In a Wall Quote

Where I see God
Journal 15:  In a Wall Quote

This week I felt God challenge me from a quote on the wall to start looking at leadership differently. Especially within the church.

18 “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 NLT

When my husband and I helped lead confirmation at our church a few years back, one of my favorite lessons was called. “We are the Church.” For our lesson, we passed out index cards to each student asking them to write one area where they excelled and something they were passionate about along with their name. We received all kinds of answers to those questions. We then took the cards (previously numbered), put them in order to create a poster sized puzzle. Once taped we turned the puzzle over to reveal a line drawing of our church on the back. The idea: Alone we are a piece of the church; combined, we are the church.

I love that lesson.

Mid last year, I started working on another project with our church trying to connect people who took a spiritual gifts test on our church’s website with areas of service that matched their stronger spiritual gifts. What I discovered was the people who took the test produced a diverse combination of spiritual gifts. God reaffirmed how he created us all so very differently. Yet, God is wooing each person, gifting them in the various areas to help build his church, the body of Christ.

While thinking about the idea of diversity of spiritual gifts in our congregation and population around us, a question came to mind. How do I lead others into a deeper relationship with Christ? Since I often end up in leadership roles in my church, with people who are gifted differently than I am, how do I lead them?

I pondered this for a few days. In that time I took my daughter on a college tour.

While on the tour, I sat listening to dorm information at a parent informational meeting at one of our local Christian universities. It’s a really great school my son attends and my daughter is considering. The tour had us located in their Business College which had a leadership slogan on the wall. It read, “Equipping Leaders to go Further, Faster.”

I’m not sure why it fascinated me, but it did. Since I’ve been contemplating leadership in the church a lot, I sat and just stared at this quote. “Further, Faster” captivated my attention. In our world we are always expecting to go further, faster. Do more with less. Make decisions quickly.

Are we expecting this from the leaders of our church, as well?

Leadership poses an interesting dichotomy within the church. We desire strong leaders in a theology that teaches following as the primary directive. Following Christ grows us closer to Christ. However we live in a culture that defines leadership with terms like further and faster. Do we desire our church leadership to work further, faster? Do we desire them to be so far ahead that as followers we are racing to keep up? Do we desire a detachment in our relationships from the space left in between followers and leaders?

Our culture tends to teach us to all be leaders. Yet our faith comes with a mandate, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

Follow.

As I stared at that quote, I thought back to the “We are the Church” lesson and then to the variety of people we have in our congregation. The word “follow” kept reoccurring in my mind.

My question of struggling with “how to lead others to Christ?” suddenly changed to, “How do I follow in such a way that others are led to Christ?”

To follow in Christ’s steps and to invite others to follow with us requires a different kind of leadership. Leadership willing to walk alongside rather than paces in front. Someone leading in the front has to really be careful not to obstruct the view taking the follower’s eyes off Christ. But a leader walking alongside, is able to help, assist, encourage, and mentor while maintaining Christ as the focus. It isn’t a “faster, further,” kind of action. It is however, a constant motion of movement towards Christ. Plus, it is what Christ modeled. Christ ministered among his people. He encouraged relationship building and spoke with his followers while walking beside them.

Leading in the church requires being a good follower first. At least, that’s what I’m going to keep working on. What are your thoughts?

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In a Band of Three

Where I see God
Journal 14: In a Band of Three

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

We meet every other week and have been for the last year. A band of three consisting of two friends I really respect and me. We change up where we meet depending on who has what going on, but still do our very best to meet.

This band of three has changed my life by holding me up and accountable for my actions nurturing spiritual growth.

In our hour together we take turns sharing where have failed to follow God, areas we could use some prayer and accountability, plus, give thanksgivings for joys and victories. Then after each person talks, we gather around that person and pray. Often we pray for help, healing, and wisdom. Other times we pray for peace surrounding difficult situations. Heads bowed, humbled hearts we lift each other up to the only one who can forgive, take away hurt, and help strengthen our hearts so that we will walk closer to Christ.

Some days, we enter very heavy and require more time than others. Each moment we meet though, is blessed beyond measure. In confession, our secrets are brought out of darkness into the light, in humility we are each restored, and in the fellowship of believers we experience the truth of knowing we are not walking alone.

Every time we meet, I experience God working within me.  When we say good-bye until the next time, my heart overflows with gratitude for all the work God continues to do in each of us.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

 

In a Thank You Note

Where I see God
Journal 13: In a Thank You Note

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2

In December I was thrilled when my son proposed to his girlfriend. They’ve been dating for four years; our family and friends all knew it had to be coming soon. And it did. A very special moment.

We celebrated.

And then an unexpected deep sense of mourning entered my heart.

My son is the first to leave our home, the first to go to college and now will be the first to get married (thank goodness!)   I am deeply overjoyed for him and his bride-to-be, but the mom in me mourned the loss of the ending of a life stage with him. It was a painful and messy moment.

