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

Philippians Chapter 1 — What Stands Out

Recently I read a book about spiritual disciplines (Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review) that made me think about something I haven’t done for a while –lection divina.  This is a practice of reading a short portion of Scripture prayerfully, several times, and noticing what word or phrase stands out for you– what’s going on in your life, and what might God be saying to you through this right now.

Here’s what jumped out for me in the first chapter of Philippians:

“I thank God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3

I’m seventy now, so I have a lot of people to remember;  family members and friends from my youth who are still important to me;  my husband, Terry, who has been my life companion;  spiritual mentors and soul friends who have walked with me through different parts of my journey with Jesus; co-workers who helped me and taught me about teamwork;  my children and grandchildren who have made joyful memories for me;  even difficult people who caused me pain have been part of shaping my life, and through them I have learned to be humble, understanding, empathetic and forgiving– after all, I have sometimes been a difficult person, too.

This month of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember and give thanks for all the people God has sent into our lives, whether they’ve been there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. We are not meant to live alone.  Every person in your life is a gift. Pray for them.  Cherish them.  Remember them.

“It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart; …. all of you share in God’s grace with me  God can testify how I long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:7-8

For more lectia divina see these posts:

What Stands Out–Jude

What Stands Out? Hebrews Chapter 10

What Stands Out?


Books on Sacrficial Living

The Hiding Place & Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.  She was imprisoned for her activities.  Her first book, The Hiding Place, tells about this ordeal.  Tramp For the Lord is the sequel.

The Duty of Delight:  The Diaries of Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, and devout Catholic convert.  She tirelessly served the poor by creating a community dedicated to direct aid for the homeless. 

Love Mercy by Lisa Samson and Ty Samson

This is the story of a family’s journey from living in a five-thousand square foot house in suburban Baltimore to caring about justice, mercy and the kingdom of God breaking into our suffering world.  They eventually sold their home to purchase a run down Victorian which they call a “hospitality house,” open to those who need a place to heal, be safe, or just relax for a while.  Lisa and daughter, Ty, eventually travel to Africa to chronicle the AIDS crisis.

The Diary of Elisabeth Koren (1853-1855)

This diary takes us on a journey across the Atlantic to the frontier of the Middle West with her young husband who served many Lutheran congregations.  Travel is primitive;  her husband is gone for weeks at a time, and Elisabeth lives with other families in a crowded Iowa log cabin until the first parsonage is finally built.

These women can be mentors for us in trying to be a “living sacrifice.  Have you read any of these books?  Will you?  Do you have others to suggest?  Let us know.