Seeing God’s Work in Others

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
–Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

I remember the first tentative conversations I had after I sensed my call into full-time vocational ministry.  They were awkward at best.  One of them, however, changed the tone of all the conversations that would follow.

After struggling with this sense of call over the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I went to the house of Gary and Myra Watts.  Gary was one of my professors at Jamestown College, and his wife, Myra, was a friend and mentor.  She was the director of the Learning Advisement Center at Jamestown College.  In that capacity she coordinated tutors, made sure students were connected to advisors, but for me (and my future wife, Stacy) she was a non-judgmental ear that provided guidance without projecting a sense of obligation to follow the advice.

I arrived at the Watts’ house that day, and the kids were running around and playing — I think their son was playing a video game.  I sat down with Gary first and told him that I thought I sensed God’s call into ministry.  Gary said that if I hadn’t figured that out by the end of the summer that he and Dr. Edwards were going to bring me into one of their offices and throw me against the walls until I figured it out.

Myra’s words were similar but gentler.  I don’t remember what she said word for word, but in general, she told me that sometimes our paths are seen more clearly by others walking alongside of us.  That she, and others, could sense God working in my life, and that she had been confident that it would become clear to me.

I had never really considered God working in my life — that God had started something in me, and that if I trusted in Him, He would complete it.

I knew that God did things.  I knew that God worked in people’s lives. I knew that God was active.  I just never considered that His work was active in my life or that others could see this activity.

Myra taught me that day to look for God in the lives of others — to look for His activity in the lives of those who didn’t even see it themselves.  My life has been richer because of it.  I have seen God more in the lives of others, and I have sensed His presence more clearly in my own because of her.

Tomorrow you will be able to hear from Myra in her own words from where the power to see the potential of others comes.  I know you will be blessed by it as I have been blessed by her.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

The Ultimate Co-Worker

About today’s author:
Jen and her husband Todd live in the Twin Cities. They will soon have a child in elementary, middle, and high school as their oldest enters 9th grade in the fall. Jen works in the church office at Faith Baptist Church and volunteers in a variety of Christia
n Education roles including as chair of the Children’s Ministry Team. She has a passion for learning and teaching more about God’s work in and through His people across time. In the last few years, she has had the opportunity to help author VBS curriculum focused on Church History as well as contribute to devotional projects (to check out and possibly buy one of these devotional projects click “Anchored” and “Wherever“).

You can read more about how Kerry knows Jen and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Women’s Work.”

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I love working with people on projects. I like brainstorming, discussing ideas, figuring out how to implement, even evaluation. But sometimes, working with people can be annoying too – mostly because they don’t do things my way.

Just the other day my husband and I had a “discussion” about something we needed to do. It was such a small thing. We just needed to send a quick email about a trip. But it turned into a “discussion” because I thought we should do it one way while he had another in mind. And of course, I thought my way was better. If I’m really being honest with myself, most of the time, my way isn’t better; it’s just different. My husband and I do things differently and approach things differently because we are different.

This isn’t just true in marriage; it’s true in the church too. God gives each one of us different gifts and skills that enable us to do the things He has called us to. Those gifts aren’t meant to put us at odds with one another, or better one another, but rather to accomplish God’s purposes and plan. The church in Corinth was struggling with this issue of different gifts and “ways of doing” when Paul chastised them saying,

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”    –1 Corinthians 3:5-7

What I believe Paul is getting at is that we are co-workers. God has called us to serve. He hasn’t called us to serve alone. The Bible is clear in so many places that he has given each of us different gifts, experiences, and skills that uniquely prepare us for the specific work He is calling us too. We are co-workers with the people in our church, our families, our communities…to accomplish His purposes. God doesn’t just work through me. He works through those around me too. I need to value the gifts God has given to those laboring beside me. In doing so, I’m recognizing God’s work in, and through, their lives.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. As I consider what He has called me to do, his next words are something I need to hear often. The results are not my responsibility. And they aren’t the responsibility of another person either, they are God’s responsibility. We are co-workers with those around us, and we should seek to work with them in harmony, but ultimately, God has invited us to be His co-worker in the work He is doing in the world. Let that sink in for a minute. The God of the universe has called me, and you, to join Him in His redeeming work in this world.

I’m learning more each day that I need to be willing to rely on the co-workers God has placed in my life and their gifts and skills—not just my own. BUT even more than that, I need to trust God as my ultimate co-worker. The outcomes are His…not mine. Not easy words. But true ones.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Women’s Work

As a child, I hated group projects in school.  My grade?  Dependent on someone else’s lack of motivation?  NO THANK YOU!

