Joan’s Journey of Leadership and Teaching continued

In previous posts, I have been writing about developing natural qualities of leadership within congregations, these are traits that can be practiced anywhere — on the job, in a club or organization, even within the family. You can obviously be a leader and a good example to others without having any religious convictions at all. But the Bible tells us that without certain supernatural qualities, all the skills in the word are only a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” — in other words, meaningless. The supernatural qualities are living faith, hope, love and humility.

As a member of small congregations I have had the chance to know a number of Christians “up close and personal.” It’s hard to stay on a superficial footing when the group is small. These people influenced me greatly. They have been leaders in my life, and they have taught me to be a leader also. They are just regular folks, and I won’t try to single them out because it would be too hard. But each one has taught me something. Some have been mentors, some have been friends, all have been examples to me and to others of the Christian life. You might want to think about your own list of leaders, the people who have taught you how to live the Christian life.

I did not come from a deeply religious home. My family believed in God and even went to church sometimes. But Christ was not a part of our daily lives. At Peace In Christ, I met people who actually prayed before they made a decision. In our adult Sunday School class we had lively discussions about how to apply Biblical truth to our lives. This was not a study of literature or history; it was more like reading the directions before starting on a trip. These people had a living faith and I began to want to be more like them.

For one thing, they radiated such hope. Oh, they had the same problems as other people. They lost jobs, fought with their kids, got divorced. Their cars and their dishwashers broke down. Sometimes they got angry or discouraged, but they never lost faith in God and His promises. Their hope was not just for a better life in heaven; they believed that “all things work together for good for those who love God” today. They knew that God was with them and would continue to use them even when things went wrong, or they made mistakes.

I also saw people in my congregation love in a pretty radical way. Most of us love the people who love us. Here I saw men and women loving some of those most would consider difficult or even unlovable. There was the hospice nurse who ministered to the dying and their families; the retiree who volunteered at the rescue mission; the guy who had a great time teaching the Group Home Sunday School class. We had members who loved unruly little kids, surly teenagers and the most irritating fellow members. They even loved me! There were people at my church who seemed willing to love anyone who would let them.

And yet these people who became such special examples to me saw themselves as ordinary. And they were. They were all teaching me while they were still learning themselves. Like the servant in the parable, they would say they were only using the gifts God gave them. Anyone can do it. I can do it. You can do it.

For more on using your gifts see:

Gifts + Passion = Ministry

Gifts or Fruit?

Serving God with Your Gifts

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza– Book Review

I’m choosing to review this book, not because it is Christian, but because it is important. It describes a situation that is tragic — a black teenager is shot and killed by two policemen. He doesn’t hear their calls to stop because he is wearing ear buds, as he reaches into his pocket for his cell phone, they assume the worst and respond with deadly force. The story is told from the point of view of two protagonists — the black journalist who is assigned to cover the shooting, and her best friend –the wife of one of the policemen. (this book also has two authors, one white and one black) Both sides of the question are presented honestly. The real difficulty, it seems, is a failure to communicate difficult feelings, feelings that are hard to accept and understand. Bringing them into the open is key to resolving issues around race in our society today.

We Are Not Like Them: A Novel by [Christine Pride, Jo Piazza]

Will these two women be able to remain friends? The question is left unanswered, but they are trying. Is there an outcome to this kind of situation that will satisfy everyone? Probably not. One thing is clear — race is an issue that must be brought into the light and discussed, and the only possible solution is a very Christian virtue — love.

There are discussion questions at the end, and this would make an excellent book club read.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Excellent and thought-provoking. It’s a new book that you can probably check out of your local library.

For more book reviews see:

,Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi–Book Review

A Couple of Good Books

Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

Proven Ways to Get Along Better With Anyone

This advice originally appeared in the 1993 Fall Lutheran Digest. It’s worth repeating.

  1. Before you say anything about anyone, ask yourself these things: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
  2. Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully.
  3. Never miss the opportunity to compliment or to say something encouraging to someone.
  4. Refuse to talk negatively about others; don’t gossip and don’t listen to gossip.
  5. Have a forgiving view of people. Believe that most people are doing the best that they can.
  6. Keep an open mind; discuss, but don’t argue. (It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable)
  7. Forget about counting to ten. Count to 1,000 before doing or saying anything that could make matters worse.
  8. Let your virtues speak for themselves.
  9. If someone criticizes you, see if there is any truth in what they are saying; if so, make changes. If there is no truth to the criticism, ignore it and live so that no one will believe the negative remark.
  10. Cultivate your sense of humor; laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
  11. Do not seek so much to be consoled as to console; do not seek to be understood, as to understand; do not seek so much to be loved, as to love

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (my addition!)

