumped into a huge topic with a tiny little post. (Mom, Nic, Kris, I think we may need to give “self-control and eating” a series of its own soon.) But I hope these two complementary thoughts influence how you eat today: Food is a gift from God to be enjoyed. And God is eager to give us grace to exercise self-control and glorify Him when we eat.
I tried a new muffin recipe this morning. After the first bite, I knew that I had to pass it along to y’all. They were “mmmm, tasty” as my nephew Liam would say. Any recipe that calls for cream cheese and chocolate chips is worth trying.
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Muffins: 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1/4 cup butter, softened 1 egg, room temperature 1/2 cup cream 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup white sugar (I used 3/4 cup sugar, but we like ours sweet.) 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or use paper liners. Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy. Beat in egg, cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into cream cheese mixture until flour is moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups filling them 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven until tops are golden, about 20 minutes.
P.S. I thought you might enjoy this picture of my girly enjoying a muffin.
This one’s been around for a while, but if you’re a parent you’re gonna love it. (Thank you Heather!)
Enjoy your weekend, Nicole for the girltalkers
Preparation for parenthood…
It’s not just a matter of reading books and decorating the nursery. Here are 12 simple tests for expectant parents to take to prepare themselves for the real-life experience of being a mother or father.
1. Women: To prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a pillowcase filled with beans down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months, take out 10% of the beans. Men: To prepare for paternity, go to the local drug store, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper. Read it for the last time.
2. Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels, and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior. Enjoy it—it’ll be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.
3. To discover how the nights will feel, walk around the living room from 5 pm to 10 pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious noise) playing loudly. At 10 pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1 am. Put the alarm on for 3 am. As you can’t get back to sleep, get up at 2 am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2:45 am. Get up again at 3 am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4 am. Put the alarm on for 5 am. Get up. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
4. Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, first smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer. Stick your fingers in the flower beds, then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
5. Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems: first buy an octopus and a bag made out of loose mesh. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this: all morning.
6. Take an egg carton, using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take the tube from a roll of toilet paper. Using only Scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Last, take a milk carton, a ping pong ball, and an empty packet of Cocoa Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations! You have just qualified for a place on the play group committee.
7. Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don’t think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don’t look like that. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it in the cd player. Take a family-size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.
8. Get ready to go out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.
9. Always repeat everything you say at least five times.
10. Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a preschool child—a fully-grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.
11. Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old baby.
12. Learn the names of every character from Thomas the Train, Dora the Explorer, and the Wiggles.
When you find yourself singing “I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the Map” at work, you finally qualify as a parent.
“But sisters, the man who will make for you a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually fulfilling life partner is a man who prizes faith and integrity in himself and goes weak in the knees at your inner beauty too. This beauty ages well—it is an ‘imperishable beauty.’ It is this beauty that men see and appreciate as you grow through the seasons of life.” (p. 128, Doing Things Right)
Here’s a promise all the cosmetics and botox treatments in the world can’t deliver: imperishable beauty. It’s the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit and it only grows more beautiful as the years pass (1 Peter 3:4). It can attract the right kind of man (one with integrity of heart) and it can secure his lifelong devotion.
If you’d like to learn more about how to develop this kind of beauty (and who wouldn’t!), I’d like to recommend several messages by Mom on this topic. In “True Beauty” she exposes the ultimate futility of physical beauty and the great worth of inner beauty. “A Woman’s Beauty Regimen” is an in-depth study of the meaning of a “gentle and quiet spirit” and practical advice on how to cultivate it.
And, in case you haven’t already heard, you can now listen to these (and many other) messages free of charge at the Sovereign Grace Ministries website. We’d especially recommend the messages on biblical womanhood (of course!).