I have to admit that my view of group projects hasn’t improved much since becoming an adult.  There is always a slacker — or someone who has their own ideas — how annoying!

But Paul understood the importance of group projects, of working together, of fellow workers in Christ.

Because of this, Paul’s letters are filled with lists of group project members, requests for the presence and help of others, and praise for those who were fellow workers in Christ.

Phoebe is one of the women who makes Paul’s list of fellow workers — of a group project member.  As a matter of fact, Phoebe receives a special honor.  In Romans 16:1, she is described by Paul as a “sister” and as a “deacon” or “minister” in the church at Cenchreae.  This is a huge deal!  Paul, in the first century, a former Pharisee, coming out a patriarchal system, lists a woman as a minister or as an official office holder in the life of the Church!

Of course, Phoebe’s position as a deacon is passionately debated; if you don’t believe me, just Google it.  The word that Paul uses for “deacon,” the Greek of which is “diakonos,” is a word that can mean servant in general when translated.

The early Church adopts this general term and impregnates it with special meaning, so it can mean servant for the early Church.  However, it can also mean a specific office, the office of “deacon,” within the life of the Church.  Therefore, many english translations choose to translate this term as “servant” instead of “deacon” to describe Phoebe.  This would mean that she was not an office holder in the early Church but rather a simple servant of the Church.

But let me briefly put forward four quick arguments to see Phoebe as a deacon:

  1. Paul’s use of this Greek word is primarily, if not exclusively, tied to being a minister in the work of God, not a general servant.
  2. Paul ties this particular instance of this word to a local church — strengthening the argument that this is an office or at least a specific ministry.
  3. The early church (late 3rd/early 4th century) saw Phoebe as a “deacon” listing a woman named “Sophia” as a deacon and as a “second Phoebe” (for a full discussion of this see Elizabeth McCabe’s Society of Biblical Literature article, A Reexamination of Phoebe as “Diakonos” and “Prostatis”).
  4. If Phoebe had been a man, I wouldn’t have needed reasons 1-3.

I recognize that some readers may disagree with this position and that a quick Google search will provide enough ammunition to share in the comments; however, I think that Phoebe’s record — both by Paul’s own words and the view of the early Church — speaks for itself.

It’s tragic that the translators of many English translations consistently translate Paul’s use of “diakonos” as “deacon” or “minister,” but translate  the same Greek word in Romans 16:1, referring to Phoebe, as “servant.”  It is equally tragic when we “translate” or view the work of men and women with the same lenses within the Church today — valuing one as ministry and the other simply as service.  I realize that this is a nuance, but nuances are important!

This is not an argument for women to be pastors or elders, nor is it an argument opposed to that — that can be a topic for another day.  It is simply an argument that we should see the ministry of women, the work of women within the church, and the offices that they hold within the life of the Church with the same respect, honor, and appreciation that we have for the ministry and offices that men hold.

womens-equality-dayAt the end of the day, there is no “women’s work” or “men’s work;” there is only the work of Christ that must be done to demonstrate his love to the world!

I have had the privilege of working with some amazing women who are workers, servants, ministers, office holders, whatever you want to call them.  They are amazing people, and they have my utmost respect.  To try to list them all would be impossible — from the women that taught me Sunday School, to my college mentors, to professors at seminary, to the women that strived for the Kingdom of God with me in the churches at which I have had the privilege to work.

We worked on constitutions and bylaws together.

We cleaned the sanctuary together.

We wrote Sunday School curriculum for children and adults together.

We planned worshipped services together.

We folded bulletins together.

We prepared church meals together.

We went on mission trips together.

We served on teams, committees, and boards together.

The list could go on and on, and the benefit and knowledge that I have gained from the women with whom I had the privilege of serving alongside — well, that continues to go on and on as well.

For tomorrow, I have asked one of these women, Jen Woyke, to write a blog post about being a co-worker in Christ.  I had the privilege of working alongside Jen in numerous capacities, and I have had the opportunity to take a Church History Sunday School class from her that rivaled any class I took in college and seminary.  We served on boards together and went on a mission trip to Cameroon together.  Upon returning from that trip, she preached a Sunday morning sermon that I am not ashamed to say was one of the best sermons preached during my time at Faith Baptist Church.