For more about conflict resolution see:

Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution by Tony Merida–Book Review

If God is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk by John Pavlovitz–Book Review

Who Made me a Judge or Arbitrator Over You?

Trust God’s Process

I’ve started reading the book of 2 Peter as part of my discipline of study. I’m doing this is a slow, meditative way, reading each chapter more than once and looking for what stands out, then pondering what it means to me.

Often a short sentence or even a phrase stands out, but this time it’s several verses:

“…. make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

It tells me that my sanctification is a process, and it requires some effort on my part. I have no choice about my conversion — that’s a work of God. But I can and should “make every effort” to grow more like Jesus.

I’m not sure if the qualities listed are meant as a progression, but if they are, it doesn’t surprise me that the end result is love. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the law can be distilled down into the statement that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves? This won’t happen all at once; we first have to develop knowledge and understanding, then self-control and determination, and finally we will arrive at the place where we truly feel brotherly affection and love for others.

Like me, you may not be there yet, but we can walk the road. Keep going. Trust the process.

For more about trust see these posts:

Grow Through Surrender and Trust

Trusting Your Leader

Trust the Process

Philippians Chapter 4–What Stands Out

I’ve come to the end of my lectio divina study of the book of Philippians, and here’s what stands out for me in the last chapter.

“…. my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown ….”  Phil. 4:1

When our children were young my husband used to tell them, “people are more important than things.”  In other words, we should never sacrifice our relationships with others in order to attain some temporal item or reward.  I also remember James Dobson saying in a talk that when his father died, he did not mourn for the way his dad had provided for him materially;  he missed and remembered the things they had done together, like fishing.

In this verse, Paul is expressing his love for the Christians of Philippi.  This is what gives him joy, this is what makes his life meaningful.  I believe when we come before God, and are judged (which we all will be), He will not be especially interested in the goals we have reached, the pious acts we can tote up, or the dollars we have donated.  What will be important is how we have shown love to others.  Have we served people sacrificially?  Have we invested time in their well-being and spiritual growth?  Have we helped them and listened to them in times of need?  Have we prayed for them even (especially) when they are difficult?  Have we been the face of Christ to others?

The book of Matthew tells us:

…. store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matt. 6:20-21

Paul’s treasure was the people he loved and served.  What is your treasure?  It’s worth thinking about.

Learning to Love

The Bible tells us over and over again that love is the key to living a Christian life.  The apostle John tells us:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  1 John 4:8

Peter says:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”  1 Peter 4:8

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul warns:

“If I have all prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:2

We are called, in strong words, to love others, not only those who are agreeable or those who love us, but even our enemies;  even those who persecute us. (Luke 6:27).  It is the mark of being a Christian (1 Peter 1:22).  So why aren’t we doing it?  Why aren’t we at least trying to do it?  Love should be the goal of the process of sanctification.  Here’s how Francis Paget, an English theologian puts it:

“This is the great business and meaning of our life on earth:  that we should more and more yield up our hearts to God’s great grace of love;  that we should let it enter ever more fully and freely into us, so that it may even fill our whole heart and life.  We must day by day be driving back, in His strength, that sin that doth so easily beset us, and the selfishness that sin has fastened in our hearts;  and then His love will day by day increase in us.  Prayer will win and keep it;  work will strengthen and exercise it;  the Bible will teach us how to know and prize it, how to praise God for it;  the Holy Eucharist will ever renew and quicken its power in our hearts.  And so (blessed be God!) love and joy and peace will grow in us, beyond all that we can ask or think;  and He will forgive us for love’s sake, all the failures, all the faults in whatever work He has given us to do;  and will bring us at last into the fulness of that life which even here He has suffered us to know;  into that one Eternal Home, where love is perfect, and unwearied and unending;  and where nothing ever can part us from one another or from Him.”

Pray, read the Bible, receive the sacraments.  Learn to love.

For more posts on love see:

Little Children, Love One Another

Charity = Love

All the Loves


Charity = Love


In the Bible, the word which is translated as “charity” is a synonym for love.  I came across this quote.  It was written by Jean Nicolas Grou, who was a Roman Catholic mystic and writer.  I think it does an excellent job of describing the attitudes we must vanquish in order to “love one another.” (John 13:34)  True charity (love) requires us to “put on the mind of Christ.”(1 Corinthians 2:16)

“All extreme sensitiveness, fastidiousness, suspicion, readiness to take offence, and tenacity of what we think we are due, come from self-love, as does the unworthy secret gratification we sometimes feel when another is humbled or mortified;  the cold indifference, the harshness of our criticism, the unfairness and hastiness of our judgments, our bitterness towards those we dislike, and many other faults which must more or less rise up before most men’s conscience, when they question it sincerely as to how far they do indeed love their neighbors as Christ has loved them.  He will root out all dislikes and aversions, all readiness to take offence, all resentments, all bitterness, from the heart which is given up to His guidance.  He will infuse His own tender love for man into His servant’s mind, and teach him to “love his brother as Christ has loved him.”