I tried planting a beautiful smile on my face and often spoke about how excited I was for everything, but things were a bit dark for a period until I was able to process what I was experiencing. I talked with friends, went to a counselor, and finally submitted to God in continuous prayer for my heart to heal and my love to shine through. The last thing I wanted to do was damage a relationship with my son and future daughter-in-law. It was a struggle, but peace did come through. Eagerly, I got back to work building and encouraging.

The other day I received a text message from my son’s finance. It was a gift from God in the form of a simple thank you note. She thanked me for the work, I’d been doing on the wedding. A few words of gratitude hugged my heart while simultaneously bringing both a smile to my lips and a tear to my eye. I felt God gently say, “Keep at it, Kysia. You are building your future when you focus your love towards lifting others up.”

It was another great moment.

 

 

After a Bad Dream

Where I see God
Journal 12: After a Bad Dream

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I woke quickly with a covering of irrational emotion suffocating me. A bad dream in the early hours set an icky, sticky set of yuck of irritations on my morning. Thoughts that pierced my heart and set every fear I had hidden deep down rushing to the surface.

In a funk, I laid my body out face down in the carpet and tried to pray. Nothing. The grip of fear held tight.

Opening the Bible to Psalms, I read until peace calmed my soul.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-3; 10-11

Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath inhaling the goodness of God’s warmth and provision, exhaling the fear and frustration. Silently, moment by moment peace entered into the crevices of my heart.

I prayed, “Thank you, God that you are Almighty. That you are real. That you are peace. Take these fears from me and restore your peace to my heart and sound mind to my body. Amen”

Let the day begin. Renewed. Refreshed. Whole again.

At a Funeral

Where I see God
Journal 10: At a Funeral

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

“Wanda died.” My husband’s words were brief, but packed with emotion. Wanda was his Great Aunt, like a second grandmother to him. Wanda had gone into the hospital and less than a week later was gone from our lives here on earth.

The car ride to the funeral was quiet. While my husband and I are usually full of conversation the two hour trip was practically speechless.

We hadn’t seen his Great Aunt in many years, since she moved from living across the street from my husband’s grandmother. But all our memories of Wanda were beautiful. She was a beautiful person.

Like Granny, Wanda was humble, patient, and loved so gently and tenderly. She embraced life with an amazing sense of humor and was always quick to bring a comforting smile.

During the funeral a loved one shared how Wanda had prayed for each family member  to know Christ. It was important to her. She felt confident her prayers had been answered before she passed.

We cried as we celebrated a life well lived.

God was present in the tears. God was present in the laughter. He was present in the hugs, stories shared and even in the silence of the car ride. There was sorrow for now, but victory for the future.

Within Creation

Where I see God
Journal 9: Within Creation

“For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!” Psalm 92:4-5

After lunch today, my husband and I decided to go hiking. Heading out to Devil’s Den State Park, we smiled into the sunshine as it warmed our faces. We were so excited to get out after being inside from all of the rain this past week.

Arriving at the park, we quickly realized we weren’t the only ones with this brilliant idea. The trails were packed with people. Regardless, we started the trek towards our favorite path. Down the rock steps, around the bend, up towards the bat caves and back down beside the caverns. Then up and around another hill before we arrived.

Since the rains had come in so strong the last few days we knew we would enjoy the part we had just reached. The waterfall.

Sitting back into the side of the cliff we rested on broken bits of shale as we watched the falling water. The sound of peace with the breath of mists embraced us. Looking out through the hills in the distance we could see the rush of waters down below from the overflowing creek beds. The air was fresh as we saw new growth popping up throughout the forest.

Creation is beautiful. How is God not experienced when we are encircled in its marvel? All the details captivating all our senses. All the wonder engaging our curiosity.

Nothing like it.

Thank you, Lord, for such an amazing afternoon.

Turning Off Social Media

Where I See God
Journal Entry #8:  Turning off Social Media

“May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalms 29:11

I love social media. It allows me the opportunity to keep up with friends and family all over the world. For me, however, it is addictive. Every time I slow down, I’m grabbing for my phone to check out the latest on Facebook or Instagram. Every now and then, I have to take a break to stop the cycle.

I am in one of those breaks. Sometimes checking for certain information about the organizations I’m involved with is necessary, but other than that I am off.

The clarity that comes from shutting off the social media noise is staggering. Instead of filling up my slow down times with other people’s thoughts, I’m able to sit still and listen for God’s voice.

In 1 Kings 19 Elijah is seeking God’s voice. In verse 11 God asks Elijah to, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him…”

I am constantly asking God for things. “What should I do? How do I handle this? What’s next?” Then I seldom stop to really listen. The noise of my environment keeps going. Television at night, radio around town and social media when I stop to breathe.

After distractions are removed, God’s voice becomes more clear.

Only in the still humbled moments is my heart ready to listen and receive the gift of peace so often offered.