Her hard work, commitment, and knowledge has benefited me and the Kingdom in countless ways.  And she is only one of scores of women that I have had the privilege to minister beside.  Any of them could have written tomorrow’s post, and those who read it would have benefited tremendously from it.  I hope that each of these women will sense my deep appreciation for them as they read this post and tomorrow’s post.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

You are the writer today!

thank youWe have reached close to the midpoint of this series “Celebrating Women” during  International Women’s Month.  It is a series where I have written about some of the women who have influenced and formed me, but more importantly, it’s been an opportunity to hear from these women themselves.  I hope you have enjoyed it so far, and there are some great blogs to come from some of the guest bloggers.

If you came here today to read something, I want to say thank you and I am sorry.

I am not going to write anything today.  Instead, I would like you to take the next 3-5 minutes, the amount of time it would have taken you to read a blog post, and — instead of reading — call or write a note to a woman who deserves your thanks today.

Thanks again for reading this series.  Please take the time to follow my blog.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

As a Music Teacher

About today’s author: 
Mary is a widowed mother of two and would never had made it without her faith, family, friends, and a good sense of humor. She has taught music for most of her working career but also a bit of German. She has dragged (or been dragged by) her family around the world from ND to Germany to Massachusetts to Okinawa, Japan, and next fall they will be in England. She loves her calling as an Elementary Music Specialist in the DoDEA (Overseas Military) school system.

You can read more about how Kerry knows Mary and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Accidental Education.”

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As a music teacher, some concepts that I have to try and get across to my lovely elementary students are, at times, a bit on the abstract side. Several years ago I was trying to explain to a group of 2nd graders the workings of a coda sign. How they need to sing to a place in the song where one coda sign is and then skip part of the song to find the other coda sign. One of my wonderful little “treasures” in this particular class yells out, “It’s a magic portal! You go through one and come out on the other!” I stared at the young gentleman and said, “Yes, you are absolutely right and I am so going to steal that.” He was the proudest guy. I still use that in my class when I teach the coda sign.

This is what is called an “Aha Moment.” It may be a bit of a cliché; however, this is one of the reasons I teach. Sometimes the moment, as in my story, is about the subject matter but sometimes it is about how to go on. Go on with their day, go on with their assignment, go on with my class, go on with just being themselves. Many times the moment never occurs but if I wait and work with the kiddos, it will come again.

And now my second reason for loving my job. There is nothing that makes a teacher’s heart take flight or validate them and their job than when a former student let you know you made a difference. Since the invention of social media, I have received several messages and requests from my former students. They have told me that I made a difference in their lives in different ways. I have also “met up” with some of my teachers and expressed the same feelings to them. This is why I teach. By the way, as far as I know only one of my former students became a music teacher.

I didn’t stay in my home state. As a matter of fact, I didn’t stay in the country. I moved to Germany to work in the DoDEA system. I have for 25 years taught the children of the Military stationed overseas on two continents. Children are unique in any situation but the military child has to be extremely flexible every day. In the DoDEA school system, on average, the entire population of most schools changes every 3 years. The amount of children that I impact during a single school year can be very humbling. For some of my students, school is one of the only stable things in their constantly changing lives.

The importance of a teacher for a student is as different as the students themselves. It could be the “Aha Moment”. It might be cornering a student and telling them to focus. It could be as simple as greeting a student with a true smile and a familiar song when their life is in flux.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

Accidental Education

I apologize in advance for the next six lines.

“What is all the fuss?”
“Teachers help all of us.”

“No more rhymes, and I mean it!”
“Does anybody want a peanut?”

“Are there struggles ahead?”
“Well without our teachers, we all be dead.”

educationMary Wax Goldsborough (or Miss Wax as I knew her back in the day) deserves my unending appreciation if for no other reason than because she introduced me to the Princess Bride. So thank you!

Mary taught me a lot about music as well.  She was the music teacher at my school when I was growing up.  I learned about motif, repeating themes, and much more that has made Star Wars, Les Miserables, and life as a whole more interesting and meaningful.  She taught me an appreciation for Mozart as well as jazz.  Because of her relentless passion and her ability to throw things at my head while directing, I learned correct posture while playing saxophone.  Seriously, because of her passion I made it into college choir and band, and singing and playing saxophone is a joy still for me today.

But like so many great teachers in my life, the greatest educational lessons with Mary were not moments of intentional instruction but rather moments of accidental education.

Mary lived in a small house near the school, but she would invite the entire band to her house for an annual party.  Now granted, my graduating class from Zeeland Public High School was 12, so the band didn’t have 100 students in it, but she invited all of us.  We ate in the garage because it was the only room big enough for us all (but we spread out throughout her house).  She also invited me to her house for a meal when she found out I was stuck in town between school and a basketball game later that evening.  She made me a hamburger, gave me a Coke, and introduced me to the Princess Bride — I’m pretty sure I laughed so hard I had Coke come out of my nose.