Jean Nicholas Grou

For another quote by the same author follow this link:

Sin Boldly?


Pet Peeve Rant

Beware, personal opinion rant coming up!!

For years I have noticed that the workers in my building will greet everyone they meet with a “Hi, How are you?”  and then they keep walking.  I just say Hello and also keep walking.  Why do they ask how I’m doing when they obviously don’t want to know?

The time when this would really, really bug me is when I was in the middle of caring for my husband.  I was “walking exhausted” all the time.  I lived on coffee.  In fact, I would drink a half a pot of coffee in the evening just to make it to bedtime.  During this time in my life I really wanted to stop these people and just lay into them and let them know how I felt.  But I didn’t.

Then there are the people that when you ask them how they are doing (and you really want to know) and they say they are “fine”.  What does that mean?  You look at this person and you can tell they are not “fine”, but that’s what they say?  What’s with that?  You are not “fine”.  You are feeling lousy, tired, beat-up, but yet you still say “fine”.  Please….

I’d like everyone who has the habit (because it is a habit!) of asking how everyone is doing and not really caring, to think about this.  If you don’t want to know how someone is doing, Don’t Ask!!  But if you do, take the time to stop and ask like you mean it.  That person may be having a really rough time.  If you ask how they are doing and they tell you about the rough time they are having, then you can listen.  Usually there isn’t a whole lot you can do to help them, but really listen, sympathize with them, pray with them.  Pray right there and then for them and then tell them you will regularly pray for them and then do it!

And to you all that are always “fine”?  Stop it.  Let others know that you are not fine.  If you  need to have someone listen to you, pray with you, then let others know.  I know that when I was in the midst of taking care of my husband that sometimes just talking to someone and praying with them would help.  It didn’t ease my situation, but it did help to lean on someones shoulder for a bit and unburden myself.

We in the body of Christ need to learn to trust and listen to each other and share our burdens.  So start a new habit today…  Ask someone how they are doing, and really mean it.


Godly Relationships

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18

From the beginning, God intended us to be in relationship with others.  He said it wasn’t “good” to be alone.  He also made man “in the image of God”( Genesis 1:27) and God Himself is a relationship — Father, Son and Spirit.  It’s a relationship founded on love according the apostle, John:

“…the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”  John 3:35

and producing love, according to Paul:

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love….’ Galatians 5:22

In fact, Scripture tells us that God is not only loving, He is love.

It seems to me that if God is love, and He made us to mirror His image, and He created us to be in relationship with one another — then His desire is that all our relationships be loving!  I’m not always a logical thinker, but this is where logic leads me.  I guess that means acting in love, even when we don’t feel love.  How do we do that?  Well…..

“Love is patient and kind;  love is not jealous or boastful;  it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. ”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

It’s not easy, but I think if we pay attention and keep these verses from Corinthians in mind, we can become more patient, kind, courteous and humble;  and those few changes in our behavior will allow God’s love to shine into all our relationships.



It’s All About Relationships

I remember when our daughters were little, my husband used to tell them, “people are more important than things.”  This lesson usually came about as a way to explain why we need to share with others, behave courteously, keep our promises, etc… Guess what, when you look at the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, our Heavenly Father teaches this, too.

For example, the Ten Commandments are all about relationships.  The first group of commandments tell us what our relationship with God should be like:

  1. Don’t put other Gods before the true God
  2. Don’t make or worship idols (in case you think this doesn’t apply in modern times think about how we can idolize our possessions, our public standing, our money or even our family).
  3. Don’t take God’s name in vain
  4. Keep the Sabbath appropriately

Basically respect God and give Him the proper place in your life.

Then we come to the question of how we must treat other people:

  1. Honor your parents
  2. Don’t commit murder
  3. Don’t commit adultery
  4. Don’t steal
  5. Don’t tell lies about your neighbor (and remember, everyone is your neighbor)
  6. Don’t envy and desire what rightfully belongs to another

In other words, we are not to harm others, even with words or thoughts.  We are to respect and honor relationships with our parents, spouse, and everyone else who comes into our life.

In the New Testament, Jesus reinforces the Commandments and takes them a step further when He says:

“You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and all the prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40

According to Jesus we are not only to respect God and people.  We are not only to do no harm.  We are to love them.  It all comes back to relationships, and it all comes back to love.