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.”

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.”