Mary taught me a lot in the classroom.  More importantly, however, in moments of accidental education, Mary taught me that teaching others isn’t just about what happens between a lectern and a seat, but also about what happens around a table — especially if it’s the teacher’s table.

In other moments of accidental education, Mary also taught me that the most important lessons a teacher can teach are seldom about the subject matter but about life.

I was a bit of an awkward junior high student.  Had we been wealthy, I could have been eccentric; however, because our family was not wealthy, I was basically “weird.”  I suppose every junior high or middle school student feels this way, and I probably wasn’t as uniquely weird as a felt; nevertheless, I didn’t feel like I fit in.  I dealt with this by messing around and trying to be funny — key word “trying.”

On one particular day — I think during music appreciation, a class that in my experience failed to help most students appreciate anything other than AC/DC or Guns-N-Roses — I was messing around quite a bit in the band room.  Mary grabbed my attention, looked sternly at me, and said, “You could be great at something if you just focused!”

I still remember where I was standing when she said that — mostly because I didn’t think she was on the same side of our split classroom when I was messing around.  Her words didn’t launch me into a successful music career or, for that matter, bring me great success in the eyes of the world in any particular career.  What it did do, however, was let me know that someone believed that I was capable of doing anything of substance.  It was a word of encouragement to a student who felt ill equipped to do anything but mess around and try to be a clown.

There were probably a lot of factors that played into it (like my mom telling me I could watch Bonanza reruns at 10:30PM if I got on the “A” honor roll), but I went from being a mediocre junior high student to excelling academically in high school, college, and beyond.  Part of that transformation was due to a moment of accidental education thanks to Mary Wax Goldsborough.

Mary is far from the only teacher who did this for me.  Through the years, I have been fortunate to have some pretty amazing teachers in elementary school all the way through graduate school.  Many of them, like Mary, taught me as much out of the classroom as they did in the classroom — as much about life as they did about their particular subject matter.  I hope that each of them, in reading this, hears echoes of my deep appreciation for them as well.

I also hope that each of us will take time to be teachers for others — recognizing that sometimes the most important lessons are taught accidentally.  Accidentally does need to mean unintentionally.

Be intentional about creating space for life’s most important lessons to be taught accidentally to a new generation.

I’ve asked Mary to write tomorrow’s post about being a teacher.  I hope that you will learn from her as I have.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

The Story of a Christian/Muslim Friendship

Marilyn R. Gardner is an adult third culture kid who grew up in Pakistan and then lived as an adult in Pakistan and Egypt. She birthed 5 kids on 3 continents and went on to raise them in Pakistan and Egypt before moving to the United States. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, just 15 minutes from the international terminal where she flies to the Middle East & Pakistan as often as possible. She is the author of Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging, and her newest memoir, Passages Through Pakistan: An American Girl’s Journey of Faith (click on the titles to check out the books at Amazon). Because of her passion for the Middle East, 50% of all royalties for any purchase of Passages goes towards refugee work there. She is also a prolific blogger at Communicating Across Boundaries (click on the blog title to check out Marilyn’s blog).

You can read more about how Kerry knows Marilyn and why he is celebrating her during International Women’s Month by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Loving the ‘Other.’

marilyn

Every September, when cool breezes off the Nile River replaced the sweltering heat of summer, the expatriate community in Cairo, Egypt would reunite. Most employers planned a variety of activities to introduce any newcomers to Egypt in general, and the gigantic city of Cairo in particular.

Our employer, the American University of Cairo, put together an orientation week full of events and talks all designed to ease these overwhelmed rookies into life in both the city and the university. It was during orientation week that I met Lubna for the first time.

On the first day, I noticed Lubna standing alone at the break. I ignored my conscience and left her alone. On the second day, the internal nudge was too strong to ignore. I felt compelled to go and speak with her. I was nervous. Lubna was fully veiled. She wore both the abbaya (long black coat) and a niqab, the veil that covered all but her eyes. While I was used to communicating with women in the hijab (head covering), I had no friends who wore the full veil and I felt my discomfort acutely. I stumbled a bit as I asked her how long she had been in Cairo.

After seconds, we were engrossed in a dynamic conversation and within minutes found significant commonalities. Raised in Canada by an Egyptian family, she had married a Tunisian man who had immigrated to Canada just a few years before. She had one child, a baby girl.

A couple of weeks later, Lubna invited me to her home. Until this time, I had only seen her at outside events and I looked forward to being able to sit with her over tea and get to know her better. I arrived at her apartment around 10 minutes late – a little early for a Middle Eastern visit. I knocked on the door and a beautiful woman with long, dark hair that curled around her face answered the door. With exquisite make up and a chic outfit, she was lovely. I stared at her and in a halting voice explained that I was there to visit with Lubna. Was she available? The woman burst into laughter. “It’s me, Marilyn!” She laughed. “I can’t believe you didn’t recognize me!”

I had already seen Lubna numerous times, fully veiled with only her eyes showing. I was stunned at the contrast. As we laughed, she vowed she would never let me forget this first reaction.

Lubna and her husband were conservative Muslims. The niqab was the visual evidence of this, but this was really only one piece of the whole. Islam was a way of life, not just a religion of words. Lubna and her husband ordered their lives according to Islam, from the Call of Prayer (azzan) at the first light of dawn to the last echo heard across the city before bed, this was who they were.

Our commonalities were significant, our interactions over everything from faith to family were rich and interesting. But as our friendship developed, a curious side effect emerged. I experienced a crisis of faith. I had always imagined my faith to be far deeper and stronger than those who did not adhere to my truth claims. While I could acknowledge the faith of another, in my mind their faith was not as strong, not as binding.

As I grew to know and love Lubna, I entered into a new understanding of faith. Her faith was zealous and sure, providing her with a cement foundation not easily moved. I struggled as I watched her. How could her faith be just as strong as mine? As a Christian didn’t I have a market on faith?

It was through Lubna that I learned I didn’t and I don’t have a market on faith. It was through Lubna I learned that I could hold fast to my truth claims, yet still develop a deep friendship with another – not compromising, not betraying what I believe, but connecting within relationship. The orthodoxy of our faith defined our truth claims and the goal was not that we would agree – the goal was that we would communicate, that we would become friends without strings attached.

It’s been many years since Lubna and I shared tea and life together, but many others like her have come into my life; others who have taught me valuable lessons on connecting and offering friendship without compromising on truth claims. With each of them I have remembered what Lubna taught me about listening and loving, learning and enjoying. And I remember that this isn’t about forcing a faith, it’s about forging a friendship.

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March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

 

 

Loving The “Other”

Ernst_Barlach_Barmherziger_Samariter
“Good Samaritan” by Ernst Barlach
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Click here to read the rest of the parable.

 

Growing up I thought “scandal” and “Scandinavian” came from the same root word because of the scandal it was when a Scandinavian entered our predominately German American culture.

Ok, that isn’t exactly true, but what is true is that my parents spoke exclusively German as young children and didn’t learn English until starting school even though they were both second or third generation American citizens.  In addition, everyone in my church, my school, and among my friend group all looked pretty much the same.  Because when you grow up in south-central North Dakota, everybody looks pretty much the same.

The “other” — except for the occasional stray Scandinavian — was a distant concept for me, and because of this I didn’t have to think about my personal response to those who had a different skin color, or had a different religion, or spoke a different language.  I was ignorant to the struggles and difficulties as well as the hopes and joys of those who were different from me.

And though my circumstances changed after I left the farm for college and there was greater diversity around me, I never gave much thought to my changing surroundings.

Without my knowing, I turned in my ignorance for apathy.

I fear that this progression, at least for me, would have been from ignorance to apathy and then onto animosity.  It seems to me that this progression gets played out too often throughout human history.  I was fortunate, however, in that this progression was halted (or at least put in check on my best days) because of the influence of people who challenged me through their words and their lives.

There are a number of people who come to mind when I think about those who have helped me consider the “other.”  There is one in particular to whom I want to say “thank you” as I thank the women who have influenced me in this series.

Marilyn Gardner, along with her husband Cliff, led a college ministry along with my wife, myself, and a few other people while I was attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the late 90s.  Marilyn was and continues to be a passionate and compassionate person.  Evident in her life was a deep love for international students and the “other” whoever they were or from wherever they came.  As I had the privilege of ministering alongside of her to college students, she ministered to me — not just her words to me or her hospitality to our entire family — she ministered to me as I learned from her strength and compassion.  Her Christianity and love — at least in my eyes — was not hindered by the ignorance or apathy that I had towards the “other.”  In my eyes, she balanced a family (she had five lovely young children at the time — they are all grown now) and work outside of the home all the while demonstrating God’s love for the “other” without appearing frantic.  I am sure there were frantic moments — with five children I can imagine there were more than Marilyn would care to admit.  The point, however, is that to those of us to whom she ministered, she didn’t seem frantic or too busy.  She never “crossed to the other side of the road” or “hurried along her way” but rather stooped down to the one in need, bound up their “wounds,” and cared for the “other.”

She is one of those people that years later — after you have moved far away — you think to yourself, “Self, you should have been more intentional about learning from that person!”

Fortunately, at least in the case of Marilyn, that wish has been granted.  I continue to learn from her through her blog, Communicating Across Boundaries (click on the title to read her blog).  And I am looking forward to reading her most recently published book Passages through Pakistan (click on the title to read an excerpt).

She continues to minister to me; she continues to challenge my apathy towards the “other.”  Most importantly ,she reminds me in her writings  that I am the “other” more often than I think.

“Other” can often be seen as pejorative.  Every time I wrote it in this post, I cringed a bit — I hope you cringed a bit reading it.  But God sent Christ for the “other.”  Christ died for the “other.”  And God commands us to care for the “other.”

Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook a quote that anyone who doesn’t learn English should be sent back to their country of origin — I think learning English is a good thing, something we should with compassion help others to do.  I did not get the sense, however, that this was the tone of the post.

This post reminded me once again that my parents were the “other” in this country.  My friend’s post would suggest that my family should have been sent back to the persecution from which they fled Russia (my heritage is Germans from Russia an interesting history and a blog post for another day).

I am thankful that my family was able to stay in a country where they were once the “other.”  More importantly I am thankful that Christ came for me, the “other.”  And I am thankful to the many marvelous people, especially Marilyn, who remind me of my call to love, care, and minister to the “other.”

Tomorrow’s post will be written by Marilyn Gardner!  Thanks, Marilyn.

March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

The Power of Childhood Friends

About today’s author:
Heidi is a pastor’s wife, mother of two, music educator, and school counselor.  She is passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of others through music, counseling, and living a life that exemplifies her faith in Christ.  She teaches at Harvey Public School in Harvey, ND. 

You can read more about how Kerry knows her and his deep appreciation for her by reading yesterday’s post by clicking on “Legacy of Childhood Friendships.”

 

“Ghost, ghost, make a Goochi!” From somewhere in the house came the squeaky reply, “Goochi!”

Giggling, searching, finding, screaming, chasing. Repeat.

My sister Melissa, Paul (our neighbour from across the road), and I made up this hide-and-seek game (and numerous others) as we were growing up in a small village of just 40 residents. Paul was four years older than me, but because there was no one else around to play with, we became fast friends and partners in crime.

No matter how bad things may have been at school or how rejected I may have felt by my classmates, everything was better when I came home to play with Melissa and Paul. It was a safe zone. My opinion was valued. I was never left out. I was a vital part of every plan we made, and I knew I was accepted and loved without ever having to hear the words.

I rarely felt like I fit in at school. I was chubbier than the other girls, I lived out of town, and my dad was a pastor, which meant I was automatically not invited to movies, parties and dances. Thankfully we had a small youth group, of which Kerry was a part, in our church that was very active.

Even though we did not all attend the same school, we had many opportunities to interact and support each other. Our weekly meetings, along with our special outings strengthened my faith and gave me a place to belong. We spent time together on weekends, we attended retreats and camps together, and we stuck together and encouraged each other through peer pressure and tough times. As I look back on my younger self, I see so many character flaws in that girl. I am amazed by the patience and grace that those friends showed me on a consistent basis. They were truly a model of the love and grace of Jesus in my life.

Although we didn’t have cell phones and email, a small group of my camp friends formed a prayer chain during high school. We committed to praying for each other, and we shared our burdens and blessings with each other. To this day I continue to be blessed by those friendships that were formed so long ago.

James was six years older than I was. He became our Sunday school teacher and youth leader after he finished college and moved back to farm in the area. On Sunday nights when our congregation would go out in small groups to visit our elderly church members, James would load up his vehicle with our youth group and take us on a visitation adventure. We had excellent evenings learning from and encouraging those we visited. Then we would head to the ice cream shop or my house for more fellowship and laughter. Those moments of friendship, faith and fun that he fostered bolstered my faith, my self-esteem, and my courage to reach out to others.

The power of these positive childhood friends cannot be overstated. I will forever cherish the memories we created, and I know that a large part of who I am today is due to those friends who loved me unconditionally in a very conditional world.

March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”